HELP PREVENT MOORLAND FIRES ON EXMOOR

Risk of wildfires on moorland areas of Exmoor National Park remains high as the UK continues to enjoy a lengthy heatwave. These potentially dangerous fires can spread quickly, devastating important habitats and threatening nearby buildings.

People enjoying the countryside are being urged to be mindful of the risk of moorland fires and to follow this general advice:

  • Avoid lighting barbeques or campfires on the moor, particularly in dry conditions.
  • Take home extinguished cigarettes and never throw them out of car windows.
  • Don’t leave rubbish like glass bottles, as sun shining through them can start fires.
  • Don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water.
  • If you see a wildfire, report it immediately by dialling 999 and leave the area as quickly as possible.

And for those wanting to escape the heat, there is still plenty to do on Exmoor, from picturesque villages and shady wooded valleys, to windswept coastal clifftops and burbling streams.

Sue Applegate, Public Rights of Way and Access Officer at Exmoor National Park, added: “Exmoor is as beautiful as ever right now, and we would still encourage people to enjoy our wonderful countryside, while urging them to take extra care to avoid fires breaking out.

“Much of our wild open moorland is of international importance due to its rare species and ecosystems. So it’s vital we do all we can to avoid a situation like the one on the moors of Northern England developing here.”

GLYN COURT, HISTORIAN, SADLY MISSED

Thank you very much to Glyn Court’s widow, Clare Court, for allowing us to publish this piece about Glyn, who passed away recently. Glyn was a much-loved former contributor to Exmoor Magazine and we extend our sincere condolences to Clare and the family.

Glyn Court
13th May 1924 – 25th May 2018

When Glyn was born in Minehead, his parents, William and Ada Court, were already middle-aged. They ran a post office and a business selling boots, shoes and bicycles in Washford.

Education at Taunton School and University widened his general knowledge, which already at the age of 14 was encyclopaedic. He came second out of the whole school in a general knowledge quiz organised at Taunton School in 1938.

At the age of 18 Glyn began his studies at Exeter. But these were soon interrupted when he was called up in 1944. Leaving this country for 3½ years, he spent time in India and Burma, an experience which left a lasting impression on him and in later years he was active in the Burma Star Association and the British Legion.

Returning in late 1947, he resumed his studies at Exeter and it was not long before Glyn met me. We were married in 1950 and with the help of a grant proceeded to live in France for a couple of years, teaching English and researching the life and work of the composer Hector Berlioz.

Returning to a country still scarred by war, jobs in teaching were hard to find. By a strange quirk of fate, the headmaster of a school in Doncaster was staying in Minehead that summer and from the dubious attractions of Paris the move to the grime of a Yorkshire coal-mining village happened almost at once.

Our three oldest children, Alison, Mark and Joy, were born here. The Percy Jackson grammar school was an excellent establishment and lifelong friends were made there. And summer outings in the old Austin 10 YD40 took us to lovely spots in the Yorkshire Dales

But the West Country called and after the death of his father Glyn needed to live nearer home and to his mother.

There followed several years in Devon, including a happy time at Shebbear College from 1959-63, where Philippa was born, and five years in Ilfracombe. After Ada died in 1967, Glyn was appointed head of Modern Languages at Taunton School and the family moved back to Washford.

It would be untrue to say that the first few years went smoothly – two academics wrestling with the complexities of a run-down property and struggling to keep a business going. In the late sixties there were several shops in the village – one by one they eventually disappeared, ours among them, until only a small Post Office remained.

Glyn had always loved reading, and in later years confessed to having taken cover when a boy with a book in Hill Head copse in order to avoid being called into the house or workshop to help shift boxes of boots or fetch logs for the fire! He also had an excellent memory and in 1973 I suggested he enter for ‘Brain of Britain’ on the radio. The screening tests were held in the Bristol BBC offices, from which Glyn proceeded to the final in London where he won the valuable prize – a book voucher for £25! After that I was really pleased if I was able to beat him at his favourite game of Scrabble.

Glyn had tested the waters of community politics for some years, as a town councillor and being involved in election campaigns. A lifelong Methodist, he was a liberal in the old-fashioned mould. His first contest for a county council seat was in 1970. In 1974 he tried again – and successfully; he won with a small majority. After early retirement he was able to devote himself full time to council work and became chairman of many committees. Oddly enough he was particularly fond of waste management! He said it was so interesting. And Highways gave him the opportunity to drive around his beloved county of Somerset, helping to improve safety and convenience by minor works rather than major expensive schemes.

During this time Glyn also stood for Parliament – twice: in 1974 in Westbury, division of Wiltshire, and in North Dorset in 1979. (He came a respectable second.)

But it was the County Council work that gave him the most satisfaction and over 20 years after his retirement from the public service his work was honoured by the presentation of Honorary Alderman in February 2018.

The years after retirement were occupied in various ways, and notably by writing. Glyn has always loved history and especially the history of his native county. He produced many small booklets and at his death there were several unpublished books on the computer.

Glyn’s talents were many – an accomplished pianist and organist, and linguist. We cannot be quite sure of how many languages Glyn could read or speak, even if only a few words; we stopped counting when we got to 14. At the age of 93 he asked for a Romanian ‘Teach Yourself’, so that he would be able to speak to the staff in their own language. With help from surprised and delighted Nicola and others, he made excellent progress and could hold a simple conversation. His dialect pieces and readings were popular. There are recordings of these on the Internet. He was a valued public speaker, a skill learnt by years of practice as a local preacher.

Most of all he was a kind and loving person – I shall miss him very much.

Clare Court

ILFRACOMBE YOUNGSTERS BECOME JUNIOR PARK RANGERS

More than 100 primary school children from Ilfracombe have made the grade as junior park rangers.

On Tuesday 26 June the 120 children were presented with their certificates after successfully completing the four-week course, which covered topics such as orienteering, tree identification, mini beasts and pond dipping.

The course, organised by North Devon Council’s Parks team, raises awareness about the importance of parks and how we can help look after them. As well as learning practical skills, the children were taught about wildlife, biodiversity and the natural environment. The scheme has been so successful that it is now in its 13th year.

Executive Member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “The idea behind this scheme is to raise young people’s awareness of the importance of parks and why we need to protect them for future generations. It is also just as important to the Parks team that the children have lots of fun while they were learning. I’m told the children showed an enormous amount of enthusiasm and knowledge in all the activities they took part in. They are a credit to both their school and their community.”

Joe Alcock from Ilfracombe Junior School, says: “The Park Rangers course is a fun and exciting way of getting the children to learn about the park and understanding the importance of looking after and using our local park properly. The different activities each week have given children a real insight into just how much the park has to offer and we hope they will use and respect the park more so than ever now they’ve completed the course!”

If you would like to get involved as a volunteer at Bicclescombe Park, there is a very active group on Facebook – contact the council’s Parks team on 01271 388308 for more information.

KING’S HALL CELEBRATE OPENING OF STATE-OF-THE-ART SCIENCE LABS

Staff and pupils at King’s Hall School recently opened their brand-new science labs with a special celebration.

Built by Qube Construct, the £1 million facility boasts state-of-the-art apparatus, with pupils having access to equipment including a Van de Graaff generator, multimeters and circuit equipment.

To conclude the school’s annual Arts Week, Headmaster Justin Chippendale, and Governors, Vice-Custos Roger Mott and Revd Canon Linda Barley, were in attendance to celebrate the outstanding facility.

Also present was King’s Chaplain, Father Mark, who blessed the new block, as per school tradition.

To commemorate the opening, pupils took part in a plasma workshop run by the Bristol-based Science Boffins, who officially opened the centre with a ribbon-burning ceremony.

Head of Science at King’s Hall, Joe Hayden said: “We are privileged to have such an incredible building. The facilities are truly remarkable and it makes not only our science lessons captivating, but also running our Saturday STEM Club a real joy.”

He added: “The new faculty is a fantastic space and I feel great excitement at the possibilities for future developments and the amazing educational benefits the pupils will receive.”

FROG AND TOAD SIGHTINGS ARE DRYING UP: HOW WE CAN HELP

Survey results released in the last week of more than 174,000 UK gardens reveal that sightings of frogs and toads have declined.
Disappearance of garden ponds and pools has long been a factor linked to the declining numbers.

The RSPB is challenging families to take part in the Wild Challenge by getting outside and creating a simple pond or DIY pool in their outdoor space.

Results from the RSPB’s wildlife survey, which is part of the Big Garden Birdwatch, show that frogs had been seen in more than three-quarters of gardens across the UK. Despite being the most common non-bird garden visitor, seen at least monthly in close to 40% of gardens, this was 17% fewer regular sightings than the last time they were surveyed in 2014, when they were observed monthly in around 46% of gardens.

This pattern was similar for toads, which were seen in 20% of our outdoor spaces on a monthly basis, an alarming 30% fewer gardens than the 28% of gardens in 2014.

At a quick glance, a nature novice may not be able to spot the difference between a frog and a toad. Frogs hop, their skin is smooth and moist and they have a pointed nose, whilst toads crawls, their skin is warty and dry and their noses are rounded – almost semi-circular in shape.

Dr Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Most people remember seeing tadpoles at the local pond or a toad emerging from under a rock while they were growing up – these first experiences with nature stay with us forever. Unfortunately, the sights and sounds of wildlife that were once common to us are sadly becoming more mysterious.

“There are lots of simple things we can all do in our outdoor spaces to make them perfect for wildlife. Frogs and toads are amphibious creatures, meaning that they need a source of water close to their homes to survive. Creating a small pond in your garden, or a pool using a washing up bowl is so simple to do and could make all the difference.”

Other results from the survey revealed a small increase in the number of recorded sightings of hedgehogs. Despite the UK population suffering widespread declines in recent decades, 65% of people spotted one in their gardens over the past year.

Foxes remained one of the other most common garden visitors, with one being spotted in 72% of our gardens and outdoor spaces, while more secretive creatures such as moles and great-crested newts escaped much of the nation’s gaze.

Dr Karen Haysom, Species Programmes Manager at Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, said: “Frogs and toads face many pressures, including the loss of habitat like ponds. Helping these fascinating creatures by making wildlife habitat in your garden or taking part in species recording and monitoring schemes so we understand how nature is faring is fun and can make a difference.”

Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest garden wildlife survey and takes place each year on the last weekend in January. The RSPB asks people to count the birds in their garden or outdoor space over the course of one hour at any point in the weekend to get an idea of how our feathered friends are getting on.

With the wildlife on people’s doorsteps becoming increasingly elusive, the RSPB is calling on families to spend more time outside this summer, discovering the nature that surrounds them and seeing how they can give it a helping hand.

By taking part in the RSPB’s Wild Challenge, families can have fun engaging in activities ranging from building a pool for amphibians to bug safaris, taking their first steps on their own wild adventure. There are 24 activities to choose from that will take you from your own back garden to exploring towns, cities, woodlands and even the coast.

Martyn Foster, RSPB Head of Education, Families and Youth, said: “Getting outside and discovering nature is important for every child. The Wild Challenge gives families the chance to turn the weekend walk into a wild flower foray or make the most of their school holidays by meeting the amazing minibeasts in their own outdoor space. And, as well as getting up close to some amazing wildlife, you’ll be helping to give nature a home.”

The RSPB’s ambition is for Wild Challenge to help more families across the country reap the benefits of spending time outside in nature. Research has shown that children who have a healthy connection to nature are more likely to benefit from higher achievement at school, better mental and physical health, and develop stronger social skills.

To learn more about the RSPB Wild Challenge and to see how you can take your firsts steps on your own wildlife adventure, visit www.rspb.org.uk/wildchallenge

Photo: Common Frog Rana temporaria, adult in pond covered in duckweed, by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

EXMOOR AND DARTMOOR PROJECTS WANTED FOR 2018 AWARD

Exmoor and Dartmoor projects contributing to our beautiful National Parks could receive a £2,000 boost in recognition of their work thanks to the Campaign for National Parks’ Park Protector Award.

The Award, sponsored by Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust, celebrates the work being done to protect and improve National Parks across England and Wales with the winner receiving a £2,000 bursary and a runner up receiving £500 courtesy of Breedon Group.
Nominations are being invited until Tuesday 31 July. Nominated projects must be seeking to conserve or enhance the biodiversity or a heritage site, improve access to the Parks, or protect an area in a National Park.

Fiona Howie, chief executive of Campaign for National Parks, said: “The Park Protector Award is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate amazing projects happening across the English and Welsh National Parks. The Ramblers Holiday Charitable Trust and Campaign for National Parks urge you to submit a nomination if you know of or are involved in a project doing important work.”

A community science project in the Peak District National Park took the top prize in 2017. The project monitors wildlife in the National Park, looking at the effects of climate change and other issues. Previous winners have included Arun and Rother Connections in the South Downs and Fell Futures in the Lake District.

Find out more: www.cnp.org.uk/news/2018-park-protector-award-searches-its-next-winner

PHOTO: Robbers Briedge by the late Brian Pearce, courtesy of Elaine Pearce