A LIFE IN COLOUR: THE ART OF DORIS HATT

The life and works of a remarkable Somerset artist, with a revolutionary spirit, are being celebrated in a new exhibition opening at the Museum of Somerset on 16 March.

The twentieth-century artist Doris Hatt (1890–1969) was a Somerset pioneer of British modernism. She exhibited her vibrant works over almost five decades, beginning in 1920, and contributed to many exhibitions in the South West.

Sam Astill, Head of Museums at the South West Heritage Trust, said: “Doris Hatt was a woman ahead of her time – a feminist and socialist whose remarkable life and artistic achievements have remained surprisingly little known.”

Doris’ painting style developed over time as she absorbed the major influences of twentieth-century modernism, including cubism, purism, abstraction and the works of Cézanne, Picasso, Braque, Dufy and Léger. Her work includes portraiture, still lifes and landscapes. Clevedon, Watchet, East Quantoxhead and Wedmore are among the recognisable South West landscapes depicted in her art.

Doris’ modernist approach extended beyond her work as an artist. She designed her own Art Deco/Bauhaus style home in Clevedon where she lived with her partner Margery Mack Smith, a school teacher and weaver. It became a meeting place for radical activity in both the arts and politics. As a member of the Communist Party, Doris twice stood unsuccessfully for local election.

Co-curator Denys Wilcox from The Court Gallery added: “For 50 years Doris was an acknowledged but under-appreciated artist. We look forward to this exhibition bringing Doris Hatt the wider recognition she so richly deserves.”

The exhibition ‘A Life in Colour: The Art of Doris Hatt’ is being produced in association with the Court Gallery. It will be open at the Museum of Somerset, Taunton, from 16 March to 29 June.

The Museum of Somerset is part of the South West Heritage Trust, an independent charity that protects and celebrates Somerset and Devon’s rich heritage.

Visit museumofsomerset.org.uk

#dorishattcolour

PROJECT TO RECREATE LOST GARDENS NEAR SIMONSBATH GETS UNDERWAY

A project to recreate a 200-year-old picturesque garden in the former royal forest of Exmoor, near Simonsbath, got underway last week following major funding from the Western Somerset LEADER programme and Exmoor National Park Authority.

The garden was once the vision of wealthy businessman John Knight, who in 1818 purchased a vast area of remote, uninhabited wilderness formerly used by the Crown for hunting and largely untouched since the Bronze Age. He set about building a grand mansion amidst an elaborate ‘Picturesque Landscape’ – a concept central to the Romantic Movement focused on harnessing natural beauty to enhance the sense of drama in the landscape.

For reasons that aren’t well understood his dream was never finished and his importance in shaping the Exmoor landscape remained largely overlooked until letters and documents dating from the time were uncovered in a loft near Kidderminster in 2016. These revealed ambitious plans to reclaim a vast area of remote valleys, mires, moors and woodland, along with the creation of a bespoke road and canal network, plus numerous buildings and farmsteads.

Even by modern-day standards it was a remarkable feat – with a 29-mile-long boundary wall, at least 12 miles of roads, two farmhouses, two canals, networks of land drains and the cultivation of more than 2,500 acres of moorland all documented as completed within the first 18 months. But amid faltering finances, a family feud over inheritance and his wife’s ill-health, the mansion remained unfinished, whilst the once awe-inspiring gardens sank back into obscurity.

Now, in the year of the 70th anniversary of the Parliamentary Act that gave rise to the UK’s National Parks, a team of volunteers working alongside the Simonsbath Programme Steering Group and Exmoor National Park Authority hope to bring the gardens back to life through work to reopen one of the original picturesque walks and restore historic buildings that formed part of the original garden.

Charlotte Hornsby, garden volunteer and member of the Simonsbath Programme Steering Group, said: “I’ve always been interested in historical gardens and so to be involved in one in my village is just fantastic. It was such an exciting day to finally start bringing John Knight’s picturesque vision back to life. It will truly be an Unexpected Garden of Exmoor.”

Rob Wilson-North, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Head of Conservation and Access, said: “The lost gardens of Ashcombe are a very rare example of a Picturesque landscape – a concept that underpinned the Romantic Movement and helped put the countryside at the very heart of Britishness, setting the tone for the creation of the UK’s National Parks over a century later.

“We hope these gardens will not only evoke the spirit of the Knight family and their important role in Exmoor’s past, but also help celebrate the special role of National Parks in shaping our cultural identity.”

Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the project should contact Patrick Watts-Mabbot on 07973727469 or email getinvolved@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

RNLI ILFRACOMBE LAUNCHED TO ASSIST WITH SEARCH FOLLOWING CAR CLIFF FALL

Volunteer RNLI crew launched relief all-weather lifeboat, Stormrider, to assist the emergency services in the search for possible casualties following an incident where a vehicle fell from steep cliffs onto the beach at Sillery Sands, near Lynmouth.

The call was received at 9.05am on Saturday 9 March and the volunteer crew quickly mobilised and launched the relief Shannon class all-weather lifeboat Stormrider. Sea conditions were rough, with a near gale force 7-8 westerly wind and strong tides with four-metre swells. In these challenging conditions the journey out to Sillery Sands took 35 minutes and the RNLI lifeboat arrived on scene at 9.40am.

Once on scene, volunteer crew could see the badly damaged car at the foot of the steep cliff at the water line. The Ilfracombe Coastguard Rescue Team, Lynmouth Coastguard Rescue Team and the police were in attendance at the scene. At this point RNLI crew were informed that the driver had managed to escape from the car, but it was unclear whether there was anyone else in the vehicle at the time  it went over the cliff.  Lynmouth Fire Service and Barnstaple Fire Specialist Rescue team also attended the scene and were able to search the wreckage of the car and confirm that no-one was inside.

The RNLI lifeboat crew were tasked by the coastguard and police with searching the cliffside and shoreline to check whether there were any other casualties. Using their knowledge of the conditions and tides, the crew searched the shoreline and cliff area, and identified a number of objects for investigation by the coastguard team. No casualties were found. The coastguard sent a cliff technician down the cliff and all of the objects were retrieved. The RNLI crew searched the area for an hour and half before before being stood down at 11.10am by the emergency services. The lifeboat then returned to the station by 11.40am.

Carl Perrin, RNLI Volunteer Coxswain for Ilfracombe RNLI lifeboat, who led the search says: “Our volunteer crew performed well to assist the police and coastguard in the search for casualties. The team have trained extensively to carry out this kind of task and today they used their training and local knowledge to carry out this search with strong winds and a heavy seas making conditions challenging.

“There were a number of people gathered around the rocks at the shoreline to observe the rescue. In such rough and unpredictable sea conditions, we would remind people to take extra care and to respect the water.”

PHOTO at top of story: Stormrider by Neil Perrin.

EASTER HOLIDAY OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG MUSICIANS

Calling young musicians and singers of secondary school age; do you want to do something amazing with your Easter break this year?! Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, would love to welcome you to their ‘Halsway Young Folk – Intro’ week. This is an exciting and enjoyable music residential (Monday 8 to Friday 12 April), run by young professional folk musicians, to introduce you to traditional music. You’ll need to have experience as a singer or musician (any instrument is fine), but it’s ok to be completely new to folk.

You’ll stay at Halsway Manor, near Crowcombe, for a week packed with practical music workshops. You’ll work in large and small groups discovering folk music: you’ll learn new songs and tunes, you’ll create new musical interpretations and arrangements, you’ll work on performance skills, and rehearse for a performance at the end of the course. You’ll be working hard during the days, but the evenings will include fun activities for you to get to know each other, socialise and have fun.

The week is led by musician / teacher Will Lang, with Nicola Lyons (4Square), Alex Garden (The Drystones) and Claire Bailey (Pastoral Lead). Together they’ll support you in developing your musical skills, and help you create music that you love and can be proud to perform.

Interested? Each place costs £195 to include full board (accommodation and all meals), tuition and all activities. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact Halsway Manor for an application form: 01984 618274 ext 1 / office@halswaymanor.org.uk or visit the website www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

Bursary places may be available to young people with exceptional talent or for whom the opportunity would be especially beneficial, but whose financial circumstances would otherwise exclude them from the programme.

Further ‘Halsway Young Folk’ courses in 2019 include ‘Junior’ for ages 8-12 (Tue 20 – Thu 22 Aug), ‘Intermediate’ for ages 13-18 (Mon 29 July – Sat 3 Aug), and ‘Advanced’ for ages 16+ (Mon 19 – Mon 26 Aug). See website for details.

APPLICATIONS ARE INVITED NOW FOR THE 2019 PINNACLE AWARD

The 2019 Pinnacle Award, organised by The Exmoor Society, is now open to young people aged between 18 and 27 years who live, work or study in the Greater Exmoor area.  It offers up to £3,000 to an individual or group who have an idea for a business venture based on Exmoor, for example in agriculture, forestry, food and drink, conservation, horticulture, craft, tourism, or any outdoor land-based activity. 

The Award, now in its eighth year, was set up by The Exmoor Society to help young entrepreneurs live and work on Exmoor. As a conservation body, the Society fully recognises the importance of providing opportunities for young people to continue to live in the area by encouraging entrepreneurial activity.  The award also helps to promote the idea that beautiful landscapes and livelihoods in a National Park do go together.

Previous applications have come from people with ideas as diverse as making cider and developing a herd of pedigree cattle.  The award so far has helped fund young people either to set up or take forward businesses such as agricultural contracting, country clothing and woodland management.  There were three successful applicants in 2018: Polly Goodman, Philip Stephens and Camilla Waterer, who were developing goat meat from local herds, vehicle canopies from lightweight material and horse-drawn carriage rides over the moor for celebrations and special picnics.  All three applicants impressed the judges so much that Trustees decided to offer the full award to each one.

The application process is designed to be accessible to all, with a basic form to complete and a reference provided by a mentor or sponsor.  Applicants will be invited to an informal interview where judges will be looking for business ventures related to Exmoor’s rural character and likely to provide a sustainable living, with perhaps the potential in the future to offer further employment. Chairman of the Society, Rachel Thomas, said: “There is a great deal of concern that young people have to leave Exmoor because of the lack of employment.  By providing seed core money through the Pinnacle Award, the Society hopes to enable them to stay in the area and keep the moor alive and thriving.”

The Society hopes to attract even more entries for the award this year which is now open for applications with the closing date being 30 June 2019.  Forms are available on the Society’s website at www.exmoorsociety.com or by contacting its Dulverton office on 01398 323335, info@exmoorsociety.com.

EXMOOR VISITORS REPORT WORLD-CLASS SATISFACTION

Over 99 per cent of visitors to Exmoor rated their trip as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ and 96 per cent believe the National Park is being well managed and cared for, according to the results of Exmoor National Park Authority’s latest biannual visitor survey.*

The survey also revealed a ‘Net Promoter Score’ of 77 based on how likely visitors were to recommend a visit to friends and family. Scores of over 70 are considered the industry standard for a world-class brand, based on overall satisfaction and loyalty. The scenery and landscape was the top attractor to the area, followed by peace and tranquillity, the opportunity for outdoor activities, the coastline and the wildlife.

The results are based on over 400 face-to-face interviews with visitors conducted between July and December last year at over 20 locations across the National Park.

Dan James, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Sustainable Economy Manager, said: “The tourism sector on Exmoor should be justifiably proud of these findings. Our sector is dominated by often family-run micro businesses, who work very hard to give visitors the best possible experience, and these results are testament to their devotion.

“70 years on from the 1949 Act of Parliament that paved the way for the UK’s National Parks, it’s heartening that Exmoor continues to offer inspiration and recreation to people from across the UK and beyond, contributing an estimated £125m to the rural economy each year. Together with our partners there are plenty of new initiatives to help us move ahead with confidence, including further developing astro-tourism opportunities, launching new immersive tourism products and continuing to invest in our Rights of Way network.”

Welcoming the survey results Jennette Baxter, Visit Exmoor Development Manager, said: “These results confirm what we already know – that people love Exmoor. The information gathered helps us plan our marketing strategies. The #VisitMoorThanOnce campaign is in response to findings that, despite wanting to return, over a fifth of repeat visitors hadn’t visited in three years. We are encouraging them to return again sooner.”

The full survey results are available on the Exmoor National Park website at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/tourism and will be presented at the Visit Exmoor Tourism Business Networking Day on 13 March – see www.visit-exmoor.co.uk/trade/business-networking-day-2019.

PHOTO: By Andrew Hobbs, from the spring walking feature in Exmoor Magazine.

NEW COASTAL TRAIL TO REVEAL NORTH DEVON’S AMERICAN GI STORY

Visitors to North Devon this summer will be able to discover the area’s hidden wartime past as evidenced in its iconic coastal landscape.

Thanks to an Arts Council lottery grant secured by the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, important Second World War locations, including sites used to prepare for the D-Day landings, will join a new coastal heritage trail linking the landscape with local museums’ wartime collections.

15 bronze plaques will mark significant Second World War sites along the coastline from Hartland to Mortehoe, and will be accompanied by an illustrated visitor guide.

The project, Devon D-Day, will add a new dimension to the popular Saunton D-Day/D-Day Devon event which takes place at Saunton Sands each year and recalls the training of 10,000 American GIs who arrived in 1943 to prepare for the Normandy landings among the sand-dunes of North Devon.

The £14,600 grant will also enable experts to provide educational events for local schoolchildren, provide a 1940s-style tea dance for all ages and support a mysterious drama opportunity for a handful of local young men.

Executive Member for Parks Leisure and Culture at North Devon Council, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “The coast of North Devon, with its beaches, estuaries and sand-dunes, offered American troops the perfect stand-in for the Normandy beaches while they perfected their amphibious assault strategy. 10,000 American GIs were stationed in North Devon. It was a huge thing for the local community and intriguing glimpses of the past are visible today in the North Devon landscape. We hope that this new project will enable visitors, including perhaps those descended from the American GIs themselves, to discover this vibrant part of our coastal history on the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the American forces.”

Devon D-Day is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, with additional financial support from North Devon Council, North Devon Coast AONB Sustainable Development Fund and North Devon Marketing Bureau.

PHOTO: First Wave 44 Living History group on Braunton Burrows.

 

HESTERCOMBE GARDENS YOUNG WRITERS SPRING POETRY COMPETITION

With the onset of spring, and as a nod to their newest restoration project at Hestercombe, young writers are being invited to enter their poetry competition on the theme of ‘spring’.

With the unveiling of Sibyl’s Temple, a recreation of a magnificent eighteenth-century building in Hestercombe’s Georgian Landscape garden, winners of the competition will get the chance to read their poem at the official ceremony on Wednesday 17 April and will also be invited to take part in a writing masterclass with one of the competition’s judges, international bestselling author Vicky Holmes. Winners will also get £25 in book tokens to spend on their favourite reads.

Best known as Erin Hunter, Vicky Holmes is creator of the global phenomenon Warrior Cats which is currently being turned into a movie franchise by the producer behind the Harry Potter films.

In the UK, she is more familiar as Daisy Meadows, author of Rainbow Magic, and as Lucy Daniels who created the enduring Animal Ark series. Vicky has never grown out of her childhood love of horses, all of which feature in the popular series Heartland and Chestnut Hill under the name Lauren Brooke.

Alongside Vicky, there will be a number of special guest judges, including Hestercombe’s Chief Executive, Philip White MBE.

The age categories for the competition are split into three: 11 and under, 12-15 and 16-21.

How to enter:

Online at www.hestercombe.com/poetry

By post to: Spring Poetry Competition, Hestercombe Gardens, Cheddon Fitzpaine, Taunton, Somerset, TA2 8LG.

Please include the name and age of the poet, and a contact number on postal entries.

Closing date for entries is 1 April.

NEW BOOK ON THE TWO MOORS WAY

The Two Moors Ways – Devon’s Coast to Coast: Wembury Bay to Lynmouth is the new book just out, written by Sue Viccars – Exmoor Magazine’s very own walks writer.

Dartmoor and Exmoor, two of England’s most magnificent moorlands, are the backdrop to Devon’s Coast to Coast route. Incorporating the Two Moors Way and a section of the Erme-Plym Trail, the 188km (117 mile) route between Wembury Bay and Lynmouth passes through the quiet and rural Devon countryside as well as the wide open spaces of the moors.

This guidebook presents the route in 11 stages, ranging from 10 to 30km, but the schedule can be adjusted to give a one-week walk or a more leisurely pace if preferred. The book includes low-level bad-weather alternative routes for some moorland stretches. The main route is described south to north, with a summary description for those doing the route in reverse. The landscapes of Devon range from the rolling fields and enclosed paths of South Devon to Exmoor’s sandstone moorland, which sweeps down to the Bristol Channel with some of the highest sea cliffs in England. In between lie the wild spaces of Dartmoor, with its hill ponies, granite tors and the greatest concentration of Bronze-Age sites in the country.

Entwined in myth and legend, it’s a landscape to fire the imagination and the setting for numerous stories, including Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. This pocket-sized guidebook contains OS map extracts for every stage, along with information on where to stay, refreshments, waymarking, public transport, and useful contacts. An itinerary planner is also included, detailing distances and facilities available for each stage, making day-to-day planning simple. A 1:25,000 scale booklet of all the maps needed for the route is included with the guidebook.

What’s inside?
• useful itinerary planner
• OS map extracts for every stage
• list of accommodation providers

About the author
After gaining a degree in Geography and Archaeology at Exeter University, Sue Viccars worked for a London map publisher before grabbing the chance to return to Devon, where she spent 20 years commissioning walking, equestrian and countryside books for David & Charles Publishers. She received her first walking book commission three weeks after going freelance in 2000 and since then has written or contributed to around 20 books (and edited dozens more), specialising in her home territory of the South West, with particular reference to Dartmoor and Exmoor. She writes the walks for Exmoor Magazine, and has been editor of Dartmoor Magazine since 2008.

The Two Moors Ways: Devon’s Coast to Coast: Wembury Bay to Lynmouth is priced at £16.95 and is available to buy from the Two Moors Way website: www.twomoorsway.org

PHOTO: The Venton stone overlooks the Dane’s Brook valley near Hawkridge, Exmoor (Stage 9).