NEW E-TICKETING SYSTEM FOR NORTH DEVON SHOW

For the first time visitors to this year’s North Devon Show will be able to buy an e-ticket which organisers say should help-fast track their entrance to the showground at Umberleigh for the one-day agricultural show on 7 August. The e-tickets also come at a discounted price.

Show Secretary, Theresa Soanes, said: “We’re really excited about the changes to our ticketing for this year’s show. Our staff will have electronic scan readers and so instead of people queuing at the ticket office, everyone will now come straight to the gates. People who’ve bought advance tickets will be scanned in quickly and those who pay on the gate should now also get inside more quickly.”

E-tickets can be bought via the North Devon Show website and an email will be sent as a confirmation of purchase. Inside the email will be a QR code which can either be printed out in advance or opened on a mobile phone to be scanned at the gate. Tickets can also be bought from certain shops and tourist information centres across North Devon (full list on the NDS website) also with a one pound discount.

Mrs Soanes added: “The show continues to improve each year as we offer more fun and activities for all the family so it was the right thing to do to update our ticketing system. But we know not everyone can buy online so we’ve made sure outlets across the district are selling tickets at the same low price as on the internet.”

Entry to the show costs £15 for adults and just £3 for children in advance, with a family ticket of £34 for two adults and three children. Prices for online tickets bought less than 48 hours before the show and on the day at the showground are £1 more.

Unlike many other attractions the entry fee for the North Devon Show includes lots of things to do including going to the Circus which returns this year after proving so successful last year. Organisers have introduced an education and animal-petting zone where children can get up close to a range of animals including miniature donkeys, Valais black nose sheep, alpacas and lots more. In the Countryside Area you can try your skills at clay laser shooting with no extra charge as well as watching ferret racing, fly casting and archery.

The success of the music stage last year has seen the arena expanded and the number of performers increased, with the stage moving to be central to the showground closer to the food and drink tents.

JUST THIS WEEK LEFT TO APPLY FOR PINNACLE AWARD

The 2019 Pinnacle Award, organised by The Exmoor Society, is 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 with an idea for a business venture based on Exmoor, for example in agriculture, forestry, food and drink, conservation, horticulture, craft or tourism.  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 livelihoods and beautiful landscapes 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, arboriculture, metalworking and woodland management.  There were three successful applicants in 2018: Polly Goodman, Philip Stephens and Camilla Waterer, who were developing respectively 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 in celebration of the Society’s 60th anniversary.

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 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.

Image: Tom Lile, blacksmith and metalworker.

CELEBRATE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF NATIONAL PARKS WITH A BIG PICNIC

A special ‘Big Picnic’ for all those who love National Parks is being held in Exmoor National Park on Wednesday 17 July to celebrate 70 years since the 1949 Act of Parliament that gave rise to the UK’s 15 National Parks.

The Act was a truly landmark moment born out of a decades-long campaign that famously led to the mass trespass of the Peak District’s Kinder Scout in 1932, amid years of protests and political lobbying by various pressure groups. The breakthrough came when a Government review committee, headed by Sir Arthur Hobhouse, capitalised on post-war optimism to table a new National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, which became law in 1949.

The National Parks Big Picnic is a chance to celebrate the legacy of these early pioneers and their determination to make enjoyment of the country’s most iconic landscapes the right of every citizen. It will take place in Simonsbath’s beautiful riverside meadows, at the heart of Exmoor National Park’s former Royal Forest.

Special guests will include Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Minister for National Parks), Niall Hobhouse (grandson of Arthur Hobhouse), representatives from the UK National Park family, along with some very special VIPs to be announced.

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park, said: “We’re proud to be part of a family of 15 National Parks tasked with conserving some of the country’s most extraordinary landscapes. Grab your picnic and chairs or a blanket and join us in celebrating all these special places mean to the nation. Tickets are free but limited, so be sure to claim yours soon.”

There will be a complimentary cream tea for all ticketholders and the unveiling of a special show-stopper cake in honour of all the UK’s National Parks. Come and see the working Sawmill and take a tour of nearby Ashcombe Gardens where a 200-year-old lost garden is being restored. The event will also include live music, displays, guided-walks, native breeds, traditional crafts, Exmoor ponies and assorted countryside activities. Bring your own picnic or pre-order one from the website to collect on the day. Local produce and refreshments will be available to buy, including hog roast, BBQ, local ales, gin and cider, teas and coffees and Styles ice cream.

Limited free tickets are available on a first-come-first-serve basis at: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/bigpicnic

The event is hosted by Exmoor National Park Authority with kind sponsorship from Tarmac and further support from The Exmoor Society, Somerset County Council, Devon County Council, Exmoor Hill Farming Network and the family of UK National Parks.

Stuart Wykes, director of Land and National Resources at Tarmac, said: “Tarmac is proud to be sponsoring the National Parks Big Picnic in celebration of their 70th anniversary. We have a long history working within the national parks so it’s great to be involved in such special event.”

CONSERVATIONISTS CONCERNED BY LATE SWIFT RETURN

This is a story published by the RSPB

Wildlife experts who work to save the UK’s dwindling swift population are concerned at the late arrival of these birds, which nest here after spending the winter in Africa. Many swifts have arrived up to two weeks late, and the RSPB has received numerous calls and emails from people concerned at their absence.

What might have caused this delay? Swifts would normally begin their journeys north from Africa in April. Their epic 6,000 mile journey is often fraught with hazards but weather conditions this year may have made migration especially difficult.

When the birds arrived in Europe, they were faced with serious climatic challenges. This year there have been distressing stories from Italy and Spain showing that swifts, some of which may have been on their way to UK nest sites, have even been killed by storms and cold wet weather. Doomed to die of starvation and hypothermia, they have been trying to survive overnight by clinging to each other on walls to avoid the wind and rain.

Swift expert Edward Mayer, who runs the Swift Conservation website and free advice service, says “There has been some really appalling spring weather this year in Italy, France, Spain and the Balkans. Temperatures should have been in the 30s but were in the low teens, and much lower at night, with prolonged rain storms making things even worse. This suppresses the swifts’ flying insect food, soaks and chills them – and can kill them”.

The unseasonably low temperatures in southern Europe will have made life even harder for these small birds desperately needing to refuel for the final leg of their journey. Then predominantly northerly winds have made flying north even harder.

Although these are extraordinarily resilient birds, swifts that make it to the UK face further challenges. They typically nest under the eaves of houses but in recent years many of these spaces have been blocked up, leaving the birds with the difficult task of finding somewhere new to raise their young during the limited time they spend here. The RSPB ran a campaign between February and April to encourage people to make new homes for them, by buying either a specially made nestbox or making one of their own.

“Swifts have huge public support in the UK” says Jamie Wyver, the RSPB’s Swift Lead. “Our supporters and social media followers are incredibly enthusiastic about them, and earlier this year we sold well over 1,000 new swift nestboxes! As well as our own regional teams working hard to make sure these birds have plenty of places to nest, there are around 75 independent local swift groups.”

The RSPB’s John Day and fellow swift experts Dick Newell and Edward Mayer recently had published a co-authored article providing advice for ecologists in the membership journal of the Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM). The article outlines ways in which new building developments can easily accommodate homes for swifts, neatly built inside wall cavities. These ‘nest bricks’ should be added typically in small clusters of two to four to gables of houses, as swifts prefer to nest close to one another.

Everyone can help swifts this summer by adding sightings of the birds nesting or flying around roofs to the RSPB’s Swift Survey: rspb.org.uk/swiftsurvey. Data gathered in the survey are used to show which sites are most important for swifts.

There’s also an opportunity to get out and enjoy the swifts that have made it back this year and learn how to help boost their numbers during Swift Awareness Week, from Saturday 22 to Sunday 30 June. This will highlight the plight of this iconic bird and show how everyone can help by, for example putting up swift nest boxes and gardening for wildlife. Over 70 local events have been organised during the week so far, from the south coast to the north of Scotland. Further details of each event can be found on the Action for Swifts website: actionforswifts.blogspot.com/p/2019-swift-awareness-week.html .

PHOTO: Swift Apus apus, lone bird flying over rooftop where they are actively encouraged to nest in houses, Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire, by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com).

HERITAGE TRAIL OF NORTH DEVON TO LAUNCH ON D-DAY ANNIVERSARY

75 years on from the D-Day landings a new trail launched this week will commemorate 12 of the most important military and cultural sites of the Second World War in North Devon. The World War II Heritage Trail will be unique in including sites of both strategic magnitude and human significance, and will highlight locations from Great Torrington in the south to Watermouth Cove in the north of the area.

Developed by North Devon’s museums and the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the trail unveiling follows the announcement that one of its sites, the D-Day practice structures at Braunton Burrows, is to be given heritage protection by the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, on the advice of Historic England.

Each location on the North Devon-wide, 12-point trail will be marked with a bronze plaque. An accompanying booklet will feature an area map and grid references, helping local people and visitors to find their way around the key sites while revealing the military and human stories behind them.

Claire Gulliver, project coordinator, said: “The North Devon coast closely resembled that of Normandy. We hope that this trail will bring to life the military strategy that was being developed on North Devon’s beaches, estuaries and sand dunes, in practising for the biggest amphibious assault in military history. But we also hope to evoke the human stories of the British and Allied soldiers who lived and trained here, together with those of the local communities they mixed with.

“Some of the trail sites are well known for the role they played in the D-Day preparations, such as the concrete structures at Braunton Burrows where soldiers practised debarking from their landing craft, or the dunes of Northam Burrows where British personnel experimented with adapted tanks known as ‘Hobart’s Funnies’. Other locations are more surprising, such as Torrington Square where off-duty American GIs used to gather before a night out on the town, or the American Red Cross Centre in Woolacombe, now the Red Barn Pub and popular with surfers today.”

A special booklet, Devon D-Day: A World War II Heritage Trail of the North Devon Coast will be available from museums from the D-Day anniversary, 6 June.

The trail is part of Devon D-Day. 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 and North Devon Marketing Bureau.

PHOTO: GI soldiers at the American Red Cross Centre, Woolacombe (now the Red Barn pub), 1943 (courtesy of Mortehoe Museum).