NEW FOOTPATH UNVEILED IN MEMORY OF EXMOOR’S FIRST RANGER

Exmoor National Park Rangers past and present have gathered today on North Hill for World Ranger Day and the unveiling of a new 1.5-mile circular route in memory of Exmoor’s first ever Ranger, Jim Collins.

The walk, which starts and finishes at the car park near the old tank training grounds on North Hill near Minehead (grid ref: SS953474), was one of Jim’s favourites for its breathtaking views across Exmoor and the Bristol Channel. It was overlooked by the house he lived in until his death last year, aged 95.

Jim Collins, the first Exmoor National Park Ranger, at his home in Minehad being interviewed for the Exmoor Magazine in 2014.

At a gathering attended by dozens of Exmoor Rangers from over the decades, Dan Barnett, Exmoor National Park’s Head Ranger, said: “Jim maintained strong ties with the National Park right up to his death and I’m sure he’d be delighted to see his name commemorated as part of Exmoor’s much-celebrated Rights of Way network, which he helped create.

“Jim was a real trailblazer and evidence of the work he started can be seen all over the National Park. This included some of the first waymarked rights of way and permissive routes on Exmoor, a task that meant winning over the hearts and minds of farmers, landowners and the public. It’s a skill still central to the job of rangering and to the success of our now 1,300km-long access network, that we’re delighted to be celebrating here today with Jim’s family.”

Close family of Jim’s have attended the gathering to witness the unveiling of a new fingerpost naming the route ‘Jim’s Path’. His son, Phil Collins, said: “It’s wonderful to see such a gathering of Jim’s friends and colleagues, with some I know who have travelled from as far as Australia. It’s not hard to see why rangering in such a beautiful landscape leaves its mark, but it takes someone special to see that it’s the people who make the place, and my father was testament to that.”

A display celebrating Jim’s life, and comparing how the job of the Exmoor Ranger has changed over the years, went on show in National Park Centre in Dunster last week.

Robin Milton, Chair of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “With National Parks this year celebrating 70 years since the ground-breaking law that created them, it’s good to be reminded of the early pioneers who first breathed life into the vision of National Parks as the living, working landscapes we all know and love today.”

PHOTO: Exmoor’s first three Head Rangers – David Beazley, Jim Collins and Bill Gurnett, 1980s.

TERRIFIC TUESDAYS AT TIVERTON MUSEUM

by Carrie Thomas, Visitor Information Officer at Tiverton Museum

Join us at the museum this summer for our Terrific Tuesdays, fun activity days for your little learners. This school holiday your youngsters can discover something about how people used to live, learn a new skill and maybe even get a bit messy!

It’s wash day on Terrific Tuesday, 6 August. We’ve got it easy these days with washing machines and tumble dryers so let us take you back to the Victorian era, put on your apron and mob cap and find out just how tough the weekly wash could be. Our Victorian Laundry day is free with normal admission.

Get hands-on with our Sewing Day workshop on Terrific Tuesday, 13 August. Boys and girls aged 8-16 can learn hand stitching, embroidery and have a go at using our vintage hand-crank sewing machine to create a drawstring bag, hair bow, phone case, felt badge or PE bag. Pre-book this workshop on Eventbrite or at the museum for £10 including all materials.

Our brilliant stone-painting sessions are back by popular demand on Terrific Tuesday, 20 August. We provide the stones, paint and a bit of inspiration so come along and get creative! Last year’s session sold out fast so pre-book on Eventbrite or at the museum to guarantee your space.

We’re marking the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 with an opportunity to learn more about life during wartime on Terrific Tuesday, 27 August. See an American Jeep, taste food made from real WW2 recipes and follow the trail to explore our WW2 collection. This is a drop-in event, free with normal admission.

See our website or find us on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram @TivertonMuseum for full times and prices. Discounts available for museum members.

Keep an eye out for more Terrific Tuesdays coming later in the year!

CYCLE FROM LONDON TO PARIS WITH ST MARGARET’S HOSPICE CARE

Cyclists in Somerset are being offered a chance to ride from London to Paris next summer in aid of St Margaret’s Hospice Care.

A group of fundraisers will make memories to cherish forever as they take on the 315-mile journey from capital to capital before watching the finale of the Tour de France.

Sonia Bateman, the charity’s events fundraiser, said: “As well as giving you something exciting to look forward to, signing up nice and early makes raising sponsorship and training for the ride much easier. Our overseas cycle rides are always a highly rewarding challenge and this tale of two cities promises to be the best of times for any cycling enthusiast.”

Last year, nearly 2,400 people took part in a variety of fundraising events organised by St Margaret’s Hospice Care to help the charity care for patients and families facing a life-limiting illness in Somerset.

The London to Paris cycle ride will start on Wednesday 15 July 2020. Riders will travel through the Kent countryside to Dover before crossing the Channel to Calais. Their adventure will continue through quiet country lanes and the rolling fields of Northern France, passing the war memorials and cemeteries of the Somme.

The four-day challenge will culminate with a memorable finish on the Champs-Élysées, where the next day the group will have a chance to celebrate their achievement by witnessing the climax of the Tour de France.

For more details and to book your place on the ride visit www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk/Event/london-to-paris-cycle or call Sonia on 01823 365604.

SPORT ENGLAND FUNDING SUCCESS FOR NEW LEISURE CENTRE

North Devon Council has been awarded £1.75m of National Lottery funding from Sport England towards a project to replace the ageing North Devon Leisure Centre in Barnstaple. This latest news comes hot on the heels of the council’s successful bid for £1.5m from the Coastal Communities Fund.

With this funding in place the council has now requested final tenders from the leisure operators who are currently vying for the contract to design, build and manage the new leisure centre at Seven Brethren. The council has requested tenders to include a minimum of a 25-metre, eight-lane pool, learner pool, sports hall, fitness suite and exercise studios on land adjoining the tennis centre. The exact design and final mix of facilities will be determined by the leisure operator who wins the contract, as long as they meet the council’s minimum requirements.

The contract will also include operating Tarka Tennis Centre and Ilfracombe Pool and Fitness Centre for the next 20 years. The successful leisure operator is expected to be selected in the next month.

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden, says: “This is superb news! I’m so pleased to hear we’ve been successful in both our funding bids, which is testament to the hard work of the team delivering the project. Both funders have recognised how important swimming is to our community and we will press on now to deliver a top-notch pool and leisure facilities we can all be proud of at Tarka Tennis Centre. Thanks to Sport England and all the National Lottery players.”

Work has already begun to replace one of the grass football pitches at Tarka Tennis Centre with a full-size artificial grass pitch, following more successful funding bids to The Premier League and FA Facilities Fund and Devon County Council.

Follow the progress of the new leisure centre project by signing up to the council’s blog www.newleisurecentre.wordpress.com/ or look out for updates on Facebook (@northdevoncouncil) or Twitter (@ndevoncouncil).

NOCTURNAL ADVENTURES AT FREMINGTON NATURE RESERVE

A free event for nature lovers is being held in Fremington next week.

The popular annual bat and moth evening at Fremington nature reserve takes place on Thursday 25 July from 8.30pm. As the sun goes down, lots of creatures begin to wake up and you can work with local wildlife experts to explore the nature reserve to find out more about these nocturnal residents.

You will be able to find bats using bat detectors and identify the wonderful array of insects captured in the moth traps, which will be released afterwards.

The event is being run by local wildlife experts in conjunction with North Devon Council, North Devon Biosphere Reserve and Fremington Parish Council.

North Devon Council Leader, Councillor David Worden, says: “The nature reserve is brimming with wildlife and this is a fantastic opportunity to explore and enjoy the area at night, with the added bonus of having a wildlife expert on hand to answer all your questions. It’s free and open to all ages. There is no need to book – just come along on the night!”

Please meet at Fremington village green, bring a torch, wearing clothing appropriate for the weather and sturdy footwear suitable for uneven ground.

For more information please contact the council’s parks team on 01271 388326 or email parks@northdevon.gov.uk. Follow the council’s Facebook page to keep up to date with news and events from the Parks Team.

HUNDREDS JOIN ROYALS FOR BIG NATIONAL PARKS PICNIC

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall were yesterday joined by hundreds of picnickers in Exmoor National Park for a special celebration marking 70 years since the ground-breaking 1949 Act of Parliament that established UK National Parks.

The ‘National Parks Big Picnic’ saw more than 500 people gather to enjoy a picnic and a cream tea in the beautiful surroundings of Simonsbath’s riverside meadows at the heart of Exmoor’s former Royal Forest.

Their Royal Highnesses were greeted by leaders from across the UK National Park family. They also met groups such as the Exmoor Society and Exmoor Hill Farming Network, children from Exford First School, local producers and craftspeople, and were presented with a hamper of local Exmoor produce to enjoy at home.

All attendees received a souvenir programme with a Forward by the Prince of Wales, stating: “However much our lives, and those of our children, may change in the future, the basic human need for peace, beauty and spiritual refreshment from engaging closely with the natural world will, I believe, remain every bit as important as it was seventy years ago.”

The centrepiece was the unveiling of a stunning cake inspired by the diverse landscapes of the UK’s 15 National Parks – from rugged mountains and vast open moorland, to soft rolling hills, meandering wetlands and dramatic coastline.

Special guests at the celebration included Niall Hobhouse, whose grandfather Sir Arthur Hobhouse pioneered the 1947 report that paved the way for the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, and the creation of the UK’s National Parks.

The Act, described at the time as a “recreational gift to Britain’s returning Second World War service men and women”, set out to recognise, conserve and enhance access to landscapes deemed to be “of national importance and quality”.

70 years on the UK has 15 National Parks, attracting over 130 million visitor days a year, worth almost £6bn to the UK tourism economy and much more in terms of crucial ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, flood prevention, clean air and water.

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, who hosted the event, said: “It’s with immense pride that we welcome Their Royal Highnesses to Exmoor today. Many say they love Exmoor for its incredible variety – made up of wild open moorland, spectacular coastline, deep wooded valleys, fast flowing streams and magnificent starry dark skies. But what really makes Exmoor is its people and the immense sense of responsibility we all feel towards this beautiful place. It goes right to the core of why National Parks were created, and I think today we all go away with a sense of the shared passion still felt for that cause.”

Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Minister for National Parks, said: “Seventy years on from the ground-breaking legislation that paved the way for their creation, our National Parks remain some of the nation’s most cherished places.

“We owe a great debt to past generations who had the wisdom to preserve these precious landscapes – and this momentous anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect on how we can ensure that our National Parks are conserved and enhanced for generations to come.”

Margaret Paren OBE, Chair of National Parks England, said: “There is a huge amount that has been achieved and for which to be proud from our first 70 years.  The reasons why we have National Parks resonates every bit as much today as then.  We collectively care for these extraordinary landscapes, among the best in the world, and we inspire generations.  And so as we look to the future, National Parks have a pivotal role to play in responding to the climate emergency, supporting nature recovery, and providing physical health and mental well-being for all.”

Carl Lis OBE, Chair of National Parks UK, said: “I am incredibly grateful to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall for choosing to celebrate 70 years of UK National Parks with us here today. They are fantastic supporters of UK National Parks, which continue to attract hundreds of millions of visitors every year and make such a significant contribution to the UK tourism economy”.

The event was sponsored by Tarmac with further support from The Exmoor Society, Somerset County Council, Devon County Council, Exmoor Hill Farming Network and the family of UK National Parks.

COUNCIL CONTRACTORS BECOME ‘HEDGEHOG HEROES’

Contractors working for North Devon Council are helping to save hedgehogs by placing special warning stickers on all of their grass-cutting machinery.

In conjunction with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, the council have provided free stickers to be placed on all grass-cutting machinery which warns contractors to check the area for wildlife before using the equipment.

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden, says: “Hedgehogs are in decline in the UK, so we are delighted to partner with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and Tivoli Group Ltd to help prevent injuries to these lovely animals by reminding our grass cutters to ensure there are none around before they start work.”

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society says: “We are pleased to welcome North Devon Council as the latest group to join our Hedgehog Heroes roll of honour, after fitting our warning stickers on their contractors’ cutting machinery to help hedgehogs. Raising awareness of the problem is half the battle, long grasses and the bottom of hedges are both places hedgehogs are likely to be found; a quick check before work begins can literally save lives.”

Brad Cole, Tivoli Regional Director, commented: “Hundreds of hedgehogs are injured every year, sometimes fatally, as a result of grounds maintenance work. Working in partnership with North Devon Council, Tivoli are proud supporters of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, making sure all our operatives are aware of the dangers that mowers, strimmers, hedge cutters, etc. can pose to wildlife. These dangers can be avoided by carrying out a thorough visual check of the area before work commences. By attaching the BHPS stickers to our equipment and raising operator awareness, our aim is to reduce the number of hedgehog injuries and deaths caused by grounds-maintenance activities.”

Contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for more information at info@britishhedgehogs.org.uk or email the NDC parks team at parks@northdevon.gov.uk.

Photo: British Hedgehog Preservation Society

ILFRACOMBE SCHOOLCHILDREN QUALIFY AS JUNIOR PARK RANGERS

The latest group of Year 4 schoolchildren from Ilfracombe Junior School have made the grade as ‘Junior Park Rangers’.

Earlier this month, 120 children were presented with their certificates after successfully completing the four-week junior Park Rangers course, which covered topics such as orienteering, tree identification, mini beasts and pond dipping.

The course, organised by North Devon Council’s Parks team, is so successful that it has been running for the past 14 years. The course aims to raise awareness about the importance of parks and how we can help look after them. As well as learning practical skills, the children are taught about wildlife, biodiversity and the natural environment.

North Devon Council Leader, Councillor David Worden, says: “It’s great to see so many new Park Rangers.  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. So it’s reassuring to know that we have another group of youngsters who will be looking after them. It is also very important to the Parks team that the children enjoy themselves and have lots of fun while they are learning. The children were very enthusiastic in all the activities they took part in and I would like to commend them all for being a credit to both their school and their community.”

Joe Alcock from Ilfracombe Junior School says: “The children at our school really enjoy the Park Rangers activities they get to participate in and the course is a real highlight within the school year. The opportunity to learn more about the park and explore the beauty it offers is a real joy for all involved.”

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.

PHOTO: Back row, left to right: Cllr Netti Pearson, Mike Jones (NDC Parks), Cllr Geoffrey Fowler; front: children from Ilfracombe Junior School Y4.

SHARE YOUR MEMORIES OF PINKERY

For nearly 50 years, generations of schoolchildren from Somerset, Devon and further afield have been coming for residential stays at the Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning, high on Exmoor. To mark the occasion and celebrate World Outdoor Learning Day Exmoor National Park Authority – who welcome around 2,000 children a year to the Centre – recently asked people to share old photos and memories from their stay to form part of an exhibition later in the year.

John Fletcher is deputy head of Heathfield Community School, in Taunton, which has been sending  Year 7 students for residentials at the Pinkery Centre for 40 years. He said: “Our students say time again that the most important and memorable experience they had of school was Pinkery. What they learn can’t be captured by league tables or exam results and we’re delighted to have so far been able to support 15,000 students to visit. I‘m sure many will take this opportunity to share memories in celebration of this special place and the lifelong lessons it helps to make.”

Pinkery was converted into an outdoor centre in 1969, having previously been an isolated hill farm for more than a century. Arthur Philips, the Centre’s first warden, recalls: “The building had been vacant for years and there were sheep living in it. I got together some volunteers, who all gave up their weekends and camped throughout the winter while the work was going on.

“It took about six months but we made it homely enough and when those first groups came, some of the farm buildings were still in use for storing hay and shearing sheep, so that become part of the lessons. There was time for studying the geology and wildlife, helping with conservation or maintenance work, and also outdoor pursuits like map reading, climbing and canoeing. My favourite was taking groups out over the moor on horseback. They’d spend 20 minutes grooming and helping tack up and then we’d be off. The impact it had on the youngsters was quite amazing.”

Situated in open moorland at 400 metres above sea-level and in the heart of Exmoor’s International Dark Sky Reserve, staying at the Centre remains a truly off-grid experience enjoyed by thousands of schoolchildren every year. Management was transferred to Exmoor National Park Authority 25 years ago in 1994, with major investment to modernise the building over the years, including the addition of a spring-fed water supply, wind turbine, cutting-edge photovoltaic roof and a new wing opened by Sir Ranulph Fiennes in 1995.

Dave Huxtable, who now runs the centre on behalf of Exmoor National Park, said: “Gaining confidence in the outdoors and connecting with nature encourages learning right across the curriculum and is crucial to inspire the next generation to love and care for our precious landscapes. There’s always one or two kids that aren’t sure at first, but by the end they’re usually the ones having the time of their lives. It’s a very special place and we’d love to have an exhibition celebrating all of the memories Pinkery has made.”

Send in your photos and memories of Pinkery to pinkery@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or share them on social media using #Pinkery50th.

PHOTO: The first school group arriving in the spring of 1971.

WILD HARES AND HUMMINGBIRDS AT THE MUSEUM OF SOMERSET

Visitors to the Museum of Somerset can discover more about the county’s animals, plants and birds in a playful new exhibition opening this summer. Based on the book, Wild Hares and Hummingbirds: The Natural History of an English Village, by the naturalist Stephen Moss, the exhibition runs from 20 July to 26 October.

Stephen is one of Britain’s leading natural history writers, broadcasters and wildlife television producers. His book tells the story of wildlife through the seasons in his home village of Mark, on the edge of the Somerset Levels. The exhibition brings together his celebrated nature writing with beautiful, original illustration by the graphic artist Stephanie Cole. Stephanie is probably best known in the West Country for her striking illustrations that decorate the interiors at Gloucester Services.

Sam Astill, Head of Museums for the South West Heritage Trust, said: “We’re delighted to be bringing together the creative talents of Stephen and Stephanie for this original exhibition. It’s packed full of fun, interactive, hands-on activities for families to enjoy during the school holiday.”

Stephen Moss added: “The book is a celebration of the British countryside and why it matters to all of us, wherever we live. It’s exciting to see it given a new lease of life and I hope the exhibition will help inspire young visitors to connect with the natural world.”

‘Wild Hares and Hummingbirds’ is part of a summer of exhibitions, events and activities at the Museum of Somerset where visitors can explore more about the natural world. Throughout the summer holidays the museum will be running ‘Wildlife Wednesdays’ with weekly themed activities for families. From 27 July to 7 September there is also a display of artworks by the printmaker Jackie Curtis celebrating the landscapes and wildlife of the Somerset Levels.

Oh – and in case you were wondering about hummingbirds in Somerset, they’re a species of hawk-moth!

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 www.museumofsomerset.org.uk for more information.