Exmoor-based craftsmen West Country Blacksmiths are to feature on Channel 4’s Grand Designs House of the Year 2019. The four-part series showcases the finalists of the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects House of the Year.

Among the finalists for the award is a truly unique and amazing property built within the Sartfell Nature Reserve on the Isle of Man. The building was designed by London-based architects Foster Lomas, a company which was founded by William Foster and Greg Lomas who both grew up in Somerset.

Central features of the house, which has already won multiple national and regional awards, include a set of bespoke metal staircases, walkways and library book shelving. The metalwork, which totals over eight tonnes, was all made and installed by West Country Blacksmiths and has received industry recognition by being award the AJ specification Staircase of the Year award 2019.

The blacksmiths welcomed a team from Grand Designs to Allerford Forge to interview Kyle Roberts of West Country Blacksmiths and CAD designer John Hesp to learn more about the work involved in producing the metalwork. The blacksmiths were also filmed at work in the forge.

The series starts on Wedneday 23 of October, with the episode featuring West Country Blacksmiths due to be aired on Wednesday 30 October at 9pm.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Edmund Sumner.


The Exmoor Society is pleased to announce the junior and senior winners of its annual Lucy Perry Literary Competition for Schools.  The prizes were presented at the South Molton Community Primary School in South Molton and at the West Buckland School, West Buckland.

At South Molton, head teacher Mr Parkin introduced the assembled children and the first prizewinner from the competition’s Junior Category, Jack Hosegood, with his parents present.  Jack read his winning poem ‘What I enjoy about Exmoor’ and was then given Palgrave’s ‘Golden Treasury of Verse’ and his certificate.  Former Exmoor Society trustee and competition judge, Elizabeth McLaughlin, presented the cheque for the school to Mr Parkin, who said: “It is to be spent on acquiring new books for the library as well as improving the library space.  There is much poetry in the curriculum and everyone is thrilled to have a winning poet at the school.”

The presentations in West Buckland School’s Michael Morpurgo Library were to two successful poets from the Senior category. The winner of the first prize was Isaac Spear with his poem entitled ‘Devon’ and the third prizewinner was Jazz Clarke with her poem ‘The Waymarker’.  Isaac received his prize of an autographed and inscribed book of poetry by children’s author Michael Morpurgo, and both young poets were presented with certificates. The Exmoor Society’s cheque was given to the school librarian.

The Exmoor Society emphasises the importance of having young people writing poetry and prose at a sponsored competition level, and acknowledges the importance of visiting the winning schools to make the presentations. One of the judges, Cathy Nicholls, said: “I commend the positive and receptive teachers and pupils on Exmoor and are confident that the competition will increasingly attract entries from many other schools.”

You can read the winning poems and find information on the Lucy Perry Competition 2020 on The Exmoor Society’s website www.exmoorsociety.com/content/what-we-do/competitions-awards.

PHOTO: Jack Hosegood of South Molton School – winner of the Junior Category. He is pictured with Cathy Nicholls (left) and Elizabeth McLaughlin (right).


Terrible Tiverton Walk

Discover the darker side of Tiverton’s past with this gruesome walk through the terrible history concealed in the town. After the success of his Radical History Walk, Steve Bush will be guiding you through the streets of Tiverton this Halloween to discover just how terrible Tiverton was. Hear all about the ghostly goings-on in the town, from sorrowful brides at the castle to headless monks and the possible tale of the museum’s very own spook. Learn about the grisly accidents that have happened over the centuries, some ghastly murders and all sorts of other gruesome events.

This one might be a bit unnerving so isn’t aimed at children, but older children are welcome at an adult’s discretion! Meet at the museum on Thursday 31 October at 5.30pm. The walk will last approximately an hour and a half. Tickets are £6 each and are available at the museum or online at Eventbrite.

See the museum’s website or find them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram @TivertonMuseum for details of all events. Discounts available for museum members.


Tiverton Museum’s Trailblazers Series concludes this autumn with an illustrated talk exploring wartime heroine Odette and her life post war in the Blackdown Hills.

Odette is a name that some will remember from the 1950 film starring Anna Neagle, Peter Ustinov and Trevor Howard, and she is also the subject of a number of books. For those who don’t know her story, this young mother of three, became a Second World War SOE Agent in France. Eventually betrayed, she displayed immense dignity and bravery during her imprisonment, for which she was subsequently awarded the George Cross.

Through all that has been written about Odette, her connection with Devon and the Blackdown Hills has remained almost unknown. Using extensive research, images – some from the family of Odette and never seen before – local historian, author and museum volunteer Amyas Crump sets out to put the record straight on Odette’s local connections.

Odette’s granddaughter speaks highly of Amyas Crump and his knowledge of her connection with Mid Devon: “He has an astonishing wealth of knowledge of Odette’s time in that locality, and also of her experiences in SOE during the War. We view Amyas as a real advocate for our grandmother. I trust his knowledge and opinion completely, and have even learnt things about Odette’s life from him that I never knew!”

The talk takes place at Tiverton Town Hall on Friday 8 November at 7.30pm. Tickets are £6 and are available online at Eventbrite or at the museum. There will be a chance to see unique memorabilia and copies of the latest book on Odette will be available.

See the museum website or find them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram @TivertonMuseum for details of all upcoming events. Discounts available for museum members.



Entrepreneurs, business owners and managers from across Exmoor are invited to a free networking and workshop session to launch the Rural Enterprise Exmoor initiative on 24 October at Wheddon Cross. Businesses of any size and from any sector who are active within Exmoor National Park are invited to the session to network and share challenges and opportunities.

A free buffet lunch will be provided during a networking session at the start which will include stands from a range of business support organisations. Presentations will then be given, including an introduction to the Rural Enterprise Exmoor project, case studies from local businesses grown on Exmoor, and an introduction to the work of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership from their Chief Operating Officer. The session will finish with an overview of the new research being undertaken by Wavehill, an independent research organisation, prior to a workshop.

“We are really excited to be able to bring together so many groups and organisations who are working to support enterprise on Exmoor,” commented Dan James, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Sustainable Economy Manager.

“Exmoor is a very special place and as well as being home to some of the most stunning landscape in the country it is also home to a range of enterprising people and businesses. Whilst Exmoor offers many benefits it is one of the most rural areas of England and so brings with it some unique challenges. We’re keen to help bring businesses together to share ideas and hear first-hand what more could be done to further grow appropriate business activity within the National Park.”

The workshop will mark the launch of a significant new business survey being undertaken across the length and breadth of Exmoor to capture business views. The research will map out business activity across Exmoor for the first time, providing a comprehensive picture of business activity and sectors operating in the area. The project will also look to broaden understanding of operating businesses beyond the national datasets which capture those who are VAT or PAYE registered and don’t provide a true reflection of the number of sole proprietors and small home-based businesses found across Exmoor.

The event takes place from 12.30 – 4pm at the Moorland Hall, Wheddon Cross, TA24 7DU. Attendance is free but spaces must be booked in advance at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/living-and-working/business-and-economy/rural-enterprise-exmoor.

For further details email ruralenterprise@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or follow @RuralEntExmoor on Facebook and Twitter.

Rural Enterprise Exmoor is supported and funded by the Exmoor National Park Authority, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, West Somerset Opportunity Area, Somerset County Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council and North Devon Council.


Two Merlin MK3 Helicopters from the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) have been working high up on Exmoor despite challenging weather conditions. The trainee pilots and aircrewmen from CHF’s 846 Naval Air Squadron and Mobile Air Operations Team (MAOT) have been helping National Park Rangers shift 80 tonnes of crushed stone along a 2km stretch of the Tarka Trail in North Devon that had become badly eroded.

It’s part of a training exercise that forms the final stage before these pilots and aircrewmen get their ‘wings’ and are signed off as fully operational pilots ready for frontline duties.

The repair work that will now follow has been made possible through the British Mountaineering Council (BMC)’s Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million campaign, which has been raising money for vital path repair works throughout the family of 15 UK National Parks.

The project will resurface sections of a bridleway that forms part of the Tarka Trail, popular with walkers, horse riders and mountain bikers for its sense of remoteness and panoramic views. The route is naturally very wet and has become eroded, with instances of having to close the path to avoid horses becoming stuck and diverting users onto other fragile routes.

Not far from the site is the National Park’s Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning, which provides around 9,000 schoolchildren a year with a taste of life off-grid in the National Park and frequently uses the trail. It is also in the heart of its International Dark Sky Reserve amid pristine starry skies.

Dan Barnett, Exmoor National Park’s Access and Recreation Manager, said: “The area of ‘The Chains’ where this work is happening lies above 1,500 feet and, before 846 Naval Air Squadron stepped in, we had no way of getting such a quantity of stone up there. So it’s great they have been able to help us as part of their training exercise and that Mend Our Mountains has provided the funding for this project.

“This ancient site has long been home to our iconic Red Deer and ponies, and is littered with signs of Neolithic man, and with the backing of these two partners we’re pleased to be able to secure safe passage for another generation.”

Commander Ed Vaughan RN, Commanding Officer 846 NAS said: “Injecting real life tasks into flying training and the development of aircrews is invaluable. It cannot be replicated in routine training and the variable, quick-changing weather on the moor adds a significant dimension to testing competencies and capabilities. Working with and alongside the National Park is something that the Squadron looks forward to, especially as we are able to contribute something to the region in which we also live and train.”

The work is expected to continue next month, weather permitting.


Halsway Manor is delighted to present an evening concert with two extraordinarily gifted and influential European musicians, Anne Niepold and Riccardo Tesi on Thursday 17 October at 8pm. Both are considered amongst the greatest living exponents of the diatonic button accordion (melodeon), though their styles and repertoire vary greatly.

Anne Niepold is a familiar name to many at Halsway, having tutored at several courses at the Manor; this will be Riccardo Tesi‘s first visit to Halsway, and a rare chance to see him play in the UK. Both Anne and Ricardo are tutoring on a week-long Melodeon Workshop for advanced/intermediate players at the Manor, in addition to performing around the UK.

Anne Niepold is a renowned musician and composer. Having started in the world of traditional music, she developed an interest in improvised music and studied jazz composition and arrangement at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, where she won her Masters degree as well as the prestigious Toots Thielemans Jazz Award. Anne will be debuting material from her new album Vita Brevis.

“Anne is an incredible diatonic accordion player. Nothing scares her. She knows no limits. On the contrary, she magnifies the constraints of her accordion with impressive results.” Accordéon et Accordéonistes magazine

Riccardo Tesi is an internationally acclaimed accordion player and composer, and one of the most daring and authoritative musicians on the European world music scene. He has an instantly recognisable style, drawing on ancient and modern musical languages, he has widened the vocabulary and the technique of an instrument that has long been associated with traditional music. Over 35 years he has played with world music artists such as Elena Ledda, Justin Vali, Kepa Junkera, John Kirkpatrick and Patrick Vaillant, jazz musicians Gianluigi Trovesi and Gabriele Mirabassi, and great songwriters such as Ivano Fossati, Fabrizio De Andrè and Gian Maria Testa. Leader of Banditaliana , one of the most renowned Italian groups on the world music international scene , and member of Samurai, all stars quintet of European accordion players, he has played in the most important jazz and folk festivals all over Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan.

Tickets are priced £10; £4 student concessions. Buy securely online at www.halswaymanor.org.uk.



Salad Days and Holi Moli, two multi-award-winning 5-star beach huts at Dunster Beach, have received further recognition, this time by Surfers against Sewage and Plastic Free Minehead & West Somerset.

“The two beach huts have a long list of awards, but this one is really special,” said Brett Bates, who co-owns the beach huts with his partner Susan Juggins. “We have always been environmentally conscious, during the refurbishment and the running of both our huts, but when we got involved with Plastic Free Minehead & West Somerset, an environmental action group run by Surfers Against Sewage as part of their Plastic Free Communities campaign, we decided we could go one step further and make our little green huts just a little bit greener.”

Dunster Beach Huts looked at all their processes and supplies to see how they could become as single-use-plastic-free as possible. Brett said, “Some areas were easier than others; for example, we have always done beach cleans inspired by 2 Minute Beach Clean, so we now actively encourage our guests and social media followers to do their own beach cleans, and the ‘David Attenborough effect’ has certainly made it easier to get this message across.” Guests at Salad Days and Holi Moli are now provided with their own picker sticks and beach clean bags. Brett and Susan changed some of their supplies to include eco-friendly shower and shampoo cubes instead of plastic bottles, locally made natural guest soaps, homemade jam and marmalade in reusable jars, homemade wax food wraps to replace cling film and glass water bottles in the fridge to save wasting water by running the tap to mention just a few of the changes. Even their doggy guests can get involved using bamboo dog bowls, refillable water bottles and biodegradable poop bags. Their guest changeovers have become greener too, by only using environmentally friendly cleaning products and using old tea towels as cleaning cloths instead of bought-in cloths.

“Our aim now is to continue on this green path even further, by being even more conscious of our sustainability as a company, but also in our private lives and to encourage other Somerset businesses to follow our lead and help give the world a single-use -plastic-free future,” Brett concluded. For further information on becoming a plastic-free champion see the Surfers against Sewage website or follow Plastic Free Minehead and West Somerset on Facebook.