West Buckland has been recognised twice in the last two weeks, for the quality of its boarding provision and for its innovation.

Shortlisted in the Independent School Awards for Boarding School of the Year 2020, the school is recognised for the high standard of boarding across all ages, together with its outstanding boarding facilities in Sixth Form and for the wide-ranging activities available for boarders.

In addition, Corporate Vision magazine has awarded the school ‘Most Innovative Day and Boarding School – South West’ for its approach to learning, its newly shaped curriculum offering students a better balance between academic and extra-curricular activities, and its response to the COVID-19 outbreak which has won universal praise for its student-teacher interaction and engagement.

Headmaster, Phillip Stapleton, sees this as just reward for his hard-working staff. “The staff have always put the interests and needs of the students first in all our decision-making and I’m delighted that we have been recognised for this. We have always believed that we are a forward-thinking school and that we offer a boarding provision that is both happy and active, ensuring our students have the right environment to learn and to thrive.”


Back in April, Number Seven Dulverton launched a creative writing competition called ‘The Swallows Return’. It was lovely to learn last week that the two winners are both well known to us – Michelle Werrett, who writes features for the magazine about landscapes and the environment, and Fiona Johnson, who runs the West Somerset Garden.

The competition was a creative partnership between Christopher and Davina Jelley who run Number Seven and the renowned, award-winning artist and author Jackie Morris for whom Number Seven is her principal UK outlet. The prizes were two beautiful drawings of swallows painted by Jackie.

Entrants were asked to write around a question inspired by The House Without Windows. This lyrical book, which was originally published in 1927, was written by Barbara Newhall Follett at the tender age of 12 and was republished in 2019, with illustrations by Jackie. It is an extraordinary paean to the transcendent beauty of the natural world, and the human capacity to connect with it. What better publication to inspire a creative writing competition launched near the beginning of lockdown – a time when we were all getting as much nature into our veins as possible and, perhaps more acutely than ever, anticipating summer and all that it brings, including the return of swallows – hence the title of the competition.

The question posed was:

And who hasn’t, at some point in their lives,
wished to walk away,
from all the familiar?
Would you walk
to the meadow,
the sea,
the mountains,
to seek a quiet sanctuary, a new beginning?

Davina and Chris were blown away by the responses and the shortlist was judged blind by Jackie. Davina writes: “Thank you to everyone who entered. We received over 50 submissions, many by post, even ‘by hand’ through our letterbox and others pinged in from across Europe, Canada and Australia. It was a delight to read your words and ‘escape’ with each of you in turn.

“Christopher and I read them aloud to one another, each one at least twice and then selected a dozen that shone out to forward on to Jackie. It was not an easy task, as each entry was naturally so individual. When we initially planned the competition, we had no idea that not just the UK but practically the entire world was adapting to the restrictions imposed by ‘lockdown’ and the pandemic – everyone was dreaming about where they longed to be or learning to wander within the confines of their home.

“We requested submissions by post and encouraged participants to step away from their computers, retreating with pen, paper and paint. Those who were unable to visit their local post office sent words by e-mail but they were typed with consideration, fonts were experimented with and photographs were attached.

“I met Jackie virtually – me from my sofa at home and she at her studio desk in Pembrokeshire. We were able to share our thoughts, drink tea and select who to send the inked swallows to. You may watch and listen here…

Number Seven Dulverton: The Swallows Return with Jackie Morris

So, two swallows have now landed in their new homes… with Fiona Johnson and Michelle Werrett. I hope that you enjoy reading their words and the landscape they visualise. Is it a familiar path? Where would you choose to walk?

Fiona’s words:

I stare at the frozen earth, stark, depthless, hardened clods, seemingly lifeless

I survey the ground, softened, crumbling and toss the seed, dry tiny pieces of life. They teeter on the particles and then tumble into the abyss. Many tears follow their course and anchor them.

I observe small promises, hints, shoots and slender buds. Tentative hopes emerging, trembling but these to nurture.


I see a riot, a chaos of colour life is skittering around my feet, dancing before my eyes and I plunge right in. It’s good, next year will better.

My meadow, My Restoration.



Michelle’s words:


I would walk where the woods are wild, where the wind in the tops whispers wishes to me. I should not follow the tracks of man but wander where other hearts roam free. I would cross the bank by the badger-worn run, skip over the stream where otters slide, follow the slots of the stag trodden path – the paw-padded, hoof-cut ways; far from the human world, away from work and worry, to the company of trees.

Where primroses light the gloom and birdsong promises of better days to come, echoing canopy holds woodnotes like precious treasure cupped in twiggy hands; a brightening of robin, elegance of blackbird, rapture of warblers and soft soothing pigeon. Finding peace in the sun-lanced green shade where I might linger the afternoon, threading the wildwood ways, to sit on moss cushioned log, lie in crunchy drifts or bounce on a branch in the breeze, here to pluck words from the wordless wild – they might be words like these.

Both winners were rather thrilled when they discovered they had been chosen.

Fiona said: “Thank you so much, I am so overwhelmed and excited that I danced a jig whilst uttering Cor! Having never entered a writing competition I am really surprised.” And Michelle celebrated by going outside to enjoy nature: “Oh, thank you, thank you, so much!!! How truly wonderful! Off for a celebratory walk!”

Davina concludes: “Thank you to Christopher Jelley for persevering and pushing the boundaries of our tech capabilities! And, of course, to Jackie Morris for her time and generosity. Xx”

Number Seven is currently open three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday and we wish them lots of luck over the summer!

Copyright of the winning submissions remains with the respective author, please do not print or share without prior permission and quote source, Number Seven Dulverton.


In response to yesterday’s (Tuesday) announcement from the Prime Minister that significant parts of the hospitality and tourism sectors can begin reopening from 4 July, Dan James, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Sustainable Economy Manager, said: “Tourism is by far the single largest part of Exmoor’s economy, contributing almost £130m a year. So it’s encouraging that the Government is advising it will soon be safe for people to come here on holiday and enjoy its many pubs, cafes and attractions once again. There is the added pressure that many farmers have also diversified into tourism, meaning the picture-postcard landscape of hilltop farms and heather moorland for which Exmoor is so famous is also inextricably linked to tourists’ return.

“National Parks were created to inspire people and we know that Exmoor holds a very dear place in many people’s hearts, whilst others are now being inspired to visit for the first-time following lockdown. We would ask those considering trips to plan ahead and follow government and local guidelines, including the updated Covid Countryside code. Our National Park Centres will have all reopened by 4 July to offer advice and information to help people explore Exmoor safely, responsibly and enjoyably.

“Our tourism businesses together provide around 2,300 full-time jobs – 60 per cent of employment locally – and throughout the pandemic we’ve been working hard to help them plan their recovery. We know many are going the extra mile to put people’s minds at rest and make things as safe as possible, but it goes without saying that local communities coming together to support each other is what’s getting people through, and on Exmoor that feeling has never been stronger.”

PHOTO by Jane Mares.


Somerset West and Taunton Council’s open spaces and maintenance teams have been busy making Minehead seafront welcoming for residents and visitors as part of its commitment to coastal communities.

The Council has taken on maintenance of the newly planted seafront which also has two new play areas. It will begin clearing sand from the pavements and esplanade this week ready for the return of tourists as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased.

The teams have also started to plant the flowerbeds and put hanging baskets out using bedding plants produced at the Council’s own nursery.

The work complements the Enterprising Minehead initiative which aims to make the most of Minehead’s traditional appeal as a seaside resort while making sure it is fit for the twenty-first century.

Enterprising Minehead is a partnership project involving Somerset West and Taunton Council, Minehead Coastal Community Team and partners including representatives from the business, voluntary and leisure sectors.

It has already helped to revitalise West Somerset’s flagship seaside resort with a number of initiatives including restoring six Edwardian shelters and establishing a new heritage interpretation trail called ‘Minehead Maritime Mile’ which runs the length of the seafront.

Cllr Benet Allen, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Culture at SWT, said: “I am cheered by the work of our open spaces and maintenance teams which has really improved the look of the seafront already. It’s wonderful for residents to appreciate and will reassure visitors that Minehead is ready and waiting to welcome them so they are able to support our leisure and hospitality sector after the impact of Covid-19.”

SWT has also been working in partnership with the Somerset Wildlife Trust to create a number of species-rich wildflower meadows on council owned land across the district including Seaward Way and Culvercliffe in Minehead.

The open spaces team has left these areas to re-wild, and has cut pathways to allow people to walk through them. They will sow wild flowers seed in the autumn.

The initiative is part of the Council’s commitment to protecting and improving biodiversity, identified as a priority in the emerging climate change strategy.


Since lockdown restrictions were eased last month, the RNLI has worked hard to roll out lifeguard patrols on 22 beaches in the South West.

Now these beaches are operational and new ways of working and equipment have been properly put to the test, the RNLI is accelerating its service roll-out and increasing the number of beaches which will have a lifeguard service. The charity is hoping to have lifeguards on around 170 beaches in the UK by early July – 70 per cent of the beaches it would patrol in a normal summer.

RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie, said: “We are now confident we can provide a more comprehensive lifeguard service this summer safely, despite the continuing challenges created by the pandemic. The first few weeks having lifeguards back on beaches has helped us properly test the new ways of operating and reassured everyone that we can accelerate and expand our plans.

“Our original plan to lifeguard 70 beaches this summer was a conservative one, made when many things were still unknown. Now, though, we have a better idea of the journey out of lockdown for all parts of the UK, understand the new regulations with which we must comply as an employer and service provider and, most importantly, feel we can properly manage the risks associated with Coronavirus. So, we are revising our plans and adding to the number of beaches we can lifeguard this summer.”

There are already 22 beaches with a lifeguard service in the South West. In Cornwall, there are currently lifeguards on Constantine, Fistral, Gwithian, Hayle Towans, Mawgan Porth, Perranporth, Poldhu, Porthmeor, Porthtowan, Polzeath, Praa Sands, Sennen, Summerleaze, Watergate Bay, and Widemouth. In North Devon, Croyde and Woolacombe are currently lifeguarded, as is Weymouth in Dorset. Four beaches in Jersey – St Ouens, St Brelades, Plêmont and Greve de Lecq – have lifeguard patrols.

As of this Saturday (20 June), lifeguard patrols will start at the following beaches in Devon and Cornwall:

Exmouth, Bantham, Sedgewell Cove, Tregonhawke, Sharrow, Portreath, Chapel Porth, Holywell Bay, Treyarnon, Harlyn, Trebarwith, and Crooklets. Bringing the total number of beaches with lifeguards across the south west to operational to 34 beaches across the South West.

The RNLI is continuing to talk to its 55 partner local authorities and beach owners about which additional beaches might be lifeguarded this summer, seeking to align with the proposed early-July lifting of restrictions on the tourism and hospitality industries. The RNLI will announce this information as soon as possible.

Mark Dowie added: “With schools closed and restrictions on foreign travel, we know that lots of people will be heading to UK beaches – this could be the busiest summer ever for both our lifeguards and our lifeboat crews.  I’m very grateful to all those lifeguards who have already started their patrols or are now preparing to get back on the beach – they know this will be a challenging summer and are doing a brilliant job helping to keep the public safe during this pandemic.

“We must all continue to be aware that the risks from the pandemic have not gone away, but if people work with us and the other emergency services by following social distancing and other Government guidance relevant to their home country, we hope to be able to continue to provide lifeguard services this season. We’d like to thank all our partners – from Her Majesty’s Coastguard, to local councils and landowners – who are also working hard to help us patrol as many beaches as possible.”

New measures to deal with the Coronavirus mean the RNLI lifeguard service will look a little different this year. Lifeguards will wear PPE like ambulance crews in some situations. New protocols for all first responders mean the lifeguards may not deal with some minor first aid cases but will support people to treat themselves. They will also try to keep socially distant from beach goers, and may need to adopt different patrol methods at times, such as not using the red and yellow flags and asking people to keep apart but close to shore, to help keep people safe while maintaining social distancing.

The charity is also continuing to urge anyone planning to visit the coast to make sure they keep themselves and their families safe by following beach safety advice. Anyone planning a visit to the coast should remember to:

  • Have a plan – check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage
  • Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water
  • Don’t allow your family to swim alone
  • Don’t use inflatables
  • If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and Float
  • In an emergency dial 999, and ask for the Coastguard

PHOTO: RNLI lifeguards patrolling Perranporth Beach at a socially distanced 2m in June 2020 @triggerleephotography


The National Trust has announced its acquisition of a legendary slice of Lorna Doone landscape on Exmoor made just prior to lockdown.    

The 3.6-hectare (nine-acre) site includes Lorna Doone Farm and the nearby Cloud Farm campsite situated in the heart of the wild Exmoor coastal landscape which inspired the much-loved novel by R.D. Blackmore, published in 1869.  

Acquired before the coronavirus crisis for £1.5 million, completion took place before the lockdown significantly affected the Trust’s finances and is likely to be the last acquisition it is able to make for quite some time.  It also comes at a point when the conservation charity’s aim of providing nature, beauty and history for everyone, forever is more relevant than ever. 

Set to become the gateway to Lorna Doone’s inspiring Exmoor landscape, the Trust aims to improve the facilities and open up the site to encourage more people to enjoy and benefit from spending time in nature. 

The setting is hugely popular for walking, riding and cycling and is well connected by public rights of way to other National Trust places including Watersmeet, a five-mile walk along the East Lyn river, which features heavily in the novel.  

The Trust already cares for some special wildlife in the area including beavers and water voles not far away on the Holnicote Estate.  It has also done a lot of work to successfully entice the UK’s most endangered butterfly, the high brown fritillary, and the more common dark green fritillary back to the landscape.  

April Braund, Visitor Experience Manager for the National Trust, said, “For those familiar with the book, R.D. Blackmore’s descriptions of the Exmoor landscapes of rolling hills and deep wooded valleys are at the heart of the site and visitors will have plenty to see: “a deep green valley, carved from out the mountains in a perfect oval… wooded hills swept up to the sky-line… a little river glided out from underground with a soft dark babble, unawares of daylight; then growing brighter, lapsed away, and fell into the valley.”

“We are hoping that by making this beautiful spot more accessible, we can encourage more people to connect with nature.” 

Other scenes from the book that can be picked out in the landscape include:  

·         Badgworthy, the fictional home of the Doones is close by.  It is a ruined settlement (thought to date from the twelfth century) but in the book it was where the Doones’ stone huts were ‘built on the banks of this river.’  

·         A seventeenth-century stone bridge over the river in Malmsmead  

Kev Davies, Lead Ranger for the area said, “Britain’s wildlife is in trouble with 41 per cent of species in decline and we want to help reverse the decline in wildlife on land in our care. 

 “The countryside in and around the ‘Lorna Doone valley’ is a great place for seeing wildlife.  There’s red deer at Watersmeet, peregrines, ancient oaks and further afield on the Holnicote Estate beavers and water voles.” 

Rob Joules, General Manager for the North Devon Coast and Countryside, said, “It’s really exciting to be able to take ownership of this special place just after the 150th anniversary of the book, ensuring its future for everyone to enjoy.  

“Every penny donated or spent on site will be reinvested on our land in the area, helping nature thrive and adding to the enjoyment of people. 

“It’s great that visitors will be able to stay in this landscape and able to get active in the outdoors by walking along the river, up on the moor or down to the sea along the South West Coast Path.  

“By diversifying our income streams on this part of Exmoor we will be able to increase the funds we spend improving access, creating amazing outdoor experiences and space for nature to thrive.” 

PHOTO: Malmsmead (courtesy of the National Trust).



Somerset West and Taunton Council is commemorating Armed Forces Day on Saturday 27 June in a socially distanced format.

The Council traditionally holds flag-raising ceremonies to show its support for the Armed Forces community from currently serving troops to service families, veterans and cadets.

However, in light of the current guidance around Coronavirus and social distancing it will be taking a slightly different approach to mark the annual event in 2020.

The Armed Forces Day flags will still be flown at both the Taunton and Williton offices from Monday 22 June but SWT will not be hosting flag-raising ceremonies.

Instead, the Council is producing a series of short videos to be shared on its social media feeds in the lead up to and on Armed Forces Day.

It has asked everyone who would usually have taken part in the ceremonies to record a short video clip of the words they would have shared if they were gathered together on the day.

The footage will be used to create a series of videos which will be posted online along with photos of individuals saluting in support of the national #saluteourforces campaign.

The Chair of SWT, Cllr Hazel Prior-Sankey,  said: “The respect and appreciation shown by the local community goes a long way to sustaining the morale of the Armed Forces “family”, particularly 40 Commando Royal Marines and The Rifles who have a long association with Somerset West and Taunton.

“Obviously we are having to do things very differently this year, as has been the case with so many events and occasions. We have all been amazed by the kindness and generosity of people throughout Somerset West and Taunton during this unprecedented time and hope that people would still like to be involved with our commemorations and send the message that we are thinking of our Armed Forces community at this time.”

More information on the #saluteourforces campaign can be found at

PHOTO from 2019.


Throughout the coronavirus lockdown, gazing up at the stars will have brought comfort to many people on Exmoor during an extremely difficult time. It’s a different story for the rest of the UK – results from a recent UK survey by CPRE, the countryside charity, showed 61% of people are in areas with severe light pollution*.

This February more than 2,400 people across the country took part in the CRPE’s star counting survey. Respondents were required to count the number of stars visible in the constellation of Orion, helping build up a picture of the nation’s views of the night sky. In areas with severe light pollution they could count fewer than 10 stars but several Exmoor contributors counted 28 or more.

Crispin Truman, CPRE Chief Executive, said: “Gazing up at the heavens can inspire and help lift our spirits, especially when many of us are forced to do so from within our homes at the moment. It is a shame that few of us can see the starry skies in all their glory, without the intrusion of light pollution.”

Light pollution can spread from towns and cities into the countryside, denying many people the chance to experience the wonder and tranquillity of seeing a sky full of stars and interfering with nocturnal wildlife. As an International Dark Sky Reserve, Exmoor National Park Authority works with communities both within the park and nearby to minimise light pollution and protect Exmoor’s dark skies.

Katrina Munro, events organiser for the annual Exmoor Dark Skies Festival, said: “We work hard to protect and celebrate our dark skies, which are so important for nocturnal wildlife and contribute significantly to Exmoor’s tranquillity and other special qualities. Stargazing here is amazing and something that can be enjoyed by all ages; for children, it’s a magical experience.”

The National Park is designated as a Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark Sky Association. Every year in October a series of largely outdoor stargazing-themed events take place as part of the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival, but stargazing is a popular activity all year round.

For more information and to download a free Dark Skies Pocket Guide to get you started, head to:

PHOTO: Burrow Farm Engine House by Keith Trueman.


Exmoor National Park is calling on people to help rescue conservation projects that have been hit by the coronavirus lockdown, by reporting sightings of important plants and wildlife spotted in their garden or whilst out walking on Exmoor.

The plea follows the launch of #30DaysWild this month, the Wildlife Trusts’ challenge to the nation to carry out Random Acts of Wildness every day in June, and is a great way of giving something back to the landscapes we love.

The National Park relies on records submitted by volunteers and the general public to help monitor the condition of habitats on Exmoor through its WildWatch scheme. This helps paint a picture of overall ecological health to help target conservation efforts and tackle problem invasive species.

The lockdown has meant many volunteer teams being stood down and far fewer records being submitted. This is a particular problem for projects with short-term funding, such as the Exmoor Non-Native Invasive Species (ENNIS) project – a two-year collaboration between Exmoor National Park Authority, the Environment Agency, the National Trust and Natural England that was set to majorly scale up work to control invasive species in the National Park.

Ali Hawkins, Exmoor National Park Conservation Officer, said: “Prior to the lockdown we had a dedicated team of trained volunteers ready to start surveying for invasive species. But even with some volunteers now returning to surveying, we have nothing like the numbers needed for large-scale monitoring. Meanwhile the clock is ticking down on our two years of funding and, if we don’t find a way to get some records in, it could have a serious impact on the whole project.

“We’re appealing to everyone locally to take a little time out to check what’s growing and living in their gardens and, if out walking on Exmoor, to report what they see. Many of the invasive species that threaten our precious habitats started life as garden plants and it’s surprising how many private gardens still harbor them. Equally we would absolutely love to hear about all the bees, butterflies, songbirds, bats, owls, fungi and wild flowers that signal nature is thriving.

“Now is a good time to look out for the invasive species ‘American skunk cabbage’, with its large green fleshy leaves and distinctive yellow flower spikes. Sightings of this plant will help us tackle it as part of our ENNIS Project, which is funded by Defra and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. You will also spot the emergence of Japanese and Himalayan knotweed, Himalayan balsam and montbretia and we’d like to hear about these species too.”

Submitting a record is quick and easy and can be done on your mobile phone via the iNaturalist App or at There is even a category for unidentified species, so you don’t necessarily need to know the name. Or, if you don’t have a smart device, head to to submit an online record and also download a handy spotter guide.

PHOTO: American skunk cabbage has been banned from sale in the UK since 2016 due to the damage it can cause to native species if left to spread in the wild. Look out for it in wet woodland and on the banks of ponds and rivers. Seen here on the River Barle in Exmoor National Park.


The Regal Theatre’s volunteers have been honoured by being awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK and equivalent to the MBE.

At the Regal Theatre more than 200 volunteers provide all the drive and skills not only to sustain a 90-year old building with 400-seat auditorium as fit for modern purpose, but to run every aspect of its busy calendar of richly varied events.  The theatre is entirely run by volunteers who work a total of 70,000 hours a year – equating to around £200,000 – in pursuit of their ethos ‘For the Community, By the Community’.  Their work enables the Regal to present 150 events to audiences totalling some 25,000 a year, in a varied programme which including theatre, ballet, opera, concerts, films and live screenings.

Volunteers manage, maintain and run the Regal building to meet rigorous security and health and safety standards and operate the advanced technology of a new GDPR compliant ticketing system on the box office.  They administer the Friends of the Regal scheme, with more than 1,500 members, and the Regal Film Society, which is one of the largest film societies in the country with nearly 600 members. They also produce and distribute regular publicity material and newsletters.

Volunteers operate complex light and sound equipment for stage productions and a digital cinema package of the type installed in commercial cinemas for film performances and live screenings and design and build complex stage sets.  On performance nights they provide a highly-trained theatre manager, a front-of-house team and run a full bar.

“The Regal Theatre volunteers are immensely proud to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service,” says Regal Theatre chair Victoria Thomas.  “This really is a great honour and comes at a time when it is most needed.  Under the lockdown the theatre has now been shut for nearly three months and, although we have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes, it will be an immense challenge to find our way back to operating at the level at which we left off.  We will need all the goodwill and support of this special community to help us get back on our feet and the Queen’s Award will undoubtedly give us a terrific boost.”

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2 June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

In other Regal news, work to improve the fabric and safety of the Theatre has continued apace despite the lockdown in preparation for reopening.

The long-term project to replace the theatre roof has continued throughout closure and the complex scaffolding structure was completed on 22 May.  Work began the following week to remove the existing roofing material and the installation of new roofing material is scheduled to begin on 8 June.

Inside the Regal decoration and maintenance has continued, and the theatre has been awarded a grant of nearly £20,000 to develop the basement area into much-needed additional dressing rooms.

Regal volunteers are looking forward to welcoming audiences back to the Regal when it is safe to do so, and the theatre’s successful re-launch depends hugely on the support of the community.  In the meantime, local residents can support the Regal by joining the mailing list either by telephoning 01643 831343, emailing or visiting the website at