Work begins on new leisure centre for North Devon

Construction of the new state-of-the-art Tarka Leisure Centre in Barnstaple has moved one step closer this month, as contractors begin work on site.

Parkwood Leisure has been appointed as the official contractor for the £15 million leisure centre, which will be built on the site adjacent to Tarka Tennis Centre in Barnstaple. The project is being funded by North Devon Council, Sport England and the Coastal Communities Fund.

The centre will be constructed by Speller Metcalfe, with an expected completion date of Spring 2022 and will feature:

  • 25m eight-lane competition swimming pool with movable floor
  • 20m four-lane learner pool with movable floor
  • sports hall with four badminton courts
  • large gym
  • two multi-purpose exercise studios
  • spinning studio with virtual experience
  • Devon’s first endless ski slope for indoor skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing
  • indoor soft play
  • outdoor play area
  • new reception area and cafe

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden says: “This significant investment will create outstanding new facilities for the town and surrounding communities and there is a real sense of anticipation as we mark the start of this work.

The current leisure centre is now at the end of its commercial life and in need of replacement. The landmark new centre will be a focal point not just for local residents but for visitors from further afield and will add to the area’s tourism offer. I’d also like to reassure people that Tarka Tennis Centre, Falcons Gymnastics Academy and North Devon Leisure Centre will all remain open throughout the build.”

Chairman of the Council, Councillor Frank Biederman, says: One of the council’s key aims is to get more people, of all ages, involved in physical activity to improve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The new centre has been designed after consultation with existing users and this is reflected in the facility mix. We have movable floors in both pools to cater for the extra depth our surf life-saving clubs and water polo players require and has two additional lanes in the main pool to accommodate more casual swimmers.

We have also improved facilities for disabled users, with state-of-the-art “pool pods” which allow a more dignified form of entry into the pools for those with mobility difficulties.”

Glen Hall, Managing Director of Parkwood Leisure says: “Tarka Leisure Centre is a project that we’re really excited about; we know the local area is in need of improved leisure provision and the new facility will provide a hub for the local community to enjoy for many years to come. We have a long-standing relationship with North Devon Council, and we can’t wait to see our collective plans come together to deliver something truly unique for the region.”

Rob Lashford, regional director for Speller Metcalfe, says: “It is extremely important to us that this scheme benefits the local community, not only as an exciting new leisure centre, but by providing employment opportunities to local businesses throughout its construction – something we know is more important than ever after the challenging few months businesses up and down the country have faced.”

Sport England has provided £1.75m of National Lottery funding towards the project and £1.5m has been granted by the Coastal Communities Fund. Contributions from local housing developments have also been put towards the build costs.

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


Union Flag bunting has started going up outside shops in Minehead in readiness for the 1940s Weekend which will be returning to the town on 12 and 13 September. Minehead BID has again linked up with the West Somerset Railway to take the town back to this bygone age which is even more poignant this year as we remember the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

The Covid pandemic has put paid to a much bigger event this year but Minehead will certainly be livened up over the weekend by the addition of a fantastic line-up of vintage bands and entertainers dotted around the town.

Shoppers and café goers will be serenaded by well-known tunes and acts of the era who will be based in a variety of locations at the Railway Station, Harbour, Wellington Square, Lisa’s Vintage Tearoom, Owls Roost, The Hairy Dog and the new Third Wave Restaurant in the town centre. There will also be vehicles outside the Old Hospital and an exhibition of wartime clothing and rationing inside the building.

“We would have made much more of the weekend had the climate been more favourable, but working with our Health and Safety team and being aware of current guidelines we have wanted to keep this year’s gathering low key,” said Andrew Hopkins, Minehead’s BID Manager. “As with the Eat Festival, Minehead BID is doing its best to balance the health of the High Street with the safety of residents. We are expecting an extended tourist season this year and indications show most accommodation providers’ books remain full. “

In addition to the music of the era around the town centre at the Railway Station there will be military and civilian vehicles, plus displays from the Army, RAF and Land Army. Uniformed British and American troops will be in attendance and there will be an opportunity to go on the footplate of a locomotive plus see shunting and turntable demonstrations. Tickets for a two-hour time slot need to be purchased in advance from the West Somerset Railway for this part of the event which will take place between 10am and 5pm on both the Saturday and Sunday.

Robin Wichard, who is organising the activities at the Railway Station, said, “We were determined to do what we could to provide a 40s event despite the Covid pandemic and – working closely with Minehead BID – we have an event with the emphasis on both quality entertainment and the safety of visitors and participants. Rarely will there be the chance to see such an array of vintage talent in one place and we hope people will enjoy the opportunity.”

For more information, contact Robin Wichard on 01984 641022 or Andrew Hopkins, Minehead BID on 07703 668928.

Photo by Robin Wichard

To purchase tickets for the event at the Railway Station, either visit or call 01643 704996.

‘A balm for the soul’: Two Moors Festival brings live classical music to Wiveliscombe

Exmoor Weekend: 2-4 October – St Andrew’s Church, Wiveliscombe (and Dartmoor Weekend: 26-27 September – St Pancras’ Church, Widecombe-in-the-Moor)

The region’s unique Two Moors Festival will return this autumn, with world-class classical music concerts held in line with current government guidelines.  It will be the first time many of the internationally recognised artists involved have returned to the stage since lockdown.

The classical music events will take place with limited, socially distanced audiences across two weekends: 26-27 September on Dartmoor and 2-4 October on Exmoor, in beautiful church venues in Widecombe and Wiveliscombe.  All concerts will be one hour in length with no interval.

The artists involved have thoughtfully created programmes that are joyful, uplifting and a balm for the soul after lockdown.

Tamsin Waley-Cohen, Artistic Director of The Two Moors Festival, said: “I am delighted to be unveiling our programme for the 2020 Festival, my first as Artistic Director.  I was one of the Young Musician Competition winners in the very first Festival 20 years ago and have had the pleasure of returning often since then, seeing it grow and flourish.  This year, we will of course have all relevant measures in place to make it safe and enjoyable for all, in line with government guidance. The Two Moors Festival was born out of the foot and mouth crisis and, on our 20th Anniversary, as we find ourselves weathering another crisis, we offer a festival of celebration, bringing the shared, joyful experience of live music back to the Moors, and lifting people’s spirits.”

Over the past two decades, the Two Moors Festival has evolved into one of the most distinctive classical music festivals in the world.

Included in the Festival’s lineup of musical talent this year are performances from brilliant and insightful rising star pianist, Elisabeth Brauss (pictured); jazz star and a BBC New Generation Artist, Misha Mullov-Abbado; and internationally renowned tenor, Nicky Spence, with the great lieder pianist, Chris Glynn.

Ticket booking is now open.

For information on  ticket sales and event safety, please visit