Lifeline grants for Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, Landmark Theatre and Queen’s Theatre

The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is celebrating with the news that it will receive £58k from the Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund. Also benefiting from the fund are the Queen’s and Landmark theatres, which together will receive £550k.

The Museum has faced a very challenging year in 2020. It closed in March in line with government guidelines so the grand re-opening, following the refurbishment and the new wing extension, was put on hold.

The Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple and the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe have been unable to operate fully since March as a result of Covid restrictions. But following this week’s announcement that they will be awarded funding, Selladoor – the company that runs the theatres – has announced it intends to lift the curtains and re-open in time for Christmas, with full Covid safety measures in place.

Museum Curator, Alison Mills, says, “This funding is excellent news for the Museum and all the staff and volunteers. It will help to make up for the income we have lost this year to date, and enable us to get fully up and running. Although the pandemic continues to affect all our lives we hope to extend our opening hours soon by recruiting some temporary staff. We will also be investing in digital services, so people can enjoy our exhibitions and learn about our collections virtually.”

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden says: “I am delighted that the cultural heart of North Devon is being supported by this much-needed lifeline. Our museum and theatres are very important to our community; as we saw a few years ago when the then theatre operator went into administration. The amount of people who rallied around to save the theatres from closure was astounding. We are lucky to have such fantastic facilities here and we must support them as much as we can during these difficult times.”

David Hutchinson, Chief Executive of Selladoor Worldwide says “Whilst many theatres across the UK are still closed due to the challenges brought by Covid-19, Selladoor are once again opening the doors of The Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple and The Landmark in Ilfracombe to ensure the local communities of North Devon have access to live theatre, and this festive entertainment will be provided within a safe, socially-distanced environment.”

The museum was able to re-open safely on 12 August. Admission is free, but to ensure the safety of staff and visitors, an advanced booking system has been introduced to help manage visitor numbers so social distancing can be maintained and ensure the museum experience is a safe and welcoming one.

All visitors are being asked to book a timed arrival slot in advance on the Museum website between the revised opening hours of 11am-3pm (last admittance at 2pm), Wednesday to Friday.

Additional events at the theatres are yet to be confirmed so keep an eye out for the latest announcements and for further information or to book tickets visit the Queens Theatre website or follow the Queen’s Theatre and The Landmark on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Book your tickets for Rosemoor Glow

Tickets for Glow at Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Gardens are now on sale to the general public as the world’s leading gardening charity prepares to light up its gardens this winter for magical events throughout the festive season.

With many festive events cancelled, now is the time to treat yourself to something special. The winter at Rosemoor in North Devon is always one of the most beautiful sights in all seasons. In addition to its daytime beauty, once again visitors can see the garden transformed at night too by innovative colour-changing lighting into a magical festive trail around the trees, shrubs, water features and sculptures.

With the safety of visitors and staff its foremost priority in these challenging times, the RHS has put in place a number of measures to ensure everyone can enjoy the events with confidence. These include mandatory advance booking, one-way routes around the gardens and limits on numbers at any one time. All four RHS Gardens have recently been awarded Visit England’s ‘Good to Go’ certification, an industry-standard mark of reassurance that they are carefully following all the latest government guidance on Covid-19.

“We are thrilled to be able to welcome our visitors to Rosemoor for Glow this year, and we can’t wait to share the beautiful new displays we have planned,” says Helena Pettit, RHS Director of Gardens and Shows. “Glow is a highlight of the winter months for us and our visitors, and we have worked hard to ensure that these will be fun, enchanting and safe events for all the family.”

Taking visitors along a new (one-way) route, Rosemoor Glow 2020 will include the Winter Garden (back by popular demand), the Cool Garden with its rippling water rills, the Long Borders, through the Cottage Garden for the first time and once again down to The Lake with its incredible reflections. Also for the first time, there will be interactive sections as well as a few ‘light’ surprises along the way.

Please see the website for the selected dates between 19 November to 2 January. During Glow evenings the gardens will be open until 8pm to maximise the effects of the lighting and, on those days, normal garden entry includes Glow (free for RHS members). In this way you can enjoy a full day out seeing the gardens and sculptures by day and then also Rosemoor Glow by night.

Hot and cold refreshments will be available at various points around the trail and the Rosemoor Shop will also remain open until 8pm for Christmas Trees and decorations as well as exclusive RHS gift ranges.

Other events taking place:

Rosemoor’s extremely popular annual Winter Sculpture Exhibition will be up and running from 12 November to 31 January. Last year, record numbers of visitors enjoyed the eclectic mix of exhibits that are set against the backdrop of the garden. This year, the exhibition has been freshened up with a high proportion of new artists. Most of the sculptures featured in the exhibition are for sale.

To make the most of a visit to Rosemoor there is also a special day-time seasonal Garden Trail (one for autumn and one for winter) which includes many specimens from our national collection of hollies and featuring key highlighted plants and shrubs around the garden.

Every visit and every purchase supports the charitable work of the RHS. Normal garden admission applies (free for RHS members). The Garden itself is open every day (except Christmas Day) 10am-5pm. Tickets for Glow must be booked online. Routes are fully accessible and festive refreshments will be available. For further information, visit

Somerset Wildlife Trust: Somerset Nature Connections project

Somerset Nature Connections is a new partnership project being run by Somerset Wildlife Trust, the Mendip Hills and the Quantock Hills and Blackdown Hills AONBs (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, it will support local communities and individuals most  vulnerable to mental health issues, providing better access to nature spaces to encourage and increase self-management for individuals, and develop a network of skilled volunteers who can support communities for the longer term.

The project will also work be working closely with mental health charities Mind and Chard WATCH. Significant funding has also been received from Hinkley Point C Community Impact Mitigation (CIM) Fund and Somerset County Council. Jim Hardcastle, Mendip Hills AONB Manager, said, “Somerset is blessed in having three AONBs that can be used as a ‘natural health service’ for the community. The combination of the AONB teams and Somerset Wildlife Trust working together for the benefit of the community in Somerset is really powerful and will have a long-lasting legacy.”

Jolyon Chesworth, Head of Engagement at Somerset Wildlife Trust, says: “There are individuals and communities in Somerset who stand to benefit hugely from time spent in natural spaces, but access is often limited. It’s vital that we support people and communities in need in these particularly challenging times, and that we do something positive and long term to empower particularly vulnerable people or groups to connect with the project so they don’t feel isolated and alone, and can meet people in a safe, supported, nature-based environment to self-manage their mental health.”

The project will run a targeted programme delivered in six-week blocks at various locations across the county for people experiencing poor mental health. The programme will include practical outdoor activities, including conservation tasks, wildlife walks and natural crafts, adapted to the meet the specific needs of each group in order to help them connect with nature. Volunteers will be recruited and trained to provide peer support to those who may need extra help to attend activities and to access mainstream nature volunteer groups. Others will volunteer to provide health and wellbeing support at local community groups. The project will work with local community groups and support staff working with people with a higher risk of experiencing mental health problems. This may include people with learning disabilities, long term health conditions, carers and isolated older people. As part of this, the project will increase group leaders’ knowledge and skills to deliver outdoor wellbeing-enhancing activities.

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Photo by Matt Sweeting

Halsway Manor House breaks at the heart of the British Folk scene

If you fancy a last-minute holiday or change of scene for half term and enjoy a place with a story, Halsway Manor could be for you.

Halsway Manor is the National Centre for Folk Arts, a charity offering residential folk music courses throughout the year. But Covid restrictions have taken a toll on the programming and while some of the dance and European music events are postponed the venue is offering out its rooms for holiday accommodation. This is a rare treat to stay in a venue with history at the heart of the English Folk Music Scene.

Halsway Manor, with its medieval origins, offers simple, affordable and homely accommodation in beautiful building and grounds. You can expect the same warm and friendly welcome as course participants do with breakfast and evening dinner served in the dining room. The bedrooms recently received a makeover thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund award. The library is also open to guests with its decorative Tudor ceilings and collection of local folklore and music.

The Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are the backdrop for Halsway Manor, making it a perfect base for cycling, walking and nature holidays. You can explore the local villages, footpaths throughout the Quantocks and Exmoor, and the West Somerset coastline all of which are within easy reach. There is plenty of space for arts and crafts activities. And after your day’s adventures you can relax by the fire and enjoy a drink in the panelled bar. Single, double and family rooms are available and each has its own bathroom. With so much space the Manor lends itself to these times and has Visit England’s Good to Go mark.

At a time when music venues and performing artists are struggling this is a great way to support this arts charity which supports musicianship and helps to keep traditional English Folk music scene alive.

To book a stay at Halsway Manor visit tel 01984 618 274.

Rights of Way Report highlights effects of extreme weather on Exmoor’s ROWs

Hundreds of trees down over paths, blocked drains and exceptionally wet and windy weather were among the growing challenges recorded in September’s’ Rights of Way and Access Annual Report prepared by Exmoor National Park Authority. The network remains in good condition, with over 92 per cent of paths surveyed rated as ‘open and easy to use’, but the Authority warns that increasing extreme weather due to climate change has started to take its toll.

The frequent storms and flash flooding events of last winter saw a record 233 fallen trees cleared from paths and maintenance needed to 1,023 drains. All major works to Rights of Way now include increased drain capacity as standard to improve the network’s resilience to flooding and reduce erosion.

The summer months provide little relief, with the extended growing season meaning there is a a need to cut back vegetation twice or more a season, whereas in past decades just once had been enough. This year alone 159km of paths were cut back – an average year.

Despite this, Exmoor’s Rights of Way network remained in excellent condition at the start of the season, in time for record numbers of visitors to visit the area following the easing of lockdown measures.

Estimates based on STEAM data suggest that visitors enjoy 1.59 million walks in a typical year, and this year that figure would have been much higher. This underscores the value of the Rights of Way network to tourism, which contributes nearly £130 million to the local economy and accounts for around 60 per cent of employment.

Dan Barnett, Exmoor National Park’s Access & Recreation Manager, said: “The rights of way network has played such an important role in people’s lives this year, bringing a much-needed breath of fresh air at a time when so many other freedoms were off-limits. It’s testament to the team that in spite of the terrible weather last year they largely kept on top of things and we began this year in a good place.

“But with climate change we can expect more extreme weather and things are only going to get worse. Without further investment this will make it increasingly difficult to maintain the high standards so many walkers and riders come here to enjoy.”

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Our rights of way are just one small example of the profound way climate change is threatening our National Parks – the beauty and wildlife they were designated for and that millions flock to experience every year. These special places are also cornerstones for vital, life-supporting ecosystem services, such as clean air and water, healthy soils, flood alleviation and carbon sequestration.

“We’re working tirelessly with landowners and partners to restore nature in Exmoor, make it more resilient and improve the way land is managed. This will not only benefit people’s enjoyment of the National Park, but also play a vital part in responding to the nature and climate emergencies for future generations and the planet.”

RNLI lifeguard patrols extend at Croyde Bay every day throughout October

Recent approval has allowed for Croyde Bay to extend their RNLI lifeguard patrols every day throughout October, with the last day of the season on Sunday 1 November.

Despite the Coronavirus pandemic and the challenges posed by lockdown restrictions earlier in the year, the RNLI have provided lifeguard cover on 76 beaches across the South West this summer, with lifeguards recording a 100 per cent increase in the number of beach users in comparison with 2019, despite being on fewer beaches.

Like all beaches across the South West, Croyde has had a very busy summer, especially throughout July and August where we saw record numbers visiting the coast on a regular basis. September has also seen busy beaches, with high pressure, warm temperatures and southerly winds bringing a late-summer vibe.

Matt Whitley, RNLI Lead Lifeguard Supervisor for North Devon, says: “We are very grateful for the addition of lifeguard patrols at Croyde during the week, as well as at the weekends and during October half-term. There will be three lifeguards on duty so please make sure you listen to their safety advice and swim between the red and yellow flags.

“As we head into autumn, there tend to be regular swells, warm water temperatures and changeable weather patterns, so having a lifeguard presence at one of our most popular beaches will provide the preventative actions required to warn beach users of any dangers and keep people safe.

“This is in addition to Woolacombe beach which will also have cover at weekends and during the October half-term.”

Matt adds: “2020 has been unique in many ways for everyone, it has also been one of the busiest summers for our lifeguards on the beaches in the South West and, even at the beginning of September, our beach and water statistics were significantly greater in the first week of September compared with previous years.

“Staycation numbers have increased significantly, with many opting to use the beach and water – rain or shine – as a good open space to be outside but avoiding others.

“I’d like to thank Parkdean Resorts’ Ruda Holiday Park for its continued support with extending our lifeguard service.”

The RNLI will be providing additional lifeguard patrols from 10am-6pm at Croyde Bay until BST ends on 25 October, after which service will be affected by failing light.

Tom Mansell, Regional Lifesaving Lead, says: “We’d really encourage anyone planning on going in the water to head to one of the lifeguarded beaches around the region where lifeguards will be on hand to offer advice and they can enjoy their activity safely.

“Where there are no flags, there is no lifeguard service. Those who can’t make it to a lifeguarded beach can help keep themselves safe by taking note of the safety signage at the entrance to the beach, going with a friend or telling someone on the shore where they are going, at the same time always being aware of the conditions and their own capabilities in the water. Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water.

“Those who enjoy walking and exploring the coastline should check the weather forecast and local tide times before setting out and carry a means of communication.

“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: Courtesy of RNLI MS