All posts by Naomi Cudmore

Editor and designer for the magazine, Naomi has lived in and around Exmoor since 1979. She spent most of her childhood in Nettlecombe parish, went to school at Minehead Middle and the West Somerset Community College and studied English Literature at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She worked in publishing for ten years after graduating in 1996, then took a break when she left her role as Commissioning Editor in 2004 to sail around the world, during which she was an on-board writer and the racing team's 'media person' for ten months. Afterwards she set up on her own (she runs www.lighthousecommunications.co.uk), before taking on the editorship of Exmoor Magazine in 2008 and buying the business with colleagues in 2010. She lives near Washford with her partner Pete and an extremely lazy 'editor's cat', Turtle, who makes guest appearances on our Facebook page from time to time. She spends most of her spare time gig rowing at Appledore.

JUST THIS WEEK LEFT TO APPLY FOR PINNACLE AWARD

The 2019 Pinnacle Award, organised by The Exmoor Society, is open to young people aged between 18 and 27 years who live, work or study in the Greater Exmoor area.  It offers up to £3,000 to an individual or group with an idea for a business venture based on Exmoor, for example in agriculture, forestry, food and drink, conservation, horticulture, craft or tourism.  The Award, now in its eighth year, was set up by The Exmoor Society to help young entrepreneurs live and work on Exmoor. As a conservation body, the Society fully recognises the importance of providing opportunities for young people to continue to live in the area by encouraging entrepreneurial activity.  The award also helps to promote the idea that livelihoods and beautiful landscapes in a National Park do go together.

Previous applications have come from people with ideas as diverse as making cider and developing a herd of pedigree cattle.  The award so far has helped fund young people either to set up or take forward businesses such as agricultural contracting, country clothing, arboriculture, metalworking and woodland management.  There were three successful applicants in 2018: Polly Goodman, Philip Stephens and Camilla Waterer, who were developing respectively goat meat from local herds, vehicle canopies from lightweight material and horse-drawn carriage rides over the moor for celebrations and special picnics.  All three applicants impressed the judges so much that Trustees decided to offer the full award to each one in celebration of the Society’s 60th anniversary.

The application process is designed to be accessible to all with a basic form to complete and a reference provided by a mentor or sponsor.  Applicants will be invited to an informal interview where judges will be looking for business ventures related to Exmoor’s rural character and likely to provide a sustainable living, with perhaps the potential in the future to offer further employment.

Chairman of the Society, Rachel Thomas, said: “There is a great deal of concern that young people have to leave Exmoor because of the lack of employment.  By providing seed core money through the Pinnacle Award, the Society hopes to enable them to stay in the area and keep the moor alive and thriving.”

The Society hopes to attract even more entries for the award this year which is open for applications with the closing date being 30 June 2019.  Forms are available on the Society’s website at www.exmoorsociety.com or by contacting its Dulverton office on 01398 323335, info@exmoorsociety.com.

Image: Tom Lile, blacksmith and metalworker.

CELEBRATE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF NATIONAL PARKS WITH A BIG PICNIC

A special ‘Big Picnic’ for all those who love National Parks is being held in Exmoor National Park on Wednesday 17 July to celebrate 70 years since the 1949 Act of Parliament that gave rise to the UK’s 15 National Parks.

The Act was a truly landmark moment born out of a decades-long campaign that famously led to the mass trespass of the Peak District’s Kinder Scout in 1932, amid years of protests and political lobbying by various pressure groups. The breakthrough came when a Government review committee, headed by Sir Arthur Hobhouse, capitalised on post-war optimism to table a new National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, which became law in 1949.

The National Parks Big Picnic is a chance to celebrate the legacy of these early pioneers and their determination to make enjoyment of the country’s most iconic landscapes the right of every citizen. It will take place in Simonsbath’s beautiful riverside meadows, at the heart of Exmoor National Park’s former Royal Forest.

Special guests will include Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Minister for National Parks), Niall Hobhouse (grandson of Arthur Hobhouse), representatives from the UK National Park family, along with some very special VIPs to be announced.

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park, said: “We’re proud to be part of a family of 15 National Parks tasked with conserving some of the country’s most extraordinary landscapes. Grab your picnic and chairs or a blanket and join us in celebrating all these special places mean to the nation. Tickets are free but limited, so be sure to claim yours soon.”

There will be a complimentary cream tea for all ticketholders and the unveiling of a special show-stopper cake in honour of all the UK’s National Parks. Come and see the working Sawmill and take a tour of nearby Ashcombe Gardens where a 200-year-old lost garden is being restored. The event will also include live music, displays, guided-walks, native breeds, traditional crafts, Exmoor ponies and assorted countryside activities. Bring your own picnic or pre-order one from the website to collect on the day. Local produce and refreshments will be available to buy, including hog roast, BBQ, local ales, gin and cider, teas and coffees and Styles ice cream.

Limited free tickets are available on a first-come-first-serve basis at: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/bigpicnic

The event is hosted by Exmoor National Park Authority with kind sponsorship from Tarmac and further support from The Exmoor Society, Somerset County Council, Devon County Council, Exmoor Hill Farming Network and the family of UK National Parks.

Stuart Wykes, director of Land and National Resources at Tarmac, said: “Tarmac is proud to be sponsoring the National Parks Big Picnic in celebration of their 70th anniversary. We have a long history working within the national parks so it’s great to be involved in such special event.”

CONSERVATIONISTS CONCERNED BY LATE SWIFT RETURN

This is a story published by the RSPB

Wildlife experts who work to save the UK’s dwindling swift population are concerned at the late arrival of these birds, which nest here after spending the winter in Africa. Many swifts have arrived up to two weeks late, and the RSPB has received numerous calls and emails from people concerned at their absence.

What might have caused this delay? Swifts would normally begin their journeys north from Africa in April. Their epic 6,000 mile journey is often fraught with hazards but weather conditions this year may have made migration especially difficult.

When the birds arrived in Europe, they were faced with serious climatic challenges. This year there have been distressing stories from Italy and Spain showing that swifts, some of which may have been on their way to UK nest sites, have even been killed by storms and cold wet weather. Doomed to die of starvation and hypothermia, they have been trying to survive overnight by clinging to each other on walls to avoid the wind and rain.

Swift expert Edward Mayer, who runs the Swift Conservation website and free advice service, says “There has been some really appalling spring weather this year in Italy, France, Spain and the Balkans. Temperatures should have been in the 30s but were in the low teens, and much lower at night, with prolonged rain storms making things even worse. This suppresses the swifts’ flying insect food, soaks and chills them – and can kill them”.

The unseasonably low temperatures in southern Europe will have made life even harder for these small birds desperately needing to refuel for the final leg of their journey. Then predominantly northerly winds have made flying north even harder.

Although these are extraordinarily resilient birds, swifts that make it to the UK face further challenges. They typically nest under the eaves of houses but in recent years many of these spaces have been blocked up, leaving the birds with the difficult task of finding somewhere new to raise their young during the limited time they spend here. The RSPB ran a campaign between February and April to encourage people to make new homes for them, by buying either a specially made nestbox or making one of their own.

“Swifts have huge public support in the UK” says Jamie Wyver, the RSPB’s Swift Lead. “Our supporters and social media followers are incredibly enthusiastic about them, and earlier this year we sold well over 1,000 new swift nestboxes! As well as our own regional teams working hard to make sure these birds have plenty of places to nest, there are around 75 independent local swift groups.”

The RSPB’s John Day and fellow swift experts Dick Newell and Edward Mayer recently had published a co-authored article providing advice for ecologists in the membership journal of the Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM). The article outlines ways in which new building developments can easily accommodate homes for swifts, neatly built inside wall cavities. These ‘nest bricks’ should be added typically in small clusters of two to four to gables of houses, as swifts prefer to nest close to one another.

Everyone can help swifts this summer by adding sightings of the birds nesting or flying around roofs to the RSPB’s Swift Survey: rspb.org.uk/swiftsurvey. Data gathered in the survey are used to show which sites are most important for swifts.

There’s also an opportunity to get out and enjoy the swifts that have made it back this year and learn how to help boost their numbers during Swift Awareness Week, from Saturday 22 to Sunday 30 June. This will highlight the plight of this iconic bird and show how everyone can help by, for example putting up swift nest boxes and gardening for wildlife. Over 70 local events have been organised during the week so far, from the south coast to the north of Scotland. Further details of each event can be found on the Action for Swifts website: actionforswifts.blogspot.com/p/2019-swift-awareness-week.html .

PHOTO: Swift Apus apus, lone bird flying over rooftop where they are actively encouraged to nest in houses, Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire, by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com).

HERITAGE TRAIL OF NORTH DEVON TO LAUNCH ON D-DAY ANNIVERSARY

75 years on from the D-Day landings a new trail launched this week will commemorate 12 of the most important military and cultural sites of the Second World War in North Devon. The World War II Heritage Trail will be unique in including sites of both strategic magnitude and human significance, and will highlight locations from Great Torrington in the south to Watermouth Cove in the north of the area.

Developed by North Devon’s museums and the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the trail unveiling follows the announcement that one of its sites, the D-Day practice structures at Braunton Burrows, is to be given heritage protection by the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, on the advice of Historic England.

Each location on the North Devon-wide, 12-point trail will be marked with a bronze plaque. An accompanying booklet will feature an area map and grid references, helping local people and visitors to find their way around the key sites while revealing the military and human stories behind them.

Claire Gulliver, project coordinator, said: “The North Devon coast closely resembled that of Normandy. We hope that this trail will bring to life the military strategy that was being developed on North Devon’s beaches, estuaries and sand dunes, in practising for the biggest amphibious assault in military history. But we also hope to evoke the human stories of the British and Allied soldiers who lived and trained here, together with those of the local communities they mixed with.

“Some of the trail sites are well known for the role they played in the D-Day preparations, such as the concrete structures at Braunton Burrows where soldiers practised debarking from their landing craft, or the dunes of Northam Burrows where British personnel experimented with adapted tanks known as ‘Hobart’s Funnies’. Other locations are more surprising, such as Torrington Square where off-duty American GIs used to gather before a night out on the town, or the American Red Cross Centre in Woolacombe, now the Red Barn Pub and popular with surfers today.”

A special booklet, Devon D-Day: A World War II Heritage Trail of the North Devon Coast will be available from museums from the D-Day anniversary, 6 June.

The trail is part of Devon D-Day. Devon D-Day is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, with additional financial support from North Devon Council, North Devon Coast AONB and North Devon Marketing Bureau.

PHOTO: GI soldiers at the American Red Cross Centre, Woolacombe (now the Red Barn pub), 1943 (courtesy of Mortehoe Museum).

 

WEST COUNTRY BLACKSMITHS NOMINATED FOR MORE AWARDS!

Exmoor-based bespoke metalwork specialists West Country Blacksmiths have had two  separate projects shortlisted for the 2019 GAGA Construction Awards alongside projects which include Aerospace in Bristol, the London Palladium Wall of Fame Project and Crystal Palace Park Café

The two bespoke projects were fully designed and made by the highly skilled craftsmen of West Country Blacksmiths who are based at the stunning stone-built Allerford Forge, which has been at heart of the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate on the edge of Exmoor in Somerset for hundreds of years.

One of the projects shortlisted was a project undertaken for the Lillycombe Estate in Porlock, Somerset. The project required the team to design, make and install three pairs of bespoke entrance gates, two pedestrian gates and large sections of estate railing. The metalwork was designed to a traditional estate metalwork style, and produced to the very highest standards with an abundance of hand-forged details.

The second project shortlisted was a project undertaken at a residential property in Bristol (pictured), where the team designed, made and installed a large variety of metalwork, which included a bespoke balcony, rooftop railings, a gate, handrails, and garden railings. The metalwork was designed to a traditional style to be in keeping with the property, and include stunning high-quality handcrafted details including organic leaf and scroll work.

Both projects were selected in the award category of detail. Iqbal Johal, one of four judges of the GAGA Awards, said, “We received a record number of nominations this year and the 2019 GAGAs had an impressive shortlist which included the Lillycombe Estate and Orchard Cottage project completed by West Country Blacksmiths. The fine craftmanship of West Country Blacksmiths made both Orchard Cottage and Lillycombe Estate easy choices as shortlisted projects for our Awards. The variety of work, detailing and quality of finish made them stand out in comparison with the competition.”

All the metalwork was finished with a galvanised and antique acid etch finish to offer the benefits of a fully rust-proof and maintenance-free finish, whilst giving the metalwork a beautiful unique rustic look.

The ceremony, which marks the 25th anniversary of the awards, will be attended by the smiths on 7 June at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London. Previous winning projects of the awards will also be celebrated at the event, including the Eden Project in Cornwall and the Imperial War Museum in Manchester.

The award nominations come only a few months after the team were awarded the highly acclaimed Staircase of the Year Award at the Architects’ Journal Architecture Specification Award 2019. The award was given for bespoke staircase project completed for a property in the nature reserve of Sartfell Mountain on the Isle of Man in partnership with Foster Lomas Architects.

West Country Blacksmiths Company Director Kieren Roberts said, “We are very grateful for the recognition we have received already this year. We are privileged to have an incredibly talented team and together we work extremely hard to produce metalwork to the very best standards to suit all projects and design preferences. The support we get from the local community is incredible. By this I don’t just mean in inviting us to undertake work for them, but also by helping to share the work we produce and by recommending us to others; we rely on this support.”

Find out more on the West Country Blacksmiths website.

SEABIRDS FLOCK BACK TO LUNDY ISLAND

A new study led by the RSPB has revealed that total seabird numbers on the island of Lundy have now tripled to over 21,000 birds, and key species such as Manx shearwater have increased to more than 5,500 pairs and puffins to 375 birds.

This growth over the past 15 years resulted after the island was declared rat free in 2006.  The eradication of rats was necessary after evidence from other important seabird islands revealed that the biggest threat to burrow-nesting birds such as Manx shearwaters and puffins on Lundy was predation of the eggs and chicks by rats.

In 2002 a partnership of Natural England, the Landmark Trust, the National Trust and the RSPB was formed to eradicate the rats on Lundy, which are not native to Britain but were imported unwittingly on ships visiting the island or from shipwrecks.

Rosie Hall, Director of Science & Nature at the National Trust, said, “We were really concerned as previous records showed that puffin numbers on Lundy had plummeted from over 3,500 pairs in 1939 to fewer than 10 pairs in 2000.  And although around 75% of the global population of Manx shearwaters breed on UK islands there were only 297 pairs on Lundy in 2001 – way short of its potential considering its size and available habitat.”

Helen Booker, Senior Conservation Officer for the RSPB in South West England, said: “This study clearly shows how quickly and positively seabirds respond to the removal of non-native predators. Of course, we had anticipated major population increases when the project was launched, but the scale of this recovery has far exceeded our expectations.

Dean Jones, Lundy Warden, speaking for Landmark Trust, said, “It is exciting to see this level of recovery in Manx shearwaters, one of our most important seabirds. In spring the island comes alive at night with the sound of these amazing birds. The increases in puffins, guillemots and razorbills is also very encouraging for the future of seabirds on Lundy and we are maintaining our vigilance to ensure rats cannot return to the island.”

Tim Frayling, Senior Specialist in Ornithology at Natural England, said, “Lundy Island is home to one of the most important seabird colonies in England and it is fantastic to see such a revival in numbers.

“The current challenges facing wildlife are huge, but this remarkable increase demonstrates that wildlife recovery can be achieved by partnerships and local communities working together, in this case by
combining their expertise to create a safer breeding environment for the fantastic diversity of breeding seabirds that help make Lundy so special.”

Ms Booker added, “The partners are grateful for all the support we’ve had over the years from a huge team of volunteers without which both the work to eradicate the rats and our knowledge of the seabirds’ recovery simply would not have been possible.”

PHOTO by Elisabeth Price

BICCLESCOMBE PARK OPEN DAY: ALL WELCOME

Enjoy a free day of family fun at Ilfracombe’s award-winning Bicclescombe Park this half term.

The open day is being held on Wednesday 29 May between 11am and 3pm, with the opportunity for residents to have their say on the future of Bicclescombe Park.

If you are free this half term, why not plan a visit? There will be lots of free activities on the day to keep the whole family amused, including:

• tennis taster sessions
• arts and crafts with Mrs Recycle
• face painting
• model boat displays
• circus and art workshops
• treasure hunt

Contracts Delivery Manager at North Devon Council, Mark Kentell, says: “Bicclescombe is a wonderful park and we look forward to seeing everyone at the open day.

“The park is continuously being improved, with the help of a very dedicated group of volunteers, and we hope to begin the final phase of the play area redevelopment very soon. So we are keen for members of the public to come forward with their ideas of what could be done to improve and enhance the park for everyone to enjoy.”

For more information, call the Parks Team on 01271 388326 or email parks@northdevon.gov.uk

TOP YEAR FOR COMMANDO ENTRIES

Do you think you could take on the Royal Marines’ own endurance training course?

Fancy yourself as a bit of a Commando? Do you think you have what it takes?  2019 is on track to become a winning year for the two charities that run the popular yet demanding Royal Marines Commando Challenge event.

Devon Air Ambulance and RMA – The Royal Marines Charity – are welcoming record sign-ups to this year’s gruelling obstacle course, which is open to civilians to enlist on either the 5k or 10k route.

The circuit features eight notoriously challenging obstacles and presents an opportunity for the untrained to take on the elite Royal Marines’ own endurance training course.

The event takes place on the weekend of 13 and 14 October this year and will be supported by an array of attractions and activities including the much-enjoyed dog show, which was a welcome fluffy addition to the end of the gritty endurance experience last year.

Entrants will take on a tough test of endurance that’s famous for rough Woodbury moorland, dark tunnels, muddy pipes and pools, and an underwater culvert. The course includes such adrenaline-inducing obstacles as the ‘Smartie Tube and the ‘Sheep Dip’.

Last year’s event raised over £67,000 as a whole in sponsorship – a significant increase on the previous year – and involved over 1,000 fearless fundraisers whose courage, determination and cheerfulness helped them tackle the world-famous commando tests.

Those who are ready to get their hands – and everything else – dirty by taking on the famously challenging obstacle course can enlist by visiting the Commando Challenge Website www.commandochallenge.co.uk

THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WOODSIDE

You might have seen a rope strung with colourfully painted walking boots across the East Lyn River on your walks recently. It is part of the bid to raise funds to replace a popular footbridge known locally as ‘Woodside Bridge’.

Over 40 boots were painted by the children of West Exmoor Federation and heaved into place across the East Lyn River by local volunteers from the Lynmouth Coastguard Search & Rescue.

Woodside Bridge once formed part of a short circular walk along the lower reaches of the river, returning to the picturesque village of Lynmouth via Middleham Memorial Gardens, created in memory of victims of the famous 1952 flood disaster.

It’s been a feature of the area for more than a century, but it wore out and had to be removed in 2016 and the Lyn Community Development Trust (LCDT) have since been fundraising to have it reinstated. They are now three-quarters of the way towards the £60K needed for a beautiful new bridge built in solid Exmoor oak and have secured commitment from Exmoor National Park Authority to help with installation and maintenance, when the remaining funds are raised.

Dave Wilde, Chair of the LDCT, said: “We came up with the idea of the boots as a way of bringing the appeal to the attention of the many walkers and visitors to the area, as well as local residents. It was lovely to see the schoolchildren getting involved and the boots they painted look wonderful. They’re the ones who will get to walk across the new bridge in future, so it’s great they have been able to help in such an inspiring way”.

Julia Bradbury has also shown her support for the campaign after the route featured in her hit TV series Britain’s Best Walks and online portal The Outdoor Guide, along with TV presenter Caroline Quentin, who took time to record a video appeal after finding out about the Bridge through her role as President of the Campaign for National Parks.

It’s also being backed by Exmoor National Park Authority through its CareMoor for Exmoor scheme, run by Philip Kiberd. He said: “What a brilliant idea, West Exmoor Federation have done a great job. I might ask them to paint my boots next. It’s amazing how everyone has got behind this campaign and LCDT, the schools, the coastguard and the National Trust all deserve praise for arranging it and allowing it to go ahead. Let’s hope it encourages lots of donations to the appeal and helps get the bridge back soon.”

Donate to the Woodside Bridge Appeal via CareMoor for Exmoor www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor, in person at the National Park Centre in Lynmouth or for Gift Aid via the LCDTat wonderful.org/appeal/woodsidebridgereplacementappeal-1f70a510.

COULD YOU LOOK AFTER A LIFE-CHANGING PUPPY FOR A YEAR?

Guest post from Guide Dogs

You may well have heard of Guide Dogs, we’re a national charity working to ensure that people with a visual impairment do not lose their independence. There are around two million people in the UK living with sight loss, and all experience a different level of vision and mobility. We offer a range of mobility services to help people keep their independence, and have an amazing number of dedicated staff, volunteers, and of course, dogs who support the Guide Dogs mission.

Guide Dogs needs volunteers who can help look after and support the training of our guide dog puppies! This is a full-time volunteering role as the puppy would live with you, and you would be providing the puppy with a vital foundation for its future role as a guide dog for someone living with sight loss. Training and ongoing support is provided by Guide Dogs and your Puppy Training Supervisor, and all food and vets bills are paid for.

Puppy Training Supervisor, Leah, says, “Puppy walking is a vital role in a guide dog’s development. If you have the time, enthusiasm, love of dogs and a positive outlook, this volunteer role is for you. Puppies are placed at 7 weeks old and will stay with you until approximately 12-16 months of age. In this time, you will expose the puppy to everyday life. You will receive regular visits and be encouraged to attend one of our local puppy classes. We couldn’t deliver our services without our brilliant volunteers!”

Puppy Walking Volunteer, Chris, says, “Every day is different – I could be taking the dog out on a walk, getting it used to trains, buses or the seaside! It’s great to be with a dog knowing you are giving something back… When a guide dog owner gets in touch with me to say thank you for puppy walking their life-changing dog, it really feels so rewarding and it’s lovely to get their feedback.”

To find out more about puppy walking with Guide Dogs or any other volunteering opportunities, visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/volunteer or give the volunteering office a call on 0345 143 0191.