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.

EXMOOR’S RIGHTS OF WAY RATED FIRST-CLASS

The following is a press release issued by ENPA

Rights of way on Exmoor have been assessed as some of the best in the country for a second year running, in the National Path Authority’s newly published annual Rights of Way and Access Report*.

96 per cent of public footpaths, bridleways and byways were classed as ‘open and easy to use’ – the highest of all National Parks, and the number of issues resolved within three months has increased to 84 per cent.

The report also records the highest ever output of ‘National Park furniture’ – with a total of 831 signs, 404 sign posts and 155 gates having been constructed and installed this year alone, using timber sourced from the National Park’s own woodland estate.

Lots of the assessment work is carried out by National Park volunteers, who this year provided crucial feedback on paths throughout 11 parishes, totalling 360 hours of work.

Each season they help to survey a randomly selected set of paths covering 10 per cent of the network. Using nationally recognised assessment criteria, volunteers score each route according to how easy it is to navigate, the state of vegetation, and the condition of stiles, gates, signage and surfaces.

Kevin Snewing, Path Watcher Volunteer, said: “A bonus of being a Path Watcher volunteer is that I get to walk parts of the National Park that I probably wouldn’t normally visit, and there are some gems out there. I was particularly impressed by the network above Lynton.”

Dan Barnett, Access and Recreation Manager, said: “Keeping the rights of way network in top condition is crucially important, not just for people’s enjoyment but also to protect precious habitats and reduce disturbance to farming. But we wouldn’t be able to achieve these kinds of targets without ongoing support from our partners and highly-skilled contractors, along with donations from the public through CareMoor for Exmoor, plus our fantastic volunteers. It really is a team effort.”

For more information about National Park volunteering opportunities visit: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/get-involved

SALAD DAYS HUT RECOGNISED IN ‘LOVE YOUR HUT’ AWARDS

Following on from previous tourism award, Salad Days Beach Hut at Dunster Beach has now been recognised in the Love your Hut of the Year competition, coming 3rd in the converted national contest, with beach huts at Mudeford in Dorset and Dovercourt in Essex taking 1st and 2nd place.

Run by the Yorkshire-based specialist hut insurance company, ‘Love your Hut’, the competition is open to entries from all kinds of huts including chalets, beach huts and shepherds huts from all over the UK.

“To be ranked so highly in a major national competition is such an honour, but it does also recognise how far the humble beach hut has come since its lowly beginnings as a Victorian bathing machine,’’ said Brett Bates, co-owner of Salad Days (above).

Salad Days has received numerous accolades since launching in 2016 and has been incredibly successful, having being fully booked for the last two years with many guests returning. Previous awards won include: 2017/18 Visit England Dog Friendly Business of the Year, 2017/18 South West Dog Friendly & Self Catering Business of the Year, 2017/18 Bristol, Bath & Somerset Self Catering & Dog Friendly Business of the Year and 2016/17 Bristol, Bath & Somerset Dog Friendly Business of the Year.

The beach hut has also been ranked by Visit England as 5 stars for the last 2 years, the only beach hut to receive this ranking in the UK. It is 1 of around 260 beach huts at Dunster Beach, a large proportion of which are still holiday lets. Traditionally Dunster Beach has welcomed holidaymakers since the 1930s, and Brett Bates and Susan Juggins are continuing this tradition with Salad Days by offering a high standard of accommodation in a quintessential British beach hut. Brett said, “Our new hut ‘Holi Moli’ – due to be available to rent in March –  is intended to follow in the footsteps of Salad Days, but has some big shoes to fit into, we owe it to Dunster Beach to make sure the huts just get better and better, so watch this space.”

All of the entrants in this year’s ‘Love your Hut’ competition can be seen on the @LoveyourHutoftheYear Instagram page at www.instagram.com/loveyourhutoftheyear

HISTORIC LANDKEY PARISH TABLE FINDS NEW HOME IN BARNSTAPLE MUSEUM

A rare 400-year-old trestle table has been saved from auction and will be rehomed in the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

The museum was recently successful in a bid for almost £10,000 from the Museums Association Beecroft Bequest to keep the Landkey Parish Table in North Devon. The item will be put on display in the museum library, which is being converted into a public research area as part of its extension project.

The Landkey Parish Table is believed to have been assembled inside the Landkey parish house, which is where it stayed for over 400 years. This rare piece is one of only two parish room tables from the sixteenth or seventeenth century known in Devon and is an exceptional example of the workmanship of West Country craftsmen. The impressive table measures almost 17 feet long and is made from a single plank of oak, with fixed benches on either side. One trestle-end is carved with the date 1655 and flanked by the churchwardens’ initials WL and TG (William Lavercombe and Thomas Gould were churchwardens in 1655).

The museum’s bid for funding was supported by the Regional Furniture Society, the Devonshire Association and local historians, who were all keen for the table to remain in the district following the Landkey United Charities decision to convert the under-used parish rooms to a dwelling.

Executive Member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Brian Moores, says: “This is a unique and very significant piece of Devon furniture and I’m very pleased our museum team was able to raise the funds to keep it in North Devon. It will fit well in the museum library, where it can continue to be used and appreciated by local visitors to the museum.”

Michael Gee, Secretary of Landkey United Charities, says: “All are agreed that the under-used Parish Rooms will make an attractive dwelling, and it is good that the table has found an accessible local home.”

Dr Todd Gray, author of Devon’s Ancient Bench Ends, says: “The table was secured for the people of North Devon by the museum manager, Alison Mills, who has worked tirelessly to ensure it stays where it belongs – in North Devon.  The region has some of the most interesting early wooden carving in England and I hope all those who love North Devon appreciate that Ms Mills harnessed the expertise of specialists around the country in supporting this bid. This really has been a great coup for the people of North Devon!”

Roderick Butler, FSA Furniture Historian, says: “So little sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century secular furniture with an undoubted Devon provenance has survived that the acquisition of this table for the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, so close to its original home, is nothing short of miraculous.”

Follow the progress of the museum’s new extension project, including behind-the-scenes photos and information about the new displays at www.barnstaplemuseumblog.wordpress.com.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Bonhams 1973 Ltd

‘BIG DIPPER’ CAMPAIGN WILL HELP FESTIVAL REACH STAR POTENTIAL

Exmoor National Park is supporting a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of light pollution and help conserve our dark night skies, set to play a starring role in the region’s Dark Skies Festival starting this week (17 October–4 November).

The ‘Big Dipper’ campaign is the brainchild of the Dark Sky Alliance, a national group made up of conservationists, astronomers and tourist operators, including a number of National Parks. With the nights drawing in, and over 40 Festival events poised to get underway, it’s a timely reminder of the need to limit excess light pollution to ensure Exmoor’s starry night skies can continue to be experienced to their full.

Exmoor is one of only a handful of internationally accredited Dark Sky Reserves, making it one of the best places in the country for stargazing. It means that the amount of light pollution within and around the National Park is tightly controlled, so shooting stars, constellations, planets and the Milky Way are all easily visible with the naked eye or just a pair of binoculars.

Exmoor National Park’s Katrina Munro, who is coordinating the Festival, said: “Exmoor is one of the few places in Britain where you can see our night skies in all their stellar glory, but to get the best out of the experience it helps to be guided by an expert.

“From astro-themed family party nights at Wimbleball Lake and a touring pop-up Planetarium, to wild swims, night runs and moonlit hilltop walks, this year’s Festival has something for everyone, from the adventurous to the curious. Last year many events sold out, so we would urge people to book without delay on the Exmoor National Park website or our National Park Centres.”

As part of the Big Dipper campaign, property owners are being urged to consider how much outside lighting they use and ensure where possible that lamps are dipped downwards.

Many outside lights, especially LED floodlights and security lights, can be too bright and installed in such a way that much of the light is directed up into the night sky. This contributes to the orangey-white sky glow above our towns and cities, which spreads out into the countryside, spoiling the night-time view.

The campaign has already won backing from the BAA Commission for Dark Skies, along with Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, who said: “It’s important that efforts are sustained to cut light pollution further so we can all marvel at the night sky wherever we may live. This campaign deserves wide support.”

Pamela Morris, Senior Landscape Officer for Exmoor National Park, added: “Simple steps, like dipping outdoor lighting and limiting the use of more powerful security lights, can have a big impact on our view of the stars. The night time environment is a crucial natural resource for people, wildlife and also astro-tourism, and we look forward to celebrating its many wonders at this year’s Dark Skies Festival.”

The Big Dipper campaign is asking people to:

• Ensure lights point down and are fully shielded.
• Only illuminate areas you need to and don’t leave lights on all night – use a timer or motion sensor.
• Employ lighting that is no brighter than necessary.
• If possible don’t use LEDs emitting bright white/blue light, but rather warmer colours.

The power of a light is best characterised by its lumens output, usually listed on the packaging.  About 500 lumens is ample to illuminate a back garden.  Many LED products also state the light’s colour temperature. Units of 3,000K and below, which produce a warm white colour, are less harmful to the night-time environment than 4,000K and 5,000K lights.

For advice on minimising light pollution visit www.britastro.org/dark-skies or darksky.org/lighting/lighting-basics/

PHOTO: Dunkery Beacon by Keith Trueman

THE LOST WORDS A CELEBRATION!

It has been an astonishing year for Jackie Morris since the publication of The Lost Words and Number Seven Dulverton is delighted that she is joining them later this month to celebrate the book’s first birthday.

The illustrations and ‘spells’ that feature throughout this beautiful publication were created very much in partnership when illustrator Jackie Morris and renowned nature writer Robert Macfarlane learned that certain nature words were to be excluded from the Junior Oxford English Dictionary as a result of falling out of everyday use. The response to this stunningly produced, heartfelt publication has been quite astounding, and both Robert and Jackie are overwhelmed by the public’s embrace and desire to keep the lost words of nature very much alive in our children’s vocabulary and landscape.

This enthusiasm has inspired individuals and communities throughout the country to raise funding via crowdsourcing so that copies of The Lost Words can be found in every school library in their region. Somerset has recently been successful, while Devon has recently announced its campaign and joined ‘The Lost Words‘ Movement.’

‘The book was made with love and hope, and I think it has been received in the same way: with hope, with love.’

Jackie Morris


Number Seven has two events planned, the first is to be The Lost Words supper at Loyton Lodge, where Jackie will be joined by composer and folk musician Kerry Andrew who has set two of Robert Macfarlane’s poems, ‘Bluebell’ and ‘Wren’, to music.

The following day, on Thursday 25 October, Jackie will be resident by the fireside in ‘the kitchen’ at Number Seven where she will be painting and signing copies of her books for you, of which there are many, she is quite the prolific creative and has previously illustrated for Carol Ann Duffy and Ted Hughes.

Number Seven highly recommends ordering or reserving copies beforehand to avoid disappointment although of course there will be stock available on the day. Alongside her books, cards, calendars, prints and originals will be available for sale. It promises to be a wonderful, inspiring day and all ages are welcome.

PHOTO Jackie by Christopher Jelley

AUTISM-FRIENDLY EXMOOR

Tucked away on the fringes of Exmoor National Park you will find a self-catering farm complex with a difference. North Hayne Farm  is a happy, vibrant business where young children run freely, collecting eggs, bottle-feeding lambs and helping with farm duties. The complex of eight, high-standard, stone-built cottages, however, goes that little bit further as it also specialises in providing holidays for children with autism. North Hayne Farm is the first business in North Devon to achieve the National Autism Society (NAS) ‘Autism Friendly Award’.

Owner Cheryl Dixon, a former early years practitioner and lecturer, began to notice a marked increase in visitors who had children on the autism spectrum back in 2012. Over the following years she saw how these children benefitted from small changes her and her husband Roger made to the website, to the cottages, to the arrival and welcome process and, in particular, to the structured farm routines that were a major part of the holiday experience they offered.

“We wanted to further our understanding and undertook some formal staff training from the Devon Autism Centre. This, together with the support and encouragement from our wonderful visiting families, gave us the confidence to enter for the award,” says Cheryl.  “Autism is no longer that misunderstood condition it once was, and yet so many children with autism and their families struggle to find suitable holidays that can make the world of difference to them all.”

Cheryl and Roger were thrilled to learn that they had successfully achieved the award, and a little surprised to learn that we are the first business in North Devon to attain this. “How great would it be if more businesses could join us in helping to make Devon and Exmoor a more autism-friendly destination?” says Cheryl. “Simple changes to everyday routines can make huge differences but fundamentally two things really make the difference; firstly, remaining non-judgmental when you meet someone who may be on the ‘spectrum’ and therefore behave just that little bit differently to what you might expect, and secondly, taking the time to raise your own awareness of the condition.”

So many of the parents visiting North Hayne Farm who have children on the ASD spectrum comment on little things that will have made such a difference to their overall holiday experience. It might be the assistant who showed such patience or thoughtfulness when queuing for a ride became too difficult, or the waiter who handed out ‘fidget toys’ while their child waited for their meal, or even the person at one of the theme parks who noticed that communication was difficult and began to ‘sign’ instead.

As Cheryl says, “It all makes such a difference and from a tourism point of view makes so much sense. Why go somewhere different when you experience such a positive and understanding approach to your family’s needs right here on Exmoor?”

For more information contact Cheryl Dixon at North Hayne Farm Cottages:  info@northhaynefarmcottages.co.uk

PHOTO: Cheryl and Roger with their award

FUR THE LOVE OF DOGS! KING’S PETS RECEIVE BLESSING IN SPECIAL SERVICE

The pup-arazzi were in full swing last week as King’s College held their annual St Francis Eucharist, a popular service that saw staff, pupils and parents bring their pets to school for a special religious blessing.

The unique ceremony, which takes place at the school every October, is a celebration of St Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of animals. In commemoration, a procession of pets, everything from dogs and hamsters to tarantulas and tortoises, was led into the chapel to be blessed by the school Chaplain, Father Mark Smith.

Commenting on the service, he said: “At one point, I asked the congregation to transfer calm, assertive and loving energy to the animals. Within seconds an eerie stillness descended on the chapel.”

He added: “The blessing of animals is a unique tradition at King’s College and is very popular with the wider school community. Pets are a blessing to every family and our service was, as always, a wonderful holy chaos.”

NEW FINDINGS ON EXMOOR’S MIRES, MINILITHS AND MONUMENTS

Results of recent archaeological research on Exmoor are due to be presented at the National Park’s annual Archaeology Forum on Saturday 13 October 10am – 4.30pm at Brushford Parish Hall.

Archaeological research on Exmoor’s peatlands, undertaken as part of the Exmoor Mires Partnership, will showcase a multi-disciplinary study of the prehistoric landscapes and settlements of Codsend Moor.

An analysis of the efforts of the Knight Family to ‘improve’ the former Royal Forest will look at the palaeo-environmental evidence and compare the field remains with old letters and other documents from the Knight family uncovered in an attic in 2016. Speakers include Prof. Ralph Fyfe and Havananda Ombashi from the University of Plymouth and Ross Dean, Hazel Riley and Dr Martin Gillard.

In the afternoon, the results of a survey examining the condition of Exmoor’s oldest structures, known as ‘miniliths’, will be presented. In the face of them being threatened by off-road vehicles, erosion, vandalism, grazing animals and even moorland vegetation, the National Park was awarded funding from Historic England to appoint an intern in 2017 to catalogue and thoroughly investigate the condition of the stones.

Jack Fuller, the intern who carried out the investigation, said: “Exmoor’s standing stones are more than 4,000 years old, yet we’re still discovering new things all the time. The survey included more than 140 sites, and even led to the discovery of new stones, which just goes to show how much more there still is to learn about Exmoor’s fascinating past.”

It’s thought Exmoor’s standing stone monuments originate from some time between the Late Neolithic and early Bronze Age (c.3000-1500BCE).  Many are under half a metre tall, with some barely protruding the surface of the turf and include rows, circles and a variety of other shapes. Dr Sandy Gerrard’s talk will shed light on how Exmoor’s stone rows compare with those from around Britain. To conclude,  Exmoor National Park Authority archaeologists will present a summary of other recent work, along with the final year results of a project to restore some of our most recent historic assets: traditional black and white signposts.

There are still two or three tickets remaining for the 18th Exmoor Archaeology Forum. They cost £17 each, including a buffet lunch. For more information and to book a place search “archaeology forum” on the Exmoor National Park Website – www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk – or call 01398 322289.

BECOME AN ALLOTMENT GRADUATE AT RHS GARDEN ROSEMOOR

RHS Garden Rosemoor, in Great Torrington, is once again looking for ten keen gardeners to take part in their informative and practical allotment course in 2019.

Starting in February, the successful candidates will receive expert RHS tuition, have their own plot to tend, and take away home-grown harvests. They will receive regular allotment master classes and weekly access to their plots, all in the picturesque setting of RHS Garden Rosemoor.

Pete Adams, course leader at RHS Garden Rosemoor, said: “Our allotment course has grown from strength to strength over the past four years, and once again we are excited to welcome new novice vegetable growers to join us to learn from our expert team. We offer brilliant facilities, all the equipment and the know-how for a successful year of vegetable growing. So why not apply to join us for the 2019 course!”

The course, which attracts a small fee (to cover safety boots and a contribution towards materials) is open to everyone and the 2018 intake came from a great variety of backgrounds and across all age groups but they all have one thing in common – the passion for and a willingness to learn the basic principles of growing your own vegetables. The hope is to see a similar diverse group of people apply this year too.

Comments from previous graduates:

“Thank you Pete, it’s been a blast! I’ve had so much fun and learnt lots” – Julie

“What a wonderful experience. Thank you Peter for all your hard work and advice. This opportunity to learn gardening skills is so valuable” – Dan

“Thanks Pete. Working the allotment has made me realise that with the right knowledge and well worked soil I can grow great veg. I’ve found the experience just so rewarding and great fun with great people.” – Steve

The course will start in February 2019 and run through to the end of the year. Applications close on 26 November 2018. To apply, please write to Curator Jon Webster with a brief personal background (approx. 50 words), stating why you would like a beginner’s vegetable plot at Rosemoor (approx. 50 words), and indicating what you will do with your new knowledge (approx. 100 words) and letting us know how or where you found out about the course:

  • By post: Jon Webster, RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington Devon EX38 8PH.
  • By email: jonathanwebster@rhs.org.uk.

For further information please visit www.rhs.org.uk/rosemoor

NATIONAL PARK APPRENTICES EXCHANGE TRIP

National Park Apprentices from Exmoor and North York Moors spent a week in each other’s parks this summer to expand their knowledge of countryside management. But this was an exchange trip with a difference, with students swapping path-laying and bridge-building skills rather than culture and languages.

In the North York Moors, the students were shown how recycled flagstones from the old mills of West Yorkshire were used to prevent path erosion – a common problem along popular routes – and how bridges and other ‘National Park furniture’ are made on site in the sawmill. They saw first hand how the popular Coast to Coast route is maintained and learned how the area’s long history of mining is managed to minimise impact on the landscape.

The following month it was Exmoor’s turn to host, sharing lessons in how timber grown on Exmoor is used to make handmade gates, signs and stiles to help maintain the rights of way network. The group also went on a dragonfly identification course to learn about the many rare species found on Exmoor, and found out about ‘Ranger Experience Days’, giving people the chance to go behind the scenes at the National Park and see places visitors rarely go.

Exmoor National Park apprentice Lily Cox, who went on the exchange, said: “The public get to see all the beautiful signs, gates and bridges out in the National Park, but it’s fascinating to go behind the scenes and learn for yourself how to make them from scratch. It’s a vital part of the work that goes on to get ready for all those boots, bikes and hooves throughout the year. Seeing how it’s done in another National Park has been a really great learning experience and given me loads of new skills to use on my apprenticeship.”

The Government’s 2008 Environment Plan challenged National Parks to double the number of apprenticeships available by 2020, and there are now a growing number of entry-level opportunities throughout the National Park family, covering everything from field services and ranger duties, to business and administration. For the latest opportunities see: http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/about-us/jobs-and-volunteering

Dan Barnett, Recreation and Access Manager, said: “Our aim is to train our apprentices in a whole range of countryside management skills. This will set them up for a future career and also helps create more opportunities for people to live and work locally.

“In return they make a vital contribution to the team, carrying out important maintenance and repair work across the rights of way network, and bringing with them a fresh outlook to the workplace. It’s a great partnership.”