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.

A call to explore Exmoor’s hidden night world

Each Spring since 2005, the Exmoor Society, in partnership with the Exmoor National Park Authority, has held a prestigious Spring Conference to explore and discuss themes of importance to the National Park. The Covid pandemic has led to the cancelling of the 2021 conference and instead the Society is putting on four free one-hour webinars in May on the theme of ‘Nocturnal Exmoor’.  Each webinar will include a keynote speaker, supported by case studies and opportunities for questions for participants during and after the events.

  • 7 May: Nocturnal Wildlife. Keynote speaker on nocturnal mammals, Professor Fiona Matthews; case studies on bats and beavers.
  • 14 May: Night and Day. Tim Dee on bird migration; case studies on night on the farm; night through history.
  • 21 May: Dark Arts.  Author Tiffany Francis Baker; case studies by an artist and children’s author.
  • 28 May: The Night Sky. Astronomer Jo Richardson; case studies on Exmoor’s Dark Skies Festival; tips on night photography.

Setting the scene, Trustee Nigel Hester,said: “Exmoor has a particularly rich wildlife influenced by its geology, topography and geographical position on the South West coast. It is noted for its bats, supporting 16 of the 17 known breeding species in the UK, its butterflies including the rare Heath and Brown fritillaries and for many bird species that inhabit the internationally rare habitats of upland heath, blanket bog and western oak woods. However, a decline in species, as the UK State of Nature Report shows, has not escaped even Exmoor’s wealth of wildlife in the last decades, for example, the loss of curlew, ring ouzel and merlin.  At the same time, Exmoor’s low levels of light pollution were recognised in 2011, with the National Park being designated as Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve.  Many species are well adapted to foraging and hunting at night and the dark skies will, no doubt, benefit these, including insects, birds and mammals.  But we need to find out more about them and the pressures they face as well as help people to enjoy the night sky.”

Recognising the element of experiment, Rachel Thomas, Chairman, said: “This is a new venture for the Society but webinars are part of the way forward in reaching a wider audience.  National Parks are special places, each Park having a unique character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic values.  By concentrating on Nocturnal Exmoor we can demonstrate how all these assets can be protected and yet increase biodiversity and resilience to climate change.”

For further details and to book a place, please email The Exmoor Society: info@exmoorsociety.com or visit www.exmoorsociety.com.

PHOTO: Moonrise from Martinhoe by Chrissie Wiggins.

The launch of the Minehead Gift Card: an easy way to support local businesses

What a great idea! The new Minehead Gift Card is available to buy, offering an easy way to support local businesses and keep money locked into Minehead.

Cards can be purchased from £5-£500 and spent with a variety of businesses in the town, on shopping, food and drink, accommodation, leisure and attractions and services.

One of the places where the Minehead Gift Card can be spent is The Lighting Company, an established lighting and homeware business with a flagship store in Minehead. Glenn Ross is from The Lighting Company and says, “As for all businesses, managing the uncertainty of lockdown has been a challenge. In this third lockdown, we’ve taken it as an opportunity to completely refresh our Minehead store, develop new ranges, work on photography and upskill staff – the majority of whom have been working throughout.

“We employ over 20 people locally, and are passionate about supporting Minehead. The Minehead Gift Card will keep money local, and that can only be a good thing. Because it can be spent with lots of different businesses in the area, there is that security too. Money spent locally stays local and that benefits everyone.

“There has been an increase in interest for British-made products and, after the first lockdown, that support from locals was fantastic. People are shopping here in Minehead rather than driving to other towns and cities.

“We’re really excited to have customers back in store again from April 12th. While online is a really important channel for us, a presence on the high street is vital. Customers want to look, feel and touch the products, guided by an experienced member of staff.”

Janet Thompson is the founder of Grown Up Marshmallows, a local artisan producer of gourmet marshmallows, and opened a shop on The Avenue in Minehead a week before the first lockdown. She says, “Our product is created in small batches in Exmoor National Park, using fruit we’ve grown ourselves, and packaged with 100% recyclable, biodegradable, compostable material. Creating a local product was important to us. With the lockdown, we had to adapt our business, supplying hamper companies, refining our product and creating items like the toasting kit, and actually last year was our best year yet.

“All of our boxes of marshmallow have the Exmoor flag, so they’re ideal for tourists but we’re really lucky to have experienced that local support, too. Without locals, we don’t have a business. We hope that people will buy the Minehead Gift Card to show their support for our town.”

The Minehead Gift Card became a reality following a £100,000 grant from Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) through the Emergency Town Centre Recovery Fund, led by a steering group set up by Minehead Business Improvement District (BID) of local business owners and leaders from Minehead Town Council, Somerset West and Taunton and Somerset County Council.

The funding has meant that the scheme has been opened up to businesses from right across Minehead, including the Alcombe Fish Bar. Jill Foster from the Alcombe Fish Bar said the gift card will also be useful for people wanting to buy gifts for those living in the area:

“I think the Minehead Gift Card is a great idea. I had someone ring me from Nottingham wanting to buy a voucher as a gift for family that live locally. The Minehead Gift Card is an easy way for someone to give a nice gift. Locals might also buy it for themselves, so they can treat themselves to a takeaway.

“People are starting to put local as their first choice, and realising that they can get what they want locally, often cheaper too. The Minehead Gift Card is going to be especially important for us to support those businesses that have been closed during lockdown, it will be really beneficial for our area.”

The new Minehead Gift Card is part of the award-winning Town and City Gift Cards programme from fintech Miconex, with over 60 schemes across the UK and Ireland, including Bath, Exeter and Tavistock. Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex and said the gift card makes it easy to shop local in Minehead: “We all want to support local businesses after this latest lockdown and shopping locally is a simple way to do that. Over 86% of Generation Z shoppers have purchased a gift card and 81% of people are supporting local businesses more than before the pandemic. With the Minehead Gift Card, people can get out and experience Minehead, visit new businesses they’ve never been into and keep money locked into the area.”

Businesses from across Minehead can still register to be a part of the scheme using the following link: http://bit.ly/mineheadgiftcard or by contacting Richard Robbins at Minehead BID by emailing info@mineheadbid.co.uk

Top: Janet Thompson, founder of Grown Up Marshmallows, and Glenn Ross from The Lighting Company.

 

Children’s lockdown artwork raises Devon CPRE funds to protect countryside 

Vibrant paintings of the countryside created by Devon’s primary school children during this year’s first lockdown have provided the artwork for a new calendar produced by local countryside charity Devon CPRE.

Proceeds from the calendar will be used to fund the charity’s vital campaign work to safeguard Devon’s precious landscapes and green spaces for future generations.

Devon CPRE’s 2020 ‘My Outdoors’ Art Competition was a big hit with youngsters during this year’s spring lockdown, with more entries than ever before. Primary school pupils from across the county rose to the challenge of creating colourful images in celebration of Devon’s glorious countryside, even though many children were unable to experience the great outdoors at the time because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Devon CPRE Director Penny Mills says, “When we saw all the wonderful entries, we decided a calendar for 2021 would be the ideal way to showcase the children’s pictures whilst raising money for our campaign work. As you’d expect, the calendar is printed on environmentally friendly paper and includes the winning entries as well as some highly commended ones. It’s an ideal small gift to pop in the post for Christmas!”

The competition asked children to depict ‘My Outdoors’ in any medium of their choice.

  • St Peter’s Prep School at Lympstone near Exmouth won Best Overall School.
  • The individual winner in Key Stage 1 was six-year-old Betsy from St Peter’s Prep School, Lympstone, Exmouth for her seaside painting.
  • The joint winners in Key Stage 2 were 11-year-old Graciella from Pilton Bluecoat Academy, Barnstaple for her watercolour of Mannings Pit in North Devon (pictured at top) and 10-year-old Thomasin from St Peter’s Prep School, Lympstone who painted Bowerman’s Nose on Dartmoor.

The A4-size calendar costs just £7 including post & packaging. Copies are available to buy from www.cpredeon.org.uk or by calling 01392 966737.

Hazel Prior’s Penguins in the Book Club

Exmoor writer, Hazel Prior, was thrilled to learn that her latest novel, Away With The Penguins, has been chosen for the prestigious Richard and Judy Book Club. Away With The Penguins went through a rigorous selection process to reach the longlist, then it was read by Richard and Judy themselves (alongside a group of book industry experts) who picked it for the final selection.

“This news has been a marvellous boost,” says Hazel, whose book launch had to be cancelled, along with all the other author events she had scheduled for this year. “It’s a real privilege to meet Richard and Judy, and to have my novel picked out of all the thousands. I have to keep pinching myself.”

The book tells the story of feisty octogenarian millionairess, Veronica McCreedy, and her adventures in Antarctica with some penguins. It is a fun, uplifting read but also addresses serious issues about climate change, ageing, and the importance of family and community. “It’s a story full of hope,” Hazel says. “I want my writing to say something important, but also to entertain readers and help them feel better about life. I always turn to books myself during hard times and when I started writing I decided that I’d try to put something life-affirming out there. That has become more important than ever during these difficult times.”

Hazel’s debut novel, Ellie And The Harp Maker, is set on Exmoor and only came out last year. It is a quirky, lyrical read influenced by Hazel’s love of the local landscape and music (she is also a harpist). Inspired partly by the fact that she had a two-book deal with the publishers ‘Penguin’ and partly by a friend’s marvellous penguin photographs, Hazel decided to write her second novel based around these fascinating birds. She spent a lot of time researching and met a few penguins in the process.

Away With The Penguins has already been selected as a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick, and Hazel had a conversation about her writing live on air with Jo Whiley earlier this year.

To coincide with the book’s paperback publication this week, Hazel had a private Zoom meeting with Richard and Judy themselves, who are always keen to meet the authors of the books they love. She chatted with them about living on Exmoor, writing and, of course, penguins. Richard and Judy’s famous Book Club, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this October, is run by WHSmiths, so Away With The Penguins (complete with a written interview between Hazel and Richard and Judy) will be stocked in all the branches of Smiths up and down the country as well as in Waterstones and other outlets.

You can read the announcement here.

 

Exmoor Ponies rescue the Exmoor Pony Project – with their compost!

After Covid restrictions obliterated normal income streams for the Exmoor Pony Project, it is the Exmoor ponies themselves who have galloped to the rescue – with their compost. Exmoor National Park Authority has now awarded a Partnership Fund Grant to help Exmoor Compost evolve a production process. 

Exmoor Pony Project founders Nick and Dawn Westcott, who farm on the National Trust Holnicote Estate in Porlock Vale, saw their 2020 plans for pony workshops, talks, events and activities dashed with the lockdown in March and Dawn found herself falling through the gaps with the Government’s Covid support. 

“As a self-employed author channelling income to run the Exmoor Pony Project, which is a conservation project rather than a business, I didn’t meet the ‘criteria’ for Central Government grant support and found myself one of the millions of ‘ExcludedUK’. We have over 30 Exmoor ponies, including orphans, from various moorland herds in our direct care and their management must be maintained yet the overheads continue regardless. When income streams disappear just like that, those costs put immense much pressure on the farm.”

Of course, caring for a large herd of Exmoor ponies also produces a large amount of manure, which the Westcotts have discovered has slowly matured into excellent compost. 

“Earlier this year, when I established our kitchen garden, Nick suggested I try some of the pony compost. It was superb stuff and, in June, after hearing there was a shortage of good compost in the area, we offered some bags of Exmoor Pony Multi-Purpose Compost as a fundraiser for the pony project, hoping local gardeners would give it a try. We soon found ourselves delivering bags across the area, from North Devon to the Quantock Hills. We’ve had great feedback from gardeners and, importantly, significant repeat orders already.”

The Westcotts are evolving a preparation and screening process that is resulting in a dark, friable, easy to handle compost that keen gardeners describe as ‘black gold’. Anne Lawton from Minehead said, “It’s the most fabulous black crumbly compost ever. Highly recommended and it’s supporting Exmoor ponies, who are the producers of this wonderful stuff.”

Since June, over 1,000 bags of the compost have been sold and the Westcotts are hopeful that their new Exmoor Compost venture will develop to help maintain the Exmoor Pony Project for the long term. 

“It’s rather lovely that the ponies themselves are providing the means to contribute to their own care. This year is all about survival and these ponies are certainly survivors – many of them would not be here without this project. They’re already benefiting from the compost sales and we’ve been able to buy a paddock sweeper to keep their grazing areas clean – as well as to more efficiently collect manure for future compost.” 

While the couple have sourced and even built some of the equipment and machinery needed to process the compost, some big items remain to be purchased. 

“We’re very fortunate that the Exmoor National Park Authority is awarding Exmoor Compost a £2,500 grant from the Partnership Fund to help us acquire some vital equipment over the next few months. This includes a bag sealer and compost turner. At the moment we’re still bagging, writing out and tying the bags by hand. The grant is a great help at a critical time.

“We’re excited to be farming in this way to help safeguard the endangered Exmoor pony breed and also provide an important, sustainable local resource for gardeners and growers across the area. It’s good to be doing our bit for the environment and we appreciate everyone who is helping us to turn a Covid nightmare into something positive.”

Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager at Exmoor National Park Authority, said, “We are pleased to be able to support this innovative idea to not only support the work of the Exmoor Pony Project but also to recognise the enterprising nature of many organisations across Exmoor. We initially gave a grant to the project from our Covid-19 Response Fund and have now awarded this Partnership Fund grant in a bid to sustain the  Exmoor Pony Project into the longer term. Our Partnership Fund this year is prioritising applications from not-for-profit groups for project ideas that can help to look after the National Park, engage  people with its special qualities and help with the area’s recovery from the impacts of Covid-19. We wish the Exmoor Pony Project and Exmoor Compost scheme well in the future.”

More information can be found at www.WildPonyWhispering.co.uk. 

Exmoor Hill Farming Network cake sales raise over £1,200 for Macmillan!

The Exmoor Hill Farming Network is an independent, 100% farmer-led organisation which operates as a Community Interest Company (CIC).

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has had a fundamental impact on the Network’s activities, many of which have come to a halt. However, the Network has remained open, based remotely and available to members as a source of trusted information and – at the forefront –responding to the needs of the farming community here on Exmoor and in the Greater Exmoor area.

As regular readers of Exmoor Magazine will know, one of the Network’s Peer Support Groups which tackles rural isolation and mental health has continued throughout this pandemic and has met fortnightly via zoom since April. The Exmoor Women in Farming Group meet from the comfort of their own homes, engaging with over 40 individuals to date. The meetings have ranged from women’s health talks, to guest speakers from other rural parts of the UK talking about their farming opportunities and challenges and it is generally an opportunity for members to talk about their experiences too.

Network Office Katherine Williams, says, “Earlier this autumn it was suggested to support Macmillan Cancer Support as we had held a very successful coffee morning last September. After a discussion ensuring Covid measures could be observed, it was agreed to hold two cake sales at Blackmoor Gate and Cutcombe Market livestock markets during October by kind permission of Exmoor Farmers. The cake sales were overseen by myself and members of the Women in Farming Group. The cake sales were also accompanied by two prize draw meat hampers. The efforts of our farming communities raised a grand total of £1,204.80 for the charity, which works to provide specialist healthcare, information and financial support to people affected by cancer.

“We wanted to show our support in these unusual circumstances as this charity is close to many of our hearts in one way or another. This year we had to change our direction and ensure whatever we did was Covid secure. Everyone was very generous with their donations and we are exceedingly thankful for the support the farming community gave to this worthy cause’.”

PHOTO (taken before 5 November):  Representatives from Exmoor Women in Farming Group who dedicated their time to assist with the sales. Left to right: Catherine Cowling, Lesley Nicholas and Samantha Lole.

West Country Blacksmiths shortlisted for 2020 GAGA Construction Awards

Exmoor-based bespoke metalwork specialists West Country Blacksmiths have had a project at the Courthouse Mews development in Somerton shortlisted for the 2020 GAGA Construction Awards.

The awards celebrate the design and construction of bespoke metalwork both nationally and internationally. The work of West Country Blacksmiths has been shortlisted alongside projects including The Wave in Bristol, Luton Airport entrance canopy, the Giant Eagle of Triberg, Germany and the new training complex of the Premier league football club Brighton & Hove Albion FC.

The metalwork was produced as part of the development of the former Courthouse and Market Place buildings, which have been tastefully converted and extended to provide eight apartments and a two-bedroom house and dedicated Art Care Education (ACE arts) space in the heart of Somerton. The metalwork was bespoke designed and made to complete this development and included a fully automated gate with decorative archway, over 53 metres of wall-top railings, six Juliette balconies, handrails, balcony railings and a bench.

Each piece of handcrafted metalwork is galvanised with a unique acid etch finish to offer long-term, low-maintenance protection.

The blacksmiths used a range of skills and procedures to produce the metalwork include laser scanning and Cad designing, CNC profiling, forge work and highly accurate quality fabrication.

The concept for the metalwork was the brainchild of Frank Martin (Trustee and founder of ACE arts), who said, “Finding creative partners who are able to deliver on my personal inspiration is a rare talent, which West Country Blacksmiths have. As Creative Director my design brief was inspired by through mirror images, and it has become a reality in a medium I am not usually associated with. Everyone at Courthouse Mews is delighted with West Country Blacksmiths’ work, a unique and stunning finish to the development that has helped to  Somerton become “one of the most creative, contemporary and forward-thinking towns in Somerset.”

The award has now been running for 26 years, with previous winners including The Eden Project in Cornwall and the Imperial War Museum in Manchester.

This is the second successive nomination for these awards for the craftsmen of West Country Blacksmiths – after having two bespoke projects shortlisted from six projects for the 2019 design and detail award. Sadly, they missing out on the award that time, which was given to dePaor for the Pálás Cinema in Galway. However, 2019 was still a successful year for the blacksmiths who won the  highly acclaimed Staircase of the Year Award at the Architects’ Journal  for a 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 of the recognition of our work. We are privileged to have an incredibly talented team and together we work extremely hard to produce metalwork to the very best standard regardless of the size and type of project. We thank everyone at the Courthouse Mews development; they were a privilege to work with and we are excited by our future opportunities. As a small company this type of recognition among some of the country’s biggest construction projects is unbelievable. The support we get from the local community is amazing and our focus is to serve the community of Somerset, producing the very best possible metalwork service.”

West Country Blacksmiths are based at the National Trust forge in Allerford on the edge of Exmoor. They produce bespoke metalwork locally and nationally, and their work can be seen in prestigious locations such as Kensington Palace. The team also continue to offer a traditional ‘blacksmiths shop’ whereby they repair and restore items for the local community.

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 rhs.org.uk/Rosemoor.

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.

FIND OUT MORE
W: somersetwildlife.org
Twitter: SomersetWT
Facebook: @Somersetwildlifetrust
Instagram @somersetwt

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 www.halswaymanor.org.uk tel 01984 618 274.