Category Archives: Creative Exmoor


Thank you to Chris Jelley of Storywalks for sending in the latest news about Poetry Pin…

A new year and the launch of Exeter City Poetry Pin – the first virtual poetry city has happened and with such a great reception too. As of writing, the poetry pool has been open just seven days and already has over 60 poems pinned across the city.

So what is Exeter Poetry Pin, and how does it link with Storywalks?

Well firstly, these are parallel projects which do a very similar thing, i.e. geo tag content to place. In respect of Storywalks, these are trails which pupils can edit and then re-write, and are specifically designed for use in the classroom – so very focused and appropriate content. As for Poetry Pin the systems tags words to the authors physical location by using the GPS in their smart phone. The Poetry Pin is open to the public without restriction, so anyone with a smart phone can visit the trails (there are now three) and post poems inside.

So how did Exeter become the first Poetry City?

After the terrible fire at the Royal Clarence Hotel, Exeter city councillors saw the Exmoor Poetry Boxes on national TV and wondered whether a similar approach could capture the sentiment of the disaster. It was decided that boxes were perhaps less appropriate in the city. The Exeter Poetry Pin went live on the 9th January 2017.

Who can use it?

Anyone with a smart phone, just travel to the city, visit the web page Go seek out poems pinned across the city, then pin your own.

Is it appropriate for school children?

The Exeter Poetry Pin is public, and open to all so it is quite possible that someone may add some content which is not appropriate for younger eyes. But that said, at the bottom of each poem is a button to ‘flag’ inappropriate content. With a whole city let loose publishing poems we needed a way to allow the audience to monitor and flag poems which were inappropriate, and so far this has been really successful. When a poem is flagged it is immediately removed from the field, plus there are profanity filters which block poems with specific words inside, keeping the system as clean as can be (hopefully!)

How long is the project going to last?

The Exeter Poetry Pin is open for at least a year and we are hoping to do some school workshops in the spring time with Daisi – Devon arts inspired learning. Please get in touch to note your interest.

More about Storywalks here, and of course [if you work in a school] I would love to come and visit you, get your pupils writing out in the wild, with poems and tales.

Kind regards

Christopher Jelley


On Saturday 21 November at 2pm the Exmoor Society and linguistics researcher Vicky Garnett will host a new event: the Exmoor Language Garden, a celebration of language on the moor.

They will investigate the relationship between the landscape, culture and language currently in use, as well as older forms of Exmoor dialect.  The event will include talks from publisher Steven Pugsley and well-known children’s author Victoria Eveleigh. Musicians Tom and Barbara Brown will discuss the language used in folk music and demonstrate music and language combined through song.

The Exmoor Society has been working with Vicky Garnett who has been collaborating with local schools, including Minehead First School and Dulverton Middle and Community School. Many of the children from these schools will have work on display at the event, which will also have activities around the room to encourage thinking about the study of language, and how the language and landscape of the area are intertwined. There is even the opportunity to take part in some live ongoing research into language on the moor.

The idea of a language garden comes from linguistic theory and provides an easier way to understand changes in language. It’s an extended metaphor in which some languages or dialectics are like weeds – tough survivors that thrive anywhere no matter what you do to them. Others have preferences for different soils or light conditions but are fairly persistent, whilst some can only be cultivated with great care in very particular environments.

This will be a drop in event running from 2-4.30pm so anybody interested is welcome to attend, at the Town Hall, Dulverton. The organisers are particularly interested in gathering memories of older words and forms of expression that are now rarely used and are receding from memory. They would like to hear stories, poems and songs, in fact anything relating to language on Exmoor.

For more information on the event you can follow it on Twitter (@; Facebook ( or see the website (

John Arbon Textiles Mill Open Weekend

John Arbon Textiles would like to announce their second annual mill Open Weekend to celebrate the arrival of their new spinning machine. It will take place at their mill in South Molton on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 May (free entry – 10am till 5pm).  As well as being an open weekend (with guided tours of the Mill), it will also incorporate a yarn, tops and sock sale.

At their small-scale worsted spinning mill (one of only a handful still operating in the UK), John Arbon and the team of mill workers happily spend their time making all luxurious tops and yarns, as well as the yarns they use to knit their cosy socks.

The mill is not usually open to the public, but they have decided to have this special weekend (as last year’s was so well received) and open so that people can see and learn about our vintage spinning and processing mill machinery.  Alongside this they will have a  sale – giving people the opportunity to get their mitts on some half-price yarns, tops and socks. To round things off nicely, there will be tea and homemade cakes on hand to refresh and content.

john2013 saw John painstakingly dismantling his cherished vintage mill machinery and moving, revamping and re-assembling it a new, bigger and brighter premises in a unit on Pathfields Industrial Estate in South Molton.

So the company started 2014 with the Fibre Harvest Mill all set up in its shiny new surroundings and running more smoothly than ever. Then, at the end of 2014, their lovely new spinner (who they like to call Kevinson) arrived to enable them to up production and make even more yarn.

Now John, award-winning De Montfort University textile graduate, is contentedly utilising his 19 years’ experience by creating and developing his own warmly-received range of luxury tops and yarns, incorporating local and rare-breed fleeces wherever possible

Alpaca supreme top
Alpaca supreme top

He produces interesting and sumptuous blends of fibres, making perfect tops for hand spinners, which he also spins into hand knit yarns. His most sought-after ranges of the moment are Alpaca Supreme as tops and yarn (a gorgeous blend of alpaca, merino and silk in tonal natural shades), Exmoor Sock Yarn (made from the fleece of his local sheep, the Exmoor Blueface) and Viola (a stunning range of blended dyed British merino tops made using a technique called ‘dry dyeing’ which delivers a rich hand dyed yarn effect without the dirty fingers).

Exmoor socks
Exmoor socks

John has also developed a range of functionally versatile and unbelievably comfortable luxury socks, knitted here in the UK from John’s specialist performance yarns … from hardy walking to cosy bed socks, everyday dress to knee-length country socks – a style to suit every occasion!

John Arbon Textiles and Fibre Harvest are small family-run businesses running side by side under the watchful, enthusiastic eyes of John and his wife/business partner Juliet. Their production concept is simple – a return to old style textile manufacture … sustainably sourcing raw fibre locally wherever possible and converting it in Britain into high quality tops, yarns and textiles.

Simonsbath Festival Returns in May

It’s back!  Simonsbath Festival returns in May with more music, talks, walks and much more to entertain, raise the spirits, lift the heart and stimulate the mind.  The website is now live and tickets are on sale so book now for the best seats!

The festival begins on Bank Holiday Monday, 4 May, with maypole dancing by local schoolchildren on Exford village green, and the opening Saturday evening concert on 9 May brings the warm Mediterranean sounds of Greek music to St Luke’s, Simonsbath. There’s more warmth to come with songs from his home in South Africa from the prize-winning baritone Njabulo Madlala on Saturday 16 May.  Jazz, poetry and opera follow, as well as Simonsbath Festival Art Exhibition.

There will be talks by Birdie Johnson, who has just edited a book by her mother Buster Johnson (with foreword by grandson Boris), Tracey Elliot-Reep, with tales of her adventures on horseback, Dr Sue Baker with the latest on the management of the Exmoor Pony, and Rob Wilson-North, revealing the hidden past of Simonsbath.

Once again the festival is working with local schools and running a series of music workshops which culminate in a Midsummer family and community concert on 19 June at the Moorland Hall, Wheddon Cross, featuring top folk and traditional entertainers Tom and Barbara Brown, with ‘Songs from the Exmoor Forest’ sung by children from local schools.

Full details of the programme are available on the website and you can follow the festival on Facebook and Twitter.

To receive a full-colour, printed festival programme or to become a Friend of Simonsbath Festival and enjoy ticket discounts and priority booking while also supporting the festival, telephone Victoria Thomas on 01643 831343 or email

The Simonsbath Festival is a non-profit-making community venture supported by the Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund and the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership’s Heart of Exmoor.


Exhibition at Number Seven Dulverton

Last summer artist and poet Christopher Jelley released stories into the wild along the Coleridge Way in West Somerset. The first pages of each book were penned by acclaimed artists and authors including Jackie Morris, Catherine Hyde and Exmoor’s very own Victoria Eveleigh. Finders of the book were then asked to continue the tale or add an illustration. A forthcoming exhibition features the stories and drawings that were told – perhaps you contributed to the final tale?

The exhibition opens at Number Seven Dulverton on Saturday 14 February and runs until Saturday 21 February. It is open Monday to Saturday 10am – 5pm. Admission is free.

Throughout the exhibition week there will also be a ‘storytrail’ for you to follow; simply hunt out the missing words from Victoria Eveleigh’s text that have been hidden in the shop windows of Dulverton and you could win a selection of signed books by the authors. Entry forms will be available at Number Seven, Dulverton Post Office and the Dulverton National Park Centre in Fore Street.

The Coleridge Way Story Box project is part of ARTLife’s Landscape Art programme of new work funded by EDF Energy as part of the planning agreement with West Somerset Council for the new development at Hinkley Point.

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman in Concert at Combe Martin

image002Shamick Acoustic welcome award-winning duo Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman to the club this Saturday, 24 January.

Dartmoor-based husband and wife Sean and Kathryn had a whirlwind of fame in the folk-rock world some years ago with the band Equation, in company with Kate Rusby, Cara Dillon and Sean’s brothers, Seth and Sam.

With two young daughters, their joint music-making had to be curtailed for a time, but since they returned again as a duo a few years ago, they have been awarded the Best Duo trophy in the Radio 2 Folk Awards, as well as being nominated in the Best Original Song category.

Kathryn was brought up in South Yorkshire in a musical family, and can’t remember a time when she didn’t sing.  Being introduced to folk music through the festival scene, she has always loved traditional songs, and her early career was in a duo with Kate Rusby.  With Equation, she has graced exotic stages all over the world.

Sean was raised on Dartmoor, and, again, with the influence of musical parents, was exposed to traditional music, and played the guitar from an early age.  As well as performing with Equation and with Kathryn, Sean has played in his brother Seth’s touring band, and excels in record production, including work for such artists as The Levellers, Rev Hammer and Show of Hands.

With a new CD to coincide with the New Year, the intimacy and strength of passion shown by this husband and wife duo, combined with an eclectic repertoire of traditional, modern and original songs, ensures a rare treat for anyone who sees and hears them.
As usual, of course, Shammick Acoustic will have some of their talented local performers in support.
Tickets are just £6 in advance, through  or, if you’re in Combe Martin, from Pets’ Pantry in the High Street, or from the venue, or by post to the (home) address below (cheques to be made out to ‘Shammick Acoustic’ please), or £7 at the door.

It’s all happening from 8pm at the Pack o’ Cards in Combe Martin, where you can also get a meal before the concert, and even accommodation if you’re coming from a distance.  Just give Chris & Debbie a call on 01271 882300 – you’ll find a warm welcome awaits you.

Fantastic Performances of ‘Lorna Doone’

Blundell’s school play, ‘Lorna Doone’, played to capacity audiences and received standing ovations when it was recently performed by students in Years 11-13.  The production was based on the book written by R.D. Blackmore, who attended the school from 1837 and who set early parts of the book at Blundell’s, as the scene of hero John Ridd’s schooldays.

It is the first time that the school has performed this epic drama and was chosen to celebrate the first 25 years of the school’s purpose-built theatre, Ondaatje Hall.  Amongst the guests for the gala reception on the final night of the play were pupils and staff who had been involved in the very first performance at the theatre.

The play tells the story of John’s love for Lorna Doone, one of the notorious Doone clan of Exmoor, against a backdrop of the Monmouth rebellion in the seventeenth century. The play was directed by James Rochfort, the school’s resident professional actor, whose theatre credits include the National Theatre’s Olivier award-winning All My Sons and leading roles on television including EastEnders, Lewis and the title role in Channel 4’s Snowdon and Margaret.

Evenings@ThePavilion Events in November

Lynmouth Pavilion has been running fortnightly evening talks since January 2014 covering fascinating topics all about Exmoor’s heritage, including smuggling, lime kilns, angling, archaeology, shipping, climbing, paddle steamers, silver mines and, most recently, Exmoor’s amazing woodlands. These evening events are informal, entertaining, very informative and free! They start at 7pm every other Thursday.

Louise Reynolds from the Lynmouth Pavilion Project says: “Speakers have travelled from near and far to entertain and inform the audience and the talks programme is continuing throughout the winter with a varied line-up of excellent speakers.

“We look forward to continuing to welcome everyone throughout the winter and, as the Lynmouth Pavilion is a dog-friendly venue do please do bring along the furry members of your family too.”

The next Evening@ThePavilion talk is on Thursday 13 November at 7pm when the National Park’s conservation manager Rob Wilson-North will be discussing Exmoor’s wonderful Woodland Heritage.

Local author Victoria Eveleigh is the guest speaker on Thursday 27 November (7pm) with stories from an Exmoor Hill Farm.

The talks are free, but please book on 01598 752509 to secure a place.

Tales of the Exmoor Coast
As a grand finale to their ‘coastal’ themed year 1, Lynmouth Pavilion Project are teaming up with National Park ranger, Tim Parish, to explore all local myths. stories, facts and legends about Exmoor’s coast.

Do you know anything about Exmoor’s coast? Then come along and share your tales, photos and stories over mulled wine and a mince pie. The evening runs from 4pm til 7pm upstairs at Lynmouth Pavilion on 22nd November.

Louise says: “Volunteers will be on hand to record your stories using dictaphones (if you want them to) and help scan in your photos. We will even have a place to record you on film if you like!

“We’ll be bringing large maps of the coast which we can write on and we’re really hoping it will be an evening to bring together, share and record as many coastal stories as possible. If you don’t have anything to share please feel free to just come along and enjoy the stories. For more information and to book, please phone 01598 752509.”

The National Park Centre in Dulverton is open daily except Thursdays and Sundays from 10am to 2pm and in Dunster the Centre is open on weekends only during November – 10am to 2pm.

Watchet’s Architectural Concept Designs Revealed

Two new schemes that aim to bring economic and social regeneration to West Somerset have been unveiled by Onion Collective CIC, the team working on community-led regeneration in Watchet.

The architectural designs have been created by architect, lecturer and broadcaster Piers Taylor from Invisible Studio, presenting a vision of renewed industry and activity for the East Quay, and Louise Crossman Architects who have designed an extension to the historic Boat Museum. Both schemes will be presented by the architects at an open meeting on Thursday 20 November, 7.30pm at the Pheonix Centre.

The East Quay scheme sits alongside the current dry dock area operated by Watchet Harbour Marina, and seeks to complement current marina activities.

The scheme has three distinct elements. A ‘Work Foundry’ comprises communal makerspace, studios and co-working space housing year-round projects of skills sharing and apprenticeships. This space also incorporates a café/restaurant, public courtyards and walkways, as well as high-quality marina facilities. An expanded Contains Art building and gallery located in the centre of the scheme will provide low-cost, flexible workspace for artists and craftspeople to make and sell their work. The third element is an extraordinary and iconic ‘walkway to the sky’ containing bespoke accommodation pods, and offering exceptional places to stay. This Vantage Point would act as a beacon, attracting visitors from far and wide to climb to the top and experience unsurpassed views of the town’s natural beauty.

The architecture for this project specifically references Watchet’s geology and character. The Work Foundry design was inspired by the rock formations of the blue lias strata on Watchet’s shoreline, the Contains Art building echoes traditional wharfside design, its lightweight structure allows for the low-cost and flexible space artists need, and the Vantage Point reflects the lighthouse and steep rise of the nearby cliffs.

Architect Piers Taylor says: “This is an amazing and exciting opportunity for Watchet to use architecture and design to empower an entire community. I’m thrilled that I can be part of this, and it’s a joy to be working with Onion Collective on one of the most exciting community led coastal regeneration projects in the United Kingdom, which hopefully will act as a catalyst for continuing growth and change for Watchet. The buildings include bold propositions, but similarly belong to the architecture and character of Watchet. They speak of its geology, geography and rich cultural history. “

Onion Collective are also working on new architectural designs for an extension to Watchet’s historic Boat Museum which are being created by Louise Crossman Architects. The extension will house a new visitor centre and help to tell the story of Watchet’s rich heritage. Acting to complement the current TIC facilities on the Esplanade it will help to direct visitors to the TIC as well as hightlight the important role transport has played in Watchet’s History. It will act as a welcome to the town, and help to improve the flow of visitors to the top of Swain Street.

Originally designed by Brunel, the Boat Museum started life as a goods shed, built in 1862 as a terminus for the Bristol and Exeter Railway. Louise will also draw out plans to restore the original building, improving the structure of original walls and the facilities inside (providing plumbing for example), whilst aiming to retain the authentic quality of the current experience. The design will also provide a more aesthetic welcome to visitors as they arrive by car, coach or rail.

The proposed schemes have evolved from months of community consultation, and respond directly to the expressed needs of local people. These schemes are only two of four proposed projects for the town; for more information go to the Onion Collective website at

As well as the public meeting on Thursday 20 November the concept designs will also be open for viewing at Onion Collective’s offices 41b Swain Street on Friday 21 November 10am-4pm and Saturday 22 November 10am-1pm. Stay in touch with how the project progresses on the Onion Collective website by following them on Facebook (/OnionCollective) or via Twitter (@onioncollective) or sign up to their newsletter at

Folk Dance – For Beginners

Halsway Manor is well known nationally as a centre for folk arts, with people travelling from all over the UK and beyond to take part in residential courses in traditional dance, music, song and more. This December there’s a chance for anyone – all ages and abilities – to come along to the Manor to try folk dance in a special short course for complete beginners, and there are great prices for local day visitors to come too!

‘Country Dancing for Absolute Beginners’ (1-4 Dec) is a fun, practical introduction to the world of traditional English social dancing – country dancing, barn dancing, ceilidh and more – all set to wonderful live music. You can bring a friend, a partner, or come alone and make new friends. You’ll learn simple steps and discover more about our dancing heritage – but most of all our expert teachers’ aim is to get you dancing and enjoying yourself, a great way to keep fit, healthy and active, and to meet new people!

The course begins on Monday 1 December, with a welcome dinner at 6.30pm followed by introductions and an evening dance session. Tuesday 2 and Wednesday 3 December are both packed with workshops and activities all day and into the evening – but will be taught at a pace to suit the group, and there will be plenty of breaks to relax and recover! Refreshments, buffet lunch and delicious home-cooked evening meals are included on both Tuesday and Wednesday (all diets catered for).

The course is taught by Kerry Fletcher and Clare Parker: Kerry is a traditional dancer and workshop leader, experienced in many styles, from waltzing to clogging. Clare is Halsway Manor’s Youth Dance Associate. She is an independent dance artist, choreographer and teacher working throughout the South West and beyond. Music is provided by Dave Shepherd, one of the UK’s finest fiddle players and a member of well-known European traditional dance band Blowzabella.

The residential price for the course (arrive Monday at 4pm, depart after breakfast on Thursday) is £130 – £160 per person. There is a special price for non-residents of £80, to cover tuition, all meals and activities, from Monday through to the end of Wednesday evening.
To make a booking please phone Viv Butler, Events and booking Manager on 01984 618274 or email with your requirements.