Category Archives: Creative Exmoor

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.


Back in April, Number Seven Dulverton launched a creative writing competition called ‘The Swallows Return’. It was lovely to learn last week that the two winners are both well known to us – Michelle Werrett, who writes features for the magazine about landscapes and the environment, and Fiona Johnson, who runs the West Somerset Garden.

The competition was a creative partnership between Christopher and Davina Jelley who run Number Seven and the renowned, award-winning artist and author Jackie Morris for whom Number Seven is her principal UK outlet. The prizes were two beautiful drawings of swallows painted by Jackie.

Entrants were asked to write around a question inspired by The House Without Windows. This lyrical book, which was originally published in 1927, was written by Barbara Newhall Follett at the tender age of 12 and was republished in 2019, with illustrations by Jackie. It is an extraordinary paean to the transcendent beauty of the natural world, and the human capacity to connect with it. What better publication to inspire a creative writing competition launched near the beginning of lockdown – a time when we were all getting as much nature into our veins as possible and, perhaps more acutely than ever, anticipating summer and all that it brings, including the return of swallows – hence the title of the competition.

The question posed was:

And who hasn’t, at some point in their lives,
wished to walk away,
from all the familiar?
Would you walk
to the meadow,
the sea,
the mountains,
to seek a quiet sanctuary, a new beginning?

Davina and Chris were blown away by the responses and the shortlist was judged blind by Jackie. Davina writes: “Thank you to everyone who entered. We received over 50 submissions, many by post, even ‘by hand’ through our letterbox and others pinged in from across Europe, Canada and Australia. It was a delight to read your words and ‘escape’ with each of you in turn.

“Christopher and I read them aloud to one another, each one at least twice and then selected a dozen that shone out to forward on to Jackie. It was not an easy task, as each entry was naturally so individual. When we initially planned the competition, we had no idea that not just the UK but practically the entire world was adapting to the restrictions imposed by ‘lockdown’ and the pandemic – everyone was dreaming about where they longed to be or learning to wander within the confines of their home.

“We requested submissions by post and encouraged participants to step away from their computers, retreating with pen, paper and paint. Those who were unable to visit their local post office sent words by e-mail but they were typed with consideration, fonts were experimented with and photographs were attached.

“I met Jackie virtually – me from my sofa at home and she at her studio desk in Pembrokeshire. We were able to share our thoughts, drink tea and select who to send the inked swallows to. You may watch and listen here…

Number Seven Dulverton: The Swallows Return with Jackie Morris

So, two swallows have now landed in their new homes… with Fiona Johnson and Michelle Werrett. I hope that you enjoy reading their words and the landscape they visualise. Is it a familiar path? Where would you choose to walk?

Fiona’s words:

I stare at the frozen earth, stark, depthless, hardened clods, seemingly lifeless

I survey the ground, softened, crumbling and toss the seed, dry tiny pieces of life. They teeter on the particles and then tumble into the abyss. Many tears follow their course and anchor them.

I observe small promises, hints, shoots and slender buds. Tentative hopes emerging, trembling but these to nurture.


I see a riot, a chaos of colour life is skittering around my feet, dancing before my eyes and I plunge right in. It’s good, next year will better.

My meadow, My Restoration.



Michelle’s words:


I would walk where the woods are wild, where the wind in the tops whispers wishes to me. I should not follow the tracks of man but wander where other hearts roam free. I would cross the bank by the badger-worn run, skip over the stream where otters slide, follow the slots of the stag trodden path – the paw-padded, hoof-cut ways; far from the human world, away from work and worry, to the company of trees.

Where primroses light the gloom and birdsong promises of better days to come, echoing canopy holds woodnotes like precious treasure cupped in twiggy hands; a brightening of robin, elegance of blackbird, rapture of warblers and soft soothing pigeon. Finding peace in the sun-lanced green shade where I might linger the afternoon, threading the wildwood ways, to sit on moss cushioned log, lie in crunchy drifts or bounce on a branch in the breeze, here to pluck words from the wordless wild – they might be words like these.

Both winners were rather thrilled when they discovered they had been chosen.

Fiona said: “Thank you so much, I am so overwhelmed and excited that I danced a jig whilst uttering Cor! Having never entered a writing competition I am really surprised.” And Michelle celebrated by going outside to enjoy nature: “Oh, thank you, thank you, so much!!! How truly wonderful! Off for a celebratory walk!”

Davina concludes: “Thank you to Christopher Jelley for persevering and pushing the boundaries of our tech capabilities! And, of course, to Jackie Morris for her time and generosity. Xx”

Number Seven is currently open three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday and we wish them lots of luck over the summer!

Copyright of the winning submissions remains with the respective author, please do not print or share without prior permission and quote source, Number Seven Dulverton.


Crafters of all ages are dusting off their sewing machines and seeking out remnants of fabric to make bunting to adorn the medieval village of Dunster this summer. The brainchild of the team at the Dunster Tourism Forum (DTF), the idea is to bring the community together to make this beautiful village even more attractive to visitors once lockdown is over.

The DTF has been amazed by the response to their call for willing crafters to help sew their way to a pretty display of hand-made bunting this summer. People up and down the village – as well as Exmoor locals who love Dunster – have answered the call to create bunting flags from old curtains and duvet covers, scraps of dressmaking material and unwanted clothing. The plan is to decorate the village from the Visitor Centre, down through the High Street, up Church Street, West Street and to the GP Surgery at the end of the village. The wonderful beach chalet community are also coming together to create bunting across the iconic waterfront.

Andy Rice, Chairman of the DTF, says: “It’s been heart-warming to see the massive response to what was just one Facebook post asking for volunteers to help decorate our village this summer as we look forward to the end of lockdown.

“Even though we can’t be together in person at the moment, this community effort has been a great way of our villagers keeping in touch with one another, and maintaining our ‘can-do’ spirit. Plus, with so many people getting involved, we’ve got our eye on the Guinness World Record for the longest hand-made bunting in the UK – but we’ll need a lot more volunteers to achieve that.”

Villager Susan Ashton (pictured) is leading the volunteers, and hopes many more people will come forward to create bunting flags in their spare hours during this extended lockdown period. While strictly exercising social distancing, crafters are following a pattern and ‘how to’ videos posted on the community’s Facebook page, and delivering them to Susan who will bring them all together.

Susan says: “The bunting is easy to make, so stitchers of all levels of expertise can get involved. It’s a great way to spend time during lockdown, and to use up scraps of fabric and material, which has the added benefit of making it a sustainable activity. I’ve been posting videos on Facebook to show how to cut the template and construct the bunting, and I’m enjoying that so much that we have a Zoom chat planned where we can show each other what we’ve created.”

If you’d like to be part of this community effort, and help achieve that Guinness World Record,  please contact to get involved. You don’t need to live or work in Dunster, and all contributors will be mentioned on their Facebook page and entered into a prize draw to win one of four vouchers worth £15 to spend in the village.

For those of you on Facebook, full information, templates and a helpful video can be found at:

Photos by Nina Dodd.


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

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.

Have a Bash at Exmoor Bunting!

Calling all 4-12 year olds, join in the fun and design your very own bunting in the Exmoor Bunting Competition.

Jess Twydall from the Lynmouth Pavilion Project explains: “The design could be an animal, your favourite place, the tallest tree – just use your imagination and send us a design.”
black nike shox
The winning entries will be selected to make up a beautiful bunting of Exmoor. Youngsters wishing to take part should send their entries with their age and a contact telephone number to Exmoor Bunting, Lynmouth Pavilion Project, The Esplanade, Lynmouth EX35 6EQ or email:

The competition closes on 30 November 2014.

Call for Local Artists to Showcase their Work

From film and photography to ceramics and silverwork, the hunt is on for the area’s finest artists to feature in the 13th North Devon Open Art Show.

The show, run by the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, is open to amateur and professional artists working in all types of media. The chosen artists will have their work displayed as part of the popular art exhibition, running at the museum throughout January and February 2015.
nike free sale
Contributors should either be local residents, or the work should be created or inspired by northern Devon, Exmoor and Lundy Island.

Executive Member for Culture, Councillor Derrick Spear, says: “The North Devon Open Art Show is a fantastic opportunity to discover the creative genius of our region and features both professional and new artists working with a wide variety of media.”

Julian Vayne, Education and Outreach officer at the museum, says: “We are looking for a body of work rather than just a single piece, unless it’s an installation or large sculpture. This can be in any media including crafts, jewellery, digital art, sound, internet and networks, film and photography. The more variety the better! It’s a great opportunity for up and coming artists to showcase their work.”

Closing date for entries is Saturday 6 December 2014.  The chosen artists will be selected by a panel of judges made up of representatives from the museum, Petroc’s School of Art and North Devon Arts.
louis vuitton bags uk
For more information phone 01271 346747, email or download an application form online at

IMAGE: Dentail from Roger Humphries’ The Ancient Mariner, Open Art Show 2013.