Category Archives: Dogs


Exmoor National Park and leading Somerset-based pet accessory company Oscar & Hooch have joined forces to launch a national campaign to promote responsible dog walking in the countryside.

The campaign, which will run for the duration of the summer school holidays, will encourage dog-owning families and other dog walkers to go out and enjoy the spectacle of the Exmoor National Park and other UK beauty spots whilst at the same time reminding them to keep their dogs under control at all times so that wildlife, livestock and other visitors are not disturbed. Dog walkers will also be encouraged to clean up any dog mess and dispose of it properly to keep the Park and other destinations clean and tidy for other walkers to enjoy and to prevent any harm or disease to other animals and wildlife.

According to statistics provided by The Kennel Club, since 2010, dog ownership is up 10% and is now at 8.5 million dogs. 26% of homes have a dog and astonishingly over half of all outdoor visits include a dog.

There are many benefits to welcoming dogs in the countryside such as encouraging healthy lifestyles and supporting local visitor economies. Owning a dog not only provides owners with the opportunity to go out and enjoy the great outdoors but also has many health benefits. Owning a dog is good for mental health, providing interaction with other dog walkers and companionship.

However, there are also some concerning issues associated with irresponsible dog ownership. According to NFU Mutual, the cost of livestock worrying has risen 67% over the past two years in the UK. The rural insurer said not all livestock farmers insure against sheep worrying, but it estimates the annual cost to the industry is now £1.6m, while the average cost of a claim has risen by more than 50% to £1,300.

All the UK National Parks have a policy of encouraging responsible dog walkers and Exmoor, like the other National Parks, has a set of guidelines for dog owners to follow. Keeping a dog under close control, particularly around livestock and areas of ground-nesting birds is a key issue, as is regular worming and clearing up dog mess responsibly.

Dan Barnett, Access and Recreation Manager for Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Generally, your dog should be under close control at all times and there are specific areas and times of the year that they need to be kept on a lead. There are around 620 miles (1,000km) of public Rights of Way (e.g. footpaths and bridleways) on Exmoor for you and your dog to enjoy. On public RoW there is no legal requirement to keep your dog on a lead but, unless you are very confident about your dog’s obedience, we strongly recommend that you do as they must be under close control. There are all sorts of scents and smells that may prove too tempting to resist and result in your dog disappearing into the distance. You will inevitably meet livestock, other people, dogs, cyclists and horse riders at some point and there is potential for confrontation if your dog is out of control.

“There are over 18,000 hectares of open access land for you to explore where the public have a right of access on foot with a dog, however your dog must be kept on a lead of less than two metres during the bird-nesting season (1 March to 31 July) and at all times near livestock.”

The six-week national awareness campaign will consist of an online quiz which entrants can enter to win an Oscar & Hooch collar and lead each week. This will be integrated with a social networking campaign on both the Exmoor National Park and Oscar & Hooch social media platforms together with a press campaign across all national and regional media. Oscar & Hooch will also be donating 10% of sales through their website over the six week period when customers use the code EXMOOR at checkout, contributing towards the upkeep and preservation of Exmoor National Park.


Guest post from Guide Dogs

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

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

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

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

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


Many people have asked why Somerset has no County Show, well now at last it has and in the county town of Taunton! The two-day event is now scheduled to be held at Taunton Racecourse on an annual basis, every September. Plans for the 2019 event, which takes place on 20 and 21 September, are well underway with a huge array of activities and displays already booked.

The show is designed to showcase the very best that Somerset has to offer, with the emphasis on individual and community participation. As befitting the venue, equestrian enthusiasts will be well catered for, with polo and the Pony Club all represented, along with the hugely entertaining British trials and scurry driving team event – and The Shetland Pony Grand National, to name but a few.

Field sports of all disciplines are included, with a challenging open clay shoot, gun dog scurries, fly casting, falconry, archery and air rifle range, with have-a-go facilities available under expert supervision.

For dog lovers there are gun dog demonstrations and competitions, agility, exhibitions, and a fun dog show, so bring your dog on a lead with you!

Tone FM are hosting a community stage providing up and coming entertainers, bands and choirs a chance to perform in public, so if you “have got talent” get in touch to book your slot! Celebrity chef Lesley Waters is hosting cookery demonstrations throughout the weekend and creating a range of dishes using local produce available from the many artisan producers in the food and drinks hall.

There will also be plenty of street foods to enjoy, with local beer and cider provided. Classic and Vintage cars will be converging from all over the county, and no show would be complete without the smell and sounds of the steam engines. There are also plenty of activities for the children to enjoy, including a puppet show, fun fair, climbing wall, bouncy castles and ferret racing!

If you are interested in being part of this prestigious event or would like trade space or sponsorship details, contact Sharon Mitchell on 07739 964843 or by email on


This is a story which Guide Dogs have asked us to publish in tandem with the article which you will find on page 112 of the new issue of Exmoor Magazine, which is out now.

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

One of the services that Guide Dogs runs is called ‘My Guide’. It is a service whereby a trained, sighted (human) guide, is partnered with someone with sight loss. Many people with sight loss need support in gaining confidence to get out and about, and to achieve personal goals. My Guides accompany service users to facilitate tasks such as running errands, practising everyday routes, using public transport, or going to the gym to build confidence in these areas (playing fetch optional!).

Bethany Akielan, My Guide Ambassador, says, “When someone loses their sight, they can also lose confidence; or in the worst cases become socially isolated. Introducing a My Guide into someone’s life makes a real difference. In volunteering a couple of hours a week, it can make the seemingly insurmountable, possible for a service user.”

Guide Dogs provides full training for all volunteers in how to safely sighted guide and a general introduction to sight loss. We have several people waiting to be matched to My Guide partnerships in Exmoor and the surrounding areas. Being a volunteer is a great opportunity to learn new skills, socialise, and broaden your knowledge of supporting someone with a visual impairment.

Suzanne, a service user in Exeter, says, “Jan, my My Guide volunteer, has been invaluable in making my relocation from Sussex to Exeter a positive experience. Moving meant I had to make a mental map of my new surroundings and Jan has been key in supporting my independence in my new home town.”

If you’d be interested in finding out more about My Guide and other volunteering opportunities with Guide Dogs, head to our website: and click on ‘How Can I Help’ or call the South West Team on 0345 143 0204.


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.”


Hi everyone, Lottie here again with an update on how my training is going!

After the last blog I have been away every month, visiting different areas of the country, including Yorkshire, South Wales and the Pennines and have just got back from the first training weekend of the year in the Lake District.

I am now in the Stage 1 training group, having passed my registration/obedience and stock tests towards the end of last year. Stage 1 is where the new challenges really start coming thick and fast.

The training now takes place out on the fells, in all weathers, and is built around having the drive and focus to find and play with the ‘dogsbodies’. The whole process is aimed at developing what is termed the ‘Indication’, which is when I get to the body and really bark at them before having a good energetic play! Training at the moment takes the form of the ‘dogsbody’ taking my favourite toy and running off at ever-increasing distances, hiding and then me being let off my lead to run to them, bark and get my toy.

By building up the distance and then adding in hiding the ‘dogsbodies’ in camouflage bags, SARDA (Search and Rescue Dogs Association) have started me on the path to developing proper search skills. The idea is also that this training is always done into the wind if possible so that I begin to link the finding of the ‘dogsbody’ with the scent. This will serve me well when I get on to searching larger areas in later stages of training.

Over the next few months this training will build and build until I am ready to begin to add in the ‘Return Sequence’ which is when, instead of stopping and barking at the ‘dogsbody’ when I find them, I start to run back to Dad and tell him that I have found someone – I then get to play when he gets to the ‘dogsbody’ so I hope he will be fit enough to keep up!

As you can see from the photos, this weekend’s training took place on some steeper ground but luckily the rain held off! Sorry I am not looking at the camera but I was a bit distracted!

More information on SARDA, the dogs and their training can be found on the website at

Made up entirely of volunteers, the Exmoor Search and Rescue Team provides a Search and Rescue service across large parts of Devon and Somerset. The team assists the Police in locating lost or missing persons and recovering the injured or ill from remote locations as well as working closely with the Fire & Rescue Services and Ambulance Service in the area. Details on the team’s work and recent call-outs can be found on the web at and on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.


Hi everyone, Lottie here and I have just got back from my first training weekend with SARDA and what a great weekend I have had.

Based at the Harford Bridge campsite just outside Tavistock, some 25 search dogs gathered for a long weekend training on the nearby Tors. Along with the ‘dogsbodies’ who go out and hide on the moor, dogs ranging from the puppy class to final Stage 3 pre-assessment were kept busy for the three days.

I joined in the puppy class alongside the other young dogs, Chief, Murphy and Jess, and started work with Dad on some tasks and skills needed to pass the registration test. The others had been doing it for a few more months than me so were amazing to watch and it won’t be long before they will be moving on to Stage 1.

As well as general obedience and walking to heel, we started work on exercises that will be useful when I start in the later stages of training including ‘down at a distance’, ‘recall with distractions’ and ‘down/stay’. I managed to stay where Dad wanted me to for about ten minutes but will have to keep practising because in the test Dad has to be out of sight for five minutes as well.

It’s all a big game and it’s great to play with the other handlers and I get a toy as a reward when I ‘speak’ to them (WOOF!) which is what I will have to do when I start training with the ‘dogsbodies’.

I have certainly not worked so hard and much to Dad’s relief was completely shattered by the end of the day and slept really well – which was lucky for the rest of the campsite!

What also really made the weekend was meeting my half-sister, Maya (that’s her on the right), for the first time. She is already doing really well in Stage 1 and had travelled all the way down from Derbyshire for the weekend with her handler, Dan.

Can’t wait for next month’s training – a bit further afield in the Yorkshire Dales.

By the way, if you missed my first blog for Exmoor Magazine, you can find it here.

More information on SARDA, the dogs and their training can be found on the website at

Made up entirely of volunteers the Exmoor Search and Rescue Team provides a Search and Rescue service across large parts of Devon and Somerset. The team assists the Police in locating lost or missing persons and recovering the injured or ill from remote locations as well as working closely with the Fire & Rescue Services and Ambulance Service in the area. Details on the team’s work and recent call outs can be found on the web at and on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.


This coming Sunday – 30 July – is the lovely Porlock Horse Show, so it seems like a good moment to re-run a story by Tony James from our summer 2016 magazine, all about the Tuckers at West Luccombe Farm and this time-honoured event. We hasten to add that, as it stands, the forecast for the 2017 show (see poster, below) is looking promising!… (Photo above shows Charmain, John and Edith in the kitchen at West Luccombe Farm, by Andrew Hobbs).

“When I looked out of the window and saw the weather, I just couldn’t believe it,” says Charmain Dascombe (née Tucker).  She
shudders at the memory.  “We’d never had anything like it. All those poor people… “.

As it proved, it would take more than appalling weather to wash out the biggest event in the West Luccombe calendar – the traditional Porlock Horse Show, which for the past 40 years has been held on one of Charmain’s dad’s fields, and which, in July 2013, blithely carried on as usual, despite unseasonable cold, torrential rain and gale-force winds.

For Charmain, secretary since 2000, it was the culmination of nearly six months’ work and not a few sleepless nights putting together a show which has more than doubled in size since the time four local farmers sat around a kitchen table in 1971 to think of a way of raising money for local good causes.  Since then, the show has only been cancelled a few times, including once during the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.

“We lost the sheep classes because of foot-and-mouth and we had to fight quite hard to bring them back,” Charmain remembers. “Now they’re stronger than ever, which is as it should be, because sheep are very important around here.”

Photo by Andrew Hobbs from the 2015 show.

The show, like most things in this neck of the woods, has hardly changed in conception over the years – a classic country event with horse and pony classes, a traditional gymkhana, a parade of hounds, Exmoor Horn sheep classes, competitions for stags’ antlers and a dog show with prizes for the scruffiest ‘Doodle’ and the waggiest tail.

But make no mistake, this is a serious show, impeccably organised, with top-class competitors and stock and, while some similar rural events may have languished for lack of interest, the West Luccombe show has flourished.  It now has four rings instead of the original two and the dog show has grown to the point where it has its own field.

Charmain has no doubt about the secret of its longevity.  “The main aim is to have a really good family atmosphere and for children to have a nice day and to come away with a rosette. That’s the whole point of it really.”

Porlock Horse Show, 1981. Mrs Edith Tucker presenting the cup to Brian Palmer with Victor Stevens in the background, Tom Rook in the trailer and Mrs Lorna Robins standing on the ramp.

She’s been involved with the show since childhood and her father, John Tucker, has been chairman for the past 25 years.  Does he enjoy it?  The reply is a cautious, “I don’t know if ‘enjoy’ is the right word.”  But Andrew Hobbs and I saw him out there in last year’s wind and rain and he had a smile for everybody.  John’s mother Edith, 95 at the time of writing this article, always played an active part in the show and Charmain has this photo of her presenting prizes in 1981.

Not surprisingly, the show becomes the main topic of conversation over mugs of tea in the kitchen of John’s West Luccombe Farm,
a welly’s throw from the show field.  It first moved there in 1976 after five years in Old Lane, Bossington, and has been in West
Luccombe ever since.

“The access to Old Lane was difficult and so my father offered a field here,” John recalls.  “The problem was that the show was always on the last Sunday in July – it still is – and my father disagreed with that.  He was very traditional that way, but eventually we managed to persuade him.

“The show wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the dozens of local helpers who come every year. Last year was probably the worst conditions we’ve ever had but they still turned up to make the sandwiches, steward the events and put up the jumps.  The lovely thing is that
we’re now getting the grandchildren of the original helpers. That must bode well for the future.

“We don’t like meetings so we usually only have two a year – one in January about general organisation and the other to decide who will get our money!  I have to admit that Charmain is left with most of the work and that can be pretty stressful, but she does a great job.”

“I never thought I’d hear you say that,” says his daughter with a smile.

The show generates around £2,000 a year for Porlock causes, which have included the cricket and football clubs, recreation ground, the
Visitor Centre, village hall, Christmas pantomime and plants for summer flower schemes.

You’ve got to tread carefully in this tight-knit little world… Charmain’s husband, David Dascombe, is a cousin of Julian Dascombe at Burrowhayes, who got his ten-acre field from John Tucker’s father… Janet Harding, of Horner Vale Tearoom, was last year’s show president and her husband Mike is the treasurer…

Not surprisingly, West Luccombe Farm, with its massive stone barns and impressive buildings, dominates this tiny hamlet.  John Tucker has leased it from the National Trust since he was 29, after a Hardyesque turn of events combining good fortune and sadness with risk and challenge.

Since 1940, John’s father had farmed sheep on the family’s 700 acres at Lucott, high on the moor above Nutscale Water, and he was also the tenant farmer of 350 acres at West Luccombe.  John took over Lucott when his dad moved down the valley to West Luccombe in 1963.  “Then, after my father died in 1979, I approached the National Trust to take over the tenancy at West Luccombe.

“The agent asked if I would take on the ground at West Lynch as well, because the tenant, Tom Rawle, was retiring.  That meant that our National Trust acreage would double overnight – from the 150 acres at West Luccombe to a total of 300, with West Lynch.  And this was on top of the 700 acres at Lucott.  I decided to go for it.  You do these things when you’re young!”

Now responsible for 1,000 acres, John had to move fast.  “I didn’t have enough stock for the land so I started growing corn, which I had never done before. We grew as good malting barley as you could get anywhere in the country and were getting £160 a ton –
more than you can get now.

“The problem was that because the ground was so stony you could only get about two tons an acre, when it was reckoned you needed double that to make a living.  So we gave up and went back to sheep.

“I confess I got a lot more pleasure from that,” says the man who’s now a nationally-recognised judge of Exmoor Horns and whose son Dick, now running the Lucott farm, was judging sheep at the last Porlock Horse Show.

John reckons that Lucott land, much of it at 1,500ft, is ideal for his 1,300-strong flock.  It’s cooler in summer and there are fewer
flies.  “Exmoor Horns will live off very sparse vegetation and, if you cross them with a Leicester Bluefaced ram to get an Exmoor Mule, they’ll compete with any North Country breed and are easier to handle than Exmoor Horns.”

Life could be tough on the Dunkery slopes but it had its compensations.  “When I was living up at Lucott during the winter of 1962-3 the snow was so bad I didn’t go to school from Christmas to Easter,” John says.  “It was great.  The snow was higher than the hedges and I rode my pony over the tops of gates.  They brought us hay with a helicopter and I walked on the ice across Nutscale Water.”

But on this warm evening, winter seems an unreal memory.  This year’s show is approaching fast and there’s still lots to do before Charmain, John and their band of helpers can be pretty certain that, come rain or shine, it will once more be a day to remember.

See you there!

A meeter and greeter in the yard at West Luccombe Farm when we visited to interview the family. Photo by Andrew Hobbs.


Hi, my name’s Lottie and I am the latest recruit to the Exmoor Search and Rescue Team! I’m a Working Golden Retriever and, along with my trainee handler Nick, I am just about to start learning the skills to become a Search and Rescue Dog with SARDA England.

I will be starting in the puppy class at my first training weekend at the beginning of August on Dartmoor and training will take us up and down the country every month to areas such as The Lake District, South Wales, The Peak District and North Yorkshire, and we will also be doing some regular training on the team patch here on Exmoor and across to the Quantocks.

Luckily, I’m not alone as there are always new puppies starting their training and also, on Exmoor, there is Poppy, who is a very experienced SARDA dog. I’m sure her handler James will be helping Nick out!

Across the country SARDA dogs provide a highly trained extra resource to mountain rescue teams, helping to look for vulnerable and missing people in all weathers, at all times of day and night.

SARDA dogs are trained primarily as ‘air scenting’ dogs, working across the wind to pick up what’s known as a ‘scent cone’ and gradually working their way into the casualty before indicating their location to their handler by returning and barking.

Once past the puppy class, which covers obedience, agility and being stock-proof, I will start working towards Stage 1 and 2 and, ultimately, Stage 3, training building up the work with ‘dogbodies’ and bigger search areas.

More information on SARDA, the dogs and their training can be found on the website at

Made up entirely of volunteers, the Exmoor Search and Rescue Team provides a Search and Rescue service across large parts of Devon and Somerset. The team assists the Police in locating lost or missing persons and recovering the injured or ill from remote locations as well as working closely with the Fire & Rescue Services and Ambulance Service in the area. Details on the team’s work and recent call outs can be found on the web at and on Exmoor Search and Rescue’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

We’ll be providing an update on training and photos of progress every couple of months, so please watch this space!


If you are a special dog living on Exmoor, the Quantocks or in North Devon and you have a story to share, just get in touch! email


Artist Shan Miller is famous for her life-size portraits of pets, rare breeds and rural life and exhibits widely both at home and abroad, most notably in Cornwall and Cumbria with her celebration of the farmyard instigated by the NFU.

Shan has family connections with a local hunt and it is in commemoration of this that she has created the huge painting of hounds illustrated. As she explains, “I would love to find a good home on Exmoor for this very evocative and powerful piece, which, at 8 feet tall, is a real talking point and would create a unique focal point.”

Based in North Devon, her studio and gallery is an imposing, three-storey former grain mill close to the renowned Tarka Trail and is available to view by appointment. Nearby, at The Puffing Billy Cafe (a restored railway station) 28 of her impressive, larger than life canine portraits are on display, demonstrating her compelling and commandingly maverick style, which highlights the muscle and power of the animals, a veritable feast of fur.

For more information about Shan and her work please go to her website at