Category Archives: Events

NOCTURNAL ADVENTURES AT FREMINGTON NATURE RESERVE

A free event for nature lovers is being held in Fremington next week.

The popular annual bat and moth evening at Fremington nature reserve takes place on Thursday 25 July from 8.30pm. As the sun goes down, lots of creatures begin to wake up and you can work with local wildlife experts to explore the nature reserve to find out more about these nocturnal residents.

You will be able to find bats using bat detectors and identify the wonderful array of insects captured in the moth traps, which will be released afterwards.

The event is being run by local wildlife experts in conjunction with North Devon Council, North Devon Biosphere Reserve and Fremington Parish Council.

North Devon Council Leader, Councillor David Worden, says: “The nature reserve is brimming with wildlife and this is a fantastic opportunity to explore and enjoy the area at night, with the added bonus of having a wildlife expert on hand to answer all your questions. It’s free and open to all ages. There is no need to book – just come along on the night!”

Please meet at Fremington village green, bring a torch, wearing clothing appropriate for the weather and sturdy footwear suitable for uneven ground.

For more information please contact the council’s parks team on 01271 388326 or email parks@northdevon.gov.uk. Follow the council’s Facebook page to keep up to date with news and events from the Parks Team.

HUNDREDS JOIN ROYALS FOR BIG NATIONAL PARKS PICNIC

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall were yesterday joined by hundreds of picnickers in Exmoor National Park for a special celebration marking 70 years since the ground-breaking 1949 Act of Parliament that established UK National Parks.

The ‘National Parks Big Picnic’ saw more than 500 people gather to enjoy a picnic and a cream tea in the beautiful surroundings of Simonsbath’s riverside meadows at the heart of Exmoor’s former Royal Forest.

Their Royal Highnesses were greeted by leaders from across the UK National Park family. They also met groups such as the Exmoor Society and Exmoor Hill Farming Network, children from Exford First School, local producers and craftspeople, and were presented with a hamper of local Exmoor produce to enjoy at home.

All attendees received a souvenir programme with a Forward by the Prince of Wales, stating: “However much our lives, and those of our children, may change in the future, the basic human need for peace, beauty and spiritual refreshment from engaging closely with the natural world will, I believe, remain every bit as important as it was seventy years ago.”

The centrepiece was the unveiling of a stunning cake inspired by the diverse landscapes of the UK’s 15 National Parks – from rugged mountains and vast open moorland, to soft rolling hills, meandering wetlands and dramatic coastline.

Special guests at the celebration included Niall Hobhouse, whose grandfather Sir Arthur Hobhouse pioneered the 1947 report that paved the way for the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, and the creation of the UK’s National Parks.

The Act, described at the time as a “recreational gift to Britain’s returning Second World War service men and women”, set out to recognise, conserve and enhance access to landscapes deemed to be “of national importance and quality”.

70 years on the UK has 15 National Parks, attracting over 130 million visitor days a year, worth almost £6bn to the UK tourism economy and much more in terms of crucial ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, flood prevention, clean air and water.

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, who hosted the event, said: “It’s with immense pride that we welcome Their Royal Highnesses to Exmoor today. Many say they love Exmoor for its incredible variety – made up of wild open moorland, spectacular coastline, deep wooded valleys, fast flowing streams and magnificent starry dark skies. But what really makes Exmoor is its people and the immense sense of responsibility we all feel towards this beautiful place. It goes right to the core of why National Parks were created, and I think today we all go away with a sense of the shared passion still felt for that cause.”

Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Minister for National Parks, said: “Seventy years on from the ground-breaking legislation that paved the way for their creation, our National Parks remain some of the nation’s most cherished places.

“We owe a great debt to past generations who had the wisdom to preserve these precious landscapes – and this momentous anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect on how we can ensure that our National Parks are conserved and enhanced for generations to come.”

Margaret Paren OBE, Chair of National Parks England, said: “There is a huge amount that has been achieved and for which to be proud from our first 70 years.  The reasons why we have National Parks resonates every bit as much today as then.  We collectively care for these extraordinary landscapes, among the best in the world, and we inspire generations.  And so as we look to the future, National Parks have a pivotal role to play in responding to the climate emergency, supporting nature recovery, and providing physical health and mental well-being for all.”

Carl Lis OBE, Chair of National Parks UK, said: “I am incredibly grateful to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall for choosing to celebrate 70 years of UK National Parks with us here today. They are fantastic supporters of UK National Parks, which continue to attract hundreds of millions of visitors every year and make such a significant contribution to the UK tourism economy”.

The event was sponsored by Tarmac with further support from The Exmoor Society, Somerset County Council, Devon County Council, Exmoor Hill Farming Network and the family of UK National Parks.

EXMOOR DARK SKIES FESTIVAL – BIGGER AND BETTER

A family astro-party, night mountain-biking, nocturnal wildlife walks and stargazing with delicious food are all on the agenda for Exmoor National Park’s annual Dark Skies Festival. Now in its third year, the Festival is going from strength to strength, with this year’s programme extended over three weeks instead of two.

From 14 October to 3 November, Exmoor National Park Authority will be teaming up with local businesses and groups to put on an array of events in celebration of the region’s spectacular dark skies, now one of 13 International Dark Sky Reserves.

Katrina Munro from Exmoor National Park Authority said: “We’re delighted to have extended the festival to three weeks to ensure there are plenty of activities for all and that the half-term break is covered for both Devon and Somerset schools.

“We aim to introduce people near and far to Exmoor’s incredible starry skies and are very grateful for the support once again of our festival sponsors, rural broadband providers Airband UK. With the return of old favourites like our mobile planetarium and guided Orionid meteor walks, plus the introduction of our very first Dark Skies Big Adventure with the National Trust, there’ll be plenty to delight space enthusiasts of all ages.”

Exmoor National Park was designated as Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark Sky Association in 2011. The National Park Authority continues to work with developers to help limit light pollution, providing unrivalled views of the celestial landscape while also preserving it for nocturnal wildlife.

Astronomer David Pearson, who volunteers for the National Park Authority as a Dark Skies Ambassador, said: “Even with the naked eye there’s so much people can see and all the family can enjoy spotting constellations and shooting stars. Through our research over the last few months, we have found some great secluded stargazing spots for keen astronomers, which are away from the glare of artificial lighting. In the darkest skies directly overhead we can see hundreds of objects, including the star clouds of our Milky Way, glowing clouds of dust and gas, satellites and spacecraft.”

Details of all the festival events can be found at exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/darkskiesfestival and a full printed programme will be available from National Park Centres in Lynmouth, Dunster and Dulverton from August.

Photo: Keith Trueman ©, Burrow Farm Engine House in Exmoor National Park. Built in 1860 to help mine the Brendon Hills iron field, it is the last remaining example of a ‘Cornish’ type engine house in Somerset. More info: www.exmoorher.co.uk/Monument/MSO8859

NEW E-TICKETING SYSTEM FOR NORTH DEVON SHOW

For the first time visitors to this year’s North Devon Show will be able to buy an e-ticket which organisers say should help-fast track their entrance to the showground at Umberleigh for the one-day agricultural show on 7 August. The e-tickets also come at a discounted price.

Show Secretary, Theresa Soanes, said: “We’re really excited about the changes to our ticketing for this year’s show. Our staff will have electronic scan readers and so instead of people queuing at the ticket office, everyone will now come straight to the gates. People who’ve bought advance tickets will be scanned in quickly and those who pay on the gate should now also get inside more quickly.”

E-tickets can be bought via the North Devon Show website and an email will be sent as a confirmation of purchase. Inside the email will be a QR code which can either be printed out in advance or opened on a mobile phone to be scanned at the gate. Tickets can also be bought from certain shops and tourist information centres across North Devon (full list on the NDS website) also with a one pound discount.

Mrs Soanes added: “The show continues to improve each year as we offer more fun and activities for all the family so it was the right thing to do to update our ticketing system. But we know not everyone can buy online so we’ve made sure outlets across the district are selling tickets at the same low price as on the internet.”

Entry to the show costs £15 for adults and just £3 for children in advance, with a family ticket of £34 for two adults and three children. Prices for online tickets bought less than 48 hours before the show and on the day at the showground are £1 more.

Unlike many other attractions the entry fee for the North Devon Show includes lots of things to do including going to the Circus which returns this year after proving so successful last year. Organisers have introduced an education and animal-petting zone where children can get up close to a range of animals including miniature donkeys, Valais black nose sheep, alpacas and lots more. In the Countryside Area you can try your skills at clay laser shooting with no extra charge as well as watching ferret racing, fly casting and archery.

The success of the music stage last year has seen the arena expanded and the number of performers increased, with the stage moving to be central to the showground closer to the food and drink tents.

SIMONSBATH FESTIVAL EVENTS THIS WEEKEND AND NEXT WEEK

Simonsbath Festival continues this weekend and next week with three events:

Friday 24 May, 10am at Brendon Two Gates – a walk arranged by the Exmoor Society – To Badgworthy and Doone Country. Join Archaeologist Rob Wilson-North for a four-mile walk over rough moorland in the footsteps of Lorna Doone author R.D. Blackmore. An exploration of one of Exmoor’s most remote places, see Blackmore’s memorial stone and the remains of a medieval village. Dogs welcome on leads. Free entry but donations to Exmoor Society are welcome.

Saturday 25 May, 7.30pm at St Luke’s Church – A night at the Opera. Opera singers Isobel Hughes and Tom Asher (pictured). Isobel is about to finish her studies at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and is a soprano with a warm-mezzo like quality. Tom is a baritone, a recent alumni of English National Opera who studied at the Royal Northern College of Music. There will be a programme of opera arias. Tickets are £15 reserved seating or £10 unreserved seating, with a light supper available for £5 booked in advance.

Wednesday 29 May, 7.30pm at St Luke’s Church – a talk by Tim Bonner (Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance) – From Hunting to Post Offices. Tim talks about how the Countryside Alliance continues to be the voice of Rural Britain by actively promoting and defending farming, rural services, small businesses and country sports. Tickets are £10 reserved seating or £5 unreserved seating, with a light supper available for £5 booked in advance.

Information, tickets and food bookings available by phone 01643 831451 or via the festival website at www.simonsbathfestival.org.uk

COWBRIDGE SAWMILL OPEN WEEKEND

Cowbridge Sawmill at Timberscombe will be opening its doors for National Mills Weekend on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May.

Records show that there was a corn mill at Cowbridge as far back as 1341. The mill prospered as a corn mill for six centuries but was converted to a sawmill in 1904. By the time last tenant retired in 1993 the building was in a derelict condition. It was in this state that Owen Rush purchased the mill – much against the advice of his friends!

Owen’s vision was of a working vintage sawmill and forge. His first task was to renovate the dwelling house closely followed by the mill. Once the structure was safe, the restoration of the machinery began.

The waterwheel was in a dilapidated state and a new shaft was shaped from an old oak tree. New water buckets were constructed and the launder rebuilt.

Volunteers with a wide range of skills and interests gradually came forward from the local community to restore the vintage machinery and install the shafts, pulleys, gears and levers necessary for the wheel to drive them.

Mr Rush has a substantial collection of historic machines, tools and artifacts for visitors to see on tours and Open Days. The working forge is now occupied by artistic blacksmith Belle Cole.

The site is a fabulous amenity for everyone who wishes to see our national heritage preserved. Volunteers are always welcome and appreciated and no particular skill is necessary. Whether or not you are mechanically minded, a visit to the mill is a fascinating step back in time. Why not visit and see the project for yourself?

Their Visitors’ Book contains many superlatives and accolades. Bearing in mind Mr Rush’s long-term vision, perhaps the most fitting comment was written by a couple from Bristol, “Mind blowing and inspiring. Thanks goodness someone is preserving our heritage.”

Cowbridge Sawmill will be open to the public on 11 and 12 May 2019 for National Mills Weekend and also on 14 and 15 September as part of the National Heritage Days. Guided tours will take place between 11am and 4.30pm and there are demonstrations of blacksmithing and woodturning throughout the day. Light refreshments are available. Parking and admission are free, but donations are much appreciated. Private tours of the mill are available by request. Further details can be found at www.cowbridgesawmill.org

WALK THE WEST SOMERSET COAST PATH IN MEMORY OF SOMEONE SPECIAL

St Margaret’s Hospice is offering the chance to remember a loved one while enjoying some stunning Somerset scenery.

Entries are now open for the charity’s Great Somerset Memory Walk, which will see participants covering 12.4 or 25 miles of the West Somerset Coast Path on Sunday 15 September.

The sponsored walk starts at Butlins in Minehead, with the choice of finishing in West Quantoxhead or completing the full route to Steart Marshes. Buses back to the start are included in the entry price of £15 for adults and £10 for children under 16.

Participants are encouraged to raise sponsorship to help St Margaret’s Hospice continue providing care and support to 3,800 people across Somerset each year who are facing a life-limiting illness.

Sonia Bateman, events fundraiser at the Somerset charity, said: “Many of our sponsored walkers will be celebrating the life of a loved one, as we will be offering everyone a Great Somerset Memory Walk bib to decorate with their own personal dedication message. People are equally welcome to take part if they just want to enjoy the coastal walk and do their bit to help us care for people in our community.”

Walkers will set off between 8am and 9am, and the last groups are expected to reach the finish line before 6pm.

To find out more and book your place, visit www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk and search ‘Memory Walk’.

PHOTO: West Somerset coast near Kilve

NEW! SOMERSET COUNTY SHOW LAUNCHES THIS YEAR

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 sharon@somersetcountyshow.co.uk.

STEAM PUNK FESTIVAL COMES TO THE REGAL THEATRE, MINEHEAD

Steam Punk is a nationwide organisation, promoting events across the UK which attract crowds of people who arrive in their steampunk gear. As part of the Minehead Early May Steampunk Festival there will be two events at the Regal Theatre on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 May.

On Saturday the Steampunk Cabaret Show will stage Victor Sierra, a three-piece band from Paris featuring Commander Bob, The Legendary Converted Princess and Big Machine. They have played at steampunk festivals in Europe, the UK, and America and have produced five well-received albums of original music.

Acting as Master of Ceremonies will be Greg Chapman (pictured), magician, comedian, juggler, unicyclist, escapologist and storyteller – one can never tell what he’ll do next!  He will introduce support acts, Doctor Gray and his Orchestra of One, Kiss Like Ether, Ichabod Steam, the beautiful Lux DeLioux and Ichabod Steam performing his new Dark Side Gothic Adventure.

On Sunday at the Steampunk Variety Show, MC Greg Chapman will appear again to introduce The Wattingers who describe themselves as Slaughterhouse Steampunk Blues.  These brilliant musicians present their original songs and videos with a dark sense of humour.  Support acts include Kiss Like Ether, The Retro Clones (one-man act supported by moving images of himself playing other instruments), and the beautiful Lux DeLioux.  (Same lovely Lux, different routine!)

Both performances starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost as follows: Adults £16, Friends £15.50, students/children/ES40s £10. They are available from the Regal Box Office (01643 706430), which is open
10am-3pm Monday-Saturday or online at www.regaltheatre.co.uk.

TOBY BUCKLAND’S GARDEN FESTIVAL COMING UP

Garden presenter Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival is back for a sixth year in 2019 and it’s going to be a treat for fans of TV gardening. Popular presenters from BBC Two’s Gardeners’ World – Joe Swift and Frances Tophill – are speaking at the award-winning event on 3 and 4 May at Powderham Castle, near Exeter in Devon, along with actor John Challis – better known as ‘Boycie’ from Only Fools and Horses – and RHS judge Jim Buttress.

Garden designer Joe Swift has been one of the main presenters on the BBC Two’s flagship gardening show since 1998 and is speaking on Friday 3 May. Frances Tophill, who travels the UK presenting on GW and ITV’s Love Your Garden, is at the festival on Saturday 4 May. Frances hails from Kent but now lives near the sea in Exeter and takes a keen interest in coastal gardens.

Toby says, “I’m delighted to welcome two high-calibre gardeners who really know their onions, both ornamental and edible!”

Talks are held in Powderham Castle’s magnificent wood-panelled Dining Hall and are free to festival visitors. Other highlights include a new larger VIP area, a new layout providing more under-cover space in the castle’s old riding stables and a new talks tent, plus the festival is now dog-friendly for the first time.

Tickets are now on sale and cost £10 for adults (children under 12 go free). VIP tickets cost. £55 See www.tobygardenfest.co.uk for more information.