Category Archives: Events

Farming for Tomorrow Exmoor Conference

Exmoor is sharing some of the inspirational work taking place on upland farms, to demonstrate new opportunities for tomorrow’s farmers. An afternoon conference being held by North Devon+ at Raleghs Cross Inn on 27 November will highlight the innovation and adaptation required to address today’s challenges – whether practical, economic or environmental.

“We want to highlight the contribution being made by the younger generation of farmers on Exmoor, and to explore where support is needed for the farmers of tomorrow in these changing times,” said Kate Harris, Exmoor Hill Farm Project coordinator at North Devon+ “The Hill Farm Project has worked closely with many younger farmers through our Business Support programme and our Forward Farming Discussion Group. We want to ensure that their experiences, ideas and voices are heard locally and in the corridors of power.”

With Defra currently consulting on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the conference will explore the issues and challenges facing farmers and how these can be addressed. The opening speaker at the event is beef and sheep farmer David Knight who farms with his family near Minehead.

“The North Devon+ Hill Farm Project has brought together farmers from across Exmoor who are really keen and positive about the future of farming, they have great ideas and are prepared to work hard, they just need more opportunities to give it a go,” said David who has recently taken on the role of Chairman of the newly formed Exmoor Hill Farming Network.

One of the main issues for people looking to get a step up on the farming ladder is lack of available land to farm. Land prices have continued to rise and so have rental prices with any available land being snapped up quickly. Speaker David Fursdon is only too aware of this issue and will share his experience of seeking a tenant for the 24ha Rixham Farm within his mid-Devon estate. As Chair of Defra’s Future of Farming Review published earlier this year, he highlighted the need for the industry to take more responsibility for its own future and urged Government to support them in doing so.

With a range of speakers and a final panel chaired by Exmoor based Robin Milton, chair of the NFU’s National Uplands Group, the conference will highlight the contribution being made by the younger generation of farmers and debate where support is needed for the farmers of tomorrow.

To reserve your FREE place please contact North Devon+ on 01643 841455 or email enquiries@exmoorhillfarmproject.org.uk

A pair of fiftieth railway anniversaries

Half a century has passed now since the vanishing from the Exmoor scene of two parts of its railway history, although they will be briefly recreated when the West Somerset Railway holds its 2014 Spring Steam Gala between 27 and 30 March next year.

The better known and probably more fondly remembered was the “Atlantic Coast Express” which linked North Devon and North Cornwall with London Waterloo, Mondays to Saturdays. What was remarkable about the “ACE” was it contracted during its journey west and, conversely grew as it went eastwards. Other express trains sometimes “slipped” special coaches from their rears as they approached stations where the main train stopped (as the express roared through the station and into the distance the slip would drift in behind it under the control of its own guard) but the “Atlantic Coast” took its time.

 

So the train would run down from Waterloo to Exeter Central at high speed behind one of the crack steam locomotives of the Southern Railway or the Southern Region of British Railways, such as one of the “Merchant Navy” Class. At Central this came off the train which then began a steady process of division which continued at such spots as Halwill Junction until finally one or two coaches would reach Barnstaple, Ifracombe, Bude or Padstow after a journey which must have seemed almost interminable to those who didn’t know what to expect or were enthusiasts. That process took place in reverse on the way back. What looked like a couple of coaches setting out on a local journey eventually became part of a big express train for the rush back to the capital. All sorts of steam locomotives could work the portions in Devon including the half-century old T9’s. Once the premier express engines of the one-time London and South Western Railway in the first decade of the 20th Century the last survivors finished their days in North Devon and could still show a spritely turn of speed. Alongside them were the revolutionary “Light Pacifics” which Oliver Bulleid designed for the Southern Railway and which were built between 1945 and 1951. With their “air-smoothed casing” exteriors they looked like nothing else on rails in Britain and many carried names associated with the West Country including “Exmoor”, “Lynton”, “Watersmeet” and “Braunton”. These modern machines could take all but the very heaviest expresses along at speeds in the ninety mile per hour range but they could also be found ambling through North Devon with two or three coaches on a local passenger service where the guard and the signalman could have a leisurely chat at the village stations along the way.

 

Another bucolic line was one that ran across Exmoor itself, the route from Taunton to Barnstaple. This was one of those railways that was nowhere near as busy or important as its Victorian promoters had intended it to be but it served its communities until the rise of the rural bus and then the private car caused it to close in the Beeching era. Amongst the towns and villages that knew it along the way were Wiveliscombe, Dulverton (Although the station was actually in Brushford), South Molton and Filleigh.

 

The line had been built as the Devon and Somerset Railway and it left the Great Western main line at Norton Fitzwarren near Taunton. Opening took place piecemeal between 1871 and 1873 as a shortage of money dictated (it had received its Parliamentary Act as early as 1864.). There was even an outbreak of trouble when the navvies building it weren’t paid, which was never a good idea with these powerful, long-headed group of workers. It was originally built to the Great Western Railway’s broad gauge of seven feet and a quarter of an inch as devised by I.K. Brunel but was converted to standard gauge in 1881 which allowed trough trains to run round from Barnstaple Victoria Station to Barnstaple Junction and further on into Devon. Going as it did across the grain of the countryside there was plenty of civil engineering to be done including two major viaducts at Venn Cross and Filleigh and tunnels at Bathealton, Venn Cross, Nightcote and Castle Hill.

 

At Morebath Junction near Dulverton it met the other major railway route across Exmoor, the line from Stoke Canon along the Exe Valley and via Tiverton and Bampton. Although the junctions were at Stoke Canon and near Morebath trains in fact ran from Exeter St Davids to Dulverton. The Exe Valley was steam worked throughout its history and closed in October 1963.

 

Steam trains between Barnstaple and Taunton lasted until 1964 and from the viewpoint of the lover of locomotives were noteworthy as a last stronghold for the Great Western “Moguls”. Designed by G.J. Churchward in 1911 they were maids of nearly all railway work except the heaviest and fastest and a final few could be found at Taunton locomotive shed as Beatlemania was gripping the country half a century later. With the Devon and Somerset having been constructed as cheaply as possible Taunton’s “Moguls” had steps and other projections specially cut back to cope with tight clearances.

 

As with many other rural lines in the West of England traffic along the 57 miles of line varied from year to year and with the seasons. There were the usual staple traffics such as coal and perishable goods for the village merchants and grocers to collect or have delivered but until myxomatosis was introduced with such devastating effects rabbit specials were run to take a cheap source of meat to towns and cities. Passenger trains for most of the year were made up of two or three coaches but in the 1950’s and early 60’s with seaside holidays at a peak and private car ownership in its infancy that changed completely on summer Saturdays. From Paddington and the Midlands long distance trains ran to Taunton where they divided with one portion setting off for Minehead along what is now the West Somerset Railway and the other heading for Barnstaple and Ilfracombe with the “Moguls” steaming along with twice their normal loads. Unfortunately it was a journey that too many holiday makers could recall for the wrong reasons. Elderly and generally unused coaches were pulled out of sidings for an annual session of work, often without corridors and toilets, and with much of those 57 miles across Exmoor being on a single line of track with other trains to pass at wayside stations along the way the last bit of the journey was little fun for families with small children. Once they were home again the car showroom window and the hire purchase agreement were worth serious consideration. After steam had gone the holiday trains followed them from the scene and in October 1966 the last trains ran through a dark evening, with the Devon and Somerset seven years short of achieving its century of service. Today sections are nearly untraceable (Milverton station site is, with irony, under a traffic roundabout at the edge of the village) but other sites can be found and if you are minded to follow the old route with the help of a map you will of course be able to enjoy some of the finest scenery in all England.

As said in the opening paragraph the West Somerset Railway is planning to mark the anniversaries between March 27th and 30th with appropriate guest steam engines and plenty to see along the route between Bishops Lydeard (near Taunton), Watchet, Dunster and Minehead. Details are on the website at www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk or please call 01643 704996.

 

Tenth Annual Bolving World Championship

The tenth Annual Bolving World Championship Competition takes place at Draydon Rails near Dulverton on Exmoor on Saturday 19 October at 6pm.  This quirky and quite possibly unique competition aims to find out who can best replicate the haunting, primeval sound of the red deer stag in rut and has a big local following.  Competitors take it very seriously, and some even get a real live deer to answer them across the wild deep valley.  Anyone can turn up and have a go, and sponsors are welcome as all money goes to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust.  Meet at 5pm in The Rock House Inn or Draydon Rails at 6pm and it’s back to the Inn again afterwards for the results and winners presentation as well as a prize draw.  The venue will be signposted from Dulverton and Winsford Hill.

Views of Exmoor: discover the moorland, past and present

 

An exciting new exhibition about Exmoor’s archaeology will be open at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon from 14 September to 12 October 2013. The exhibition is by the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and local partners.

The exhibition looks at how archaeologists are piecing together an amazing story of human resilience. The story begins around 8,000 years ago when hunter gatherer groups first walked across Exmoor’s uplands and continues with the emergence of farming and the building of unique miniature standing stones around 4000 years ago. Other periods of significant change to Exmoor’s moorlands are also featured, such as the 19th century, when enormous efforts were made by Victorian improvers to plough up tracts of the moors.

“Take a journey back in time” says Faye Balmond, Moorland Heritage Officer for the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership Scheme, “and come and see for yourself how people have shaped the unique landscape of Exmoor National Park. We hope that we have brought the past to life through a series of reconstructions of Exmoor set at different periods in its long history.”

The exhibition will also include recently excavated hunter gatherer tools as well as a replica Bronze Age urn made by Joss Hibbs from Powdermills Pottery, along with the sherds of the original pot which was found near Parracombe by members of the North Devon Archaeological Society.

The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is open from 10am – 5pm daily except Sunday and admission is free.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The official launch of this exhibition will take place on Thursday 19 September 5pm-7pm. Members of the press are welcome to attend, please contact Faye Balmond fbalmond@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk if you would like to come.

Image available: There is a wonderful reconstruction image available of American troops training at Larkbarrow, please reply to this email if you’d like a copy of it, Clare.

 

 

 

Discover the moorland, past and present

An exciting new exhibition about Exmoor’s archaeology will be open at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon from 14 September to 12 October 2013.  The exhibition is by the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and local partners.

The exhibition looks at how archaeologists are piecing together an amazing story of human resilience.  The story begins around 8,000 years ago when hunter-gatherer groups first walked across Exmoor’s uplands and continues with the emergence of farming and the building of unique miniature standing stones around 4,000 years ago.  Other periods of significant change to Exmoor’s moorlands are also featured, such as the nineteenth century, when enormous efforts were made by Victorian improvers to plough up tracts of the moors.

“Take a journey back in time” says Faye Balmond, Moorland Heritage Officer for the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership Scheme, “and come and see for yourself how people have shaped the unique landscape of Exmoor National Park.  We hope that we have brought the past to life through a series of reconstructions of Exmoor set at different periods in its long history.”

The exhibition will also include recently excavated hunter gatherer tools as well as a replica Bronze-Age urn made by Joss Hibbs from Powdermills Pottery, along with the sherds of the original pot which was found near Parracombe by members of the North Devon Archaeological Society.

The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is open from 10am–5pm daily except Sunday and admission is free.

The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) teams up with SAW

The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) teams up with Somerset Art Works (SAW) this year to commission eight new dynamic installations within the great gardens of Somerset Seven of Somerset’s most delightful gardens will be the locations for eight dramatic new artworks and installations during the Somerset Art Weeks festival, running from 21 September to 6 October 2013.

Devised by Somerset Art Works in association with The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) and funded by Arts Council England, the Abundance Garden Trail will comprise a series of site-specific contemporary commissions, placing these new and challenging works within the cultivated garden landscapes of Somerset.

Gardens on the trail are: The Walled Gardens of Cannington (near Bridgwater, Sedgemoor), Little Yarford Farmhouse (Kingston St. Mary, near Taunton), Stoke St. Mary Gardens (Stoke St. Mary, near Taunton), Aller Farmhouse (Williton, West Somerset), Tintinhull Garden (Tintinhull), Esotera (Foddington, near Babcary) and Henley Mill (Wookey, Mendip).

Find out more at: www.somersetartworks.org.uk/abundance#sthash.Y2PLejii.dpuf

Two Moors International Festival lands punchy programme

Anyone who is into classical music and who doesn’t by now know about the Two Moors Festival must go round with their eyes shut and ears closed!  What began as a one-off in 2001 to bring cheer (following the Foot and Mouth tragedy) to 1,200 square miles of Dartmoor and Exmoor has turned out to be not only an international treasure.

27 concerts will be taking place – between 16 and 27 October – catering for every taste imaginable.  Chamber music, a sprinkling of oratorio, opera, a piano recital, jazz, brass band and even a percussion duo are to be heard in a multitude of church venues across the moors. Bach to Beethoven to Benjamin Britten (who just had to be included), Cole Porter and even Chopin played on marimbas are just some of the composers in the pipeline for a programme coming under the theme of Light. Reflections, photography, a rainbow are three of the takes on this random idea.

So who are the performers?  Internationally acclaimed singer, Katarina Karnéus, likewise the young and astonishingly talented violinist, Hyeyoon Park will be appearing in Dunster.  Australian pianist, Jayson Gillham, and the Busch Ensemble are giving recitals in Dulverton as are the Festival’s Young Musicians Platform winners 2013.  This is a feast of star quality concerts thoroughly in keeping with worldwide chamber music festivals (the Austrian Schubertiade for example).

The Festival has a reputation for bringing the finest artists to the Southwest hence the attraction for visitors from all over the world who make a holiday out of going to many concerts.  They stay in cosy B&Bs, munch pub grub, go for a stride across boggy, scenically stunning moorland and turn up to concerts clad in country clothes and wellies.

See you there!

Successful start to Exmoor Pony Festival

More than 300 visitors enjoyed the first few days of Exmoor Pony Festival activities, a very successful start to the 9-day lottery-funded celebration of the rare breed.  Jason Ball from Heart of Exmoor said: “On a Bank Holiday weekend, many other attractions around Exmoor were competing for visitors, but our Festival proved very popular.  So we launched a photo contest on Facebook http://tinyurl.com/2013photocomp <http://tinyurl.com/2013photocomp> and invited people to share their favourite moments from the events.”

Visitors joined Experience Exmoor for two Exmoor Pony Safaris, setting off from Lynmouth on a meandering route that include Countisbury, Brendon Common and Porlock Common. Exmoor Pony Officer, Linzi Green was the ‘expert on board’ who explained herd heritage and the natural history of the Exmoor Pony. She said: “It was brilliant – in addition to taking some great photos of beautiful ponies, passengers were fortunate enough to see a Merlin, large herds of red deer, and gannets and dolphins at sea!”

Dawn Westcott and her Exmoor Pony stallion affectionately known as ‘Bear’ had obviously been training hard with an even more impressive Agility and Liberty demonstration than last year (clip on Youtube).  The demo busted some negative myths about Exmoors but the key theme was the connection between person and pony.  Using Natural Horsemanship methods, Dawn showed how warming-up sequences and allowing space for relaxation and expression by the pony were vital to developing a mutually respectful connection and a well-focused session.  Agility is a fast-growing ‘sport’ that suits the Exmoor breed’s intelligence.  Dawn wrote on the Exmoor Pony Club website: “Over 60 enthusiastic people arrived to see Bear work on the line, at liberty and then ridden over the agility course, including the Triple Hoop Jump. The Heart of Exmoor team were brilliant and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun.”

The first ever ‘Meet the Herds’ event at Wheddon Cross on Tuesday drew in more than 100 members of the public many of whom were meeting the ponies close at hand for the first time.  Thanks go to the local Exmoor Pony Society members who brought their Exmoor ponies to the market to represent 12 of the 20 herds currently running on the moor and to the Moorland Mousie Trust and their volunteers for supporting the event.  Moor bred ponies have excelled in driving, riding, endurance, show jumping and showing and the day provided an ideal opportunity for people to learn about each herd’s heritage and meet just some of the people who take care of them. Jason Ball from Heart of Exmoor said: “Moorland herds of Exmoor ponies are part of the landscape of Exmoor National Park and the herd managers share a vital understanding of them.”

A fine collection of artworks at Dulverton’s Guildhall gallery welcomed 140 visitors in 2 days. The ‘special guest’ gallery volunteer, children’s author Victoria Eveleigh, attracted numerous fans who had discovered that she was going to be at the gallery for our first day (mainly finding out via the web).  One family announced that they had travelled to holiday on Exmoor because they had to meet their favourite author! Modern artists featured include Nikki Moore, Claire Saville, Chris Eveleigh and Dawn Westcott.  Jason Ball commented: “A broadside of thanks is owed to those people who have lent the outstanding range of historic and collected pieces, chiefly brought together for the exhibition by volunteers for the Exmoor Pony Society and the Moorland Mousie Trust.”

Over the last three years the Heart of Exmoor scheme has promoted the free-living herds on the moor with Linzi Green, their Exmoor Pony Officer based at the Moorland Mousie Trust and with the Exmoor Pony Society. They have achieved education campaigns, equipment grants, farmer meetings, training and the festival thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund, European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, Exmoor National Park Authority and local partners and funders.

Established last year by the Heart of Exmoor scheme, the 2013 Exmoor Pony Festival is jointly organised by the Exmoor Pony Society, the Exmoor Pony Club, the Moorland Mousie Trust, Exmoor National Park Authority, countless volunteers, and the moorland herd managers. Behind the picturesque moorland scenes of Exmoor ponies are the dedicated farmers, volunteers, inspectors and rangers who all work to secure the future of the free-roaming Exmoor Pony.

Porlock Hill Climb and Pedal Porlock

On 29 September Minehead Cycling Club are running a race for racing cyclists and, in the  afternoon, a fun event for the village, visitors to Exmoor and anybody else who fancies pitting themselves against the Toll Road, which will be gloriously free of traffic for the event.

In the morning, The Porlock Hill Climb is the event for racing cyclists.  With the very large prize fund (possibly the biggest for any hill climb event in the UK) the organisers expect to see some of the best cyclists coming to take part so it is well worth heading down to Porlock to spectate.

The riders start at one-minute intervals and race against the clock from the bottom to the top of the hill, with the rider completing the climb the time in the shortest time being the winner.

The first rider sets off at 11am.

Porlock Toll Road will be closed to all traffic for the duration of the event.

Hill climbs are  traditional events which mark the end of  the racing season which runs from March until October and they are seen as a pure test of a riders solo climbing ability.

In the afternoon, the Pedal Porlock event offers anybody, from children to adults, the chance to see if they too can make the climb.  The event is all-inclusive and hand pedal cycles and electricly-assisted cycles may take part.

The idea of  Pedal Porlock  is to have a fun afternoon with people effectively playing at cycling on a safe, traffic-free road.

Entries for the main event are being taken on a first-come-first-served basis from Cycling Time Trials affiliated club members.  The fun/community event will be entries on the day.  For full details see the Minehead CC website (www.mineheadcyclingclub.co.uk) or the Cycling Time trials website (www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk).

Andy Hobbs at Binham

HOB_2256This weekend a group of artists known collectively as the Gallery4Art group are opening their summer exhibition at Binham Grange near Blue Anchor.

This year we are happy to say the Exmoor Magazine’s features photographer will be exhibiting some of his work. Andrew Hobbs has been contributing to the magazine for nearly five years now and has covered many of our lead stories, including the Exmoor Pony Gathering that will be featured in our next edition.

Andrew is maybe better known for his features, news and documentary work but his landscapes of Exmoor, although little seen, are just as engaging and hold true to his style.

HOB_2287Many are taken in his preferred black and white and reflect his passion for uncovering hidden aspects of the Exmoor area.

The Gallery4Art exhibition is a rare chance to see some of Andrew’s landscapes, and from the sneak preview of the images we’ve had, we’d say they are well worth seeing.

For more information about Andrew and his work please visit his website: andrewhobbsphotography.co.uk