Category Archives: Exmoor National Park news

IN SEARCH OF JOHN KNIGHT’S LOST GARDENS OF SIMONSBATH

An archaeological dig to uncover features of a lost garden created by ‘father of Exmoor’ John Knight in the nineteenth century is about to begin. The work is being led by South West Archaeology with local volunteers, and funded by Exmoor National Park Authority in association with the Simonsbath Programme Steering Group.
An archaeology open morning is being held on Wednesday 27 June from 10am – 1pm to give people the chance to see the excavations and learn more about John Knight’s ambitious plans (Ashcombe car park, TA24 7SH).

In 1820 John Knight, a businessman from Worcestershire, paid £50,000 for a wild, uninhabited area of moorland within what is now Exmoor National Park. He moved there with his wife and six young children and began a project to single-handedly colonise and reclaim the 16,000 acre wilderness previously untouched since the Bronze Age, and to transform it into a great estate with a mansion at its heart in Simonsbath.

Nearby Ashcombe gardens were begun as part of this vision, but were never to be completed. Traces of garden terraces, bridges and paths remain, but very little is known about what the gardens were to be like.

Charlotte Hornsby from the Simonsbath Programme, said: “We have exciting plans to tell Simonsbath’s story and to enlighten both visitors and residents. We also want to bring together the local community, friends and family from around the world who have been touched by the beauty and magic of Simonsbath and its history.”

Rob Wilson-North, head of conservation and access at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “No one person has done more to shape the direction of Exmoor’s landscape than John Knight, yet we still know relatively little about his influences and motives. We hope this latest excavation will provide further clues to his vision for Exmoor, and help us better understand this cornerstone of the National Park’s history.”

PHOTO: A quartz outcrop in Ashcombe dating back to the 1820s that once formed part of John Knight’s vision for a designed landscape. Credit: Hazel Riley.

UNMISSABLE EXMOOR FOODIE EVENTS THIS SUMMER

Press release issued by Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park has teamed up with three top restaurants to add three new summer dates to its CareMoor for Exmoor Dining Club series, which celebrates the best of Exmoor produce while raising money towards the upkeep of the National Park and its special qualities.

The Beach Hotel, Minehead will kick off the series with a ‘Summer celebration of Exmoor & Sea’ on the 5th July (www.thebeachhotel.org, 01643 704765). Their restaurant incorporates an impressive theatre-style kitchen where diners can watch the chefs at work. The award-winning hotel hosted a very successful Local Food and Drink Trade Show earlier this year for the launch of the National Park’s #EatExmoor campaign.

Head Chef, Paul Ruttledge, whose background includes three-rosette restaurants, said: “This is another exciting opportunity to help support the National Park and showcase our use of great Exmoor produce. At our evening in July I’ll be presenting a very special menu with a real focus on my love of local food – characterised by the coming together of rich farmland and rugged coastline in one extraordinary place.”

On 9th August you can enjoy a celebratory five-course ‘Seafood Evening’ at Tarr Farm Inn, Dulverton (www.tarrfarm.co.uk, 01643 851507). Situated on the banks of the River Barle by the picturesque Tarr Steps, this Inn was voted in the Top 50 Gastro Pubs in 2017 and was a finalist in the Somerset Life Food and Drink Awards 2017.

The Pyne Arms, East Down, Barnstaple (www.pynearms.co.uk, 01271 850055) are holding an event on 7th September. Their use of local produce was recognised with a Taste of the West Gold Award 2017 and Best Pub in 2017 in the Devon Life Food & Drink Awards.

In October the Luttrell Arms in Dunster, who have recently been awarded 2 AA Rosettes for their fine cuisine, will be celebrating local produce with Head Chef Barrie Tucker (www.luttrellarms.co.uk,   01643 821555).

Katrina Munro, Sustainable Economy Project Officer for Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “As part of our Eat Exmoor campaign we’re working with local producers, hospitality businesses and Visit Exmoor to celebrate the great quality of the produce we have here on Exmoor. We’re very proud that these top restaurants are holding CareMoor Dining Club events and grateful for the funds they are raising for CareMoor.

“The fixed price of each Dining Club event includes a £5 donation to CareMoor – supporting important nature, heritage and rights of way projects across the National Park. We encourage anyone with a love of Exmoor and appreciation of fine food to book early for these very special meals.”

Further details of all the CareMoor Dining Club events can be found at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor.

NATIONAL CREAM TEA DAY IS COMING!

CareMoor for Exmoor has teamed up with Visit Exmoor to celebrate National Cream Tea on Exmoor.

National Cream Tea Day offers a great opportunity to promote your venue and help raise funds and awareness of CareMoor for Exmoor.

Why not join those already participating and sign up to host a cream tea for CareMoor (i.e. include a donation as part of cream tea sales) or promote CareMoor during the day to visitors, making collection boxes and opportunities to donate available.<

CareMoor and Visit Exmoor will be actively promoting National Cream Tea Day from now, up to and including 29 June, on social media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as on the ENPA blog, and their websites and within our National Park Centres, through press releases to local and national press and through their partner networks. As the day is National Cream Tea Day any venue taking part will also get extra publicity via the National Cream Tea Society.

They will also be providing some additional promotional material to any participating establishment to display ahead of the event and on the day.

Competition
To capture public interest we will be running a twitter ‘competition’ asking visitors to vote on that old-age question. Should it be cream first with jam on top; or jam first with cream on top? Cream tea-ers will be invited to tweet their vote and a picture of their cream tea & venue. Why not join in? To take part, simple drop them a line letting them know what you are doing and they will add you to their Cream Tea venue map and social media promotions. What better way to enjoy flaming June than with a cream tea!

PHOTO: We would like to draw readers’ attention to the non-partisan choice of image for this story. We are risk averse on this one!

NATURALLY HEALTHY MONTH

Exmoor National Park are hosting a free event in Minehead at the end of May to inspire us all to boost our health and wellbeing by getting outside in the beautiful countryside in and around Exmoor.

Taking place at Blenheim Gardens and Minehead Beach on Saturday 26 May 2018 (11am-5pm), the event forms part of a month-long festival across Somerset and Devon for ‘Naturally Healthy Month’ throughout May.

Active Devon and Public Health in Somerset are coordinating the Naturally Healthy Campaign on behalf of the Devon and Somerset Local Nature Partnership’s, with support from the Wildlife Trust and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Somerset. Over thirty organisations have now signed up, with more than 100 events planned – the vast majority of them free of charge – covering all five districts of Somerset.

Naturally Healthy Minehead coordinator Lucy McQuillan, from Exmoor National Park Authority, said, “This is a brand new event, celebrating just some of the ways that you can enjoy the beautiful countryside around Minehead and Exmoor National Park.

“Naturally Healthy Minehead is about giving people the chance to try something new – whether it’s yoga, Nordic walking, mindfulness, games on the beach, short guided walks, golf, boules, crafts or learning about Exmoor bogs! Whatever you fancy, it’s the perfect opportunity to step outside and let nature nurture.”

Tim Braund, head of information and communication at Exmoor National Park, said: “Research shows that connecting with nature can have a positive impact on people’s physical and mental health and sense of wellbeing. Being outside has even been linked to improved heart health, through increased activity and reduced stress and anxiety, so for some it can be a genuine lifeline.

“We would love people living in Somerset to get behind Naturally Healthy Month by sharing their experiences on social media using the hashtags #letnaturenuture and #stepoutside, and by letting friends and family know about the wonderful programme of events happening right here on their doorstep.”

A full list of the events across Somerset can found on the Somerset Local Nature Partnership website www.slnp.org.uk.

PHOTO: Taken at Valley of Rocks.

VOLUNTEERS FLOCK TO HELP REVAMP HISTORIC EXMOOR SIGNPOSTS

Volunteers from across Exmoor and West Somerset have succeeded in restoring over 60 of the region’s iconic fingerpost signs, as part of a project led by Exmoor National Park Authority to record, refurbish and uncover their story.

Now, one year into the two-year project, support has been pouring in from local communities keen to ensure these iconic landmarks aren’t lost and over 100 volunteers have been recruited.

The project, which has funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Exmoor National Park Authority and Somerset County Council, was kick-started when local communities and parish councillors expressed concern to Exmoor National Park over the future of their signposts.

Volunteers undertake health and safety training before getting on with the job of cleaning and painting the signposts. Local contractors have been brought in to make repairs that are more complicated and refurbish those close to busy roads.

Exmoor National Park’s Charlotte Thomas, who is leading the project, said: “The interest we’ve had from local communities has been just fantastic. We have teams of volunteers all over the project area who are helping out. There is even a group in Minehead who are a roving team and have helped refurbish signposts in neighbouring parishes. Others have kindly let me know when they have found broken fingers and we have been able to use local contractors to fix them. It just goes to show the important role these signposts play in the personal and regional history of Exmoor.”

If you’ve spotted numerous signposts along the A39 towards Minehead going white, it’s because Mike Neville and Stuart Lawrence, two volunteers from Minehead, have been busy working with others to restore them back to their former glory. Mike said: “I got involved with the project because I wanted to make a difference in my local community and I’d noticed the signs starting to look scruffy. It’s really satisfying seeing them looking all pristine by the side of the road and good to know you’ve done your bit in restoring a local heirloom. I’ve even made a few friends along the way!”

People are now being asked to submit old photographs and anecdotes of the signs to try and piece together each one’s unique history. Charlotte is working with Dr Helen Blackman from the Exmoor Society and is particularly interested in any photos of signposts that might provide clues about their true age.

Anyone interested in volunteering or finding out more can contact Charlotte at cthomas@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or on 01398 322259.

BIG ADVENTURES ON EXMOOR THIS HALF TERM

Families looking for a Big Adventure on Exmoor over half term are in luck. The next of Exmoor National Park’s highly popular Big Adventure Days is at Nutcombe Bottom near Dunster (TA24 6TA) on Wednesday 30 May from 10am–4pm. There will be a host of free outdoor activities encouraging families to discover and explore the natural world.

Activities will run throughout the day, including den building, woodland games, forest skills, campfire bread making, wild food talks, our barefoot walking challenge and much more. There’s also an adventure playground, picnic area, toilet facilities and the Tall Trees Trail. The event is free, but donations to Caremoor for Exmoor are welcome from those who have enjoyed their day.

Adam Vasey, Exmoor National Park Ranger, said, “This is an event for the whole family to get back to nature. We’ve got some great activities lined up, especially now that the Forestry Commission are joining us to share how they help look after this very special woodland – home to Britain’s tallest tree. There’s no need to book and everyone is welcome, so grab a picnic and join us for a wild day out!”

Later in half term, Exmoor National Park will also be holding its first Big Adventure Family Campout of the year at Wimbleball Lake (TA22 9NU), from Friday 1 June to Sunday 3 June.

The site opens from 4pm for people to set up camp, with activities starting from 6pm. Tents will need to be down by 11am on the Sunday.

Patrick Watt-Mabbott, Exmoor National Park’s Volunteering and Outreach Officer, said: “Our Family Campouts are really great value and are ideal for first timers or those who haven’t camped with children before. We’ll have a campfire on Saturday night, with some story-telling and then a night walk, so the kids really will have something exciting to talk about when they head back to school on Monday!”

Charge: Family Ticket (2 adults, 2 children) £30/night. Additional adult £10/night, additional children £5/night. Booking is essential online at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/big-adventures-and-family-events

EXMOOR’S DARK SKIES FESTIVAL SET TO RETURN

Exmoor Dark Skies Festival 2018 will be returning this year with a two-week long programme of events from 20th October – 4th November aimed at inspiring young and old about the wonders of the night sky.

Exmoor is one of only a handful of internationally accredited Dark Sky Reserves, making it one of the best places in the world for stargazing. It means that the amount of light pollution within and around the National Park is tightly controlled, ensuring that the beauty of the night sky can be experienced to its full.

Events will take place across Exmoor suited to beginners and families, as well as those more experienced in astronomy. The line-up so far includes a fun family Astro Party at Wimbleball Lake, a mobile planetarium offering an immersive 360 degree experience of the solar system, a night walk during the exciting Orionid meteor shower, during which up to 20 meteors an hour may be visible, as well as traditional stargazing and astronomy talks. And, for the more adventurous, there’ll be night time outdoor pursuits, such as night-navigation walks guided by National Park Rangers, night swimming and mountain-biking.

After many events sold out last year, Exmoor National Park Authority will be organising this year’s Festival over two weeks, giving everyone the chance to get involved regardless of when half term falls in their county. The full programme will be available this Summer on the Exmoor National Park website at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/stargazing.

Exmoor National Park’s Katrina Munro, who is coordinating the Festival, said: “Millions of children across the globe will never see the Milky Way from their own homes. But from Exmoor, it can regularly be seen with the naked eye. We’re excited to be welcoming people back to the Festival for a second year to share in the wonderment of gazing up at one of the world’s darkest skies.”

As well as organising the Festival, the National Park is also working with partners across Europe on a new project called Atlantic Net Sky, which seeks to attract visitors from abroad by developing new offerings around astro-tourism. Collaborative working will be a key part in the success of the project, sharing knowledge and experience with other dark sky sites.

Robin Milton, Chairman of Exmoor National Park said, “The last 12 months have seen the continued promotion and protection of Exmoor’s amazing dark skies. In partnership with a number of external organisations and individuals, Exmoor National Park Authority has continued to monitor and protect the quality of Exmoor’s dark sky.

“By inspiring people, residents and visitors alike, to better understand and appreciate the rare qualities that the dark sky above Exmoor has to offer, the National Park seeks to maintain its status as one of the twelve Dark Sky Reserves recognised worldwide by the International Dark Sky Association.”

Tourism businesses and groups interested in getting involved in either the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival 2018 or the Atlantic Net Sky project can contact Katrina Munro, Economy Project Officer at the National Park, KJMunro@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk and 01398 322236.

PHOTO: Milky way over Exmoor National Park by Keith Trueman.

TV ACTRESS CAROLINE QUENTIN BACKS EXMOOR BRIDGE APPEAL

Men Behaving Badly star Caroline Quentin is the latest TV personality to get behind a community-led fundraising appeal to replace a popular footbridge in Exmoor National Park that forms part of a century-old walking route.

In her campaign video, she asks those who share her love for Exmoor to get behind the appeal by spreading the word to friends and family and on social media, and urging them to donate to Caremoor for Exmoor, via the Exmoor National Park website www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor or by sending a cheque to “CareMoor (Exmoor National Park)” to Exmoor House, Dulverton, TA22 9HL.

Caroline, who lives locally to Exmoor and is President of the Campaign for National Parks, joins Julia Bradbury, TV presenter and co-founder of The Outdoor Guide – a free web resource for walkers, in supporting the appeal led by Exmoor National Park Authority and the Lyn Community Development Trust (LCDT).

The bridge once formed part of a favourite circular walk on the outskirts of Lynmouth, enjoyed by Caroline along with thousands of others seeking to experience the spectacular East Lyn Valley. It connects to the Middleham Memorial Gardens, created in memory of victims of the 1952 flood which destroyed much of Lynmouth, and featured in Julia Bradbury’s hit TV series Britain’s Best Walks.

Caroline Quentin, said: “Together we can build a new heritage bridge fit for the twenty-first century that will allow people of varying abilities to experience this enchanting ancient woodland and its unique heritage. For me deepening people’s enjoyment and understanding of our wonderful countryside is a big part of what National Parks are all about, which is why I’m delighted to get behind the cause.”

Sarah Bryan, chief executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “As the tourism season picks up, Exmoor is gearing up to welcome more than two million visitors. But in Lynmouth we feel there’s still one important thing missing, which is why we’re so grateful to Caroline for helping raise the profile of this important cause.

“This crossing has endured for more than a century. And with everyone’s help we hope to be able to replace it with a new heritage bridge built in solid Exmoor oak timber, putting this much-loved route back on the map for another generation.”

EXMOOR LAUNCHES NEW PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

Exmoor National Park’s future vision for the next five years was launched today, welcomed by Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Defra Minister for National Parks, in a video address at the Exmoor National Park Authority and Exmoor Society’s joint Spring Conference held in Dulverton Town Hall.

Exmoor National Park’s 2018-2023 Partnership Plan* has been led by Exmoor National Park Authority, with input from around 80 partners, landowners, local communities, organisations and businesses, through a rigorous programme of workshops and meetings. Opinions were also sought through a public survey and key evidence on the Park’s special qualities gathered through the State of the Park Report.

Under the core themes of ‘People, Place, Prosperity’, the Plan sets out key strategies needed to ensure Exmoor’s diverse and beautiful landscapes remain rich in wildlife and history, and that people everywhere have the opportunity to enjoy its special qualities. It also highlights the need to foster a vibrant local economy for Exmoor’s communities by providing new routes for innovation and entrepreneurship, and for increasing rural productivity.

Key priorities include a commitment to maintaining Exmoor as a working living landscape, with farming at its core. Increasing rural productivity through targeted land management schemes, and support to help new and young farmers diversify their farming income and develop rural skills form a vital part of the strategy. This interaction between people and nature has persisted for centuries and is crucial to maintaining the rich array of wildlife and habitats found on Exmoor today.

Increasing opportunities for people to enjoy and get involved in maintaining Exmoor as one of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK is also a mainstay of the Plan. Exmoor’s first rate rights of way network is a shining example of this, with an impressive 96 per cent of routes classed as open and easy to use – the highest of all National Parks.

Work to encourage more people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to enjoy the Park will also continue, following a rise in the number of young people visiting, including over 6,500 students last year alone, and continuing support for local schools through the Authority’s Learning Partners Scheme.

Ensuring local communities thrive through a vibrant local economy is another key ambition. While visitor numbers have been steady over the last five years, the length of time people stay in the park is up by 35 per cent. The report highlights the positive impact this is on the local economy, with the Exmoor tourism industry currently valued at around £115 million.

Challenges for the Park are also addressed, including how best to restore Exmoor’s renowned purple heather moors, which rely on careful management by Exmoor’s hill farmers, along with the Authority and other partners.

In the video address to conference delegates, Lord Gardiner said: “I am delighted to support the launch of the Exmoor National Park Partnership Plan. It sets out an exciting agenda for the next five years.”

Sarah Bryan, chief executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “This Plan is for all those who care about Exmoor: the place, its communities and the benefits the National Park provides to the nation. By providing a framework for working together, we hope it will mean people can continue to be inspired by its extraordinary beauty and sense of place, while supporting those who rely on it for their livelihood to reap the many benefits that National Park status can bring.”

Robin Milton, Chairman of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We are extremely grateful to our many partners for sharing their views and to the more than 900 people who responded to our public opinion survey, showing just how cherished Exmoor is by so many. At this time of substantial political change and uncertainty, we hope this will allow us to capitalise on this unique chance to help shape Exmoor for future generations, whilst continuing to enrich the local economy and landscapes.”

PIONEERING NEW APPROACHES TO EXMOOR’S INVASIVE SPECIES PROBLEM

Castration and electrocution are two ground-breaking new ways of tackling invasive plant and animal species being trialled in Exmoor National Park, highlighted as part of Invasive Species Week recently.

Japanese and Himalayan Knotweed are two of Britain’s most invasive weeds and they have caused extensive damage to several of Exmoor’s most precious watercourses, such as the Lyn, Heddon and Barle – all Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

A ten-year collaboration between Exmoor National Park Authority, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the National Trust to try to control the problem has proved highly successful, with the plant now being managed across an area the size of six Wembley football pitches, thanks to the support from local landowners.

Exmoor is now among a handful of UK sites where a pioneering new method of control is being trialled, involving electrocuting the weed’s root system. It is hoped the new approach will avoid the need for repeat spraying with herbicides, which can impact the environment, although not nearly so much as the plants themselves.

Elsewhere on Exmoor’s waterways, another non-native invasive species is being dealt a tough blow. An estimated quarter of a million North American signal crayfish inhabit the River Barle, with potentially devastating consequences for our native wildlife.

The River Barle Crayfish Project is now tackling the problem in an innovative new way never before tried outside of captivity – by castrating the larger, more dominant male signal crayfish. After this harmless procedure, they are returned to the river where it is hoped they will continue to outcompete smaller males to control breeding.

Later this year findings are due to be published on the project – which exists as a partnership between Exmoor National Park Authority, the Environment Agency and the River Exe & Tributaries Association.

Ali Hawkins, Wildlife Conservation Officer at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “It’s great to be trialling innovative new techniques like these that could potentially help with the problem of invasive species on Exmoor, without further damage to our delicate ecosystems.

“Many of the habitats here are protected for their uniqueness and scientific value, so it’s vital that we do all we can to safeguard them from these foreign invaders. We’d love more volunteers to come forward and help us stop the spread by signing up to one of our training days, or reporting sightings of invasive species through our website.”

People wishing to volunteer for these two projects and others like them can find out more at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/get-involved.