Category Archives: Exmoor National Park news

THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WOODSIDE

You might have seen a rope strung with colourfully painted walking boots across the East Lyn River on your walks recently. It is part of the bid to raise funds to replace a popular footbridge known locally as ‘Woodside Bridge’.

Over 40 boots were painted by the children of West Exmoor Federation and heaved into place across the East Lyn River by local volunteers from the Lynmouth Coastguard Search & Rescue.

Woodside Bridge once formed part of a short circular walk along the lower reaches of the river, returning to the picturesque village of Lynmouth via Middleham Memorial Gardens, created in memory of victims of the famous 1952 flood disaster.

It’s been a feature of the area for more than a century, but it wore out and had to be removed in 2016 and the Lyn Community Development Trust (LCDT) have since been fundraising to have it reinstated. They are now three-quarters of the way towards the £60K needed for a beautiful new bridge built in solid Exmoor oak and have secured commitment from Exmoor National Park Authority to help with installation and maintenance, when the remaining funds are raised.

Dave Wilde, Chair of the LDCT, said: “We came up with the idea of the boots as a way of bringing the appeal to the attention of the many walkers and visitors to the area, as well as local residents. It was lovely to see the schoolchildren getting involved and the boots they painted look wonderful. They’re the ones who will get to walk across the new bridge in future, so it’s great they have been able to help in such an inspiring way”.

Julia Bradbury has also shown her support for the campaign after the route featured in her hit TV series Britain’s Best Walks and online portal The Outdoor Guide, along with TV presenter Caroline Quentin, who took time to record a video appeal after finding out about the Bridge through her role as President of the Campaign for National Parks.

It’s also being backed by Exmoor National Park Authority through its CareMoor for Exmoor scheme, run by Philip Kiberd. He said: “What a brilliant idea, West Exmoor Federation have done a great job. I might ask them to paint my boots next. It’s amazing how everyone has got behind this campaign and LCDT, the schools, the coastguard and the National Trust all deserve praise for arranging it and allowing it to go ahead. Let’s hope it encourages lots of donations to the appeal and helps get the bridge back soon.”

Donate to the Woodside Bridge Appeal via CareMoor for Exmoor www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor, in person at the National Park Centre in Lynmouth or for Gift Aid via the LCDTat wonderful.org/appeal/woodsidebridgereplacementappeal-1f70a510.

FUNDING BOOST FOR URBAN SCHOOLS VISITING EXMOOR

Three urban schools will receive fully funded residential trips to Exmoor National Park as part of a new programme by UK National Parks and Forest Holidays that will help connect over 20,000 young people nationally with nature.

Over the next five years, ‘National Parks Futures’ aims to help tackle one of the major barriers to many schools visiting National Parks – the cost of travel.

To launch the new programme, Forest Holiday’s Projects Director, Dan Parish, joined Exmoor National Park staff at the Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning last month, along with 30 students from Yeo Valley Primary School, on their first ever National Park experience. The year-5s enjoyed a day out in the sunshine exploring the high moors to collect minibeasts and rocks for further investigation under the microscope, as well as honing their team-building skills through an orienteering challenge.

Thanks to Forest Holiday’s involvement, the school did not have to pay for travel and they are set to return for a fully funded residential stay later in the year.

Exmoor National Park is one of three of the UK’s 15 National Parks awarded a £5,000 grant this year, along with the Cairngorms and South Downs National Parks. Overall, the scheme will deliver at least 15 flagship education projects, reaching 5,000 young people, as well as covering the travel costs of an estimated 15,000 National Park visits for young people.

The aim is to inspire the next generation to care for and protect our precious National Parks, as well as improving their well-being through time spent in nature.

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive Officer of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We’re delighted that Forest Holidays is supporting our work providing opportunities for young people from a wide range of backgrounds to visit Exmoor, be inspired by, and learn about its amazing landscapes, wildlife and heritage. This funding will enable us to offer a full residential experience at our Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning to young people from schools from more urban settings who have not visited before, and we are really looking forward to welcoming them.”

Dan Parish, Projects Director of Forest Holidays, said: “We are incredibly proud to be working with the UK National Parks to help more young people experience and enjoy the UK’s special landscapes. We work in rural communities and understand one of the main barriers for schools is the cost of travel. Through this project we hope to open up opportunities for young people to spend time in nature and experience the benefits of outdoor learning.”

Cat Hawkins, Chair of National Parks Partnerships, said: “Connecting young people with nature takes time, expertise and funding. Forest Holidays’ long-term commitment to ‘National Parks Futures’ will enable thousands of young people to experience learning in amazing natural settings. Forest Holidays share our ambition to improve lives through connecting to nature, and thanks to them, ‘National Parks Futures’ will help to inspire the next generation to love and care for our precious landscapes.”

HEDGE-LAYING SKILLS PUT TO THE TEST

Just over a week left to enter your hedge!

A competition to award the region’s most skilled hedge-layers is being run once again by Exmoor National Park Authority, following generous sponsorship from the Exmoor Trust for another year.

Work carried out during the autumn and winter months each year results in a considerable transformation along many lanes and field edges, as once-shady, outgrown hedges are cut and laid. This traditional management is crucial in order to rejuvenate the hedgerows, which are iconic features of Exmoor’s farming history and important habitats for a diverse range of wildlife. The work relies on traditional skills that date back centuries and provides employment for numerous people on Exmoor during the winter months.

Heather Harley, a Conservation Officer for Exmoor National Park, said: “Thick, bushy hedgerows are an enduring feature of the Exmoor landscape and can be wonderful habitats for wildlife, providing corridors of shelter and food for all sorts of insects, birds and small mammals. But if not properly managed, the hedgebanks can deteriorate over time as shrubs and trees mature, often resulting in a thin, gappy line, susceptible to the elements.

“This award was set up to recognise the highly skilled hedge-laying work that farmers, land managers and contractors do for the benefit of the wildlife and landscape of the National Park, and we wish all entrants the very best of luck this year.”

Susan May, Chairman of the Exmoor Trust, said: “Exmoor’s beech hedges are a fundamental part of the fabric of the moor and the Exmoor Trust is very happy to sponsor the prizes for this competition again this year. Several hedges have been laid over the past few months and the skills shown are to be applauded – so do enter the competition”.

To be eligible, all or part of the farm must be within Exmoor National Park and the hedge must have been laid during the winter of 2018/19. There are two classes, ‘Open’ and ‘Novice’, and the winner of each class will receive £200, 2nd place £100 and £50 will go to the 3rd place. The judges include members of the Devon and Somerset Hedge Groups, who are experienced West Country hedge-layers themselves. The previous year’s Open Class winners are also invited to join the judging panel.

The deadline is 24 May 2019 and entries must be submitted together with at least one photo of the completed hedge, and, if possible, a photo of the hedge before work took place with whoever carried out the work. For further information or an entry form please ring Exmoor National Park Authority on 01398 323665 or email hjharley@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

Photo caption: Last year’s winning hedge at Cloggs Farm, which was laid by Mark Jackson.

NEW GUIDANCE AIMS TO KEEP EXMOOR FAMILIES FARMING

The following is a press release issued by Exmoor National Park Authority

The draft “Rural Worker and Succession Farm Dwelling Guidance” applies to those working in land-based businesses in the National Park, such as farming or forestry, and is supplementary to existing national guidelines as well as those set out in the Local Plan for the National Park.

Nationally, homes in the open countryside are only permitted in exceptional circumstances, such as the need for a full-time worker to be permanently on site to tend livestock. Local planning policy further recognises that maintaining the fabric of Exmoor’s farming community is intrinsic to conserving the distinct landscapes and habitats of the National Park, along with the centuries-old farming practices that help sustain them.

For example, there is extra flexibility to help older farmers retire and a younger generation to take on responsibility for the farm business, or for larger dwellings to be applied for if the scale or nature of the enterprise demands it and the need can’t be met through alternative arrangements. But equally the rules are necessarily stringent around the impact of any new dwelling on the landscape to ensure they are sensitive to the unique character and scenic beauty of the National Park. These new guidelines are intended to help balance these two obligations.

Robin Milton, Chairman of the National Park Authority, said: “This is an important document for Exmoor and its communities to ensure there are opportunities for new housing where it is essential to working people being able to live locally and to conserve and enhance this beautiful area. It is intended to help applicants and all those involved in planning for farm dwellings in the National Park and we would love to hear people’s views.”

Martin Dewdney, Chairman of the National Park Authority Planning Committee, added: “If adopted, this document will form part of an extensive toolkit on offer to help with these kinds of planning applications that also includes regular planning surgeries and free pre-application advice. As the Local Plan is already adopted, it won’t form part of the consultation, but we warmly welcome any comments focused on this latest guidance.”

The draft guidelines and comments form are available from the planning policy section of the Exmoor National Park Authority website* and as hard copies at the following locations: National Park Centres in Dulverton, Dunster and Lynmouth, Lynton and Porlock libraries, Exmoor House in Dulverton and West Somerset and North Devon Council Offices in Williton and Barnstaple.

EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK SUCCESS AT GEOGRAPHY AWARDS

A resource to teach A-level students about coastal management in Exmoor National Park received a Silver Award at the annual Geographic Association Publishers’ Awards ceremony held at Manchester University recently (9-11 April).

The resource challenges students to reflect on how interaction between the landscape and humans has shaped the coastline over millennia. Its focus is Porlock Bay, where 20 years ago hurricane Lili breached the 8,000 year old shingle ridge, triggering its rapid evolution into a tidal salt marsh.

The site has since become a hub for research all over the world as one of the best examples in the UK of how re-establishing natural processes can help build resilience to flooding from rising sea levels, making it an ideal project for the next generation of geographers.

Education consultant David Weatherly, who was commissioned to help develop the resource, said: “This award shows that Exmoor National Park is at the forefront of efforts to inspire the next generation about the spirit, purpose and importance of our National Parks. As the future guardians of these special landscapes, I hope it’s a lesson young people will take forward into their future lives and careers and it’s been a real privilege to be involved.”

Ben Totterdell, Education and Interpretation Manager at Exmoor National Park, said: “We welcome more than 8,000 young people a year to Exmoor for day visits and residential stays at our Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning, and many thousands more benefit from our free online teaching resources. So we know first hand the power of the outdoors to nurture a love for learning, while also building children’s confidence and ability to cope with the day-to-day stresses of life. It’s an honour to receive this award and we hope it will mean many more schools visit the National Park and are inspired to learn through its special environment.”

The award-winning resources were developed by the ‘Porlock Marsh Vision Steering Group’ formed of the two main landowners – Porlock Manor Estate and the National Trust – Porlock Parish Council, Exmoor National Park (who also funded the project) and Natural England. See: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/Whats-Special/porlock-marsh-vision

NEW EXMOOR ACTIVITY BREAKS ON OFFER

Exmoor National Park has launched a new programme of activity breaks running from its Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning. For the first time in the centre’s 50-year history the public will be able to book a stay and participate in a range of guided outdoor activities led by professional Exmoor National Park staff and instructors.

Dan James, Exmoor National Park Authority’s’ Sustainable Economy Manager, said: “Our Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning provides a fantastic opportunity to escape the everyday and immerse yourself in the spectacular Exmoor landscape.”

“For over 50 years the centre has been offering unforgettable experiences for school groups and private hires. Now we’re opening the doors to the public. Over the course of each two-night break, you will enjoy the great outdoors, meet like-minded people, learn new skills and have great fun in one of the most remote outdoor centres in the country. Each break will be led by passionate staff and volunteers from the National Park who will provide you with an exclusive opportunity to discover what makes Exmoor special.”

Each break has its own theme offering participants a wide range of activities.

  • Family Discovery Breaks – 28th to 30th May and 2nd to 4thAugust.
    The perfect opportunity for families of all ages with a sense of adventure! Have fun as a family with outdoor activities such as orienteering, low ropes, archery, grass sledging, fire lighting and campfire. Prices from £120pp (based on a  fully occupied family room).
  • Active Exmoor Weekend – 9th to 11th August.
    The more adventurous can get moving with mountain biking, hiking, wild pond swimming and mountain boarding. Minimum age 12. Although activities are suitable for mixed abilities, all participants will need to be confident in riding a bike. £199 per person for adults, £169 children (based on a minimum of 2 to a room – discounts for higher occupancy).
  • Introduction to Moorland Heritage – 16th to 18th July.
    Join professional National Park staff to explore and learn about moorland heritage with guided walks, talks and visits. £219pp (based on 2 sharing – single supplement and discounts for higher room occupancy available).

For full details and to book your space visit www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/pinkery-breaks or call Katrina Munro on 01398 323665. Prices start from £120 per person (based on a family room being fully occupied) including all instruction and guiding, equipment, food and accommodation in en-suite bunk rooms.

NATIONAL PARK RANGERS SHARE THEIR EXMOOR EXPERIENCE

Ten new dates to enjoy a Ranger Experience have just been released by Exmoor National Park Authority, after a successful trial run last year.

During the one-day tour people will have the chance to ride with an Exmoor National Park Ranger in their Land Rover, sharing their extensive knowledge of almost every aspect of Exmoor life based on decades of experience of working with communities, farmers, landowners and conservationists in the area.

Travelling from Dunster with a maximum of three others, they will be taken through spectacular landscapes not often known to visitors, with a pit-stop at an Exmoor hill farm to meet the farmer and enjoy a local produce lunch. They will also have the chance to go behind the scenes and meet the team responsible for hand-crafting the distinctive countryside gates, fingerposts and footbridges seen throughout the National Park’s 1,300km rights of way network, all made from timber sustainably sourced from its own woodlands.

Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “After a sell-out pilot last year, we’re delighted to be able to offer ten more dates for people to learn first-hand from our Rangers about the work done to protect and conserve the National Park through this unique experience. It’s a great opportunity to meet some real Exmoor characters and visit very special places not often seen by visitors or residents.”

The Ranger Experience is part of the English National Park Experience Collection launched earlier this year – a selection of over 70 immersive experiences showcasing that best of England’s National Parks and funded by VisitEngland’s Discover England Fund.

Local company Exmoor Trim, based in Williton, manufacture quality products for Land Rovers and are sponsoring this year’s Exmoor National Park Ranger Experiences.  Andrew Horton, their Managing Director, said: “We were excited to hear about this great opportunity for people to learn more about the National Park with a Ranger and know it will spark the interest of all Land Rover and outdoor enthusiasts. We are pleased to be supporting Exmoor National Park Authority and to be associated with all the work they do to protect the magnificent landscape.”

Tickets cost £145pp. More details and booking for dates from June to October can be found at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/ranger-experience, or by visiting a National Park Centre at Dulverton, Dunster or Lynmouth, or calling 01598 752509. Exclusive bespoke Ranger Experiences can also be arranged.

LYNMOUTH SINGERS PITCH IN TO HELP SAVE BRIDGE

A fundraising campaign to reinstate a much-missed footbridge in Exmoor National Park’s stunning East Lyn Valley, near Lynmouth, has soared past the £30K halfway mark following a flurry of support from local groups. This includes the all-female singing group, the LynTones, who generously donated all £680 of the proceeds from their 2018 performances.

Laura Whitfield from the LynTones said: “We’re a friendly community vocal group who just love to sing. Each year we pick a different cause to support, with the Woodside Bridge chosen last year. Many of us have grown up in the area and it’s great to be helping put back a piece of local history that means people can once again experience this lovely circular walk. It’s a wonderful place to live.”

The Lyn Community Development Trust (LCDT)’s Woodside Bridge Appeal aims to raise the £60K needed for a new bridge at Woodside, after the old one wore out and had to be removed in 2016. It will mean those out for a beautiful riverside stroll will once again be able to return to the town via a short circular route through Middleham Memorial Gardens, created in memory of victims of the famous 1952 flood.

All donations, including any Gift Aid, are being match-funded by Exmoor National Park Authority until the end of March, with the Lyn Masonic Lodge, the Lyn Art and Craft Society, Sandra Collier and yoga group, plus many generous individuals among those to have donated recently.

The campaign has previously attracted support from Julia Bradbury, after the route featured in her hit TV series, ‘Britain’s Best Walks’ and online portal The Outdoor Guide, and also TV presenter Caroline Quentin, who took time to record a video appeal after finding out about the Bridge through her role as President of the Campaign for National Parks.

Suzette Hibbert, Director of the Lyn Community Development Trust, said: “We’re so grateful to everyone who has so far donated to our Woodside Bridge appeal, showing just how much it means to have this ancient walking route back in our community. It’s a cause that has won the backing of celebrities, locals and visitors alike and we’re proud to be helping save this unique piece of Lynmouth’s charm.”

The LCDT is arranging a series of fundraising events for 2019, including two National Trust guided walks exploring the flora and fauna of the East Lyn River on 13 April and 8 June, a joint event with the Lynmouth Flood Memorial Hall on 20 April to remember the historic overland launch of the Louisa lifeboat in 1899 and the flood disaster of 1952, and a Race Night at The Bath Hotel on Saturday 18 May. An event at Hunters Inn is also planned for later in the year. For more information and to book visit the Lynmouth National Park Centre, call them on 01598 752509 or email NPCLynmouth@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk

Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Building a new bridge from solid Exmoor oak would secure the future of Woodside Bridge once and for all, unlike previous softwood versions which have quickly worn out. We are delighted to help support the cause with our match-funding offer and hope it will mean thousands more can enjoy this magnificent woodland walk.”

Donate to the Woodside Bridge Appeal via CareMoor for Exmoor at  www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor, in person at the National Park Centre in Lynmouth or for Gift Aid via the LCDT at wonderful.org/appeal/woodsidebridgereplacementappeal-1f70a510.

PROJECT TO RECREATE LOST GARDENS NEAR SIMONSBATH GETS UNDERWAY

A project to recreate a 200-year-old picturesque garden in the former royal forest of Exmoor, near Simonsbath, got underway last week following major funding from the Western Somerset LEADER programme and Exmoor National Park Authority.

The garden was once the vision of wealthy businessman John Knight, who in 1818 purchased a vast area of remote, uninhabited wilderness formerly used by the Crown for hunting and largely untouched since the Bronze Age. He set about building a grand mansion amidst an elaborate ‘Picturesque Landscape’ – a concept central to the Romantic Movement focused on harnessing natural beauty to enhance the sense of drama in the landscape.

For reasons that aren’t well understood his dream was never finished and his importance in shaping the Exmoor landscape remained largely overlooked until letters and documents dating from the time were uncovered in a loft near Kidderminster in 2016. These revealed ambitious plans to reclaim a vast area of remote valleys, mires, moors and woodland, along with the creation of a bespoke road and canal network, plus numerous buildings and farmsteads.

Even by modern-day standards it was a remarkable feat – with a 29-mile-long boundary wall, at least 12 miles of roads, two farmhouses, two canals, networks of land drains and the cultivation of more than 2,500 acres of moorland all documented as completed within the first 18 months. But amid faltering finances, a family feud over inheritance and his wife’s ill-health, the mansion remained unfinished, whilst the once awe-inspiring gardens sank back into obscurity.

Now, in the year of the 70th anniversary of the Parliamentary Act that gave rise to the UK’s National Parks, a team of volunteers working alongside the Simonsbath Programme Steering Group and Exmoor National Park Authority hope to bring the gardens back to life through work to reopen one of the original picturesque walks and restore historic buildings that formed part of the original garden.

Charlotte Hornsby, garden volunteer and member of the Simonsbath Programme Steering Group, said: “I’ve always been interested in historical gardens and so to be involved in one in my village is just fantastic. It was such an exciting day to finally start bringing John Knight’s picturesque vision back to life. It will truly be an Unexpected Garden of Exmoor.”

Rob Wilson-North, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Head of Conservation and Access, said: “The lost gardens of Ashcombe are a very rare example of a Picturesque landscape – a concept that underpinned the Romantic Movement and helped put the countryside at the very heart of Britishness, setting the tone for the creation of the UK’s National Parks over a century later.

“We hope these gardens will not only evoke the spirit of the Knight family and their important role in Exmoor’s past, but also help celebrate the special role of National Parks in shaping our cultural identity.”

Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the project should contact Patrick Watts-Mabbot on 07973727469 or email getinvolved@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

EXMOOR VISITORS REPORT WORLD-CLASS SATISFACTION

Over 99 per cent of visitors to Exmoor rated their trip as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ and 96 per cent believe the National Park is being well managed and cared for, according to the results of Exmoor National Park Authority’s latest biannual visitor survey.*

The survey also revealed a ‘Net Promoter Score’ of 77 based on how likely visitors were to recommend a visit to friends and family. Scores of over 70 are considered the industry standard for a world-class brand, based on overall satisfaction and loyalty. The scenery and landscape was the top attractor to the area, followed by peace and tranquillity, the opportunity for outdoor activities, the coastline and the wildlife.

The results are based on over 400 face-to-face interviews with visitors conducted between July and December last year at over 20 locations across the National Park.

Dan James, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Sustainable Economy Manager, said: “The tourism sector on Exmoor should be justifiably proud of these findings. Our sector is dominated by often family-run micro businesses, who work very hard to give visitors the best possible experience, and these results are testament to their devotion.

“70 years on from the 1949 Act of Parliament that paved the way for the UK’s National Parks, it’s heartening that Exmoor continues to offer inspiration and recreation to people from across the UK and beyond, contributing an estimated £125m to the rural economy each year. Together with our partners there are plenty of new initiatives to help us move ahead with confidence, including further developing astro-tourism opportunities, launching new immersive tourism products and continuing to invest in our Rights of Way network.”

Welcoming the survey results Jennette Baxter, Visit Exmoor Development Manager, said: “These results confirm what we already know – that people love Exmoor. The information gathered helps us plan our marketing strategies. The #VisitMoorThanOnce campaign is in response to findings that, despite wanting to return, over a fifth of repeat visitors hadn’t visited in three years. We are encouraging them to return again sooner.”

The full survey results are available on the Exmoor National Park website at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/tourism and will be presented at the Visit Exmoor Tourism Business Networking Day on 13 March – see www.visit-exmoor.co.uk/trade/business-networking-day-2019.

PHOTO: By Andrew Hobbs, from the spring walking feature in Exmoor Magazine.