Category Archives: Exmoor National Park news

MINEHEAD’S NORTH HILL ON THE RADAR

A convoy of military vehicles will depart from Minehead this Saturday (8 September) at 10.30am en route to the Second World War tank training grounds and Radar Station on North Hill, as part of a celebration of wartime heritage hosted by Exmoor National Park and the National Trust for Heritage Open Days.

During the war, North Hill was closed to civilians and brought under military control. It became one of country’s five new tank training ranges for British, American and Canadian troops. Tucked down the coastal slopes lay a top-secret Radar Station, one of 244 across the country and part of a coastal defensive chain to identify shipping and low-flying aircraft. The stations were ‘manned’ 24 hours a day and operators at Radar Stations were often women from the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).

The top-secret radar stations were often stationed by women (photo sourced by Gwen Arnold).

The convoy will parade along Minehead seafront via Blenheim Gardens, before heading to North Hill where spectators can discover more about this incredible time through displays at the Radar Station and guided walks of the training grounds across to Bossington Hill. There will also be a chance to learn about the earlier archaeological landscape, from the Iron Age settlement at Bury Castle to the ruined medieval Burgundy Chapel.

The event is suitable for all ages and free to attend, but donations are welcome to CareMoor for Exmoor, which fundraises towards the upkeep of the National Park.

Shirley Blaylock, Historic Environment Conservation Officer at Exmoor National Park, said: “This is a fantastic chance for people to discover a slice of history from the National Park that is often overlooked. North Hill was an important military complex during the Second World War and it’s great to be able to bring to life the role that it played in maintaining national security at this critical time.”

For more information about the event visit: www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/event/castles-in-the-sky-the-wwii-radar-station-on-north-hill

AWARD FOR EXMOOR’S WOODLANDS

Exmoor National Park has won a prestigious Royal Forestry Society (RFS) Excellence in Forestry Award for its sustainable approach to woodland management and involvement of community groups*. It complements a new Government accord announced last week that aims to expand and enhance woodland in National Parks**.

Moor Wood near Minehead is being slowly transformed by the National Park’s woodlands team using a technique called Continuous Cover Forestry, which harnesses the ability of woodlands to naturally regenerate.

The small temporary gaps created when carefully selected trees are felled  provides a stable habitat for a variety of woodland species, such as birds, butterflies and fungi, whilst allowing commercially viable amounts of timber to be harvested sustainably. This avoids the need for large-scale felling, which takes several decades to regenerate and generally involves uniform plantations that are more vulnerable to environmental pressures.

Graeme McVittie, Senior Woodland Conservation Officer for Exmoor National Park, said: “It’s great to get this kind of recognition for the work we’re doing to make Exmoor’s woodlands more resilient in the face of modern day threats from pests, disease and climate change. We’ve witnessed the loss of elm and larch in our woodlands, and are now losing horse chestnut and ash. Storms and drought have caused further damage and other diseases threaten our oaks and sweet chestnut. So it’s vital that we do all we can to prepare these places for the future.”

The Certificate of Merit was also awarded for the National Park’s commitment to creating opportunities for local communities enjoy and benefit from Exmoor’s woodlands.

Woodcombe Community Woodland is a project initiated by Forum 21, an environmental group in West Somerset.  It leases an area of woodland from the National Park to produce seasoned firewood to help local people in fuel poverty, with the help of local volunteers.
Graham Boswell who leads the project for Forum 21, said: “It’s great to see our idea for a community woodland brought to life through our ongoing partnership with the National Park. The next few years will be crucial in terms of developing a workforce with the necessary woodland skills, but we’re all up for the challenge and excited by the potential benefits for the whole community.”

Rob Wilson-North, Head of Conservation and Access at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Exmoor’s diverse woodlands are truly special, providing a rich haven for nature, from some of the country’s rarest birds, butterflies and bats, to seldom seen lichens, liverworts and mosses. But they’re also an important part of the local economy, providing timber and recreational opportunities, along with a host of public benefits, including educational opportunities, carbon storage and flood alleviation. Balancing these priorities isn’t always easy, but this award is a sure sign we’re on the right track.”

Presenting the Awards, RFS President Andrew Woods, said: “The Excellence in Forestry Awards have once again revealed a rich seam of excellence in woodland management – from some of the most prestigious estates in the country to some of the smallest of woodlands. As landowners and woodland managers look to an uncertain future with increasing climate and environmental challenges, these are all woodlands we can learn from.

“It is also uplifting to see the fantastic work that is being carried out among communities to encourage forestry and woodland skills. These projects tap into the enthusiasm of those who will be planning, planting and managing our woodlands in the future as well as looking at how timber can be used in construction for generations to come and deserve the recognition they receive.”

SMALL GRANTS AVAILABLE FOR EXMOOR PROJECTS

Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund Small Grants scheme is offering grants of up to £2,500, for projects that can make a difference for Exmoor. Funding of up to 75% is available to cover both capital and revenue costs.

Projects need to deliver National Park purposes: to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area, or promote opportunities to increase public understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area.

The National Park Authority is especially interested in projects that provide opportunities for volunteering on Exmoor, widen audiences, and benefit conservation.

Improve a habitat, complete a local wildlife survey, investigate some heritage, create a local guide, engage a new audience, arrange a nature day, explore Exmoor’s moorland, woodlands, rivers and streams, conserve a local landmark.

If you have an idea that you think might be eligible contact the Funding Officer on 01398 322237 or email partnershipfund@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

Full details, guidance notes and application forms are available on the Authority’s website www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/living-and-working/grants-and-funding/partnership-fund

EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK LAUNCHES NEW RANGER EXPERIENCE DAYS

A day out with a ranger will be on offer to those visiting Exmoor National Park this summer as part of a new scheme launching this week throughout English National Parks. The new ‘Ranger Experience’ day aims to give people a deeper understanding of the National Park and the role of the iconic Ranger team.

Working closely with local communities, farmers and landowners, the Ranger Team plays a vital role in protecting, conserving and enhancing the landscape, including over 1000 kilometres of footpaths and bridleways on Exmoor. Their intimate knowledge of the National Park will be shared with visitors as they explore some of Exmoor’s hidden gems and discover local wildlife, history and folklore from the back of the Ranger’s Land Rover.

They will also be taken behind the scenes of the National Park, including the chance to explore a working hill farm, learn about woodland conservation, see how the timber is used to create signposts, bridges and gates, and hear extraordinary stories of life as a National Park Ranger.

Exmoor National Park Ranger, Tim Parish, said: “National Parks in our country are unique – it’s a story of humans and nature that takes place over thousands of years. Working as a Ranger is a real privilege and it’s exciting to show people a different side of Exmoor through these unique experiences.”

The Ranger Experience costs £125 per person, including farmhouse lunch, refreshments, guide and travel. Taking place on selected Tuesdays and Wednesdays during August and September, the tour will depart from Dunster National Park Centre at 10am, returning at 4pm.

It is being trialled as part of a wider scheme aimed at attracting more international visitors to English National Parks. Exmoor National Park is working with local tourism providers to develop a raft of new experiences on Exmoor as part of the English National Park Experience Collection, due to be marketed to the international travel trade next year.

Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager for Exmoor National Park, said: “When we created our Ranger Experiences we wanted to give people a special insight into Exmoor’s landscapes, history and culture that will appeal to those from around the globe, as well as closer to home.

“Our Rangers will not only share their vast knowledge of the area, but also signpost visitors to all the other exciting opportunities there are to explore Exmoor, giving a boost to local businesses and communities too.”

To celebrate National Parks Week next week (22-29 July), Exmoor National Park will be offering a special discount on Ranger Experience Days. To take advantage of this exclusive offer, follow them on Twitter twitter.com/ExmoorNP  and Facebook www.facebook.com/ExmoorNP/.

For more information and to book visit www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/ranger-experience or drop into one of the National Park Centres at Dunster, Dulverton or Lynmouth.

EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK PARTNERSHIP FUND SMALL GRANTS SCHEME

Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund Small Grants scheme offers funds of up to £2,500, for projects that can make a difference for Exmoor.

Funding of up to 75% is available to cover both capital and revenue costs.

Projects need to deliver National Park purposes: to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area, or promote opportunities to increase public understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area.

We are especially interested in projects that provide opportunities for volunteering on Exmoor, widen audiences, and provide conservation benefits for Exmoor.

Improve a habitat, complete a local wildlife survey, investigate some heritage, create a local guide, engage a new audience, arrange a nature day, explore Exmoor’s moorland, woodlands, rivers and streams, conserve a local landmark.

If you have an idea that you think might be eligible contact the Funding Officer on 01398 322237 or email partnershipfund@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

Full details, guidance notes and application forms are available on the Authority’s website www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/living-and-working/grants-and-funding/partnership-fund

HELP PREVENT MOORLAND FIRES ON EXMOOR

Risk of wildfires on moorland areas of Exmoor National Park remains high as the UK continues to enjoy a lengthy heatwave. These potentially dangerous fires can spread quickly, devastating important habitats and threatening nearby buildings.

People enjoying the countryside are being urged to be mindful of the risk of moorland fires and to follow this general advice:

  • Avoid lighting barbeques or campfires on the moor, particularly in dry conditions.
  • Take home extinguished cigarettes and never throw them out of car windows.
  • Don’t leave rubbish like glass bottles, as sun shining through them can start fires.
  • Don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water.
  • If you see a wildfire, report it immediately by dialling 999 and leave the area as quickly as possible.

And for those wanting to escape the heat, there is still plenty to do on Exmoor, from picturesque villages and shady wooded valleys, to windswept coastal clifftops and burbling streams.

Sue Applegate, Public Rights of Way and Access Officer at Exmoor National Park, added: “Exmoor is as beautiful as ever right now, and we would still encourage people to enjoy our wonderful countryside, while urging them to take extra care to avoid fires breaking out.

“Much of our wild open moorland is of international importance due to its rare species and ecosystems. So it’s vital we do all we can to avoid a situation like the one on the moors of Northern England developing here.”

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 HERE!

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.