Category Archives: Exmoor National Park news

National Mills Weekend – 10 and 11 May 2014

Saturday 10 May and Sunday 11 May 2014

Until the advent of the steam engine, wind and watermills provided the only source of power for many different processes – from making flour, paper, and cloth to hammering metal and extracting oils.  Some of these mills have been restored to working order, some are derelict, some still working commercially.  National Mills Weekend is the annual festival of our milling heritage and affords a great opportunity to explore mills, many of which are not usually open to the public.  At least a dozen Devon watermills will be open during the weekend.  A similar number, plus two windmills, will be open in Somerset. For further information see which list all the mills open by County.

Both of Exmoor’s restored water-powered sawmills – at Simonsbath and Timberscombe – will be open over the weekend

Simonsbath Sawmill

Simonsbath Sawmill is an historic, water-powered sawmill and estate workshops lying in a beautiful riverside location in the heart of Exmoor National Park.  It was built for John Knight (1767 – 1850) who bought much of central Exmoor in the early years of the nineteenth century, and was refurbished for Viscount Ebrington in 1898. It was bought by Exmoor National Park Authority in 1996 and restored over 2002/03 – with Heritage Lottery Funding.  It is a nationally significant building – one of very few estate sawmills with evidence of systems of power and contemporary sawbenches. The sawmill is no longer in regular operational use but is maintained in working condition and is used for demonstration purposes and as the venue for educational events and activities.  It is cared for by a small team of volunteers who help with maintenance, lead tours and are researching the history of the mill.  For more information visit:

There will be live music at the mill on Sunday 11 May in the afternoon.


Just4Jazz are a four piece band of alto saxophone, electric keyboard, electric bass and drums.  They play an eclectic range of ‘lazy’ music with a jazz bias.  Numbers range from classic pieces from the 1930s/40s such as ‘Summertime’ and ‘Autumn Leaves’ to film scores and pop from the 60s through to present day.   Their music is strong on melody but is intended to be gentle on the ear and easy listening.

Cowbridge Sawmill

Cowbridge Sawmill is situated in the village of Timberscombe, set in the midst of the beautiful Exmoor countryside. The first mill on this site dates from at least the fourteenth century when it produced flour for the local people.  In 1904 the Mill was converted to a sawmill which continued to serve the local community.  By the end of the twentieth century the Mill was in urgent need of renovation.  This renovation has been driven by the vision and determination of  Mr Owen Rush, who together with his wife Angela purchased the Mill in a derelict state in 1995. The old mill has been reroofed and the floors rebuilt, while the dilapidated workshop and forge have been demolished and replaced by an attractive two storey building of local stone with a slate roof.  As well as enhancing the appearance of the Mill, the  new building contains a forge, workshop and museum providing an interesting attraction for the village of Timberscombe and the Exmoor region.

The most ambitious aspect of the project has been hidden from the view of passers-by. This is the restoration of the 14 ft. water wheel which used water from the mill leat to power the Mill for over 700 years. The wheel is now turning again with the aim of producing Hydro Electric Power. The project is one of 5 schemes currently being developed by the Exmoor Renewable Energy Group to provide sustainable energy for local use.    For more information visit:

Hare today, gone tomorrow?

Exmoor National Park Authority would like your help to find out more about the brown hare as part of its 2014 Wildwatch scheme. The hare is a species unique to Exmoor and can be identified by its long legs and long ears with black tips. The scheme is supported by the Mid Devon Natural History society, as Doris Leader quoted “the hare is an important species here locally and across the whole of Exmoor, much-loved but increasingly scarce. The Society is pleased to be supporting Exmoor Wildwatch and this important initiative”. 

Hares are commonly found in grassland, moorland and woodland edges. Sites such as North Hill, Croydon Hill, Molland Common, Barle Valley and Withypool Common are good places for hare spotting. They are most visible in early spring, but can be seen all year round. There have already been attempts to spot hares, but any more reports of sightings would be greatly appreciated. Dave Gurnett, learning and outreach officer for Exmoor National Park, teamed up with pupils from Dulverton Middle School as part of the Exmoor Curriculum, surveying for hares on Winsford Hill. Dave says: “The pupils were all very enthusiastic and eagled-eyed, although we were unlucky on this occasion and didn’t actually spot any hares. If anyone has spotted hares anywhere across Exmoor National Park please do let us know, we would love to hear from you.”

Any sighting of hares can be reported via the Wildwatch website Wildwatch 2014 is funded by Exmoor National Park, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Exmoor Trust through the Heart of Exmoor scheme.

Photo taken by Jason Ball.

Exmoor’s Hedgelaying Competition

Exmoor National Park Authority is delighted to announce the launch of the 2013/14 Exmoor Hedge Competition.

The competition is aimed at the landowners, managers and contractors who carry out the high-quality hedgelaying work for the benefit of Exmoor’s farming, wildlife and landscape.

To be entered into the competition, the hedge must be within Exmoor National Park and have been laid during the winter of 2013/14. 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 previous Open Class winners together with members of the Devon and Somerset Hedge Groups, who are experienced West Country hedge layers themselves.

The long, wet winter of last year made conditions extremely difficult, but a considerable transformation has occurred along many lanes and field edges as once shady, outgrown hedges are cut and laid. This traditional management is critical in order to rejuvenate the hedgerows which are iconic features of the Exmoor landscape, reflecting our cultural heritage and supporting an incredible range of wildlife. The work is very skilled and provides employment for numerous people on Exmoor during the winter months.

Heather Harley, Conservation Officer (Farming & Land Management) for Exmoor National Park, says: “If you would like to enter the competition you have until 5 May 2014 to submit your entry form together with at least one photo of the completed hedge. For further information or an entry form please ring us on 01398 323665 or email Entry forms are also available from the National Park Centres at Dulverton and Lynmouth.”

The Exmoor Hedge Competition is being run by Exmoor National Park Authority and has once again come about through the generous sponsorship of the Exmoor Trust

The Exmoor Moorland Classroom springs into action with new sites, free resources and school travel bursary

Dave Weatherly, Curriculum Advisor,  with local children exploring Moorland Classroom sites.
Dave Weatherly, Curriculum Advisor, with local children exploring Moorland Classroom sites.

The Moorland Classroom has now engaged with over 6,000 pupils and this spring sees the launch of two new Moorland Classroom sites in Exmoor National Park. 

The new sites are Grabbist, overlooking the medieval village of Dunster, and Winsford Hill, above Tarr Steps.  Dulverton Middle School has recently returned from Winsford Hill as teacher Sophie Hanson from the school highlights: “Winsford Hill is a great resource. It covers many curriculum areas and is very hands-on with The Punchbowl, burial mounds and Tarr Steps all with easy walking distance of each other.”

Grabbist and Dunster also provide a great package and with plenty of wet-weather options. Curriculum Advisor for the Moorland Classroom, David Weatherly, stresses how the “Moorland Classroom is an ideal mechanism for delivering the new curriculum for 2014 – cross-curricular, engaging and challenging. It provides a real context for meaningful outdoor learning linked to places and issues that will inspire children and young people. Throughout there is an emphasis on enquiry based investigative learning and teaching which encourages children and young people to take responsibility for their own learning.”

David Rolls, Moorland Education Officer for the Heart of Exmoor Scheme, says: “To get your local school involved just google ‘Moorland Classroom’ and remember thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Exmoor Trust and the Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund, our travel bursary can help schools with travel costs.

“A big thank you to all the schools that have helped us develop these resources for use in both the classroom and out in the National Park.”