Category Archives: Exmoor Society News


A series of free guided walks is now under way across Exmoor, led by an expert team of local volunteers from the Exmoor National Park Authority and The Exmoor Society. Nearly 100 walks will take place between now and October, with the addition of some new routes as well as old favourites.

The history of Exmoor’s settlements is covered in walking tours of Lynton and Lynmouth, Bossington, Porlock and Dunster, there’s insight into the Knight family’s estate in Exmoor’s former Royal hunting Forest at Simonsbath, a chance to tread in the footsteps of Saxon soldiers along the ancient Somerset Harepath (or Herepath), tales of murder at the abandoned mine of Wheal Eliza, a walk around Lorna Doone country, and a glimpse of the evolving salt marsh habitat at Porlock Marsh.

Natural history is also included, with walks discovering Exmoor’s butterflies and bats, coastal wildlife, temperate rainforests and how the heather moorlands are managed, as well as rambles looking at water quality improvement schemes and landscape restoration.

In May there will be four new walks linked to the annual Simonsbath Festival on the subjects of Exmoor during the Second World War, the rivers of the moor, the 150th Anniversary of R.D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, and the Exmoor home of Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace, a pioneer of computer programming.

Liz Pile, Walks Coordinator for The Exmoor Society, said: “The wonderfully diverse walks programme is only possible through the generosity of walk leaders in sharing their time, expertise and passion for Exmoor. The Society pays tribute to all those who lead walks in all weathers and in all places.”

Jess Twydall, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Get Involved Project Coordinator, commented: “Whether you’re fascinated by local history and village life, or looking for a longer moorland walk taking in the breath-taking scenery, there’s truly something for everyone.”

Walks generally last 1-4 hours and there is no charge, but donations are welcomed to ‘The Exmoor Society’ or ‘CareMoor for Exmoor’ towards keeping the National Park special.

The full programme of walks can be found on the ENPA and The Exmoor Society websites and in Exmoor Visitor magazine, which is available free at all National Park Centres and at The Exmoor Society’s Resource Centre in Dulverton, where advice can also be obtained.

PHOTO: Herepath, by Stan Lester.


The Exmoor Society’s 15th annual Spring Conference, in partnership with Exmoor National Park Authority, has the theme of how natural beauty positively affects people’s wellbeing and will be held on 12 April 2019 at Dunster Tithe Barn.

2019 is the 70th anniversary of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act and celebrates how they are special places where nature and people over time have produced areas of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic values. The Government’s 25-year Environment Plan states that the creation of designated landscapes has been among the most outstanding environmental achievements of the past 100 years. At the same time, it has set up the Glover Review to see what changes are needed in delivering the National Park purposes and enhancing their environments and communities.

The conference will celebrate the British approach to the National Park concept by exploring what is inspirational about them and Exmoor in particular and how they contribute to the nation’s wellbeing from local to the national and international levels. National Parks have inspired people in the past and continue to do so today, and even though they face many challenges, there is hope for a richer future.

Dame Fiona Reynolds will open the conference by speaking about her recent book Fight for Beauty. As a member of the Glover Panel, her message and thoughts will be particularly pertinent. Peter Beacham OBE was responsible for the former English Heritage’s listing programme and will describe the significance of buildings in the landscape. He will be followed by Rob Wilson-North, Exmoor National Park Authority, Head of Conservation & Access, who will explore Exmoor’s unexpected delights.

Adrian Colston, researcher at Exeter University into the management of the natural environment, will discuss hill-farming in a time of change. Interlaced throughout the proceedings will be poems celebrating Exmoor’s farming life read by poet, Adam Horovitz, whose book The Soil Never Sleeps has been widely acclaimed.

The Society Chairman, Rachel Thomas, said: “National Parks were created because of their spectacular scenery, wide open spaces, rich wildlife and biodiversity, a rural culture stretching back to prehistoric times and their suitability for outdoor recreation. There is certainly much to celebrate about them and be inspired by places like Exmoor.”  The conference will close with further information on how Exmoor will be celebrating the 1949 Act.

The Spring Conference will be held on 12 April 2019 at Dunster Tithe Barn from 10am to 3pm and will include lunch. Further details and booking can be found on or by telephoning The Exmoor Society on 01398 323335.

PHOTO by Jane A. Mares, from Exmoor Magazine


The 2019 Pinnacle Award, organised by The Exmoor Society, is now open to young people aged between 18 and 27 years who live, work or study in the Greater Exmoor area.  It offers up to £3,000 to an individual or group who have an idea for a business venture based on Exmoor, for example in agriculture, forestry, food and drink, conservation, horticulture, craft, tourism, or any outdoor land-based activity. 

The Award, now in its eighth year, was set up by The Exmoor Society to help young entrepreneurs live and work on Exmoor. As a conservation body, the Society fully recognises the importance of providing opportunities for young people to continue to live in the area by encouraging entrepreneurial activity.  The award also helps to promote the idea that beautiful landscapes and livelihoods in a National Park do go together.

Previous applications have come from people with ideas as diverse as making cider and developing a herd of pedigree cattle.  The award so far has helped fund young people either to set up or take forward businesses such as agricultural contracting, country clothing and woodland management.  There were three successful applicants in 2018: Polly Goodman, Philip Stephens and Camilla Waterer, who were developing goat meat from local herds, vehicle canopies from lightweight material and horse-drawn carriage rides over the moor for celebrations and special picnics.  All three applicants impressed the judges so much that Trustees decided to offer the full award to each one.

The application process is designed to be accessible to all, with a basic form to complete and a reference provided by a mentor or sponsor.  Applicants will be invited to an informal interview where judges will be looking for business ventures related to Exmoor’s rural character and likely to provide a sustainable living, with perhaps the potential in the future to offer further employment. Chairman of the Society, Rachel Thomas, said: “There is a great deal of concern that young people have to leave Exmoor because of the lack of employment.  By providing seed core money through the Pinnacle Award, the Society hopes to enable them to stay in the area and keep the moor alive and thriving.”

The Society hopes to attract even more entries for the award this year which is now open for applications with the closing date being 30 June 2019.  Forms are available on the Society’s website at or by contacting its Dulverton office on 01398 323335,


Five new community projects set to benefit Exmoor and its special qualities are the latest to receive grants from the Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund*.

All the schemes have been awarded funding of up to £2,500 in recognition of their contribution to National Park purposes to conserve and enhance the wildlife, natural beauty and cultural heritage of the area, and promote opportunities for people to enjoy them.

Successful bids included money towards a unique poetry project, jointly funded with the Exmoor Society, looking to raise awareness of the benefits of pasture-fed livestock. Poet Adam Horovitz will be staying with two Exmoor Hill Farming Network farmers who are championing the approach, and turning his experiences into a collection of poetry encapsulating how they work in harmony with nature to raise their animals. They will be published later this year as an addition to ‘The Soil Never Sleeps’ – an earlier collection inspired by shadowing farmers throughout the seasons.

The project is the brainwave of John Meadley, President of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association – an alliance of certified farms committed to feeding their livestock on 100% pasture throughout life. He said: “There aren’t many farming organisations who can say they have a poet in residence, but thanks to this grant we’re delighted to be working with Adam to help promote the many benefits of raising livestock in the way nature intended. We hope that through his unique talent for capturing the passions and beliefs that drive farmers, we’ll be able to convince more people why pasture-fed is best for their health, the planet, the welfare of the animals and even the farmer’s purse.”

Philip Kiberd, Funding Officer at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “The Partnership Fund exists for the benefit of everyone who lives in, visits and cares about the National Park. We can offer match funding of up to £2,500 in return for either cash or in-kind contributions, such as volunteer time, making it really accessible for anyone with a great idea to get help with funding. It’s great to see so many innovative projects going on in the National Park and we look forward to awarding the next round of funding in March.”

Funding awards are made around four times a year, and applicants have until 4 March to submit an expression of interest in time to be considered for the next funding round. Community-led projects that can enhance the landscape, help nature, investigate heritage or introduce new people to the National Park are of particular interest. 2019 is also the Year of Green Action and the 70th anniversary of the founding legislation for UK National Parks, providing further inspiration for people to put forward their ideas.

Full details, guidance notes and application forms are available on the Authority’s website at or to discuss an idea contact the Funding Officer on 01398 322237 or

* Recently supported projects include:
1.     A grant to help protect and conserve Brendon Hill Methodist Church, safeguarding part of Exmoor’s building heritage
2.     Funding towards the development of Porlock Weir Pilot Gig  Club adding to recreational activity on Exmoor’s coast
3.     A contribution to a new floodgate at Western Beach, Lynmouth, allowing winter access for people, while keeping the storms out
4.     A grant for a farming poetry project offering an alternative voice to Exmoor hill farming
5.     Funding towards a Lorna Doone exhibition led by Dulverton Heritage Centre, celebrating 150 years, in 2019, since the publication of this Exmoor novel.

PHOTO: Exmoor hill farmer Oliver Edwards pictured with poet Adam Horovitz during a recent stay at Westermill Farm to learn about lambing.


The Exmoor Society, celebrating its 60th anniversary, recently returned to its roots at Simonsbath House Hotel, as it was here that the Society was formally founded, on 28 November 1958.

Simonsbath Lodge, as it was then called, was the home of John Coleman Cooke, the first Chairman of the Society. Trustees and members were entertained by a dramatic dialogue, written by Trustee Roger Watts, that brought alive the reasons for the formation of the charity. The President, Sir Antony Acland, proposed a toast to the Society, followed by a convivial and delicious buffet lunch.

In 1958, proposals to afforest The Chains, the central moorland area, were made public. The National Park had only just been designated, mainly because of its wild and remote moorland. Local people from the Barnstaple area and the Dunkery side of Exmoor and coastal communities were horrified at this idea. They decided to start a petition, backed by the North Devon Journal, which collected over 3,000 signatures and was successful in persuading the Forestry Commission to withdraw their plans. Dated 28 November 1958, The Sunday Times ran an article headlined ‘No Conifers for Exmoor’ and reported that an Exmoor Preservation Society was formed on 28 November 1958. A Society that could present alternative views to public bodies and encourage activities beneficial to Exmoor was the core purpose of the founding fathers.

Steven Pugsley, local District Councillor and member of the ENPA, outlined what he considered to be The Exmoor Society’s achievements today. He mentioned the series of studies which the Society has commissioned in relation to moorland, landscape, upland farming and natural capital all providing evidence to influence National Park policy. He emphasised the development of the new and prestigious Exmoor Resource Centre and the Exmoor Review, now in its 60th edition. He also referred to the Society’s Pinnacle Award for young entrepreneurs, encouraging new generations of young people to live and work on Exmoor, keeping it vibrant and alive. He described The Exmoor Society in 2018 as supportive, active, professional, visible and enjoyable, adding: “Today it is widely respected and in vigorous health.”

Find out more about the Exmoor Society on their website.



Today (Sunday 26 August 2018) marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Exmoor writer and artist Hope Lilian Bourne. To celebrate this, the Exmoor Society has just published a short anthology of her lesser-known writings, illustrated with her artwork.

Hope was born in Oxford in 1918 and spent much of her childhood in Hartland, Devon where her mother was the headmistress of a village school, moving to the Cotswolds in 1939. When the death of her mother led to the sale of their house to pay debts, Hope was left with no home, qualifications or income, and decided to return to Exmoor to live on and with the land, in a manner as self-sufficient and self-reliant as possible. She lived for many years in a simple caravan at Ferny Ball, a deserted farmstead near Withypool with no services or conventional comforts. Here she cultivated her garden and her natural talent as a painter and writer.

Hope gained some national attention in the late 1970s and 1980s with a series of newspaper interviews and television programmes and, on the whole, these portrayed her as a noble figure living a romantic wild life. However, she was at pains to tell friends that this was not the case and that her lifestyle was far from reclusive and also more forced upon her by circumstance than a matter of her choosing. This volume seeks to redress the balance, using Hope’s own words to illustrate how she lived and what was important to her.

The editor, Lisa Eden, said: “I have selected pieces which show Hope revelling in Exmoor’s storms and silences, and in the drama of raging seas at Hartland. Hope pays tribute to friendship – both human and animal – with a touching obituary of Mary Richards and a charming requiem for her favourite bantam. She had a justified pride in living harmoniously with her environment, as letters to local newspapers show; and her eloquent denunciation of the unfairness of the Poll Tax reveals her formidable skills as a protester. A piece that has much resonance today is her dream of re-wilding Exmoor: she imagines it restocked with aurochs, wild boar and wolves, presenting a real challenge and adventure for walkers and campers!”

When Hope died in 2010, she left her estate to the Exmoor Society, having been a member since 1959. Given how frugal her lifestyle was, she left a fairly substantial legacy which in part enabled the Society to move into larger premises in Dulverton and open a Resource Centre, including specialist storage for the Society’s archive collection. This includes Hope’s artwork, writings, journals and correspondence. These were jumbled and scattered throughout her bungalow in Withypool and sorting through them proved a difficult task for the archivist and the Society’s volunteers!

The Society is delighted with this book, entitled Hope Bourne’s Reflections in Words. It is available for sale in the Society’s headquarters in Dulverton, price £6, and is number four in a series of Exmoor Studies. The first three are Exmoor Chroniclers, The Exmoor Pony: Contested Histories and The Minehead Road: Between Exmoor and the Quantocks.


The Exmoor Society, celebrating its 60th anniversary, has just announced the winners of its poetry competition, which has been re-established after a lull of a number of years.

They are:
1st: Pat Glover’s ‘Old Ruddock’s Boy Made Good, They Say, Up Country’
2nd: Audrey Coldrick’s ‘Through Somerset Fields’
3rd: Ian Enters’ ‘Leprosy Window, Culbone Church’

Highly Commended:
Matt Bryden’s ‘An Imposition’
Paul Ings’ ‘The Sense’
Graeme Ryan’s ‘May 17th’

The purpose of the competition is to inspire people about Exmoor, one of England’s finest landscapes, in a special way though the power of poetry. The Society commented that it was amazed at the number of entries coming from as far afield as the Czech Republic and many areas of England as well as those living in the National Park.

Rachel Thomas, The Exmoor Society Chairman, said, “The Society is particularly grateful to the two judges, Richard Westcott and Cathy Nicholls, poets themselves, who read each poem anonymously and, although selecting the final three winners, commented on how difficult it was to make comparisons, worse than comparing apples and pears, as each poem was special in its own unique way. As a result, the Society will put the three winning poems, and the three highly commended ones, on its website. They will also appear in the Exmoor Review, The Exmoor Society’s annual publication, with a view to possibly publishing an anthology of all the poems.”

On the variety of themes, the judges commented thus: “There was a profound sense of history, ranging from the nineteenth-century Ada and her husband’s famous tunnels, through medieval churches, to ancient Exmoor where stones stand in silent sentry.

“Meanwhile many Exmoor birds flew by… wood warbler and redstart/Pied flycatcher and dipper/Flitting like librarians.
And larks drizzling their song, as well as buzzards, pheasants, pipits who chatter their verses, a kite, a curlew (or two), fieldfares, song thrush and cuckoo.

“Among other fauna we frequently met the Exmoor pony free roaming and of independent mind, with cream-rimmed eye, along with red deer, cattle, sheep and lambs; even an adder appeared.

“Flora was represented by pokey random heather, beech hedges fired to a warm coppery glow, snowdrops (which giggle, in lazy loveliness, lifting lacy bonnets), and shimmering blackthorn.

“We were exposed to Exmoor in every season, bright and dark, welcoming and hostile, dry and sodden. In short, Exmoor was well and truly celebrated – its clouds and big skies, rivers and hills, pathways and lanes – with enthusiasm, joy and gratitude, which could not but move us.

“From the technical point of view poetic forms ranged from the formality of the sonnet to completely free verse; we heard regular rhymes as well as some subtle and original rhymes; there was ingenious and creative use of space and enjambment, some lovely musicality, and even a concrete poem.

“Our rules did not specify a type face, so we were treated to some handwritten texts, bringing their own individuality and distinctiveness, along with a huge variety of fonts. But we did specify a maximum length, which sadly meant a couple of good poems excluded themselves.

“We hope that the Exmoor Society’s Poetry Competition has demonstrated the power of poetry, raised its profile and saluted Exmoor in a special way. Thank you then to all our poets – thanks for your thoughts and feelings so carefully presented through poetry, for offering your poems, for entering the competition and supporting the work the Exmoor Society does.”

Old Ruddock’s Boy Made Good, They Say, Up Country

I thought a jaunty walk was best
To take me down the deepened lane.
I turned my lumpen throat and back.
My father watched with straightened mouth.
No talk of pride or shame or pain.
I blinked away the scorching light.
The shadows shattered in the narrow track.

I didn’t have the words to spell
the restless itch
the urgent thirst
for towns and light, the edge, the world,
the something, not hedged in.

I used to take the kids at first.
We made our nest in Rowan Tree
where the cowshed used to be.
Just the promised August week
they swung on gates and ran with sticks.
I smarted at the change of it
and waited for the hush of sleep
to wander out in startling nights
and stride across the deep grooved fields
to thwack again the hoar oak tree.
The proof to me I’d been.
I’d creep about the cleaned up yard,
Flowered up with tubs and neat,
until, with softest soughs,
it came . . . the past . . .
the pull and pump and suckle,
the warm hay-breath of cows,
the pink and velvet nuzzles,
the muddy slap of hooves.

And yes, I’ve got the cars and house,
The long haul holiday.
I’ve even got some Cup match comps –
A good life, as you say.

Pat Glover


The 2018 Pinnacle Award, organised by The Exmoor Society, is open to young people aged between 18 and 27 who live, work or study in the Greater Exmoor area. It offers £3,000 to an individual or group who have a business start-up or development plan. Six years ago, The Exmoor Society set up the Award to support young entrepreneurs who wish to stay working on Exmoor, particularly within farming and land-based development, but not exclusively.

As a conservation body, The Exmoor Society fully recognises the importance of providing opportunities for young people to remain on the moor when they enter the world of work. “The Society wants to show that beautiful landscapes and livelihoods can go together by supporting the younger generation, the very essence of keeping Exmoor alive as a national park,” said Rachel Thomas, Chairman.

Previous applications have come from people with ideas as diverse as making cider and developing a herd of pedigree cattle. Winners so far have included young people setting up their own agricultural contracting businesses, entrepreneurs in a country clothing business, low-impact forestry services and a worker in traditional ironwork who wanted to branch out into steel fabrication to meet the demands of the modern market. Last year’s winner, Nick Hosegood, an arborist from Luxborough, is using the award to offer a portable milling service for Exmoor-grown timber.

The Society hopes to attract many entries for the award this year which has a closing date of 30 June 2018. Application forms are available from The Exmoor Society’s office in Dulverton, telephone 01398 323335 and on its website:

PHOTO: Previous winners include Matt Sharp (2015).


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.”


The Exmoor Society has just released details of its 2018 guided walks programme from April until October. The programme provides a wonderful opportunity to walk through the splendour of Exmoor’s diverse landscapes including the moorlands, coast, woodland, river valleys and farmland. Starting from different locations across Exmoor and in the company of knowledgeable and welcoming guides, the walks also provide opportunities to increase fitness, wellbeing and to enjoy other peoples’ company. The wide variety of interests covered by the walks include:

  • nature walks investigating the special lower plant flora (the lichens, mosses, liverworts and ferns) of Exmoor’s Atlantic woodlands, the bluebells in Burridge Woods and the visiting cuckoos on Molland Moor.
  • accompanying the experts to learn how the ecology and management of woodlands are helping the heath fritillary butterfly and the rare pied flycatcher and how to detect and identify bats as they hunt insects in Horner Woods.
  • for history lovers, there is the opportunity to discover John Knight’s uncompleted garden landscape at Simonsbath, hear the knights’ tales through the ages, explore ancient barrows and other prehistoric sites, learn about mining projects, the tragic murder of little Anna Maria Burgess and Hope Bourne’s extraordinary life and love of Exmoor.
  • even joining a walk to find out about Exmoor’s water improvement project, and how the community came together on the Longstone Landscape Project.

Chairman of the Society, Rachel Thomas, said, “In the Society’s special 60th anniversary year the wonderfully diverse programme is only possible through the generosity of walk leaders in sharing their time, expertise and passion for Exmoor. It pays tribute to all those who lead walks in all weathers and in all places.”

There is no charge for the walks but a small donation is welcomed from non-members. Some walks end with an optional pub lunch or afternoon tea – welcome post-walk refreshments! For full details visit or 34 High Street, Dulverton. For any queries, contact or 01398 323335. The Society looks forward very much to welcoming you along.