Category Archives: Exmoor Society News


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.


As part of its 60th Anniversary celebrations, The Exmoor Society is pleased to announce the launch of its new Poetry Competition for Adults. The competition is open to anyone aged over 16 years.

Poems must have been inspired by Exmoor in some way which might, for example, be topical, historical, archaeological, literary, recreational, spiritual, or relate to flora, fauna, dark skies and so forth.

Judging will be by a panel of poets. All entries must be received by midnight GMT on 30 April 2018.

Terms and Conditions and Entry Forms are available on The Exmoor Society’s website, from its shop at 34 High Street, Dulverton and at various local libraries and Visitor Centres.

PHOTO: Dunkery Heather  by Madeline Taylor


Beef, Birds & Beauty – A New Future for National Parks?

This is the theme for the 2018 Spring Conference, organised by the Exmoor Society in partnership with Exmoor National Park Authority, which takes place on Friday 20 April at Dulverton Town Hall.

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 a 21st Century Hobhouse Review of the English National Parks and ANOBs. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment, has described the present period as ‘a moment unfrozen in time’ because of the ability to shape a post-Brexit world.

National Parks are special places where nature and people over time have produced areas of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic values. The conference will explore how they can remain special, what changes are needed in delivering their purposes and enhancing their environments, landscapes and communities. Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Defra Minister for National Parks, will address the conference and launch the Exmoor National Park Partnership Plan 2018-23.  Merrick Denton-Thompson, President of the Landscape Institute, will discuss the importance of a landscape-led approach in managing National Parks and Sarah Howes of Plymouth University will illustrate the health and wellbeing benefits of National Parks. There will be opportunities for delegates to contribute their views as well.

Exmoor itself has taken the lead by producing a post-Brexit agri-environmental scheme. Called the Exmoor’s Ambition, the National Park Authority and Exmoor Hill Farming Network have brought out a detailed transformative proposal for sustaining and enhancing Exmoor’s farmed landscape and communities after Brexit. Following on from last year’s conference exploring Natural Capital and addressed by Dieter Helm, chairman of the Government’s Natural Capital Committee, the Exmoor Society has commissioned an Exmoor Register of Natural/Cultural Capital Assets, trialled on three Exmoor farms. The Register will be revealed for the first time at the Conference by Robert Deane of Rural Focus Ltd.

Places are limited and fill quickly, so early booking is advised and at least before 13 April, at a cost of £20. Further details are available at and from The Exmoor Society, 34 High Street, Dulverton TA22 9DJ. T: 01398 323335.

PHOTO courtesy of ENPA.


Winners of the Alfred Vowles Photographic Competition were presented with their prizes recently at The Exmoor Society’s Resource Centre in Dulverton. “Alfred Vowles was born in 1882 and was a well-known local photographer who, for over 30 years until the late 1940s, devoted his life to recording the landscape, life and people of Exmoor,” said Rachel Thomas, Exmoor Society Chairman.

“He immersed himself in the established styles and processes of the day and for many years ran a thriving business selling postcards of his work from a shop in Minehead, having earlier worked for Kodak in London. His legacy is a most valuable document of the Exmoor of the period, which is why we named the competition after him.”

The competition, which is sponsored and run by The Exmoor Society, occurs every two years and invites amateur photographers to submit images of Exmoor under three categories: Scenery, Wildlife and Heritage. The three judges, Caroline Tonson-Rye, Exmoor Society Trustee, Barry Hitchcox, of Barry Hitchcox Photography, and Jack Clegg of Minehead Photography, were impressed by the high standard of entries.

Keith Hann won first prize in the Wildlife category with a wonderfully observed shot of a wheatear, taken in Ember Combe. This is not an easy bird to capture and the judges liked the shallow depth of field and iconic Exmoor sprig of heather so much that Keith was also awarded the Alfred Vowles Trophy, donated by Vowles’ family, for the Overall Winner 2017-18. First prize in the Scenery category was awarded to Madeline Taylor for her very original view of Tarr Steps, the bold composition and good lighting particularly appreciated. Both winners received a cheque for £50.

Congratulations go to the following Highly Commended entries:

Wildlife Category – Madeline Taylor: Exmoor pony mare and foal crossing the road near Webber’s Post; Keith Hann: Young stags in Thurley Combe.

Landscape Category – Sharon Bailey: Tarr Steps after the flood, November 2016; Keith Hann: Freezing fog in the Quarme Valley.

The judges were disappointed by the low number of entries in the Heritage category. Sadly, none of these was up to the standard they were hoping for, and they were unable to reach a decision on a winner. Competition judge and Trustee Caroline Tonson-Rye said: “The Exmoor Society would like to encourage everyone to discover and enjoy all that Exmoor National Park has to offer, and to capture it on camera. The closing date for the next Alfred Vowles Competition is not until 31 December 2020, so there is plenty of time to take that winning shot. Advice and tips can be found on the website under Competitions and Awards at Good luck!”

A display of all the winning photographs and a selection of the other entries can be seen at The Exmoor Society Resource Centre in Dulverton, open weekdays 10am to 4pm.


The Exmoor Society is pleased to announce the launch of its new series Exmoor Studies. The idea for the publications sprang from the Society’s annual Exmoor Review, as the editors sometimes have to cut longer articles. Rather than turn away such information, it was decided instead to publish them as more in-depth studies of around 15-20,000 words.

The first two booklets are out now. No. 1, Exmoor Chroniclers, explores the writings, paintings and photographs of eight people who shared their knowledge of Exmoor in these different ways. They include the historian Hilary Binding, journalist Peter Hesp and writer and editor Victor Bonham-Carter. The essays were written by Caroline Tonson-Rye, Steven Pugsley, Mike Sampson, Hugh Thomas and Martin Hesp. Exmoor Chroniclers draws on archive material in the Exmoor Society’s resource centre to give a fresh perspective on these key Exmoor figures.

No. 2, The Exmoor Pony: Contested Histories, examines the debates around just how ancient the ponies are. Some say they are Ice Age survivors and a repository of ancient, wild-type DNA, whilst others argue that they are a modern breed, albeit a very special one. Drawing on her academic research into the history of animal breeding, and on her personal knowledge of horses and ponies, the Society’s archivist Dr Helen Blackman aimed to put some of the highly specific debates about the Exmoor ponies into a wider context of animal breeding and the history of Exmoor.

There are four more Studies in the pipeline. The next publication is based on a manuscript in the Society’s archives and is used by permission of Clara Greed, widow of the manuscript’s author John Greed. The Minehead Road: Between Exmoor and the Quantocks concerns the history of turnpike roads into Minehead, historically one of the entry points to Exmoor.

Hope Bourne: Reflections in Words will follow in the summer of 2018, in time for the 100th anniversary of Hope’s birth. The volume will explore Bourne’s published and unpublished writing. Known for her work on Exmoor, the author and illustrator nonetheless covered much wider themes, tackling subjects as divergent as poll tax, religion and the history of the horse. The series will continue with Exmoor’s Postal Routes and Historic and Veteran Trees of Exmoor.

The first two volumes are available now at the Society’s headquarters on Dulverton High Street, or online at, priced at £6 each. The Exmoor Society is celebrating the launch of the series on Wednesday 15 November, 12 noon until 3pm at 34 High Street, Dulverton.



The aim of Exmoor National Park Authority’s Historic Signpost Project is to record, refurbish, celebrate and explore the history of Exmoor National Park’s traditional signposts. This is a two-year project funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA) and Somerset County Council.

Much of the motivation for this came from local communities concerned about the state of some signposts in their areas and a desire to preserve and celebrate the distinctive character of the signs that are a much-valued part of the Exmoor landscape. As such, they are an integral part of Exmoor’s history and heritage. During the 1960s, councils were advised to remove existing signposts and replace them with standardised signs. However, Somerset did not do this, particularly on Exmoor, and so the distinctive cast-iron, black-and-white signs remain.

The ENPA is working with the Exmoor Society and volunteers to trace the history of the signposts. Dr Helen Blackman, the Exmoor Society’s archivist, said: “The starting point is the history of individual posts. The kind of questions we would love answers to are: how long have they been there?; do they and the crossroads that they are positioned at have specific names?; is there anything in particular that has happened to them, such as removal during the Second World War and later replacement?”

From this, volunteer researchers are aiming to find out about the importance of routes and locations and so help piece together a wider history of travel around the moor. Dr Blackman continued: “Have you ever wondered why some towns and villages are clearly signposted, whilst other have so little to indicate their whereabouts? For example, to some visitors it may seem odd that many signposts point to Watchet, now a relatively small town. However, the signage reveals something of its previous significance as a port and a major centre for paper manufacture.”

The Exmoor National Park is seeking more volunteers to help uncover this fascinating history. No experience is necessary, as training will be given by Dr Blackman; all that is required is some spare time and enthusiasm for research and detective work.

Routes over Exmoor have also evolved, as roads were tarmacked in the 1930s and some tracks were preferred over others. The signposts and their history can help piece together why this might be. Were some routes considered more direct, or did they cover easier terrain? Did they pass somewhere previously significant, now largely forgotten?

Dr Blackman concluded: “Do you have old photos and slides of Exmoor that include views of the signposts? These could be close-ups, or just photos that happen to include the posts such as the one pictured* or have any stories to tell about why crossroads have particular names? We would love to hear from you if you have information that would help with the project, please email”

  • PHOTO: Molly Groves in 1963 standing next to the top of Oare Post, Hookway Hill which is buried in snow. Photo courtesy of Mrs Groves.