The South West NFU is pleased to announce it is to renew its sponsorship of the Exmoor Hill Farming Network (EHFN).
The EHFN is a farmer-led organisation which works to improve farm incomes, profitability and sustainable land management in the upland areas of Exmoor. As the leading representative body for farmers and the voice of the industry across the South West, the NFU will continue assisting the EHFN’s work.
Matthew Uren, Somerset county adviser for the NFU, said: “We very much value the work that the Exmoor Hill Farm Network is doing for farmers, particularly in the current period of political upheaval and uncertainty, so we are pleased to be able to continue to support this valuable project.”
EHFN chairman Dave Knight said: “The EHFN is absolutely delighted to be sponsored for another year by the South West NFU and we are pleased that the NFU values the hard work the EHFN has done, and continues to do, to bring training, information, skills and social events onto Exmoor for the farming community.
“With ongoing political and rural economic uncertainty, in particular with regard to rural support payments and agri-environmental schemes, it is very important to have strong farming voices from strong organisations, working together to look out for UK agriculture.”
Deanna Gladki, West Somerset NFU Group Secretary, said: “In the run-up to Brexit, we need to make sure that the farming voice is heard and that we are engaged with farmers in all areas and we look forward to working with the EHFN to achieve this.”
Photo shows (l to r): Katherine Williams (EHFN project officer), Dave Knight (EHFN chairman), Deanna Gladki (West Somerset NFU group secretary), Matthew Uren (NFU Somerset county adviser).
across Somerset are being invited to bid in the UK’s first countywide auction
for works to help stop flooding.
The auction will be run online from 26 February – 12 March using a new Environment Agency web app, which can be found at www.nfmauction.org.uk.
The website offers Somerset farmers a unique combination of possibilities: first, to select for themselves different natural flood management (NFM) activities; second, to pick out parts of their land where they believe those activities will produce the best flood prevention results for them and for local communities; third, to bid for funding for those activities.
As the main purpose of NFM activities in Somerset is to slow the flow of water down through the higher parts of river catchments, the web app will not allow farmers to place bids for land in low-lying Internal Drainage Board areas, but the auction otherwise covers the length and breadth of Somerset. After the auction closes, bids will be checked by the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SW (FWAG SW). Grants from Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) will then be given to the best, most competitively-priced ideas.
John Osman, SRA Chairman, said: “This is still a very new system, but all the
signs are that it has many strengths. It cuts out paperwork. It saves time and
money. It draws on farmers’ unrivalled knowledge of their own land. It’s easy
to use – and it gets results.
summer, as a trial of the web app, there was a much smaller auction in the
catchments of the River Tone and River Parrett in Somerset and the SRA gave out
22 grants to winning bids. Flood risks to local communities have been reduced
through improvements that farmers have been able to make. So it’s a win-win.
we’re opening it up across the county, I hope many Somerset farmers will give
it a go.”
are being offered for five different natural flood management measures: maize
management, grassland subsoiling, hedge planting, soil bunds, and leaky dams.
All help to slow the flow of water, while delivering other benefits. Grassland
subsoiling, for example, aerates the ground so that more rainwater can filter
in; it also improves the soil.
Gothard, a Stoke St Gregory farmer who won a maize management grant in last
year’s trial auction, said: “It only took me a few minutes to place my bid
online and there wasn’t any paperwork. I’m really pleased with what I’ve been
able to achieve with the grant money.”
the devastating flooding of the Somerset Levels in 2013-14, hundreds of natural
flood management initiatives have been carried out across Somerset, as part of
the county’s pioneering Hills to Levels project and overarching 20 Year Flood Action
Plan. Hills to Levels has so far won two national awards, and this new auction
shows Somerset continuing to lead the UK with fresh ideas for tackling local
For further information relating to the auction or the Hills to Levels project please contact Victoria Munday email@example.com or Ellen James firstname.lastname@example.org
A-level students who have just finished their exams may be able to get financial support to study for agricultural degrees at university thanks to NFU Mutual’s Undergraduate Bursary Scheme.
Leading rural insurer NFU Mutual is offering financial support to four students starting undergraduate courses in agriculture in autumn 2018. The bursaries will provide £3,000 per student to help with tuition or living costs for the duration of their studies.
NFU Mutual, which provides insurance for 75% of the UK’s farmers, will also support the successful students with work experience, networking and assistance with course projects.
NFU Mutual’s Charlie Yorke, who co-ordinates the award scheme, said: “We’re an insurer with over a century’s experience protecting the countryside. As part of our support for the farming community we want to help encourage students who have the potential to become agriculture’s future leaders.
“In recent years, affordable education for young people and their ability to play a greater role in agricultural businesses have emerged as large concerns for farming families. The award aims to make a positive contribution in this area.
“This is the fourth year NFU Mutual has offered the award, and it’s been great to see how previous award winners have used the bursary, such as to fund extra courses which have increased their skills base and made them more employable.”
Stefan Marks, a BSc Agriculture student at Reading University, originally from Cornwall, is currently in the third year of the scheme, having been awarded NFU Mutual’s Undergraduate Bursary in 2016.
Stefan explained: “Having grown up on the family farm, I’ve always had an interest in agriculture, particularly looking at the way technology and science can ensure sustainable and efficient farming systems.
“The bursary money has enabled me to have some financial security and has allowed me to invest in travel to different enterprises to thereby broaden my understanding of the industry and diverse farming systems. It has also been valuable in ensuring I have textbooks and other resources to aid my studies.
“I am in the process of doing my dissertation focusing on the concept of soil health and Mesofauna populations and, whilst at university, I have explored a particular interest in hydroponics. After I graduate, I intend use this knowledge to work within the agricultural industry.”
Stefan added: “I’d really encourage anyone interested in agriculture to apply for the bursary. It gave me confidence in my studies knowing that someone thought I had potential and my interests were relevant. This really encouraged me to make the most of my course and the opportunities it offers.
“Not only does NFU Mutual offer the financial support, but I’ve had contact from them encouraging me to get involved and providing me with vital industry contacts. It has been so helpful and I’m really grateful for the support.”
William Harvey is also studying for a BSc in Agriculture at Reading University. Going into his second year in September 2018, he was also selected for NFU Mutual’s Undergraduate Bursary Scheme.
“I come from a dairy farm near Newton Abbot in Devon and so have always had a passion for the industry. I’m studying a broad spectrum of agriculture and currently deciding what I want to specialise in for my final year,” William explained.
“The scheme has been a huge help for me and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking to go into the industry. The grant has allowed me to focus on my studies without worrying about financial issues and really made sure I make the most of my degree.”
Guest blog by Katherine Williams, Exmoor Hill Farming Network Officer
The Exmoor Hill Farming Network has welcomed an award of £49,997 funding from The Prince’s Countryside Fund to help it support the Exmoor farming community. This will enable the Network, which is farmer-led, to continue and develop its work for the next three years (February 2018- February 2021). This follows the success of two previous grants from the Fund, bringing the total awarded to date from the charity to £149,981.
Since the Network’s formation in 2014, 300 farming businesses on Exmoor now benefit from the knowledge exchange, training and news updates it provides. Our priority for the future is to strengthen and professionalise our range of services, developing the Network as the ‘Go-To Hub’ for knowledge, learning and peer-support through our office, our four peer-support groups (Forward Farming, Women in Farming, Micro-farming and Next Generation) and close working with specialist organisations.
The financial assistance from the Fund will enable the Network to focus on the impacts of Brexit, helping Exmoor farmers adapt and be resilient to the changes this will bring. We are taking a proactive approach, involving the next generation of Exmoor farmers in a costed proposal to Government. Our plan, called ‘Exmoor’s Ambition’, is to develop new ways of delivering high-quality landscapes, delicious food, abundant wildlife and other public benefits from prosperous farms on Exmoor.
This award from the Fund contributes nearly half of the required for the forthcoming network activities over the next three years. The Network is currently exploring the funding gap with the Exmoor National Park Authority and will be identifying ways of becoming more self-sufficient.
We have been delighted to have welcomed Natwest, Exmoor Farmers Livestock Auctioneers, Masons Kings and the NFU on board as key sponsors over the past two years and we will continue to offer sponsorship packages for local businesses and partners during our next phase. If you would be interested in hearing more about our sponsorship opportunities please contact the office.
Dave Knight, EHFN Chairman, said: “We at the EHFN are over the moon to have secured this help from the Fund for the next three years, this extraordinary support will hopefully allow us to push forward with our aims of growing the network now that we are well established.
“The Fund has supported us right from the beginning, it’s no under statement to say that without their backing, both financially and in terms of their support, the Network would not be where it is today. They have promoted us at every turn and opened doors for us, for which we are immensely grateful.”
Claire Saunders, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, said: “Since our first grant to the Network we have been proud to see them develop and grow. This type of support is needed now more than ever before, and I am delighted that we can continue to give funding to assist the farming families of Exmoor build stronger, more resilient businesses. The Network is an inspiring organisation and always willing to share with others how they support their members, and the benefit they have provided to the local farming community.”
The EHFN will continue to bring very competitively priced training which is delivered locally and farmer-led events. The 2018 programme of events, training, workshops and peer group visits are led by your needs. Please let us know if there are specific topics you would like addressed.
The Network is an information and support ‘hub’ for Exmoor’s hill farmers, bringing information, demonstrations, training, grants and opportunities to farmers. The Network started four years ago and is funded by the Exmoor National Park Authority and The Prince’s Countryside Fund and well supported by Exmoor’s farming community.
For further information please contact Katherine Williams Network Officer on 01643 841455 or KWilliams@northdevonplus.co.uk
Exmoor National Park Authority is pleased to announce the launch of the 2017/18 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 eligible to apply, all or part of the farm must be within Exmoor National Park and the hedge laid during the winter of 2017/18. There will be 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 hedgelayers themselves. The previous year’s Open Class winners are also invited to join the judging panel.
Work carried out during the autumn and winter months has resulted 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 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.
Susan May, Chairman of the Exmoor Trust, said: “The Exmoor Trust is delighted to sponsor this competition again this year and encourages all hedge layers to enter.”
Heather Harley, Conservation Officer (Farming & Land Management) for Exmoor National Park, said: “If you would like to enter the competition you have until 4 May 2018 to submit your entry form together with at least one photo of the completed hedge and if possible a photo of the hedge before work took place. For further information or an entry form please ring us on 01398 323665 or email email@example.com.”
The Exmoor Hedge Competition is being run by Exmoor National Park Authority and again has been possible through the generous sponsorship of the Exmoor Trust.
Around 80 mainly upland farmers attended an Exmoor Ambition meeting of the Exmoor Hill Farming Network (EHFN) recently. The meeting discussed the development of proposals for farming support schemes and the environment through a reshaped agricultural policy as the UK prepares to leave the European Union. The ‘Exmoor Ambition is to:
·develop a locally delivered mechanism that secures and enhances the many benefits that Exmoor’s farmed landscape gives to Exmoor communities and the nation. ·demonstrate to others the value of approaches piloted on Exmoor and develop a pilot that would be of interest in other English uplands, other protected landscapes and more widely.
As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, the government has a unique opportunity to reshape how to maintain the benefits that upland areas can deliver.
Dave Knight, Chairman of the EHFN, said: “The Exmoor Ambition event was a tremendous success – easily our best attended meeting to date, and it demonstrates the credibility of the Network that so many people recognised the importance of what we are proposing.
“The Exmoor ambition event goes to show the continuing confidence and trust within the Network as the “go to hub” for Exmoor’s farming community. Following our Exmoor Ask paper last autumn, the proposals put forward have been a year in the making. There is a huge amount more work to do, but the ringing endorsement from the event attendees shows that we’re on the right track.”
Robin Milton, Chairman of Exmoor National Park Authority, commented: “A unanimous vote concluded a fantastic evening of debate by farmers at the recent Exmoor Hill Farming Network event where integrating farming and environmental management was recognised as a major asset in determine future policies.
“Exmoor farmers are ready to take up the post-Brexit challenge with an Exmoor Ambition offer to government.”
The Hill Farming Network will now finalise the Exmoor Ambition proposals with the National Park Authority, with the aim of presenting them formally to the government in the New Year. PHOTO: EHFN Chairman Dave Knight addressing the Exmoor Ambition meeting
Following a £2.4 million redevelopment, Somerset Rural Life Museum re-opened earlier this year with a fresh new look and a line-up of wonderful events offering real-life experiences inspired by rural traditions.
The autumn programme has been announced and includes seasonal celebrations, workshops, courses, talks and exhibitions. The programme offers visitors a chance to discover more about Somerset’s heritage including its landscape, food and farming and rural crafts.
Visitor Services Manager Robin Savill said: “In addition to being a much-loved museum we are now offering new hands-on heritage experiences. The former farm, with its orchard and farm yard, offers a unique and historic venue in which to learn more about the county’s heritage. Alongside our special autumn events we also have regular family fun days and Toddler Explorer sessions.”
Autumn has always been an important time for rural communities and An Autumn Celebration carries on the tradition of celebrating harvest time. On 7 and 8 October the Museum grounds will be filled with all things autumnal, from apple pressing and giant pumpkins to rural crafts and folklore.
The Museum will hold its Living History Day on 5 November when the former dairy farm will be alive with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of ancient skills and crafts. From woodworking and weaving to cookery and corn dollies, a visit will be like stepping into the past.
From 23 September to 11 November the wonderful foureteenth-century Abbey Barn will host an installation produced in partnership with Somerset Art Works and Craftspace. Gather-ing is a contemporary art exhibition exploring the use of ancient barns to gather and collect people, animals and crops.
Kate Lynch’s stunning FARM exhibition also continues until 3 December, featuring more than 40 paintings and drawings made on local farms. To complement the exhibition, Kate will be at the Museum on 28 September to give a talk about her documentary art projects.
On 25 October painter James Lynch is giving a talk and demonstration in using the ancient medium of egg tempera. James has spent many years mastering this technique and his much-admired landscape painting at the Museum is a stunning example of this work.
Blighty Bushcraft will be at the museum on 24 September to lead a Foraging Course around the Glastonbury countryside. The morning expedition will explore the local hedgerows to discover what nature’s larder has to offer. Blighty Bushcraft returns on 22 October for a ‘Slab and Stick’ Stool-Making Course.
Normal admission applies to seasonal days and exhibitions with charges and booking required for workshops, courses and talks. For full details please visit SRLM.org.uk
Somerset Rural Life Museum is part of The South West Heritage Trust, an independent charity that protects and celebrates our rich heritage.
Champion ploughmen and women from all over Great Britain will be making their way to Somerset this autumn when the county will host this year’s British National Ploughing Championships & Country Festival. This unique two-day event will take place on land at Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton, on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 October.
The highlight of the country’s ploughing calendar, the event is one of the few agricultural shows which is held in a different part of Britain each year and the event is returning to Somerset courtesy of landowner Ken Coles and family who have provided over 200 acres of their prime arable farmland just north of the town of Taunton.
Around 250 ploughmen and women will take part, including past World and European champions. At stake are the British National Ploughing Championship titles and the selection to represent England in World and European ploughing competitions next year, with one ultimate winner taking the title of Supreme Champion.
It’s not just about ploughing, though over the two days visitors will see competitions for many different styles, from the more modern reversible and conventional ploughing through to many types of vintage tractors and the graceful and magnificent horse ploughing of years gone by. Alongside the competitions there will be demonstrations of giant steam engines, vintage and rural craft exhibits with the provisional themes ‘Welcome to Somerset’ and ‘Horse to Horse Power’, trade stands, shopping stalls and country crafts.
The Society of Ploughmen, who are organising the event, are expecting an exceptional crowd over the two days as the Championships always attract a varied mix of spectators – from farmers with a love of the land and agricultural machinery, vintage tractor enthusiasts, people with a love of horses, steam enthusiasts and those with a general interest in the countryside. It also gives a unique opportunity for families to see how our farming heritage has changed over the past 300 years.
Chief Executive of the Society of Ploughmen, Sue Frith, said, “The interest and attention we have at the moment is fantastic after holding the World Ploughing Contest in England last year. The support we have in the south-west of the country is especially good and clearly the decision to bring the Championships back to Somerset is a good one.” She added, “You don’t have to be interested in ploughing as there will be something for everyone at the event, but it is wonderful to see what these highly skilled competitors can do. It’s important we ensure these skills are kept alive as even with all the changes in agriculture, they still play an important part in the food chain as good ploughing will prepare the land well for better crops to be grown”.
There will be a wide selection of trade stands – from agricultural trade stands ranging from tractors and machinery to insurance through to the smaller shopping stalls with anything from countrywear to confectionery. Sponsorship opportunities are available for both market leaders and small companies with main sponsors this year being Bridgestone/Firestone and Bridgwater Agricultural Society.
Further information can be found on www.ploughmen.co.uk or from the Society of Ploughmen on 01302 852469 and you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
PHOTO taken at Bishops Lydeard for Exmoor Magazine by Andrew Hobbs
Thank you to Vicky Fiddes for sending us this report of the North Devon Schools Showjumping League semi-finals, which took place last weekend. Vicki writes:
On Sunday 30 July North Devon Schools Show Jumping League held their semi-finals at Coxleigh Barton Equestrian Centre in Barnstaple.
The 50cm team competition was won by Chulmleigh Primary School’s team, The Cubs. The riders in the cubs team were: Zak Flanagan, Ella Otto, Morgan Callister and Fred Barlow. The 50cm individual winner was Lilli Fiddes from Braunton Academy, riding Redvears Peregrine.
The 60cm was won by Braunton Academy’s team, Trivium: Lilli Fiddes, Sienna Gray, Katie Holton and Poppy Priscott. Katie Miles riding Apple Blossom from West Buckland took the individual win.
Sadly, during the 60 competition Chulmleigh rider, Ella, has a fall and broke her collar bone. We would like to take this opportunity to wish her a speedy recovery from everyone at NDSSJL and hope to see her back in action next season.
The 70cm team class was won by Bethany Robinson, Ellie Dawson, Molly Mellett and Caitie Streete, who were riding for Park Community College’s team 1. The individual winner was Grace Sinclair, riding Annandale Royal Warrant from South Molton Community College.
The 80cm team comp winners were South Molton. The riders making up Team Storm were Izzy Beard, Molly Matthews, Maisie Atkinson and Grace Sinclair. Grace and her horse Cregg Surprise also took the individual win.
The 90cm was run purely as an individual competition with Molly Matthews on Million Dollar Girls taking the win. She rides for South Molton Community College.
Head judge and course builder, Sara Gallagher, commented: “I have seen such an improvement from every one of the children, especially those who would not normally have the chance to go out and compete. I do love the team encouragement for each other.”
Show jumping trainer at NDSSJL, Nancy Hutchings, said she had thoroughly enjoyed training lots of the individual and team riders and that the improvement in all the riders from the first show to now has been incredible to watch.
Organisers Jo Gay and Lucy Jenkinson and myself have thoroughly enjoyed running the series and can’t wait for the Championship event on 1 September at Coxleigh Barton. The League has been an absolute pleasure to run. Each and every child has done their school proud! They have all been fantastic to watch, have shown great team spirit and been very polite throughout every competition.
After our championship show at Coxleigh on 1 September, the new league will be starting on 1 October. The competition is open to all school age children in North Devon. Full info on how to get involved can be found on the North Devon Schools Show Jumping League facebook group or at Coxleigh.com.
And thank you to Mrs Sherwood, who sent us a report detailing how South Molton Community College got on at the semis. Here is what she wrote:
Showcasing show jumping talent, this year is the inaugural North Devon Schools Show Jumping League. A friendly, local competition held at Coxleigh Barton Equestrian Centre, the newly established league is encouraging and welcoming all North Devon pupils to take part. Representing their respective schools, the successes of individual pupils have been tallied across the league tables since the first event in April. The monthly qualifiers came to a head on Sunday 30th July.
Pupils from South Molton Community College have consistently performed exceptionally well – claiming first and second place in the 80cm class and first and second in the 90cm.
Horse riding requires huge amounts of dedication and resilience, winning classes has not been down to luck or chance. Our students have worked hard throughout the cold and dark winter months to prepare for this league. I am always impressed with how well they turn their horses out and how considerately they ride – always putting the horse or pony first.
The school’s Show Jumping Team have been sponsored by Acorn Saddlery this year, who have provided the team with their purple livery.
Andrew Finney, Principal of South Molton Community College, said: “We are immensely proud of our students and how well they represent our school and local community. We’re very much looking forward to the Championship in September.”
A lot of the students at South Molton Community College are part of their local Pony Clubs and often train and attend additional competitions. Most recently, Jess Cumings, Josh Flanagan and Molly Matthews qualified for Grass Roots Area Eventing, with Jess Cumings, Molly Matthews and Lily Cronk qualifying for Grass Roots Show Jumping. Caroline Sherwood said: “SMCC students are kind, motivated and hardworking – they can achieve anything they put their mind to – inside or outside of the classroom.”
Editor’s note – Exmoor Mag would like to hear from all schools with their individual reports if they want to send them in. Don’t be left out! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know how you got on at the Championship! Good luck to all the riders!
This coming Sunday – 30 July – is the lovely Porlock Horse Show, so it seems like a good moment to re-run a story by Tony James from our summer 2016 magazine, all about the Tuckers at West Luccombe Farm and this time-honoured event. We hasten to add that, as it stands, the forecast for the 2017 show (see poster, below) is looking promising!… (Photo above shows Charmain, John and Edith in the kitchen at West Luccombe Farm, by Andrew Hobbs).
“When I looked out of the window and saw the weather, I just couldn’t believe it,” says Charmain Dascombe (née Tucker). She
shudders at the memory. “We’d never had anything like it. All those poor people… “.
As it proved, it would take more than appalling weather to wash out the biggest event in the West Luccombe calendar – the traditional Porlock Horse Show, which for the past 40 years has been held on one of Charmain’s dad’s fields, and which, in July 2013, blithely carried on as usual, despite unseasonable cold, torrential rain and gale-force winds.
For Charmain, secretary since 2000, it was the culmination of nearly six months’ work and not a few sleepless nights putting together a show which has more than doubled in size since the time four local farmers sat around a kitchen table in 1971 to think of a way of raising money for local good causes. Since then, the show has only been cancelled a few times, including once during the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.
“We lost the sheep classes because of foot-and-mouth and we had to fight quite hard to bring them back,” Charmain remembers. “Now they’re stronger than ever, which is as it should be, because sheep are very important around here.”
The show, like most things in this neck of the woods, has hardly changed in conception over the years – a classic country event with horse and pony classes, a traditional gymkhana, a parade of hounds, Exmoor Horn sheep classes, competitions for stags’ antlers and a dog show with prizes for the scruffiest ‘Doodle’ and the waggiest tail.
But make no mistake, this is a serious show, impeccably organised, with top-class competitors and stock and, while some similar rural events may have languished for lack of interest, the West Luccombe show has flourished. It now has four rings instead of the original two and the dog show has grown to the point where it has its own field.
Charmain has no doubt about the secret of its longevity. “The main aim is to have a really good family atmosphere and for children to have a nice day and to come away with a rosette. That’s the whole point of it really.”
She’s been involved with the show since childhood and her father, John Tucker, has been chairman for the past 25 years. Does he enjoy it? The reply is a cautious, “I don’t know if ‘enjoy’ is the right word.” But Andrew Hobbs and I saw him out there in last year’s wind and rain and he had a smile for everybody. John’s mother Edith, 95 at the time of writing this article, always played an active part in the show and Charmain has this photo of her presenting prizes in 1981.
Not surprisingly, the show becomes the main topic of conversation over mugs of tea in the kitchen of John’s West Luccombe Farm,
a welly’s throw from the show field. It first moved there in 1976 after five years in Old Lane, Bossington, and has been in West
Luccombe ever since.
“The access to Old Lane was difficult and so my father offered a field here,” John recalls. “The problem was that the show was always on the last Sunday in July – it still is – and my father disagreed with that. He was very traditional that way, but eventually we managed to persuade him.
“The show wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the dozens of local helpers who come every year. Last year was probably the worst conditions we’ve ever had but they still turned up to make the sandwiches, steward the events and put up the jumps. The lovely thing is that
we’re now getting the grandchildren of the original helpers. That must bode well for the future.
“We don’t like meetings so we usually only have two a year – one in January about general organisation and the other to decide who will get our money! I have to admit that Charmain is left with most of the work and that can be pretty stressful, but she does a great job.”
“I never thought I’d hear you say that,” says his daughter with a smile.
The show generates around £2,000 a year for Porlock causes, which have included the cricket and football clubs, recreation ground, the
Visitor Centre, village hall, Christmas pantomime and plants for summer flower schemes.
You’ve got to tread carefully in this tight-knit little world… Charmain’s husband, David Dascombe, is a cousin of Julian Dascombe at Burrowhayes, who got his ten-acre field from John Tucker’s father… Janet Harding, of Horner Vale Tearoom, was last year’s show president and her husband Mike is the treasurer…
Not surprisingly, West Luccombe Farm, with its massive stone barns and impressive buildings, dominates this tiny hamlet. John Tucker has leased it from the National Trust since he was 29, after a Hardyesque turn of events combining good fortune and sadness with risk and challenge.
Since 1940, John’s father had farmed sheep on the family’s 700 acres at Lucott, high on the moor above Nutscale Water, and he was also the tenant farmer of 350 acres at West Luccombe. John took over Lucott when his dad moved down the valley to West Luccombe in 1963. “Then, after my father died in 1979, I approached the National Trust to take over the tenancy at West Luccombe.
“The agent asked if I would take on the ground at West Lynch as well, because the tenant, Tom Rawle, was retiring. That meant that our National Trust acreage would double overnight – from the 150 acres at West Luccombe to a total of 300, with West Lynch. And this was on top of the 700 acres at Lucott. I decided to go for it. You do these things when you’re young!”
Now responsible for 1,000 acres, John had to move fast. “I didn’t have enough stock for the land so I started growing corn, which I had never done before. We grew as good malting barley as you could get anywhere in the country and were getting £160 a ton –
more than you can get now.
“The problem was that because the ground was so stony you could only get about two tons an acre, when it was reckoned you needed double that to make a living. So we gave up and went back to sheep.
“I confess I got a lot more pleasure from that,” says the man who’s now a nationally-recognised judge of Exmoor Horns and whose son Dick, now running the Lucott farm, was judging sheep at the last Porlock Horse Show.
John reckons that Lucott land, much of it at 1,500ft, is ideal for his 1,300-strong flock. It’s cooler in summer and there are fewer
flies. “Exmoor Horns will live off very sparse vegetation and, if you cross them with a Leicester Bluefaced ram to get an Exmoor Mule, they’ll compete with any North Country breed and are easier to handle than Exmoor Horns.”
Life could be tough on the Dunkery slopes but it had its compensations. “When I was living up at Lucott during the winter of 1962-3 the snow was so bad I didn’t go to school from Christmas to Easter,” John says. “It was great. The snow was higher than the hedges and I rode my pony over the tops of gates. They brought us hay with a helicopter and I walked on the ice across Nutscale Water.”
But on this warm evening, winter seems an unreal memory. This year’s show is approaching fast and there’s still lots to do before Charmain, John and their band of helpers can be pretty certain that, come rain or shine, it will once more be a day to remember.