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MORE EXCITEMENT FOR WEST COUNTRY BLACKSMITHS AT HOME AND AWAY

It has been an exciting time for Exmoor-based craftsmen West Country Blacksmiths who were featured on Grand Designs last week (read more here).

For another high-profile commission, they have also recently produced over 750 bespoke stainless-steel flowers and 4,500 leaves for the prestigious Chelsea Barracks development, built on the former Army barracks which was brought by the Qatari Diar.

The blacksmiths were awarded the unique opportunity to work in collaboration with London-based designer Tord Boontje to develop the designs and make the metalwork used to decorate the Townhouse balustrades of the development.

Each balcony of the development has a different combination of 12 flowers – all commonly found in Britain. The flowers include wild roses, garden roses, winter roses, almond blossoms, carnations, peonies, cosmos, violets and anemones.

The blacksmiths received high praise for this project and were pleased to welcome a team from Chelsea Barracks to film them at work for promotional materials and a documentary due in 2020.

Designer Tord Boontje said,  “Nowadays, it’s not so common to find blacksmiths – and especially really good ones. The better the blacksmith is, the higher the quality of the craftsmanship and the more beautifully my designs will be translated. So I spent a lot of time researching blacksmiths in Britain, and visited many different workshops.

“Eventually, I struck on West Country Blacksmiths, an exciting and accomplished team of metalworkers operating out of a seventeenth-century forge in Somerset. “They are a very highly skilled, energetic young team who are a pleasure to work with. And they have a very nice way of interpreting my designs and making them into metal.”

Closer to home, West Country Blacksmiths have restored the weathervane on the bell tower of the Market House Museum in Watchet as part of the museum’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

The wrought-iron and copper weathervane has been a feature of the Watchet rooftops for over 32 years. However, both time and exposure to the sea air had taken its toll on the weathervane, damaging the copper sailing boat and corroding the metalwork.

Allerford Forge were commissioned to restore the weathervane by the museum committee and fully funded by the Watchet Market House Museum.

The craftmen removed the weathervane for a short period to allow the ship’s sails to be replaced and the remaining copperwork to be cleaned and repaired. The smiths also restored the mainframe of the weathervane by removing over 30 years of rust and paint from the metalwork, reforging missing and damaged components and weld repairing where required.

Once the repairs were completed the blacksmiths galvanised and heritage black painted the brackets and repatinated the copper top.

The weathervane was reinstalled by the team in October and it is hoped to be there for many more years to come.

The weathervane is owned by the museum and was first installed in the bell tower in 1987, replacing a plain one which is now displayed on the lighthouse in the harbour.

HALSWAY CONCERT: ANNE NIEPOLD AND RICCARDO TESI

Halsway Manor is delighted to present an evening concert with two extraordinarily gifted and influential European musicians, Anne Niepold and Riccardo Tesi on Thursday 17 October at 8pm. Both are considered amongst the greatest living exponents of the diatonic button accordion (melodeon), though their styles and repertoire vary greatly.

Anne Niepold is a familiar name to many at Halsway, having tutored at several courses at the Manor; this will be Riccardo Tesi‘s first visit to Halsway, and a rare chance to see him play in the UK. Both Anne and Ricardo are tutoring on a week-long Melodeon Workshop for advanced/intermediate players at the Manor, in addition to performing around the UK.

Anne Niepold is a renowned musician and composer. Having started in the world of traditional music, she developed an interest in improvised music and studied jazz composition and arrangement at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, where she won her Masters degree as well as the prestigious Toots Thielemans Jazz Award. Anne will be debuting material from her new album Vita Brevis.

“Anne is an incredible diatonic accordion player. Nothing scares her. She knows no limits. On the contrary, she magnifies the constraints of her accordion with impressive results.” Accordéon et Accordéonistes magazine

Riccardo Tesi is an internationally acclaimed accordion player and composer, and one of the most daring and authoritative musicians on the European world music scene. He has an instantly recognisable style, drawing on ancient and modern musical languages, he has widened the vocabulary and the technique of an instrument that has long been associated with traditional music. Over 35 years he has played with world music artists such as Elena Ledda, Justin Vali, Kepa Junkera, John Kirkpatrick and Patrick Vaillant, jazz musicians Gianluigi Trovesi and Gabriele Mirabassi, and great songwriters such as Ivano Fossati, Fabrizio De Andrè and Gian Maria Testa. Leader of Banditaliana , one of the most renowned Italian groups on the world music international scene , and member of Samurai, all stars quintet of European accordion players, he has played in the most important jazz and folk festivals all over Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan.

Tickets are priced £10; £4 student concessions. Buy securely online at www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

PHOTO: ®JPohl

DUNSTER BEACH HUT URGES OTHERS TO JOIN THE PLASTIC FREE REVOLUTION

Salad Days and Holi Moli, two multi-award-winning 5-star beach huts at Dunster Beach, have received further recognition, this time by Surfers against Sewage and Plastic Free Minehead & West Somerset.

“The two beach huts have a long list of awards, but this one is really special,” said Brett Bates, who co-owns the beach huts with his partner Susan Juggins. “We have always been environmentally conscious, during the refurbishment and the running of both our huts, but when we got involved with Plastic Free Minehead & West Somerset, an environmental action group run by Surfers Against Sewage as part of their Plastic Free Communities campaign, we decided we could go one step further and make our little green huts just a little bit greener.”

Dunster Beach Huts looked at all their processes and supplies to see how they could become as single-use-plastic-free as possible. Brett said, “Some areas were easier than others; for example, we have always done beach cleans inspired by 2 Minute Beach Clean, so we now actively encourage our guests and social media followers to do their own beach cleans, and the ‘David Attenborough effect’ has certainly made it easier to get this message across.” Guests at Salad Days and Holi Moli are now provided with their own picker sticks and beach clean bags. Brett and Susan changed some of their supplies to include eco-friendly shower and shampoo cubes instead of plastic bottles, locally made natural guest soaps, homemade jam and marmalade in reusable jars, homemade wax food wraps to replace cling film and glass water bottles in the fridge to save wasting water by running the tap to mention just a few of the changes. Even their doggy guests can get involved using bamboo dog bowls, refillable water bottles and biodegradable poop bags. Their guest changeovers have become greener too, by only using environmentally friendly cleaning products and using old tea towels as cleaning cloths instead of bought-in cloths.

“Our aim now is to continue on this green path even further, by being even more conscious of our sustainability as a company, but also in our private lives and to encourage other Somerset businesses to follow our lead and help give the world a single-use -plastic-free future,” Brett concluded. For further information on becoming a plastic-free champion see the Surfers against Sewage website or follow Plastic Free Minehead and West Somerset on Facebook.

THE HOUSE WITHOUT WINDOWS AT NUMBER SEVEN DULVERTON

Following on from the phenomenal success of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, many will be intrigued to discover the next publication to feature Jackie’s distinctive illustrations. The Lost Words was recently awarded the prestigious CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. Judged solely by librarians, the award is the highest accolade awarded to illustrators working in the UK – past winners include Raymond Briggs, Shirley Hughes and Quentin Blake.

Jackie is much in demand for public appearances due to the success of The Lost Words. She was recently centre stage at the Royal Albert Hall, painting live and reciting poems as part of The Lost Words BBC Prom. Number Seven has supported Jackie for many years and they are delighted to be hosting the launch party for The House Without Windows, published by Hamish Hamilton, away from the bright lights of London, here on Exmoor.

Two events are planned. The first is at Loyton Lodge, where a relaxing afternoon awaits with the aim of capturing the essence of The House Without Windows which is an entirely unique story of one little girl’s desire to escape into the wilderness.

Little Eepersip doesn’t want to live in a house with doors and windows and a roof, so she runs away to live in the wild – first in the Meadow, then by the Sea, and finally in the Mountain. Her heartbroken parents follow her, bringing her back home to ‘safety’ and locking her up in the stifling square of the house. But she slips away once more, following her heart into the richness of untrammelled nature and disappearing forever.

First published in 1927 and written by a child of just 12 years old, The House Without Windows is an extraordinary paean to the transcendent beauty of the natural world, and the human capacity to connect with it.

Throughout the afternoon Jackie will be painting and discussing her desire to illustrate and re-publish Barbara Newhall Follett’s book. Musical accompaniment is provided by cellist Julia Vohralik and principal violinist Katherine Shave. Julia has played with the Hallé and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, and Katherine was leader of the English Touring Opera Orchestra. Both currently play for the Britten Sinfonia. Christopher Jelley has mown a labyrinth into the long grass and Adam Fanson, the chef at Loyton, has planned a picnic of sandwiches, colourful cakes and pots of tea. Booking is essential and tickets (£24) are available direct from Number Seven.

The second event is on Saturday 28 September and you will find Jackie in residence at Number Seven from 10am until 3pm, signing copies of her many titles. There is no need to book and admission is free. Copies of all her titles will be available to purchase, alongside a display of new illustrations created for The House Without Windows.

www.numbersevendulverton.co.uk.

SCHOOL LAUNCHES EXCITING CREATIVE ARTS EVENTS FOR NORTH DEVON PUBLIC

West Buckland School is opening its doors as a new venue for the arts in North Devon, with the launch of ARTS@WB, an exciting cultural programme of stand-up comedy, dance, music, art and drama events, open to the North Devon public. The majority of the productions will be held in the school’s fabulous 150 Arts building, where visitors will also be able to browse exhibitions from distinguished artists.

ARTS@WB has been created by the school’s Director of Music and Performing Arts, Emma Kent, who many will know from her work with the North Devon Sinfonia and who has always been a great supporter of the arts in North Devon.

“ARTS@WB is a really exciting new venture for the school and the wider community,” she said. “Hopefully everyone will find something in the programme which will whet their appetite for culture and the arts and tempt them to visit our beautiful campus to enjoy a social and thought-provoking evening.”

As well as enjoying the main attraction, visitors are encouraged to come early, pick up a glass of something and enjoy a browse around the school’s stunning 150 Arts building where there will be a number of exhibitions on display from emerging artists.

The programme is suitable for people across the age groups and there are a limited number of student tickets, priced at just £1.

Legally Blonde and Katie Derham

Highlights for the 2019-2020 programme include a critically acclaimed circus and dance performance by Nikki Rummer and JD Broussé, a comedy club night featuring Noel Brodie, Jo Coffey, Chris Leworthy and Angie Belcher, a show-stopping production of the West End hit Legally Blonde at the Queen’s theatre and an Evening with Katie Derham – an insight into the life of the well-known arts journalist and presenter of the Proms season on the BBC.

For more information, or to download a copy of the full ARTS@WB brochure, please visit: www.westbuckland.com/arts-at-wb.

TOP: “Thirsty” by Paper Birds, just one of the many exciting productions at West Buckland School as part of their ARTS@WB.

SWAN GLIDES OFF WITH MORE AWARDS AND OPENS SISTER RESTAURANT

The multi-award-winning Swan in Devon has recently secured yet more awards for 2019 and its owners have also officially unveiled plans for a new restaurant they are set to open next month.

The gastropub with rooms in Bampton has retained its four AA Gold Stars and two AA Rosettes for Culinary Excellence for the fifth year running following a recent visit by the organisation’s inspector.

Chef-patron Paul Berry, who co-owns The Swan with his wife and fellow award-winning chef Donna, said: “This couldn’t have come at a better time for us and we’re delighted. At the start of next month, we’re opening our new restaurant called Spelt.

“We’ve taken on the old bakery shop in Bampton and created a new concept style restaurant and we’re taking bookings now for tables from 12 September, so there’s lots going on! Anyone who would like to book in should get in touch soon, as we expect to be run off our feet once we open, as interest has been so high in the run up to this!

“It’s going to be very different from The Swan in style, but we’ll still be very much focused on the wonderful local produce we use and serving up the tastiest dishes going. We’ll offer a selection of dishes that have been developed for sharing, so no starters as such and no mains either, so if two people are going to eat, possibly they’d have four or five plates of food.

“We’ll be offering visitors from further afield, or those who live nearby but fancy a night over, special packages so they can dine at Spelt and stay with us at The Swan too.

“Spelt represents a wonderful adventure for us and it’s great having something new in the pipeline. Whatever happens though, rest assured, we will not be taking our eyes off the ball at The Swan. We have a deep-rooted passion for the pub, and it is just as important to us today as it was eight years ago when we took it on.”

The Swan is no stranger to celebrations and has had quite a haul of awards already in the past year. A few months ago, the AA named it as the nation’s ‘Inn of the Year’ at a star-studded awards event in London.

In the spring, it was declared for the third year running as one of the best gastropubs in the country too.

It polled in at number 20 in the ‘Estrella Damm’ Top 50 Gastropub Awards, which are voted for by food writers, executive chefs, celebrity and top hospitality industry chefs, pub guide editors, industry chiefs and food operators.

It also received a special award as the highest climber in the list in 2018, when it was rated 28th.

To add to this last year, The Swan was named Gold Tourism Pub of the Year 2018 at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards and being voted Best Dining Pub for 2018 in the Trencherman Awards.

And at the end of the year, chef-patron Donna Berry was also one of three finalists in both the Devon Life and Trencherman Awards too.

Paul added: “Donna is a wonderful chef and Spelt is her vision. Myself, and the our whole team, are very much with her in this new venture. It’s exciting times for us all!”

The team at Spelt is taking bookings officially for 12 September onwards.

To find out more about The Swan and Spelt, please call The Swan on 01398 332248 or visit www.theswan.co or Spelt on 01398 331044.

ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN BIKES FOR EXMOOR!

Exmoor Adventures, who are celebrating their tenth birthday this year,  are excited to announce that they have purchased a fleet of E-mountain bikes.

Dan French, owner of Exmoor Adventures, writes:

“What better way to celebrate ten years of trading than with a brand-new offering for the area. We now have 8 hardtail and full suspension E-bikes to add to our existing fleet of 35 mountain bikes. This will make us the only supplier of E-mountain bike hire on Exmoor and the Quantock Hills, aiming to attract new audiences to the area, as well as catering for local residents.

“E-bikes have grown hugely in popularity over the years, with sales in the UK now matching sales for traditional bikes. Even Sir Chris Hoy rides one – “E-bikes are a nice combination of using your own human power and having a bit of assistance too. And once you’ve ridden an E-bike, you completely get it,” he has said.

“The motor ‘assists’ you as you pedal, so you still get to exercise, with a welcome boost up the hills, which is needed with the steep inclines of Exmoor.

“We’ll be promoting an ‘E-bike route’ which will take participants from Porlock Weir, up onto Porlock Hill and across the moors where you can enjoy fantastic views across Exmoor and the coastline, before descending back down to sea level.

“We’ve had a lot of positive interest and will be teaming up with local accommodation providers and businesses to offer packages and unique experiences.

“We’ll be hiring out the bikes from our base at Porlock Weir, as well as running guided E-rides and other courses and events. With Locanda and the Ship Inn being popular places to eat and stay at the Weir, and the Porlock Weir Hotel also opening soon, along with local shops and cafes to choose from, this will be the perfect place to start and finish a ride.

“Why not join us on Good Friday  (19 April)  for a half-day guided ride starting from Porlock Weir and heading up onto the moorland. Aimed at beginners to off-road cycling, it costs only £50pp including instruction and E-bike hire (6 spaces available).

“A big thank you to Exmoor National Park who have helped to fund this new project, and local company Tuned Cycles for helping us get them ready for the trails!

“These E-bikes are perfect for all ages (14+) and abilities – please get in touch to find out more, and keep an eye on our social media and website for upcoming special events. Come and have a go!”

Standard mountain bike hire: £25 per day
Hardtail mountain E-bike hire: £50 per day
Full suspension E-bike hire: £65 per day
www.exmooradventures.co.uk

SLEET AND SNOW FAIL TO DAMPEN WEST BUCKLAND SCHOOL’S ‘EXMOOR RUN’

It was a case of ‘four seasons in one day’ for West Buckland School’s annual cross-country run, ‘The Exmoor’!

The event, which has taken place on the last Thursday of the Easter term for over 160 years, involves pupils from year 8 upwards running up to 10 miles across some of Exmoor’s most beautiful, and steep, landscape, back to the main school.

If that’s isn’t tough enough, all senior school students from year 8 and above walk around eight miles to the start points, one of which was covered in snow this year, before they even begin the run back to school. This year’s race started in snow, threw in some hail, wind and sunshine and finished in sleet.

It is a very popular event, with over 60 parents, former pupils, friends and members of the local community participating in the race. Although most people run to achieve their best time, the sense of camaraderie is fantastic, with runners stopping to help those who need it, determined to help them to finish. Well done to all who participated in this much-loved and equally dreaded event!

TOBY BUCKLAND’S GARDEN FESTIVAL COMING UP

Garden presenter Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival is back for a sixth year in 2019 and it’s going to be a treat for fans of TV gardening. Popular presenters from BBC Two’s Gardeners’ World – Joe Swift and Frances Tophill – are speaking at the award-winning event on 3 and 4 May at Powderham Castle, near Exeter in Devon, along with actor John Challis – better known as ‘Boycie’ from Only Fools and Horses – and RHS judge Jim Buttress.

Garden designer Joe Swift has been one of the main presenters on the BBC Two’s flagship gardening show since 1998 and is speaking on Friday 3 May. Frances Tophill, who travels the UK presenting on GW and ITV’s Love Your Garden, is at the festival on Saturday 4 May. Frances hails from Kent but now lives near the sea in Exeter and takes a keen interest in coastal gardens.

Toby says, “I’m delighted to welcome two high-calibre gardeners who really know their onions, both ornamental and edible!”

Talks are held in Powderham Castle’s magnificent wood-panelled Dining Hall and are free to festival visitors. Other highlights include a new larger VIP area, a new layout providing more under-cover space in the castle’s old riding stables and a new talks tent, plus the festival is now dog-friendly for the first time.

Tickets are now on sale and cost £10 for adults (children under 12 go free). VIP tickets cost. £55 See www.tobygardenfest.co.uk for more information.

EASTER EVENTS AT ROSEMOOR

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Garden Rosemoor in Devon has teamed up with publisher Macmillan Children’s Books for an exciting programme of family fun during the Easter Holidays (6-22 April), based on The Rhyming Rabbit, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Lydia Monks.

The Rhyming Rabbit is a clever adventure from the picture book partnership of Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks, creators of What the Ladybird Heard and Sugarlump and the Unicorn. With brilliant rhyming verse, bright and distinctive illustrations, this story is a delight to read aloud.

Families can enjoy The Rhyming Rabbit Hop About Trail which will take them around the garden, meeting the Rhyming Rabbit’s animal friends along the way. Youngsters can also take part in craft activities such as the chance to make their very own rabbit headband. Other workshops will help families explore how animals live in the wild and in their gardens, how plants help to sustain them and what they can do to support wildlife of all kinds.

Amanda Cole, Head of Marketing at the RHS, says: “The Rhyming Rabbit is a delightful tale of exploring the world around us and making new friends in unlikely places, and we are thrilled to be bringing the story to life in our gardens this Easter. Just like the character in the book, our visitors will discover all kinds of creatures and plants as they journey around the gardens.”

Alyx Price, Communications Director at Macmillan Children’s Books, adds: “We are delighted to be partnering with the RHS again in 2019. Together we can introduce The Rhyming Rabbit and his friends to a wide audience this Easter and the activities promise to be great fun for all ages.”

Other activities taking place this Easter include: The Golden Carrot hunt when families can solve the clues leading to the location of the Golden Carrot on a map for a chance to win books and RHS prizes.

At the start of the school holidays on 6 and 7 April, Rosemoor is hosting a brand new event – Wool & Yarn Fest. This will include a wealth of traders and displays of products from talented local craftspeople as well as a number of demonstrations and workshops using these versatile materials. In addition, there will be young alpacas and spring lambs for all the family to meet.

On Tuesday 9 and 16 April, The Really Wild Learning Show with Kim Insull returns to Rosemoor with his collection of minibeasts and creatures to get up close with, some of which are laying eggs! This is a ticketed event (plus normal garden admission) and there is limited capacity of 30 children per show priced at £2.50 per child (aged 3yrs and over) and tickets need to be booked in advance to avoid disappointment.

For more information and to book tickets, please visit the website rhs.org.uk/rosemoor or phone 01805 626810.