Spears Cross, the award-winning boutique Bed & Breakfast in Dunster, has just landed a further accolade. It has been chosen as a Winner in the ‘Bargain Hotel’ category by Trip Advisor in its 2013 Traveller’s Choice awards.
Now in its eleventh year, the annual Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice awards honour the UK and indeed the world’s best accommodation providers. Uniquely, the Traveller’s Choice Winners are based on millions of valuable guest reviews and opinions from travellers around the World.
Spears Cross owners Cliff and Tricia Nicholson commented “We are really thrilled about this. When you consider the sheer number of accommodation businesses in the UK, for us to become a Winner within Trip Advisor is quite an achievement. Whilst we are too small to be officially classified as a hotel, we offer the same amenities and level of luxury as a good quality Country House hotel, hence us being placed in the ‘Bargain Hotel’ category.”
Spears Cross has in the past won the ‘Best Bed & Breakfast in the South West’ award from South West Tourism the ‘Best Bed & Breakfast on Exmoor’ award from Visit Exmoor as well as being a ‘Gold’ award winner from Taste of the West. Its current award from Visit England is a ‘Breakfast’ award.
The Trip Advisor awards are based upon more than 75 million reviews and opinions from guests around the globe. This makes it the World’s largest and most respected travel site with over 60 million visitors to the website each month.
Teachers from more than 2,800 schools across the South West can now nominate for Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Young School Gardener of the Year 2013, a quest to find the most knowledgeable, enthusiastic and talented gardening pupil in the UK.
The competition is open to all schools on the RHS Campaign for School Gardening scheme, of which there are nearly 16,500 in the UK, and aimed at children up to the age of 16. RHS Campaign for School Gardening started in 2007 to support and encourage UK schools to use a garden as a teaching resource and has gone from strength to strength.
Last year, eleven-year-old Lucas Hatch from Suffolk won the title by impressing judges with his flair, enthusiasm and knowledge of gardening. As part of his prize, Lucas spent the day with RHS Wisley Curator, Colin Crosbie and was presented with a certificate and personalised trowel bearing his name. His school, St Mary’s Primary School in Suffolk, received £500 worth of gardening vouchers and his family won tickets to RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2013.
All last year’s category winners have been busy since last year. Six-year-old Toby Owen-Hughes, from Knaresborough in North Yorkshire, dazzled teachers with his gardening knowledge in a live Gardeners Question Time at the Campaign regional conference at RHS Harlow Carr. 14-year-old Henry Grubb, a ‘mini David Attenborough’ has started his own gardening blog and Alan Monk (Key Stage 4 winner) was interviewed for Growing Communities, an RHS publication.
Sarah Cathcart, Head of Education and Learning at the RHS, said: “Lucas has had a brilliant year and despite being on TV, in the papers and interviewed on radio, success hasn’t gone to his head and most of the time he’s still outdoors doing what he loves best – gardening and growing plants.
“We launched this competition last year to raise the profile of gardening in schools and to celebrate gardening skills in young people. In part, because our research proves it helps a child’s wellbeing and development, but also because there’s a wealth of horticultural jobs out there. We had more than a hundred nominations last year and are hoping for even more this year – so teachers: get nominating!”
Teachers and other adults associated with the school can nominate a pupil by visiting www.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening by May 18. A shortlist of finalists will then be asked to create videos. These will be watched by a panel of judges including broadcaster and The Sun’s Gardening Editor, Peter Seabrook, and TV gardener, David Domoney.
The winner of RHS Young School Gardener of the Year 2013 will be announced on 12 July, 2013.
Torbridge Vets (www.torbridgevets.co.uk), which have four veterinary surgeries across North Devon, are pleased to announce their sponsorship of Dogs Helping Kids (www.dogshelpingkids.co.uk). This unique, local charity is dedicated to using highly trained dogs to help teach children non-violence, empathy, respect, kindness, love, responsibility, friendship and trust. As Torbridge specialise in caring for pets, this is an ideal partnership.
Dogs Helping Kids aim to educate, help and support children and teenagers of all ages, backgrounds, sexes and abilities, using very special dogs. These animals are trained to an incredibly high standard, before going into schools, colleges and libraries, to assist with education and therapy.
Charity founder Tracey Berridge is working hard to raise the profile of the charity. Recently she, one of the trustees, a very helpful volunteer, and Teazel (one of the charities top School Dogs) with her owner Gail Laurence, visited the House of Commons in London, to demonstrate the dogs’ skills, discuss the charity’s works and its ambitions for the future. Tracey says: “The House of Commons was amazing and Teazel in particular did the charity proud. She is one of our School Dogs that can read flash cards and she bowled people over with her demonstrations! But after so much preparation, the whole thing seemed to be over very quickly. However, it all went really well, we met some key people and managed to take loads of photos, which you can now see on our Dogs Helping Kids website.”
She continued: “The impact these special animals have can be enormous. Academic research has shown that dogs in the school environment can improve academic achievement and motivation – including literacy – promotes calm behavior, improve social skills and self esteem, and teach responsibility and respect.”
Teazel’s very proud owner Gail talks fondly of her pet: “I kept home-bred Teazel, who is a Labradoodle, just as I was diagnosed with cancer and only had four months to train her before surgery. On my return from hospital, Teazel seemed to know something was different. She is the most gentle, loving dog ever. She loves people and is very respectful of children. She really enjoys Agility, visiting elderly people in local care homes (she is registered P.A.T. dog), but also laying on the sofa for cuddles! Teazel has passed the Kennel Club Good Citizen Award Bronze and Silver and is now a Visiting School Dog and an Educational School Dog, working in Southmead Primary School, Braunton.”
Torbridge Vets are proud that they will partner Dogs Helping Kids in working towards the charity’s aim of a dog in every school and library in the United Kingdom. At the same time they will help promote the positive role that dogs have in society, and in children’s lives. Veterinary Director of Torbridge Bill Slee says: “Much research has concluded that contact with pets reduces stress levels and when this beneficial effect is coupled with expert, intensive training of exceptionally intelligent dogs, the results are outstanding. We are delighted to become sponsors of Dogs Helping Kids and encourage other local businesses to consider doing the same. The charity is undertaking sterling work with proven outcomes, but to continue – and indeed grow – it needs funds. To this end, beginning in January, Torbridge Vets will begin an initiative where every canine vaccination will generate a £1 donation to DHK.”
To talk to Tracey Berridge about sponsorship, please email her at
The Culbone – Exmoor’s highest restaurant with rooms – is celebrating its second award this autumn; the team are thrilled to have won the Taste of the West’s ‘Best Christmas Menu’ this week, after winning a Silver Taste of the West Flavour Award in September.
The judges said “We were really impressed with The Culbone’s entry. The staff truly embrace the produce available to them and they work with an impressive number of incredible local producers.”
The award-winning menu includes whole roasted local partridge, rump of Exmoor horn lamb, roasted Somerset turkey and pan-roasted sea trout as well as starters including Brixham smoked salmon and crisp fried Somerset brie. The menu is available from now until 24 December and the restaurant is open 1200 – 2300 (2230 on Sundays). Two courses cost £24.95 and 3 courses £29.95.All the usual Culbone classics such as local fish of the day and Devon Red Steaks from Big Red Cow down the road are also available.
GM Mark Sanders is delighted. “We have had an excellent year and have really concentrated on building our links with local producers. Head Chef Jack Scarterfield has worked incredibly hard to open our new cookery school and to plan a whole range of excellent workshops focussing on local produce. Winning ‘Best Christmas Menu’ is a great finish to 2012.”
To Book a Christmas or New Year meal at The Culbone call 01643 862259 or visit www.TheCulbone.com ; there is still good availability leading up to Christmas. The Culbone is almost full for its de-luxe Christmas Day meal but has a few tables left for New Years Eve where the six course menu celebrates all that is the very best on Exmoor (£70 per person).
It is a very exciting time of the year here on Exmoor: the rut (breeding season) has started for the red deer and we have had a spectacular safari weekend with several sightings of roaring stags. The best sightings were near the coast from a hidden track to which we have access. On one occasion, Neil spotted a herd of hinds resting in the high grass on a slope, so he stopped the car and and let everyone get out. Suddenly the group spotted a large stag who started approaching and sniffing the hinds. The hinds were a bit reluctant, so they just got up and wandered off. The stag was chasing after a few when suddenly a second younger stag emerged over the ridge from the woods and approached the herd. There was a bit of roaring and then the big stag chased the young pretender off. These moments are really amazing to witness and be part of.
The past weekend was also one of glorious autumn weather and apart from our splendid safaris we also had a group of four ladies who went out on our electric bikes. It was their first visit to Exmoor and North Devon and their first ride on an e-bike. As they followed the coast road from our meeting point to Hunters Inn they were ecstatic about the dramatic cliff views onto the Bristol Channel and Wales. When they approached the Heddon Valley near Hunters Inn with smiles on their faces, Christel was waiting for them with a picnic basket filled with delicious food and drinks. There was dressed crab and smoked trout supplied by local fishmonger Passmores, couscous, houmous, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, lambs lettuce, a selection of bread and a bottle of award-winning sparkling wine from Yearlstone vineyard in Devon. The ladies gathered around the picnic table next to the fast flowing river Heddon and we all enjoyed the autumn sunshine, the food and drinks, the views and good company. After lunch the group went for a walk to Heddon’s Mouth with more splendid views. Then they continued on their bike tour towards Woody Bay and back to Hunters Inn for cake and tea. The ladies loved their day out and said there is no better way to explore this stunning area than to go out on an electric bike as you are totally part of the natural environment, able to see, hear and smell everything as you go along.
For more pictures of the Exmoor experiences of the past weekend, have a look at the albums 4×4 Discoveries and Electric Bike hire on our Facebook page:
Winning a Silver Award at the 2012 South West Flavour Awards this month is a huge achievement for Exmoor’s highest restaurant The Culbone, which has been operating for just over a year. Judges from the awards were looking for commitment to local and regional sourcing, providing fresh, traceable products and excellence in customer service. The Culbone has built up a loyal customer base by offering all of these qualities in a stylish and welcoming restaurant in the fabulous surroundings of Exmoor National Park.
Formerly part of the Taste of the West Awards, the increasing popularity of the hospitality and retail award categories over recent years led to the decision to launch a dedicated South West Flavour Awards programme to celebrate quality and provenance within these particular industries.
General Manager Mark Sanders is delighted with the award. “This is great recognition for all the hard work that the team have put in and we are really proud that our local staff are developing their careers here. We have excellent support from Exmoor producers and we source the best produce from local & regional suppliers. We start work on our community garden and allotment soon.”
Perched high up on the moors between Lynmouth and Porlock in West Somerset, The Culbone’s enviable location is a great backdrop for the restaurant’s high quality meals. Executive Chef Jack Scarterfield is passionate about local food. A Somerset boy, he has lived and worked in the UK and Thailand before coming home. “The countryside inspires me. The quality of the produce is really amazing here and I believe the cattle are amongst the best in the country. I am very proud to have won this award.”
Steaks are a particular highlight at The Culbone. The beef comes from Big Red Cow, a Ruby Red Devon herd, bursting with flavour and farmed nearby at the National Trust Holnicote Estate. A tour of the farm and a master class on how to prepare and cook beef is included in The Culbone’s Exmoor Food Safaris starting this autumn and based in their new Cookery School. A great line-up of courses is on offer in the Cookery School, as well as the very popular Chef’s Table; a private dining experience for 8 where guests can watch and learn as Jack prepares a delicious twist on the dinner party theme.
The Culbone also has five relaxing and comfortable rooms for overnight guests who want to linger over the food and explore the Exmoor area.
Mark Sanders comments “This award will help to convey our quality and values to our customers: we are totally committed to serving the very best regional produce and being a vibrant part of the local community.”
Blundell’s School had some impressive results at the UK Schools Eventing Championships held at Stonar, with two pupils coming back to Devon as national champions. Tabitha Pring, riding Prim and Proper, was champion in the 15 and under BE90 class; she and her team mates of Didi Eaton, Eleanor Ansell and Lola Watt were runners up in this class, with Lola coming fourth individually.
In the 18 and under BE100 class – the toughest of the competition – Eleanor Ansell, riding Grace, became national champion when she was outright winner of her section. The Blundell’s team of Eleanor, Ed Barlow and Saskia Simonson secured a creditable fifth place, despite the disadvantage of only being a team of three.
Another Blundell’s team, of Sara Wright, Zara Cameron, Will Smith and Georgia Wood, had their first run at the championships and gained a notable fourth place in the BE80 team, with Georgia taking seventh individual place.
Team trainer Tim Cheffings was delighted with the Blundell’s representation and said that such a consistent performance across all levels at Championship level was a real cause for celebration.
From 1-27 October Churchgate Gallery in Porlock, Somerset will be showing new watercolours from Jonathon Walker. Open Monday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm
The exhibition which starts on Monday 1 October will host a collection of over 35 original paintings and give visitors the opportunity to view all Jonathan’s limited edition prints under one roof. Jonathan’s delightful and superbly painted ‘anthropomorphic’ watercolours of charismatic characters’ have been gathering collectors and fans from all over the world. He observes a secret world where foxes, badgers and hares (among many) take up cast off human garments and sensibilities. Great drama and mischief ensues and, while their characters remind us of ourselves, they are never robbed of their intrinsic “animalness”. Dandies, rakes and rascals, they are all rooted in the landscape, unsentimental and unrepentant.
Jonathan is influenced by many wonderful illustrators. Including Arthur Rackham, Beatrix Potter, Heath Robinson, Brian Froud, and more recently Mick Cawston. As an interesting aside it was Jonathan who initially influenced Mick’s, now famous, dressed fox pictures. It is, however, Jonathan’s draughtsmanship and humour that makes his paintings unmistakably contemporary and unique.
Jonathan will in the gallery between 2.00pm – 5.00pm on Saturday 28 September – readers are very welcome to go along and enjoy a drink and meet the artist!
Ignis Studio, showcasing contemporary art and craftwork by local practitioners, will be celebrating its opening at Doverhay Forge this Saturday evening with a special evening of drinks, music and of course, a preview of the gallery’s intriguing and diverse collection.
Artists and hosts Dan and Sally Bryant will be utilising the working forge and studio space to produce a range of works including drawings, gifts, digital media, printmaking, textiles and large scale metal sculpture.
Ignis Studio offers the public the opportunity to see artists at work and will be hosting a series of creative events starting with “Illuminate”, an innovative workshop to celebrate the national “The Big Draw” event.
Ignis Studio’s Grand Opening will be held on Saturday 1 September 6-9pm and all are welcome. The studio will then be open from Monday 3 September.
Opening hours will be: Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10am-5pm and Sundays 11am-4pm.