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RHS Rosemoor wins again

RHS Garden Rosemoor is once again celebrating after their restaurant was awarded “Best Restaurant” Wales and West Area Award by the Garden Centre Association

Many of the country’s leading garden centres belong to the Garden Centre Association and each one has to achieve a high level of good business practice before they can be accepted as an Approved Member. To ensure that high standards are maintained, each garden centre is inspected annually.

The Rosemoor Garden Kitchen Restaurant prides itself on homemade food sourced locally and the menus reflect seasonal produce that is either grown in the garden at Rosemoor or by local farmers.

Dishes currently on the menu that incorporate Garden produce include: Garden Cauliflower and Barbers Cheddar Soup, Corn Fed Chicken with Shallot and Smoked Bacon Sauce, Belly of Pork with Homemade Apple Compote and Winkleigh Cider Gravy, Roasted Salmon with Sweet and Sour Cherry Tomatoes, Mushroom Risotto Cakes with a Garden Herb Cream Sauce & Homemade Panacotta with Garden Rhubarb Compote.

Rosemoor Garden is still riding high after winning top UK Garden in leading consumer magazine Which? Travel. Rosemoor was the top garden in the country scoring 91% and as such gains their Recommended Provider accolade. This award is given to companies that score well above average in their member surveys, and also meet other specific consumer-focused criteria.

Award-winning exhibits from Devon

The RHS Awards for the 23rd RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, sponsored by Ecover and held last weekend, have been announced, celebrating the very best in horticulture.

After months of planning, exhibitors at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show have been presented with coveted RHS awards, which recognise the highest standards of garden design and plantsmanship.

Details of medal-winning exhibitors from Devon, can be found here

Around the world in 40 plants at Arlington

Visitors to National Trust’s Arlington Court on a Tuesday or Thursday will be in for a treat as they enjoy a ‘walk and talk’ with gardener, Ben Warren.

Every Tuesday at 2pm visitors can take part in a tour of the garden that will take in the less formal areas and beautiful vistas slightly off the beaten track. They can also learn how the grounds are managed. The £2 charge for the tour will go towards the conservatory project, helping to fund the next phase of the work.

On Thursdays at 1pm, visitors will be able to enjoy ‘Around the world in 40 plants’. Linked to the exhibition in the house of former owner Miss Chichester’s 1920s world tour, Ben has picked out 40 plants which originate in the countries she visited. From the North American tulip tree to the numerous Monkey Puzzle trees from Chile, there is plenty of evidence of international influences to be seen.

As well as discovering the origins of plants, visitors can also pick up quirky snippets of information, such as how Japanese wisteria (floribunda) grows in a clockwise direction, whilst Chinese wisteria (sinensis) grows in an anti-clockwise direction. Plus they can ask for advice for their own gardens.

The grounds at Arlington are undergoing a lot of alterations this year. The landscape has altered significantly as the rhododendrons infected with phytopthora have been removed; the conservatory is in the process of being replaced; and the Wilderness area is being made accessible. With all this change, the garden team wants to inform visitors of their vision for the gardens and encourage them to get involved in their work.

Trained as a horticulturalist at Cannington College, Bridgwater, Ben has been at Arlington for nearly a year. ‘Working in the gardens at Arlington can be a real challenge. Not only is the weather often against us, but we have to protect our plants from the 90,000 pairs of feet traipsing along the paths each year. However, seeing the pleasure our visitors get from touring the gardens makes it a very worthwhile job.’

Ben continues: ‘These walks and talks will give us an opportunity to involve visitors in the work we’re doing and ensure the lesser known or more exotic species are appreciated as well as our native plants.’

The tours will run every week until the first week of September and will only be cancelled in the case of very wet weather conditions.

Experience Exmoor launched by husband and wife Neil and Christel Osmond

Experience Exmoor offers 4×4 Discovery trips and Electric Bike Hire in North Devon and Exmoor National Park

Husband and wife Neil and Christel Osmond who live near Kentisbury in North Devon are announcing the launch of their new company called Experience Exmoor. Experience Exmoor offers outdoor activities designed to help tourists and locals alike discover the natural beauty of Greater Exmoor.

Christel explains: “We are both very passionate about this wonderful area and feel privileged to be able to provide visitors with a unique and unforgettable journey of discovery around Exmoor and the North Devon coast.”

Experience Exmoor provides 4×4 trips and electric bike hire, as well as several special events throughout the year. In the near future, they will also include Segway tours in their activities.

For their 4×4 trips they use a Land Rover Discovery 4, which seats up to 6 passengers in comfort and style. Co-founder and driver Neil comments: “We want to give our customers a luxury safari experience and this multiple award-winning car, with its legendary off-road ability, ticks all the boxes for that purpose. Even from the back row the views and comfort are first class.”

Experience Exmoor has obtained an exclusive licence from the National Trust to access some of the National Trust tracks. Neil: “We are thrilled about our partnership with the National Trust! We have access to four of their tracks and each one of them is very special in its own way. Being able to access these tracks creates an ultimate WOW-factor!”

The electric bike hire option gives customers another opportunity to explore the scenery without the strain. The bikes are powered by a rechargeable battery and are easy to operate. Christel: “We tested numerous bikes over the winter months and eventually chose the E-motion which is a state-of-the-art, reliable European-made bike.” As the bike rider can change between different gears and levels of pedal assistance, going up the hills becomes easy. The range of a full battery is about 25 miles, but for those who want to go further afield, Experience Exmoor works with a number of pubs and organisations in the area who provide recharging facilities for both the batteries and the riders.

4×4 Discovery trips with Experience Exmoor are available from £30 for half day trips and electric bike hire costs £25 for 1 day.

For further information, visit the Experience Exmoor website at , e-mail via or call 01271 889316 / 07854 666 800.

Rest & Be to repeat Shear Exmoor event

Following the success of last years’ Shear Exmoor the Rest & Be Thankful Inn at Wheddon Cross have organised it again. Shear Exmoor is a charity sheep-shearing competition to be staged in the Bottom Shed at Goosemoor Farm on Sunday 10 June 2012, Registration before 12noon, 1st class to start approximately 1pm. There are 5 different classes including Open, Intermediate, Veterans, Young Farmers Junior and Senior, plus a fun Team Shear event. There will be additional demonstrations of shearing equipment and local produce and uses of Wool, Bar and BBQ, and CLOWNS will be on hand to do keep the children entertained to create a fun day out for the whole family.

The aim of Shear Exmoor is to raise funds for a local charity CLOWNS, who provide learning and entertainment opportunities all over Exmoor for young children and our local Young Farmers Club. We hope that if the event is successful, it will become the country’s premier shearing competition and perhaps become as famous as the Golden Shears, staged in New Zealand. Shear Exmoor’s aim is to be informative with a fun dimension – Shearing is a very important and skilful job and Exmoor has an abundance of talented shearers, we the organisers wanted to show locals and visitors alike an example of what Exmoor has to offer from the high speed shearing of the Open class to the precision of the Blade shearing – even some well known local farmers are dusting off their equipment for the Veteran class.

We are looking for Entrants for Shear Exmoor the shearing competition – so if you have experience in shearing, whether you are a novice or think yourself a ‘Pro’ please contact either James Webber 07967 358017, Caroline Norman @ the Rest and Be Thankful 01643 841222 or Dave Takle for an entry form.

Rosemoor Rated by WHICH?

RHS Garden Rosemoor is celebrating after being awarded top position in a leading consumer magazine. Rosemoor come in top place as the UK garden with the highest satisfaction score. In February and March Which? asked 4,239 members, via their Which? Online connect panel, for their views on the UK visitor attractions they had visited in the past two years. Of these 2,312 members had recently visited a garden. The customer score for UK gardens is based on overall satisfaction and the likelihood to recommend. Members rated various elements of the visit such as value for money and staff helpfulness.

Rosemoor was the top garden in the country scoring 91% and as such gains their Recommended Provider accolade. This award is given to companies that score well above average in their member surveys, and also meet other specific consumer-focussed criteria.

Which? Members who had visited Rosemoor commented that the garden: ‘is well worth visiting at different seasons as there is much to see’, and ‘it’s beautiful regardless of the time of year, and whatever the weather’.

4 stars or more were given for key factors such as value for money, quality of facilities, staff helpfulness, the gift shop and overall beauty of the Garden.

Rosemoor’s Marketing & PR Manager, Heather Eales, says “we are absolutely delighted to have won this top award and it’s well deserved praise for all the staff and volunteers that work so hard to ensure that Rosemoor looks it’s best.”

RHS Garden Wisley came a close second and all four RHS gardens were in the top nine UK gardens.


Louise Crossman Architects: boost to the work of Age UK Somerset

Louise Crossman and Peter Hounsell, Finance Manager - Age UK Somerset.
Louise Crossman and Peter Hounsell, Finance Manager - Age UK Somerset.

Louise Crossman Architects provided a boost to the work of Age UK Somerset recently with the presentation of a cheque for £1,475 that had been collected by the Practice. For several years Louise Crossman Architects has run a scheme whereby a minimum donation of £25 is requested for an initial consultation or for advice and the money is donated to a charity chosen each year by the Practice.

Other charities supported in this way in previous years include Friends of Somerset Churches and Chapels, Devon Historic Churches Trust, Shelter, SeeAbility and Somerset Coast Home Improvement.

Louise Crossman commented: “Age UK Somerset helps many older people in Somerset and North Somerset and we are delighted to have been able to support their work in this way. Understanding better the needs arising from an ageing population has informed our design work.”

Age UK Somerset works across Somerset and North Somerset to promote the wellbeing of all older people and make later life a fulfilling and enjoyable experience.

Sarah Cummins from Age UK commented: “Age UK Somerset is extremely grateful to Louise Crossman Architects for the donations collected by the Practice over the last couple of years. These donations have helped us to continue to deliver vital services to older people across Somerset and North Somerset.”

Louise Crossman Architects was established in Withycombe, West Somerset in 1989 with a second office opening in Exeter in 2008. The award-winning practice has won wide recognition for the design and execution of buildings that show a high degree of care and consideration and has a reputation for providing imaginative, sustainable and cost effective solutions, with a sensitive, environmentally friendly approach.

Age UK Somerset believes that older people deserve the best and aim to ensure that everything they do will focus upon achieving that goal. They provide a range of services, including advocacy, toenail cutting and wellbeing programmes. They also provide front line services in Somerset and North Somerset, many of which are free.

The Old Rectory Hotel raises £1.4k for the National Trust in North Devon

Huw Rees and Sam Prosser, owners of the Old Rectory Hotel in Martinhoe, were delighted to hand over a cheque for £1.4k to Julian Gurney, Head Ranger for the National Trust West Exmoor, recently. The money has been donated to the National Trust via a visitor payback scheme run by the hotel last year, to encourage their guests to help fund some of the costs of maintaining and preserving the National Trust land nearest the property.

The Old Rectory Hotel is situated within Exmoor National Park, just 500 yards from the North Devon coast and is surrounded by National Trust land. In this area the Trust looks after 4,000 acres, including 3,000 acres which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 14 miles of coastline and 1000 acres of woodland.

“We are delighted to support the work carried out by the National Trust locally,” commented Huw. “A voluntary donation of £3 was added to our guests’ bills at the end of their stay with clear instructions that they could opt out, or pay more, very easily. We didn’t want our guests to feel uncomfortable about this. But in fact hardly anyone did opt out, which is why we are able to hand over such a significant amount.”

Julian added “I would like to thank the owners and guests of the Old Rectory Hotel at Martinhoe. I am really pleased that the importance of the work we do, both for nature conservation and in support of local tourism, is recognised in this way. This money will be used to further improve the footpath network around Woody Bay and the Heddon Valley for everybody to enjoy.”

To give visitors an idea of what their money will be spent on: it costs the National Trust £700 to rebuild 10 meters of traditional walling, £5,200 to cover the cost of picking up litter along roads and footpaths for 1 year and £30,000 will replace one footbridge crossing a river.

“The National Trust made it very easy for us to help,” enthuses Sam. “It’s a win-win situation. Our partnership helps the local National Trust, it shows our guests that we really care about the local environment, and it’s an easy and efficient way for our visitors to support a good cause. We will definitely carry on with this scheme in the future.”

Hestercombe House: reunited with gardens at last

Following extensive discussions with Somerset County Council the Hestercombe Gardens Trust is delighted to reveal that it will be taking over the imposing Hestercombe House, the centre piece of the estate, under licence in the early summer and plans are afoot to open it to the public and turn it into a national Centre for Landscape Studies.

Whilst the surrounding gardens and land had been secured for the Trust through a system of long term tenancies from a range of landowners the house has remained under the direct ownership of the Council where it has been used as office space and as the HQ for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. Securing the house is a pivotal moment in the history of Hestercombe, says as Chief Executive Philip White: “Being able to reunite Hestercombe House with its historic landscape for the first time in 60 years is a hugely exciting prospect and we are delighted that Somerset County Council has been able to offer us this exciting arrangement which will enable us to take over the house under licence in the early summer. It will consolidate and reinforce Hestercombe nationally and internationally, particularly with the proposed Centre for Landscape Studies creating a world-class centre of excellence.”

Once funding is secured, the Trust hopes to re-furbish and re-roof the house and open it (free to Somerset residents for the first two years) to showcase its Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian history. It also plans to develop a national Centre for Landscape Studies hosting seminars, conferences, providing a research resource for the public, housing the Hestercombe archive and an archive for thousands of conservation management plans currently held by organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and Natural England. The council are pleased to have orchestrated the handover of the house as Cllr Huxtable explains:

“This is great news for the council, great news for Somerset residents and great news for the Trust. The building needs improving and investment – money we just do not have in these tight financial times. The Trust has a bold plan to carry out improvements. It will be great to see part of our Somerset heritage fully restored and thriving once again. We wish success to all concerned with Hestercombe’s future.”

Just as the restored gardens at Hestercombe exhibit three periods of gardening history; the eighteenth-century landscape garden, the nineteenth-century Victorian shrubbery and terrace and the twentieth-century formal Edwardian garden, so indeed does the house and through the proposed acquisition both house and garden will be reunited, each reflecting the other’s remarkable development over time.

Local Firm Woolly Shepherd Quizzed By Deborah Meaden on BBC’s Countryfile

Local felted wool company, The Woolly Shepherd, faced an unexpected challenge on a recent Sunday evening on the BBC’s Countryfile programme. The Dragon business expert Deborah Meaden is a champion of local wool herself and was intrigued by the Woolly Shepherd’s FELTO Acoustic Cloud – an innovative product that uses only natural materials to absorb unwanted reverberated noise.

“Countryfile called us and asked if we would be willing to ‘pitch’ our business and our FELTO Acoustic Cloud to Somerset business woman Deborah Meaden in the style of Dragon’s Den,” explains partner, Nicky Saunter. “It was quite light-hearted and aimed at giving us some feedback on what we were doing right and what we might do better.”

Made with West Country wool from the Quantocks, Blackdowns and Exmoor, FELTO acoustic clouds are shaped like fluffy clouds and appear to float in the air. Recent installations have been at Tiverton’s Heathcote Community Centre, Wiveliscombe’s Silver St Centre and award-winning Quantock restaurant, Clavelshay Barn.

“Deborah Meaden thought we had a good product,” explained Nicky. “Her advice was helpful in that it is always good to have input from people who really know what they are talking about. Deborah’s work in developing the Merchant Fox brand of local, beautifully-made products is something we really admire, and we are currently working on supplying them with material for their range.”

FELTO woolly clouds and wall panels are particularly suited for use in public buildings, schools and nurseries, where good acoustics are absolutely essential. The boards can be covered with natural calico or a fabric to match furnishings and colour schemes.

For more info: Tim Simmons or Nicky Saunter 01823 400696