Category Archives: Walking

NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO PROMOTE RESPONSIBLE DOG WALKING IN THE COUNTRYSIDE LAUNCHED BY EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK AND OSCAR & HOOCH

Exmoor National Park and leading Somerset-based pet accessory company Oscar & Hooch have joined forces to launch a national campaign to promote responsible dog walking in the countryside.

The campaign, which will run for the duration of the summer school holidays, will encourage dog-owning families and other dog walkers to go out and enjoy the spectacle of the Exmoor National Park and other UK beauty spots whilst at the same time reminding them to keep their dogs under control at all times so that wildlife, livestock and other visitors are not disturbed. Dog walkers will also be encouraged to clean up any dog mess and dispose of it properly to keep the Park and other destinations clean and tidy for other walkers to enjoy and to prevent any harm or disease to other animals and wildlife.

According to statistics provided by The Kennel Club, since 2010, dog ownership is up 10% and is now at 8.5 million dogs. 26% of homes have a dog and astonishingly over half of all outdoor visits include a dog.

There are many benefits to welcoming dogs in the countryside such as encouraging healthy lifestyles and supporting local visitor economies. Owning a dog not only provides owners with the opportunity to go out and enjoy the great outdoors but also has many health benefits. Owning a dog is good for mental health, providing interaction with other dog walkers and companionship.

However, there are also some concerning issues associated with irresponsible dog ownership. According to NFU Mutual, the cost of livestock worrying has risen 67% over the past two years in the UK. The rural insurer said not all livestock farmers insure against sheep worrying, but it estimates the annual cost to the industry is now £1.6m, while the average cost of a claim has risen by more than 50% to £1,300.

All the UK National Parks have a policy of encouraging responsible dog walkers and Exmoor, like the other National Parks, has a set of guidelines for dog owners to follow. Keeping a dog under close control, particularly around livestock and areas of ground-nesting birds is a key issue, as is regular worming and clearing up dog mess responsibly.

Dan Barnett, Access and Recreation Manager for Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Generally, your dog should be under close control at all times and there are specific areas and times of the year that they need to be kept on a lead. There are around 620 miles (1,000km) of public Rights of Way (e.g. footpaths and bridleways) on Exmoor for you and your dog to enjoy. On public RoW there is no legal requirement to keep your dog on a lead but, unless you are very confident about your dog’s obedience, we strongly recommend that you do as they must be under close control. There are all sorts of scents and smells that may prove too tempting to resist and result in your dog disappearing into the distance. You will inevitably meet livestock, other people, dogs, cyclists and horse riders at some point and there is potential for confrontation if your dog is out of control.

“There are over 18,000 hectares of open access land for you to explore where the public have a right of access on foot with a dog, however your dog must be kept on a lead of less than two metres during the bird-nesting season (1 March to 31 July) and at all times near livestock.”

The six-week national awareness campaign will consist of an online quiz which entrants can enter to win an Oscar & Hooch collar and lead each week. This will be integrated with a social networking campaign on both the Exmoor National Park and Oscar & Hooch social media platforms together with a press campaign across all national and regional media. Oscar & Hooch will also be donating 10% of sales through their website over the six week period when customers use the code EXMOOR at checkout, contributing towards the upkeep and preservation of Exmoor National Park.

NEW FOOTPATH UNVEILED IN MEMORY OF EXMOOR’S FIRST RANGER

Exmoor National Park Rangers past and present have gathered today on North Hill for World Ranger Day and the unveiling of a new 1.5-mile circular route in memory of Exmoor’s first ever Ranger, Jim Collins.

The walk, which starts and finishes at the car park near the old tank training grounds on North Hill near Minehead (grid ref: SS953474), was one of Jim’s favourites for its breathtaking views across Exmoor and the Bristol Channel. It was overlooked by the house he lived in until his death last year, aged 95.

Jim Collins, the first Exmoor National Park Ranger, at his home in Minehad being interviewed for the Exmoor Magazine in 2014.

At a gathering attended by dozens of Exmoor Rangers from over the decades, Dan Barnett, Exmoor National Park’s Head Ranger, said: “Jim maintained strong ties with the National Park right up to his death and I’m sure he’d be delighted to see his name commemorated as part of Exmoor’s much-celebrated Rights of Way network, which he helped create.

“Jim was a real trailblazer and evidence of the work he started can be seen all over the National Park. This included some of the first waymarked rights of way and permissive routes on Exmoor, a task that meant winning over the hearts and minds of farmers, landowners and the public. It’s a skill still central to the job of rangering and to the success of our now 1,300km-long access network, that we’re delighted to be celebrating here today with Jim’s family.”

Close family of Jim’s have attended the gathering to witness the unveiling of a new fingerpost naming the route ‘Jim’s Path’. His son, Phil Collins, said: “It’s wonderful to see such a gathering of Jim’s friends and colleagues, with some I know who have travelled from as far as Australia. It’s not hard to see why rangering in such a beautiful landscape leaves its mark, but it takes someone special to see that it’s the people who make the place, and my father was testament to that.”

A display celebrating Jim’s life, and comparing how the job of the Exmoor Ranger has changed over the years, went on show in National Park Centre in Dunster last week.

Robin Milton, Chair of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “With National Parks this year celebrating 70 years since the ground-breaking law that created them, it’s good to be reminded of the early pioneers who first breathed life into the vision of National Parks as the living, working landscapes we all know and love today.”

PHOTO: Exmoor’s first three Head Rangers – David Beazley, Jim Collins and Bill Gurnett, 1980s.

THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WOODSIDE

You might have seen a rope strung with colourfully painted walking boots across the East Lyn River on your walks recently. It is part of the bid to raise funds to replace a popular footbridge known locally as ‘Woodside Bridge’.

Over 40 boots were painted by the children of West Exmoor Federation and heaved into place across the East Lyn River by local volunteers from the Lynmouth Coastguard Search & Rescue.

Woodside Bridge once formed part of a short circular walk along the lower reaches of the river, returning to the picturesque village of Lynmouth via Middleham Memorial Gardens, created in memory of victims of the famous 1952 flood disaster.

It’s been a feature of the area for more than a century, but it wore out and had to be removed in 2016 and the Lyn Community Development Trust (LCDT) have since been fundraising to have it reinstated. They are now three-quarters of the way towards the £60K needed for a beautiful new bridge built in solid Exmoor oak and have secured commitment from Exmoor National Park Authority to help with installation and maintenance, when the remaining funds are raised.

Dave Wilde, Chair of the LDCT, said: “We came up with the idea of the boots as a way of bringing the appeal to the attention of the many walkers and visitors to the area, as well as local residents. It was lovely to see the schoolchildren getting involved and the boots they painted look wonderful. They’re the ones who will get to walk across the new bridge in future, so it’s great they have been able to help in such an inspiring way”.

Julia Bradbury has also shown her support for the campaign after the route featured in her hit TV series Britain’s Best Walks and online portal The Outdoor Guide, along with TV presenter Caroline Quentin, who took time to record a video appeal after finding out about the Bridge through her role as President of the Campaign for National Parks.

It’s also being backed by Exmoor National Park Authority through its CareMoor for Exmoor scheme, run by Philip Kiberd. He said: “What a brilliant idea, West Exmoor Federation have done a great job. I might ask them to paint my boots next. It’s amazing how everyone has got behind this campaign and LCDT, the schools, the coastguard and the National Trust all deserve praise for arranging it and allowing it to go ahead. Let’s hope it encourages lots of donations to the appeal and helps get the bridge back soon.”

Donate to the Woodside Bridge Appeal via CareMoor for Exmoor www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/caremoor, in person at the National Park Centre in Lynmouth or for Gift Aid via the LCDTat wonderful.org/appeal/woodsidebridgereplacementappeal-1f70a510.

A WALKING TRIP TO EXMOOR RELYING SOLELY ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Thank you to reader Gerry Shattock from Exeter for writing this account of his trip to Exmoor last month, during which he relied solely on public transport and stayed at The Lorne Doone Hotel, Orchard House Hotel in Lynmouth, the Simonsbath House Hotel, Tarr Farm and the Mitre Inn in Witheridge. We thought that readers might be interested to see how he got on…

Exploring Exmoor on Foot

I spent four full days and two half-days walking across Exmoor in April 2019, using public transport from and to Exeter. The total distance is estimated to be 66 miles and, whilst the mileage covered on the four full days varied, the distances were quite manageable and planned based on my limited experience of undertaking this kind of walking.

Day 1
Train-and-bus-link Exeter to Minehead; walk 9 miles Minehead to Porlock on the SW Coast Path which was well signed. Steady climb out of Minehead with steep drops to the sea after the peak of North Hill, which induced mild feelings of vertigo in the author in the buffeting wind! (An alternative SW Coast Path route is possible.) Saw a lizard basking in the sun; stayed at the Lorna Doone Hotel in Porlock.

Day 2
Walk 12 miles Porlock to Lynmouth on the SW Coast Path. Steady climb from Porlock Weir and then generally level walking in woodland for a good half of the distance. Culbone Church, Sisters’ Fountain and the entrance to the Glenthorne Estate gave the walk a distinctly gothic feel in the light drizzle. First views of Lynmouth from Butter Hill, from which the drop down to the sea induced strong feelings of vertigo in the author! No alternative SW Coast Path is shown on the map, but a different route could be planned and the author took the road down to Lynmouth from Countisbury. Bought provisions in Lynton; overnight in the Orchard House Hotel in Lynmouth.

Day 3
Walk 9.5 miles Lynmouth to Simonsbath on the Two Moors Way. Lynmouth is the beginning/end of the Two Moors Way and most people choose to walk south-to-north, allegedly to avoid the climb up out of Lynmouth but the climb above the East Lyn River and finally up over Cheriton Ridge, and Exmoor proper, was fantastic. After some impromptu navigation past a small stone circle, the route followed established tracks and paths – plus my first deer sightings on Hoaroak Hill and later above the River Exe – before being signposted down into the hamlet, with accommodation at the Simonsbath House Hotel.

Day 4
Walk 11 miles Simonsbath to Tarr Steps on the Two Moors Way. Down the majestic Barle Valley with sightings of two sizeable deer herds on the southern slopes and a pair of heron flying ahead of me. The valley is full of history and Matthew Arnold’s guide encourages a quick ascent of the Cow Castle Settlement adjacent to the river, which the author can fully endorse. The route leaves the Barle for a while to follow a drover’s track, then lane, down into Withypool: bought provisions from the Village Shop which is responsible for cleaning the public toilets in the village: thank you! The path then follows the Barle across meadows, around tree roots and over huge stone slabs until the iconic Tarr Steps clapper bridge can be seen: stayed at the Tarr Farm Inn.

Day 5
Walk 14.5 miles Tarr Steps to Witheridge on the Two Moors Way. Made an early start and walked to Hawkridge on the road before re-joining the Two Moors Way then, leaving Somerset, climbing and crossing West Anstey Common before dropping down into mid-Devon. This last stretch of Exmoor on the Two Moors Way is celebrated by Peter Randall-Page’s impressive sculpture facing its mirror image on Dartmoor, and after that the countryside changed markedly. Farming was still predominantly of sheep, but the Way more often picked up local footpaths and lanes before finally threading alongside a stream and some pine trees and up into Witheridge, where snacks were purchased at the store and accommodation was at The Mitre Inn.

Day 6
Walk 10 miles Witheridge to Morchard Road on the Two Moors Way; train Morchard Road to Exeter. The Way was largely through beef and dairy agricultural land, and whilst it was well marked it was necessary to concentrate on finding the route. There were two detours which were well-signed but the author found the design of some of the kissing gates (or his technique for progressing through them?!) inappropriate for someone carrying a 40l rucksack. From Morchard Bishop the Two Moors Way snakes across farmland before crossing the A377 Barnstaple to Exeter road, but the author chose to walk along the (busy) roads to Morchard Station, to avoid walking along the A377.

Total transport costs for the trip were £24 and accommodation in pubs and hotels was £70-90 per night (booked at short notice) for bed, breakfast and evening meal, usually with en-suite facilities and always with Wi-Fi. Some food supplies were carried from home and an additional £15 was spent on provisions during the walk.

PHOTO: Withypool courtesy of ENPA.

EXMOOR GUIDED WALKS RETURN FOR SPRING

A series of free guided walks is now under way across Exmoor, led by an expert team of local volunteers from the Exmoor National Park Authority and The Exmoor Society. Nearly 100 walks will take place between now and October, with the addition of some new routes as well as old favourites.

The history of Exmoor’s settlements is covered in walking tours of Lynton and Lynmouth, Bossington, Porlock and Dunster, there’s insight into the Knight family’s estate in Exmoor’s former Royal hunting Forest at Simonsbath, a chance to tread in the footsteps of Saxon soldiers along the ancient Somerset Harepath (or Herepath), tales of murder at the abandoned mine of Wheal Eliza, a walk around Lorna Doone country, and a glimpse of the evolving salt marsh habitat at Porlock Marsh.

Natural history is also included, with walks discovering Exmoor’s butterflies and bats, coastal wildlife, temperate rainforests and how the heather moorlands are managed, as well as rambles looking at water quality improvement schemes and landscape restoration.

In May there will be four new walks linked to the annual Simonsbath Festival on the subjects of Exmoor during the Second World War, the rivers of the moor, the 150th Anniversary of R.D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, and the Exmoor home of Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace, a pioneer of computer programming.

Liz Pile, Walks Coordinator for The Exmoor Society, said: “The wonderfully diverse walks programme is only possible through the generosity of walk leaders in sharing their time, expertise and passion for Exmoor. The Society pays tribute to all those who lead walks in all weathers and in all places.”

Jess Twydall, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Get Involved Project Coordinator, commented: “Whether you’re fascinated by local history and village life, or looking for a longer moorland walk taking in the breath-taking scenery, there’s truly something for everyone.”

Walks generally last 1-4 hours and there is no charge, but donations are welcomed to ‘The Exmoor Society’ or ‘CareMoor for Exmoor’ towards keeping the National Park special.

The full programme of walks can be found on the ENPA and The Exmoor Society websites and in Exmoor Visitor magazine, which is available free at all National Park Centres and at The Exmoor Society’s Resource Centre in Dulverton, where advice can also be obtained.

PHOTO: Herepath, by Stan Lester.

WALK THE WEST SOMERSET COAST PATH IN MEMORY OF SOMEONE SPECIAL

St Margaret’s Hospice is offering the chance to remember a loved one while enjoying some stunning Somerset scenery.

Entries are now open for the charity’s Great Somerset Memory Walk, which will see participants covering 12.4 or 25 miles of the West Somerset Coast Path on Sunday 15 September.

The sponsored walk starts at Butlins in Minehead, with the choice of finishing in West Quantoxhead or completing the full route to Steart Marshes. Buses back to the start are included in the entry price of £15 for adults and £10 for children under 16.

Participants are encouraged to raise sponsorship to help St Margaret’s Hospice continue providing care and support to 3,800 people across Somerset each year who are facing a life-limiting illness.

Sonia Bateman, events fundraiser at the Somerset charity, said: “Many of our sponsored walkers will be celebrating the life of a loved one, as we will be offering everyone a Great Somerset Memory Walk bib to decorate with their own personal dedication message. People are equally welcome to take part if they just want to enjoy the coastal walk and do their bit to help us care for people in our community.”

Walkers will set off between 8am and 9am, and the last groups are expected to reach the finish line before 6pm.

To find out more and book your place, visit www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk and search ‘Memory Walk’.

PHOTO: West Somerset coast near Kilve

NEW BOOK ON THE TWO MOORS WAY

The Two Moors Ways – Devon’s Coast to Coast: Wembury Bay to Lynmouth is the new book just out, written by Sue Viccars – Exmoor Magazine’s very own walks writer.

Dartmoor and Exmoor, two of England’s most magnificent moorlands, are the backdrop to Devon’s Coast to Coast route. Incorporating the Two Moors Way and a section of the Erme-Plym Trail, the 188km (117 mile) route between Wembury Bay and Lynmouth passes through the quiet and rural Devon countryside as well as the wide open spaces of the moors.

This guidebook presents the route in 11 stages, ranging from 10 to 30km, but the schedule can be adjusted to give a one-week walk or a more leisurely pace if preferred. The book includes low-level bad-weather alternative routes for some moorland stretches. The main route is described south to north, with a summary description for those doing the route in reverse. The landscapes of Devon range from the rolling fields and enclosed paths of South Devon to Exmoor’s sandstone moorland, which sweeps down to the Bristol Channel with some of the highest sea cliffs in England. In between lie the wild spaces of Dartmoor, with its hill ponies, granite tors and the greatest concentration of Bronze-Age sites in the country.

Entwined in myth and legend, it’s a landscape to fire the imagination and the setting for numerous stories, including Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. This pocket-sized guidebook contains OS map extracts for every stage, along with information on where to stay, refreshments, waymarking, public transport, and useful contacts. An itinerary planner is also included, detailing distances and facilities available for each stage, making day-to-day planning simple. A 1:25,000 scale booklet of all the maps needed for the route is included with the guidebook.

What’s inside?
• useful itinerary planner
• OS map extracts for every stage
• list of accommodation providers

About the author
After gaining a degree in Geography and Archaeology at Exeter University, Sue Viccars worked for a London map publisher before grabbing the chance to return to Devon, where she spent 20 years commissioning walking, equestrian and countryside books for David & Charles Publishers. She received her first walking book commission three weeks after going freelance in 2000 and since then has written or contributed to around 20 books (and edited dozens more), specialising in her home territory of the South West, with particular reference to Dartmoor and Exmoor. She writes the walks for Exmoor Magazine, and has been editor of Dartmoor Magazine since 2008.

The Two Moors Ways: Devon’s Coast to Coast: Wembury Bay to Lynmouth is priced at £16.95 and is available to buy from the Two Moors Way website: www.twomoorsway.org

PHOTO: The Venton stone overlooks the Dane’s Brook valley near Hawkridge, Exmoor (Stage 9).

NUMBER SEVEN DULVERTON WALKING BOOK CLUB

Number Seven Dulverton’s first walk of 2019 is going to be a little bit different from the norm as they are delighted to say that the author, Tom Cox, will be joining them.

21st-Century Yokel explores the way we can be tied inescapably to landscape, whether we like it or not, often through our family and our past. It’s not quite a nature book, not quite a humour book, not quite a family memoir, not quite folklore, not quite social history, not quite a collection of essays, but a bit of all six.

It contains owls, badgers, ponies, beavers, otters, bats, bees, scarecrows, dogs, ghosts, Tom’s loud and excitable dad and, yes, even a few cats. It’s full of Devon’s local folklore – the ancient kind, and the everyday kind – and provincial places and small things. But what emerges from this focus on the small are themes that are broader and bigger and more definitive.

The book’s language is colloquial and easy and its eleven chapters are discursive and wide-ranging, rambling even. The feel of the book has a lot in common with the country walks Tom Cox was on when he composed much of it: it’s bewitched by fresh air, intrepid in minor ways, haunted by weather and old stories and the spooky edges of the outdoors, restless, sometimes foolish, and prone to a few detours… but it always reaches its intended destination.

‘A hybrid of nature writing, memoir, and social history, it rambles, leisurely, through the English countryside, often pausing to ponder the relationship between people and place.’ Observer

‘A rich, strange, oddly glorious brew… Cox’s writing is loose-limbed, engaging and extremely funny, and time spent in his company is time very pleasantly spent.’ Guardian

If you wish to join the March walk and talk booking is essential.

‘Tickets’ are priced at £17 which includes a hardback copy of 21st-Century Yokel, which Tom will sign for you on the day. For anyone who already owns a copy, the ticket price is £10.

If you are based further afield but would like to attend, Number Seven Dulverton can pop a copy in the post, postage within the UK costs just £3; simply contact the Number Seven to make arrangements.

Happy sociable dogs welcome, cats optional…

Find out more at www.numbersevendulverton.co.uk/marchwalktomcox

EXMOOR’S RIGHTS OF WAY RATED FIRST-CLASS

The following is a press release issued by ENPA

Rights of way on Exmoor have been assessed as some of the best in the country for a second year running, in the National Path Authority’s newly published annual Rights of Way and Access Report*.

96 per cent of public footpaths, bridleways and byways were classed as ‘open and easy to use’ – the highest of all National Parks, and the number of issues resolved within three months has increased to 84 per cent.

The report also records the highest ever output of ‘National Park furniture’ – with a total of 831 signs, 404 sign posts and 155 gates having been constructed and installed this year alone, using timber sourced from the National Park’s own woodland estate.

Lots of the assessment work is carried out by National Park volunteers, who this year provided crucial feedback on paths throughout 11 parishes, totalling 360 hours of work.

Each season they help to survey a randomly selected set of paths covering 10 per cent of the network. Using nationally recognised assessment criteria, volunteers score each route according to how easy it is to navigate, the state of vegetation, and the condition of stiles, gates, signage and surfaces.

Kevin Snewing, Path Watcher Volunteer, said: “A bonus of being a Path Watcher volunteer is that I get to walk parts of the National Park that I probably wouldn’t normally visit, and there are some gems out there. I was particularly impressed by the network above Lynton.”

Dan Barnett, Access and Recreation Manager, said: “Keeping the rights of way network in top condition is crucially important, not just for people’s enjoyment but also to protect precious habitats and reduce disturbance to farming. But we wouldn’t be able to achieve these kinds of targets without ongoing support from our partners and highly-skilled contractors, along with donations from the public through CareMoor for Exmoor, plus our fantastic volunteers. It really is a team effort.”

For more information about National Park volunteering opportunities visit: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/get-involved

QUANTOCK HILLS AONB OUTSTANDING WEEK EVENTS IN SEPTEMBER

Saturday 15 September marks the beginning of ‘Outstanding Week’, a national week celebrating our 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) across Britain, with a week of Outstanding events and project run by AONBs across the country.

September has always been an outstanding month in our countryside, with harvests being brought home, trees and meadows taking on their autumnal colours, skies offering a full palette of hues, musky bonfires lingering in the evening air and a welcoming calmness for visitors.

September this year, however, promises to be even more outstanding!

The AONB Family has worked together to organise a week (and a bit) long programme of events to help people enjoy and be inspired by Britain’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). Starting on Saturday 15 September and continuing through to Sunday 23 September, the events for all AONBs can be found on www.landscapesforlife.org.uk/events/outstanding-week/

The Quantock Hills AONB have a couple of special events planned to celebrate this outstanding week – a ‘Creatures of the Night Walk’ being led by rangers so you can see how the woodland comes to life after dark and also a ‘Whittling in the Woods’ workshop for adults who’d like to learn more about this ancient craft.   Go to www.quantockhills.com/aonbevents to find out more.

As NAAONB’s Jill Smith, explains, “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are some of the most beautiful, cherished and outstanding landscapes in the UK. They are vibrant and dynamic and offer a wealth of opportunities for people to enjoy our countryside.

Outstanding Week helps people connect with nature, getting them out into and engaging with the the UK’s outstanding landscapes by enjoying local food and drink, country shows, dark sky discovery nights, walking festivals, archaeology walks, wood fairs, foraging, wildlife walks, coastal and marine days, thatching courses, drystone walling competitions, charcoal making, bioblitz, inspiration through art and music and many, many other activities.

“Whether you are looking for an outstanding view, intending to reward yourself with a cream tea or trying to kick start a new health regime, you can’t fail to have a great time in one of the UK’s 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They are Landscapes for Life in so many different ways”.

See www.landscapesforlife.org.uk/events/outstanding-week/

Twitter @naaonb & @aonbfamily #outstandingweek for new events to enjoy each day.

PHOTO: Birches Corner near Lydeard Hill, from our autumn issue Quantock Hills Special Feature (courtesy Quantock Hills AONB).