This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by Victorian author R.D. Blackmore. This classic novel, set within the atmospheric Exmoor National Park, has never been out of print. Inspired by the natural beauty of the area, Blackmore’s love story includes historic events, such as The Great Winter and the Monmouth Rebellion, within the book as well as various local legends of the notorious Doones and the highway man Tom Faggus. The vivid descriptions of the most stunning, remote and rugged parts of Exmoor still apply today.
Throughout 2019 there will be a whole host of events to celebrate Lorna Doone and the special landscapes that gave rise to this ever-popular story. The focal point of this anniversary will be the Dulverton Heritage Centre who are holding a year-long exhibition starting in April. Curator Sue Baker explains, “The exhibition is a celebration of Lorna Doone; the author, story, setting and characters of this enduring love story.” She continues, “We’ve also included a feature on how Lorna Doone has been dramatised for stage, television and cinema, with stories of how local people have been involved.”
Visitors can explore the landscape that framed the book with a series of guided walks and talks from Wild About Exmoor throughout the summer. There is a family weekend taking place in Dulverton 29/30 June, complete with dramatic re-enactments. At Valley of Rocks, the Pleasure Dome Theatre Company are putting on outdoor theatre performances of Lorna Doone between 20 and 31 August as the sun sets.
The prestigious Two Moors Festival is also involved. The festival’s Artistic Director, Penny Adie, has commissioned a brand new work based on the well-loved story. The composition will be scored for solo voices, choir, instrumentalists and narrator and will be performed at All Saints Church in Dulverton on 12 October with professional musicians and students from Blundells School in Tiverton where Blackmore himself studied. Many other events are taking place.
Jennette Baxter, Marketing Manager for Visit Exmoor, welcomes the celebrations. “Many visitors are inspired to Visit Exmoor after reading Lorna Doone. This special anniversary allows us to highlight the contribution Blackmore’s novel has made to the area. We are delighted that businesses are taking the opportunity to commemorate the occasion. Visit Exmoor has produced a handy pocket guide as an introduction to some of the best places to visit to evoke those Lorna Doone moments.”
Visitors can check all event details and download a guide via www.Visit-Exmoor.co.uk or pick up a leaflet at one of the three Exmoor National Park Centres in Dulverton, Lynmouth and Dunster.
Photo courtesy of Lycia Moore, Taunton Garrison