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.

COULD YOU LOOK AFTER A LIFE-CHANGING PUPPY FOR A YEAR?

Guest post from Guide Dogs

You may well have heard of Guide Dogs, we’re a national charity working to ensure that people with a visual impairment do not lose their independence. There are around two million people in the UK living with sight loss, and all experience a different level of vision and mobility. We offer a range of mobility services to help people keep their independence, and have an amazing number of dedicated staff, volunteers, and of course, dogs who support the Guide Dogs mission.

Guide Dogs needs volunteers who can help look after and support the training of our guide dog puppies! This is a full-time volunteering role as the puppy would live with you, and you would be providing the puppy with a vital foundation for its future role as a guide dog for someone living with sight loss. Training and ongoing support is provided by Guide Dogs and your Puppy Training Supervisor, and all food and vets bills are paid for.

Puppy Training Supervisor, Leah, says, “Puppy walking is a vital role in a guide dog’s development. If you have the time, enthusiasm, love of dogs and a positive outlook, this volunteer role is for you. Puppies are placed at 7 weeks old and will stay with you until approximately 12-16 months of age. In this time, you will expose the puppy to everyday life. You will receive regular visits and be encouraged to attend one of our local puppy classes. We couldn’t deliver our services without our brilliant volunteers!”

Puppy Walking Volunteer, Chris, says, “Every day is different – I could be taking the dog out on a walk, getting it used to trains, buses or the seaside! It’s great to be with a dog knowing you are giving something back… When a guide dog owner gets in touch with me to say thank you for puppy walking their life-changing dog, it really feels so rewarding and it’s lovely to get their feedback.”

To find out more about puppy walking with Guide Dogs or any other volunteering opportunities, visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/volunteer or give the volunteering office a call on 0345 143 0191.

SIMONSBATH FESTIVAL EVENTS THIS WEEKEND AND NEXT WEEK

Simonsbath Festival continues this weekend and next week with three events:

Friday 24 May, 10am at Brendon Two Gates – a walk arranged by the Exmoor Society – To Badgworthy and Doone Country. Join Archaeologist Rob Wilson-North for a four-mile walk over rough moorland in the footsteps of Lorna Doone author R.D. Blackmore. An exploration of one of Exmoor’s most remote places, see Blackmore’s memorial stone and the remains of a medieval village. Dogs welcome on leads. Free entry but donations to Exmoor Society are welcome.

Saturday 25 May, 7.30pm at St Luke’s Church – A night at the Opera. Opera singers Isobel Hughes and Tom Asher (pictured). Isobel is about to finish her studies at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and is a soprano with a warm-mezzo like quality. Tom is a baritone, a recent alumni of English National Opera who studied at the Royal Northern College of Music. There will be a programme of opera arias. Tickets are £15 reserved seating or £10 unreserved seating, with a light supper available for £5 booked in advance.

Wednesday 29 May, 7.30pm at St Luke’s Church – a talk by Tim Bonner (Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance) – From Hunting to Post Offices. Tim talks about how the Countryside Alliance continues to be the voice of Rural Britain by actively promoting and defending farming, rural services, small businesses and country sports. Tickets are £10 reserved seating or £5 unreserved seating, with a light supper available for £5 booked in advance.

Information, tickets and food bookings available by phone 01643 831451 or via the festival website at www.simonsbathfestival.org.uk

FUNDING BOOST FOR URBAN SCHOOLS VISITING EXMOOR

Three urban schools will receive fully funded residential trips to Exmoor National Park as part of a new programme by UK National Parks and Forest Holidays that will help connect over 20,000 young people nationally with nature.

Over the next five years, ‘National Parks Futures’ aims to help tackle one of the major barriers to many schools visiting National Parks – the cost of travel.

To launch the new programme, Forest Holiday’s Projects Director, Dan Parish, joined Exmoor National Park staff at the Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning last month, along with 30 students from Yeo Valley Primary School, on their first ever National Park experience. The year-5s enjoyed a day out in the sunshine exploring the high moors to collect minibeasts and rocks for further investigation under the microscope, as well as honing their team-building skills through an orienteering challenge.

Thanks to Forest Holiday’s involvement, the school did not have to pay for travel and they are set to return for a fully funded residential stay later in the year.

Exmoor National Park is one of three of the UK’s 15 National Parks awarded a £5,000 grant this year, along with the Cairngorms and South Downs National Parks. Overall, the scheme will deliver at least 15 flagship education projects, reaching 5,000 young people, as well as covering the travel costs of an estimated 15,000 National Park visits for young people.

The aim is to inspire the next generation to care for and protect our precious National Parks, as well as improving their well-being through time spent in nature.

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive Officer of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We’re delighted that Forest Holidays is supporting our work providing opportunities for young people from a wide range of backgrounds to visit Exmoor, be inspired by, and learn about its amazing landscapes, wildlife and heritage. This funding will enable us to offer a full residential experience at our Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning to young people from schools from more urban settings who have not visited before, and we are really looking forward to welcoming them.”

Dan Parish, Projects Director of Forest Holidays, said: “We are incredibly proud to be working with the UK National Parks to help more young people experience and enjoy the UK’s special landscapes. We work in rural communities and understand one of the main barriers for schools is the cost of travel. Through this project we hope to open up opportunities for young people to spend time in nature and experience the benefits of outdoor learning.”

Cat Hawkins, Chair of National Parks Partnerships, said: “Connecting young people with nature takes time, expertise and funding. Forest Holidays’ long-term commitment to ‘National Parks Futures’ will enable thousands of young people to experience learning in amazing natural settings. Forest Holidays share our ambition to improve lives through connecting to nature, and thanks to them, ‘National Parks Futures’ will help to inspire the next generation to love and care for our precious landscapes.”

Brook Foods Donate £1,250 to Exmoor Pony Centre

Throughout Brook Foods’ Silver Anniversary year, the company has been choosing charities to support  on a monthly basis  – donating £25 for every customer order valued at £1,000 and more. Last month saw the Williton-based company’s donations so far soar to over £5,000.

Raising £1,250 throughout April, Samia Sanders of Brook Foods was delighted to present a cheque to The Exmoor Pony Centre  – a small charity-run business, owned by the Moorland Mousie Trust, which works to both promote and protect the endangered rare breed Exmoor pony. Their main work focuses on providing a future for the excess foals that are removed from the moor each year during the annual gathering.

Presenting the cheque to Kirsty Urion from the Centre in early May, Samia had the chance to meet Almond (pictured) and Tom, who are regular visitors to local schools and care homes.  She said, “Exmoor ponies provide locals and visitors to the area with a unique sight and experience; these beautiful animals graciously welcome us onto their moorland home. We haven’t donated to an animal charity yet but felt it was important to recognise the work the Exmoor Pony Centre carries out.”

Kirsty said, “Thank you so much, this is a really unexpected and wonderful amount and will go a long way to help us here at the centre with feeds and fencing and looking after the ponies.”

MOTORCYCLISTS CHAMPION 14TH DEVON AIR AMBULANCE RIDE OUT

Keen bikers are circling Sunday 14 July in their diaries – this year’s date for the 14th Devon Air Ambulance Motorcycle Ride Out. Starting points for the popular event are once more at Trago Mills in Newton Abbot, or Evans Transport in Bideford, with the Ride Out finishing at The Den in Teignmouth.

Bikers will travel approximately 80 miles through beautiful Devon countryside and can look forward to stalls, refreshments and live music at the Teignmouth destination. Family, friends and non-bikers are welcome to join riders at The Den to enjoy an afternoon of family-friendly stands, including from Bridge Motorcycles – which is once more sponsoring the event – as well as a bouncy castle and ice-cream for little ones.

“We’re looking forward to inviting our motorcycling supporters to enjoy the stunning Devon scenery once again this year,” says Fundraising and Communications Director at Devon Air Ambulance, Caroline Creer. “We would like to thank our headline sponsor, Bridge Motorcycles, for their continued support.

“Our Ride Out is all about promoting safe riding to the growing motorcycle community. It’s not a race, but a fun ride out and a chance to enjoy the beautiful Devon countryside. We receive such amazing support from the motorcycle community.”

Pre-entry is still available via the Charity’s website at just £5 per entry, which includes a limited-edition event t-shirt. Entrants can still sign up on the day for £5, but entry won’t include a t-shirt, which will instead be available for £5 each at The Den subject to availability. Limited edition pin badges at just £1 will also be available on the day. Sign up here: bit.ly/MCRideOut2019

HEDGE-LAYING SKILLS PUT TO THE TEST

Just over a week left to enter your hedge!

A competition to award the region’s most skilled hedge-layers is being run once again by Exmoor National Park Authority, following generous sponsorship from the Exmoor Trust for another year.

Work carried out during the autumn and winter months each year results in a considerable transformation along many lanes and field edges, as once-shady, outgrown hedges are cut and laid. This traditional management is crucial in order to rejuvenate the hedgerows, which are iconic features of Exmoor’s farming history and important habitats for a diverse range of wildlife. The work relies on traditional skills that date back centuries and provides employment for numerous people on Exmoor during the winter months.

Heather Harley, a Conservation Officer for Exmoor National Park, said: “Thick, bushy hedgerows are an enduring feature of the Exmoor landscape and can be wonderful habitats for wildlife, providing corridors of shelter and food for all sorts of insects, birds and small mammals. But if not properly managed, the hedgebanks can deteriorate over time as shrubs and trees mature, often resulting in a thin, gappy line, susceptible to the elements.

“This award was set up to recognise the highly skilled hedge-laying work that farmers, land managers and contractors do for the benefit of the wildlife and landscape of the National Park, and we wish all entrants the very best of luck this year.”

Susan May, Chairman of the Exmoor Trust, said: “Exmoor’s beech hedges are a fundamental part of the fabric of the moor and the Exmoor Trust is very happy to sponsor the prizes for this competition again this year. Several hedges have been laid over the past few months and the skills shown are to be applauded – so do enter the competition”.

To be eligible, all or part of the farm must be within Exmoor National Park and the hedge must have been laid during the winter of 2018/19. There are two classes, ‘Open’ and ‘Novice’, and the winner of each class will receive £200, 2nd place £100 and £50 will go to the 3rd place. The judges include members of the Devon and Somerset Hedge Groups, who are experienced West Country hedge-layers themselves. The previous year’s Open Class winners are also invited to join the judging panel.

The deadline is 24 May 2019 and entries must be submitted together with at least one photo of the completed hedge, and, if possible, a photo of the hedge before work took place with whoever carried out the work. For further information or an entry form please ring Exmoor National Park Authority on 01398 323665 or email hjharley@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

Photo caption: Last year’s winning hedge at Cloggs Farm, which was laid by Mark Jackson.

NEW GUIDANCE AIMS TO KEEP EXMOOR FAMILIES FARMING

The following is a press release issued by Exmoor National Park Authority

The draft “Rural Worker and Succession Farm Dwelling Guidance” applies to those working in land-based businesses in the National Park, such as farming or forestry, and is supplementary to existing national guidelines as well as those set out in the Local Plan for the National Park.

Nationally, homes in the open countryside are only permitted in exceptional circumstances, such as the need for a full-time worker to be permanently on site to tend livestock. Local planning policy further recognises that maintaining the fabric of Exmoor’s farming community is intrinsic to conserving the distinct landscapes and habitats of the National Park, along with the centuries-old farming practices that help sustain them.

For example, there is extra flexibility to help older farmers retire and a younger generation to take on responsibility for the farm business, or for larger dwellings to be applied for if the scale or nature of the enterprise demands it and the need can’t be met through alternative arrangements. But equally the rules are necessarily stringent around the impact of any new dwelling on the landscape to ensure they are sensitive to the unique character and scenic beauty of the National Park. These new guidelines are intended to help balance these two obligations.

Robin Milton, Chairman of the National Park Authority, said: “This is an important document for Exmoor and its communities to ensure there are opportunities for new housing where it is essential to working people being able to live locally and to conserve and enhance this beautiful area. It is intended to help applicants and all those involved in planning for farm dwellings in the National Park and we would love to hear people’s views.”

Martin Dewdney, Chairman of the National Park Authority Planning Committee, added: “If adopted, this document will form part of an extensive toolkit on offer to help with these kinds of planning applications that also includes regular planning surgeries and free pre-application advice. As the Local Plan is already adopted, it won’t form part of the consultation, but we warmly welcome any comments focused on this latest guidance.”

The draft guidelines and comments form are available from the planning policy section of the Exmoor National Park Authority website* and as hard copies at the following locations: National Park Centres in Dulverton, Dunster and Lynmouth, Lynton and Porlock libraries, Exmoor House in Dulverton and West Somerset and North Devon Council Offices in Williton and Barnstaple.

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.

MINISTER SEEKS OUT PROJECTS CHANGING NATIONAL PARKS FOR THE BETTER

National Parks charity, Campaign for National Parks, has joined forces with the Government’s Year of Green Action to seek out the very best projects making a difference in the National Parks.

Winning projects will receive either a £1,500 or £2,000 boost in recognition of their work safeguarding the most beloved landscapes in the country in the first ever joint Park Protector and Year of Green Action Awards.

Minister for National Parks, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, said: “National Parks are incredibly important and it is essential that we celebrate the people who work hard to protect these special landscapes for all of us, and future generations, to enjoy.

“These awards are open to anyone making a difference to the future of these fantastic natural spaces.”

Nominations are open until Friday 31 May. Nominated projects must be seeking to connect people with the environment, conserve or enhance the biodiversity or a heritage site, improve access to the Parks, or protect an area in a National Park. Nominate here.

A project restoring a bog habitat for rare wetland species won last year’s Award. They were presented with their award by actress Caroline Quentin and journalist Julian Glover at a Parliamentary reception. This year Campaign for National Parks will also be celebrating 70 years since the 1949 Act of Parliament established the National Parks – something the organisation has led the fight for.

Andrew Hall of Campaign for National Parks said: “In past years we’ve had projects applying that cover everything from teaching kids salmon fishing in the North York Moors, mass volunteering in Snowdonia and using traditional skills to conserve the New Forest. This is a fantastic opportunity and we are delighted to work with Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust and DEFRA to make this happen this year.”

“If you are dedicated to connecting people and nature and caring for our cherished National Parks, then I urge you to apply. You have nothing to lose but the National Parks that you love have everything to gain,” commented Lord Gardiner.

The annual Award is generously supported by Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust and is also supported by Breedon Group.

PHOTO by Andrew Wheatley from our forthcoming summer issue of Exmoor Magazine, which is out mid May.

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