EXMOOR VOLUNTEERS SHORTLISTED FOR UK NATIONAL PARKS AWARD

Volunteers behind a project to restore historic signposts across Exmoor National Park have been shortlisted for the UK National Parks Volunteering Awards 2018. Sponsored by Columbia Sportswear, the award recognises the outstanding contribution that volunteers make in helping care for these precious landscapes and inspiring others to safeguard them for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Two years ago, many of Exmoor’s traditional cast-iron signposts were looking shabby and at risk of falling into disrepair. In response to concern from local communities over the issue, Exmoor National Park Authority teamed up with Heritage Lottery fund and Somerset County Council to fund a project that would recruit volunteers to help restore and refurbish them, and trace their history.

Stuart and Mike are two of the fantastic army of over a hundred volunteers!

Project leader Charlotte Thomas from Exmoor National Park, said: “More than 100 volunteers have contributed to this project, helping with everything from the initial surveys and historical research, to actually painting and refurbishing the signs. We’ve even had people coming forward with bits of old signpost found in outbuildings that are now back in their rightful place, saving hundreds of pounds in restoration costs. Being shortlisted for this award is a great way of celebrating all that’s been achieved by these wonderful volunteers.”

Two other projects from Northumberland and Dartmoor National Parks have been shortlisted alongside Exmoor for the ‘projects’ category – one of four categories of award.

The judging panel this year was made up of the volunteer coordinators from all of the National Parks, who made the following statement: “Judging these awards is a humbling experience as it gives us the opportunity to learn about so many people and projects that are making an immense contribution to the 15 National Parks across the UK. It was a difficult choice this year as there were so many inspiring entries. We’d like to congratulate those who have been shortlisted and we would like to thank everyone who is volunteering to help our staff look after National Parks!”

The winners of each category will be announced at the Kendal Mountain Festival on 17 November 2018. All winners will receive great prizes provided by Columbia Sportswear and £1000 bursary is given to the group and project winners to help their volunteer work.

NEW SIGNS POINT ILFRACOMBE VISITORS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

New finger posts have been installed in Ilfracombe, as part of a joint project to improve tourist links in the town.

The new posts direct visitors to places of interest and attractions around the town, such as the High Street, theatre and harbour. Each post displays the average time it takes to walk to each attraction, which is particularly useful for families and those with difficulty walking.

The fonts and colours used on the posts follow accessibility guidelines, so they are easy to read and understand. 

North Devon Council and Ilfracombe Town Council applied for funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development through the Leader 5 Rural Development Programme and this was match-funded by Ilfracombe Town Council, North Devon Council and Councillor Mike Edmunds’ Devon County Council Investing in Devon fund.

Mayor of Ilfracombe, Councillor Val Gates, says: “The new finger posts have helped to modernise the look of Ilfracombe and are making it easier for tourists and residents alike to migrate around many features of the town. A number of volunteers from various groups in Ilfracombe have also been involved and are thrilled with the results. I’d like to thank each one of them for their efforts with this project.”

Meanwhile, North Devon Council is working closely with the Ilfracombe Regeneration Board on a masterplan to regenerate Ilfracombe seafront. The masterplan will provide an overall scheme for the area that can be broken down into smaller projects that will be easier to deliver as funding comes available.

CAMPAIGN FOR NATIONAL PARKS URGES SOLUTIONS TO BIG CHALLENGES

The following is a press release from Campaign for National Parks

Campaign for National Parks has welcomed the Government’s call for evidence for the review of England’s designated landscapes, which was launched on Saturday 20 October. The review, which will report 70 years after the 1949 Act that established National Parks, looks at all aspects of England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

Julian Glover, who recently addressed Campaign for National Parks’ annual parliamentary reception, is leading the review. In his speech he noted that, “We’ve done well but we can do even better” and called for “interesting and bold ideas” in response to the challenges facing National Parks.

Campaign for National Parks urges everyone to participate in the consultation and submit their ideas to the panel. The charity, which was created in the 1930s to campaign for the creation of the Parks, wants to see the Parks become better protected, made even more beautiful and enjoyed by everyone.

Fiona Howie, chief executive of Campaign for National Parks, said: “Around 100 million people visit the National Parks each year to enjoy breath-taking views, nature and adventure. But the Parks are also home to rural communities. At times this inevitably causes tensions.

“We believe the National Parks are a fantastic success story but we welcome the chance to consider how to make them even better. We want to see the review take on the challenge of making the Parks better for wildlife and more accessible for everyone.”

Earlier this year Campaign for National Parks criticised the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee for failing to exclude building nuclear waste facilities in the National Parks, helped successfully campaign against inappropriate zip wires in the Lake District and are currently campaigning against a destructive bypass in the South Downs.

“The National Parks were founded for the benefit of the people of England and Wales and are now famous across the world. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to improve them for everyone to enjoy. We welcome Julian’s call for bold ideas that will make a difference and achieve meaningful change so that England’s best landscapes are fit for the next 70 years,” concluded Fiona.

PHOTO: by Andrew Wheatley, from a previous issue of Exmoor Magazine.

LOOKING FOR: HUMAN GUIDE DOGS!

This is a story which Guide Dogs have asked us to publish in tandem with the article which you will find on page 112 of the new issue of Exmoor Magazine, which is out now.

You may well have heard of Guide Dogs, we’re a national charity working to ensure that blind and partially sighted people 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.

One of the services that Guide Dogs runs is called ‘My Guide’. It is a service whereby a trained, sighted (human) guide, is partnered with someone with sight loss. Many people with sight loss need support in gaining confidence to get out and about, and to achieve personal goals. My Guides accompany service users to facilitate tasks such as running errands, practising everyday routes, using public transport, or going to the gym to build confidence in these areas (playing fetch optional!).

Bethany Akielan, My Guide Ambassador, says, “When someone loses their sight, they can also lose confidence; or in the worst cases become socially isolated. Introducing a My Guide into someone’s life makes a real difference. In volunteering a couple of hours a week, it can make the seemingly insurmountable, possible for a service user.”

Guide Dogs provides full training for all volunteers in how to safely sighted guide and a general introduction to sight loss. We have several people waiting to be matched to My Guide partnerships in Exmoor and the surrounding areas. Being a volunteer is a great opportunity to learn new skills, socialise, and broaden your knowledge of supporting someone with a visual impairment.

Suzanne, a service user in Exeter, says, “Jan, my My Guide volunteer, has been invaluable in making my relocation from Sussex to Exeter a positive experience. Moving meant I had to make a mental map of my new surroundings and Jan has been key in supporting my independence in my new home town.”

If you’d be interested in finding out more about My Guide and other volunteering opportunities with Guide Dogs, head to our website: www.guidedogs.org.uk/ and click on ‘How Can I Help’ or call the South West Team on 0345 143 0204.

‘MATERIALITY’ EXHIBITION OPENS AT HESTERCOMBE

An exhibition inspired by the surroundings of Hestercombe will showcase the work of three artists this autumn/winter.

Sarah Bennett, Megan Calver and Philippa Lawrence have been directly engaged with Hestercombe House and Gardens over three years and the resulting exhibition has developed from these experiences.

Materiality: provisional states runs from 10 November 2018 until 24 February 2019 at Hestercombe Gallery and features exhibits using a range of media from photography, sculpture to drawing and text.

Sarah Bennett’s practice investigates institutional sites, both historical and contemporary, in UK and international settings, employing a range of artistic research methods and material processes including: digital recording, facsimile object making, observational drawing, and embodied actions. She is Head of School of Art and Architecture at Kingston University, and chairs educational events in art schools, universities and arts organisations in Europe and the USA.

Megan Calver’s new work is an iteration of her enquiry into expressions of taste and attitudes to perceived imperfections, first presented in a group show at Hestercombe in 2015. Megan Calver’s approach is process-led and for the past ten years she has focused her site-related investigations throughout the South West of England where collaborations with people and places have grown and taken hold.

After a deep study of the Hestercombe landscape, Philippa Lawrence offers works that ask us to perceive things we may have overlooked or not considered, tracing humankind’s activity in managing an estate and nature. Philippa has exhibited widely both in the UK and internationally, including in America, Japan, Czech Republic, Canada, Iceland and Australia.

Collectively interested in issues related to labour and the management of landscape and nature, Materiality: provisional states aims to examine and critique human and non-human centred activity found in Hestercombe’s past and present. The exhibition stems from archival research as well as ‘Disclosures and Dialogues’, a series of dialogue sessions with artists, curators, historians, academics and garden practitioners.

 

THE RURAL LIVING SHOW 2018

Next weekend – 17 and 18 November – sees the ever-popular Rural Living Show. This annual event has become a firm fixture in the run up to Christmas for those seeking the many unique and exciting items available at King’s Hall School over the weekend. Every year the show includes the work of many craftspeople both from Somerset and further afield – with demonstrations of traditional crafts throughout – basket making, wood turning, lace craft, corn dollies, candle-making – enabling you to buy things which are often totally one of a kind.

On offer will be jewellery, metalwork, glass, pottery, fabrics, paintings, lifestyle, and much, much more. The food marquee is legendary with its fine array of pies, sausages, smoked fish, bread, cakes, chocolates… the list is amazing, and all from local and committed producers

The event’s nominated charity as always is Children’s Hospice South West, who provide support for 400 families from the South West. Their running costs are about £6 million annually.

For younger visitors, there are face painters and a Magic Show on the balcony of the Sports Hall – all for donations to the Children’s Hospice.

The Rural Living Show is on:

17th November: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm
18th November: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm
Entrance: £4.00
(Children under 16 free)

www.rurallivingshow.co.uk
rurallivingshow@gmail.com

For more information, ring: 01823 323363

Photo: Blue bird from Blueberry Glass

SOMERSET GARDENERS GROW SUPPORT FOR ST MARGARET’S HOSPICE

St Margaret’s Hospice was delighted to host a celebration event at Brympton House, near Yeovil, to thank the Somerset gardeners who kindly opened their gardens, allotments and farms this summer to raise vital funds totalling £16,600 for the hospice.

The use of the venue and gardens was kindly donated by the owners, and was enjoyed by this year’s participating gardeners along with the open garden volunteers who had supported them on their open days.

Each garden owner and volunteer received a thank you certificate, presented by Marisa Lovell-Fox, Head of Fundraising at St Margaret’s Hospice, who said: “We are humbled by the generosity of the garden owners in the Somerset and Sherborne community, who have so kindly allowed people to share their beautiful gardens, and enjoy tea and cake, while raising essential funds needed to keep our services free and accessible to local people. We have been overwhelmed by the donations received this season, which show an increase of £7,000 from the previous year.”

Susan Bickle, the scheme coordinator, added: “We had an amazing response to our Open Gardens season this year, with a variety of different visits available, from small courtyard gardens to large woodland and lakes, with allotments and farms in between. Unlike some of the national open gardens schemes, all of the donations raised from the St Margaret’s Hospice Open Gardens season are used to support local patients and families in Somerset and the Sherborne area of Dorset.

We are keen to hear from anyone who would like to take part in the 2019 season either to open their garden, allotment, orchard or farm, or to offer help as a garden volunteer. There are many ways to support the scheme, even if you are unable to open a garden, such as having a plant sale, serving refreshments at your local flower show, or having a scarecrow trail in your village. We are also seeking local businesses who would like to advertise in our 2019 Open Gardens brochure or donate a prize to the Open Gardens raffle.”

St Margaret’s Hospice is all about making each day count for their patients, families and carers – if you would like to be part of making this happen through the Open Gardens scheme, please contact Susan Bickle, Open Gardens and Fundraising Volunteer Coordinator, for more information on 01935 709182 or 07736 886145 or by email on susan.bickle@st-margarets-hospice.org.uk.

READY, SET, HERITAGE!

Do you want to find out more about the hidden heritage in North Devon? A new Coastal Heritage project is currently underway led by the new North Devon Coast AONB Heritage Officer, Joe Penfold. Joe has spent the last five years working for the Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership where he helped to conserve, enhance and celebrate the local historical features.

Within North Devon Joe plans to use his previous knowledge and skills to develop opportunities for volunteers to train in the use of practical archaeological skills as well as to conserve and assess the condition of the heritage sites with a particular-focus on coastal hillforts, the history of Hartland and World War II features.

Joe Penfold, AONB Heritage Officer said, “The North Devon coast is a treasure trove of landmarks, stories and events from a bygone age. Getting involved in the Coastal Heritage project is a great way to meet new people, to learn something new about the landscape and to take action to conserve it. I will also be offering work experience placements to any budding archaeologists in the area.”

In addition to the practical aspects of this project Joe will produce new interpretation materials and organise heritage related talks and walks for those living in the area to better understand and enjoy the history that matters to them. A key element of the project is also to support community-led activities and celebrations such as next year’s 75th D-Day Commemorations.

The project is being delivered and funded by local partners working with the AONB team including Devon County Council’s Heritage Team, the National Trust, North Devon Archaeological Society, North Devon Council’s Museum Development Officer, Torridge District Council and Hartland Parish Council.

Jenny Carey-Wood, AONB Manager, said, “We have some fantastic hidden heritage across North Devon and we welcome Joe’s skills and experience to engage local people and visitors in discovering more about our coastal history.”

This winter there will be opportunities to get involved in the project across North Devon. If you have a passion for heritage and would like to know more please visit the website www.northdevon-aonb.org.uk or email us aonb@devon.gov.uk.

Photo: Digging at Clovelly Dykes

EXMOOR COMMUNITY MUSIC PROJECT COMMEMORATES FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY

Article and photos by Elizabeth Atkinson, Project Manager for ‘Fragments: Voices from the First World War’

West Somerset will be hosting the world première of a new choral piece by local composer Emily Feldberg on 10 November, involving more than 90 musicians from across Exmoor and beyond. Fragments: Voices from the First World War brings together the voices of British and German people caught up in the war, using original sources from the time. It will have its première at Minehead Avenue Methodist Church on the eve of the centenary of Armistice Day, and will be conducted by leading choral conductor Nigel Perrin. Tickets for the evening performance have already sold out, but there is still an opportunity to hear Fragments at the open rehearsal on the afternoon of 10 November, at the same venue, starting at 2pm.

The composer, who lives in Carhampton, started work on the hour-long piece in 2014, at the centenary of the outbreak of the conflict, and completed it earlier this year. “Writing any music about the First World War is extremely emotional,” she said. “I have spent the last four years both crying for the tragedy and questioning whether I was representing people’s experiences appropriately. I have really tried to let the voices of German and British participants speak for themselves.”

A wide range of texts dating from the First World War have been used for the piece, including the words of a Devon farmer, a Ruhr miner, a German soldier, a woman munitions worker, a grieving mother, a conscientious objector’s memoirs, the Somme Army report, a humorous poem from the Wipers Times and verses found on a scrap of newspaper in a German railway carriage in 1918. Different musical styles in the piece reflect this range. Starting and ending with the words, ‘Lest we forget,’ the music moves the listener from the first swells of patriotic fervour through the tragedy of loss, to the jaunty defiance in the face of danger of the Tommies in the trenches and the women in the munitions factories, and the horrors experienced in the mire of the Somme. It takes in both the agony of decision for conscientious objectors and the stoicism of young British and German soldiers in the face of impending death. The piece draws to an end with the sombre reflection that ‘Peace has come to a suffering world’ and the implied challenge expressed in the words of Quaker peace campaigner Corder Catchpool (1919): “We are only justified in going on living if our futures manifest, at every point and at all times, a heroism equal to that of those killed in battle.”

From the outset, this project has been shaped by the input of many different people in many different ways. “Composing a piece of music is only the beginning,” said Emily. “People have shared stories, suggested ideas, provided texts and given advice and encouragement. Each new contribution has changed and widened the end product. It really has become a community project, not only because of the number of people involved in the first performance, but also because of those who have influenced its development.” Even the publicity has drawn on local inspiration, featuring graffiti scratched into the lead roof of Carhampton church tower 100 years ago: ‘PEACE NOV 11 18’.

The title of the piece was the result of much debate. Eventually, the idea came from Di Osborn of Roadwater, whose husband John is singing in the performance: “I thought perhaps you could call it just Fragments: Voices from the First World War,” she wrote, “then the ‘fragments’ would reference not only the snatches of text but those poor young men who got blown to smithereens and also the fragmented lives caused by warfare.” A century on, those fragments still impact on the lives of most of us, and this has both contributed to the content of the piece and deepened the involvement of many participants, and may well add poignancy to the experience of the audience in November.

Most of the participants have a direct connection to the conflict. The section on Conscientious Objectors was inspired by materials provided by Chris Lawson of Minehead Quakers (Chris and his wife Christina will both be involved in the performance) whose father was a Conscientious Objector in the First World War. Among other materials, Chris provided Emily with the journal of a member of the Friends Ambulance Unit, with which two uncles of Philippa Gerry, who is singing in the piece, also served. Philippa’s father was shot and gassed on the Somme, an aunt supervised hospital trains, a cousin nursed the wounded in northern France and died of pneumonia and two more uncles’ lives were irretrievably changed by shell shock. Thelma Vernon’s grandfather, like so many others, was killed in the first year of the war, while Helen Jowett was moved by her own grandfather’s experience of the trenches to write a poem, ‘Devon Farmer’, which now forms part of the libretto of the piece (the only text not actually dating from the war). And the effect is felt through the generations: the baritone soloist for November’s performance, Jamie Rock (a favourite visiting soloist for Minehead audiences), wrote, “My Great Great Grandfather fought and died in WW1, so it will mean a lot to me and my family to represent his fallen friends and foes. I hope my Granny will be able to make it over for the performance.” And one survivor of the conflict will be present at the performance: Tim Hedgecock will be playing in the orchestra on a violin his grandfather played in an army band in India during the war.

Links with the German experience of the war are also important for many of the participants. Emily has German family links herself, and has also drawn on the accounts of German friends and relatives. Emily’s friend Anna Fleisch related how her grandfather only spoke about one aspect of his experience of the war: although billeted on enemy ground, his unit were given cake by the women in the village on their safe return from the trenches, and Emily has used this for the section entitled ‘Kuchen’ (‘Cake!’) in the piece. For other participants, the German link is more recent: “I’m half German,” said Bill Griffiths. “My mum would have been really proud that I’m doing this.”

Orchestral rehearsals started back in 2017, and a choir of more than 50 singers started rehearsals in April of this year, with members coming from as far afield as London, Yorkshire and Scotland, as well as from a wide range of local choral groups. Participants’ responses to the music have been overwhelming. Helen Jowett wrote, “The music is wonderful and so emotional – I can’t sing ‘Kuchen’ [depicting a mother who has lost her son] without a wobbly voice!” while cellist Jenny Quick wrote, “It is a fantastic achievement and already wielding the power to touch and move us all.” Singer John Osborn, writing in response to a full-day workshop with conductor Nigel Perrin, wrote, “I have Emily’s music in my head all the time. I was three feet off the ground when I got home from Saturday’s workshop – it was one of the best days I’ve ever had.”

For some singers, this is the culmination of a lifetime’s ambition. Tim Pettigrew, who is singing a solo from the choir as a conscientious objector, wrote, “It realises a childhood dream when my Mum started taking me to the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester Cathedral (in the 1950s and ’60s) and I remember being emotionally electrified for days afterwards by the baritone solo of the Priest at the conclusion of Part 1 of The Dream of Gerontius.  I wondered what it must be like to sing something like that and even daydreamed that I might do something similar one day. Well now, some 60 years later, you have realised my dream and have given me a musical experience that I will cherish and which will be with me for the rest of my life.”

The project is also bringing together singers with a wide range of musical experience and expertise: some have never been involved in anything on this scale before and some don’t read music but have learnt the whole piece from singing along with the music on the project website, while others are seasoned performers bringing their skills to the piece to the benefit of all concerned. The orchestra, too, contains players with a wide range of skills and experience, including one adult learner who has never played in an orchestra before. Participants’ own suggestions have also led to additional support: they can now sing along to their own lines on the website, watch videos of rehearsal sections, practise their German pronunciation with online tutorials and attend extra sections for note-learning. “The rehearsals have a real buzz,” said Emily. “You can feel the commitment.”

An Arts Council grant has enabled the amateur performers to work both with conductor Nigel Perrin and with five professional orchestral players, and local individual and business patrons are also supporting the project with funding and services. There are still opportunities to give support: please email emilyfeldberg@btinternet.com or phone 01643 821756 for details.

Entry to the open rehearsal on 10 November is free, but donations towards the cost of the project would be welcomed. Souvenir programmes will be on sale at the rehearsal, containing the full text of Fragments and the composer’s notes on the piece: anyone attending the rehearsal or performance is advised to read these before it starts if they can. As it is a working rehearsal (so visitors are asked to remain silent), there may be some stops and starts, but a full run-through of the hour-long piece is planned for shortly after 2pm.

To find out more about the project and get a flavour of the music, visit www.emily-feldberg-music.uk/ or simply search online for Emily Feldberg music.

PHOTO: Emily, the composer, working with the orchestra.

 

 

 

 

KING’S CELEBRATES OFFICIAL RIDING LICENCE

King’s College is celebrating becoming a licensed riding establishment after passing the local authority inspection at the end of last month.

The new facility, which is just a few minutes’ drive from King’s College, is proving very popular and the new King’s horses have settled nicely into their new home.

The King’s Equestrian Centre comprises eight boxes in an enclosed yard, and is situated at the end of a quiet lane, well away from any traffic, with easy access onto woodland paths and open countryside, which is ideal for riders of all levels.

Emma Edwards, Head of Equestrian, who is a champion carriage driver and competitive rider herself, said: “It seems to have been a long time in the planning stages but now, at last, we have got the King’s Equestrian Centre open.

“This is a hugely exciting development for us and is already proving itself to be popular with pupils, both from home and overseas.”

0345 224 1203