Work begins on new leisure centre for North Devon

Construction of the new state-of-the-art Tarka Leisure Centre in Barnstaple has moved one step closer this month, as contractors begin work on site.

Parkwood Leisure has been appointed as the official contractor for the £15 million leisure centre, which will be built on the site adjacent to Tarka Tennis Centre in Barnstaple. The project is being funded by North Devon Council, Sport England and the Coastal Communities Fund.

The centre will be constructed by Speller Metcalfe, with an expected completion date of Spring 2022 and will feature:

  • 25m eight-lane competition swimming pool with movable floor
  • 20m four-lane learner pool with movable floor
  • sports hall with four badminton courts
  • large gym
  • two multi-purpose exercise studios
  • spinning studio with virtual experience
  • Devon’s first endless ski slope for indoor skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing
  • indoor soft play
  • outdoor play area
  • new reception area and cafe

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden says: “This significant investment will create outstanding new facilities for the town and surrounding communities and there is a real sense of anticipation as we mark the start of this work.

The current leisure centre is now at the end of its commercial life and in need of replacement. The landmark new centre will be a focal point not just for local residents but for visitors from further afield and will add to the area’s tourism offer. I’d also like to reassure people that Tarka Tennis Centre, Falcons Gymnastics Academy and North Devon Leisure Centre will all remain open throughout the build.”

Chairman of the Council, Councillor Frank Biederman, says: One of the council’s key aims is to get more people, of all ages, involved in physical activity to improve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The new centre has been designed after consultation with existing users and this is reflected in the facility mix. We have movable floors in both pools to cater for the extra depth our surf life-saving clubs and water polo players require and has two additional lanes in the main pool to accommodate more casual swimmers.

We have also improved facilities for disabled users, with state-of-the-art “pool pods” which allow a more dignified form of entry into the pools for those with mobility difficulties.”

Glen Hall, Managing Director of Parkwood Leisure says: “Tarka Leisure Centre is a project that we’re really excited about; we know the local area is in need of improved leisure provision and the new facility will provide a hub for the local community to enjoy for many years to come. We have a long-standing relationship with North Devon Council, and we can’t wait to see our collective plans come together to deliver something truly unique for the region.”

Rob Lashford, regional director for Speller Metcalfe, says: “It is extremely important to us that this scheme benefits the local community, not only as an exciting new leisure centre, but by providing employment opportunities to local businesses throughout its construction – something we know is more important than ever after the challenging few months businesses up and down the country have faced.”

Sport England has provided £1.75m of National Lottery funding towards the project and £1.5m has been granted by the Coastal Communities Fund. Contributions from local housing developments have also been put towards the build costs.

Follow the progress of the new leisure centre project by signing up to the council’s blog www.newleisurecentre.wordpress.com. or look out for updates on Facebook (@northdevoncouncil) or Twitter (@ndevoncouncil).

Fans of Exmoor encouraged to share their love on ‘Exmoor Day’

Monday 19 October is #ExmoorDay – a chance to celebrate all that Exmoor National Park offers to the nation and the world. Exmoor National Park boasts inspiring landscapes, thriving communities, incredible wildlife, enterprising businesses, and a rich cultural heritage stemming back centuries.

Exmoor National Park came into being on 19 October 1954 when the Designation Order made by the National Parks Commission was confirmed by the Minister for Housing and Local Government – Harold Macmillan – making it the UK’s 8th National Park.

Home to just under 10,000 residents, the National Park attracts in excess of 2 million visitor days a year and is home to well over 1,000 local businesses. Ancient woodlands and heather-clad moorlands provide important habitats for all kinds of creatures, including iconic free-living Exmoor ponies and the largest population of Red deer in England, alongside rare butterflies, bats, wildflowers, fungi and lichen. At night Exmoor comes alive under some of the darkest skies in the country offering unrivalled opportunities to see thousands of stars above.

Exmoor Day has come about as part of a co-ordinated tourism recovery plan put together by partners to help counter the impacts of Covid-19. This year it will primarily be a virtual event on social media, with people sharing what they love about Exmoor and promoting their Exmoor-based products. On the day you can follow the #ExmoorDay hashtag to join in and local communities, businesses and fans are all invited to take part by celebrating Exmoor in their own style.

Fans of Exmoor near and far are also being invited to send in short films of themselves saying why they love Exmoor as part of a film that will be shared online and through social media on the day. For a chance to be part of it, take a short video (in landscape orientation) of you briefly stating why you love Exmoor / what you most love about Exmoor (ideally no more than 5-10 seconds) on a smartphone and send your video recording via WeTransfer to Katrina at KJMunro@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk, by 12 October at the latest.

Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager, said: “The last six months have really demonstrated what a special place Exmoor is, with thousands flocking to the area for the wonderful sense of wellbeing and freedom that comes with spending time outdoors in our beautiful National Parks.

“At the same time the economic impact has been hard felt on Exmoor, with tourism and hospitality accounting for two thirds of employment. Local communities have pulled together and demonstrated the great spirit of Exmoor, and Exmoor Day offers us a chance to continue that recovery process. Whether you are a visitor sharing your favourite Exmoor experience, a business promoting your links to Exmoor or a community celebrating the place you live, we’d really love you to join us in sharing all that is good about Exmoor.”

For further details about the film, planned virtual activities and opportunities to get involved visit www.exmoor-nationalpark.co.uk/exmoor-day or contact Katrina Munro, Economy Project Officer KJMunro@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

PHOTO: By John Spurr from the winter issue of Exmoor Magazine, due out in November.

 

‘A balm for the soul’: Two Moors Festival brings live classical music to Wiveliscombe

Exmoor Weekend: 2-4 October – St Andrew’s Church, Wiveliscombe (and Dartmoor Weekend: 26-27 September – St Pancras’ Church, Widecombe-in-the-Moor)

The region’s unique Two Moors Festival will return this autumn, with world-class classical music concerts held in line with current government guidelines.  It will be the first time many of the internationally recognised artists involved have returned to the stage since lockdown.

The classical music events will take place with limited, socially distanced audiences across two weekends: 26-27 September on Dartmoor and 2-4 October on Exmoor, in beautiful church venues in Widecombe and Wiveliscombe.  All concerts will be one hour in length with no interval.

The artists involved have thoughtfully created programmes that are joyful, uplifting and a balm for the soul after lockdown.

Tamsin Waley-Cohen, Artistic Director of The Two Moors Festival, said: “I am delighted to be unveiling our programme for the 2020 Festival, my first as Artistic Director.  I was one of the Young Musician Competition winners in the very first Festival 20 years ago and have had the pleasure of returning often since then, seeing it grow and flourish.  This year, we will of course have all relevant measures in place to make it safe and enjoyable for all, in line with government guidance. The Two Moors Festival was born out of the foot and mouth crisis and, on our 20th Anniversary, as we find ourselves weathering another crisis, we offer a festival of celebration, bringing the shared, joyful experience of live music back to the Moors, and lifting people’s spirits.”

Over the past two decades, the Two Moors Festival has evolved into one of the most distinctive classical music festivals in the world.

Included in the Festival’s lineup of musical talent this year are performances from brilliant and insightful rising star pianist, Elisabeth Brauss (pictured); jazz star and a BBC New Generation Artist, Misha Mullov-Abbado; and internationally renowned tenor, Nicky Spence, with the great lieder pianist, Chris Glynn.

Ticket booking is now open.

For information on  ticket sales and event safety, please visit www.twomoorsfestival.co.uk

Have your say on cycling in West Somerset

Guest post from Sarah Ellwood, The Steam Coast Trail

Terrified of cycling on the A39? Sick of cyclists on the road? Wish your kids could safely cycle to school? Take our very quick ten-question survey.

The government’s recent announcements to invest £2 billion to encourage more cycling and walking is very welcomed. There’s plenty of work going on in urban areas to improve the safety of cyclists and get more people out on their bikes, but way less in rural areas such as West Somerset. We are working to change this.

The phenomenal success of our first two paths prove that people want to cycle in West Somerset: since 2017 we’ve recorded over 180,000 trips, over a third of which are cycle trips.

I know I saw loads more bikes out on the roads during lockdown, especially families. On my rides I’d sometimes see more cyclists than cars so I know lots of you are out there! But the numbers are definitely dipping now restrictions are easing and we want to know why.

Experienced in providing safe places to cycle, the Steam Coast Trail team has a pretty good idea of what these barriers to more cycling may be. But to progress our mission to make more lovely mixed-use paths we need evidence to highlight what’s stopping so many people from using a bike for short journeys in West Somerset.

Whether you’re almost permanently dressed in Lycra or hate the thought of getting on a bike, please take our quick ten-question survey. It’ll just take a minute or two!

Thanks very much,

Sarah Ellwood
Project Officer – Steam Coast Trail

The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon welcomes visitors back

Staff and volunteers at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon welcomed visitors back this week.

Admission is free, but to ensure the safety of staff and visitors, an advanced booking system is being introduced to help manage visitor numbers so social distancing can be maintained and ensure the museum experience is a safe and welcoming one.

All visitors are being asked to book a timed arrival slot in advance on the Museum website between the new opening hours of 11am-3pm (last admittance at 2pm), Wednesday to Friday.

Museum curator, Alison Mills, says: “Visitors will be able to explore our permanent displays, view the temporary exhibition ‘James Ravilious: An Eye for Life’ and visit our museum shop.  Anyone wishing to visit just the shop will be permitted without booking, but please be aware there may be a short wait outside due to the small size of the shop.

“Visitors to Bromley’s tearoom will not have to pre-book. The tearoom access is now separate through the side door on the Square and tables will be available outside in good weather.”

For further information and visitor FAQs please the museum website. Anyone without access to the internet can phone the museum to arrange a booking slot on 01271 346747.

EXMOOR DARK SKIES FESTIVAL PREPARES FOR LIFT-OFF

Exmoor National Park’s popular Dark Skies Festival is set to go ahead this October (16th-31st) as businesses across the region prepare to deliver a host of ‘Covid-friendly’ events in celebration of the region’s spectacular starry night skies.

With so many festivals and other occasions off the cards this year, it’s hoped the celebration – organised by Exmoor National Park Authority – will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy and a fresh way of enjoying the stunning beauty of the area at a traditionally less-busy time of year, and day.

Ranger-guided night walks, stargazing suppers, dusk safaris and expert astronomy talks are among the many events planned, along with some brand-new experiences such as Dark Sky Boat Adventures and Well-Being Retreats under the stars. All have been thoroughly risk-assessed to ensure they can be enjoyed safely, with advanced booking a requirement for all events due to limits on group sizes and makeup.

Katrina Munro, who coordinates the festival for Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “The Festival celebrates our designation as an International Dark Sky Reserve and we’re proud to have by far some of the lowest levels of light pollution and darkest skies in the country. With the help of our dedicated National Park Rangers, staff and local businesses, we’ve done some re-thinking and careful planning, with all working hard to ensure every precautionary measure is in place for the Festival to run as safely as possible. For some this will mean a much more exclusive experience, shared only among select family and friends of your choosing, making it extra special for those lucky enough to get tickets.”

Jennie Wild from Exford-based business Wild about Exmoor has been running stargazing experiences for several years and has recently adapted her business model. “Recently we’ve started taking small groups out on the moor for private stargazing adventures and the response has been amazing. During such difficult times it’s incredible what a little time under a magical star-lit sky like Exmoor’s can do for the soul. From the response we’ve been getting its clear people so need that right now -an unforgettable experience for all ages.”

For those who would rather help celebrate the National Park’s dark skies from home, there will also be on-line events focused on stargazing, nocturnal wildlife and the importance of dark skies. Follow #ExmoorDSF on social media for updates or sign up to Exmoor National Park’s Dark Skies newsletter on their website.

The Festival events programme and booking information can be found at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/darkskiesfestival, where there are also details of this year’s Festival competition themed on ‘Exmoor at Night Photography and Astrophotography’. The competition is supported by local businesses including Exmoor Magazine, Wicked Wold Gin and Miles Tea and Coffee, along with Astronomy Now magazine and Celestron telescopes. There are four categories, under 16 and 16+ age classes, with a range of fantastic astronomy-themed prizes on offer, including the chance to see your photos featured in several of the region’s glossy magazines.

Photo credit: Richard Presley, Dark Skies Over Dunkery Beacon.

RECIPES FROM HERBY4 TO GO WITH AUTUMN ISSUE

In our autumn issue (we should have finished our shop deliveries by about 15 August), we have an article by Jo Laver about Rachael Jarrett and Andy Rock (‘Rocky’) of Bicknoller-based company Herby4. In there we have promised readers some recipes to go with the article, which Rocky has kindly sent in. He says:

These are a couple here that people have recommended to us and some of our own!

Tofu Paneer Recipies
Basically, any recipe that uses paneer cheese or firm-pressed tofu will work well with Tofu paneer.  There are plenty out there but here are a couple of mouth-watering options….

1) Try this recipe from the  BOSH Brothers. www.bosh.tv/recipes/crispy-chilli-tofu. Using Tofu Paneer, don’t bother about all the pressing of the tofu in the first couple of paragraphs.  We also use Herby4 apple juice  (from any of the range we happen to have open – they all work) instead of orange juice. Simply jump straight into coating it in flour (paragraph 3) and it’s a very quick and very impressive meal!

2) Secondly  have a look at this mouth-watering Spicy Tofu Makhani recipe from In Our Kitchen online recipes. drive.google.com/drive/folders/1PdD2fhAQri83ZKw4PuLXTrxuP0_rVhxJ To keep it vegan you could leave the butter out and up the amount of coconut milk.  Either way it is a brilliantly creamy option. The longer you leave the tofu to soak up the spices the better!

Apple-Smoked Tofu recipes

Apple-smoked tofu goes well with just about anything and can often be used instead of bacon or cheese. It has plenty of flavour of its own so any used will enhance and add protein and flavour to stir-fry dishes, thai dishes or salad. Some of our family favourites are even simpler though.

3) Easiest breakfast ever!!!

  • Take a slice of Herby4 apple smoked tofu in one side of a toaster
  • Put a crumpet in the other side of the toaster
  • When they have both popped up, put the tofu on the crumpet with a dollop of ketchup.  Hey presto.

You will not believe how good this really is!!

4) Tofish and Chips. (Our daughter’s favourite!)

  • Make a vegan batter using flour, water, a pinch of salt and a gram of baking powder
  • Coat a slice of apple-smoked tofu in batter and deep fry!
  • Eat with chips!!

5) Grated apple smoked tofu on pasta. (Our son’s favourite!)

  • Simply make pasta with your favourite tomato sauce
  • Grate a chunk of our apple-smoked tofu on the top!

It really is that simple! Enjoy!

SOMERSET WILDLIFE TRUST EMERGENCY APPEAL

The following is a press release which has been issued by Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Somerset Wildlife Trust has launched an Emergency Appeal for Somerset’s wildlife in response to the devastating impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the charity’s ability to fundraise for its work to reverse wildlife declines, restore biodiversity and reconnect people with nature.

Already dealing with the financial challenges surrounding reductions in EU funding, and the immediate and enormous cost of the rapid onset of Ash Dieback disease on its nature reserves, now, as a result of Covid-19, the Trust is looking at a shortfall in its budgeted income for this year of at least £200,000.

At a time when the Trust should be at the peak of its fundraising activities, with membership recruitment and events happening across the county, and delivering vital habitat management programmes with the help of hundreds of volunteers, many of its staff and recruiters have been furloughed, events cancelled, and work programmes are far behind where they should be. Reserve teams are also under additional pressure to repair the physical damage on sites from anti-social behaviour that took place whilst staff was at its bare minimum.

The Trust is appealing to members, supporters and those passionate about Somerset’s nature to support the charity now, when it needs help the most. The funds raised by its emergency appeal will help bridge the significant gap in its finances this year so it can continue its work for wildlife, capitalise on the current drive towards a greener recovery, and ensure Somerset can continue to play its part in addressing the national and global ecological and climate crises.

Katie Arber, Director of Fundraising & Marketing, comments: “Along with members, supporters and volunteers, we are desperately disappointed to have had to cancel our key fundraising activities this year, particularly at a time when the environment, climate change and loss of biodiversity were at the top of the political agenda and high in public consciousness. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge and immediate impact on our income and will for years to come.

“The fact that even more people have turned to nature to help them during lockdown however is brilliant news, and we hope local wildlife will continue to be part of their lives. We now need everyone’s help to continue to do our work to support wildlife and habitats here in Somerset, and every donation will enable us to do this.”

CEO, Georgia Stokes (pictured), adds: “The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. To reverse nature’s decline we must restore and connect valuable habitats for wildlife and restore natural processes also providing essential carbon stores and helping to adapt to climate change.

Many of us have discovered during lockdown that we need nature to benefit our physical and mental health and recognised that nature really is the life support function for our lives, our communities and our businesses.

“Whilst Covid-19 has hit us at the worst possible time, we mustn’t lose the momentum that existed before lockdown for building a more environmentally sustainable, wildlife-rich county, and urge everyone who turned to or connected with the natural world for the first time to continue their support and give if they can to help us continue the work we do during what will be difficult times ahead.”

To donate to Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Emergency Appeal, visit the website here: www.somersetwildlife.org/emergencyappeal or ring 01823 652429.

Photo: Georgia Stokes by Matt Sweeting.

ON THE TRAIL OF MINEHEAD’S HISTORY

From bathing machines to The Beatles, from smugglers to stagecoaches – Minehead’s history has been brought to life in a newly enhanced set of Storywalk trails.

They’re designed to guide visitors around different areas of the town while revealing its history – all via a website on a mobile phone.

Three of the trails concentrate on the original settlements – Higher Town, Middle Town and Quay Town – which were eventually joined together by new building as the town’s popularity as a Victorian seaside resort led to major expansion.

And three more offer a fascinating guide to the trees and shrubs in the Parks Walk – essentially a mile-long arboretum leading from a point close to the town centre into open countryside.

All the trails have been researched and created as a website accessible on a mobile phone by Dunster-based author Chris Jelley, who’s been supported by Minehead Information Centre and Minehead BID, the traders’ consortium set up two years ago to promote the town and raise its profile as a holiday destination.

He said one of the challenges was deciding what to leave out, given that Minehead has such a long and fascinating history, from its origins as a small but bustling trading port surrounded by farms to a modern holiday resort.

“It is always tricky striking a balance between making the trails family- friendly and informative,” he said.

The Storywalks reveal the past importance of herring fishing, recount how some of the earliest aircraft landed on the beach and trace the history of the West Somerset Railway, including the time it was used by The Beatles for filming ‘A Hard Day’s Night’.

The trails bring together folklore, local customs and dialect words as they guide users to features and buildings which were key to the town’s development.

Minehead BID manager Andrew Hopkins said the updated Storywalks offered a wonderfully interesting way of discovering the modern town – and its history.

“A lot of our visitors never stray very far from the town centre,” he said. “They only see what the Victorians and the Edwardians created – with a few modern additions.

“But it literally only requires a few yards’ walking to find oneself in an older, even more attractive Minehead, with original cottages, cobbled paths and a real sense of time standing still.

“And some of the Higher Town locations featured offer magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.

“We’re delighted with what Chris has produced for us, particularly his celebration of the Parks Walk, a particularly undervalued attraction offering a real oasis for relaxation.

“And the fact that these trails can be followed so easily via a mobile phone should hopefully encourage a lot of our visitors to discover them.”

The Minehead Hidden History Storywalks are free for all to access at: minehead.storywalks.info

UK GARDENS ON CUSP OF AN ALMIGHTY EXPLOSION OF SUMMER COLOUR

UK gardens and green spaces are on the verge of a unique explosion of summer colour as the peak of two flowering seasons combine to create the most dramatic spectacle seen in years, says the UK’s gardening charity, but the best of it could be over in days.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) reports that this year’s weather has provided the optimum growing conditions* for summer flowering. The warm, wet winter followed by the sunniest May on record and then a bout of rain in June has produced an exceptional crop of summer blooms.

Stronger, bigger buds and more prolific flowering has created abundant displays of early blooms such as lilies, rhododendrons, irises, roses and hydrangeas, and mid-summer flowers such as verbena, rudbeckia, heleniums and geraniums are now coming into their own.

The apex of this floral extravaganza may happen this weekend and at the four RHS Gardens the show has already begun but the seasonal overlap could pass by quickly as early summer flowers are likely to start going over next week.

At RHS Garden Rosemoor, in Devon, Curator Jon Webster says, “Fiery displays of reds, oranges, yellows and purples on plants like red hot pokers, rudbeckia, dahlias and goldenrod are springing to life in the Hot Garden while whites, blues, pinks and silver foliage bring an oasis of calmness in the Cool Garden.” The largest rose gardens in the South West are also still brimming with colour and scent from over 2,000 roses.

RHS Partner Gardens are reporting colourful spreads including The Bishop’s Palace Gardens in Somerset which is also awash with daylilies including ‘Chicago Sunrise’, and pretty blue salvias – and their multi-coloured Bishop series dahlia collection is the best it’s ever been with Garden Manager James Cross saying: “Everything has come together to produce the best summer colour I have ever seen.”

Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticulturalist, says: “Our work is done in the garden so happily all that’s left to do is enjoy the summer flowers. The unique blast of brilliant colour that’s about to hit will bring even greater enjoyment than normal but you’ll need to be quick to catch its full glory.”

All visitors to the gardens (RHS members and non-members) need to book online so that social distancing can be controlled and in accordance with Government guidelines for ‘track and trace’. Although there may be availability on arrival, the advice is to pre-book to avoid disappointment as some sessions get completely filled.

PHOTO: Dead-heading at Rosemoor to prolong flowering.

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