Anglers asked to sling their hooks elsewhere!

Watchet Harbour Committee is appealing to anglers to use the historic port’s West Pier for sea fishing and not the marina’s East Quay.

Cllr Dave Westcott, West Somerset Council’s representative on the committee, explained: “While we’re delighted that the harbour is used for a wide range of leisure activities, we need to make sure that we look after everyone’s best interests.

“Currently, people are fishing off the East Quay at a pinch-point where boats enter and leave the marina. Crews have been hit by weights when people cast out and lines have become entangled with propellers, which is bad news for both anglers and mariners.

“There is a safe fishing area on West Pier just opposite East Quay, so we are asking anglers, in the nicest possible way, to sling their hooks over there.

“We want everyone to safely enjoy the great facilities we have in Watchet so we sincerely hope that people will take heed before serious incident occurs and a person is hurt or property is really damaged.”

The marina’s esplanade has been redeveloped in recent years and the harbour has a loyal following of local boat owners as well as playing host to visiting craft. It is home to the Watchet Coastguard Service and is used by local clubs such as the sea scouts.

Cllr Westcott added: “We have a good community spirit in the town and I hope that a bit of guidance may avert any potential future problems for anglers and boat owners alike.”

The Moor Skills project is a popular favourite for a new partnership scheme.

To help safeguard moorland farming skills, Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership has teamed up with Exmoor National Park Authority and The West Somerset Community College which will run advanced level-3 apprenticeships to combine work-based learning underpinned by college study.

“Every farmer we speak to is keen to share their skills with the young farmers of the future,” explained Jason Ball, of Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership.

“Farmers helped to shape the National Park’s world famous moors and coastal heaths. Their deep knowledge of the land, built up over a lifetime, is the key to its conservation. Fans of Exmoor’s landscape can see this connection and think it’s a great idea.”

“We are very excited about the apprenticeships,” said Charlie Olive, from The West Somerset Community College. “These young people show true dedication – they have all completed two years of training by completing a Level 2 BTEC in Agriculture at the College Farm and are looking forward to continuing their education and training in the this area by securing an Apprenticeship at local host farms.”

Mr Ball added, “We have funds available specifically to support moorland apprenticeships on Exmoor National Park. As a once-only opportunity, we can help three moorland farms to pay their new apprentices. However, our deadline for farms to apply will close very soon.”

Experienced land managers are also invited to be ‘Moorland Tutors’ to coach students on outdoor workshops about skills such as upland livestock husbandry, walling, hedging, and gorse control. The unique funding for Moor Skills comes from the Heritage Lottery Fund, LEADER 4 Torridge and North Devon, and Western Somerset Local Action

All details can be found at www.heartofexmoor.org.uk and farmers who wish to train an apprentice should call Jason Ball on 01398 322164 or Charlie Olive on 01643 706061.

Butterflies are back as this summer looks set to be a blockbuster for South West spotters

This summer looks set to be the best for butterflies in more than 30 years.  At the half-way point in the butterfly season there have been a number of record-breaking early appearances from spring species thanks to the warm and dry weather, especially in April. The favourable conditions are also leading experts to predict that a number of species will produce extra generations this year.

Matthew Oates, wildlife adviser and butterfly expert at the National Trust, said: “It has been a fantastic start to 2011 for Britain’s butterflies with a White Admiral appearing at Bookham Common in Surrey at its earliest since 1893, the White-letter Hairstreak appearing more than two weeks early at Rodborough Common in Gloucestershire and Marbled Whites and Meadow Browns a week to ten days early at Denbies in Surrey and Exmoor.

“The populations of spring butterflies are as good as they can be. There may even be significant second broods for the Duke of Burgundy and Dingy Skipper butterflies – it’s all gearing up to what could be the best butterfly summer for a generation.”

The South West is one of the best places to see a huge range of butterflies from the Silver-studded Blue, and Dark-green Fritillary at Cape Cornwall the Grayling and Dark-green Fritillary on the Lizard, the Small and the Pearl-bordered Fritillary on the North Cornish coast.  Devon butterfly spotters are spoilt for choice with the rare High Brown Fritillary in the Heddon Valley in North Devon, the  Silver-studded Blue at Bolt Head in South Devon to Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral in Ashclyst Forest on the Killerton estate.

The first ever National Trust ‘Love Butterflies’ weekend will take place on the 6 and 7 August when the greatest number of species will be in flight.  Over the summer months the Trust will be encouraging people to upload their sightings and pictures of butterflies to its butterfly watch map. This can be done via twitter by entering the name of the species, postcode and #lovebutterflies.  There will also be top tips on how to go butterflying and places to go and see these wonderful insects on the National Trust website

Matthew Oates added: “August is peak butterfly time with around 40 species in flight. It’s the perfect time to sit, watch and get closer to the magic of butterflies. This could be a fantastic summer for British butterflies and we want to bring together a community of enthusiasts and novices to celebrate and provide useful information on where and how to see these wonders of nature. Not for nothing did the ancient Greeks use the same word – psyche – for the butterfly and the soul.”

The National Trust has also published a new book by Matthew Oates, Butterflies: Spotting and Identifying British Butterflies. It will help both beginners by explaining the key points and fundamental principles of butterfly spotting, and more experienced butterfly watchers in need of expert tips and sharpening the focus.

Exmoor The Country Magazine readers were treated to a butterfly feature last summer which can now be read on our website

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The Exmoor Curriculum at Dulverton Middle School

When I think back to my school days, the rare outings and residential weekends away we enjoyed imprinted more on my memory than any spell in the classroom I can think of.  I still recall finite details about a school camp on the moor some 20-odd years ago. Our teacher could name the constellations we spotted in the sky during our evening ramble. Inspired, I went straight home and learned them all. I doubt any representation in a book would have propelled me to do the same.

Despite an abundance of quality research extolling the benefits to children of outdoor and community-based learning, the Commons Schools Select Committee has reported a significant national decline in outdoor education. The situation today is that many schoolchildren are lucky to get out of the classroom just once a term. In light of this, the happenings at Dulverton Middle School for the past 11 years have been both inspiring and unusual. Here the children routinely learn out of the classroom in a variety of settings, thanks to the school’s unique ‘Exmoor Curriculum’.

Taught one afternoon a week and running alongside the National Curriculum, the Exmoor Curriculum is a programme of outdoor and environmental educational activities with a local twist. The specific emphasis is on embracing the immediate surroundings of Exmoor, its environment and community. It has been a manifest success. Ofsted gave it special praise, stating that it makes “a significant contribution to the personal development of pupils and provides opportunities for them to understand and use their immediate locality”. No other state school in the country offers a similar programme.

So how and why did this tiny middle school in West Somerset blaze such an innovative trail? Overall it has been the achievement of a number of passionate and pro-active individuals and groups, but a leading share of the credit must go to former head Steve Ford. Steve arrived at Dulverton in the late nineties and retired last year. Happily, I was put in touch with him by his long-time colleague and current Dulverton deputy head, Clive Goulty. The two both taught at Danesfield School in Williton in the 1980s, where they ran well-attended weekend camping clubs. They shared a belief that outdoor and practical experiences were indispensable to education.

Even in retirement, Steve is evidently still passionate about the Exmoor Curriculum. “What drove the idea?”, I asked him. “A number of beliefs came together,” he explained. “Children should know about where they come from and understand their environment. Also, the existing curriculum was very language and literacy based.” Steve felt that some young people had abilities in different areas which were not being catered for. He also knew that in order for children to apply knowledge to real life, it helps to give them a real-life learning experience, preferably within the surroundings of their own community, to make the lesson relevant. With Exmoor on the doorstep, it seemed that new learning opportunities were boundless. Steve was also aware that, as the smallest middle school in Somerset, Dulverton was vulnerable. “So I wanted school to be too good to miss,” he declared.

Building the  roundhouse and Allan Dyer with jubilant  pupils on its completion. Courtesy ENPASteve immediately looked to Clive to start developing the new curriculum. Another former colleague and outdoor education expert, Allan Dyer, was also enlisted. By the time the Exmoor Curriculum was being taught Allan had retired but – excited by the concept – he came out of retirement to help develop and teach on the course. The school governors, having tremendous faith in Steve, enthusiastically supported the proposals.  Exmoor National Park Authority was keen to offer its educational resources and helped establish a programme of activities. The key figure responsible for this task was the National Park

Authority’s Education Manager, Dave Gurnett. Dave was clearly eager to talk about the Exmoor Curriculum when I visited him at a sunny Exmoor House HQ in Dulverton. Dave is a former teacher turned National Park Ranger with cheerful energy and bona fide enthusiasm for outdoor education. “It was easy to find them places to go and things to do,” he told me. “We looked at where we could show them the practical implementation of conservation.” I asked him if he felt it would be within the scope of other schools to take up the lead and offer their own similar programmes.

Dave fervently believes this to be true; he commends the efforts of other Somerset schools he works with and offers succinctly: “People make things happen, you get the right combination of people and anything’s possible.”

‘Anything’s possible’ seems to be the theme. When health and safety fears meant schools up and down the country were shying away from school trips, Dulverton Middle School was busy obtaining its own Adventure Activities Licence. Now the pupils are engaged each week in a diverse range of activities encompassing conservation, water sports, first aid, community, local industry and local history. One year group even built a traditional roundhouse in the school grounds. “I took the children to an Iron-Age hillfort and they were thoroughly disappointed,” recalls Clive. “There wasn’t much there. No turrets!” he chuckled.

canoeing at Wimbleball as part of the Exmoor CurriculumHe asked them to try and imagine how the buildings might have looked and then explained how roundhouses were built, which prompted a boy to ask: “Can we build one then?” So they did. A 13ft roundhouse was erected over half a term, using locally-supplied saplings and traditional tools. That’s history, exercise, teamwork and woodcraft all rolled into one enjoyable, priceless, educational experience. No other state school in the country offers a similar programme.

By year 8, the various skills the children gain over the preceding four years are brought together and, dependent on their overall performance, they may graduate as ‘Junior Rangers’. With this accolade comes the right to wear a distinctive black Junior Ranger uniform to school. The Exmoor Society funds the ‘graduation’. The ongoing support which the school receives from the Exmoor Society cannot be underestimated.

Committed sponsors from the outset, the Society have announced in their spring newsletter that they will award £2,000 this year to help further develop the curriculum, acknowledging its role in promoting ‘important life skills and deep understanding of the Exmoor environment’.

There are more exciting times ahead too. Thanks to a grant from Exmoor National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund, year 7 and 8 pupils will have the opportunity to gain a Vocational Related Qualification (VRQ) award in Land and Environment. Intended for those aged 14 and over, VRQs are not usually offered to middle school pupils. They know it can work, having already piloted a partial VRQ award in partnership with Somerset Rural Youth Project in 2008 – all the children passed.

Junior Ranger graduation with (left to right, front) Steve Ford, Dave Gurnett,  Clive Goulty and Allan Dyer.  The timetable is set. In the late-March week when I visited, year 5 were taking cycling proficiency training, year 6 were obtaining St John’s Ambulance Lifesaver Awards, year 7 were preparing tourism guide packs of the local area and year 8 were planning and mapping their own walk from Dulverton to Brushford and back again. Clive remains a fountain of ongoing ideas. He would like to see an equestrian element introduced and perhaps more local history. Current head Jeremy Weedon is exuberant about the Exmoor Curriculum, attendance targets are being exceeded and the children really do seem to want to come to school. He is also delighted to be gaining the VRQ accreditation. Clearly the reins are in keen hands. I left Dulverton feeling optimistic for their future and hopeful that their model will inspire others. Anything’s possible… this little school could be making big things happen for some time to come.

Awakening the magic of Exmoor in young people

Judges at this year’s Exmoor Society Literary Competition praised the exceptionally high standard and from a huge entry of poems received, at the Society’s recent Spring Conference, Sir Antony Acland presented the prize winners with their awards. First prize in the senior category went to Edward Taylor, 13 years, from Stoke Rivers and a pupil at West Buckland School, and first prize in the junior category went to Hattie Harley, 10 years, from Yeo Mill, West Anstey and a pupil at North Molton Primary School for her poem entitled “Life on Exmoor”.

The Exmoor Society is delighted to announce that this Award, held each year for children writing about Exmoor, has a new sponsor. The award will now be known as the “Lucy Perry Literary Award” in memory of Lucy Perry who died last year. Her family felt it most appropriate that the bequest to the Society is in the form of a legacy to fund the award, so that the Society can continue with this way of awakening the magic of Exmoor in young people.

This annual competition is open to young people between the ages of 8 and 14 years and the Society offers literary awards for a piece of poetry or prose inspired by Exmoor – its landscape, its wildlife and cultural heritage and people’s enjoyment of it. Closing date for this year’s competition is 31 December 2011 and entries to be sent to: The Exmoor Society, Parish Rooms, Dulverton, Som TA22 9DP.

The Society continues to financially support the Exmoor Curriculum at Dulverton Middle School which gives local children the opportunity to learn about Exmoor and allows them to participate in a wide variety of activities.

The Society now wishes to extend the curriculum to other schools in the area and has set up an Education Fund for this purpose. It is the Society’s intention to help young people to know more about Exmoor and to understand how it copes with the many pressures from modern living. For more detail and to find out how to help please contact the Society – info@exmoorsociety.com.

Lucy Perry Literary Award 2010 Senior Group – 1st place

The water gargles and giggles
As it makes its way down the
delicate shallows of the Barle spring
The light shines off it like a halo.
A river is born.

It grows and learns, becomes wiser
and wider, picking up pieces of the sad modern world. It
Deepens and darkens gets murkier
and mysterious with the sad truth of the world;

It harbours secrets and lies but lets no one
know for it would be too sad. On the top it
is a shining and beautiful it has to be it is a phenomenon of
nature.

It is a single blue thread woven into the green
quilt of Exmoor It reaches barriers and
troubles but finds the solution and carries on
It reaches a dead end but won’t stop, it carries
on down with a roar and a crash.

Now it’s in its prime racing faster and faster the wonder of
Exmoor. Then it meets its goal. The sea, perhaps the end of
the beginning or maybe the beginning of the end. We shall
never know

Edward Taylor
Aged 13 years
West Buckland School

Lucy Perry Literary Award 2010 Junior Group – 1st place

Life on Exmoor

Smooth little streams made from last night’s rain
Thin winding paths, puddle here and there
Small tummy button toadstools, grouped in patches
Curving hills sloping in the distance making silhouettes against the cloudy sky

Thick long hedges with tangled twigs
Golden, orange, brown leaves scattered all over the ground
Dark chestnut ponies with deep brown manes
Galloping on the muddy ground

Finger pricking gorse bushes protecting the dainty yellow flowers
Big groups of rusty brown bracken, crunching under people’s feet
A soft breeze brushing the hay coloured grass
In the distance, you see clumps of towering beech trees with bright orange leaves, slowly becoming bare

Hattie Harley
Aged 10 years
North Molton Primary School

Daisy trio complete 26.2 mile walk raising £1,200 for breast cancer charity

The girls before the MoonWalk in their decorated bras ready to start, from left Laura Johnson, Daisy Page and Charlotte Cox
The girls before the MoonWalk in their decorated bras ready to start, from left Laura Johnson, Daisy Page and Charlotte Cox

Three women from Somerset trekked 26.2 miles overnight in their bras raising over £1,200 between them for a breast cancer charity.

20-year-old Daisy Page from Alcombe, Laura Johnson also 20 from Watchet and 24-year-old Charlotte Cox from Minehead completed the London MoonWalk in nine hours, in bras they decorated with feathers, sequins and glitter.

The girls decided to get involved in the event because they wanted to raise money for a good cause and had been in training for the London Moonwalk for months.

MoonWalks and SunWalks have been organised throughout the UK by the charity Walk the Walk for the past ten years to raise funds for breast cancer causes. This year’s MoonWalk held in London saw 15,000 female participants turn up in their brightly-decorated bras to walk, jog or run the capital’s marathon route.

Daisy, Laura and Charlotte made their way to the starting line, ready and raring to go on the evening of Saturday 14 May when the walk started. Daisy said: “We wanted to raise money for the charity because it’s a personal female thing and the money goes towards amazing treatments to help breast cancer patients, it’s also been something great to train for.”

Passing all the tourist hotspots including Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Thames the girls described the whole experience as not only physically challenging and emotionally draining but also mentally demanding, but they gave each other support and the determination to keep going.

Daisy commented: “It felt so weird when it was over, it was painful, tiring and cold but coming over the finishing line is a daze. It’s amazing to think we completed it, it was emotional in both a sad and a happy way.”

The girls have so far raised £1,200 but sponsorship money is still flooding in. Anyone who wishes to donate should contact Daisy at Daisy Nail and Beauty, Friday Street, Minehead, tel: 01643 704760.

Those interested in taking part in a MoonWalk or a SunWalk near them should visit www.walkthewalk.org to find out more.

Blog by Harriet Rose-Gale

Guest Accommodation of the Year Award for Blackmore Farm

Ian and Ann Dyer receiving their AA Award
Ian and Ann Dyer receiving their AA Award

Blackmore Farm in Cannington, Somerset has been named AA Guest Accommodation of the Year for England 2011-2012, beating off stiff competition from all over the country.

The official AA press release states:

“Blackmore Farm in Cannington, Somerset has been awarded the prestigious honour of being named AA Guest Accommodation of the Year for England 2011. The announcement was made at the AA’s Bed and Breakfast Awards at the Royal Horseguards Hotel in London on Monday 16 May. 
With prizes provided by AA Hotel Services’ partner Villeroy & Boch, this annual Awards event recognises and rewards the excellent services provided by the UK’s very best B&B establishments. 
Blackmore Farm, run by Ann and Ian Dyer, is a stunning 15th Century, Grade 1 listed Manor House nestled in the foothills of the Quantock Hills in Somerset. Guests get the opportunity to step back in time when they stay at Blackmore Farm as it retains many period features including oak beams, stone archways and medieval garderobes. The Dyer family offer guests a friendly welcome, beautiful surroundings and wonderful home cooked meals. 
Along with the guest accommodation Blackmore Farm is home to a farm shop, café and self-catering accommodation. 
Simon Numphud, AA Hotel Services Manager, said, “The AA is delighted to name Blackmore Farm as the AA Guest Accommodation of the Year for England for 2011-12. With old world grandeur, this establishment offers a truly memorable experience and is fully deserving of its title.””

Ian and Ann have been receiving bed and breakfast guests in their home for the last 22 years. They were both shocked and delighted to be recognized by the AA for their hard work at the Awards Ceremony in London. Ian said, “We are over the moon to win this award as recognition of the hard work that both ourselves and the staff do to make sure that our guests have a terrific and memorable stay.”

North Molton Friday Club Hits 40

North Molton may only be a village but it is fortunate enough to have both a thriving Friday Club (for 7 – 11 year olds) and a Youth Club (for 11 – 16 olds) and the weekend before last ( 14 – 15 May) there was a packed programme of events to celebrate the Friday Club’s 40th anniversary.

The Friday Club, which is based in the village’s Methodist chapel, was started in 1971 by Sister Pam LePoidevin, May Bray, Greta Bray and her daughter Rosemary Bray (now Courteney). Today, the club meets fortnightly, on a Friday.

The weekend’s events began at 10.00 – 12.00 on Saturday with an exhibition of photos and memorabilia illustrating the Friday Club’s history, videos of various outings and events, followed by coffee and refreshments. Many people attended to exclaim over the photos and to point in amazement at themselves or friends and family in much younger days!

It was notable that many of those who came along to relive happy memories were Friday Club members in the archive photographs. Now adults themselves, they in turn brought their own children to the event. And of course many of these now attend the current Friday Club. In fact at least one local family, The Bendles, can claim three generations of attendees!

In the afternoon the festivities moved to a free event held North Molton’s Sports Club, which started at 3.00 and went on to a family party until 9.00 at night. In the afternoon there were races, activities, a bouncy castle and a barbeque. This was followed at 6.00 with live music from The Lucy Lastic Band. This caused great fun and hilarity as old and young joined in and had a go at line dancing!

Finally, rounding off the weekend on Sunday morning there was a service at the Methodist chapel lead by Sister Pam – who had travelled from her home in Guernsey – and included contributions from past and present Friday Club leaders and members. This was rounded off by Sister Pam cutting the fabulous cake, which featured the club’s motto of ‘Treat Others as You Would Like to be Treated’. Afterwards everyone was invited to stay and share lunch.

Rosemary Courtney now leads the Friday Club. Rosemary says:

“We have been delighted in the support from past and present children and helpers over the last two days. The weather held for us and so the social event at The Sports Club went brilliantly! The evening was a fun event and the dancing seemed to be enjoyed by everyone, as the children got parent and friends involved. I would particularly like to thank all those who have put in many hours to make this weekend so special, especially my cousin Janet Jerrett, who’s mum May Bray was one of the original founders 40 year ago ”.

Final Paws: Brian Imeson from Challacombe with his Guide Dogs Enton and Yorkie

by Tortie Eveleigh, photo by Andy Hobbs

Many people say that dogs enrich their lives, but Brian Imeson’s two Labradors have transformed his life and given him an independence and self-confidence which, when he knew he was going blind, he thought he’d lost forever. Golden boy Enton (now 15 and retired) and boisterous young Yorkie are Brian’s guide dogs past and present. Owning a guide dog is a great privilege and an awesome responsibility, as Brian explained when Tortie visited him and his wife Tricia at their isolated cottage near Challacombe.

A huge amount of work goes into breeding, selecting and training a guide dog, so that by the time it’s ready to be placed with an owner it’s worth around £50,000. No wonder The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association gives every guide dog regular health checks and training assessments. “When I go out I have to carry a wallet with contact details in case of an accident,” Brian said. “For the dog’s vet, not for my doctor!”

Brian acquired Enton 13 years ago, following a rapid deterioration in his eyesight due to macular degeneration. Before they could go home, though, they had to go on a three-week training course together. “That was a turning point in Brian’s life,” Tricia said. “It gave him so much confidence! Our son said it was like getting his Dad back again.”

At the time, home was a hotel business in Ilfracombe and it was a great advantage for Brian to have Enton there to begin with. Towns are generally easier for blind people than the countryside, not least because there are people to ask for directions. Anyone who has become lost in the fog on Exmoor will have some idea how difficult it must be for Brian to go for country walks – one missed point of reference can throw him completely off course. Another potential problem is the ubiquitous muddy-lane-with-potholes. Guide dogs are trained to avoid puddles and potholes, so a walk up a country lane can become a challenge of epic proportions.

Brian’s glad he had dependable Enton first, and it helped enormously that he was partially sighted while learning how to work with and look after a guide dog. His next dog, a ‘dippy blonde’, ended up as a pet with her puppy walker after leading him into a ditch several times and (the act which sealed her fate) into a pond. So Brian was matched with another dog, a bouncy black Labrador called Yorkie who walks with a swagger and tries to bend the rules at every opportunity.

“If I’m out with Brian, Yorkie switches off and tries to get me to do his job for him,” Tricia told me. “He also likes to ‘help’ me in the garden; tomato picking’s his speciality. He’s much too clever, really.” “He even worked out how to get two dinners,” Brian added. “You see, I feed Yorkie first and then Enton. I used to be able to tell them apart because Enton makes a funny lip-smacking noise but Yorkie learnt to mimic him exactly so he got fed twice and poor Enton got nothing! I’m wise to that now.”

Yorkie and Enton behaved like relaxed family pets as we sat talking in the cosy sitting room. However, as soon as his harness is put on Yorkie changes into work mode – and only very occasionally forgets what that means…

His favourite thing is shopping, and he’s especially fond of the self-service fruit and veg displays in supermarkets. On one occasion he decided to help an assistant unpack a box of apples, and on another he helped himself to a Brussels sprout and carried it carefully all the way to the checkout!  His least favourite thing is the bull from Brockenbarrow Farm. Guide dogs are trained to be brave about all sorts of scary situations, but unfortunately a close encounter with a bull isn’t one of them. As Brian and Yorkie walked back home from Friendship Cross one day, they stopped in a gateway to let some traffic pass and a bull snorted at them. Terrified, Yorkie fled home at breakneck speed, with Brian hanging on valiantly, straight through all the potholes and puddles in the lane.

Brian has led such an interesting life that he alone could be the subject of an article. For instance he worked for Granada television for many years and met The Beatles, Laurence Olivier and other celebrities. But now the A-list celebrities in his life are most definitely Enton and Yorkie. His love and respect for them is immeasurable, and they’re great ambassadors for the wonderful work of The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

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