EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK SUCCESS AT GEOGRAPHY AWARDS

A resource to teach A-level students about coastal management in Exmoor National Park received a Silver Award at the annual Geographic Association Publishers’ Awards ceremony held at Manchester University recently (9-11 April).

The resource challenges students to reflect on how interaction between the landscape and humans has shaped the coastline over millennia. Its focus is Porlock Bay, where 20 years ago hurricane Lili breached the 8,000 year old shingle ridge, triggering its rapid evolution into a tidal salt marsh.

The site has since become a hub for research all over the world as one of the best examples in the UK of how re-establishing natural processes can help build resilience to flooding from rising sea levels, making it an ideal project for the next generation of geographers.

Education consultant David Weatherly, who was commissioned to help develop the resource, said: “This award shows that Exmoor National Park is at the forefront of efforts to inspire the next generation about the spirit, purpose and importance of our National Parks. As the future guardians of these special landscapes, I hope it’s a lesson young people will take forward into their future lives and careers and it’s been a real privilege to be involved.”

Ben Totterdell, Education and Interpretation Manager at Exmoor National Park, said: “We welcome more than 8,000 young people a year to Exmoor for day visits and residential stays at our Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning, and many thousands more benefit from our free online teaching resources. So we know first hand the power of the outdoors to nurture a love for learning, while also building children’s confidence and ability to cope with the day-to-day stresses of life. It’s an honour to receive this award and we hope it will mean many more schools visit the National Park and are inspired to learn through its special environment.”

The award-winning resources were developed by the ‘Porlock Marsh Vision Steering Group’ formed of the two main landowners – Porlock Manor Estate and the National Trust – Porlock Parish Council, Exmoor National Park (who also funded the project) and Natural England. See: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/Whats-Special/porlock-marsh-vision

NEW EXMOOR ACTIVITY BREAKS ON OFFER

Exmoor National Park has launched a new programme of activity breaks running from its Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning. For the first time in the centre’s 50-year history the public will be able to book a stay and participate in a range of guided outdoor activities led by professional Exmoor National Park staff and instructors.

Dan James, Exmoor National Park Authority’s’ Sustainable Economy Manager, said: “Our Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning provides a fantastic opportunity to escape the everyday and immerse yourself in the spectacular Exmoor landscape.”

“For over 50 years the centre has been offering unforgettable experiences for school groups and private hires. Now we’re opening the doors to the public. Over the course of each two-night break, you will enjoy the great outdoors, meet like-minded people, learn new skills and have great fun in one of the most remote outdoor centres in the country. Each break will be led by passionate staff and volunteers from the National Park who will provide you with an exclusive opportunity to discover what makes Exmoor special.”

Each break has its own theme offering participants a wide range of activities.

  • Family Discovery Breaks – 28th to 30th May and 2nd to 4thAugust.
    The perfect opportunity for families of all ages with a sense of adventure! Have fun as a family with outdoor activities such as orienteering, low ropes, archery, grass sledging, fire lighting and campfire. Prices from £120pp (based on a  fully occupied family room).
  • Active Exmoor Weekend – 9th to 11th August.
    The more adventurous can get moving with mountain biking, hiking, wild pond swimming and mountain boarding. Minimum age 12. Although activities are suitable for mixed abilities, all participants will need to be confident in riding a bike. £199 per person for adults, £169 children (based on a minimum of 2 to a room – discounts for higher occupancy).
  • Introduction to Moorland Heritage – 16th to 18th July.
    Join professional National Park staff to explore and learn about moorland heritage with guided walks, talks and visits. £219pp (based on 2 sharing – single supplement and discounts for higher room occupancy available).

For full details and to book your space visit www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/pinkery-breaks or call Katrina Munro on 01398 323665. Prices start from £120 per person (based on a family room being fully occupied) including all instruction and guiding, equipment, food and accommodation in en-suite bunk rooms.

COWBRIDGE SAWMILL OPEN WEEKEND

Cowbridge Sawmill at Timberscombe will be opening its doors for National Mills Weekend on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May.

Records show that there was a corn mill at Cowbridge as far back as 1341. The mill prospered as a corn mill for six centuries but was converted to a sawmill in 1904. By the time last tenant retired in 1993 the building was in a derelict condition. It was in this state that Owen Rush purchased the mill – much against the advice of his friends!

Owen’s vision was of a working vintage sawmill and forge. His first task was to renovate the dwelling house closely followed by the mill. Once the structure was safe, the restoration of the machinery began.

The waterwheel was in a dilapidated state and a new shaft was shaped from an old oak tree. New water buckets were constructed and the launder rebuilt.

Volunteers with a wide range of skills and interests gradually came forward from the local community to restore the vintage machinery and install the shafts, pulleys, gears and levers necessary for the wheel to drive them.

Mr Rush has a substantial collection of historic machines, tools and artifacts for visitors to see on tours and Open Days. The working forge is now occupied by artistic blacksmith Belle Cole.

The site is a fabulous amenity for everyone who wishes to see our national heritage preserved. Volunteers are always welcome and appreciated and no particular skill is necessary. Whether or not you are mechanically minded, a visit to the mill is a fascinating step back in time. Why not visit and see the project for yourself?

Their Visitors’ Book contains many superlatives and accolades. Bearing in mind Mr Rush’s long-term vision, perhaps the most fitting comment was written by a couple from Bristol, “Mind blowing and inspiring. Thanks goodness someone is preserving our heritage.”

Cowbridge Sawmill will be open to the public on 11 and 12 May 2019 for National Mills Weekend and also on 14 and 15 September as part of the National Heritage Days. Guided tours will take place between 11am and 4.30pm and there are demonstrations of blacksmithing and woodturning throughout the day. Light refreshments are available. Parking and admission are free, but donations are much appreciated. Private tours of the mill are available by request. Further details can be found at www.cowbridgesawmill.org

EXMOOR GUIDED WALKS RETURN FOR SPRING

A series of free guided walks is now under way across Exmoor, led by an expert team of local volunteers from the Exmoor National Park Authority and The Exmoor Society. Nearly 100 walks will take place between now and October, with the addition of some new routes as well as old favourites.

The history of Exmoor’s settlements is covered in walking tours of Lynton and Lynmouth, Bossington, Porlock and Dunster, there’s insight into the Knight family’s estate in Exmoor’s former Royal hunting Forest at Simonsbath, a chance to tread in the footsteps of Saxon soldiers along the ancient Somerset Harepath (or Herepath), tales of murder at the abandoned mine of Wheal Eliza, a walk around Lorna Doone country, and a glimpse of the evolving salt marsh habitat at Porlock Marsh.

Natural history is also included, with walks discovering Exmoor’s butterflies and bats, coastal wildlife, temperate rainforests and how the heather moorlands are managed, as well as rambles looking at water quality improvement schemes and landscape restoration.

In May there will be four new walks linked to the annual Simonsbath Festival on the subjects of Exmoor during the Second World War, the rivers of the moor, the 150th Anniversary of R.D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, and the Exmoor home of Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace, a pioneer of computer programming.

Liz Pile, Walks Coordinator for The Exmoor Society, said: “The wonderfully diverse walks programme is only possible through the generosity of walk leaders in sharing their time, expertise and passion for Exmoor. The Society pays tribute to all those who lead walks in all weathers and in all places.”

Jess Twydall, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Get Involved Project Coordinator, commented: “Whether you’re fascinated by local history and village life, or looking for a longer moorland walk taking in the breath-taking scenery, there’s truly something for everyone.”

Walks generally last 1-4 hours and there is no charge, but donations are welcomed to ‘The Exmoor Society’ or ‘CareMoor for Exmoor’ towards keeping the National Park special.

The full programme of walks can be found on the ENPA and The Exmoor Society websites and in Exmoor Visitor magazine, which is available free at all National Park Centres and at The Exmoor Society’s Resource Centre in Dulverton, where advice can also be obtained.

PHOTO: Herepath, by Stan Lester.

RNLI ILFRACOMBE RECEIVES GRANT FROM NORTH DEVON COAST AONB

Ilfracombe Lifeboat station has an area reaching from Woolacombe in the west to Foreland Point in the east with call-outs to Lundy Island where necessary. As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it attracts many visitors throughout the year.

The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service.  The station has initiated a project over the last 12 months to support the lifeboat station to purchase additional life-saving equipment.

Jenny Carey-Wood, AONB Manager, says: “Despite the beauty of the seas and coast of North Devon they can be a challenging environment to explore and enjoy. The improved  capability from this valuable new equipment will help to save lives and we are delighted to support the RNLI’s work.”

Chris Wallis, RNLI Operations Manager for Ilfracombe, says: “The grant of £3,500 from the North Devon Coast AONB Sustainable Development Fund will be of huge benefit to the work of the RNLI Ilfracombe Lifeboat station to help us save lives at sea and will be used to purchase valuable life-saving equipment.”

PHOTO: Jenny Carey-Wood, Manager at the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), presented Chris Wallis from Ilfracombe RNLI with a cheque for £3,500 from their Sustainable Development Fund earlier this month. The presentation took place at the Ilfracombe Lifeboat Station and was attended by volunteer crew members.

WALK THE WEST SOMERSET COAST PATH IN MEMORY OF SOMEONE SPECIAL

St Margaret’s Hospice is offering the chance to remember a loved one while enjoying some stunning Somerset scenery.

Entries are now open for the charity’s Great Somerset Memory Walk, which will see participants covering 12.4 or 25 miles of the West Somerset Coast Path on Sunday 15 September.

The sponsored walk starts at Butlins in Minehead, with the choice of finishing in West Quantoxhead or completing the full route to Steart Marshes. Buses back to the start are included in the entry price of £15 for adults and £10 for children under 16.

Participants are encouraged to raise sponsorship to help St Margaret’s Hospice continue providing care and support to 3,800 people across Somerset each year who are facing a life-limiting illness.

Sonia Bateman, events fundraiser at the Somerset charity, said: “Many of our sponsored walkers will be celebrating the life of a loved one, as we will be offering everyone a Great Somerset Memory Walk bib to decorate with their own personal dedication message. People are equally welcome to take part if they just want to enjoy the coastal walk and do their bit to help us care for people in our community.”

Walkers will set off between 8am and 9am, and the last groups are expected to reach the finish line before 6pm.

To find out more and book your place, visit www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk and search ‘Memory Walk’.

PHOTO: West Somerset coast near Kilve

GLORIOUS SOMERSET GARDENS OPEN TO HELP ST MARGARET’S HOSPICE

More than 50 beautiful gardens across the county are opening to visitors in aid of St Margaret’s Hospice.

The charity has just launched its 2019 Glorious Somerset Gardens season, which kicks off with Little Orchard in East Huntspill on Sunday 28 April, and runs until September. Last year’s programme of garden visits raised an amazing £16,600 for the hospice.

Susan Bickle, coordinator of Glorious Somerset Gardens, said: “Here at St Margaret’s Hospice we know how important our gardens are to the health and wellbeing of our patients and their families, providing places of relaxation as well as reflection.

“For years our loyal supporters have been opening their gardens to raise funds for us. This year we have more than 50 amazing gardens to visit, including village walkabouts, a school allotment, an arboretum, a private nature reserve and many stunning gardens with beautiful views. There is something to interest everyone. Many gardens will also be offering delicious cakes, scones and teas, or added extras such as children’s trails and book sales.”

Among those supporting St Margaret’s Hospice by welcoming visitors are garden owners across Mendip and Wells, South Somerset and the Blackdown Hills, Taunton, the Quantocks and Sedgemoor, West Somerset and Exmoor, Yeovil, East Somerset and West Dorset.

Full details of locations, opening dates and admission prices can be found in the Glorious Somerset Gardens 2019 brochure, available from St Margaret’s Hospice shops, selected local garden centres and tourist information centres.

Susan added: “We are so grateful to all our garden owners and volunteers. We hope people will enjoy discovering these wonderful gardens while helping to make each day count for patients and their families facing a life-limiting illness across Somerset.”

Season tickets, priced at £25, are available for anyone who would like to explore the wide variety of participating gardens. They can be ordered from Susan Bickle on 01935 709182 or via the St Margaret’s Hospice website by searching for a season ticket.

More information can be found at www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk/glorious-somerset-gardens.

NEW! SOMERSET COUNTY SHOW LAUNCHES THIS YEAR

Many people have asked why Somerset has no County Show, well now at last it has and in the county town of Taunton! The two-day event is now scheduled to be held at Taunton Racecourse on an annual basis, every September. Plans for the 2019 event, which takes place on 20 and 21 September, are well underway with a huge array of activities and displays already booked.

The show is designed to showcase the very best that Somerset has to offer, with the emphasis on individual and community participation. As befitting the venue, equestrian enthusiasts will be well catered for, with polo and the Pony Club all represented, along with the hugely entertaining British trials and scurry driving team event – and The Shetland Pony Grand National, to name but a few.

Field sports of all disciplines are included, with a challenging open clay shoot, gun dog scurries, fly casting, falconry, archery and air rifle range, with have-a-go facilities available under expert supervision.

For dog lovers there are gun dog demonstrations and competitions, agility, exhibitions, and a fun dog show, so bring your dog on a lead with you!

Tone FM are hosting a community stage providing up and coming entertainers, bands and choirs a chance to perform in public, so if you “have got talent” get in touch to book your slot! Celebrity chef Lesley Waters is hosting cookery demonstrations throughout the weekend and creating a range of dishes using local produce available from the many artisan producers in the food and drinks hall.

There will also be plenty of street foods to enjoy, with local beer and cider provided. Classic and Vintage cars will be converging from all over the county, and no show would be complete without the smell and sounds of the steam engines. There are also plenty of activities for the children to enjoy, including a puppet show, fun fair, climbing wall, bouncy castles and ferret racing!

If you are interested in being part of this prestigious event or would like trade space or sponsorship details, contact Sharon Mitchell on 07739 964843 or by email on sharon@somersetcountyshow.co.uk.

ILFRACOMBE RNLI THANKS VOLUNTEERS FOR LONG SERVICE AT AWARDS CEREMONY

An awards ceremony has been held at the Ilfracombe RNLI annual dinner to thank 12 RNLI volunteers for their service to the station. Eight awards were given out to crew for long service and a further four service awards were given to crew standing down.

Andrew Putt, the RNLI Regional Improvement Manager, gave out the awards at the annual RNLI dinner on 12 April 2019 at Ilfracombe Golf Course. The awards included a 40-year service award to all-weather lifeboat (ALB) Coxswain Andrew Bengey and 20-year service awards to Head Launcher and Launch Vehicle Driver Gary Belgrove, Inshore Lifeboat (ILB) Helm and ALB Assistant Mechanic Stuart Carpenter, Shorecrew Mark Gammon, Assistant Coxswain, Mechanic and ILB Helm Leigh Hanks, Deputy Launching Authority Ian Meadlarkin, Second Coxswain Carl Perrin and ALB crewman Steve Ashton.

The station also presented certificates to Andy Maslen who was leaving the station after 14 years’ service, and Matt Simpson who was standing down from the Ilfracombe Station after 23 years’ service. A further Letter of Thanks was given to Mark Weeks who stood down as a Tooltrak Launch Driver but continues as ILB Helm and ALB crew. Dr Sean Ross was awarded a Letter of Thanks from the Institution for his role as Lifeboat Medical Adviser, a role from which he has recently stepped down.

Andrew Bengey, Ilfracombe RNLI Volunteer Coxswain, who received an award for 40 years of service, says, “When I first joined the RNLI the crews were mainly commercial fishermen. The RNLI has changed a lot over the last 40 years – now there is much more training available and people now come from all walks of life. I still enjoy being a volunteer with the RNLI, there is great camaraderie and teamwork, and you know someone’s always got your back. Over the years I’ve probably been out on over 800 shouts and there’s a lot of satisfaction when you know that you have helped someone. The RNLI is a great organisation and I would recommend it to anyone.”

Chris Wallis, RNLI Operations Manager for Ilfracombe RNLI Lifeboat, says: “The RNLI depends on the work of volunteers to carry out many different types of roles. At Ilfracombe RNLI we are honoured and proud to give out these long-service awards to our dedicated volunteers who give up their time to help us save lives at sea.”

Photo by Jo Bolton.

HIGHEST NUMBER OF BRITS HOLIDAYING AT HOME – EXMOOR AIMS FOR ITS SHARE WITH DRAMATIC NEW VIDEO

A survey released by VisitEngland today shows that over 7 million Brits are planning a UK break this Easter weekend. This is the highest figure recorded since the survey began in 2013.

VisitEngland Director Patricia Yates said, ““It is great to see so many Brits are planning holidays at home in the UK in what is set to be a cracking Easter, bringing a boost for businesses and local economies. Right across the country visitors will find experiences to enjoy no matter what the weather.”

This report coincides with a big marketing push from Visit Exmoor and the launch of a brand new video: Exmoor #VisitMoorThanOnce promoting the highlights of one of the smallest, yet most diverse of the UK’s National Parks. The video has already reached over 40k viewings on Facebook and Instagram. Watch the video here www.facebook.com/VisitExmoor/.

It was filmed by Olco Studios, partners Connor Purcell and Ollie Pritchard-Barrett, who grew up on Exmoor. These young film makers have travelled all over the world filming for the likes of the Discovery Channel, but both wanted to shine a light on how beautiful their home was. “Although we know this area, we were both blown away by the landscape. Getting up before dawn to see the sun rise and staying out in pitch darkness to capture the stars gave us a whole new perspective,” says Connor. “Everyone was so friendly,“ adds Ollie. “We were regularly whisked away to look at new-born lambs and meet families during filming.”

Connor has a special connection to the place as his grandfather is renowned local artist Maurice Bishop, who has a cameo in the film. The video is social media optimised – the format perfect for viewing on a phone or tablet.

The video was commissioned by Visit Exmoor. Jennette Baxter, Visit Exmoor’s Marketing Manager, is delighted with it. “We wanted to highlight the different colours of Exmoor, to show how varied and attractive the landscape is and to show different ways to explore the area. Exmoor is an accessible wilderness, you don’t have to drive for hours to get off the beaten track, it’s here on our doorstep.”

The new video, a new Bradt Travel Guide to Exmoor, the 150th anniversary of Lorna Doone and the continued #EatExmoor project are all putting Exmoor firmly on the map this year, and the area is well positioned to capture those brits looking to stay in the UK this summer.

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