Tag Archives: featured

Children’s lockdown artwork raises Devon CPRE funds to protect countryside 

Vibrant paintings of the countryside created by Devon’s primary school children during this year’s first lockdown have provided the artwork for a new calendar produced by local countryside charity Devon CPRE.

Proceeds from the calendar will be used to fund the charity’s vital campaign work to safeguard Devon’s precious landscapes and green spaces for future generations.

Devon CPRE’s 2020 ‘My Outdoors’ Art Competition was a big hit with youngsters during this year’s spring lockdown, with more entries than ever before. Primary school pupils from across the county rose to the challenge of creating colourful images in celebration of Devon’s glorious countryside, even though many children were unable to experience the great outdoors at the time because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Devon CPRE Director Penny Mills says, “When we saw all the wonderful entries, we decided a calendar for 2021 would be the ideal way to showcase the children’s pictures whilst raising money for our campaign work. As you’d expect, the calendar is printed on environmentally friendly paper and includes the winning entries as well as some highly commended ones. It’s an ideal small gift to pop in the post for Christmas!”

The competition asked children to depict ‘My Outdoors’ in any medium of their choice.

  • St Peter’s Prep School at Lympstone near Exmouth won Best Overall School.
  • The individual winner in Key Stage 1 was six-year-old Betsy from St Peter’s Prep School, Lympstone, Exmouth for her seaside painting.
  • The joint winners in Key Stage 2 were 11-year-old Graciella from Pilton Bluecoat Academy, Barnstaple for her watercolour of Mannings Pit in North Devon (pictured at top) and 10-year-old Thomasin from St Peter’s Prep School, Lympstone who painted Bowerman’s Nose on Dartmoor.

The A4-size calendar costs just £7 including post & packaging. Copies are available to buy from www.cpredeon.org.uk or by calling 01392 966737.

Exmoor Ponies rescue the Exmoor Pony Project – with their compost!

After Covid restrictions obliterated normal income streams for the Exmoor Pony Project, it is the Exmoor ponies themselves who have galloped to the rescue – with their compost. Exmoor National Park Authority has now awarded a Partnership Fund Grant to help Exmoor Compost evolve a production process. 

Exmoor Pony Project founders Nick and Dawn Westcott, who farm on the National Trust Holnicote Estate in Porlock Vale, saw their 2020 plans for pony workshops, talks, events and activities dashed with the lockdown in March and Dawn found herself falling through the gaps with the Government’s Covid support. 

“As a self-employed author channelling income to run the Exmoor Pony Project, which is a conservation project rather than a business, I didn’t meet the ‘criteria’ for Central Government grant support and found myself one of the millions of ‘ExcludedUK’. We have over 30 Exmoor ponies, including orphans, from various moorland herds in our direct care and their management must be maintained yet the overheads continue regardless. When income streams disappear just like that, those costs put immense much pressure on the farm.”

Of course, caring for a large herd of Exmoor ponies also produces a large amount of manure, which the Westcotts have discovered has slowly matured into excellent compost. 

“Earlier this year, when I established our kitchen garden, Nick suggested I try some of the pony compost. It was superb stuff and, in June, after hearing there was a shortage of good compost in the area, we offered some bags of Exmoor Pony Multi-Purpose Compost as a fundraiser for the pony project, hoping local gardeners would give it a try. We soon found ourselves delivering bags across the area, from North Devon to the Quantock Hills. We’ve had great feedback from gardeners and, importantly, significant repeat orders already.”

The Westcotts are evolving a preparation and screening process that is resulting in a dark, friable, easy to handle compost that keen gardeners describe as ‘black gold’. Anne Lawton from Minehead said, “It’s the most fabulous black crumbly compost ever. Highly recommended and it’s supporting Exmoor ponies, who are the producers of this wonderful stuff.”

Since June, over 1,000 bags of the compost have been sold and the Westcotts are hopeful that their new Exmoor Compost venture will develop to help maintain the Exmoor Pony Project for the long term. 

“It’s rather lovely that the ponies themselves are providing the means to contribute to their own care. This year is all about survival and these ponies are certainly survivors – many of them would not be here without this project. They’re already benefiting from the compost sales and we’ve been able to buy a paddock sweeper to keep their grazing areas clean – as well as to more efficiently collect manure for future compost.” 

While the couple have sourced and even built some of the equipment and machinery needed to process the compost, some big items remain to be purchased. 

“We’re very fortunate that the Exmoor National Park Authority is awarding Exmoor Compost a £2,500 grant from the Partnership Fund to help us acquire some vital equipment over the next few months. This includes a bag sealer and compost turner. At the moment we’re still bagging, writing out and tying the bags by hand. The grant is a great help at a critical time.

“We’re excited to be farming in this way to help safeguard the endangered Exmoor pony breed and also provide an important, sustainable local resource for gardeners and growers across the area. It’s good to be doing our bit for the environment and we appreciate everyone who is helping us to turn a Covid nightmare into something positive.”

Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager at Exmoor National Park Authority, said, “We are pleased to be able to support this innovative idea to not only support the work of the Exmoor Pony Project but also to recognise the enterprising nature of many organisations across Exmoor. We initially gave a grant to the project from our Covid-19 Response Fund and have now awarded this Partnership Fund grant in a bid to sustain the  Exmoor Pony Project into the longer term. Our Partnership Fund this year is prioritising applications from not-for-profit groups for project ideas that can help to look after the National Park, engage  people with its special qualities and help with the area’s recovery from the impacts of Covid-19. We wish the Exmoor Pony Project and Exmoor Compost scheme well in the future.”

More information can be found at www.WildPonyWhispering.co.uk. 

Lifeline grants for Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, Landmark Theatre and Queen’s Theatre

The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is celebrating with the news that it will receive £58k from the Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund. Also benefiting from the fund are the Queen’s and Landmark theatres, which together will receive £550k.

The Museum has faced a very challenging year in 2020. It closed in March in line with government guidelines so the grand re-opening, following the refurbishment and the new wing extension, was put on hold.

The Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple and the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe have been unable to operate fully since March as a result of Covid restrictions. But following this week’s announcement that they will be awarded funding, Selladoor – the company that runs the theatres – has announced it intends to lift the curtains and re-open in time for Christmas, with full Covid safety measures in place.

Museum Curator, Alison Mills, says, “This funding is excellent news for the Museum and all the staff and volunteers. It will help to make up for the income we have lost this year to date, and enable us to get fully up and running. Although the pandemic continues to affect all our lives we hope to extend our opening hours soon by recruiting some temporary staff. We will also be investing in digital services, so people can enjoy our exhibitions and learn about our collections virtually.”

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden says: “I am delighted that the cultural heart of North Devon is being supported by this much-needed lifeline. Our museum and theatres are very important to our community; as we saw a few years ago when the then theatre operator went into administration. The amount of people who rallied around to save the theatres from closure was astounding. We are lucky to have such fantastic facilities here and we must support them as much as we can during these difficult times.”

David Hutchinson, Chief Executive of Selladoor Worldwide says “Whilst many theatres across the UK are still closed due to the challenges brought by Covid-19, Selladoor are once again opening the doors of The Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple and The Landmark in Ilfracombe to ensure the local communities of North Devon have access to live theatre, and this festive entertainment will be provided within a safe, socially-distanced environment.”

The museum was able to re-open safely on 12 August. Admission is free, but to ensure the safety of staff and visitors, an advanced booking system has been 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 revised opening hours of 11am-3pm (last admittance at 2pm), Wednesday to Friday.

Additional events at the theatres are yet to be confirmed so keep an eye out for the latest announcements and for further information or to book tickets visit the Queens Theatre website or follow the Queen’s Theatre and The Landmark on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.