Tag Archives: featured

NEW SCHEME URGES SHOPPERS TO BUY LOCAL

A new initiative to highlight the merits of buying local has been launched in Exmoor National Park. The National Park Authority and Visit Exmoor are working together to support local producers and promote how the fine produce sustainably grown, reared and prepared within Greater Exmoor benefits the landscape and its communities.

Signs making it easier for shoppers to identify local produce are being proudly displayed in stores to shine a light on the region’s producers and how buying local benefits the environment, while delivering food that is more tasty, nutritious and sustainable.

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Despite their wild appearance, Exmoor’s landscapes have been shaped by human interaction with nature over thousands of years. Many local producers here are small-scale farmers championing low-impact approaches that work with, not against nature. Much of the livestock is grass-fed, making our local lamb and beef tastier and healthier, as well as more sustainable. With fewer food miles and in turn less packaging, switching to local produce can help reduce your carbon and plastic footprint, whilst supporting our rural communities.”

The Exmoor Hill Farming Network, Edible Exmoor (www.edibleexmoor.co.uk) plus numerous local shops and retailers have already got behind the campaign, with Wheddon Cross Central Convenience Store and Roadwater Community Shop among the first to display the new branding.

Tony Howard, proprietor of The Village Shop and Tea Rooms at Withypool, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support this initiative by the National Park. As well as selling to those visiting the area, we have a strong and loyal customer base who are always pleased to support local producers, but more can be done, and highlighting Exmoor produce in this way is a step in the right direction.”

Sarah Campbell at Timberscombe Post Office and Store (pictured) said: “There’s already been a really positive response to the new promotional material in our shop. I’m sure it will make our customers think carefully and more likely to choose local produce.”

In December, grass-fed Exmoor lamb was the winner at blind-tasting event at Woods restaurant in Dulverton. Emma Thomasson from Visit Exmoor, who supported the event, said: “When visitors come to the area, experiencing the finest seasonal food and drink can be a big part of their cultural adventure, connecting them with the landscape they see around them and helping create memorable experiences.

“Joining the dots of where our food comes from is an important way of deepening people’s understanding and kindling a life-long love of the area sure to keep them returning. With locally-produced meats, fresh, seasonal fruit and veg, artisan breads, sweet treat confectionery and award-winning gin and cider all on offer, it’s not hard to see why!”

The ‘Produced in Exmoor’ campaign is part of the wider #EatExmoor project, which aims to support producers, build strong commercial relationships between producers and local businesses and help boost Exmoor’s reputation as a great food destination. Find out more at: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/eat-exmoor

197-MILLION-YEAR OLD ICYTHYOSAUR SAVED

‘Operation Poppy’ earlier this month saw a 197-million-year-old ichthyosaur from Stolford delivered to the Somerset Heritage Centre ahead of conservation work. The specimen was successfully extracted on 27 December by experts working against the clock in the intertidal zone of Bridgwater Bay National Nature Reserve.

Despite the skull not being preserved the five-and-a-half-foot-long ichthyosaur is otherwise remarkably complete.

The prehistoric fossil was discovered by amateur fossil hunter Jon Gopsill when he was out walking his dogs on 14 December. The five-and-a-half-foot-long marine reptile had been exposed by recent storms. It has now been dubbed ‘Poppy’ after one of Jon’s dogs who helped make the discovery.

The rescue mission took place at the first opportunity allowed by the tides after the unexpected discovery was made. The fossil was at risk of being washed away by the strong seasonal tides. A team of geological specialists from Geckoella had a four-hour window within which they could extract the specimen from the Blue Lias rock. They used rock saws, hammers, chisels and crow bars to cut out a single block of stone containing the fossil. The block weighs about 160 kg and is 175 cm long, 85 cm wide and 9 cm deep.

Bridgwater Bay National Nature Reserve is owned by the Environment Agency and managed by Natural England, who assisted with the excavation along with archaeologists from the South West Heritage Trust. They were joined by the finder Jon, together with his dogs Poppy and Sam.

Dr Andy King, Co-Director and Palaeontologist with Geckoella, led the extraction. He said: “It was very exciting to have the chance to rescue such an impressive fossil ichthyosaur as ‘Poppy’. Given the tidal conditions at Stolford and very shaley nature of the rock, this particular extraction was certainly more challenging than others we’ve been involved with. Though the skull is not preserved, ‘Poppy’ is otherwise remarkably complete.

“It’s not uncommon to find pieces of fossil ichthyosaur ribs or vertebrae, but such complete specimens are relatively rare. Slightly older ichthyosaurs have been collected from West Somerset, but it’s still quite a feeling to realise that this marine reptile was swimming in the Jurassic seas covering Somerset nearly 200 million years ago at the same time that dinosaurs were walking around on the land and pterosaurs were flying in the skies.  We’re really delighted that this fossil was collected safely and responsibly, and that it will be preserved by the South West Heritage Trust.”

The Environment Agency transferred ownership of ‘Poppy’ to the Somerset Heritage Centre, near Taunton, on 17 January ahead of conservation work to be undertaken by the Heritage Trust.

Sam Astill, Head of Museums from the Trust, said: “We’re grateful to Jon and our partners at Geckoella, Natural England and the Environment Agency for their collaboration in successfully rescuing this remarkable specimen. We will now undertake the conservation work required to preserve the fossil. This involves three basic steps – cleaning, including de-salination and drying, consolidation and stabilisation, to avoid splitting, and preparation for display. We look forward to displaying ‘Poppy’ at the Museum of Somerset where visitors can discover more about the county’s Jurassic past.”

David Evans, a geologist from Natural England who assisted with the extraction, said: “Natural England and the National Nature Reserve team were really pleased to be able to ensure that this valuable fossil and important piece of Somerset’s heritage was safely and responsibly extracted,  and will be going to the county museum to be conserved and then to be seen by the public.”

Jon Gopsill said: “I’ve been interested in fossils all my life. I started fossil hunting on Watchet beach when I was just six-years-old. The scale of this find, at 197-million-years-old, is incredible. When I saw it I thought, ‘I’ve been looking for this my whole life!’

“The whole experience has been amazing. You see ichthyosaurs in museums and think they’re amazing, but to actually find a ‘wild’ one in it’s natural environment is totally mind blowing! Somerset is my home so I’m delighted that this specimen will be staying in the county for other people to enjoy.”

Top: The extraction team, with the fossil on a pallet, following its successful extraction.

MUSEUM OF BARNSTAPLE AND NORTH DEVON DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITION

Are you a budding amateur photographer, seasoned professional or passionate local photography group?

The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is excited to announce the launch of a brand-new ‘Documentary Photography Open’ to be held annually between February and April.

The theme for this year is The High Street, focusing on the transformation of North Devon’s local shop fronts and businesses and how they have evolved, particularly in recent times of austerity. Photographers can include proprietors, but the primary focus is to be on documenting the shop and its architecture.

The exhibition is free to enter and will provide a platform for anyone from amateur through to established contemporary photographer looking to improve their exposure, enhance their practice and help document North Devon.

The successful applicants will feature in the exhibition, held in the community gallery, showcasing contemporary photography from across North Devon. Selected exhibition images will gain further exposure online as part of the museum’s digital marketing through their website, social media and mailing lists.

Museum Curator, Alison Mills, says, “With over 55,000 people visiting the museum every year, our aim is to offer a platform to showcase the work of talented local photographers.  We also want to help promote and inspire future documentary photography. The idea is that each year the competition will see a different theme drawing on the museum’s inspirational photography collections that include R.L. Knight and James Ravilious.”

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden, says: “This new photography competition is another fantastic idea by the team at the museum, not only as a way of bringing the talent of local photographers to the attention of all the museum visitors, but also as a way of documenting North Devon as it is now and preserving the images for future generations.”

During the exhibition’s duration a public vote will be held within the community gallery and the image with the most votes by the closing date of the exhibition will be awarded with a winner’s certificate, and a £200 voucher from event sponsors J&A Cameras, to help further the photographer’s practice.  One standout piece from the exhibition will be selected by the museum team to enter into the museum’s digital archive, continuing to help to document North Devon and its people.

Applications can be picked up from the museum reception, or to download a form and a copy of the submission guidelines and terms and conditions, visit the museum’s website.

TOP: Appledore News photographed by James Ravilious © Beaford Arts.