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COMMUNITIES CASH IN WITH GRANTS FOR SHOPPING AND SAILING ON EXMOOR

Exmoor National Park has invested in a community shop and an accessible sailing boat with the latest grants from the Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund. Roadwater Community Shop and Wimbleball Sailability have both been awarded funding of up to £2,500 in support of projects helping Exmoor communities thrive and opening up fresh opportunities for people to experience the National Park.

Wimbleball Sailability has offered sailing experiences for disabled people at Wimbleball Lake on Exmoor for over 30 years. The new funding will help towards the purchase of a new eight-seater sailing boat, ensuring many more people can experience the thrill of a day out on the water.

David Mather, who helps run the programme, said: “Disabled people from across Somerset and North Devon, including many care-home residents, regularly enjoy sailing trips with the help of our dedicated team of volunteers. Thanks to this funding we look forward to introducing many more people from the disabled community to Exmoor and the opportunities that exist to enjoy the freedom and fun of sailing.”

The funding will also help pay for a community hub and information point for the National Park within Roadwater Community Shop & Post Office, as part of work to upgrade and extend the existing building, which is run with the support of more than 60 volunteers.

Shop volunteer Robert Wetheridge said: “Since the village took over ownership and running of the shop last year, officers at Exmoor National Park have supported us in countless ways – through their Partnership Fund, planning advice, community project planning fee reimbursement and advice on access to Carbon Reduction funding that has paid for installation of a small solar panel.

“Once complete the building upgrade will increase accessibility to all, provide a small cafe and community hub area, plus an outdoor patio with a view over the village hall recreation ground and swings. We all have our fingers crossed that construction can begin in early autumn and are so grateful for all the ongoing support.”

Philip Kiberd, Funding Officer at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “These two projects show how a relatively small contribution of up to £2,500 can make a real difference to those living in the National Park or coming to enjoy what it has to offer. We’re particularly looking for projects that can enhance the landscape, help nature, investigate heritage or introduce new people to the National Park and would love to hear from anyone with a great idea.”

You can apply to the Partnership Fund Small Grants scheme at any time. Funding decisions are made around four times a year with the next due in the autumn. Apply at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/partnership-fund or for friendly advice contact the Funding Officer on 01398 322237 or by emailing partnershipfund@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

NFU TO SPONSOR EXMOOR HILL FARMING NETWORK

The South West NFU is pleased to announce it is to renew its sponsorship of the Exmoor Hill Farming Network (EHFN).

The EHFN is a farmer-led organisation which works to improve farm incomes, profitability and sustainable land management in the upland areas of Exmoor. As the leading representative body for farmers and the voice of the industry across the South West, the NFU will continue assisting the EHFN’s work.

Matthew Uren, Somerset county adviser for the NFU, said: “We very much value the work that the Exmoor Hill Farm Network is doing for farmers, particularly in the current period of political upheaval and uncertainty, so we are pleased to be able to continue to support this valuable project.”

EHFN chairman Dave Knight said: “The EHFN is absolutely delighted to be sponsored for another year by the South West NFU and we are pleased that the NFU values the hard work the EHFN has done, and continues to do, to bring training, information, skills and social events onto Exmoor for the farming community.

“With ongoing political and rural economic uncertainty, in particular with regard to rural support payments and agri-environmental schemes, it is very important to have strong farming voices from strong organisations, working together to look out for UK agriculture.”

Deanna Gladki, West Somerset NFU Group Secretary, said: “In the run-up to Brexit, we need to make sure that the farming voice is heard and that we are engaged with farmers in all areas and we look forward to working with the EHFN to achieve this.”

Photo shows (l to r): Katherine Williams (EHFN project officer), Dave Knight (EHFN chairman), Deanna Gladki (West Somerset NFU group secretary), Matthew Uren (NFU Somerset county adviser).

NEW FOOTPATH UNVEILED IN MEMORY OF EXMOOR’S FIRST RANGER

Exmoor National Park Rangers past and present have gathered today on North Hill for World Ranger Day and the unveiling of a new 1.5-mile circular route in memory of Exmoor’s first ever Ranger, Jim Collins.

The walk, which starts and finishes at the car park near the old tank training grounds on North Hill near Minehead (grid ref: SS953474), was one of Jim’s favourites for its breathtaking views across Exmoor and the Bristol Channel. It was overlooked by the house he lived in until his death last year, aged 95.

Jim Collins, the first Exmoor National Park Ranger, at his home in Minehad being interviewed for the Exmoor Magazine in 2014.

At a gathering attended by dozens of Exmoor Rangers from over the decades, Dan Barnett, Exmoor National Park’s Head Ranger, said: “Jim maintained strong ties with the National Park right up to his death and I’m sure he’d be delighted to see his name commemorated as part of Exmoor’s much-celebrated Rights of Way network, which he helped create.

“Jim was a real trailblazer and evidence of the work he started can be seen all over the National Park. This included some of the first waymarked rights of way and permissive routes on Exmoor, a task that meant winning over the hearts and minds of farmers, landowners and the public. It’s a skill still central to the job of rangering and to the success of our now 1,300km-long access network, that we’re delighted to be celebrating here today with Jim’s family.”

Close family of Jim’s have attended the gathering to witness the unveiling of a new fingerpost naming the route ‘Jim’s Path’. His son, Phil Collins, said: “It’s wonderful to see such a gathering of Jim’s friends and colleagues, with some I know who have travelled from as far as Australia. It’s not hard to see why rangering in such a beautiful landscape leaves its mark, but it takes someone special to see that it’s the people who make the place, and my father was testament to that.”

A display celebrating Jim’s life, and comparing how the job of the Exmoor Ranger has changed over the years, went on show in National Park Centre in Dunster last week.

Robin Milton, Chair of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “With National Parks this year celebrating 70 years since the ground-breaking law that created them, it’s good to be reminded of the early pioneers who first breathed life into the vision of National Parks as the living, working landscapes we all know and love today.”

PHOTO: Exmoor’s first three Head Rangers – David Beazley, Jim Collins and Bill Gurnett, 1980s.