Memories of Exmoor: The Small Farmer

by David Hill

In the 1950s there weren’t the number of large farms there are today around Exmoor. By and large small farmers were the norm, and if you were farming land with an acreage of over a hundred acres you were considered a big farmer.

One Monday, dad sat down at the dinner table with a broad smile on his face, “Apt us should be having cold pork,” he said as he ladled out a large dollop of bean chutney, made from a recipe passed on to us from my two Methodist Sunday school teacher great aunts, who were really first cousins once removed. Before speaking again, he added the customary mountain of salt to the side of his plate.”Little Leslie have had an accident.”

I pricked up my ears. Little Leslie was a near neighbour and he was a little, short man.

“What sort of accident?” Asked mum. “It’s no smiling matter.”

“Just let’s say he’s a smaller farmer now than when he got up this morning. Out feeding the pigs when one upped and bit one of his fingers off.”

I wanted to ask which finger, but a look from my aged maiden aunt indicated she knew what I was thinking, and I thought better of it.

Grace was said, and dad, having heard the five to one weather forecast, turned off the wireless. “He was lucky,” continued dad.

“How do you make that out. He’ve just lost a finger,” added my aunt.

“Lucky the pig wasn’t really hungry, otherwise he might have eaten all of little Leslie and not just his finger,” laughed dad.

As mum and my aunt joined in the laughter I stared at my cold pork, my appetite not quite what it was, wondering to myself if the pig that I had eaten yesterday and was about to eat again today had ever chewed up a finger.


There are only fifty copies left of THE FARMHOUSE TREE now so that’s pretty good from  900 copies, and they should go quickly following the Radio Devon readings. My editor and publisher is thrilled and says it is very good for a small publisher.I’m thrilled because so far my two charities have each received £500. I owe my little primary school at Bishops Nympton so much.

Christopher Lillicrap, a children’s  TV presenter, will be reading five 6 minute extracts from my book THE FARMHOUSE TREE  on Radio Devon. Book of the month on The Judi  Spiers Show. First reading around ten past ten on March 21st and then on the next four consecutive Fridays at the same time.

You kindly did a feature on the book back along.

My royalty cheques have been sent to my old primary school at Bishops Nympton and Michael Morpurgo for the Farms for City Children.

Am now hard at work on, what will hopefully be, a  follow up book  – LEAVES FROM THE FARMHOUSE TREE. Have finished third, and hopefully final draft. Less sadness in this one,with more recollections of my aged maiden aunt and the life of a nine year old boy on the family farm Eastacott, at East Knowstone.It includes the tale of the two brothers who lived in a hen house and also my aged maiden aunt’s recipe for her yum-yum-pig’s-bum home made butterscotch which I wrote about in my first book. Up and coming article in Western Morning News is about the old smithy at East Knowstone.

Exmoor Literally: A Childhood on Exmoor

The Farmhouse Tree cover


David Hill started work on THE FARMHOUSE TREE in 1976, 14 years after death of his father aged 62 when he was 16.

“Born out of time I suppose, parents married in 1931 when mother was 21and father nearly 30.  Another 16 years, and in 1947 the stork located the gooseberry bush and I was born. No electricity until I was 16, and no mains water or mains drainage. Farm work done with a shire horse. And how I loved the gay harvests, the scent of crushed chamomile, crushed by hoof and boot and the heat under the hayshed’s  galvanised iron roof at the end of the evening when the final load was being pitch forked in. The first ride home  on the cart load of hay. Lurch to the right, lurch to the left. Holding on tight to the lade and the rope.The brush of a low beech branch and the flight of swallow and martin replaced by the wing of bat….But I go on.This probably gives you a taste of the book. A childhood remembered with love.”

“The Farmhouse Tree”  can be obtained by ordering at any bookshop for £12.99 or direct from publisher …Jayde Design. Make cheque out for £12.99 to Jayde Design and send to Jayde Design, 21 Honor Oak  Road,Honor Oak,London SE23  3SH. This includes p/p.

All royalties are going to David’s old primary school at Bishops Nympton and Michael Morpurgo’s Farms for City Children.


Exmoor Literally: Crowcombe Gate

By Caro Ness
(reblogged from her blog)



images-8Across the cattle grid and wind uphill,

Through ancient, twisting burr oak trees,

That unfurl above your head until

You reach the gorse and honey bees.

Here the heather starts to grow

In patches on the open moor,

Amidst ivy, balls of mistletoe,

And pine cones strewn on forest floor.

Wild ponies graze here, shy and quick202 Exmoor Foal

To move away from passers-by,

The woods are lush and they are thick,

So dense you cannot see the sky.

Ancient paths carve through this place,

Tracks that somehow man forgot,

You sense a timelessness and space,

Leading to some unknown spot.

Slopes drop very steeply down

Into a sparkling cobalt sea,

And high up there upon the crown

Of land, buzzards spiral lazily.

704 Peter French Red KiteFrom here on sun-drenched summer days,

A real tranquility prevails,

And if not for a smoky haze,

You’d see clear across to Wales.

This place is beauty at its best,

This is truly god’s own land,

This is calm and peace expressed

By Nature’s loving hand.

About Caro Ness

Caro Ness was born in Kingston, Jamaica but returned to England with her family at the age of 6 and has lived here ever since. All her working life she has been in the publishing industry as author’s agent, editor, rights director and author. Her second children’s book, THE OCEAN OF STORY, won the bi-annual Anne Izzard Award in the USA for an Outstanding Contribution to Storytelling. Her two books in Dorling Kindersley’s SECRETS OF… series have been translated into 19 languages and published in 21 countries. To date she has published, on both sides of the Atlantic, 3 adult non-fiction titles SECRETS OF ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE, SECRETS OF DREAMS and A SPACE FOR SILENCE/SPACES FOR SILENCE and four children’s books, LET’S GET A PUPPY, LET’S BE FRIENDS, THE OCEAN OF STORY and STAR SIGNS. She has also translated MOST AMAZING MAZES from Spanish for Liber Press and was instrumental in the publication of ISLAND IN THE SUN, by Harry Belafonte and Lloyd Burgess for A&C Black. She is now happily ensconced in Crystal Palace, London, in a beautiful home, with the love of her life…

You can follow Caro on Twitter

Exmoor Literally: All around the year

AATY Front cover




Liz Shakespeare 022The name of Liz Shakespeare has become well-known in the South-West as an author who brings to life the people and landscapes of Devon. Her first three books, The Turning of the Tide, Fever: A Story from a Devon Village and The Memory Be Green: An Oral History of a Devon Village are still selling well and she has now written a fourth book.

All Around The Year’ is a collection of twelve poignant stories, deeply rooted in the Devon landscape, and each linked to a month of the year from January through to December. The reader is transported from a sleepy village square to the wilds of Exmoor and from a summer beach to the narrow streets of a small Devon town, and introduced to a variety of memorable characters.

In January, a young Croyde surfer tries to come to terms with her uncertain future. As signs of spring appear in the hedgerows, a farmer’s wife starts a new venture. In August, a bereaved woman is deeply affected by an unexpected sight on Lynmouth beach. A Bideford man searches for a special Christmas present.
All are at a moment of reckoning in their lives as they experience the subtle but significant events that make up everyday experience. These stories of love and loss, of separation and reconciliation, stay with you throughout the year.

Liz has previously concentrated on historical research for inspiration, but this new collection is set in present-day Devon and brings to life characters that are so convincing, the reader soon feels that they are personal friends. Liz was born and brought up in Bideford and has a long Devon ancestry; she feels that the sense of being deeply rooted in the area has given her a good understanding of Devon and its people. For each story, she has created a character whose life is influenced by the landscape around them. With stories set in North, South and Mid-Devon, All Around The Year is sure to be popular throughout the South-West and beyond.

Liz will be signing copies of her books at the Appledore Summer Festival on August 3rd, at Everything Westward in Westward Ho! on Sunday August 4th, in the Crafts and Gifts Marquee at the North Devon Show on August 7th, and at Waterstones, Barnstaple on Saturday August 24th from 11.00 – 2.00. She will be giving readings at a special evening event at Walter Henry’s Bookshop, Bideford (booking essential as space is limited) on August 15th.

Readers can buy Liz’s books from their local bookshop, from or post-free by sending their name, address and a cheque for £8.99 made payable to Letterbox Books at The Old Post Office, Littleham, Bideford EX39 5HW.


Title: All Around The Year

Author: Liz Shakespeare

Publisher: Letterbox Books

ISBN: 978-0951687932

Pages: 144

Price: £8.99

Publication date: 01-08-2013

Available from: and from bookshops.

Contact Liz Shakespeare on 01237 471165, 07944507005 or

Follow Liz on Twitter @LizShakespeare



Letter from Exmoor: In Coleridge’s footsteps

Coleridge Way Story Boxes

Story Boxes

Project leader – Christopher Jelley
Project duration – 3rd June 6th September 2013

Monday 3rd June and the final of the 6 story boxes will be installed for the summer of 2013 along the Coleridge Way. The concept is simple, find one, read the story so far, add a paragraph or drawing but no more, then leave for the next walker. Return as often as you want but you cannot add more unless someone else has put their mark in the book. Books will be exhibited as part of Somerset Art Week in September as well as Coleridge Cottage later in the year. Two of the books have been started by guest Authors Jackie Morris, (Author Illustrator) and Taffy Thomas (UK’s first Storyteller laureate), and endorsed by Rosemary Middleton, a direct descendant of Coleridge himself.

Jackie Morris’s web site the Story TrailJackie Morris is an author, illustrator and artist. She lives and works in a small cottage by the sea in Wales, UK. She loves colour, cats, birds and flight, walking, reading, magic and dragons, kites, dandelion clocks, dogs and horses ( especially the black and white heavy footed kind with great liquid eyes) and many other things.

Above the house where she lives is a rare thing, a dark sky where stars are clear and visible, and every night she walks, watching the moon wax and wain and the stars turn across the ocean of air.

Taffy is the patron of The Society for Storytelling. Taffy received The English Folk Dance and Song Society Gold Badge award in December 2010. With Taffy’s head bursting with stories, riddles and folklore, professional storyteller Giles Abbot once commented, “when Taffy goes it will be like a library burning down.”

webbers post 05With only 6 boxes and 36 miles of way marked trail I found it quite difficult to identify locations which championed the ideals of the Romantic poets and were also relatively easy to access. But I feel that I have managed just this, with Coleridge Cottage (National Trust) hosting the first in their Lime Tree Arbour at Nether Stowey.

The second box is a short walk along the Coleridge Way from Nether Stowey, and it is the first section of the trail which takes you away from vehicles and roads, giving you a better taste of the natural beauty of Somerset.

This box is along Watery Lane, a very aptly named place as the stream runs along most of the track and actually becomes the path in parts! Just where the foot path separates from the water I have located this journal, with full permission from Quantocks ANOB park ranger Owen Jones. There is no natural bench, or panoramic view point but then the tunnel of undergrowth, the trickle of the brook, and relaxed resonance of this place lends itself perfectly to the pen.

kXES5YnWzMnk6syxX7GApyFScyoBsyfVIqr1zUQy5BIAt the other end of the Coleridge Way sits box three at the Jubilee Hut, Webbers Post, which is just under Dunkery Beacon. There is a large amount of parking here, hundreds of paths to follow or cycle, just follow the Coleridge Way signs through the Sculpture Trail and you’ll find the hut. (Also QR Poetry slates here too)

Journal four is at Horner Garden Tea Rooms, so grab yourself a cream tea put up your feet and then pick up the pen. This box has some paints in as well so you can add a little illustration into the storyline.

The five is at the end of the current trail, Porlock Visitor Centre, who proudly state they are England’s friendliest visitor centre. Boxes are out in the wild all summer long, with a detailed map at

Box six is a secret (I have decided at the eleventh hour to change this one as I felt the approved location was a little too vulnerable.) check the website for info.

Follow at, and FaceBook/storywalks and read the blog at

webbers postOther Coleridge Way Projects

QR Code Poetry – Key stage II pupils responding to the environment through literacy and poetry, rendered into QR codes, then laser etched onto slate and installed along the trail. June 2013 image below of Dunster First School creating QR poetry at Conygar Tower, Dunster just before Easter this year. Installation of QR slates due in the next few weeks with maps and details on the Coleridge Way section of the Storywalks website

Fly Catchers – putting Coleridge’s hand writing digitally back into the landscape which inspired him using the innovative storywalk engine. Travel to specified location to reveal manuscript on your smart phone or tablet. Summer 2013

More info on my website, just follow the tab to Coleridge.

Project Sponsors – Storywalks, ArtLife, and EDF Energy.

With further support from Horner Garden Tea Rooms, Cider House B&B (Nether Stowey), Porlock Visitor Centre, Quantocks ANOB, National Trust Coleridge Cottage and Holinicote Estate, Dunster Crown Estate, National Park Authority, and Forestry Commission.

High quality copies of these images and more are available from this link

Christopher Jelley

Twitter” @storywalks

XIX West St, Dunster,
TA24 6SN
01643 821657 07751609198

Exmoor Literally: Ravens Deep by Jane Jordan

I had pictured the house long before it came into view and from the description I had read and the image in my mind I knew it would be beautiful and ancient, a rambling relic rising up from the landscape of the moors. I imagined there would be roses clinging to the stonework and a sprawling garden filled with lavender and hollyhocks, but now I was starting to wonder if the access to the house was just too difficult, and the location too remote.

I felt as though I had driven a long way down Rush Lane and doubts were beginning to creep into my head about staying in such a secluded spot, especially because I was alone. But just as those doubts began to multiply, the lane opened up and my fears disappeared in an instant. Before me was Ravens Deep.

 Ravens Deep by Jane Jordan Front Cover

jane jordanJane Jordan is the author of The Ravens Deep trilogy. She lives on the edge of Exmoor in South West England. She is inspired by the beautiful, but mysterious moor-lands and rugged coastline that make up her surroundings, a perfect setting for dark romance novels.

In her debut novel Jane Jordan brought together two unforgettable characters; Madeline Shaw and Darius Chamberlayne. Their connection defied the boundaries of time and combined vampire superstition with a complex and modern love story.

Blood & Ashes, her second book, is a vivid and powerful follow up to Ravens Deep. A story that is layered in myth and vampire culture, and set amongst London’s hidden world and the beautiful scenery of Exmoor. A mixture of love, revenge and horror, takes the reader on an unexpected journey through the lives of three enigmatic immortals.

A Memoir of Carl, is the conclusive book in the Ravens Deep trilogy. A story layered in myth and vampire culture and set against the backdrop of Stirling in Scotland and its historic castle, the prestigious London opera house and a gothic stately home, all of which paints a remarkable picture that is rich in detail and unexpectedly chilling.


Prologue to Ravens Deep

There are those amongst us who seek unconditional love, an objective that could either be construed as wise or foolhardy. But regardless of individual perspective, many of us search for a like-minded being, someone to return our affection, capture our heart or comfort and encourage when all others may criticize or condemn.

A few relationships are to be considered unusual or diverse, but although cultural differences and personal preference may be argued, our unions typically conform to the rules and moral values that we make.

After all, most strange deviations in love can be explained. . . ordinarily.
Excerpt from Ravens Deep

Exmoor Literally: The Wedding Cake Tree by Melanie Hudson

Nestled between an 11th century church at the top of the lane, and an ancient ford at the bottom, there stands a stone cottage. It has a slightly crooked front door framed by an open porch. Blue-tits nest in the porch eaves – content and undisturbed – as the door, now swollen with the paintwork of many generations, is too stiff to open. The door is painted a delicate shade of green with an unconscious nod towards a French manor house. Casement windows sit in perfect symmetry on either side of the doorway – just as a child would draw – and an exquisite flower border, heady with sweet aroma, is bedded down under the front windows.  It is a cottage that sits so comfortably in its position, surrounded by rolling Devonshire hills, wild flower meadows and twinkling streams, only a flash of Divine inspiration could have created it.”

Chapter Three, The Wedding Cake Tree

Wedding Cake Tree cover

Can a mother’s secret past provide the answers for a daughter’s future?
When failed opera singer turned style photographer, Grace Buchanan, is ordered by her hippy-chick mother, Rosamund, to drop everything for two weeks and travel the British Isles with a mysterious stranger – war-weary Royal Marine Officer, Alasdair Finn – she is more than a little surprised; after all, her mother has been dead for six months…
At the reading of the will, Grace discovers that Rosamund kept the life she lived before Grace was born a secret.  That secret is now to be revealed to Grace in the form of seven letters, written by her mother, just before she died.    Entranced by the British landscape and caught in a brief but perfect moment in time, Grace and Alasdair travel to four enchanting locations, walk in Rosamund’s footsteps, scatter her ashes, and read a letter at each one.
What follows is an emotional, fun-filled, and adventurous journey of a lifetime, on which Grace slowly uncovers the truth about Rosamund’s incredible life story, leading both Grace and Alasdair to question their futures and address their own secret demons from the past.
But can Rosamund’s puppeteering from the grave alter life’s course for Grace, or will things take an unexpected turn?
* * *
Melanie Hudson
The Wedding Cake Tree is available on Amazon as paperback and as a Kindle download.
Melanie Hudson now lives on the Devon side of Exmoor. You can find out more about her on her website.  Melanie is also on Twitter @Melanie_Hudson_