Launch of Exmoor Horn Wool


DSCF6406A new local venture was given a flying start at a well-attended launch of the Exmoor Horn Wool company hosted by the National Park Centre in Dunster recently. The project, supported by the Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund, is a culmination of two years of hard work by a handful of Exmoor sheep farmers determined to find a way to add value to the fine fleeces produced by the indigenous Exmoor Horn sheep.

On display was the full range of dyed wool for knitting, in five colours that reflected the Exmoor landscape such as purple for heather, yellow for gorse, and a range of socks in a variety of colour combinations, each one unique to a particular village on Exmoor. The knee length socks are designed as shooting socks, but are also perfect as wellie socks or, as one satisfied purchaser pointed out, golfing socks.

Brian Buckingham, an Exmoor Horn breeder for over 40 years, and now chairman of the Exmoor Horn Wool company, is very enthusiastic about the new enterprise, “So many of the towns and villages in the South West were built on the back of wool production, even our launch took place only a few yards from the old Dunster yarn market building, so it is great to see sheep farmers once again restoring that link between their sheep and the final wool product – and what a fine wool product it is. 

“Thanks to their wool our Exmoor Horns can withstand days of blizzard out on the moor, so what better wool could there be to knit into warm outer garments such as jumpers and scarfs?”

Exmoor Horn wool project leader Lindy Head added: “The two years it has taken to get to the final IMG_1668product range has been an incredibly steep learning curve. With the help and guidance of John Arbon Textiles and the Wool Board, all those involved, including the Exmoor Horn Wool board, its shareholder farmers, and the Exmoor Horn Sheep Breeders Society, have had to get to grips with the intricacies of the spinning process – from deciding on yarn specifications to fibre conditioning techniques, the challenge of getting the colour mix right, and understanding the working methods of the traditional sock manufacturing industry.

“Then there has been the digital marketing element, a vital component for any new company, but not something Exmoor sheep farmers normally have to handle. I’m now delighted to say that a website,, is up and running and we are hoping that lots of people will support the new venture.”

PS:  The project has been part funded through the Exmoor National Park Authority Partnership fund, at 39%, and the rest of the funding has been supplied by the Exmoor Horn Sheep Breeders Society and individual Exmoor farmers.

To order wool and/or socks, please go to

Exmoor Horn Wool 1

Roll up, roll up for the 12th Annual World Bolving Championship



This year’s World Bolving Championship takes place on Saturday 17 October at Draydon Rails, Dulverton (TA22 9QE) in Exmoor National Park starting at 6 pm and everyone is welcome.

It’s an evening with a difference as National Park Ranger Richard Eales explains:  “This is a competition to find out who can sound most like a rutting stag – can you get a real live deer to answer you across the wild deep valley?

 “This year there is a beautiful, framed stag picture that has been kindly donated by as well as the Phil Ferris Shield that will go to the winner. Mike Sherwin has also kindly donated a picture that will be presented to the best junior bolver, so get practicing kids.”

Anyone that would like to join in and test their vocal chords can just turn up on the night and enter. Entries are a minimum donation of £2 per person and all the money raised will go to Devon Air Ambulance Trust.

People can either meet up with other competitors at The Rock House Inn, Dulverton at 5pm or just turn up at Draydon Rails at 6pm. After the competition it’s back to the pub for the results and winners’ presentation, beer, food and the prize draw.

For further details please contact Richard on 07772 989737 or the Rock House, Inn on 01398 323467.

Exmoor stag, photo by Tony Piper

Exmoor stag. Photo by Tony Piper

South West National Parks essential for the region’s economy

enpaThe contribution made by Exmoor and Dartmoor National Parks to the region’s economy has been highlighted in a new economic prospectus.

The two National Parks are living, working landscapes that are home to approximately 44,000 people and 3,145 businesses with an annual turnover of £770m a year.

National Parks are also world renowned brands, recognised for quality of environment and visitor experience. Dartmoor and Exmoor attract over 8 million visitor days and generate £428 million for the greater Dartmoor and Exmoor areas annually.

The prospectus highlights the high quality of the National Park environment underpins economic activity both within the National Parks and the wider Heart of the South West area. National Park Authorities bring together key players to support and enable sustainable economic growth within these deeply rural landscapes.

Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities have been at the forefront of supporting pioneering new ways to unlock economic growth within the National Parks, the prospectus highlights some of these success stories.

Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Steve Hindley, said: “Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks are key partners in the HotSW LEP, and are exemplars of the distinctive assets of our area that we so proudly promote. This prospectus shows that value of the National Parks to our area and that of the UK, and we welcome their drive to showcase their unique selling points in the national and international arena.

“HotSW LEP is supporting programmes to aid the 3,000 businesses in the National Parks, that have a turnover of £770m, through our work on improved connectivity in transport and broadband and the roll-out of our Growth Hub business support service.”

Peter Harper, Chair of Dartmoor National Park Authority said: “We work hard to support and promote sustainable development within our National Parks. We also know that these economic assets are important to wider regional growth through the visitor economy, quality of life, health and recreational offer as well as providing valuable carbon and water catchment.

“Our National Parks are national and regional assets; this prospectus shares the innovative work we have undertaken to help support growth within our boundaries and beyond.”

Andrea Davis, Chairman of Exmoor National Park Authority agreed: “We are keen to play a pro-active role with partners across the area to secure sustainable economic growth within some of the most rural areas. Within the prospectus we highlight our aspirations for what economic potential can be unlocked with additional investment and are already working up more detailed proposals with a range of partners to turn these aspirations intra reality.” 

Both National Park Authorities are keen to continue to build on their successes in contributing to regional growth and have identified four key areas for investment to release future growth potential:

  • Improving connectivity – through superfast broadband and better mobile coverage to deliver 4G service to all settlements
  • Promoting the place and product – recognising the value of the National Park and local supply chains, including food and drink, as quality destination ‘brands’ and the unique distinctive product they offer to the region
  • Support key sectors – such as farming, forestry, food and tourism. The creation of rural growth hubs, to increase productivity and develop rural skills
  • Sustain the resource – There is a need for continued investment managing the National Park resource: The environment; Access to it and; Promotion. Without this the resource will degrade and opportunities for sustainable rural growth lost.

The Economic Prospect can be read here:

Local business donates scholarship for West Somerset College’s hospitality student

Rosemary Overall and Tony O'Shaughnassy from The Culbone.  Photo by Steve Quantick

Rosemary Overall and Tony O’Shaughnassy from The Culbone.
Photo by Steve Quantick

Last week, West Somerset College’s hospitality student Rosemary Overall was presented with the inaugural The Culbone Scholarship for Hospitality Student of the Year.

Rosemary, who is in her last year at The Combe training restaurant in Minehead, was chosen for her commitment and keen interest, both in the kitchen and front of house.
A few months ago, Tony O’Shaughnassy, the owner of The Culbone on Porlock Hill, had contacted the The Combe to find a way to support outstanding students in the hospitality sector, to help develop young people in an industry which is so vital to Exmoor.  Finally, the idea for the scholarship was born, a suitable student found and the scholarship’s finer details developed.
“We think that the College’s hospitality course is outstanding. The food prepared by the students is amazing.  We see The Culbone as at the heart of the community, and helping young people excel is very close to our heart,” explained Tony. “Rosemary is a very worthy recipient of our scholarship, and we look forward to catching up with Rosemary in London in September.”
Tony presented Rosemary with a certificate in The Combe in the presence of Paul Gibbs, Acting Faculty Leader, and Werner Hartholt, Chef Lecturer.  The scholarship will take her to the London School for Wine and Spirits in September to do a two-week WSET Level 3 course.  It also covers travel, accommodation, pocket money and dinner with Somerset Life’s Food Editor, Susan Clark, in one of London’s top restaurants.

Paul Gibbs commented: “We are very grateful to The Culbone for their generous support for Rosemary.  Rosemary has impressed us with her dedication and hard work, both in the kitchen and front of house. This course will be of great benefit to her future career.”
The Combe students will join The Culbone team for a special event later this year.


Werner Hartholz (Chef Lecturer), Paul Gibbs (Acting Faculty Leader), Rosemary Overall, Tony O’Shaughnassy (The Culbone)

International bogs celebrated on Exmoor


July 2015 sees the unique role of bogs celebrated globally and Exmoor National Park is marking the occasion with a special boggy event.

The UK has 20% of the world’s blanket bog with Exmoor fortunate to have some of this rare and fascinating habitat.  This landscape is often considered to be the UK’s equivalent of Brazil’s exotic rainforest; it is a huge store of carbon dioxide and home to numerous endangered species and even a carnivorous plant, the sundew.
International celebrations occur as far afield as Estonia, Ireland and America. Exmoor will be at the heart of this year’s celebrations with its unique Bogtastic event on Wednesday 29July, 10am – 4pm, based in and around Simonsbath. This  ‘drop in’ is event will feature the Bogstacle course, stream dipping, bog safaris, the opportunity to visit one of the South West’s last remaining operational water powered sawmills and lots more all-weather and undercover activities. There is something for everyone with toilets, food and free entry.
“Exmoor’s bogs give us so much to celebrate – from wonderful habitat and carbon storage to the water that ultimately ends up in our taps. Bogtastic is a great opportunity stop and think about the significance of bogs for all of us!” –  said Morag Angus, project manager, Exmoor Mires Project
Patrick Watts-Mabbott, Exmoor National Park volunteer and outreach officer commented: “Bogtastic will have something for everyone, from live bats to boggy walks. Entry is free and there is a travel bursary for community groups.’

For further information on Bogtastic please contact 01598 752509 or visit or the face book<>.  #Bogtastic15. Bogtastic is financially supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, South West Water and Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund through the Heart of Exmoor Scheme.

NEWS FROM EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK: Tourism is a BIG Issue for Exmoor!

Exmoor Society Logo

Tourism is such a big issue for Exmoor that it is the theme of this year’s annual Spring Conference to be held by The Exmoor Society in Dulverton on Friday 24 April 2015. The conference will consider some of the big issues of the day including how we balance tourism with conserving the natural environment, how we can promote unique experiences to visitors and how we fit within the wider region of the South West which is the primary holiday destination in the country.

National Parks, such as Exmoor, were set up just after the second world war, not only to conserve and enhance special landscapes but also to promote people’s enjoyment of them.  Access, in particular, to open country such as mountain and moorland, with the provision of a well-managed rights of way system and other visitor amenities such as car parks and loos, were to be developed by the statutory National Park authorities responsible for these designated areas.  At the same time there was suspicion by the National Park movement that a tourist industry would encourage large numbers of people and forms of enjoyment that would spoil the very countryside needing protection.  Today, in contrast, tourism is seen as the economic driving force in most of these areas and visitors are welcomed to them.

“Worth almost £100m a year tourism is the single largest component of the Exmoor economy and many communities depend on the value it brings to the area,”  said Dan James, sustainable economy manager at Exmoor National Park Authority,  “research shows that over 95% of visitors are attracted to the area due to the landscape and scenery and the trick is to manage tourism sustainably to ensure the very reason for the National Park designation is not compromised.”

However, how sustainable is tourism in these fragile landscapes and can protection and prosperity go hand-in-hand?  Can Exmoor, one of the smallest National Parks, attract more people with so much visitor choice in the South West?  Could Visit England do more to encourage rural tourism?  What do the visiting public desire from Exmoor?  These are some of the questions that will be explored and debated at the Conference.

Rachel Thomas, chairman of The Exmoor Society, said “The conference, in partnership with the National Park Authority, aims to raise important issues and influence the debate on how to manage this complex landscape.  We are delighted that a range of speakers, including from Visit England and Exmoor Tourism, will be dealing with the questions raised, with plenty of opportunity for delegates to open up the debate on how to make the best use of the incredible assets found here on Exmoor.”

Please book through The Exmoor Society website, or email

Media Release: Exmoor Food Fest celebrates local food & venues during February 2015



Exmoor.– The first Exmoor Food Fest will come to Exmoor in February 2015, celebrating everything Exmoor has to offer.
For a whole month, outstanding restaurants across the region will be offering 2 courses for £10.00 and 3 courses for £15.00 to give locals and visitors alike the opportunity to sample dishes prepared with excellent local produce.

Customers will be able to pick up vouchers for the Exmoor Food Fest “Tenner Deal” at participating restaurants or download them online. As an extra incentive to visit as many of the restaurants as possible, customers will receive a passport which will be stamped every time they order an “Exmoor Food Fest Deal”. Once the passport is full it will be entered into a draw for a Taste of Exmoor hamper.

The Exmoor Food Fest will be launched on 28 January 2015 at The Combe, a training restaurant based at the Skills and Enterprise Centre in the grounds of West Somerset College Minehead. Local chefs Mark Dodson (Masons Arms Knowstone), Thomas Carr (The Olive Room, Ilfracombe), Andrew Dixon (The Cafe Porlock Weir) and former student Richard Boggie (now Chef de Partie at Bath Priory) will be cooking a five-course-menu with the hospitality students for invited guests.

The grand finale of the Exmoor Food Fest is taking place at Minehead Harbour on 28 February in conjunction with the first Family Angling Day. Street Food Traders will give the harbour a village feel, inviting people to stroll around the harbour, watch the anglers and taste delicious food. A local produce and craft fair will take place at The Beach Hotel in Minehead where chefs like Mark Dodson will do cooking demonstrations throughout the day. Other venues along the seafront will also join in the celebration. Street artists and entertainment complete the recipe for a great family day out.

Andrew Dixon, owner and Chef at The Café at Porlock Weir, came up with the idea of the Exmoor Food Fest to promote the many outstanding food venues across the region.
“Exmoor has so much to offer, but February tends to be a very quiet time for us. The ‘Tenner Deal’ is an excellent opportunity for us to showcase what we can do while making it affordable for our customers,” explained Andrew.

Kentisbury Grange is one of the Devon-based venues taking part in the Exmoor Food Fest, where renowned Chef Michael Caines MBE has recently become involved.
“We are delighted to join this promotion of local food and Exmoor as a region,” commented Peter Farquhar, General Manager. “Michael’s involvement is very exciting as it will enable us to move to a whole new level in all aspects of our hospitality offering.’

The Exmoor Food Fest is organised and run by Exmoor4all, an internet platform based on sharing photos and stories of Exmoor with people all over the world as well as providing a network for local businesses. Andrew Dixon, who now is also a tutor at The Combe, and Werner Hartholt, the Combe’s Chef Lecturer, are co-organisers and technical consultants for the Exmoor Food Fest.

A total of 15 restaurants will take part in the first Exmoor Food Fest. A list is available on, complete with contact details and days when the special Exmoor Food Fest deal is available.


Date for the Diary: National Mills Weekend 10/11 May 2014



National Mills Weekend – this weekend

Saturday 10 May and Sunday 11 May 2014

Until the advent of the steam engine, wind and watermills provided the only source of power for many different processes – from making flour, paper, and cloth to hammering metal and extracting oils.   Some of these mills have been restored to working order, some are derelict, some still working commercially.  National Mills Weekend is the annual festival of our milling heritage and affords a great opportunity to explore mills, many of which are not usually open to the public.  At least a dozen Devon watermills will be open during the weekend.  A similar number, plus two windmills, will be open in Somerset.

For further information see which list all the mills open by County.

Both of Exmoor’s restored water-powered sawmills – at Simonsbath and Timberscombe – will be specially open over the weekend

Simonsbath Sawmill

Simonsbath Sawmill is an historic, water-powered sawmill and estate workshops lying in a beautiful riverside location in the heart of Exmoor National Park.  It was built for John Knight (1767 – 1850) who bought much of central Exmoor in the early years of the 19th century, and was refurbished for Viscount Ebrington in 1898. It was bought by Exmoor National Park Authority in 1996 and restored over 2002/03 – with Heritage Lottery Funding.  It is a nationally significant building – one of very few estate sawmills with evidence of systems of power and contemporary sawbenches. The sawmill is no longer in regular operational use but is maintained in working condition and is used for demonstration purposes and as the venue for educational events and activities.  It is cared for by a small team of volunteers who help with maintenance, lead tours and are researching the history of the mill.  Further information:

There will be live music at the mill on Sunday 11 May in the afternoon..


Just4Jazz are a four piece band of alto saxophone, electric keyboard, electric bass and drums.  They play an eclectic range of ‘lazy’ music with a jazz bias.  Numbers range from classic pieces from the 1930s/40s such as ‘Summertime’ and ‘Autumn Leaves’ to film scores and pop from the 60s through to present day.   Their music is strong on melody but is intended to be gentle on the ear and easy listening.

Cowbridge Sawmill

Cowbridge Sawmill is situated in the village of Timberscombe, set in the midst of the beautiful Exmoor countryside. The first Mill on this site dates from at least the 14th Century when it produced flour for the local people.  In 1904 the Mill was converted to a sawmill which continued to serve the local community.  By the end of the 20th century the Mill was in urgent need of renovation.  This renovation has been driven by the vision and determination of  Mr Owen Rush, who together with his wife Angela purchased the Mill in a derelict state in 1995. The old mill has been reroofed and the floors rebuilt, while the dilapidated workshop and forge have been demolished and replaced by an attractive two storey building of local stone with a slate roof.  As well as enhancing the appearance of the Mill, the  new building contains a forge, workshop and museum providing an interesting attraction for the village of Timberscombe and the Exmoor region.

The most ambitious aspect of the project has been hidden from the view of passers-by. This is the restoration of the 14 ft. water wheel which used water from the Mill Leat to power the Mill for over 700 years. The wheel is now turning again with the aim of producing Hydro Electric Power. The project is one of 5 schemes currently being developed by the Exmoor Renewable Energy Group to provide sustainable energy for local use.    Further information:

Multinational effort to restore Exmoor’s historic mires


Multi-national teams consisting of students from Germany, a volunteer from as far away as Switzerland and of course, the invaluable participation of those from Exmoor and the wider South West area have carried out essential restoration maintenance work at a number of sites.

A team of The Simonsbath Volunteers, the crew from TCV (The Conservation Volunteers)  and returning landscaping students from the Continent joined forces to complete quality-control checks and maintenance work, using spades, on the ditch blocks at Great Vintcombe which was first restored in 2009, looking at nearly 7000m of ditch across an area of 50 hectares.  This boosts the Volunteers’ grand total to a whopping 1017 days.

The skilful volunteers installed new wooden blocks and plugged up leaks in existing ones at Comerslade and at the well-known mire site of Blackpitts, where they also improved access by constructing a gate and building a new pathway across an eroded section. The work at Blackpitts in particular is very important as it is host to many guided walks looking at mire-specific wildlife and vegetation; the success of events such as Bogtastic (17 August 2014) depend on the ease of access and quality of bog this site now boasts.

Volunteers are central to the Exmoor Mires Project and the Project team would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their time and efforts.

If you feel inspired and would like to get into the wild moors of Exmoor to do practical restoration work, or inspire the younger generation by volunteering at events such as Bogtastic Days, please contact David Rolls on 01398 322164, or email There is also information on how to get involved on the Exmoor National Park website. Help is always needed and always appreciated.

Celebrating Exmoor’s 60th Anniversary


A special Conference called ‘Discovering Exmoor : People and Place’ to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Exmoor’s designation as a National Park is to be held in Dulverton Town Hall on Friday, 11April from 10am to 3 pm approximately and all are welcome. The Exmoor Society in partnership with Exmoor National Park Authority has teamed up with Exeter University and the Centre for Rural Policy Research to raise some of the important issues about Exmoor, to discover what has been found out about them, and to influence the debate on how to manage this complex landscape.

Sixty years ago Exmoor was designated a National Park because of its dramatic coastline, extensive tracts of moorland inter-mixed with ancient woodland and upland farmland, the whole establishing a mosaic of contrasts providing recreational opportunities for walking and riding in particular. The Hobhouse Report stated that “here is a potential national park which is happily free from problems”. This statement could not have been further from the truth.

From the beginning there was fierce opposition to the designation and robust debate over loss of moorland, afforestation proposals, changing hill farming practices, dealing with extreme weather conditions, and with little known  about the archaeology, other local businesses, and an only embryo tourist industry. These issues are very relevant today in different ways, and underline the need to discover more about Exmoor, its people and the place.

 The Society is delighted that a range of speakers from Exeter University will be dealing with these aspects, with plenty of opportunity for delegates who are concerned about the different demands we put on Exmoor, to join in the debate. Academics from Exeter University and their research will be covering the following topics:

· Dr Lee Bray – New archaeological discoveries on Exmoor

· Professor Richard Brazier – Can we create resilient landscapes? Understanding the effects

· of moorland restoration on the Exmoor Mires project

· Dr Matt Lobley – Exmoor farming in a changing policy environment

· Dr Stewart Barr – Flooding and Communities

· Discussion with panel : Dr Nigel Stone, Dr Helen Blackman, Meriel Martin & Professor Chris Binnie

· Dr Keith Howe – will conclude on the day’s presentations and debate

A place at the Spring Conference costs £15 per person including refreshments.  To book and for further details contact: Tel: 01398 323335.