The Green-Eyed Monster of Exmoor

Guest Post by Tracey Gemmell

Is it possible for clotted cream to evoke jealousy? Yes, as it turns out, because clotted cream leads to hireth, and hireth ‒ the Cornish word for homesickness with a sense of longing and loss ‒ wakes in me the green-eyed monster. Of course, that silky, smooth nectar of the cows is not the only trigger for this chain reaction. It may be an Exmoor pony on North Hill, or thatched cottages at Selworthy. It may be Landacre Bridge, the Doone Valley, the beach at Porlock Weir. I could go on and on. No matter the image flitting across my laptop portal out here in Wisconsin, USA, jealously follows; directed at those living on Exmoor.

I know, I know. It’s not your fault I don’t live there anymore. The blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of my American husband. Well, maybe a little bit on my shoulders for leaving my Porlock-based equestrian life to marry an American. Anyway, not a day goes by my soul doesn’t return, and I’m fortunate to get to physically visit twice a year. But I have to leave again, and it gets harder every time. Oh, to live in that place where I sleep the best and breathe the deepest! There’s something otherworldly about Exmoor; a small world, or vast, depending on my mood or exact location. I can walk along Horner Water and feel cocooned, as though swathed in the combe’s deep, comforting folds. Or, from the crown of Porlock Hill, I can gaze up at the entire nightly universe, stunned by its ability to reduce me to nothingness. Sheltered from the world or dwarfed by the universe; my choice on Exmoor.

I selfishly began writing ‘Dunster’s Calling’ as a personal balm for hireth. I could sit 3,842 miles away from Exmoor ‒ though who’s counting? ‒ and hear again the winds whipping across Dunkery Beacon, and hooves clip-clopping through Luccombe. In time, the balm turned into a novel; a humorous, yet poignant, tale of an expat’s search for home. Based on reviews, the tale struck a nerve for other hireth-sufferers ‒ and clotted cream lovers. Readers who’d never heard of Exmoor vowed to visit, and readers who’d never owned a horse fell in love with Dunster, the cheeky Exmoor pony character who guides Sam through her trans-Atlantic dilemma. It seems many can relate to the pull of home.

As I plan my permanent return, I know this for certain: when I finally get there, I’ll recognise the green-eyed monster in the faces of visitors unable to call Exmoor home. And I’ll understand. One question: does clotted cream count as a liquid in carry-on luggage?

Tracey Gemmell’s novel, ‘Dunster’s Calling’ is available worldwide on Amazon. A percentage of royalties is donated to the Moorland Mousie Trust, working to promote and protect the endangered rare-breed Exmoor pony.
Visit Tracey on Twitter @TraceyGemmell17, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/author.traceygemmell/, Instagram traceygemmellauthor or at www.traceygemmell.com
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Tracey Gemmell will be at the Exmoor Store
in Minehead (1 Friday Street, TA24 5UB)
on 10 November 2018, 2pm:

Book your tickets  now

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10 Nov ’18: An Audience with Author Tracey Gemmell

10 November 2018 * 2pm
Exmoor Store, 1 Friday Street, Minehead TA24 5UB

Tracey is a self-confessed Exmoor addict who would like to make it perfectly clear she’s NOT seeking a cure. In fact, after many years living in the United States, she’s planning her return to the area where she ‘sleeps the best and breathes the deepest’.

Join Tracey at the Exmoor Book Fest for a humorous conversation about life as a homesick expat. Then follow her through her writing process. Dunster’s Calling is now a tale of the bond between a girl and her pony, and a woman and the country she left behind. But it didn’t start out that way …

Dunster’s Calling was a runner up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition. Tracey’s short story, ‘Scooby-Doo and Hobnobs’, received an honourable mention in the humour category of the 2018 Jade Ring Contest. It’s been published in the Wisconsin Writers Association Anthology. Visit http://www.traceygemmell.com for more details.

Reviews for Dunster’s Calling:

‘It is a remarkable writer that can take you on a journey that allows you to feel something beyond the scope of your own experience and leave you changed because of it. Tracey Gemmell is that writer, and Dunster’s Calling is that book.’ Kashmira Sheth, author of Boys Without Names

‘Perfect for Anglophiles, horse-lovers or anyone who wonders if their life has played out the way it should.’ Pauline Wiles, author of Saving Saffron Sweeting

‘I would read this book again just for pure enjoyment! Moreover, this book has piqued my interest, big time, for a visit to Exmoor one day… it’s been added to my bucket list!’

5-star Amazon review

Book your ticket now!

Exmoor Ponies in the Rain

I will tell you a wonderfull story of our last day in Exmoor National Park.
As I said it was the last day in the first days of September before heading back to Germany…
The weather forecast was really bad. Cloudy and rainy. We decided to go one more time to look at the herd, me and my group of photographers followed the last days. Not for making photos only to say goodbye to them. It didn´t take a long time to find them, because we know were they are yesterday. Because of the bad weather we mentioned that they do not have done so much wandering in the night. So it was. Unfortunately we found them it began to rain. The herd were heading in direction to the coastline and we followed them. Then it begins to be excited… The Ponies went into a forest with a lot of fern and began to eat this. The conditions for making photos are the worst. No light / brightness and rain 🙂. Doesn’t matter we followed them… And then the ponies let us near to them they never did before. Saying to us: Come on human, come with us in the forest there is not so heavy rain. My serial of photos shows some of my favorites photos ever that I have done from the exmoor ponies. Never thought that on this rainy day I would make nearly 1000 photos. Enjoy!
Yours Martin Buschmann
P.S. Next year we will come back. Thank you to the wild animals and the friendly people of Porlock.

A tribute to Johnny Kingdom on BBC4

In tribute to Johnny Kingdom, the BBC are repeating three episodes of his wildlife programme. Here is the link to Episode 1, in case you missed it. The other two episodes are shown tonight and tomorrow night on BBC4.

Johnny Kingdom, gravedigger-turned-amateur filmmaker spends a year recording the bird life in and around his home on his beloved Exmoor.
Johnny has spent three years creating a wildlife habitat on his 52-acre patch of land on the edge of Exmoor. He’s been busy nailing nest boxes on tree trunks, planting a wildflower meadow, dredging his pond, putting up remote cameras and wiring them up to a viewing station in his cabin on the land – all the time hoping against hope that not only will he attract new wildlife but also that he will be able to film it.
This year he is turning his attention to the bird life, hoping to follow some of the species he finds near his home and on his land, across the seasons. We see the transitions from the lovely autumn mists of the oak wood, through the sparkling snow-clad landscape of a north Devon winter, into spring’s woodland carpet of bluebells and finally the golden glow of early summer. The bulk of the series is from Johnny’s own camera. Don’t expect the Natural History Unit – instead expect passion, enthusiasm, humour and an exuberant love of the landscape and its wildlife.
The series begins at the end of autumn, with Johnny clearing out bird boxes and sorting out his new remote cameras in preparation for the winter. There are two birds in particular that he wants to film – the great spotted woodpecker and the wren. But the harsh winter looks as if it could spell trouble for the wrens and it will be spring before Johnny knows how well they have fared.
He has better luck with the woodpecker and eventually finds their roost. Meanwhile, at home, he struggles to get shots of a mistle thrush as his wife Julie and his neighbours disturb this shy bird as it feasts on a rowan tree.

Here is the link to Episode 1 which was shown yesterday on BBC4  in case you missed it. The next two episodes can be watched tonight and tomorrow.

(Photo of Johnny Kingdom taken from his Facebook page)

Exmoor’s night skies – Dark Sky Destinations releases short film exploring the magic of stargazing from Exmoor

Budding stargazers and astrophotographers can learn about the magic of Exmoor’s night skies thanks to a new short film released by Westcountry-based course provider Dark Sky Destinations.

The 5-minute film has been produced to give visitors to Exmoor, and potential course attendees, an idea of why the region is so special for astronomy. 

To watch the film you can visit the Dark Sky Destinations website https://www.darkskydestinations.com/ or view it on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/283467668.

On the 8th September, Dark Sky Destinations will be holding its first astrophotography course on Exmoor.    

Led by astronomer Will Gater, the evening course – entitled “An introduction to nightscape astrophotography” – will explore the art and science of how to capture beautiful nightscape photos with a DSLR camera. If the weather is good, the course will finish with a guided practical workshop under Exmoor’s exquisitely dark night skies where delegates will have a chance to put what they’ve learnt into practice with their own equipment. 

A small number of spaces are left on the September course, so if you don’t want to miss out book your place via https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/an-introduction-to-nightscape-astrophotography-tickets-44449838664 (booking in advance is required).

7 Chefs for 7 Courses: Taste Exmoor Dinner at The Beach Hotel

Join us on 2 February 2018 for an amazing Tasting Dinner at The Beach Hotel in Minehead to celebrate the first weekend of the 4th Exmoor Food Fest!

Amuse bouche by The Beach Hotel apprentices 

Starter by Steven Hadley 

Goats cheese mousse, caramelised walnuts, beetroots, apple & Thyme bread

Vegetable course by  Kate Gardiner

Crostini of grilled polenta, porcini Mushrooms & Taleggio

Meat course by Sam Salway

Duo of Exmoor lamb, noisette, served pink (sous vide), braised shoulder, red cabbage puree, roasted celeriac and parsnips, purple sprouting broccoli, baked potato cake.

Fish course by Werner Hartholt

Soy marinated seabass with crispy lobster.

Dessert course by Andrew Richards

Chocolate and hazelnut parfait, hazelnut crumble, chocolate soil, coffee mouse and milk sorbet.

Petit Fours by Connor Bazley. Beach Hotel Apprentice.

£45.00 per person

Book 4 tickets or more:
£42.00 per person

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County Gate

A golden landscape from a autumn in full colour whilst deep in the valley walls two homes slowly loose the afternoon light at County Gate, Exmoor.
County Gate, as the name suggests is where Devon and West Somerset meet. Its location offers great views over the East Lyn valley and Doone Country. There are several energetic walks from here into Doone Country or down to the coast.

By Richard Kift

Blue like Exmoor’s Dark Skies…. New in our Online Shop!

BLUE SUNSTONE AND ARGENTIUM SILVER NECKLACE – HALLMARKED

This gorgeous necklace was made by local artist Debbie Brannen using a blue sunstone cabochon and wire wrapped with 935 Argentium silver, the 18 inch belcher chain is also 935 Argentium silver. the semi-precious blue sunstone catches the light and sparkles.

Every piece of jewellery I make is unique and handcrafted with thought and care. I look at the sea glass or semi-precious gemstone that I want to use and design my wire wrapping around it to show off its best qualities. No two pieces will ever be the exactly the same.

Argentium silver is a brighter whiter silver, less likely to tarnish and is hypoallergenic, the pendant is also hallmarked by the London assay office. The hallmark is for 925 silver as in the UK as yet we do not have a 935 hallmark but the assay office is working on it.

Debbie Brannen is a member of the Argentium Silver Guild.

The pendant measures approx 6cm x 2.5cm including the bail.

The necklace will be sent to you in a beautiful jewellery box stamped with the Argentium Silver logo.

To buy this beautiful necklace, head over to our online shop.

— SHOP NOW —

Wild Herd Whispering: New book out about Exmoor Ponies

The latest book in Dawn Westcott’s series about Exmoor Ponies is now available, just in time for Christmas!

Wild Herd Whispering is about the incredible Exmoor ponies as they reveal their true natures through the world of herd energy and dynamics.

“Starting with the dramatic winter arrival from the moor of a tiny five week old wild-born foal who faces the bleakest future, it is the big herd at Holt Ball Farm that decides how she will survive and thrive. The book follows the adventures of the ponies, revealing characters and behaviours that take you on a heart-rending, thought-provoking and enriching journey of equine enlightenment. This is an opportunity to catch up with adorable orphan Monsieur Chapeau and his friends and majestic stallion Bear, as their lives evolve and entwine with the wild herds of Exmoor. It follows the endearing, exciting and at times perilous experiences of the ponies – including unwelcome night time adventures, the quest to find foals lost in the wilderness and an entire moorland herd in jeopardy. With an expanding herd and challenges to face, author Dawn Westcott looks to the ponies themselves for help and inspiration: they in turn respond in a way that offers magical insights into what is going on in their hearts and minds.
This book is an invaluable reference for people interested in better understanding and winning the trust and friendship of ponies. It also highlights the challenges of safeguarding the endangered Exmoor ponies of Exmoor National Park.”

You can order your copy here: Wild Herd Whispering: How the enigmatic Exmoor ponies reveal what is in their hearts and minds

The first two volumes in the series are:
     

 

Calling all restaurants, pubs, tearooms & producers: Sign up for the 2018 Exmoor Food Fest

The 2018 Exmoor Food Fest is going to be even bigger and better than our previous festivals. Once again, we will be celebrating the best that our region has to offer all through February.

We are now calling all food related businesses – restaurants, pubs, tea rooms – to sign up to be part of the 2018 Exmoor Food Fest and offer amazing Exmoor Food Fest deals* to their customers.

 

We are also looking for local producers who would like to take part in our “Taste Exmoor at The Beach Hotel” event in Minehead on 3 and 4 February 2018.  It is going to be a fun weekend with cook-offs, bake-offs, presentations and workshops, and of course a food & drink fair. You can sign up here.

Do you have any further questions? Then please don’t hesitate to ask. Just send us an email, and we’ll get back to you asap.

(*) We will explain this all in great detail when you sign up!

PS Are you interested in being amongst the first to know what is happening during the Exmoor Food Fest? Then sign up to our newsletter here.