MERLIN HELICOPTERS HELP MEND EXMOOR’S PATHS

NEWS FROM EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK

Exmoor National Park Rangers teamed up with the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) yesterday (Wednesday) to move 60 tonnes of local stone needed for repair work along the Two Moor’s Way, near Simonsbath in Exmoor National Park.

Two huge Merlin MK3 helicopters from CHF’s 846 Naval Air Squadron collected the crushed stone in underslung bags from a nearby farm and delivered them to an eroded section of path near Wheal Eliza, which forms part of the Two Moors Way. The repair will improve the accessibility of the path, enabling more people to enjoy the stark beauty and tranquillity of the ancient Barle Valley.

The operation took place as part of routine training undertaken by 846 Naval Air Squadron for pilots new to the Merlin to gain experience in real-life specialist manoeuvres and helicopter handling.

The Two Moor’s Way is a 102-mile coast-to-coast walking route passing through some of the most dramatic and remote landscapes of Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. A programme of major improvement work, including new signs, bridges and surface renovations, was kicked off in 2016 for the 40th anniversary of the route, together with a new website www.twomoorsway.org and pocket guide available at National Park Centres.

Dan Barnett, Exmoor National Park’s Access and Recreation Manager, said: “The Two Moors Way is an iconic long distance walking route and it’s our mission to make sure people of varying ages and abilities can get out and enjoy it. The path between Simonsbath and Wheal Eliza is level, dry and easy to use, meaning it’s a great spot for those with young families, or even Tramper mobility scooters, to get off the beaten track and explore this breath-taking landscape.

“It’s great that 846 Naval Air Squadron has been able to help us get the job done as part of their training exercise, as to get the stone shifted over land would have been considerably more challenging and costly.”

Lieutenant Commander Andy White from 846 Naval Air squadron said: “It’s important and very rewarding to be able to occasionally undertake tasks such as this to reinforce that we are part of those communities in which our own family’s live. Today has formed a link with the Exmoor National Park Authority in undertaking a pretty huge task. We fly and exercise over Exmoor and Dartmoor frequently and it is gratifying that we can say thank you in some meaningful way.

“The Commando Helicopter Force, which is part of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm comprises Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel. It is a deployable Force on notice to move anywhere in the world at short notice to undertake humanitarian and defence tasks and operations. To be able to do that with skill and confidence all its personnel need to constantly train and keep their skills honed. Not only is CHF based in Somerset but many of our personnel live in communities across the south west of England.”

Date for the Diary: Christmas Fayre in Lynmouth

NEWS FROM EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK

Anyone not yet into the Christmas spirit should head for the Christmas Fayre at Lynmouth on Sunday 11 December from 10am to 4pm where a host of delights will await them.

The National Park Centre team at the Lynmouth Pavilion ran a similar event in a small way last year which was so successful that more and more people wanted to be involved so this year there will be 15 stalls inside the Centre including arts, crafts, books, pottery, woodcraft items, jewellery and other seasonal items. In addition to these, a further 15 market stalls will be open along the Esplanade outside selling food, Christmas trees, Christmas wreaths, the contents of a seaside gift shop which will be sold in aid of Unicef, a scout stall, calendars, artisan items and a host of Christmas items.

Inside the Pavilion there will also be an elf workshop where children can make a Christmas tree decoration for free; they can also make a Christmas card in a competition that will be judged by Suzette Hibbert, Mayor of Lynton & Lynmouth, later in the afternoon.

Santa will be on hand and children are welcome to come and pay him a visit – the numbers able to do this are limited so places will need to be booked by phoning the Dining Room on 01598 753484 prior to the day. There will be plenty more to see and do with Lyntones Ladies’ choir singing seasonal songs at 11am and 2pm, plus face painting for a donation to Children’s Hospice, a raffle for a £75 Christmas hamper kindly donated by Marsden Devon Cottages who are also sponsoring the event, and a special festive menu in the Dining Room. 

National Park Centre Manager Dave Wilde said: “Entry is free so everyone is invited to come along and sample the special Christmas atmosphere. All this is in addition to the normal National Park Centre retail area where there are local books, jewellery, art items, Exmoor Christmas Cards and other local items for sale.

“Proceeds from the raffle and the £5 hire fee for the stalls and market stalls outside are all going to CareMoor for Exmoor* – especially to support the Dormice boxes appeal.”

For further information please call the National Park Centre at Lynmouth on 01598 752509.

Photo: Lynmouth Pavilion by Ken Blakey 

NEWS FROM EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK

Big Adventures off to a flying start

This year’s Exmoor National Park Big Adventures got off to a flying start with more than 300 people enjoying the Big Moorland Adventure at Haddon Hill recently. With family friendly games, bush-craft skills, orienteering and scavenger hunts, there was plenty to keep everyone entertained.

National Park ranger Adam Vasey said: “It was fantastic to see so many people enjoying being outdoors and although the weather wasn’t perfect it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s fun.

“We’d like to thank the volunteers that helped us set up and run the event, we couldn’t do it without them and if anyone would like to help us with the upcoming Big Adventures please get in touch.”

More Big Adventures

The next event in this series is the Big Woodland Adventure at Nutcombe Bottom just outside Dunster (TA24 6TA) on Wednesday 1 June from 10am-4pm. With family games and activities lasting all day, there will be plenty to enjoy for all ages. Car parking and toilet facilities are available on site – there’s no need to book and no charge, but donations to CareMoor for Exmoor will be welcome.

Camp out in one of the most amazing locations on Exmoor at The Big Adventure Family Camp Out @ Horner from Saturday 18 June to Sunday 19 June. Booking is essential – the site opens from 4pm and there will be a chance to set camp and cook your dinner with activities starting from 6pm including story-telling, bat walks and astronomy with the Dulverton Stargazers. Tents should be taken down by 11am the next day.

Space is limited for this special event which is ideal for first time campers with support on hand for help with tasks like putting up tents, so early booking is recommended via the National Park Centre at Dulverton on 01398 323841.

Discover Porlock Marsh 

On Friday 3 June there’s a Discover Porlock Marsh Walk – join a Heritage Walk Leader to learn about the history and formation of the Porlock bay landscape. The walk leaves the Porlock Visitor Centre at 10.30am (ends approx.1pm) and booking is essential, call the Porlock Visitor Centre on 01643 863150. Dogs are welcome and there is no charge – donations requested.

There are hundreds more events on the Exmoor National Park website – for more information visit: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or call in at one of the National Park Centres at Dunster, Dulverton and in the Lynmouth Pavilion.

Haddon Hill Big Adventure: photo by Dan James/ENPA

Haddon Hill Big Adventure: photo by Dan James/ENPA

Headwaters of the Exe Launch

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap) 1

Left to right: Bea Davis (Headwaters of the Exe project manager), Adam Lockyear (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West), John Hickey (Westcountry Rivers Trust), Katherine Williams (Exmoor Hill Farming Network), Stanley Johnson, Mark Thomasin-Foster (Chair of Headwaters of the Exe steering group). Photo by Steve Guscott/ENPA

Eighty-five people gathered to celebrate the launch of the Headwaters of the Exe project at Hawkridge Village Hall recently and the project team was delighted to welcome Stanley Johnson – former MEP, author, journalist, environmentalist and local landowner – to formally launch the project.

The Headwaters of the Exe project is working with farmers and land managers to ensure good water quality in the catchment of the River Exe.  It is part of South West Water’s Upstream Thinking programme. The project will run until 2020 and is funded by South West Water and Exmoor National Park Authority, with support from the Exmoor Hill Farming Network.

At the launch event a number of presentations were received from project partners, including the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West, Westcountry Rivers Trust, South West Water and Exmoor National Park Authority. The event also included a nearby river walk to discuss water quality issues.

Chair of the Steering Group, Mark Thomasin-Foster, said “This excellent project will build partnerships with farmers and land managers bringing increased benefits to the valuable water resource and ecology of the River Exe headwaters. We are very grateful to South West Water and Exmoor National Park Authority for providing this opportunity.” 

Project manager, Bea Davis, said “We were overwhelmed by the fantastic turn out for the launch event. It was wonderful to see so many people coming together to celebrate this innovative new project.”

The Headwaters of the Exe project covers an area of 27,559 hectares and includes the upper Exe, the Rivers Barle, Quarme, Pulham, Haddeo and smaller tributaries, as well as Wimbleball Reservoir.

If you would like to get involved with the project please do not hesitate to get in touch with Bea Davis on 01398 322278 or bdavis@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or Katherine Williams on 01643 841455 or KWilliams@northdevonplus.co.uk.

For further information please visit the project webpage at http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/headwaters.

HotE gathering compressed

Multinational effort to restore Exmoor’s historic mires

NEWS FROM EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK

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 drolls@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk. 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

enpa

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: info@exmoorsociety.com. Tel: 01398 323335.

COOL rural tourism experiences on Exmoor

New videos launched

A series of new web videos promoting some of the fantastic experiences available in rural Somerset and Exmoor National Park have been launched to celebrate English Tourism Week (29 March – 6 April). The videos, introduced by Rural Affairs Minister Dan Rogerson http://youtu.be/vyqk-DViTlM highlight a range of experiences including watching wild Exmoor ponies, discovering great local produce, bird watching on the Somerset Levels and exploring the area’s deep history and heritage in a bid to tempt more visitors to come enjoy the countryside offer.

Tourism is a huge economic driver, and in rural areas is often the mainstay of the economy. Research has shown that visitors today are seeking deeper experiences over and above visiting a particular destination and so the videos will help to bring alive the Somerset countryside and all it can offer including popular activities such as rock pooling, fossil hunting and  wildlife watching.

The new videos have been welcomed by Defra which is working with partners to support the rural economy following the effect that the extreme weather experienced over the winter has had on people’s perception of the region and the consequential impact on tourism.

Speaking about the new videos Dan Rogerson said: “Following the extreme weather over the winter Exmoor and Somerset are very much open for business. Tourism is worth over £1.2 billion a year in Somerset and the county has a very strong rural offer where tourism is one of the largest economic sectors.

“I welcome these videos which highlight some of the great experiences that can be enjoyed in the rural areas of Somerset, including Exmoor National Park and I hope that they will inspire people to visit the area to enjoy the stunning landscapes, rich wildlife and to experience England’s countryside at its best.”

The videos, ranging from 1 to 3 minutes are intended to provide an inspirational taste of what is on offer in the area and are available via You Tube for businesses and tourism organisations to embed within their own websites and promotional activity.

The videos have been produced as part of the COOL tourism project which has seen local partners (including Somerset County Council, West Somerset Council, Sedgemoor Council and Exmoor National Park Authority) working alongside partners in England (Kent, Essex and Norfolk) and France (Somme and Pas de Calais) to promote rural tourism based on the experiences offered in these areas. The COOL tourism project was selected under the European Cross-border Cooperation Programme INTERREG IV A France (Channel) – England, co-funded by the ERDF.

 

Celebrating Climate Week 3 – 9 March 2014

News from the Exmoor National Park Authority

Exmoor National Park Authority has, in recent years, looked closely at how it could become a “carbon neutral National Park”.

Evidence has shown that Exmoor’s woodlands and hedges are a huge and possibly undervalued source of woodfuel. In recent years a number of land owners have started to look at alternatives to oil, including wind power, photovoltaics and wood fuel. The National Park Authority is particularly interested in woodfuel because it encourages the management of traditional hedgebanks and broadleaved woodlands.

One such example of this renewed interest in woodfuel is the Edwards family at Westermill Farm, near Exford in the heart of the National Park (www.westermill.com) who were supported through the Carbon Neutral Exmoor project. Westermill is a 500 acre sheep and beef farm with holiday accommodation and a campsite.  The heating requirement for the site comprised a traditional Exmoor farmhouse, six holiday cottages and a wash house/shower block for the campsite. With the shower block using LPG, the farmhouse using oil and the holiday cottages using mains electricity the heating costs were high. A district heating scheme serving all these components has now been installed powered by a large 150 kWp Froling tx150 woodchip boiler.

The farm had already been planting shelter belts with trees for the last 50 or so years. These trees are now maturing allowing for approximately 200 trees to be felled and chipped a year with harvesting and planting continuing at the same rate annually. The farm also invested in planting 18,500 new trees with support from the National Park Authority and Forestry Commission 7 years ago and now plans to introduce a coppice programme to provide further woodfuel.

Oliver Edwards commented “It’s really a win-win situation. We gain heat in a sustainable and cost effective way whilst benefiting the farm and wildlife too. The project also benefits the local economy – all the contractors and suppliers we used were local to the area. We’re now looking to secure funding for our own chipper to maximise cost savings, fuel security and lower transport emissions.”

Given the high and relatively consistent demand on the site, wood fuel is already proving to be a good solution. Even with initial high costs, the return on investment looks promising once the Renewable Heat Incentive is secured, coupled with fuels costs estimated to be reduced by over 50%. It is estimated the installation will save around 125 tonnes of CO2 per annum.

News from Exmoor National Park: White Rock Cottage in Simonsbath – Open Day

 

ENPAExmoor National Park Authority has recently completed the purchase of White Rock Cottage (the former school site) in Simonsbath. The previous owners, West Somerset Council, agreed to sell the site once it became clear that plans to develop it for affordable housing, while conserving its historic importance, were not likely to be financially viable.

 

Chief Executive Dr Nigel Stone said: “The National Park decided to buy the property primarily with the objective of safeguarding the historic interest of this important site which formed part of the Knight estate and the 19th Century reclamation of Exmoor Forest.

 

“We are already working with the Parish Council and local community and there will be a public open day on Monday 18November when we look forward to welcoming anyone who would like to help shape our thinking on the best way to conserve and utilise White Rock Cottage and other heritage sites in Simonsbath.  We intend that the project should be led and managed by a local group and would be pleased to hear from anyone who would like to play a part in the development of the project. We would also like to hear from anyone who went to the school or has memories of the site in the past.

“In time, we hope to secure the funding needed to restore the buildings and provide public access so that, when combined with the many other locations of interest such as the landscape gardens in Ashcombe: the 19th century sawmill and pound building, Simonsbath can become an even more interesting destination in the centre of the National Park.”

A recent report on White Rock Cottage commissioned by the National Park Authority reveals the former school site was built in the early 1800’s as a ‘picturesque’ element – a cottage orné – within a designed garden landscape being developed by the Knight family. The original rustic cottage was extended in the 1850s to provide on-site staff accommodation and part converted in 1857 to use as a school within the newly established community of Simonsbath.  The building has been used in the later 20th century as a research and study centre but has been closed for a considerable time.

Now that the building has been acquired, the National Park will be undertaking conservation work aimed at halting the further deterioration of the building which has been exposed to the elements for some time. In order to start the process of drying out the building, a local conservation builder will be removing loose masonry and render; opening up the door and window openings and covering the whole structure with a temporary scaffolding roof.  The drying process may take one or two years to complete by which time future plans will have been prepared and funding sought for the full restoration phase to begin.

The event on 18th November will include a display about the area in Boeveys tea-room where refreshments will be available.

Also on the 18 November the historic 19th century water-powered sawmill at Simonsbath will be open from 10am-4pm. The sawmill is owned by the National Park Authority and there will be ‘drop-in’ tours available all day.

There is limited public parking at the mill so people might prefer to park at the public car park at Ashcombe, where there are toilets and walk 500 metres to the site.