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).

Exmoor Food Fest 2017: The Countdown begins!

Celebratory Dinner to countdown to Exmoor Food Fest 2017

Join us on 21 September 2016 at 7pm for the 

Exmoor Food Fest 2017 Media Launch
Knowle Manor

Claire’s Kitchen is serving up an Exmoor Feast!

5 courses for £50.00

Claire’s Kitchen Elderflower Cocktails on arrival

including crispy wonton with blue swimmer crab, poached pineapple, spring onion and chilli jam

Vietnamese Poached Duck Leg on an Asian salad
with a fresh coriander and sweet chilli dressing

Local Braised Shin of Beef
with melting onions, Rosemary Boulangere potatoes, leek gratin croquetas

Blackberry and White chocolate Cheesecake
with a Sloe Gin ice cream and Brandy Snap Crumble

  Local Cheeseboard
served with Claire’s Kitchen homemade cider shots

Vegetarian options will be available.


Book now

A celebratory dinner on 21 September 2016 at Knowle Manor near Dunster will launch the countdown towards the 2017 Exmoor Food Fest which will take place across Exmoor during February 2017.

Media and the public are invited to join the Exmoor Food Fest team for an Exmoor Feast served up by Claire’s Kitchen, a local catering company run by Exmoor Ambassador chef Claire Lynch.

“2017 will be our third year,” explains festival coordinator Elke Winzer, who runs Exmoor4all, a social media platform for all things Exmoor, and also works for Visit Somerset and Exmoor Tourism.

“We have just been advised that the Exmoor Food Fest is a finalist in the Somerset Life Food & Drink Awards as best food event in Somerset. This is an extraordinary achievement for such a young festival, and we are grateful to our sponsors Arthur David whose generous support made it possible to get the Exmoor Food Fest off the ground.”

During February, restaurants, including several with Michelin stars and numerous awards, across the region offer 2 courses for £10/ 3 courses for £15.  In addition, a range of foodie events take place, from tastings through to gourmet dinners at unique locations. A food and drink festival in Dunster on the last weekend of February will yet again be the grand final.

“We estimate that the hospitality sector in the region was boosted by £450,000 during February, a traditionally quiet month, by the Exmoor Food Fest 2016.  We hope to increase this figure in 2017 by working closely with travel and food bloggers as well as Visit Somerset and Exmoor Tourism, raising awareness of the event further afield. We will also work with the West Somerset Railway to make certain events more accessible for visitors from Taunton,” explained Elke Winzer.

Bogtastic 2016

Following on from last year’s successful event which was attended by more than 400 people, Bogtastic 2016 takes place on Tuesday 26th July from 10am to 4pm in and around Simonsbath

Bogtastic A4This free family event is a fun adventure day celebrating Exmoor’s wildlife, moorland and heritage with many activities and displays.  In Simonsbath, the River Barle flows past the historic water-powered sawmill, under the old stone bridge and by a meadow, along a beautiful moorland valley. Here you can play games and go stream dipping to find out about the river’s wildlife – fish, otters, birds, bats and creatures you’ve never seen – it’s a great place for a picnic too. Take a minibus up the hill to where the sky larks sing at Blackpitts and explore the bogs full of multi-coloured mosses.

Held during UK National Park’s Week, Bogtastic is the South West’s biggest and best bog festival. This  ‘drop in’ event will feature the Bogstacle course, live bats, 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! It is free entry, with toilets and food on site and locally. Bring your wellington boots and dress for any weather – there is shelter in case it tries to rain.

See you at the welcome tent! 

Entrance is free, although some activities may request a small charge. For further information on Bogtastic please contact: Lynmouth National Park Centre on 01598 752509 or visit www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or the facebook page.


Tourism set to take centre stage

The annual Exmoor Tourism Conference takes place on the 3 March 2016 at the Beach Hotel Minehead, with an impressive line-up of speakers covering a range of important topics.
The conference provides an ideal opportunity for everyone involved with tourism whether an attraction, accommodation business, retailer, activity provider, service industry – large or small. The invitation is equally extended to supporting organisations and community groups, to come together in preparation for the new visitor season. In addition to the conference, this year’s event incorporates the popular ‘Exmoor Exchange’ with over 25 trade stands booked (to date) to share information, gather literature and network with colleagues.

The conference starts at 11.15 am and will cover a range of important and exciting topics including:

Reviews and updates of the work of Exmoor Tourism to promote Exmoor, featuring newly appointed agency Greentraveller who will outline PR and marketing plans for the year and Elke Winzer, ET’s new Development Manager who will share thoughts on future opportunities.

Details of new and exciting ventures such as the Watchet Boat Museum, Lynton to Barnstaple Railway extension and the Steam Coast Trail.

Insights into a range of successful Exmoor businesses such as the West Somerset Railway and its 40th anniversary plans, the award-winning Cross Lane House boutique hotel, and South West Lakes Trust who’ve retained their Gold Green Tourism Business Award at iconic visitor attraction, Wimbleball Lake.

Partner updates from Exmoor National Park, Hinkley Tourism Action Partnership and Visit Somerset 

Entry to the conference, and exchange, including buffet lunch and refreshments is only £15 for Exmoor Tourism members and £25 for non-members. Advanced booking is essential, and can be made online at http://www.visit-exmoor.co.uk/trade/conference2016.

The Annual General Meeting takes place immediately before the conference at 10.30am and is open to all members of Exmoor Tourism.

Looking ahead to the day, Evelyn Stacey, Chairman of Exmoor Tourism, said “This promises to be an informative and useful day for everyone involved in Exmoor’s tourism industry which contributed a staggering £253m to the local economy in 2014. I hope that as many people as possible will join us as we share plans for the future – the whole community stands to benefit from the development of sustainable tourism.”

“Exmoor Tourism was formed a year ago by bringing together the former Exmoor Tourism Partnership and Exmoor Tourist Association into a single body. Since then we’ve achieved a huge amount. With new contractors joining us, including the appointment of Greentraveller as our marketing agency for the next 12 months, we’re confident that we will be able to deliver more for our members in the coming months and years.”

A limited number of trade stands are still available to be booked on a first come first served basis. A stand costs £35, to include one entrance to the conference and lunch. For further details contact Teresa Lovering at secretary@exmoor.com.





Exmoor Food Fest launches at The Castle Hotel in Taunton

One Night. Four Chefs. A Taste of Exmoor.

Award winning chefs from the Exmoor region are joining The Castle’s head chef on 28 January in Taunton to prepare a mouthwatering Taste of Exmoor menu.  Tickets are limited, so early booking is very advisable:

Canapés & Fizz
Hospitality Students
(The Combe, West Somerset College, Minehead)

Olivier Certain (Clavelshay Barn, North Petherton)
Pays d’Oc, Laurent Miquel, Père et Fils, Grenache-Syrah

Slow Roasted Belly of Little Oak Farm Pork, Black Pudding & Quail Scotch Egg, Apple and Cider

Fish Course
Mark Dodson (Mason Arms, Knowstone)

Pan Fried Scallop with a Thai Style Salad, Rice Wine Dressing

Main Course
Liam Finnegan (The Castle Hotel, Taunton)
McHenry Hohnen, Shiraz, Margaret River, Western Australia

Roast Exmoor Venison Loin, Faggot, Red Cabbage,
Jerusalem Artichoke and Wild Mushrooms

Paul & Donna Berry (The Swan, Bampton)

Lemon Cheesecake with Exmoor Wolf Gin, Tonic and Thyme Sorbet

Petit Fours and Breads
The Castle Hotel

Four course dinner:  £75.00 per person
(including a glass of fizz & 2 glasses of wine)


Award winning Exmoor-based chefs are joining The Castle’s head chef Liam Finnegan to cook up a Taste of Exmoor menu as the launch of the 2016 Exmoor Food Fest which takes place all over Exmoor in February.

The menu showcases the best the region has to offer. It is a celebration of local produce and local talent.

Elke Winzer, who is organising the Exmoor Food Fest as part of Exmoor4all, is delighted that so many outstanding chefs are bringing the best of Exmoor to Taunton.

“The launch at the renown Castle in Taunton brings some of the amazing Exmoor chefs together who all take part in the Exmoor Food Fest which takes place all over Exmoor in February.  It is a great opportunity for us to raise awareness of the high standard of Exmoor restaurants some of which are hidden gems,” explained Elke.

Liam Finnegan commented: “We are excited to host the launch of the Exmoor Food Fest. It is a great opportunity for us chefs to work together and create a stunning menu.”

Award winning chefs Mark Dodson, Paul and Donna Berry and Olivier Certain  are joined by the hospitality students of the West Somerset College training restaurant The Combe in Minehead. The students will prepare the selection of canapés which will open then night’s food celebration with a glass of fizz.

The Chefs:

Mark Dodson

Mark DodsonMark and his wife Sarah took over the The Mason Arms in Knowstone in June 2005. In July 2006, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star which they still hold. Since then, Mark and his team have gone from strength to strength, receiving many awards and accolades, including Michelin Pub of the Year 2010.

Prior to moving to Exmoor, Mark spent twelve years as Head Chef of Michel Roux’s Waterside Inn in Bray.

Paul and Donna Berry

logoThere aren’t many awards Paul and Donna haven’t won for their historic pub “The Swan” in Bampton.  Best Trencherman’s Pub of the Year 2016, Visit Devon Pub of the Year Gold Award, and AA Gold Star Award are amongst the most recent accolades, recognising Paul’s and Donna’s passion for food and the use of local, seasonal produce.

Liam Finnegan

Liam low resLiam Finnegan, who has been head chef at The Castle Hotel in Taunton for three years, grew up in Carlingford, Co Louth in Ireland from where he still sources their famous oysters. However, whenever possible, he uses local suppliers.

Liam’s career path took him through some fantastic restaurants such as The George Hotel on the Isle of White, The Bath Priory and Gidleigh Park where he worked for Micheal Cains, and The Nuremore Hotel (Ray McArdle). When asked about awards Liam counters that a full restaurant and happy customers are more important. “Of course accolades are brilliant, but anything we get, we receive and share as a team.”

Olivier Certain

Olivier CertainMarseille-born Olivier moved to Somerset in 1998 following his Michelin star training in La Bonne Etape Chateau Arnoux and Les Roches in Le Lavandou.  In 2006 he joined Woods in Dulverton as head chef where he achieved 2 rosettes and the accolade of Somerset Dining Pub of the Year 2008, 2010 and 2011. In 2009 in reached the finals of the South West Chef of the Year competition.

Olivier now heads the kitchen at Clavelshay Barn in North Petherton.

The Students

The Year 13 hospitality students from train at West Somerset College, Minehead under Chef Lecturers Paul Ruttledge (a former British Master Chef) and Werner Hartholt.

Date for the Diary: MEPBG Exmoor Pony Show, 10 August 2014

901 Monsieur Chapeau

Looking for something fun and exciting to do on Sun 10 Aug? Monsieur Chapeau suggests coming to meet him & the other Moorland Exmoor ponies at the MEPBG Exmoor Pony Show at Brendon Country Show! Come along and meet the farmers and experience a real, authentic day out in the heart of Exmoor. Bring your ponies too – classes for registered, un-registered (all competing for the Supreme In Hand Championship) and bitless bridles allowed in the ridden.

Schedule and entry form here: http://www.exmoorponyclub.co.uk/index.php?%2Ftopic%2F1387-new-show-the-mepbg-exmoor-pony-show-at-brendon-show-sunday-10-august-2014%2F



The Exmoor Archaeology Forum 2013

During July archaeologists from the University of Bristol and Exmoor National Park were helped by local volunteers, the Young Archaeologists’ Club and pupils from St Dubricius School, Porlock, to investigate the remarkable 8,000 year old hunter gatherer site at Hawkcombe Head above Porlock. Excavations and fieldwalking* this year have recovered over 1,000 pieces of flint as well as the traces of fragile structures, the oldest so far found on Exmoor.

People can find out more about this and the fascinating archaeology of Exmoor’s moorlands on Saturday 21 September when the subject of the 13th Exmoor Archaeology Forum being held in Porlock Village Hall is Exmoor’s Moorland Archaeology.

Rob Wilson-North, conservation manager at Exmoor National Park says: “In recent years our understanding of Exmoor’s moorland past has changed beyond recognition, thanks to the work of a range of organisations and individuals. There are also concerted programmes of work directed towards the historic environment, such as the Exmoor Mires Project and the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership Scheme. The Forum is an opportunity to learn at first hand where we have got to in unravelling Exmoor’s moorland story; we will also be addressing some of the challenges that face us in how we conserve these fragile remains.

“To discuss this and much more we have lined up some excellent speakers including Rebecca Bennett (Duke University, North Carolina), Chris Carey, Mark Gillings (University of Leicester) and Hazel Riley as well as staff from Exmoor National Park.”

Booking is essential to attend the Forum and a form can be downloaded from: http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/environment/history   or phone 01398 323665 to request one by post. The cost is £15 per person (lunch included) or £10 per person (lunch NOT included).

An Exmoor Evening with Victoria Eveleigh

Victoria Eveleigh and horse c Brian Eveleigh - compressedVictoria Eveleigh, the Exmoor based author, will give an illustrated talk about Exmoor ponies and her stories on Friday, 1 March 2013, at 7.30 pm, at Hannington Hall, the village hall in Martinhoe.

There will be music (played by Tom Hodgkinson), hot pasties and cider.

Admission: Adults £5 Children £3, in aid of hall funds.

“I was brought up in London, but I always longed to live in the country and have lots of animals – especially horses. Well, dreams do come true because for the past 25 years or so I’ve lived on an Exmoor livestock farm with my husband, Chris. Besides dogs, cats and riding horses, we keep Exmoor Horn sheep, North Devon cattle and Exmoor ponies. Our children, George and Sarah, are now grown up, but when Sarah was a girl she had an Exmoor pony called Tinkerbell, and some of the things they got up to inspired me to write my first stories: a trilogy about a girl and an Exmoor pony growing up together on an Exmoor hill farm. This photo is of Chris and me with Tinkerbell.Tortie_Chris_Tinks_the_Exmoor_pony

The Katy’s Exmoor trilogy was illustrated by Chris, and we self-published it under the name Tortoise Publishing. We also published a book calledMidnight on Lundy. Publishing my own books was hard work, so I was delighted when Orion Children’s Books took me on in 2011. The Katy’s Exmoor stories have now been rewritten and updated with expert editorial guidance, and are being published by Orion in 2012 as the Katy’s Ponies trilogy: Katy’s Wild Foal, Katy’s Champion Pony and Katy’s Pony Surprise. The books have a great deal of new content, including author’s notes, some new inside illustrations by Chris and beautiful cover illustrations by Angelo Rinaldi. Midnight on Lundy is also being republished in 2012 as A Stallion Called Midnight.

I’m now also working on a brand-new trilogy for Orion. It will still have horses and ponies at its heart, but this time a boy will be the main character.”