Accessible Exmoor


‘People can feel more confident about attending the many accessible events that take place on Exmoor’ –was the key theme at a workshop jointly hosted by the Exmoor National Park Authority and the Heart of Exmoor scheme recently at the newly opened Lynmouth Pavilion.

The event was attended by range of organisations and individuals including both event organisers and those with expertise and personal experience in accessibility issues.  There were presentations from Richard Pitman of Taunton based Compass Disability Services and an update on recent work on developing “Phototrails”  in Exmoor.

Interpretation and Education Manager at Exmoor National Park, Ben Totterdell said: “Every year hundreds of events take place on Exmoor, from guided deer walks to village fetes and art exhibitions. However, for many people with disabilities there is often not enough information about these events for them to feel confident about coming along – or simply not enough events that are planned with the needs of people with disabilities in mind.

“It was great to have so many people there who are all committed to working together to ensure Exmoor can be enjoyed by everyone. I certainly learned a lot and will be looking at how we can improve our events programme and information for next year.”

Comments from other participants include: ‘Thanks for an excellent day’ Wendy Mills (National Trust)

‘A very refreshing day. Made us realise that access is not just about wheelchairs. The workshop will definitely make us think differently about our events in 2014’  Ruth Hyett (Exmoor Natural History Society and Porlock Visitor Centre)

‘I thought it was a really good day and was pleased to be invited. There were certainly lots of light bulb moments for participants as they came to understand accessibility in its wider sense’ Richard Pitman (Compass Disability)

David Rolls, Heart of Exmoor Outreach and Education Officer said: “Exmoor has a host of wonderful opportunities for everyone and I thought the day was very constructive in highlighting many of these.  The event was part of the wider “Access for All” project which Exmoor National Park and the Heritage Lottery Fund have been financially supporting.”


Raising some of Exmoor’s Rare Trees


whitebeam2 - ENPAThe number of Exmoor’s  whitebeam trees is set to increase if a new project by National Park Authority succeeds in raising some rare whitebeam or Sorbus tree varieties from seed from its own woodlands.

Woodland Projects Support Officer Loren Eldred commented:  “This autumn has been such an excellent season for tree fruit and nuts that we hoped that we might be lucky with finding some fruit on some of the rare Sorbus trees this year, so we were delighted when we came across a good number of fruit from Sorbus margaretae trees at Culbone Wood and even more fruit from several Sorbus devoniensis trees at Timberscombe Woods.”

The National Park Authority is working with Tim Greenland from local tree nursery, Exmoor Trees in Exford who will be attempting to germinate some of the Sorbus seeds extracted from the fruits this winter. If this proves successful and the trees can be raised, they will be planted back into the Authority’s  woodlands when they are a few years old in order to help the species to grow strongly in future.

Tim Greenland said:  “I am pleased to be working with Exmoor National Park Authority on this project.  Although it can be difficult to germinateTim Greenland, Exmoor Trees Exford - ENPA the Sorbus seeds, I am hopeful that by spring next year, we will have been able to raise a number of the tree seedlings.”

Some of the Sorbus species are extremely rare in the UK, numbering just a few hundred trees or less.   Exmoor National Park is fortunate to contain several of the rare Sorbus species, particularly along the steep, rocky coastal woodlands and valleys, which grow nowhere else in the world. They can be difficult to tell apart and identification in the field has to rely on subtle differences between leaves, flowers and berries. Sorbus devoniensis is slightly more widespread than some of the other rare Sorbus species and tends to grow along woodland edges and in old hedges in the west country of England, but it is still not a common tree.

Exmoor National Park Authority has more information about the rare Sorbus varieties in the Trees and Woodlands pages on their website:

Media Release: Lynmouth Pavilion opens this Thursday

enpaBoost for Lynmouth

The North Devon coastal town of Lynmouth will receive a major boost when the new Lynmouth Pavilion is officially opened this Thursday (17 October 2013) after less than twelve months of construction work.

Andrea Davis, Chairman of Exmoor National Park Authority, who was instrumental in securing substantial funding from Devon County Council will open the £1.2 million Pavilion building. The project to replace the old 1930s Pavilion, which was beyond repair, was jointly funded and led by Exmoor National Park Authority.

Miss Davis said: “The funding we received from Devon County Council’s ‘Invest in Devon’ scheme has enabled this amazing state of the art attraction to come about which will benefit tourism and businesses in Lynton and Lynmouth and the wider Exmoor area for years to come.”

On the ground floor, the National Park Centre is a learning and experience hub which will help local people and visitors understand more about Exmoor National Park. The Pavilion has been designed to have a mix of high tech and more traditional exhibits with everything from a large touch screen table and ipads to the traditional seaside photo board.  A short film, which has been specially commissioned for the Centre, offers new, aerial views of Exmoor National Park and will run in the audio theatre offering people a different view of Exmoor and encouraging them to explore further.

On the top floor is a new café run by a local Lynmouth business with exhibition space available which will change throughout the year. Also upstairs is the new home of the HLF-funded Lynmouth Pavilion Project aimed at uncovering local heritage and displaying it for all to enjoy. The Project will also work with schools and  colleges in the area and will be recruiting and training volunteers.

Chris Spear, area director at Morgan Sindall said: “We are delighted to have been involved with the rebuilding of the iconic pavilion.  The new year round facility will be entirely beneficial to Exmoor National Park and the local community.  The opening is the perfect way to celebrate the work achieved in the rebuilding of Lynmouth Pavilion.”

News from the Exmoor National Park Authority

Half term fun for all the family

Wednesday 30 October  will be the final chance this year to enjoy a BIG Adventure Day – taking place from 10am at Webbers Post, near Wheddon Cross, in Exmoor National Park. Hundreds of people have enjoyed the previous Big Adventure Days so far this year and more are planned for 2014.

National Park Ranger Adam Vasey says: “We’ve got a great selection of activities this year including the Family Orienteering course run by 1610, walks by National Trust Rangers and all the usual range of fun, family friendly games and activities.

“As a special treat, the lead artist on the Coleridge Way project, Christopher Jelley, will be talking about his QR Code Poetry and also the story boxes which were located along the trail this summer. The story boxes have now been retrieved and will be on display for you to read the stories which blossomed inside. The premise was simple, find the box, read the story so far, add a few words or a drawing but no more, then leave for the next walker.”

Anyone wishing to try out the QR Code poetry (square bar codes) should bring along a smart phone with an app for scanning bar codes to reveal the words. The words were written by the three local First Schools who journeyed along the trail and into the Somerset countryside. Christopher then rendered the poems into QR codes and reinstalled them along the Coleridge Way. The poetry on the Jubilee Hut at Webbers Post was written by Porlock St Dubricius School, though Dunster and Nether Stowey school poetry will also be available to view on the day.  More about Christopher diverse projects can be seen on his web site

There is car parking and toilet facilities on site – for more information please contact the National Park Centre at Dulverton, phone 01398 323841.

A limited number of Tramper all-terrain mobility buggies will be available for hire at this event for free, but should be booked in advance. For more details contact Countryside Mobility on 01392 459222 or 07841 204397, or visit


Autumn Colour

Make the most of  the Autumn colour on Tuesday 29 October at 10am and join a National Park Ranger for an Ode to Autumn, a circular walk with stunning views over ancient woodland. Meet at the National Park Centre (sea front) at the new Lynmouth Pavilion. Bring a snack and a hot drink for a walk of about 3hr/4.5 miles. Please wear walking boots and suitable clothing, dogs are welcome. For more information call the Centre on 01598 752509.


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.


Educators enjoy Moorland Classroom “Twilight Taster”



Thirty teachers, home educators and volunteers enjoyed a Moorland Classroom “Twilight Taster” at Dunkery Hill on Tuesday 11June to try out new outdoor learning activities about Exmoor National Park published by the Heart of Exmoor scheme. The taster sessions help educators to test out the free new Moorland Classroom web resources.

The evening involved a walk to Dunkery Beacon from the Dunkery gate car park, whilst along the way looking at different types of vegetation of the moorland using a quadrat; measuring the gradient of the footpath; and even having a close encounter with a resident herd of red deer.  Participants included teachers, home schooling parents and volunteers from the Exmoor Volunteer Partnership and local experts from the Field Studies Council and the National Trust.

The Moorland Classroom is going from strength to strength having now achieved over 4,000 lessons. The project has free online resources specifically designed for teachers to use with pupils both in the classroom and in support of outdoor learning at fantastic moorland locations across Exmoor. The materials feature photos, videos, Google Earth exercises, maps and cross-curricular enquiries that are accessible to pupils of Primary and Middle School age. Each examines key themes, such as moorland landscapes, heritage and wildlife, and why Exmoor National Park is such a special place.

Josh Wedderkopp, a teacher from Stogumber and Crowcombe C of E Primary School who attended the twilight taster session said:  “We are passionate about creating every opportunity we can to enable our pupils to learn outside. I can highly recommend the Moorland Classroom resources to other schools. The Dunkery Moorland Classroom Twilight Taster has been invaluable for me as a teacher and I strongly recommend these free sessions to other teachers.”

David Rolls, Moorland Education and Outreach Officer said:  “If you just do one thing today, Google ‘Moorland Classroom’ and see these amazing free resources. Check out our training dates, loan boxes and travel bursaries! We are so grateful to our funders the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Exmoor Trust, and Exmoor National Park’s Sustainable Development Fund for supporting this work.”

The next Moorland Classroom Twilight Taster will focus upon Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 and will be on Haddon Hill, overlooking Wimbleball Reservoir, on Tuesday 2 July starting at 4:30pm. Everyone is welcome to this event, including teachers, volunteers, children, parents, and even dogs; so please come along.  This is followed by an additional evening seminar for teachers on Wednesday 10 July in Tiverton focusing upon Key Stage 3 and 4 resources for secondary schools.  Booking essential for both events – please call 01398 322164 or visit for details.





News Release: Natural Housing Week


National Rural Housing Week, 10-16 June, is a chance to celebrate what is happening to help local people to remain living in the countryside. And in West Somerset and North Devon, there is a lot to celebrate.

The Chadwyck Close scheme at Villes Lane in Porlock approaches completion and the 12 rented homes will be occupied very soon. The three shared ownership homes are still available and provide a rare opportunity for local people to get a foot on the home-ownership ladder. “Priority will be given to people from Porlock or the adjoining parishes, but anyone with a strong connection to the Exmoor National Park area would be considered”, said Rob Aspray from Hastoe Housing Association. Anyone interested should contact the Hastoe sales team on 0800 783 3097.

Hastoe is also close to submitting a planning application to West Somerset Council for a scheme including 20 affordable homes and 5 open market houses, all new build, and ten more homes through the conversion of historic barns. The affordable homes are aiming to achieve the Passivhaus standard*, providing high levels of energy efficiency and very low heating costs.

Elsewhere in West Somerset, Falcon Rural Housing have started work on a scheme for 5 homes at Crowcombe, and expect to have them completed later this year.

Across in North Devon, English Rural Housing Association are leading on a scheme of 5 open market and 6 affordable homes in Filleigh where the planning application will be made shortly. Nearby in East Anstey parish, they are the preferred housing association partner for a scheme which will revitalise the former Blackerton care village, providing 9 new affordable homes for families and young people from the three adjoining parishes.

“These are the bigger schemes” says Colin Savage, Rural Housing Enabler, “but there are smaller ones as well. North Devon Homes have built three new homes in Instow, have four more on site in Bratton Fleming, and have obtained two more in West Buckland through planning gain. Devon and Cornwall Housing association have been the affordable housing partner in a development in Landkey, providing 5 new homes for local people”.

Private developers also play their part. “Changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) now allow open market housing to help fund affordable housing on “Exception” sites. We are looking at opportunities to do this in both West Somerset and North Devon, with schemes as small as five homes which would previously not have been viable. We have small developers and a Passivhaus specialist drawing up outline proposals.”

It is not just about new build development. The Rural Housing Project has worked with Empty Properties teams at both North Devon Council and West Somerset Council to bring older empty buildings back into use. Flats above a former pub in Lynton have been refurbished by North Devon Homes with support from North Devon Council and the old Doctors surgery in Dulverton will both produce flats and houses to rent or buy.

Planning policies in Exmoor National Park allow local people to build their own affordable home on an “Exception” site, or to convert a redundant building into a home in a village or farmstead. In these cases, as with all affordable rural housing, there are planning restrictions controlling occupancy to local people who cannot afford open market housing.

On June 20, the Rural Housing Project will be running a drop-in event in Lynton, showing details of housing schemes that are in the pipeline, including schemes brought forward by private developers and North Devon Homes. This will enable local people looking for a home to see what is coming, and to identify where they might like to live. It should also identify where there are gaps in what is being provided, so that opportunities to meet these needs can be pursued using the Neighbourhood Plan, which could be in place later this year if people vote in favour of it in a referendum. The drop-in event will run from 3.00 – 7.30pm at the United Reformed Church on Lee Road in Lynton.

Executive Member for Housing at North Devon Council, Faye Webber, says: “I’m very pleased with the progress that the Rural Housing Project is making to tackle affordable housing problems in rural areas. It’s very important that our young people have the opportunity to stay in the villages where they were raised. The lack of homes being built in these areas can force people out and this can result in communities breaking down.”




*The core of the Passivhaus Standard is to dramatically reduce the requirement for space heating and cooling, whilst creating excellent indoor air quality and comfort levels.


Clare O’Connor

Exmoor National Park Authority

Exmoor House

Dulverton, Somerset

TA22 9HL


Tel: 01398 323665

Direct Line: 01398 322244

Mobile: 07772 092128

Visit Our Website at


Starry, starry night….

104 Dan James Dark Skies on Dunkery Beacon

Photo by Dan James



To find out more about stargazing on Exmoor and its status as First International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe, go to the Exmoor National Park Website. There you can read the fully story and find out where to hire a telescope to make Exmoor’s starry nights an unforgettable event:

Exmoor’s Dark Skies

Exmoor National Park has been designated the first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe! Click here for the full story 

To help you get the most from Exmoor’s dark skies we have produced a new Dark Skies Pocket Guide   –  download it  here or pick up a copy from one of our National Park Centres.

Exmoor National Park is home to some of the darkest skies in the country so it’s a great place to gaze at the stars. Good spots are Holdstone Hill, County Gate, Brendon Two Gates, Webbers Post, Anstey Gate, Haddon Hill and Wimbleball Lake.

On a clear night the night sky of Exmoor is simply stunning when many astronomical sights can be seen through the naked eye and even more can be discovered through a telescope or binoculars.

Look out for events that will help you discover more! Our National Park Centres stock planispheres and guides to the night sky, whilst the BBC StarGazing Live website has audio guides and star charts to download to help you enjoy the night sky.

New for 2013 –  Why not hire a telescope to help you explore Exmoor amazing dark skies. Contact one of our National Park Centres to find out how.

Exmoor Astro-timelapse video by

Tarr Steps – Bridge under troubled water…

Local journalist and author Martin Hesp was the first to break the story: Tarr Steps, the ancient clapper bridge crossing the River Barle, had been washed away by the swollen river. Only a few stones remain in place. However, all stones are numbered and the much loved bridge will be rebuilt.

“One of the region’s oldest bridges – Exmoor’s Tarr Steps – has been swept away by a raging, swollen river as what is likely to be the wettest year on record comes to a soggy end.

The iconic 1,000-year-old clapper bridge is the latest landmark to be hit by the aftermath of weeks of relentless downpours. Other areas all around the Westcountry are still threatened by landslips, saturated ground and the continued risk of flooding.

The damage to Tarr Steps – a well-known beauty spot on the fast-flowing river Barle – comes as sections of the cliffs along the Jurassic Coast began sliding towards the waves at the weekend, threatening luxury beach chalets and creating a risk for beach-goers and fossil hunters who were warned to stay away from the cliffs.

Martin Hesp and his lurcher, Monty, on what remains of Tarr Steps, the ancient Exmoor bridge, washed away by winter storms and floods.  Massive trees snapped the  steel hawsers designed to protect the bridge  Picture: Nancy Hesp

Martin Hesp and his lurcher, Monty, on what remains of Tarr Steps, the ancient Exmoor bridge, washed away by winter storms and floods. Massive trees snapped the steel hawsers designed to protect the bridge Picture: Nancy Hesp

​More than three quarters of the 50-metre long, ancient clapper bridge, which crosses the Barle between Withypool and Dulverton, has been washed away in the rain-swollen river which has reached depths 10 feet deeper than normal levels.

So strong was the force of water washing down the deep Exmoor valley that the twin steel hawsers designed to protect the bridge were snapped by massive trees being swept downstream in the flood.

The hawsers were strung across the river exactly 60 years ago after an extreme flood damaged the bridge – and the cable debris-trap has stood the test of time ever since, despite bad weather in the past.

“They say the bridge only gets damaged in a year that ends in the number two,” commented a barman at neighbouring Tarr Farm Inn. “It was damaged in 1982 and before that in 1952 – and apparently in the past they’ve brought the Army in to help retrieve the stones and put them back again.”

All the massive slabs incorporated into the 17-span bridge have been numbered so that they can be retrieved and put back in exactly the right place.

A spokesman for the Exmoor National Park Authority said: “The stones forming the spans weigh between one and two tons each and have on occasions been washed up to 50 yards downstream. A distinctive feature of Tarr Steps is the slabs that are raked against the ends of each pier to break the force of the river and divert floating debris.

“Despite this, much of the damage has been due to debris such as branches floating down with the flood and battering the bridge.”

Western Morning News, 31 December 2012

PS: I borrowed the title (Bridge under Troubled Water) from David Binks –