Date for the Diary: LIBERATOR – Dance Performances in and around Porlock Vale


201 Stacked Wonky Poster

In collaboration with The Crown Estate, National Trust Holnicote Estate and Porlock Manor Estate, Stacked Wonky Dance has created five site specific dance encounters for five different sites in and around Porlock Vale.  The seed idea links to the crash of a Liberator, an American bomber, on Porlock Marsh in 1942 when 11 people lost their lives and one person, a staff sergeant, survived.

Performances will take place in a variety of spaces – glade, field, barn, hilltop and marsh – and will be seen at different times of day.  You can watch just one or all five as they unfold over the summer, culminating in a finale on Porlock Marsh on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 September.

As part of a small group, you’ll go on a walking journey, perhaps in daylight, perhaps at night, as the action plays out around you.  You’ll encounter a tilted, sometimes extraordinary world in which the unexpected often happens as movement, sound, shadow, weather and audience combine.  Don’t worry, you won’t be expected to do anything, certainly not dance (!), just follow the performance as it plays out.


Two years ago, Sarah Shorten, Artistic Director of Stacked Wonky Dance moved to Bossington with her husband and young family.  During this time, Sarah inevitably turned her attention to the world just outside her back garden.  She was drawn to Porlock Marsh, which is how the idea for Liberator was born. After talking to local historians and residents, she gradually realised the crash’s recurring themes of loss, sacrifice, survival and childhood excitement about the war might be captured in a series of performances that return all fragments of the story to the Marsh.

202 Duncan Hume Wingspan by Rod HigginsonSarah has joined forces with Duncan Hume, an ex-Royal Ballet professional dancer living in Luxborough, and four children aged 5 to 8 from Timberscombe School.  All will perform in Liberator.  The project also involves a wide and eclectic team of local collaborators – including designers, costume makers, photographers, sound artists, National Trust rangers, foresters, tenants and technicians – without whom Liberator would not be possible.

Through Liberator, Sarah wants to show audiences what’s possible when dance heads away from the stage.  In addition, she is keen to continue to engage with those in local community for whom the Liberator crash and its legacy remain strong.

The Crash

Liberator has received invaluable support from Dennis Corner, a local historian and author of “Porlock in Those Days”, from which the following is taken:

“A long-range bomber, transport and reconnaissance aircraft, a Consolidated B-24 D Liberator with four 1,200 hp radial engines, a wingspan of 110 feet, a length of 67 feet 2 inches, a maximum speed of 300 mph at 30,000 feet and a range of 2,100 miles crashed on the marsh on 29th October 1942. It carried a crew of twelve and had ten .50 machine guns.

This particular plane, which was helping RAF Coastal Command, took off from Holmsley, South Hampshire at 7.20 am on 29th October to fly on anti-submarine patrol in the Bay of Biscay. When it was returning at about 3.30 pm it was seen by two boys, Alan Perkins and Brian Richards, to hit a point near the top of Bossington Hill and swing round. Pieces fell off: a wheel and part of the undercarriage landed at the bottom of Sparkhayes Lane, and the rest of the plane crashed on to the marsh. The weather was dreadful: it was a very wet day with low cloud all around.

Only one man, S/Sgt H.B. Thorpe, was still alive. Very little of the plane was seen by local people as its remains were salvaged within a few days.

A simple monument on Porlock Marsh was erected by members of the Porlock Branch of the British Legion, made from materials available at the time.”

Porlock Marsh


Liberator has also received support from A Vision for Porlock Marsh, a project led by Porlock Parish Council, working with the local community, landowners and agencies, to help raise of awareness of Porlock Marsh and enhance its role as an asset for the local community, businesses and visitors, including encouraging events and activities inspired by the Marsh.

“A dynamic, constantly changing landscape of salt marsh, brackish water, grassy paths, crumbling stone walls and muddy ditches, tucked behind a massive sweeping shingle ridge.

Dead, stark trees, redundant fences, buried signs, freshly deposited shingle are clues to the rapidly changing state of Porlock Marsh, and for some enforce the sense of danger. For many local people the Marsh evokes happy memories – the Marsh before the breach; a time of picnics, play and haymaking. A landscape loved by generations.”

Stacked Wonky

Stacked Wonky is a contemporary dance company which has, for the last ten years, built its reputation on a desire to make work in unusual places for an audience unfamiliar with dance.

“Anarchic and exuberant, the movement she creates is beautiful” say Time Out

The company specialises in creating site-specific dance performances, many of which are performed in unique outdoor spaces and landscapes.

Sarah Shorten, Artistic Director, has created work for a diverse set of spaces including Trafalgar Square, The Museum of Childhood in collaboration with the V&A Museum, and Tinside Lido in Plymouth.  Her work has been supported by various organisations such as Arts Council England, Greenwich & Docklands International Festival and Dance South West.


Episode 1: GLADE

Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 July @ 4 pm
Nutcombe Bottom, Dunster

More info…

Episode 2: FIELD

Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 August @ 2 pm
West Luccombe Farm, West Luccombe

More info…

Episode 3: BARN

Thursday 20, Friday 21 and Saturday 22 August
@ 8.30 pm / 9 pm / 9.30 pm

SECRET LOCATION on the Holnicote Estate

More Info…

Episode 4: HILL

Sunday 6 September @ 11 am or 2 pm
Bossington Hill, near Minehead

More info…

Episode 5: MARSH

Friday 18 and Saturday 19 September @ 6 pm
Porlock Marsh, Porlock

More info…

For more info, please go to
Photos: Rod Higginson

Date for the Diary: One Day on Exmoor – 25 May 2015


On Bank Holiday Monday, 25 May 2015, we want you to record what you are doing on Exmoor that day.  

Whether you are out walking the dog, go rock climbing, put your toe into the sea, have a cream tea or just dig over the garden – take a photo (or more) and send them to us.  As we are quite a nosey lot, we are also keen on hearing from you. This can be a short paragraph – a bit like a “Dear Diary” entry – or a longer account*. You an also send us a video or do a voice recording.

We will collate all the entries and send them on to the country archives.

All photos and stories will be published here on the Exmoor4all blog. We are also hoping to publish a photobook.  All fingers crossed, there’ll be a public screening of the photos during the summer. Just watch this space!

You images and stories on Facebook, send them via Twitter @Exmoor4all or email them to

We’re looking forward to lots and lots of photos and stories!

PS: This is NOT a competition, just a bit of fun – and a way to show the world how fab it is to spend a day on Exmoor!

  • No longer than 600 words, please!

Film Premiere: “The Journey of the Louisa”

Plans are steaming ahead for the premiere showing of the new film “The Journey of the Louisa” – a story of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary deeds. In 1899 during a fierce storm, the Lynmouth lifeboat ‘Louisa’ had to be hauled 13 miles, which included going over the Countisbury Hill and down the infamous 1 in 4 Porlock Hill, to launch in the more sheltered harbour of Porlock to go to the aid of a ship in distress.

This powerful new film has been produced by Ken Blakey of Lynton, using state-of-the-art computer graphics mixed with real-time footage along the route as well as narration. The premiere of the film will be shown to a full house at Lynmouth Pavilion on Friday 11 April, which coincides exactly with the 160th birthday of Jack Crocombe (coxswain of the Louisa). Copies of the film will be available to buy from Saturday 12 April.

In addition to members of the RNLI, as many descendants of the original team as possible have been invited as special guests to the evening celebration, including the great granddaughter and great grandson of Jack Crocombe, together with the re-enactment crew who dragged and pushed the sister lifeboat one hundred years later. The granddaughter of the telegraph boy who ran the message from Porlock Weir to Porlock post office for transmission to Lynmouth has just been discovered and will join the grandson of the man who received that telegram which instigated the haul.

For further information please contact Jo Backhouse on 01598 753562 or
The event is supported by the Heritage Lottery Funded Lynmouth Pavilion Project.

In addition to this Flat-Broke Films Ltd, in association with Next Dimension Entertainment, is delighted to announce that the filming of “Louisa”, the feature film, will commence on location in Lynton & Lynmouth, Exmoor and Porlock Weir this Autumn 2014.

Directed by Simon J Miller and with Academy Award Nominated Alexandra Bekiaris and David & Maralyn Reynolds producing, this motion picture will capture the dramatic and heroic account of the 1899 “Overland Launch” of the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) “Louisa” lifeboat.

For further information please visit the Flat-Broke Films Ltd website.

Captain Jack Crocombe and crew and their beloved LOUISA lifeboat at Lynmouth Lifeboat Station in the early 1900s

Captain Jack Crocombe and crew and their beloved LOUISA lifeboat at Lynmouth Lifeboat Station
in the early 1900s

Letter from Exmoor: The Hidden History of the Brendon’s

Posted on December 4, 2013 by John Shortland on his blog

The Brendon Hills, part of the Exmoor National Park, are less well-known than the barren moorland to its west that gives the park its name.  Here the landscape is a patchwork of lush, green fields and of woodlands bordered to the north by the sea.  It is a quiet landscape with only the sounds of birdsong and the occasional farm vehicle to disturb its peace.  It wasn’t always like this, however, for during the nineteenth century it was the centre of a great, albeit relatively short-lived, mining venture.  Today, much of this has been forgotten.

The West Somerset Mineral Railway was built to link iron ore mines with the seaport of Watchet for transportation to the steelyards of south Wales.  Much of its route can be walked and there are several ruins, some of national importance, that have been conserved.  One of the most dramatic is the Incline, where trains hauled truckloads of ore – and passengers – up a 1 in 4 steep hillside, climbing 800 feet in just over half a mile.  I have written about this feat of Victorian engineering in an earlier post and this can be found by clicking on the link here.

A ruin less impressive than that of the Incline but no less extraordinary in its day is the Langham Hill Engine House built in 1866.  All that remains now is the footprint of the building but a good idea of what it must have looked like and how it worked can be had from the artist’s impression by Anne Leaver shown on the nearby information board.

The engine house was created to draw the iron ore from three separate workings to the surface by sinking a new shaft at Langham Hill.  Powered by steam engines, the ore was pulled up to ground level by trams rising from a depth of up to 650 feet.  The miners who had to descend by ladder were protected from falling by a series of wooden platforms upon which the ladders rested – if they fell they would only drop the length of each ladder, reducing the risk of serious injury.  The steam engines also powered underground pumps to keep the shafts clear of water; this was filtered, stored in reservoirs and reused by the engines – an early example of recycling.  Once the ore was brought to the surface it was tipped into trucks to be carried away by the railway.

Another extraordinary feat of engineering was the aerial tramway that brought iron ore to Langham Hill in buckets from another mine over half a mile away.  A length of the steel cables, which are over four inches in thickness, can be seen coiled by the engine house.  The figures are staggering: the overhead cable was a single, endless 6700 feet length supported on wooden pylons, at times carrying the ore 300 feet above ground level and crossing a 2000 feet wide valley.  No wonder the miners called it ‘the flying machine’.

It is hard to imagine, when visiting the engine house now, the noise, bustle and industry that took place here just 150 years ago.  Two hundred miners and their families, mostly from Wales came to live and work here, yet within fifty years all mining had  ceased.  The engine house only survived for ten years: its engine and even the house itself, dismantled and reused in mines elsewhere.  The aerial tramway lasted an even shorter time being in use for only three years before new transportation technology overtook it.

Today all is silent, the site surrounded by trees and ferns.  For many years the remains of the mines remained hidden until the combined efforts of a number of individuals and groups fought to preserve them.  The West Somerset Mineral Railway Project came into being and has succeeded in doing so; it has also created a permanent exhibition housed in the museum in Watchet.  Its research of the history of the mines is available online – visit their website here.

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Letter from Exmoor: Exploring the Old Mineral Line in the Brendon Hills

Thanks to Rosi Davis of Exmoor House in Wheddon Cross for this Letter from Exmoor!

Discovering the Old Mineral Line, Brendon Hills, Exmoor

It seems hard to believe now, but the Brendon Hills on Exmoor were once a centre for iron mining. Whole settlements were constructed for miners and their families, although most of the houses and industrial buildings have since disappeared or remain only as ruins. There was also the West Somerset Mineral Railway (or Old Mineral Line), which was built to take iron ore to Watchet Harbour, ready to be shipped to Newport in South Wales.

The route of the old railway included the Incline, a very steep slope down which wagonloads of iron ore were lowered by means of cables; the empty wagons were hauled back up again. The remains of the Winding House, which housed the machinery for this, are by the side of the road near the Beulah Chapel, shortly after you turn down the road towards Wheddon Cross.

Beulah Chapel is interesting in itself. Standing at the road junction of the B3190 and the B3224 near Raleghs Cross, it is all that remains of a mining village where at one time several hundred people would have lived. The congregation were Bible Christians, a North Devon and Somerset splinter group of the Wesleyan Methodist Church.

Some suggested Old Mineral Line walks

From the car park just off the B3190 near Raleghs Cross, you can take a short walk through the woods to see the Incline, continuing if you like towards Comberrow and Roadwater.

At Chargot Woods, a few miles from Wheddon Cross, there are walks taking in the Bearland Flue chimney (which was, literally, a lifeline for the miners) and the former site of Langham Engine House.

There’s an easy walk between Washford and Watchet along the route of the Old Mineral Line. In the Market House Museum at Watchet you will find a lot of historical information and a fascinating collection of old photographs.

To discover more about this amazing chapter in Exmoor’s past, visit