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 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.


Dates for the Diary: 2014 Events at Wimbleball Lake

Date Name of event Type of event
1/5/14 Lapping Wimbleball Lake Guided walk around Wimbleball – led by Exmoor Area Manager (Alex Forster) – part of North Devon Walking Festival ( 
5/5/14(Bank holiday) Family Fun day In house- community games, have a go archery, high ropes, bushcraft, fly-fishing. Free entry (normal car park charges apply, payment required for some activities)
6-8th June Commonwealth Fly fishing comp International fly fishing competition
15/6/14 IronMan One of the world’s most grueling Triathlons 
28/6/14 WRC regatta Rowing Race, bbq etc.   ( 
29/6/14 Family cycle day Competitions, games, workshops – Free entry (normal car park charges apply, payment required for some activities)
16/8/14 Pirate party and treasure hunt Fun for all the family – ring for details and to book in your team
25/8/14 Fishing for life sponsored walk Charity fundraising walk, steel band, bbq, stalls, bouncy castle – Free entry (normal car park charges apply, payment required for some activities) 
25/8/14 Midsummer Nights Dream –  Stunning performance of this Shakespeare classic by  Chapterhouse theatre
(call 01566 771930 for tickets)
30 + 31st Aug. Orvis boat pairs fishing comp Fly-fishing comp
31/10/14 Spooky Walk Halloween ghostly trail family fun  ring for details and to book

Please call (01398) 371460 to confirm the above planned events are going ahead / to book / for further details

Letter from Exmoor: …….. can you hear the silence? ……………

By Gary Scarlett. First published on his Blog “Chunky Mamil” on 5 December 2013

I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit lately and riding my mtb so I thought I’d put both of those straight today. I have been riding though and meeting interesting people so although the keys have been idle I haven’t. With my rest days falling during the week and a last minute window in my good friend Jennifer’s schedule, I grabbed the opportunity to visit her and ride some of that flat stuff last Wednesday. Nice riding around the levels a real haven for birds, swans, herons, starlings the odd magpie and even a partridge but no pear tree 🙂 We rode some of those long straight roads they like around there but thankfully with little wind, stopped for coffee, chatted and even found a hill to ride up on the way back.Yesterday started a bit damp but I had to get out so did a quick loop on the road bike, it wasn’t too bad and was glad I got out. Still lots of colour about but as a friend of mine commented about this photo, winters coming over the hill 🙂

In the afternoon I was invited to lunch by the lovely Elke who promotes all things good on Exmoor through her Exmoor4all website. She had organised a Christmas lunch for some Exmoor business folk and kindly invited me along too as I always try to show how wonderful it is around here through the blog. The location was The Culbone, a pleasure to get to as it means driving up and along Porlock hill with great views to enjoy on the way. The food was excellent and so was the company, nice to meet people I sort of knew through twitter and some new people too.

So to today, very windy so definite mtb day, getting blown across the road on the road bike didn’t appeal at all. The usual slog up to Hopcott but sheltered and the trails were dry after this cold snap and rapid progress to the top of Grabbist hill with the wind behind me. Although it was dry the tracks are covered in leaves and hide roots, rocks and toxic dog leftovers, luckily just the odd stone whacked me in the shin today.

I went for a loop around the Crown estate woodland on the other side of Dunster, hard going in the wind on the exposed climb up and around Black Hill to the trig point. The descent was very quick but a bit boring on the fireroads but once nearer Dunster I rode some more interesting tracks before heading back up Grabbist Hill.

After negotiating the ascent of Grabbist I headed back up the ridge and down some of my favourite tracks back towards home, felt good, rode up stuff, not a bad ride at all.

Successful start to Exmoor Pony Festival

101 Dave Rowlatt Exmoor PoniesMore than 300 visitors enjoyed the first few days of Exmoor Pony Festival activities, a very successful start to the 9-day lottery-funded celebration of the rare breed. Jason Ball from Heart of Exmoor said: “On a Bank Holiday weekend, many other attractions around Exmoor were competing for visitors, but our Festival proved very popular. So we launched a photo contest on Facebook and invited people to share their favourite moments from the events.”

Visitors joined Experience Exmoor for two Exmoor Pony Safaris, setting off from Lynmouth on a meandering route that include Countisbury, Brendon Common and Porlock Common. Exmoor Pony Officer, Linzi Green was the ‘expert on board’ who explained herd heritage and the natural history of the Exmoor Pony. She said: “It was brilliant – in addition to taking some great photos of beautiful ponies, passengers were fortunate enough to see a Merlin, large herds of red deer, and gannets and dolphins at sea!”

103 Dawn Westcott BearDawn Westcott and her Exmoor Pony stallion affectionately known as ‘Bear’ had obviously been training hard with an even more impressive Agility and Liberty demonstration than last year (clip on Youtube). The demo busted some negative myths about Exmoors but the key theme was the connection between person and pony. Using Natural Horsemanship methods, Dawn showed how warming-up sequences and allowing space for relaxation and expression by the pony were vital to developing a mutually respectful connection and a well-focused session. Agility is a fast-growing ‘sport’ that suits the Exmoor breed’s intelligence. Dawn wrote on the Exmoor Pony Club website: “Over 60 enthusiastic people arrived to see Bear work on the line, at liberty and then ridden over the agility course, including the Triple Hoop Jump. The Heart of Exmoor team were brilliant and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun.”

The first ever ‘Meet the Herds’ event at Wheddon Cross on Tuesday drew in more than 100 members of the public many of whom were meeting the ponies close at hand for the first time. Thanks go to the local Exmoor Pony Society members who brought their Exmoor ponies to the market to represent 12 of the 20 herds currently running on the moor and to the Moorland Mousie Trust and their volunteers for supporting the event. Moor bred ponies have excelled in driving, riding, endurance, show jumping and showing and the day provided an ideal opportunity for people to learn about each herd’s heritage and meet just some of the people who take care of them. Jason Ball from Heart of Exmoor said: “Moorland herds of Exmoor ponies are part of the landscape of Exmoor National Park and the herd managers share a vital understanding of them.”

A fine collection of artworks at Dulverton’s Guildhall gallery welcomed 140 visitors in 2 days. The ‘special guest’ gallery volunteer, children’s author Victoria Eveleigh, attracted numerous fans who had discovered that she was going to be at the gallery for our first day (mainly finding out via the web). One family announced that they had travelled to holiday on Exmoor because they had to meet their favourite author! Modern artists featured include Nikki Moore, Claire Saville, Chris Eveleigh and Dawn Westcott. Jason Ball commented: “A broadside of thanks is owed to those people who have lent the outstanding range of historic and collected pieces, chiefly brought together for the exhibition by volunteers for the Exmoor Pony Society and the Moorland Mousie Trust.”

Photo by @CottagePorlock

Photo by @CottagePorlock

Over the last 3 years the Heart of Exmoor scheme has promoted the free-living herds on the moor with Linzi Green, their Exmoor Pony Officer based at the Moorland Mousie Trust and with the Exmoor Pony Society. They have achieved education campaigns, equipment grants, farmer meetings, training and the festival thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund, European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, Exmoor National Park Authority and local partners and funders.

Established last year by the Heart of Exmoor scheme, the 2013 Exmoor Pony Festival is jointly organised by the Exmoor Pony Society, the Exmoor Pony Club, the Moorland Mousie Trust, Exmoor National Park Authority, countless volunteers, and the moorland herd managers. Behind the picturesque moorland scenes of Exmoor ponies are the dedicated farmers, volunteers, inspectors and rangers who all work to secure the future of the free-roaming Exmoor Pony.



(Press Release by Exmoor National Park)