Beavers to return to Exmoor

The National Trust has announced that Exmoor’s Holnicote Estate has been chosen as one of two areas in the UK where beavers will be introduced to help rivers help manage climate change.

“We’re releasing beavers at Holnicote in Somerset and Valewood on the edge of the South Downs to improve flood management and support wildlife on our rivers. The beavers will help make areas of the river more resilient to climate change and the extremes of weather it will bring. The dams they create will hold water in dry periods, help to lessen flash-flooding downstream, reduce erosion and improve water quality.”

River Aller, Exmoor in Somerset

Reconnecting our rivers and streams to the surrounding landscape guards against severe weather and attracts a greater variety of plants and animals. In what is the first project of its kind in the UK, we’re trialling groundbreaking work to protect our rivers from climate change and flooding and protect wildlife. We’ve partnered with the Environment Agency and European programme Interreg 2 Seas Co-Adapt to restore a tributary of the river Aller, which passes through the Holnicote Estate.

The waterways that flow through these confined sites in Porlock Vale respond rapidly to rainfall, and pose a flood risk to settlements downstream. We’re working to slow the flow of these streams by reconnecting them with the floodplain – allowing the wider landscape to absorb the effects of the weather. This will also improve conditions for wildlife that lives in the streams such as eels and brook lampreys, as well as otters and the resident bat population that forages and breeds nearby.

According to an article in The TelegraphBen Eardley, project manager for the National Trust at Holnicote, said: “Our aim is that the beavers become an important part of the ecology at Holnicote, developing natural processes and contributing to the health and richness of wildlife in the area.

“Their presence in our river catchments is a sustainable way to help make our landscape more resilient to climate change and the extremes of weather it will bring.”

Two families of beavers will be released into two wooded enclosures in Porlock Vale which will be fenced so the impact of the animals on the local ecology and the river can be assessed and understood with the support of Exeter University and other organisations.

The Guardian quotes Eardley: “The beavers will help us achieve a more natural flow pattern, slowing, cleaning and storing water and developing complex river habitats. The dams the beavers create will hold water in dry periods, help to lessen flash flooding downstream and reduce erosion and improve water quality by holding silt.”

The beavers will be transferred from Scotland, where they have been successfully breeding since being reintroduced in 2006. The National Trust beavers are expected to breed and when the young become mature they will need to be moved, possibly to other sites owned or run by the charity.

A footpath will run close to the pens on the Holnicote estate which will allow members of the public to catch a glimpse of the animals.

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

MID-AFTERNOON.
OCTOBER 1942.
A PLANE CRASHES.
A SOLE SURVIVOR.

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.

Background

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

BARN.jpg

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.

Performances

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 www.stackedwonky.com
Photos: Rod Higginson