To mark the date when Exmoor National Park came into being, we’ve decided to make 19th October #NationalExmoorDay to share what we find wonderful about our 267 square miles of National Park.
Exmoor National Park came into being on 19th October 1954 when the Designation Order made by the National Parks Commission was confirmed by the then Minister for Housing and Local Government Harold Macmillan – making us the 8th National Park to come into being.
As part of our looking for social media-friendly announcements, we did a quick bit of research looking into what other Exmoor’s existed around the world. We found 4! There is an Exmoor in Marengo County, Alabama, USA (with thanks to the US Embassy comms team for helping us find it!), one in New Brunswick, Canada, one in Queensland, Australia and one (we think!) in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. So maybe next year we make it #InternationalExmoorDay…… Admittedly these are all small townships or communities (making us the original and biggest by far) but if you know of any more around the world, please tell us!
Here’s some highlights in our history so far:1952 The National Parks Commission was established under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949. Its task was to create the National Parks and decide on their boundaries. In December 1951 it was agreed that the following year it would consider Exmoor as part of the second tranche of National Park designations.
1958 The Exmoor Society, a charity, was formed and still works today to protect and enhance the special qualities of the wild and varied landscapes of Exmoor.
1962 Our first Information Centre was opened in Minehead, with its Publicity Officer being one of the first members of staff.
1963 Exmoor’s first Warden, Jim Collins, was appointed to way-mark walks in the Dunster area (a first for anywhere in Britain) and was so popular that the project was eventually copied throughout the country.
1969 Somerset County Council purchased Pinkery, Driver and the Chains, developing a permissive footpath to Pinkery Pond and bridleway across Driver to the Chains with open access on foot or horseback on the open moorland. The following year Pinkery Farm became our outdoor education & learning centre.
1970 The National Park Committees persuaded a consortium of river and water authorities that Wimbleball was the best site for their proposed major reservoir. It was completed in 1979.
1974 After a reorganisation of local government, Exmoor National Park became part of Somerset County Council and set up its own HQ at Exmoor House in Dulverton.
1975 We started a programme of guided walks and became one of the first authorities to appoint an Education Officer, who was able to provide walks and talks for groups of young people.
1976 The Two Moors Way was opened to link Dartmoor and Exmoor via a 102-mile walking route between Ivybridge and Lynmouth.
1981 The National Park Committee signed a formal agreement with the Country Landowners Association and National Farmers Union to ensure the management for conservation of important moorlands on Exmoor.
1984 The Exmoor Visitor newspaper was launched in partnership with the West Somerset Free Press.
1993 The National Park Committee launched an innovative Farm Conservation Scheme (FCS) which built on the success of the management agreements of the previous decade and provided positive support for the conservation management of whole farms and provided the model for the national agri-environment schemes now operating.
1996 Moorland restoration began on blanket bog, rewetting areas of drained peat in order to restore habitats, which developed into the current Exmoor Mires project (now funded by South West Water and Natural England).
1997 all National Park Authorities in England and Wales became free-standing authorities within local government.Plus our Exmoor Park Life newspaper for local residents was launched (still delivered all households in the National Park and beyond).
2001 Exmoor National Park Authority coordinated the local response to Foot & Mouth Disease working with farmers, tourism industry and local communities. This awful time brought home to us and those who live here how important the rights of way network is to the economy of Exmoor. Maintaining the Rights of Way network continues to be one of our top priorities.
2003 We completed the restoration of the historic sawmill and estate workshops at Simonsbath, enabling water to run through the leats for the first time in fifty years. The sawmill is still open to the public when volunteers are there to show people around.
2004 Our 50th anniversary and to mark the occasion, the Authority-owned woodland at Tarr Steps received one of the highest nature conservation accolades when an area covering 33 hectares was declared a National Nature Reserve.
2005 In August around 8000 hectares of Exmoor was formally open to the public for access on foot for the first time under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (often known as the ‘right to roam act’). Also the Coleridge Way walkers’ route (36 miles from Nether Stowey to Porlock) was launched and became an instant success when a Sunday Times journalist walked the whole way, staying in local accommodation. Their article was published before the signs were put up!
2007 The Tour of Britain cycle race came to the south west for the first time, much of the race going through Exmoor National Park.
2011 Exmoor National Park was designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, the first in Europe to receive this prestigious award and only the second in the world.
2013 51 years after our first information centre, our lovely, newly-refurbished Lynmouth Pavilion opened its doors with a mixture of high tech and more traditional exhibits.
2014 the Coleridge Way walking route was extended with a new 15 mile section to Lynmouth, increasing it to 51 miles in total.
2016 We kicked off this year with the launch of the Headwaters of the Exe project, working with farmers and land managers to ensure good water quality in the catchment of the River Exe. Then in September the Two Moors Way celebrated their 40th Anniversary with a new look website and pocket guide.
Share with us on Twitter (@ExmoorNP) your favourite memories of Exmoor National park on Wednesday October 19th as part of #NationalExmoorDay.