“On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me….”. We’re following the Twelve Days of Christmas theme to look back on some of the activities, events and news items that provided an insight into life at Exmoor National Park through 2016.
April’s highlights included looking to the heavens in our Dark Skies Reserve, celebrating our Wildwatch 2016 project and learning more about coppicing.
International Dark Skies Week
As Europe’s first designated Dark Sky Reserve, Exmoor celebrated International Dark Skies Week, with the opportunity to share some wonderful images of what can be seen over Exmoor. The Exmoor Stargazers treated us with a presentation by Tim Wetherell who shared his experiences of observing the southern skies from Australia, along with their welcoming and informal conversations about all things astronomy. The week included the International Day of Human Space Flight to celebrate Yuri Gagarin completing the first human space flight 55 years ago. This year had particular resonance as we were able to wave at British astronaut Tim Peake as he passed overhead in the International Space Station, clearly visible in the night sky as its orbit passed over the UK. And to complete the week, we had a wonderful time at the Lynmouth Pavilion as Seb Jay shared a view of Cosmic Exmoor.
Exmoor Wild Watch 2016
We formally launched the third year of our Exmoor Wild Watch Survey (which was originally started through the Heart of Exmoor Scheme). This is a vital ‘citizen science’ project where we ask people to look out for specific wild species particularly characteristic of Exmoor. This year’s list of wildlife stars included new species and old favourites: barn owl, Daubenton’s bat, glow worm, toad, string of sausages lichen, waxcap fungi, harbour porpoise, hedgehog, common blue butterfly, cuckoo, red kite and kestrel.
Many of these species have suffered a decline in numbers nationally, so any recorded sightings are invaluable in helping us all to better understand their status within the National Park. 2015 had seen over 400 new records sent in, including the brilliant extra data provided on string-of-sausages lichen – nationally very rare but Exmoor provides an ideal habitat – and your records highlighted a number of sites including Molland Moor, Watersmeet, Withypool, Winsford Hill, Wimbleball and Haddon Hill.
Coppicing work was undertaken by Barle Forestry in Culbone wood (on behalf of the Exmoor National Park Authority which owns and manages Culbone wood) as part of a scheme to reveal some of the historic views from the woodland. Visitors to Culbone Wood today can delight in the spectacular beauty of the natural woodlands cascading down the rocky shore (including the marvellous setting of England’s smallest parish church hidden in a deep wooded combe).
This was a designed landscape, based on the concepts of the Picturesque school, which promotes design where the natural world dominates. In Culbone, control was exercised over the views from the walks, largely by the use of evergreens including yew, strawberry tree and other conifers (feathering fir and melancholy yew). Sadly it had lain forgotten and overgrown for 150 years, before this work opened up some of the historic views which had been enjoyed (and probably created) by William King and his future wife Ada Byron (daughter of the poet Lord Byron but now better known for her understanding of computing; she is now celebrated each year on Ada Lovelace Day in October).
Bits & Pieces
- We kicked off the first #ExmoorBigAdventure of 2016 at Haddon Hill
- On 15th April we participated on-line in #Micro Volunteering Day to encourage people to try to do “bite-sized” actions that benefit a worthy cause
- The Porlock Marsh Photography competition was launched
- We celebrated the Queen of Netherlands’ birthday on 27th with a post in Dutch (as an excuse to show off our Dutch-language Visitor leaflet!)