“On the eighth 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.
August was a combination of the dramatic events across Exmoor, from a ‘rocky’ helicopter ride to Shakespeare in Valley of Rocks; plus our Access & Rights of Way teams, Rangers and Volunteers get the recognition they deserve!
Mend our Mountains Campaign Success
We launched our appeal for the repair of Long Chains Combe as part of the national Mend our Mountains campaign back in March. It is a vital right of way (being part of the Two Moors Way that link Dartmoor and Exmoor) that is situated in one of the remotest locations within the National Park, so the only practical solution was a helicopter.
We were delighted to announce we had achieved our fundraising goal – the Mend Our Mountains crowd funding raised £7,500 and CareMoor for Exmoor topped this up with £4,500 enabling the work to go ahead. In August the repair works were well underway, with the helicopter delivering the heavier lumps of rock! Usually we use material already on a on site to complete repairs, but in the case of Long Chains Combe, there wasn’t enough suitable material for the scale of the job. And because of its remote location, the helicopter was the most efficient way of getting it there.
Thank you again to everyone who donated (including some donations made from as far away as the USA!) as we would not have been able to complete this vital repair work so quickly without the funding. Click here to see more about the helicopter lift (and proof of the problems a boggy path can cause!).
MacBeth comes to Valley of Rocks
Exmoor theatre company, Pleasure Dome, staged their first open air theatre production at the Valley of Rocks near Lynton with a well-received production of MacBeth. In a break from the traditional way to fund a production, Pleasure Dome launched a crowd-funding campaign (as we reported in our post here).
Pleasure Dome was conceived and created by Director and Actor Helena Payne who had always had the ambition to do some theatre at the Valley of Rocks: “I always thought it was an otherworldly and magical location, somewhere not quite of this planet, a place where the sea meets the sky, a place where imagination meets reality, and I can think of nowhere more fitting to perform in.” Marking the year of Shakespeare’s 400th birthday, the two week run was a great success (click here to see more pictures and a video of the highlights on the Pleasure Dome site). As summed up by reporter Angus Scott: “Well done indeed to the director, production team, lighting and all seven cast members for putting together an intimate and explosive production of the Scottish Play. Poetic subtlety, visceral energy and an extraordinary backdrop made this an extremely worthwhile evening…”. We’re looking forward to seeing their plans for 2017 with productions of The Importance of Being Earnest and Lorna Doone.
Rights of Way Annual Report
As part of our commitment to the National Park Partnership Plan, which identifies a first class rights of way network as one of its 12 priorities for action, we produce an annual report outlining the work carried out in the past year (click here for the full report). Our volunteers have been completing surveys (based on nationally agreed criteria) which showed that 93% of Exmoor National Park’s public rights of way are open and easy to use – a result that has consistently increased over recent years thanks to the hard work of our Rangers and Field Services Team. The public rights of way network is managed and maintained by Exmoor National Park Authority. This means we carry out maintenance duties, signing, surface repairs etc over a network of 621 miles in total, mainly comprising 272 miles of footpaths and 288 miles of bridleways. Plus the 40 miles of Restricted Byways/ Byways Open to All Traffic, 233 miles of permitted paths and 18,000 hectares of Access Land. In addition our Field Services team also maintain 284 bridges, 383 stiles, 1,930 field gates, 639 hunting gates, 212 sets of steps and 2,716 signposts!
In many locations our teams cut overhanging vegetation (paring) along paths to support landowners – in 2015/16 106 miles of routes were cut back. This activity is over the requirements of the Highway Authority and is funded from the Authority’s own resources. Our rights of way network is one of the special features of Exmoor and will will ensure it continues to offer unrivaled access on foot, horseback or bicycle for everyone to enjoy.
Park Protector Awards
This month saw the efforts of a dedicated group of volunteers who help look after Exmoor’s rights of way recognised when they were shortlisted for the Campaign for National Parks Park Protector Awards 2016. These awards celebrate exceptional projects and people who have made a lasting contribution to the protection, restoration or conservation of the National Parks of England and Wales.
The volunteer Path Watcher’s scheme (set up by our Access and Recreation Team) plays a vital role in ensuring Exmoor’s paths are well cared for (as evidenced in our article above – we couldn’t complete the work without the help of our volunteers). To date, the 12 Path Watcher volunteers have surveyed over 300 kilometres of paths (covering 15 parishes), ensuring paths remain navigable for everyone in the local community and visitors alike and reporting hazards or dangers quickly to our Field Services Team.They also refresh way-marks, carry out minor repairs to gates and signs, whilst receiving ongoing training for their role (for example they recently learned more about all-terrain mobility Trampers, helping them understand the issues facing individuals with limited mobility).
Ceri Rapsey, Rights of Way Support Officer was not surprised at the Path Watchers’ nomination for the award: “They are so passionate about making Exmoor’s rights of way the best in the UK and are constantly thinking of innovative ways of improving their surveying and maintaining rights of way for the enjoyment of others. We’re thrilled their enthusiasm and dedication has been recognised”. Path Watchers has proved to be an incredibly successful scheme, so if this has inspired you to get involved across Exmoor, have a look at our Get Involved pages on our website.
Bits & Pieces
- Our Work Experience students spent several weeks with us, experiencing what happens in a National Park
- Our Poetry Boxes project enjoyed its third year around Dunster (more about this project in our December review)
- We celebrated the 10th Anniversary of CareMoor for Exmoor – which has raised over £60,000 thanks to contributions from visitors and businesses within Exmoor National Park
- We encouraged ‘Self-Tea’ silliness in a joint campaign with Porlock-based Miles Tea & Coffee (all in aid of CareMoor!)
- A great time was had by all at Dunster Show, as we hosted the Exmoor Live tent with cookery demos and local arts & crafts