Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Spring Highlights. A celebration of North Devon Coast and Countryside events

Spring has sprung on the North Devon Coast. Clovelly kicked off the season loudly with their Shrove Tuesday Lentsherd. There were a few clatters on the cobbles as children set off dragging rattling tin cans Down-a-long in a bid to chase bad spirits away and drive the devil into the sea. Sunday 12 March marked Daffodil Day at Hartland Abbey, their first open day of the season and after a gloomy February and beginning of March the sun shone briefly on those ancient Daffodils and Narcissus. The Camellias, Mimosa and Magnolia were blooming marvellous too. We love the circular walk from the Walled Garden through the woodland down to Blackpool Mill Mouth, I was so engrossed photographing some Primroses that I missed a shot of a Deer leaping across the path right beside me! I wasn't ready for that but I was ready for spotting the first of the wild flowers, Wood Anaemone,  a couple of Dog Violet, a solitary Red Campion, an early Greater Stitchwart and Spring Squill, no Wild Garlic or Bluebells as yet but signs are most promising for the other special open days in April. A meeting of music and poetry comes together for the launch of the "The Postman Poet" a book by Liz Shakespeare based on the life of Edward Capern. Folk musicians and songwriters Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll have chosen some of his poems to set to music for their CD. As the achievements of the past are celebrated young musicans will be making their own bit of history at the WHAAM Westward Ho! and Appledore Music Showcase. This event will be a great opportunity for young people to showcase their musical talents in front of a live audience. Hopefully April won't bring more showers but it does herald a Wedding Fair and Easter Chicks down Clovelly plus Easter Egg hunts at Hartland Abbey and the Big Sheep. The Big Sheep has a full calendar of events with Toddler Take-over days and ewenique family fun including the pinnacle of the sheep racing calendar, the Grand National. Abbotsham not Aintree but just as thrilling. Odds on favourites Red Ram, Wooly Jumper and Little Pullover will be running. Hartland Abbey will be having open day events for Mothering Sunday, Easter and those famous Bluebells. By then the Swallows will have returned in time to swoop over the old Oak Trees. The Hartland Abbey Estate is also the location for the Hartland Hartbreak Run in aid of the Childrens Hospice Southwest. Scroll down for details if you are you up for the challenge. As I write this hailstones are tapping on the window. Come rain or shine get out and about the coast and countryside this Spring, enjoy what North Devon has to offer. Article Pat Adams 21/3/2017
Spring Squill at Hartland Abbey. Photo copyright Pat Adams (All rights reserved)
24th March SHOWCASE FOR YOUNG MUSICIANS. Get ready for “WHAAM JR” - Westward Ho! & Appledore Music Showcase on Friday 24th March at the Pier House, Westward Ho! The event will be representing North Devon’s youth #bands, #singers and #choirs performing in aid of the Royal National Life Institution's Appledore Lifeboat Station. This event is a great opportunity for young people to showcase their musical talents in front of a live audience, to gain experience, enhance their confidence in performing and confirm that “North Devon’s Got Talent!” . Tap here to apply/read all about it in our blog post

25th March AN EVENING OF READING AND SONGS celebrates the launch of ‘The Postman Poet’, a novel by Liz Shakespeare, Author based on the life of Edward Capern. Liz is also publishing 34 of his 600 poems in ‘The Poems of Edward Capern’. Folk musicians and songwriters Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll have chosen some of his poems to set to music for their CD, ‘The Songs of Edward Capern’. The book and CD launch takes place with an evening of reading and songs at the Royal Hotel in Bideford on the 25th March. Read post to find out more about the event, the books and CD. Read post all about it here

26th March Hartland Abbey Mothering Sunday and Spring Flowers 11am-5pm Our first open day of the 2017 season coincides with Mothering Sunday. Spring should be in full swing at Hartland Abbey in time for Mothering Sunday on 26th March. It will be a lovely opportunity to walk around the gardens and grounds with the magnolias, tree rhododendrons, stunning camellias, daffodils, scillas, hellebores and spring bulbs bursting into flower. The Old Kitchens Tea Room will be producing hot soup, pasties, light lunches and their scrumptious homemade cakes and cream teas. The house will be open too between 1 - 4pm. Lovely primrose walks lead to the beach and Blackpool Mill, the location for 'The Lanyon' in 'The Night Manager' with Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman, filmed in April 2015 in Hartland village and on the Hartland Abbey estate. Do come along for our first day of the 2017 season and give your mother a happy day out in this beautiful valley! Dogs will love it too! Normal admission prices apply. Hartland Abbey, Nr Bideford EX39 6DT Tel: 01237441496/441234 - Visit Website


2nd April Clovelly Wedding Fair. Wedding Fair at Clovelly Court Great Terrace, whatever the weather.
1pm till dusk with FREE entry. No matter what the weather, Clovelly is the perfect place to create your own unique wedding. With its festival vibe, Clovelly Wedding Fair will have a band for all tastes, a bar, a children's area, outside caterers and local suppliers from all over Devon and Cornwall. Come along and be inspired to create your perfect day. From 1pm to 5pm For further details contact: clovellyweddings@gmail.comVisit and

8th April to 17th April Find the Easter Chicks at Clovelly. Children receive a village map on entry on which to mark the location and number of Easter chicks perched up and down the tumbling cottages along the High Street to the Quay. Return the map to the Visitor Centre reception if you spot at least 10 chicks to win an Easter egg and a bigger prize if you spot all 15.

8th April  Big Sheep Grand National. A highlight in our sheep race calendar. While many racers are competing in the British Grand National our favourite competiters; Red Ram, Wooly Jumper and Little Pullover to name a few will be battling out for the 2017 Practical Cup. The 6 sheep and their jockeys have been in secret training for almost six months and the Sheepstakes promises to have all the pace, excitment and adrenaline rush watching the Grand National live! We hold our normal sheep races every day at 3:50pm. Visit Website

Easter Fun at Hartland Abbey. Easter Sunday April 16th & Easter Monday April 17th 11am-5pm (Easter egg hunts will continue to Thursday 20th if we have enough Easter eggs)! Come and join the fun in the beautiful grounds and gardens of Hartland Abbey over Easter. Children will have a wonderful time searching all the woodland paths and walks for clues that will lead them to a hidden treasure trove of Easter Eggs. There will be traditional activities and games like Pin the Tail on the Bunny and easter egg decorating as well (only Easter weekend) The daffodils and spring flowers should be looking wonderful, making this a special day out for adults and children alike. The house will be open from 2-5pm at an extra charge. Dogs are very welcome provided they don't eat the Easter eggs first! Grounds open 11am-5pm. Adults £8, All children over 2 £4.50 (including Easter Egg Hunt), Admission to house extra: Adults £4 Children free. Hartland Abbey, Nr Bideford EX39 6DT For further information please ring 01237 441496 /441234 - Visit Website

23rd April Bluebell Sunday at Hartland Abbey 11am-5pm. Bluebell Days at Hartland Abbey are legendary and a wonderful opportunity to visit at a reduced entry price when the valley is looking at its most beautiful. The bluebells at Hartland Abbey carpet the walks from the Walled Gardens to the sea. A restored woodland path links the Summerhouse to the Gazebo and Blackpool Mill overlooking the Atlantic. The restored Summerhouse was always a favourite spot for the family to picnic and for the children to play. If it is cold there will be a lovely log fire burning! See 'Barton Cottage' by the sea, the home of the Dashwood family in the BBC production of 'Sense and Sensibility'and the location for BBC's 'The Night Manager' by John Le Carre, . Along the way enjoy our bluebells, primroses, violets, wild anemones, wild orchids, foxgloves and much more. We love children and dogs and hope that you will bring as many as possible! There should be lots of lovely plants out in the gardens too; the early rhododendrons, camellias, tulips and later bulbs and early perennials amongst others. For the energetic, children and dogs, there will be plenty of opportunity for walking and exploring the 3½ miles of paths within the Abbey grounds. Bluebell Day entry prices: Adults £6, Children (age 5-15) £1, Under 5 free. Your entry ticket to the gardens and grounds includes the Museum, Exhibition and Gift Shop. Parking free. Entry to the house £4 extra. The house will be open from 2-5pm (last admission 4.15pm). The Old Kitchen Tea Rooms will be serving their delicious light lunches and home made cream teas. Hartland Abbey, Nr Bideford EX39 6DT For further information please ring 01237 441496/441234 - Visit Website

Sunday 30th April Hartland Hartbreak Run at Hartland Abbey, Huge thanks to the hundreds of runners who puffed, panted and sweated their way round the course through some of North Devon's most stunning scenery on the Hartland Abbey Estate to raise thousands of pounds for the wonderful Children's Hospice South West in 2016. Lets make 2017 even more successful so start training soon for this most deserving cause! Angela Stucley November 2016 Well folks…It's 13 (ish) miles of uphill, downhill, through rivers, bogs and hedges and some really stunning scenery. Mind you, you won't get to see much more than about 2 foot in front of you….. .We are starting and finishing from the fabulous Hartland Abbey and are very fortunate that Sir Hugh and Lady Stucley have allowed us to run around their wonderful estate. You'll encounter the beautiful gardens of the Abbey - with bluebells in full flight - and then the rugged and unrelenting South West Coast Path. After a quick trip around Hartland Lighthouse it's in to the deepest darkest Devonshire countryside - keep your wits about you and you'll probably make it out alive. Back through the abbey grounds once more and up to the ruined Pleasure House overlooking the Atlantic, back onto the coast path and past (through?) a waterfall before once again leaving the coast path to explore some local woods. Once out of the woods there is the opportunity to run through the estate's area of bio-diversity before heading back to the Abbey for the finish. Doesn't sound that bad does it? Did I mention that there might be some hills? Simon Haywood
Are you up for the challenge? And raise money for charity. If you have any questions about the race please do get in touch, you can either drop me an email at the address below, give me a call or even write!
Our Address: Brook Cottage, Blakeshill Road Landkey, Barnstaple, Devon EX32 0NE Tel: 01271 831498 - Mobile: 07515 875651 Website: Email:

For more North Devon Events see North Devon Focus Community CalenderNorth Devon Coast & Country Chronicle FacebookThe Big Sheep - Burton Art GalleryThe Plough Arts CentreBideford Cinema Local Press: What's On North Devon Gazette - North Devon Journal  

 North Devon Tourist Information Centres
Barnstaple Tourist Information Centre, North Devon Museum, The Square, Barnstaple, EX32 9LS Tel: 01271 375000
Bideford Tourist Information Centre, Burton Art Gallery, Kingsley Road, Bideford, EX39 2QQ Tel: 01237 477676
Braunton Tourist Information Centre The Bakehouse Centre, Caen Street, Braunton, EX33 1AA Tel: 01271 816688
Combe Martin Tourist Information Centre Cross Street, Combe Martin, EX34 ODH Tel: 01271 889031
Holsworthy Visitor Information Centre Ruby Country, Holsworthy Manor Car Park, Holsworthy EX22 6DJ Tel: 01409 254 185
Torrington Tourist Information Centre, Castle Hill, South Street, Torrington Tel: 01805 626140
lfracombe Tourist Information Centre The Landmark Theatre, The Seafront, Ilfracombe, EX34 9BX Tel: 01271 863 001
Lynton & Lynmouth Tourist Information Centre Lynton Town Hall, Lee Road, Lynton, EX35 6HT Tel: 01598 752225
Lynmouth National Park Centre, The Pavilion, The Esplanade, Lynmouth, EX35 6EQ Tel: 01598 752509
South Molton Tourist Information Centre 1 East Street, South Molton, EX36 3BU Tel: 01769 574122
Woolacombe Tourist Information Centre The Esplanade, Woolacombe, EX34 7DL Tel: 01271 870553

Monday, 20 March 2017

Devon Bat Survey Opens for Bookings

A Devon-based project dedicated to conserving one of the county's most endangered animals is now appealing for volunteers to help it in its vital work.

Find out about the bats on your doorstep! This spring and summer, people across Devon can take part in a major scientific bat survey run by the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project. The survey allows volunteers to borrow a detector from one of 20 monitoring centres dotted around the county, to place in a selected 1km grid square for 3 nights. All the calls recorded will be used to increase knowledge of how bats are using the Devon landscape, and what can be done to help them. Anyone can get involved in the survey – no experience is needed and full instructions are supplied.

The Devon Bat Survey 2017 will go live for bookings on Tuesday 21st March. To find out more about how you can get involved, and to choose a square, please visit our website

The project is especially keen for people to get involved around Combe Martin, Great Torrington, Okehampton, Chulmleigh, Otterton, Tiverton and Dartington, where we have new monitoring centres for 2017.

Ruth Testa, who manages the project, said: ‘Knowledge of how bats are using our landscape is key to protecting them. This survey allows us to gain information across a huge part of the county, and will let you find out what bats are using your local area.’

Devon Bat Survey Location Map

The Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project is a 5 year partnership project of 18 organisations led by Devon Wildlife Trust and is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), as well as other funders. The project aims to secure the future of the greater horseshoe bat in Devon; the northern European stronghold of this highly threatened mammal. To do this the project is working with landowners and communities to raise awareness and to improve habitats, as well as running research programmes like the Devon Bat Survey to increase understanding of bat species.

Devon Bat Survey 2017 - Greater Horshoe Bat photo copyright Mike Symes (All Rights Reserved)
Greater Horseshoe Bat - Photo copyright Mike Symes (All rights reserved)

Spring flowers mark launch of free Plant-ID Courses for local verge management project

As the snowdrops seed-heads begin to form, and the daffodils and primroses are in full splendour, the Life on the Verge Biosphere Project, made possible by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), has been busy finalising the dates for its summer programme of free plant identification courses.

These courses are a key part of the project’s ambition to coordinate a network of volunteers to identify, restore and manage species-rich verges across the North Devon Biosphere. A number of ‘special verges’ along roads or other public right of way have already been identified by Devon County Council and require re-surveying as most haven’t been surveyed for several years. Elsewhere there are likely to be many other verges known to local people for their summer displays or particular species of interest which could also be included in the project or a less interesting but prominent Parish verge which could benefit from ‘livening-up’. 

In addition to a splendid display of flowers and enhanced provision for native pollinators under threat, species-rich verges need cutting only once or twice per year, which may help reduce maintenance costs for verges managed by parish or town councils. 

Co-ordinator Clare Manning said 
‘After ensuring all volunteers are aware of necessary Highways Safety provisions to keep them safe, the first step in our project is to get out and survey verges to identify which are already in wildlife rich and in good condition and which will need more significant practical management to restore or create wildlife interest. Verge surveying will form an ongoing part of the project in order to assess the impact of practical management we undertake. Whilst our current focus is to establish our survey programme this summer, we have exciting plans developing for practical activities later in the year. I would encourage people to get in touch if they know of a verge that could benefit from the project, or are simply interested in volunteering with the project’. 

The free plant identification and survey training sessions are located across the Biosphere Reserve to minimise travel distances for volunteers as far as possible. Training dates are:
  • May 30th 5.30-8.30pm at Fremington Quay
  • June 3rd 2-5pm at Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve 
  • June 10th Winsford Bridge East (meet at Arlington Court carpark) 2pm - 5pm 
  • July 1st at Marsland Nature Reserve 2pm-5pm
  • July 12th Meshaw Nature Reserve (near Rackenford) 5.30-8.30pm . 
To book or express interest in the project contact Project Coordinator Clare Manning on 07392 239719 or email 

Adrian Culley, manager of Marsdens Devon Cottages which is raising money for the project by asking anyone who books a holiday through the agency to donate £1 said 
‘Though it can sometimes be easy to take floral displays on our roadside verges for granted, they have a positive impact on our lives; whether you are local person or tourist, it’s hard not to feel uplifted when you walk, cycle or drive past a verge bursting with life and colour during spring, summer and early autumn.’ 

Dave Edgcombe from North Devon Coast AONB said 
‘Having lost 97% of our species-rich grassland since the 1930s, verges along our roads and other public rights of way are one of the few remaining places where our native wildlife can thrive. But species-rich verges do need to be managed to prevent dominant species and scrub from out-competing our wildflowers and that’s where Life on the Verge Biosphere Project comes in, supported by a grant from our Sustainable Development Fund’ 

Other project supporters are Devon County Council Highways, The Devon Biodiversity Records Centre and The North Devon Biosphere Service and Biosphere Foundation.
Tarka Country Trust was set up in March 1999. Following a successful application to the Millennium Commission, the Trust ran the Tarka Country Millennium Awards from 2000 to 2004.  The Objectives of the Trust are: 
  • To preserve for the benefit of the public the natural features of northern Devon whilst respecting any historical features. 
  • To advance the education of the public about conservation and the protection of the environment in northern Devon.