Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Down on the Farm - Six Short Films about Farmers and Farming in North Devon

A short film commission has produced six five-minute documentaries about farmers and farming within the unique environment of North Devon’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The films are a revealing insight into the lives of our farming neighbours and will provoke thought and discussion around our food and where it comes from.

Community film making organisation North Devon Moving Image (NDMI) commissioned these emerging documentary film makers from around the UK to bring their individual film making creativity to the telling of these farmers’ stories.

Amanda McCormack, Creative Director of NDMI says “Since founding North Devon Moving Image six years ago it had always been my intention to make some films about farmers in north Devon. In my mind, it was a project that couldn’t NOT be done. As well as creating, collecting and sharing films it is an important part of our remit to encourage and facilitate new film makers. So, putting the two together, I decided to run North Devon’s first short documentary film commission and (as you will see) it has been an amazing success!”

“Giving the film makers a year in which to make their films has meant that they really got to know their subjects and you will experience the impact of this in the intimate and passionate stories they tell in their Down on the Farm films.

These films are important. They have value in preserving a snapshot of farming today, reflecting and celebrating a very important part of north Devon’s essence. They will do the job of enlightening, inspiring and entertaining those who watch them, connecting people with their farming neighbours and encouraging thought and dialogue around the food we eat.”

 The films are free to watch via the North Devon Moving Image website and thanks to generous funding from local, regional and national organisations, NDMI are able to offer a free screening licence to any groups who would like to show the Down on the Farm films on a big screen.
Down on the Farm - Six Short Films about Farmers and Farming in North Devon
Down on the Farm - Six Short Films about Farmers and Farming in North Devon
North Devon Moving Image CIC is a community film making organisation delivering arts and heritage projects creating, collecting and sharing short films to inspire, enlighten and entertain.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Devon Wildlife Trust calls for token effort to combat dying trees

Leading local conservation charity Devon Wildlife Trust is asking the public to help it address one of the biggest challenges facing the county’s countryside and its wildlife.
It wants shoppers at Tesco stores across Devon to help it gain a major monetary boost from the supermarket giant. It’s asking people to drop the little blue tokens they receive at the check-out into the nearby collection boxes which read ‘Devon Wildlife Trust – Saving Devon’s Treescapes’.
The initiative is the latest effort from the charity in its attempt to address the widespread and disastrous effects of ash dieback disease. Devon Wildlife Trust’s message is very much that ‘every little helps’ in the battle to fill the hole which will be left by the widespread loss of ash trees, one of the most common and best-loved of all our trees.
It is estimated that ash dieback will kill at least 90% of Devon’s ash trees in the coming years. The fungal disease is now established and widespread, having arrived in the UK in 2012. Dead and sickly ash trees are a common sight in the South West. The disease and its impact on landscapes is being compared to that of Dutch Elm Disease which ravaged elm trees in the 1960s and 70s.
In response Devon Wildlife Trust is leading the fightback, with the Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum, in its Saving Devon’s Treescapes project. It wants to work with local communities across the county to plant and then look after thousands of replacement trees. These won’t be ash trees, but they will be of other native Devon species including oak, field maple, aspen , lime, beech, birch and hazel.
Saving Devon’s Treescapes is one of three local causes shortlisted for a Tesco Bags of Help Centenary Grant, which could be worth up to £25,000 to help it in its fight to restore Devon’s rural and urban landscapes. The charity is hoping that the public will get behind it and show their support.
Peter Burgess is Devon Wildlife Trust’s Director of Conservation and Development. He said: 
“The facts are stark. We anticipate losing most of the two million ash trees in Devon. That’s a lot of holes in our hedges, in our parks, gardens, roadsides and riverbanks. Their loss is also a huge blow for our already struggling wildlife. Ash trees provide food, a place to live for a wide range of other plants, animals and fungi, and crucially corridors which connect the web of life in the county.
We know that planting replacement, disease-resistant, native species trees is the most effective response we can make. But to do this we need the public’s help. So, I would ask, please can all Tesco shoppers add their little blue tokens to save Devon’s Treescapes ? By doing so they will be making a world of difference to the local wildlife and landscapes that we all love.”
The chance to help the Saving Devon’s Treescapes project runs in Tesco stores until 31 December 2019.
Devon Wildlife Trust is leading the Saving Devon's Treescapes project on behalf of the Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum, a cross-sector partnership of more than 30 organisations established in 2016.

Sick and dying ash trees. Photo copyright Devon Wildlife Trust (All rights reserved)
Sick and dying ash trees. Photo copyright Devon Wildlife Trust (All rights reserved)

More on Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum at
Devon Wildlife Trust is the county’s leading environmental charity, with 35,000 members. The charity manages 51 nature reserves and six Valley Parks across Devon, including a range of beautiful landscapes such as woodlands, meadows, wetlands and heaths. Devon Wildlife Trust relies on charitable donations, grants and the generous support of its members and the general public to raise more than £4million every year. Money raised is spent maintaining our work for wildlife conservation and education in Devon, for present and future generations. More at

Monday, 25 November 2019

Devon Wildlife Trust becomes owner of major new wildlife haven in North Devon

Devon Wildlife Trust has purchased the 80 hectare wetland which forms part of the northern edge of the Taw Estuary, close to the village of Braunton. The undisclosed purchase price was met by the charity after it received a generous donation from a local resident and bird watching enthusiast, Mr Mark Ansell. The Trust now intends to make the site its latest nature reserve.

After a breach to its sea wall in 2017, Horsey Island now consists of an extensive intertidal salt marsh and wetland. It is a haven for wildlife and is especially important as a feeding and roosting place for thousands of birds including many rarities. A flock of more than 1,200 golden plover has been seen roosting and feeding there. Ospreys, Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis and Great White Egrets have all been recorded there in the recent past. These and many other seasonal sightings have made the site popular among birdwatchers.

With the addition of Horsey Island Devon Wildlife Trust now manages 57 nature havens covering well over 2,000 hectares of the Devon countryside. The Trust aims to improve the site still further as a place for nature and provide opportunities for people to enjoy the spectacular bird life in this quiet corner of North Devon.

Horsey Island has a long and interesting history. The land was reclaimed from the sea in the 1850s to create farmland. Two earth bank defences were constructed to keep the sea out; one an outer wall facing the sea, and the other known as ‘Great Bank’ (not part of the new nature reserve owned by Devon Wildlife Trust), which runs between the site and Braunton Marshes further inland.

However, in recent times Horsey Island’s defences have been compromised. In 2017 a major breach occurred to its outer wall, inundating its interior with sea water. Rising sea levels and more frequent violent storms have since widened the breach. Today its interior is open to the tide and in the place of what was once farmland a fascinating system of tidal creeks, salt marsh and mudflats has been formed.

Peter Burgess, Devon Wildlife Trust’s Director of Conservation and Development, said:
“Horsey is an exciting, dynamic place which is now being shaped by natural processes, dominated by the daily tides which ebb and flow into the reserve. Shifting sands and muds are starting to be colonised by salt marsh plants. It is now an exceptionally important location for roosting and feeding wading birds and stands as one of the best locations in the county to see murmurations of wading birds from the security of the Coast Path”.

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive, Harry Barton, said: 
“The purchase of Horsey Island is a wonderful opportunity. It will allow us to protect and enhance a stunning area of intertidal habitats in North Devon. Over the coming months we will be developing ambitious plans for the site in discussion with local stakeholders so that it reaches its full potential as a stunning place for wildlife and the local community.”

At present Horsey Island has no direct public access, but good views of the site and its wonderful birdlife can be had from the South West Coast Path which runs adjacent to it.

Devon Wildlife Trust has a successful track record of managing newly created tidal wetlands elsewhere in the county. In 2012 it took on the management of a similar nature reserve at South Efford Marsh nature reserve, near Kingsbridge, in South Devon. Since then the charity has successfully overseen its transition from rough grassland to saltmarsh and mudflats. The nature reserve has become one of Devon’s premier birdwatching venues.

 View across Horsey Island. Photo copyright Andy Bell (All rights reserved)
 View across Horsey Island. Photo copyright Andy Bell (All rights reserved)
Golden plover flock with lapwing in foreground (Nb. not taken at Horsey Island). Photo copyright Andy Parkinson (All rights reserved)
Golden Plover flock with Lapwing in foreground (Nb. not taken at Horsey Island). Photo copyright Andy Parkinson (All rights reserved)