Friday, 17 December 2010

Snow on Snow -Time to pack an Emergency Kit

Make Time for Winter,that's the message from the Highways Agency. You never know when you might need an Emergency Pack! It’s easy; just gather together the items below and pack in the car at the start of the winter season, leaving you concentrate on more immediate matters, like how you are going to get there…
Your emergency kit should include:
• Ice scraper and de-icer
• Torch and spare batteries
• Warm clothes and a blanket
• Boots
• First aid kit
• Jump leads
• Mobile phone charger
• Food and a warm drink in a vacuum flask
• A shovel
• Reflective warning sign
• Road atlas
• Sunglasses (the glare off snow can be dazzling)
Don’t forget to take any personal medication too

For more handy tips when driving this winter visit

Make time for Winter

Monday, 6 December 2010

Dartmoor ponies put to good use on charity's reserve near Torrington

Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) has delivered five Dartmoor ponies to its Stapleton Mire nature reserve, near Torrington in north Devon with the aim of improving management of the site and giving the ponies a home for winter. The ponies are on loan from Mitchelcombe Farm near Holne on Dartmoor and will spend the next few months on the nine hectare Culm grassland site, one of DWT's many reserves in this part of the county. John French from Mitchelcombe Farm said: "We run a small business training our Dartmoor Heritage ponies for a future as safe children's ponies or driving ponies ( ). Getting involved in vital schemes such as this enables us to over-winter our ponies off farm as they are growing up, whilst at the same time doing an important job for nature conservation. We hope they will settle in quickly here and do a great job for Devon Wildlife Trust. " The relationship has been brokered by Simon Berry who is Devon Wildlife Trust's Grazing Links Officer. Simon said: "This is just the latest in a series of livestock moves which we have successfully completed this year as part of our landscape scale Working Wetlands project. Stapleton Mire is a great site and home to a range of rare species but this habitat requires light grazing to keep it in tip-top condition. These five new ponies should have a great time and there is plenty of shelter for them in the woodland should the weather turn cold. We are always looking for more Culm grassland sites in need of grazing so people should feel free to get in touch if they need DWT's help."

The ponies arrived at their new home thanks to the support of Exeter based car dealership Vospers. The company has loaned a brand new Ford Ranger 4x4 for Mr Berry to use for delivering livestock and machinery. Rob Marchant from Vospers said: "Vospers is a company which is proud to support DWT.
We are pleased to be part of such great work supporting the Dartmoor Heritage Trust through DWT's Working Wetlands project."

Working Wetlands has been supported by the South West Water, Tubney Charitable Trust, The Environment Agency, Devon County Council, Devon Waste Management, GrantScape and Natural England.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Devon Wildlife Trust "Doves on Dartmoor" Charity Christmas Cards now on sale

Charity's favourite Christmas doves return for another year Following the huge success of its Christmas cards last year, a local charity is preparing for a bumper season in 2010 with a new range of wildlife designs along with the return of a well-loved favourite. Devon Wildlife Trust's best seller which ran out last year was an image of Doves on Dartmoor taken by one of its volunteers. The charity has re-ordered the card so that people who missed out last year are not disappointed this time around. There are twelve designs in the new range which are available to order online, over the phone or by post. The designs include fox, squirrel, robin, horse, stag, and a number of beautiful wintery landscape shots. Phoebe Grubb, DWT's Fundraising Support Officer enthused: 'With Christmas looming fast we're hoping for another great year. Our card sales over the past five years have raised more than £10,000 for local conservation work. We would like to thank all the volunteers that have helped to sell and distribute cards throughout the county along with everyone who has bought the cards. Their help has made a significant difference to our work for wildlife.'  
People who wish to purchase cards should visit or call Devon Wildlife Trust on 01392 279244. The cards are also available through the Cards for Good Causes outlets across the county.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Talent of North Devon’s local photographers is now on show at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

Photo exhibition shows off local talent and the spectacular biodiversity in the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A stunning exhibition displaying the talents of North Devon’s local photographers is now on show at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. ‘North Devon in Photographs’ highlights the unique character of the region and its artists, showcasing the very best entries from this year’s annual Heritage Photographic Competition. Well-known Bideford-based photographer, Graham Hobbs, selected the winners from over 500 entries. Gerry Davidson was declared the over all winner of the competition for his superb Town & Villages entry ‘Pasternoster Snow’. Graham Hobbs presented him with the perpetual cup and an engraved tankard. A separate competition was held for Under 16’s, which was won by 10 year old Robin Tanner who’s Character photograph ‘ The Old Chimney Sweep’ caught the judge’s eye. He was also presented with a special trophy. Once again the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership sponsored a special class, this time celebrating the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. Naturalist and AONB Champion Trevor Beer, MBE, had the hard task of selecting the winners for this Wildlife category. Martha Mills image of a Common Lizard taken at Braunton Burrows gained 1st Place. Rose Day, Chairman of North Devon Coast AONB, was invited to attend the presentation and gave out the awards for this section. She says: “The standard of the entries was excellent, and highlights the depth of photographic talent that exists in North Devon. Graham and Trevor must have had a really difficult time in deciding who the eventual winners were to be.”

Gerry Davidson ‘Pasternoster Snow’
Winners of the open categories were:
Towns & Villages – Gerry Davidson
The Coast & The Sea – Keith Lowther
Characters – Mike Southon
Landscapes – Robin Mellor
Wildlife – Keith Trueman
Anything Goes! – Robin Mellor

Robin Tanner  ‘ The Old Chimney Sweep’
Under 16’s category winners were:
Towns & Villages – Robin Tanner
The Coast and The Sea – Robin Tanner
Characters – Robin Tanner
Wildlife – Robin Tanner
Anything Goes! – Robin Tanner
AONB special Wildlife category winner – Martha Mills

Alison Mills, Museum Development Manager says: “We are delighted with the response we received this year and I'd like to thank everyone for entering.” A full listing of awards can be found on  
The exhibition runs until Saturday, 8th January 2011. The Museum’s winter opening times are 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday and admission is free

Thursday, 18 November 2010

A poetic reminder about the importance of planning before you drive this season!

A Winter's Tale
Twas a night before Christmas, and all through the land
Not a creature was stirring – their journey was planned
They’d made time for winter, their car was prepared
For the family journey: no need to be scared
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Christmas Day danced in their heads,
We would be visiting Grandpa and Ma
Presents all wrapped, in the boot of the car
Time for a rest, we’re leaving early next morn
I sat down by the fire – and stifled a yawn
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my doze to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
The blizzard was awful, his reindeer can’t fly
(a severe weather warning had closed down the sky!)
He must use the motorway, he’d heard they get busy
Poor Santa Claus was all of a tizzy.
So I sat the old fellow down in a fireside chair
And explained to him what I’d done to prepare.
As well as the presents, the car had inside
A shovel and ice scraper, for a less worrisome ride.
An emergency kit and stuff to keep ourselves warm,
Just in case we get stuck (though it’s out of the norm)
We’d topped up the anti-freeze, got de-icer as well
The battery was healthy for a cold winter spell
We’d checked over the tyres, the wipers and lights …
For a clear view ahead through dark, snowy nights
Santa said he’d prepared – no need to panic
Rudolph was rather a good sleigh mechanic!
He’d got plenty of warm clothing and a cosy white beard
But really the state of the traffic he feared!
Travelling hither and thither, in the dark and the snow
With so many people, would the going be slow?
So I switched on the website to show him the view
From motorway cameras – and traffic flow too
His eyes — how they twinkled! He could now see his way
To visit all children before Christmas Day
His journey was planned. His sleigh full of toys
Plenty of time to visit all girls and boys
He whistled to Rudolph and flew off in the night
and I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight
A Happy Christmas to all, where e’er you should roam
Make time for winter – and a safe journey home

For more handy tips when driving this winter, visit

Friday, 12 November 2010

Charity opens new chapter with reserves book

A new book featuring some of Devon's top beauty spots has been released this month. Devon Wildlife Trust - Nature Reserves is the result of nearly 50 year's work by the charity caring for the county's environment. The new book offers portraits of 20 of Devon Wildlife Trust's most stunning nature reserves in every corner of the county. It uses beautiful landscape and wildlife photography - many of its pictures have never been seen before. The book's author and DWT's Communications Co-ordinator Stephen Hussey said: "Devon contains some of the most spectacular wildlife and wild places in the UK, Devon Wildlife Trust has the responsibility of caring for these. This book shows just what a special place our county is and the work that we do as a charity in looking after it." The book has been made possible thanks to sponsorship from South West Water. The company's Chief Executive, Chris Loughlin, said: "South West Water has supported the work of the Devon Wildlife Trust for many years, and it is a pleasure to sponsor this beautiful book celebrating some of our region's best-loved nature reserves."By working in partnership with organisations such as the Devon Wildlife Trust, we hope to play our part inpreserving and protecting the environment forfuture generations to enjoy." The book means there has never been a better time to become a member of Devon Wildlife Trust since every new member will receive the 100 page guide as part of their joining package. Membership of Devon Wildlife Trust costs from as little as £2 per month. People can join by visiting or calling DWT on 01392 279244.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Charity awards volunteers at AGM

Volunteers from around Devon have received awards this month as part of Devon Wildlife Trust's Annual General Meeting. The awards were set up to celebrate local people who give their time to help wildlife. The event was held at The Watermark, Ivybridge on Saturday 30 October. Appropriately, this was national Make a Difference Day an annual celebration which is held each year and aims to promote the idea of volunteering to more people. Eight volunteers were given awards including Dan Best from Torbryan, Graham Curtis from Exmouth, David Fitter from Dolton, Paul Madgett from Braunton, Libby Ross from Whimple, Peter Smith from Exeter, Terry Ackland from Kingsteignton and Sandy Backus from Lustleigh. Dawn Lenn, DWT's Volunteers Officer said: "These volunteers have been singled out as shining examples of people that give their time freely and cheerfully to help with conservation work throughout the county. They give time regularly to help DWT in many ways from helping with DWT's website, fundraising, Local Groups, nature reserves and Wildlife Watch groups for children. The volunteers selected this year are just a handful of the hundreds of volunteers without whom the charity would not achieve so much as we do for Devon's wildlife." For more information about volunteering and how to get involved, visit

Monday, 18 October 2010

Severn Sands - last passage through the Marshes

After being tossed by stormy seas, the Severn Sands dredger has finally come to rest at Yelland. The massive hulk was originally docked at Fremington Quay in March 2007 and remained there until 2008 until it broke its moorings during storms, by January 2009 it had become a wreck beached beyond the Quay. This year it broke its moorings once again when exceptionally high tides flung it across the far side of the estuary where it settled on the riverbank at Heanton Court. The floundering wreck and it’s perilous cargo has put local shipping and the environment in jeopardy and the problems have been highlighted in the local news for some time. Last week, in an operation overseen by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the dredger was towed back across the estuary to the big old jetty at Yelland where it is planned to remove all hazardous materials and clean it up before it is safely dismantled. The hulk, pictured Sunday 10th October, is located, just off the Tarka Trail, in a peaceful, scenic spot beyond the RSPB nature reserve Isley Marsh. Isley Marsh is made up of saltmarsh and intertidal mudflats on the southern edge of the Taw Torridge estuary and lies largely within the estuary SSSI. It is an important haven in the busy estuary for undisturbed feeding and resting birds, especially the wintering flocks of ducks (such as teal) and waders (including significant numbers of curlew, greenshank and dunlin). In recent years, numbers of little egret have increased and, in winter, it is often possible to see spoonbills. NB. RSPB Isley Nature Reserve: Visitor access is restricted to public footpaths, largely outside the reserve itself, but allowing expansive views across the estuary and the surrounding farmland. There is no public parking within two miles, although the Tarka Trail runs along the south side of the reserve, allowing easy foot and cycle access along this former railway track. Click here to find RSPB Nature Reserves in Devon and Cornwall

Alongside "Severn Sands" photo copyright B. D. Adams

In the Area and across the estuary Home Marsh Farm, Instow, Lower Yelland, Braunton Biosphere

View northdevonfocusyelland in a larger map

Friday, 20 August 2010

Championship weekend at South West Extreme

North Devon's South West Extreme Centre was the stunning venue for the blue ribbon mountain bike event “The National Championships”. The two day event saw round five of the National 4x Series (NPS) and the UK's top riders including previous National Champions and professional riders Will Longden and Scott Beaumont were among those who competed. The course was built by International rider, Will Evans. This superb location, set on high ground above The Big Sheep at Abbotsham with panoramic views of Abbotsham Village, Greencliffe and the Kenwith Valley was ideal for spectators who were able to watch the non-stop downhill racing from the start to the finish line. The riders reached speeds of up to 35mph and tackled obstacles such as; double and table tops jumps, a rocks garden, logs, steps, and both flat and burned (banked corners). The track also features a 'Pro-line' on the final straight, with three HUGE 8-10m gaped jumps. An estimated 200 riders raced on the Sunday for the National title in there respective category; Jeuvenile, Youth, Junior, Masters, Vetrians and the Main/ Pro event Senior. A misty morning gave way to glorious sunshine which added to the friendly family occasion, it was Free entry for spectators and the High Ropes centre and climbing wall provided additional thrills and a more lofty view of the event. In between races, local caterers, Priors Fryers served up much needed refreshments including delicious chips, bacon rolls and burgers. 
Photo Pat Adams

Photo B. Adams

Photo B. Adams

Photo Pat Adams

For more about the Big Sheep Click here
Will Longden & Katy Curd are your 2010 National 4x Champions

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Nature reserves pick up boost from landfill tax

A leading South West conservation charity has this month been awarded £10,000 to help fund work at two of its flagship nature reserves. The Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) has been awarded the money by Pennon Environmental Fund. It will go towards conservation work at DWT's Old Sludge Beds nature reserve near Exeter and Halsdon nature reserve near Dolton in north Devon. The work at the reserve in Exeter will help fund new visitor information boards for the Old Sludge Beds which is a small 5 hectare wetland site adjacent to the River Exe. The work will also include installing new sections of boardwalk to help visitors get around the site more easily and a leaflet to describe all the wildlife which people will be able to see there. At the 57 hectare Halsdon site situated on the River Torridge, the money will go towards putting in new fencing along the 1 mile stretch of river edge. The fencing will prevent the cattle that graze the meadows from damaging the riverbank. The money will also help with extending the ponds adjoining the meadow. DWT will also be sowing green hay over an area of around 1 hectare to improve the biodiversity value of the grassland. Matt Boydell, DWT's Land Management Manager said: "This is a significant boost for us and will help us improve these important reserves in Exeter and North Devon. Managing nature reserves for the benefit of wildlife is an expensive business and we welcome this new funding that will allow us to add major upgrades to these hidden gems." For more information about these sites visit

Halsdon Nature Reserve, near Dolton

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Young trainees given chance to build new life in conservation

A local wildlife charity is this month looking to recruit two young people to join its Estate Team. The team was established in 2009 with the aim of helping people find work in the field of conservation. The new trainees will join Devon Wildlife Trust's nature reserves officers for a minimum of six months. They will be provided with free accommodation at the charity's Woodah Farm in the Teign Valley. They will also receive a range of professional training such as first aid, chainsaw and brushcutter use, along with the other essentials skills required to become the estate workers of the future. Two of the recruits from last year have already found jobs in the sector following a year of intensive conservation work looking after the charity's nature reserves around the county. DWT's Edric Hopkinson who is looking after the new recruits said: "This scheme is a great way for young people with conservation qualifications, but without experience, to find a job with one of the region's conservation organisations. Being able to offer free accommodation has made it all the more appealing for them. They also provide essential help with the many jobs on Devon Wildlife Trust's reserves, keeping them in the best possible condition for wildlife." The project gained an extra boost this year thanks to a successful membership appeal along with £1000 raised by DWT's Halsdon Local Group. The money was used to offset the costs of providing the volunteer places.
The deadline for applications is 30 August. For more information about the posts visit

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Teddy Bears on Parade

25th July. Teddy Bears on Marine Parade, Instow actually and what a colourful picture it made. All the dollies and teddies had been donated and were being sold to raise funds for Instow Church, so watch out for them when you visit Instow this summer. First on parade was the mad looking flame haired rag doll, I was happy to pay my £1, and "I called her Annabel".

Freedom at last - Annabel on Instow Beach
We had parked by the Tarka Trail behind the North Devon Cricket Club and walked through the sand dunes beside the old thatched Score Box. We heard the sound of leather on willow and “Oz that”. Cricket on a Sunday; so quintessentially British! The sand dunes here were covered in bell flowered Evening Primrose, wild celery, scurvy grass and sea mayweed. There were several black and yellow striped caterpillars camouflaged in the marram grass.
Enjoying new found freedom, Annabel at Woolsery Show 26th July 2010
North Devon Cricket Club, founded 186 years ago, was the home club of the late international test umpire David Shepherd.

Click here to see more pictures of Instow on the Taw/Torridge Estuary

Saturday, 31 July 2010

"Don’t just drive. Discover" says the Highways Agency

Are we nearly there yet?’ It is the dreaded question which will be heard in cars across the country as the summer holidays get into full swing, and which usually signals the tipping point for tempers. The journey to a holiday destination is often considered the final hurdle between holidaymakers and the break they’ve been looking forward to. But with 37 million people choosing to holiday at home last year, it seems the ‘staycation’ is here to stay. And that means those journeys, on holiday routes at peak times, are set to be even busier. Rather than driving you to distraction, the holiday journey could actually take you on a journey of discovery. England is crammed full of fun, fascinating and beautiful places to visit within easy reach of main roads, so it’s easy to break up your journey and turn it into an adventure. Stopping off en route is also a great way to avoid traffic congestion – and the ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ brigade. Using our simple travel tools you can plan a stop-off either before you set off or en route.
And to make sure your adventure is a safe one:
  • Ensure your vehicle is serviced and ready for the journey
  • Check screen wash and tyre pressures including caravans and trailers
  • Don’t overload a roof rack or bike rack. Ensure you firmly secure it
  • Sun glare can be hazardous for driving. Take a good pair of sunglasses
  • Travel prepared for delays by having an emergency kit including a map, warning triangle, fluorescent jackets, first-aid kit, relevant medication, food, water and warm/waterproof clothing
  • Take regular breaks on long journeys
The Highways Agency is responsible for England's motorways and trunk roads on behalf of the Department for Transport. For more summer driving tips please visit 

Mobile Website & iPhone App: You can view our website from your mobile at For more information on our iPhone app visit: REMEMBER never use your mobile whilst driving.

CLICK HERE to visit the Highways Agency web site 

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Culm Advisory Group witnesses progress at grassland demonstration farm

Devon Wildlife Trust this month invited the members of the Culm Advisory Group to see the progress of the restoration of wildflower rich meadows at its Dunsdon Demonstration Farm near Holsworthy. The group which is made up of staff from Natural England, The Environment Agency, Westcountry Rivers Trust, DWT and FWAG spent the morning at the charity's Working Wetlands Project office at Cookworthy discussing the issues that have arisen over the past six months relating to the management of Culm grassland in North Devon. In the afternoon the group was taken to the demonstration farm where they were able to witness the progress of the series of fields which have been restored from improved grassland back to species rich meadows. The process has been funded by Natural England through the Special Projects scheme within Higher Level Stewardship and has included all the new fencing, gates and hedgebanks that have also been re-created. Devon Wildlife Trust's Becky Aston, who has been overseeing the project, said: "It was great to be able to show off the Working Wetlands demonstration farm which has been coming on leaps as bounds since we did the initial soil testing and stripping back in 2008. This was the ideal time to bring members of the various agencies that have an interest in Culm grassland to show how the pioneering techniques have been employed at the site which is owned by a local landowner. The site was chosen as it lies between two sections of DWT's Dunsdon National Nature reserve and the work will help rare species moves through the area making it more robust. Following the soil stripping we sowed a range of wildflowers and grasses including oxeye daisy, birdsfoot trefoil and ragged robin and we have been pleased with the range of species that have flowered this year." One of the group which attended the day, Rob Dixon from Natural England said: "We were all very impressed with how the sown sward has taken - a great improvement on what was there before. This is a good example of what can be achieved through Higher Level Stewardship, with our two organisations working together and with a committed agreement holder who is keen to improve the environmental value of his holding in this very important area." Working Wetlands has been supported by the Tubney Charitable Trust, South West Water, The Environment Agency, Devon County Council, Devon Waste Management, Grantscape and Natural England. Photo: Dunsdon demonstration farm copyright DWT
Culm Advisory Group witnesses progress at grassland demonstration farm (Ref: DWT 13 July 2010)

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Landing facilities delay Severn Link service between Ilfracombe and Swansea

Due to the delay in establishing landing facilities and an overnight lay-over berth in Swansea, original plans to commence services for the Severn Link Ferry in the spring of 2010 have now been postponed. Geoff Metcalf, Managing Director of Severn Link said, “This is bitterly disappointing but, unfortunately out of our control. Although both ferries are up and running and have undertaken sea-trials without appropriate landing facilities we clearly cannot operate or be granted a full licence by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Services are set to run between Ilfracombe and Swansea and, following the unprecedented level of interest, planning for further services between Cardiff / Penarth, Ilfracombe and Minehead is well underway. But no services can run until appropriate, MCA approved landing facilities and an overnight lay-over berth, which acts as the company’s official operating point, have been completed at Swansea. Geoff Metcalf said, “The council are working closely with Severn Link to ensure some landing facilities will be available to launch the service, although not exclusively to Severn Link, but as part of their overall development plans. Severn Link would like to thank Swansea City Council for their ongoing support. We have been offered a temporary berth from August, but this is so late in the season, that by the time the MCA have had chance to do their final checks and we’ve run our trials from this point, we will be well into the autumn. So, while it is possible that we may be able to run some limited trial services it is with huge regret that we will have to postpone the full launch until next year.Assuming that permanent facilities will be made available by early next year, it is therefore likely that both the Swansea-Ilfracombe and other routes will launch at the same time. Geoff continued, “We’ve had a remarkable response from the public and from businesses on both sides of the channel. We would like to thank everyone for their enormous support and enthusiasm and assure you that we are all working as hard as we can to bring even a limited or restricted service to fruition as soon as possible. In the meantime, we’re continuing to work with investors, local authorities and the Welsh Assembly Government to put into place the necessary inshore infrastructure at Swansea and on the other projected routes so we can run a fully comprehensive service in 2011.”

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Devon School Names the Severn Link Ferry

When ferry operator Severn Link recently purchased its first two 'FlyingCat' fast ferries, there was just one thing that was missing - brand new names to reflect the vessels' new ownership and the area they would now be servicing. So, for a helping hand in finding just the right name, Severn Link turned to the bright and creative minds of youngsters from North Devon and South Wales.Entries came in from schools from all over both regions, with clever suggestions inspired by local heroes, historical events and even wildlife and fauna found in the area - but eventually it was Parracombe School in the heart of Exmoor, which was chosen as overall regional winner for South West England by nominating the Ilfracombe cove Rapparee as its chosen name. Geoff Metcalf, Managing Director of Severn Link, said of the winning entry, "We had so many exciting and imaginative names suggested by schools that it was very hard to choose an overall winner. However, the children of Parracombe School particularly excelled - patently putting much thought and research into their entry. It's a perfect name for a Severn Link ferry, for it helps promote one of the many beautiful points of the North Devon coastline, which will be one of the biggest draws for travellers coming from South Wales." Mrs Julie Ansell, Key Stage Two teacher at Parracombe School said, 'The children are absolutely thrilled that their name was chosen to be adopted by the Severn Link ferry. Being such a small school, it means that each child's needs are catered for and children are nurtured in a happy, family centred environment with a creative curriculum. That's why we were able to adapt our learning towards historical places and places of interest for the competition. The children went on walks, discovered local information, wrote stories and poems and created artwork to support the entry for the competition. The children drew tr easure maps, wrote poems and even combined the competition into their Maths lessons by using it to learn about points of the compass.' As part of their prize, the children of Parracombe School will be invited to a special Severn Link launch event to see the ferry for themselves and will also experience a ferry trip to visit the winning school on the South Wales side which has named the sister Severn Link fast ferry, to learn more about life in Wales and commence a local cultural and educational twinning exercise. Parracombe School, which is part of the West Exmoor Federation, is a small rural village school in Exmoor dating back to 1830, with just 29 schoolchildren in attendance. It's an integral part of the local community, serving the farming families of the area and participating in many local activities such as the May Day Revels. Geoff Metcalf said of the ferry naming competition, 'The objective of the competition was not only to get local children involved in the naming of the ferries that they'll see out on the waters of the Bristol Channel on a regular basis, but also to help them learn more about the connections between South West England and South Wales. Severn Link isn't just concerned with transporting travellers from coast to coast on a fun, fast and affordable ferry service, but is also about helping to bring two communities closer, socially, culturally and economically. We're looking forward to welcoming the children of Parracombe School on board to help them experience how exciting - and educational - ferry travel can be.' Severn Link is due to commence operations across the Bristol Channel this spring, connecting key areas of South West England and South Wales via a regular fast ferry service. For more information on the countdown to the launch of the ferry service, visit or follow Severn Link on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Second ferry for Severn Link - FastCat Ryde’ to join sister ship

Ferry operator Severn Link has completed the two vessel deal with ferry operator Wightlink, taking ownership of the ‘FastCat Ryde’ which will service routes across the Bristol Channel as from this year. The 34 knot Kvaerner ‘FlyingCat’ passenger catamaran, which carries up to 360 passengers, has now undergone exterior renovations and repaint and will shortly join its sister ship, the former ‘FastCat Shanklin’, in Swansea, paving the way for the first modern regular ferry service to link the shores of North Devon and South Wales due to commence this spring. The first ferry, which is currently completing an extensive interior refit in the docks at Swansea’s SA1, has been the focus of much public interest, with crowds of people turning out earlier this year to watch it make a brief appearance at Ilfracombe on its way from Portsmouth to its new home in Swansea. The completion of the purchase of the second vessel signals a landmark moment for Severn Link, which is now finalising a series of routes to roll out through 2010. Geoff Metcalf, Managing Director of Severn Link, said, “We are very happy to shortly be able to introduce the second ‘FlyingCat’ to her new home in South Wales. This is the next major step in being able to commence regular Bristol Channel crossings with a fun, fast and affordable ferry service which will make travelling from the South West of England to South Wales much easier than ever before.”
Severn Link is currently on the countdown to announce a launch date for the first route to cross from Ilfracombe to South Wales. Schedules, pricing and booking information will shortly be available on and through its online Facebook and Twitter channels.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Heating up down Peppercombe.

Spring is busting out all over!  Peppercombe 17th April 2010. Warm, sultry with just a slight breeze, hazy blue sky. Welcome sight of a lone swallow on the Horns Cross telephone wire. On the walk down saw two Peacock butterflies each one settling for a while on the track, soaking up the sunshine. Also saw three bumble bees, one Orange Tip which was too flighty to photograph and  an Orange Tip Butterfly, both a Large White and Small White butterfly, two twittering, flirty coal tits and a Blackbird. The white cotton-wool like fluff high on the coast path is flowering blackthorn which is often mistaken for Hawthorne. Blackthorne always flowers earlier and unlike Hawthorne (May Flower) it flowers before the leaves are formed. Good to see the meadows are now dotted with an abundance of lesser celandine and primroses. Other wild flowers making a first appearance include Greater Stitchwart, Wood Sorrel, Wild Strawberry, Ground Ivy, White Hairy Bitter-cress, Red Campion, Alexander, Daisy, Dandelion, Dog Violets and Daffodils. As usual I took a picture of the first budding Ransom (wild garlic) which will soon be accompanied by hundreds on the banks and beside the trail. In the next couple of weeks their pungent smell will permeate the air.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Swallows and waterfalls

Nice to know that whilst the world's airlines remain grounded due to the Icelandic Volcano, those brave little swallows have still managed to make their epic journey from the other side of the ocean to arrive safely in North Devon. Isn't nature wonderful!
I spotted the first lone swallow on the telegraph wire at Horns Cross on the 17th April. Regular as clockwork I made a note in my diary last year and the first wave was also dated 17th April. I was delighted to see that there were larger numbers up the coast at Spekes Mill Mouth on Sunday 18th, about 30 could be seen swooping and swirling up above the cliffs and over the waterfall. I also saw a Kestrel hovering on the wind.
By the 19th the numbers on the Horns Cross wire had swelled to 6. I am now on the lookout for the swifts and house martins, the house martins tend to send an advanced party round about the 24th April each year. Let us know if you see them in your area.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Peppercombe - Barely Spring

Barely Spring Greens. Peppercombe Valley 27th March. Bee, beetle and a buzzard and that’s about all. The long, long March into April and at last Peppercombe is juddering to life as spring greens begin to emerge. Spring greens include the fresh leafy spikes of Alexanders, wild Bluebells, Lesser Celandine, Primroses, Foxgloves, Dogs Mercury, Ransoms and Spring Beauty. There are swathes of yellow flowering, creeping  pimpernel (?), a low growing plant which loves the damp ground where the winter rains spill down the gutter at the side of the track creating a mini stream. I saw one bee and the resident buzzard did a fly-by, the busy beetle, pictured, was doing a circuit of its own mini arena as I approached then scurried down the bolthole. Still only a couple of posies of primroses on the way down and very low growth on the Alexanders which at this time last year were tall and in flower as were the daffodils by the Pink cottage and under the red beech. Most noticeable is the emptiness on the cliff bank beside the bungalow, only five groups of primroses in bloom today. I miss the golden gorse which was once very prevalent here, only a couple of bushes remain. The gorse made the perfect frame for the picture of the bungalow which was taken on 21st April last year. The catkins are now in abundance, there are new leaves on the honeysuckle and pussy willow is in various stages of growth

Big Garden Bird Watch 2010 Results

It's Official small birds struggled to beat the snowy winter
Nearly 530,000 people took part in Big Garden Birdwatch 2010 and counted over 8 and a half million birds. The RSPB celebrated last year with the arrival of long-tailed tits in the top 10 for the first time, suggesting they were getting used to feeding on seeds and peanuts in hanging feeders and on bird tables. However, smaller bodied birds are particularly susceptible to the cold, having to eat almost continuously to stay alive, so they were very keen to get your counts and see just how the bad weather at the start of the year affected bird populations. As predicted, birds like the long-tailed tit, coal tit and goldcrest were the worst affected, with average numbers of all three species dropping significantly since the 2009 survey.
Country birds get in on the count
The weather was also responsible for many more sightings of countryside birds like fieldfares, redwings, bullfinches and yellowhammers in gardens. More usually found in fields and farmland trees and hedgerows, these birds visit our gardens for food when they can't find enough in their usual haunts. Other members of the thrush family, including song thrushes, mistle thrushes and blackbirds, were seen in much higher numbers this year, also looking for food. An unusually high number of blackcaps were also seen. In this harsher winter we might have expected their numbers to decline, but more blackcaps than usual were discovered on bird tables. Just like the long-tailed tit, this suggests that blackcaps are adapting their feeding behaviour to take advantage of bird tables and feeders, and therefore becoming more visible in gardens.
Still in decline
Although the RSPB were particularly concerned for small birds this cold and snowy winter, some of our most familiar garden birds have also continued to suffer huge declines. House sparrows might have retained top spot for the seventh year running, but in the last five years alone these chirpy birds have declined by 17%. Blackbirds rose from third to second place, while starlings dropped to third - the first time they have been out of the top two in more than 10 years.

The 2010 Big Garden Birdwatch top 10; Position Species Average per garden
1 house sparrow 3.77
2 blackbird 3.28
3 starling 3.13
4 blue tit 2.58
5 chaffinch 2.19
6 woodpigeon 1.91
7 robin 1.49
8 great tit 1.39
9 collared dove 1.33
10 goldfinch 1.29

Related Article North Devon Snow Party is Over & Big Garden Bird Watch results 2009

Monday, 22 March 2010

Ilfracombe, in the sunshine & out of season

Ilfracombe and Around 7th March
The sun has come out at last so an early start meant that time and tide were on our side as there was still plenty of water in Ilfracombe Harbour. The sunny photos here belie the fact that overnight temperatures dropped to minus 9. This beautiful Victorian resort with its grand villas and terraces was indeed bathed in sunshine so it is hard to believe that we are still in the grip of one of the longest cold spells. In the sunshine and out of season, Ilfracombe Harbour still poses a picturesque vista despite a couple of the buildings undergoing a pre-season paint job. In a month's time the boats, now in dry dock on the quayside, will be bobbing side by side in the harbour and the Ilfracombe Princess will resume its popular wildlife coastal tours. The “working” side of the harbour is strewn with fishing nets and lobster pots,
boatmen are busy giving their crafts the once-over and there is a pervading smell of fish and ships varnish. High
above the pier sitting atop Lantern Hill is St, Nicholas’ Chapel, said to be the oldest building in Ilfracombe. This natural harbour sits amongst spectacular cliffs and coves nestling between the Exmoor National Park to the East and North Devon’s Gold Coast to the West. In June the town celebrates its Victorian heritage with “Victorian Week” an eight day extravaganza of shows, parades, stalls and dressing up culminating in the town criers competition and the “Last Night of The Proms” with
fireworks to music over Capstone Hill. Ilfracombe is also renowned for its award winning floral displays which adorn the streets and promenade, by the summer the newly planted flowers beside the Bandstand will be in full bloom. The conicle shape in the background is the Landmark Theatre and Cafe, the Ilfracombe Tourist Information Centre is located here on the seafront,
Places to Visit: Ilfracombe Aquarium, Ilfracombe Museum, Ilfracombe Lifeboat Station, Chocolate Emporium, The Tunnels, The Landmark Theatre & Cafe, Chambercombe Manor, Torrs Walk, boat trips to Lundy Island, Ilfracombe Wildlife Cruises. Photos copyright Pat Adams all rights reserved

Friday, 12 February 2010

Peppercombe - Hanging around waiting for Spring

Peppercombe 10th February. Fair-weather, at last, so a chance to catch up on life in the Peppercombe Valley. Birds chirping and twittering, spot a tiny coal tit in the trees. As I reach the bridge a pheasant crosses the trail then takes off squawking and flapping noisily taking cover in the trees. Cut off from his mate now, who is on the other side of the track, they continue to call back and forth to each other. I also spotted cute little wren, two robins and two great tits. It would be so nice to recognise the birds from the sound of their tweets. Spring seems to be coming much later than 2009 and the catkins are sparse mainly because the trees/hedges have been cut back. Early risers include snowdrops, the flowers not fully open, in their usual spot, one lesser celandine flowering in a sheltered sunny hideout by the fork. There are, however, plenty of interesting lichens/moss and fungi including the colourful red Pixie cup. In 2009 there were several of them peeking out of the undergrowth on the high banks. I spot the first flowering primroses on the high bank by the Bungalow, just three clumps so far. It's a good clear day, at last, sunny with blue skies. From the top of the coastpath steps Clovelly is lit up and Lundy so clear I could see the fields on the top of the island. There was a yacht in the Bay, a tiny speck offshore. The ancient trees seem to be depleted year by year after winter storms but the broken branches lie where they fall and become home to the many woodland plants, mosses/liverworts and rusty lichens.

Monday, 18 January 2010

The North Devon Snow Party's over!

The North Devon’s snow party is finally over. In December 2009 there was a cold snap and snow flurries ensuring the UK enjoyed that elusive White Christmas. At the beginning of January a winter flock of lapwings on the field heralded the start of what was to be the coldest and longest snow spell for years bringing treacherous conditions on the minor roads in North Devon coast and country areas. (The last time we experienced such extreme arctic conditions was when we were snowbound in Croyde in the early eighties, our first ever winter in North Devon.) School children were thrilled to be home building snowmen but it was a testing time for local services and those not able to go out for the duration. Congratulations are due to our rural postman who braved blizzard conditions to keep the Royal Mail coming. This was also a time to keep watch on the local bird population as feeding stations were even more vital. Taking advantage of the nuts and seeds on our garden bird feeder were, in various numbers, robin, chaffinch, greenfinch, pied wagtail, house sparrow, dunnock, blue tit, blackbird, willow tit, great tit, mistle thrush, collared dove, field fare, squabbling starlings and for the first time a stunning bull finch. Rising temperatures and gale force winds on the 15th January marked the end of the winter wonderland. By the 16th January the last traces of the children’s snowmen, built on the 5th January were washed away by torrential rains. On the 17th January the field became a vital feeding ground for a flock of approximately 30 fieldfare. Ominously by Monday 18th January, the field is visited once again by an ever larger flock of between 141 and 150 lapwings. It will be interesting to see which birds hang around for the Big Garden Bird Watch, the RSPB's biggest event of the year which will be held over the weekend 30 and 31 January and encourages people all over the country to count the birds in their garden for just an hour over this one weekend. It's very simple to take part and provides the RSPB with information and patterns in bird numbers that help them prioritise their conservation work. They are also celebrating Big Garden Birdwatch with a special promotional incentive to join the RSPB - new members joining between 19 January and 31 March can choose a FREE RSPB classic apex nest box (normally £11.99) as their free joining gift. Join the RSPB today
Big Garden Birdwatch Results for 2009. According to the RSPB for the first time in the survey's 30-year history, the long-tailed tit has flown into the Big Garden Birdwatch top ten. This highly sociable species increased by an astonishing 88% from last years count. They believe this pleasant increase is because this insect-eating bird has adapted to feeding on seeds and peanuts at birdtables and from hanging feeders. This result highlights perfectly the positive impact that our feeding and bird care can have on some birds. Record-breaking celebration. Well over half a million people celebrated the 30th year of the Birdwatch, making this the biggest bird survey in the world. A huge increase from humble beginnings in 1979 when just 30,000 children took part. Big Garden Birdwatch 2009 was held on 24 and 25th January 2009.
BIRDS ON TOP: The 2009 garden top ten:
Position Species Average per garden
1 House Sparrow 3.70
2 Starling 3.21
3 Blackbird 2.84
4 Blue tit 2.45
5 Chaffinch 2.01
6 Wood Pigeon 1.85
7 Collared Dove 1.44
8 Great tit 1.40
9 Robin 1.36
10 Long-tailed tit 1.34

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Bideford Bay Beachcombing

Wind Chill Factor Westward Ho! -3rd January 2010. All photos,articles copyright P. M. Adams North Devon Focus all rights reserved. It’s freezing cold but dry and sunny so perfect for a New Year stroll on the beach at Westward Ho! At the slipway we move aside for three horse riders taking advantage of the two mile stretch of firm sand and a rare opportunity to enjoy an uninterrupted gallop. The tide is a long way out thus exposing the hulk of one, of two, rarely visible Westward Ho! wrecks. Took some photos from different angles but my hands were so numb with the cold that I couldn’t actually feel the shutter button. As I was testing a new lens, I decided to take close up shots and made my way up the beach, head down searching for interesting sand formations, sea creatures, seaweed, shells and pebbles on the lower and middle shoreline moving towards the strandline and the Pebble Ridge. Even after recent storms this is a wonderful clean beach worthy of its’ Blue Flag status. We spent about an hour beachcombing and saw plenty of razor shells, periwinkles, whelks, mussels, tiny crabs and other crustaceans, kelp, wrack, sea urchins and lots of sea potatoes. Sea pototoes or heart-urchins are, weirdly, heart-shaped and covered in fur! They are normally hidden beneath the sand and only appear on the surface when washed up after stormy weather. Suddenly the noise of the wind and crashing surf was completely drowned out by the loud thundering hooves of the horses as they galloped back down the beach from Sandymere. Only three horses, but the sound carried some distance so one can only imagine the sound of the 500 horses in the Charge of the Light Brigade. The beach is still practically deserted, a few dog walkers, one lone hardy surfer and one kite buggy circling far off beside the sand dunes. Northam Burrows Country Park is beyond the Pebble Ridge at Westward Ho! on the Atlantic Heritage Coast. The Northam Burrows Country Park, at the mouth of the Taw Torridge Estuary, is a designated site of scientific interest and forms part of the United Nations Biosphere Reserve. If you can identify any of the shorelife in these pictures please let us know.