Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Devon Wildlife Trust: Action for Ash

A leading wildlife charity is urging the Government to take action as soon as possible to prevent the spread of a disease which could be devastating to Britain's iconic ash trees. 'Ash dieback' (Chalara fraxinea) is a fungal disease, which has already devastated ash woodlands in other parts of northern Europe, and has now been found in trees in Suffolk, Norfolk and Buckinghamshire. It is estimated that ash trees make up around 30% of England's woodland cover and the thousands of miles of hedgerows which knit our landscapes together. Devon Wildlife Trust's Chief Executive, Harry Barton said: "This could be the biggest threat to our woodlands in modern times. It is essential that we learn lessons from the tragedy of Dutch elm disease and act now to coordinate effort to contain this threat and to protect our woodlands" Last week Defra Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, announced measures to control the spread of the disease. The Wildlife Trusts have urged him to enforce the ban on ash imports and to bring together appropriate scientists, commercial interests, conservation organisations and representatives of landowning bodies to plan an urgent strategy to prevent 'ash dieback' from causing long term damage to the countryside. Harry Barton said: "In the Netherlands we've seen 80% of ash trees affected. We must not let this happen here. If Government and their agencies act decisively now we may be able to check the spread of the disease." The symptoms of ash die back disease are leaf loss and dieback of the tree's crown. Devon Wildlife Trust is currently planning how it will manage this threat within its own reserves, but is urging members of the public to be vigilant and, if anyone suspects that they have seen cases of ash die back, to contact the Forestry Commission Plant Health service on 0131 314 6414. More details about Ash dieback disease can be found at Devon Wildlife Trust's website

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Wider Focus. Stepping over to Exmoor

We have walked many a trail on Exmoor around Brendon Common and Doone Valley but a couple of times a year we step over the border to visit one of Somerset’s most popular attractions, the Tarr Steps. Located in Exmoor National Park between Withypool and Dulverton, there is a car park and toilets close by. (see map). The Exmoor National Park Authority are in the process of revamping the information at Tarr Steps top car park to include new interpretation boards, a new leaflet and circular walk so watch this space. At this time of year you can hear regular Kok-Kok followed by a clapping sound, this is pheasants from a local Shoot, watch out for them flying, flapping, feeding or roosting in the trees. It’s a gentle stroll down beside a lush meadow with views over to the wooded valley. You will eventually pass by Tarr Farm Inn and Restaurant before reaching the main point of interest, the ancient clapper bridge which spans the fast-running River Barle. The lower car park is for disabled visitors only, there is an ice cream kiosk here in the Spring and Summer. The Tarr Steps, like Clovelly is probably one of the most photographed tourist attractions and is popular with amateur and professional photographers as well as happy family snappers. Beside the huge stone slabs is a busy ford, 4x4’s, horse and riders make it look easy but mountain bike enthusiasts normally have a bumpy crossing and receive applause from onlookers if they succeed without falling into the brink. Canoeing is only allowed (by arrangement) downstream of Tarr Steps in order to reduce any potential impact on breeding birds and mammals. Nature lovers please note that the woodland around here is internationally significant for the mosses, liverworts and lichens. It was made a National Reserve in 2004. Local residents include dormice, which make their home in hazel, blackberry or honeysuckle. If you’re lucky you might just spot an otter or an eel. The Jubilee Trail, part of the Golden Walk series, is a short circular walk, signposted with orange waymarks from the bridge. Please scroll down for information on the longer route from Dulverton. The area is particularly colourful towards the end of October when these photographs were taken. The green spikes amongst the rusty leaves and bracken are an indication that come Spring the woods will be filled with bluebells. Please enjoy the slide-show.

Tarr Steps is a 17 span clapper bridge (a bridge made of unmortared stone slabs), the longest of its kind in Britain.  It was first mentioned in Tudor times but may be much older.  The river has silted up over the last century and often now comes over the stones in times of flood.  The bridge has had to be repaired several times as stones of up to two tonnes have been washed up to 50 metres downstream.
Official Golden Walk from Dulverton – A varied walk taking in the Tarr Steps, the beautiful wooded valley of the River Barle, the heathland of Winsford Hill and its wild ponies. Download PDF

View Larger Map
Following the recent flood damage to Tarr Steps, the longest clapper bridge in the country, early estimates show that repairs to the rights of way network around the bridge and across Exmoor National Park are likely to cost thousands of pounds. National Park Rangers are currently busy assessing the damage in more detail..Please click here to find out more information on the Exmoor Floods

Friday, 26 October 2012


FUN BY DAY FESTIVAL 27th October until 4th November
FREE Facepainting between:
11am - 12noon- 2pm - 2.45pm- 3pm - 3.45pm 
Pumpkin Carving between: 12 noon & 4pm (Visit The BIG Sheep facebook page to claim your FREE pumpkin voucher before 31st October. See below for more details.)
Halloween Rides: Collect your Ride Times flyer on arrival to see when the Haunted House, Haunted Tractor Ride, Ghost Train and Witches Flying School is open.
Singing Pumpkins: Visit the Singing Pumpkins or our Talking Haunted Head at any time during the day.
Fancy Dress Competitions: Dress to impress for our fancy dress competitions every day!

FUN BY NIGHT Visit the BIG Sheep during the dark for a completely different Halloween experience on any of the three evening parties: Wednesday 31st October, Thursday 1st November or Friday 2nd November from 6:30pm until 10pm. Tickets for the evening parties must be booked in advance via The BIG Sheep website and tickets are only £7.50 per person
  • Haunted Hayride with Olympic Themed Frights
  • Candlelit Lakeside Ghost Train Ride
  • Haunted House
  • Halloween Pantomime with Woolly the Sheep
  • Pumpkin Parade with Prizes for the best Carved Pumpkins.
  • Ewetopia Indoor Playground & Cafe 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Chance to explore Teign valley beauty-spot. Open Day at Dunsford

Devon Wildlife Trust is running a free open day this month giving people a guided exploration of one of Devon best-loved beauty-spots.The family-friendly open day is being held at the charity's Dunsford nature reserve, which lies in the wonderful Teign Valley between Exeter and Moretonhampstead. It takes place on Saturday 20 October and runs from 11am until 4pm. The event offers a 'behind the scenes' look at the nature reserve at a time of year when its mix of woodland and heathland look at their absolute best with golden leaf colours mixing with the yellows and purples of gorse and heather. A series of guided wildlife walks and fungi forays will be led by Devon Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers. Families can try their hands at practical and creative crafts aimed. A tea and cake stall will be on hand to feed hungry visitors! Jo Pullin from Devon Wildlife Trust said: "This wonderful nature reserve looks stunning at this time of year. Open days make great introductions to our county's amazing wildlife. The day will be a great chance to visit a special piece of Devon's countryside and learn about the animals which call it home. Devon Wildlife Trust has done a great amount of work there over the last few months, so even if you think you know Dunsford I'd ask you to come along, you may be surprised." Those wishing to go on one of the walks and/or fungus forays should book in advance with Devon Wildlife Trust on 01392 279244. For all other activities people are welcome to just come along and take part. Dunsford Nature Reserve lies directly on the B3212 Exeter to Moretonhampstead Road about 3 miles (5 km) from Moretonhampstead. The reserve entrance is near Steps Bridge. Follow event signs on the day. 
Photo: Dunsford Steps Bridge copyright  Duncan Gray/Devon Wildlife Trust 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Leaving a natural legacy. Will for Wildlife Week 15 - 21 October 2012

From cuckoos to curlews, gifts in wills can help Devon Wildlife Trust protect some of our most precious animals and natural places. During Will for Wildlife Week, from Monday 15 to Sunday 21 October, Devon Wildlife Trust is encouraging wildlife-lovers to leave a legacy that will help protect nature for future generations. Across Devon, Devon Wildlife Trust manages 48 special wild places including wetlands, wildflower meadows and urban wildlife nature reserves. A gift in someone's will can play a vital role in allowing this work to continue. Recent legacies received by Devon Wildlife Trust have been put to good use helping provide summer nest sites for swifts, restoring ancient hedgerows, creating homes for dragonflies and improving public access at nature reserves. Devon Wildlife Trust works to protect our species and habitats which are under threat and gifts in wills, of any size, can help with this work. Someone who remembers Devon Wildlife Trust in their will could help to create a new nature reserve, help with work to protect much-loved plants and animals such as providing riverbank homes for otters, or support our work to educate and empower local communities to take action for wildlife. Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, said: "A legacy to your local Wildlife Trust is a very special gift that can do remarkable things to help the wildlife treasures on your doorstep. Please, consider remembering The Wildlife Trusts in your will." Dan Smith of Devon Wildlife Trust, added: "We believe many people would like to write, or update, their will to reflect their current situation but simply haven't got round to it yet. A clearly written will, kept updated throughout your life, is essential to ensure that your wishes are respected." Anyone considering leaving a gift to Devon Wildlife Trust in their should first contact The Trust's Dan Smith on 01392 279244 or email him at

Photo copyright Bryan Thorne

Friday, 12 October 2012

Games People Play (Round 2) The Secret Life of Lichens

Jo Pullin from the Devon Wildlife Trust and Barbara Benfield, a lichen expert, will be at the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW) leading a family event to discover the amazing world of lichens on Sunday 21st. Activities and artwork will be child orientated but we bet adults will learn something too! "Lichen are actually made up of two organisms, algae and fungi and they have to cooperate to survive', explains Jo Pullin, "I'll be running an activity that emphasises this with the children, and they will get to invent their own creature with a symbiotic relationship." There'll be games and crafts, and we'll be creating lichen pendants from clay. Barbara Benfield will demonstrate how lichens can be used to measure air quality and families can go on a foray through the woods, collecting lichens with a spotter quiz sheet. The event is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of CCANW's current programme Games People Play which explores, through a range of exhibitions and activities that are participatory and fun, what games can tell us about 'human nature'; and how a deeper understanding of the advantages of cooperation can help us all to address the needs of the planet at this time. Come and join us and don't worry about wet weather as we have a brand new geodesic dome for workshop activities just a few yards from the centre. See you there. £2.50 per child, accompanying adults free. Bookings and payment via CCANW on 01392 832277 or Organized by Devon Wildlife Trust and CCANW
Games People Play - Round 2 The Secret Life of Lichens Family event Sun 21 October - Two sessions 11.30 -1pm or 2 - 3.30pm 
Wildlife Watch Autumn - photo copyright T. Marshall
Lichens - photo copyright A Taylor
Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World * CCANW, Haldon Forest Park, Exeter, EX6 7XR - Tel: 01392 832277 Email: Website: - Admission free. Open Tuesdays-Sundays and Bank Holidays, 10-5pm Closing at 4pm between November and February

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


The famous Pebble Ridge has always protected Northam Burrows from the ravages of the Atlantic Ocean at Westward Ho! On a damp, grey day we took a rain soaked, windswept walk from the slipway down to the end of the Spit to the estuary and although it wasn't a great day for photographs I thought I would document the alarming erosion taking place. The pictures show where a huge gap has opened up completely devoid of pebbles leaving the Sand Dunes vulnerable and totally unprotected. The Dunes here are now eroding and great clumps of Marram grass can been seen strewn about. Article by Pat Adams (photos 23rd September 2012)

Explore the Westward Ho!, Northam Burrows and the Pebble Ridge with the North Devon Focus Picture Tour

Saturday, 6 October 2012


As Robbie Williams looks to the future with the release of the incredible “Take The Crown”, his ninth studio album and his first for Island/Universal, it might also be interesting to remember his considerable achievements so far. In a career strewn with awards, Robbie has quite simply sold more records than any other British solo artist in history. Having sold a staggering 60 million albums over his solo career, Robbie has also won more Brit awards than any other artist in history ( a grand total of 17, to be precise). Six of his albums appear in the all time top 100 biggest selling albums in the UK whilst Williams appears in the Guinness Book of World Records for selling 1.6 million concert tickets in a day in 2006. In 2010 Robbie Williams won the Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award at the BRITS; later that year his reformation with Take That led to their album becoming the fastest selling album of the century. Since then Robbie has been working on his brand new solo album, recorded in Los Angeles with producer Jacknife Lee. The orchestra on the album was recorded at the fabled Capitol Studios in LA.
The track-listing for “Take The Crown” is:
  • BE A BOY
  • LOSERS (featuring Lissie)
The album is preceded by the single “Candy”, released on October 29. Of this brilliantly addictive classic Robbie Williams pop song, written with Gary Barlow, Robbie says: “It’s a summer song, about a girl who thinks she’s great. And she might be, but she’s a bit nefarious with her ways. Some songs take an age to write and some songs just fall out of your mouth completely formed, and you don’t have to think about it. I don’t know why that fell out of my mouth and out of my brain at that particular time – it just did”.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Great British Walks around Bideford Bay and Hartland

Well summer may be over but the National Trust are still encouraging people to get outdoors and take a walk with them with their walking festival. There are lots of events on as well as trails to follow. The National Trust Walking Festival is  running from the 1st September to the 4th November so there’s plenty of time for everybody to get involved and enjoy the countryside. Click here for Great British Walks around Bideford Bay and Hartland including the Bucks Mills Walk on 3rd October. This great 5.5 mile walk includes a peep inside the evocative artist's studio at Bucks Mills  You can search on the website for a walk near you and then upload your own walk to share with others. Click here to find out about the National Trust Walking Festival near you today