Monday, 27 January 2014

Crash, Bang, Wallop. Surging into the New Year

I'm hunkered down writing this while the wind is howling outside, the birds have nipped off to the safety of the hedges and the trees so it’s a good job I did the Big Garden Birdwatch Survey this morning. Crash bang wallop, what a start to the New Year. The interminable rain caused rivers to break their banks, rainbows followed the rain, there were giant hailstones and lightning strikes, landslips and land-slides and that was before the storm Hercules arrived. According to news reports there were "twenty-one severe flood warnings, the highest level, issued in the South and West with 500 alerts in total across the UK" The great Atlantic surge began at the end of December when these photos were taken down at Westward Ho! a few days later the coast was bombarded with monster waves up to 10 metres high. The huge swell wreaked havoc along the coast, thundering waves "towering" over the Renish Tower at Lynmouth, breaching sea walls at Ilfracombe and Instow and even the mighty Pebble Ridge succumbed as the pebbles were flung up off the ridge and over the car park and Go-Cart Track by the slipway at Westward Ho! Diggers were brought in to repair the damage, the car park was still closed last week. As the swirling Atlantic waves surged and unrelenting high tides crashed onto our North Devon Coast, residents, local authorities, highways agencies and emergency services have been left counting the cost. In the aftermath tons of marine debris and litter were deposited on beaches in the area and the SAS (Surfers Against Sewage) community worked together as over 400 volunteers helped at BEACH CLEAN events including Croyde and Woolacombe. It’s amazing that we never tire of watching a raging sea, people stand in wonder, children delight in racing away from the surf, photographers will risk all for that one definitive shot, even surfers are not deterred by the possibility of being caught in a rip tide. However, it’s definitely a dangerous game as you’re never quite ready for that extra big wave so quite rightly the Police and the Environment Agency have urged people to stay away from the sea and rivers at such times. Great care must still be taken while walking on coastal paths, the ground is sodden making it more possible for cliff falls. The Southwest Coast Path Association urge people to “Stay safe and away from the shoreline and cliff edges if you're out on the Coast Path!” Click here for the latest news on cliff falls and Path diversions. Article 25th January 2014 and Pictures Westward Ho! 29th December 2013 PM Adams North Devon Focus
 North Devon Focus Picture Tour

Monday, 20 January 2014

Appledore and Lundy Granite

Friday, 17 January 2014


The Donkeys of Clovelly are the stars of a new short film which launches the North Devon Moving Image (NDMI) film making project. NDMI is a long term project which has been established to create and share a collection of short films examining everyday life in north Devon today and preserve them for future generations. Amanda McCormack, founder of NDMI says “I was inspired to set up the North Devon Moving Image project after watching some fascinating archive films in the North Devon Movie bus a few years ago. It occurred to me that despite the fact that most people are regularly recording video on their mobile phones, tablets and digital cameras, no one is actually preserving this valuable resource.” Amanda added “Coming up with a bright idea is just the start, the tricky bit is actually doing something about it. It takes a lot of hard work and focus to get something like this off the ground but I was delighted to find that once I said it out loud I wasn’t the only one who thought the project was a good idea. With plenty of moral support and some practical help from Jerry Bix at North Devon Plus (who guided us through the business registration) and a grant from the North Devon Coast AONB Sustainable Development Fund, we are now up and running.” Amanda wanted NDMI’s first film to be a good example of how five minutes of video can capture a moment in time while being informative, entertaining and inspirational. “Working with Sue and Bart Kelly at Clovelly Donkeys was just wonderful. We felt really privileged to be given an insight into their lives with the donkeys. They are lovely people and it goes without saying that having big cuddles with the donkeys was quite a treat!” Richard Butler, Sustainable Development Fund Chairman commented “This project is an insightful record which reflects on an iconic part of Clovelly’s rich Heritage. We were very happy to support this inaugural film project by North Devon Moving Image and hope it will be the first of many which will provide an informative record of life in North Devon.” North Devon Moving Image will be building their short film collection in a variety of ways, working with individuals, community groups and film makers in north Devon. 2014 will be a pilot year where NDMI demonstrates different creative film making styles, launches community projects and hopefully inspires other local film makers to get involved. 
To find out more you can visit the NDMI website at or catch up on twitter @NDMovingImage and Facebook North Devon Moving Image CIC.
Photos: Amanda McCormack with Sarah the Clovelly Donkey, Bart and Sue Kelly of Clovelly Donkeys
What viewers have said about the film
Colin Shaddick “A beautiful and quirky film from North Devon.”
Jos Goulding “An absolute delight … well done Sue & Bart” 
Dion Sears “I loved it! Perfect music at the start and I loved how the donkey was part of the interview and kept trying to nibble things, it must have been hard not to laugh. Hope they find someone to pass the job onto … Great stuff, what's next?”

Friday, 10 January 2014

New Year rainbows, soggy walks. and counting birds.

I am feeling a little “under the weather” so I’m not getting much gardening done. According to the RSPB this is the best time to cut back trees or trim hedges before the mating season, which tends to start in February, so I really am eager to start. After such a turbulent start to the New Year, you’d think the birds would be quite wet enough  but this week both the male and female Blackbirds were splish-splashing in the tinfoil bath in the back garden and today a Starling was going at it like a jet skier in a water filled planter in the front garden. So by the look of it the birds  are already beginning to rouse themselves. There is a little more action also on our bird feeder and on the hedgerows and field nearby. Spotted two Buzzards today, the Starlings were enjoying the stubble on the field earlier in December and this week they have been gathering in quantity on the telephone wires  beside the A39. Last week, after the storm, we took a soggy walk on a debris strewn beach at Instow on the Torridge Estuary then moved on to a seemingly tranquil Fremington Quay where a small cluster of seabirds, an Egret and one lone Curlew were quietly drilling down in the mud. We returned via Bideford and spotted a Murmuration swooping and swirling above Bideford Long Bridge. As light was fading we parked awhile on Brunswick Wharf to enjoy the spectacle. Meanwhile back in my garden the Chaffinch, Great Tits, Coal Tits and Sparrows are constant visitors, Mr. Robin is already stating his claim with an occasional song, and the Blue Tits continue to sneak nuts out from under the beaks of our resident Doves which plonk themselves on the feeder. Rainy days have been lit up by rainbows after some short bursts of sunshine. The only down side to this perfect little scenario is a local ginger cat that languishes below the feeder and waits.... What’s the betting that all this action disappears when it’s time for the Big Garden Birdwatch which this year is over the weekend of 25th and 26th January
A little under the weather and ragged round the edges, just like me
The first rainbow of 2014
Lone Curlew off Fremington Quay
Count the wildlife that's counting on you. Bird populations are a great indicator of the health of the countryside. That's why it's so important to take part in surveys like the Big Garden Birdwatch to keep an eye on the ups and downs of the wildlife where we live.  All you need to do is spend an hour over the weekend of 25-26 January counting the birds in your garden. It's that simple! The more people involved, the more we can learn. So, grab a cuppa and together we can all help to give nature a home. For more info and to register, please visit

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Artist finds his muse in former clay quarry

A Westcountry artist has been appointed to the position of 'Artist in Residence' at one of the region's largest nature reserves. Peter Baker moved to the north Devon village of Meeth just two years ago. As a life-long artist, Peter soon found himself searching for a new local muse - to act as a focus for his painting and artistic expression. So when Devon Wildlife Trust bought the 150 hectares of Meeth Quarry in 2012, opening the site as a nature reserve in May 2013, he was delighted to find that this inspiration actually existed right at the bottom of his garden. Devon Wildlife Trust's work over the past year improving the former clay quarry (production ended in 2004) as a place for people and wildlife has provided Peter with a focus for his art. The tracks, paths, woodlands and lakes of the new nature reserve have given Peter a huge new outdoor studio. The nature reserve is now providing the stimulus for a series of works in pen and ink and some watercolour studies. Peter's approach means he often spends hours each day exploring and sketching the reserve. He spoke of his fascination for Meeth Quarry: "'When I moved to the lovely village of Meeth I had no idea that my wife and I were going to be living next to the Tarka Trail and the new Meeth Quarry nature reserve. Peter continued: "The 'mood' of the reserve changes with the weather and the season giving endless inspiration to any painter. Being a marine artist I have had to change my style and method of working, you don't find many trees growing on beaches, but I find this unique challenge exciting and I am looking at nature with young eyes. I hope that my recent artwork will illustrate my curiosity and pure pleasure in depicting my new surroundings." Meeth Quarry is one of 48 nature reserves owned by the charity Devon Wildlife Trust. Tamasine Addie, Community Outreach Officer for the Trust's Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area project, said: "Peter's work is wonderful. It beautifully captures the spirit and wild atmosphere of Meeth Quarry nature reserve. It's just the kind of connection we hoped people in the local community would make with this place. Peter's art may be one man's vision of the reserve, however it's a vision that he very much wants to share. We think his work will really help people see the landscape at Meeth Quarry and appreciate it in a different way. It may even encourage people's own artistic responses to this wonderful place." Tamasine continued: "Peter is working on the first of what we hope will be a series of paintings and studies that showcase elements of the nature reserve in a new light. When complete, we plan to make these accessible with, perhaps, a local show of work or may be even on the nature reserve itself." At the moment you can see a selection of Peter Baker's pen and wash depictions of Meeth nature reserve at the Society of Graphic Fine Art's website or see them at the Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area website, where you can also find out more about the NIA project and its links with local communities. 

'Meeth Quarry Works' - (Image copyright Peter Baker , all rights reserved)
'Autumn' -  (Image copyright Peter Baker , all rights reserved)