Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Hailstones and High Paths

It's the same every year, just when you think it's Spring and time to relax, nature throws a few curve balls. or hailstones as it was today. It was freezing, deceptive, it looked so warm and sunny but in the space of half an hour we had endured three seasons in one. Nevertheless it was great to be out so I could see what Mother Nature has been doing in the wooded valley above Bideford Bay. Not much to speak of as yet, spotted a sprinkling of Primroses, a couple of Dog Violet and a single Red Campion. The first flowering Alexander complete with Yellow dung-fly and abundant Spring Beauty with their huge heart-shaped leaves glistening with rain drops. The ancient trees have taken a beating over the winter but are at last bursting into life. The old track has taken a beating too, looking more like a highway now that the verges either side have been flattened so much so that the wild garlic spears look like lettuce sticking out of an overfilled salad sandwhich..There is minimal traffic allowed here, thank goodness,  just the holidaymakers at the cottages and work vehicles but even so absolutely no consideration seems to be given to the delicate flora. The drivers are wandering further and further over the verges, the huge wheels churning up, then pounding the ground. Last year the wall on the ancient bridge was badly damaged and had to be rebuilt, and today I was sad to see that there is a hole and a crack on the other side. A little "driving with due care and attention" pretty please! Walked along the South West Coast Path beside Peppercombe Meadows and watched the billowing clouds over Clovelly and Gallantry Bower. I never get tired of the ever-changing view across Bideford Bay. Articles and photos copyright Pat Adams 22nd March 2014.

Explore the Coast and "Country" Side of Bideford Bay with the North Devon Focus Picture Tour

Friday, 14 March 2014

Seminal Motown artist, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas come to Barnstaple this April.

South West Promoters Hold It Down are proud to bring one of the original and best loved soul artists of all time to Barnstaple next April. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were among the most successful groups of the Motown roster during the period 1963-1967. In contrast to other Motown groups such as The Supremes and The Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas were known for a harder, R&B sound, typified by "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave", "Nowhere to Run", "Jimmy Mack" and, their signature song, "Dancing in the Street". During their nine-year run on the charts from 1963 to 1972, Martha and the Vandellas charted over twenty-six hits and recorded in the styles of doo-wop, R&B, pop, blues, rock and soul. Ten Vandellas songs reached the top ten of the Billboard R&B singles chart, including two R&B number ones. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Martha and the Vandellas amongst the 100 greatest artists of all time.

Sun 13th April, The Factory Petroc, Oakwood Close, Roundswell Ind Estate, Barnstaple, Devon EX31 3NJ
For more info go to www.holditdown.org
TICKETS £17.50 plus booking fee
www.seetickets.com – 0845 2200261
North Devon Theatres Box Office 01271 324242
Beats Workin’ 01271 321111


A SPONSORED WALK WITH A DIFFERENCE Raising money for Dogs Helping Kids in conjunction with The Jaden Cornelious Foundation
Jaden Cornelious, Tamsin Ball and Taya Lambden
Visitors will get to listen to the dulcet tones of Jaden Cornelious, one of North Devon's hottest talents who will be singing a rang of his popular classical crossover songs as well as some new ones and may even slot in a few pop songs. Jaden will be joined on stage by Tamsin Ball, another local classical crossover singer who has performed on the West End, The O2 Arena and the Lourve in Paris. Supporting Jaden and Tamsin will be 14 year old local girl Taya Lambden from Park Community School.


Enjoy a Family Evening of Fun - Watch a Fantastic Fire show, Cheer on the brave fundraisers as they walk on fire, Enjoy Ewetopia Indoor Playground, Listen to Jaden Cornelious, Tamsin Ball and Taya Lambden perform AND you'll all be fundraising for charity as all entry costs are to be given to
Dogs Helping Kids. Doors Open 6.00pm Fire Show : 6.20pm Fire Walk : 7pm £3 entry pp or Family Ticket £10 (2+2) Children Under 3ft FREE FREE ENTRY for season ticket members All entry proceeds will be given to Dogs Helping Kids


BIG Sheep Contact Information: Telephone: 01237 472366 Website: www.thebigsheep.co.uk
Festival of Fire
DEVON'S HOTTEST FIRE ENTERTAINER COOLHAND LUKE Festival of Fire We will be hosting one of the hottest nights of the year on this Saturday 15th March, combining a charity fire walk with a fire juggling and spinning show. You've all heard the idiom 'If you play with fire, you'll get burnt - Coolhand Luke, North Devon's hottest fire entertainer who has been playing with fire for years has yet to be burnt!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

A Week of Wildlife at Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve

Devon Wildlife Trust's Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area is planning a special week of wildlife inspired science and art events at its Meeth Quarry nature reserve near Great Torrington. The charity is staging a weekend of free events on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd March, running from 11am-3pm on both days. People can drop in when they wish or stay all day. The theme for these events is 'Artists and Scientists'. Visitors are being encouraged to come along to discover how artists draw inspiration and scientists find fascination in the natural world. And they will also be encouraged to explore their own artistic and scientific interests in a packed two-day's of activity. On Saturday there will be an opportunity to join a painter, a poet and a soil scientist in a series of hands on activities which will draw on Meeth Quarry's unique landscape. On Sunday the focus will be the search for mammals, amphibians and reptiles in the company of experts, along with a music workshop with drumming and animal songs inspired by the nature reserve. Tamasine Addie, Community Outreach Officer for the Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area said: 'During the weekend we want to give people the chance to help us map Meeth Quarry nature reserve, building up a picture of the landscape from different points of view." Tamasine continued: "By 'mapping Meeth' in this way we get a chance to see all the benefits it has to offer for wildlife and local people alike. We hope to see lots of wildlife on site - and lots of people enjoying it too!"
The weekend is being followed by a further event aimed at local school teachers. Tuesday 25th March sees Meeth Quarry open its doors for teachers to find out ways in which they might use the nature reserve as an 'outdoor classroom' with their pupils. The evening will also include a short walk to explore areas of the site suitable for school visits. This session will run from 4-6.30pm. Booking is essential. Please contact Tamasine Addie on 07968 850803. Finally, on Friday 28th March Meeth Quarry is the venue for a 'Dark, Dark Night event' from 4-7pm. Back by popular demand, this event is a drop-in session giving people the chance to find out more about moths, owls and bats as they emerge into the night sky after a winter of hibernation. This is a great opportunity to see bats up close, learn about owl habitats and marvel at moths as they flit through the air at twilight. All events are FREE! People can find out more about the events on the Northern DevonNature Improvement Area website, www.northerndevonnia.org

 Photo Meeth Quarry copyright Devon Wildlife Trust - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Winter Exposure Westward Ho!

Arrived at Westward Ho! amazed to find that the tide was still ebbing as we had been looking forward to a long bracing walk. It was another huge surge with the tide refusing to go out and stay out. The Go Kart Track and Adventure Centre is still in disarray so if ever there was a time for the legendary Potwalloping Festival, this is it. Fortunately the Links beyond are no longer flooded. Across the Bay in the direction of Kipling Tors I can see the spray from the wild “White Horses”. A grey day with sporadic sunshine, there was even another fleeting rainbow. When it was finally clear to walk down the beach it was quite other-worldly as the sand, in parts, had been completely washed away revealing mounds of soft grey clay, the rest resembling a shingle beach. In the midst of the normal grey pebbles strewn along the strandline were some quite beautiful marble white ones, washed in from some distant shore. As we walked on down to Sandymere I took a shot of the concrete slabs, the stepping stones over the ridge, now a little askew to say the least. Along the way I took note of the newly exposed Groins, weirdly wonderful clay formations, the outline of a previously unseen wreck and a line of pier posts or were they old WW2 sea defences? The surf although on its way out continued to rush in and I watched as four little Sanderlings skipped the waves then became marooned on their own little island. In 2012 the Pebbles abutting the Dunes at the far end had been washed away and now they were back and it was a relief to see that the missing sand had shifted towards the Spit. I was pleased not to see any rubbish on the beach, although there were pockets of marine litter amongst the pebbles. Here at the Spit of the Northam Burrows Country Park, the Ridge, although covered in pebbles seemed much flatter and even the big boulders were seemingly battered out of place. On a clear day you can look out to the Bideford Bar and over to the Biosphere across the Taw Torridge Estuary from here. It was hard going against the wind on the way back, I did, however stop to take a shot for the records of a dead seabird. Another sad sight was a 4x4 vehicle perched atop the Ridge, exposed and well and truly stuck. Photos and Article copyright Pat Adams 23rd February 2014

I reported the dead bird to the RSPB via Facebook and it was identified as a Guillemot. Guillemots, Razorbills and other seabirds have suffered terribly in the storms and have been washed up in numbers around the UK coast.See also BBC  'Record number' of dead seabirds washed up from storms
If you come across any dead sea birds please send full details to SWseabirds@rspb.org.uk
RSPB If members of the public find live seabirds that can be rescued it is recommended they should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999. We would advise you not to attempt rescuing the seabirds yourself or to handle them.
Westward Ho! Potwalloping Festival was traditionally held each year on May Bank Holiday, the last one was held in 2012. Potwalloping. An old tradition when, in return for grazing rights, the residents in the Borough of Northam would throw back the pebbles that had been washed down from the Pebble Ridge after Spring Tides.

Monday, 3 March 2014

State of Devon's Nature: TV's Nick Baker to launch report at Cullompton conference

Devon's wild beauty is one of the county's greatest assets. Its environment provides us not just with amazing landscapes and wildlife but with food, fuel, pollination, flood control and great recreational and business opportunities. It is therefore important that we know how our environment is faring. These are some of the major conclusions of a newly released 'stock-check' on the county's priority species and the habitats in which they live. The report called The State of Devon's Nature, is being launched this Friday (7 March 2014) at a special one-day conference in Cullompton. The report also showcases the positive differences being made where landowners, farmers, businesses and conservationists are working together to turn around declines in a range of species. So who are Devon's wildlife winners and losers of recent years? Populations of those iconic mammals, otter and dormouse, have remained fairly stable in Devon's rivers and woodlands. Other species, including barn owl and great crested newt, have not suffered large declines but do face threats such as habitat loss. Targeted conservation efforts have improved the prospects for some creatures, including cirl bunting and southern damselfly, though their future remains challenging. The Report concludes that the state of some of Devon's species should concern us. Curlews, although still a regular winter visitor to the county's estuaries, now no longer breed on Exmoor, and breeding pairs elsewhere in the uplands have severely declined. The high brown fritillary butterfly and the white-clawed crayfish are both in danger of extinction in Devon. Local extinction did befall the popular water vole, 'Ratty' in Wind in the Willows, in the late 90s, before a population was re-introduced in east Devon. Key to the State of Devon's Nature report is a measurement of the health of the county's natural landscapes. Here the picture is very mixed. * Only around a third of Devon's rivers are in good condition and many are struggling to support a diverse range of wildlife because of pollution, man-made barriers and invasive species. 
* With the support of agri-environment grants, Devon's upland wetlands and heathlands are being better-managed by farmers. However, large areas fail to support the range of birds and insects they once did. 
 * Devon's woodlands have not been reduced in size, but do face threats including invasive species like rhododendron, large deer and grey squirrel populations and diseases such as ash dieback. 
* As sea levels rise, sand dunes and saltmarshes are coming under greater pressure where coastal development prevents their retreat inland. 
* Devon's sea life remains threatened by damaging fishing practices such as bottom-trawling, by climate change and pollution. 
However the Report also shows the depth of feeling that many people have towards wildlife in Devon. Indeed, the State of Devon's Nature pays tribute to the efforts of an army of willing volunteers who have lent their expertise to gathering its data. The Report is also positive about the many places in Devon where groups and individuals have been working together to improve the natural environment. Advice and agri-environment grants provided to south Devon farmers have improved habitat for cirl buntings and other farmland wildlife. Commercial business, conservation land managers and farmers are working in partnership in north Devon's Culm grasslands. Here, wildlife habitat, water quality and flood alleviation are all being improved through the Upstream Thinking project funded by South West Water. The Report acknowledges the part being played by legislation in producing benefits for marine wildlife. In the No Take Zone around Lundy Island, lobsters are now five times more abundant and individuals 9% larger than in surrounding waters. The Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area is also a prime example of the new mood of partnership working. An array of organisations led by Devon Wildlife Trust is working with local communities and landowners to improve the quality of habitats and water in the River Torridge catchment. What's more, the project is linking physical health, mental well-being and cultural richness to the quality of Devon's natural environment and the enjoyment it brings to residents and visitors alike. The Devon Local Nature Partnership, 'Natural Devon', is the umbrella body behind the State of Devon's Nature report. Natural Devon's aim is to get everyone in the county to work better together to ensure the protection of Devon's wildlife, not just for its own sake but because it underpins our high quality of life. Chair of the Devon Local Nature Partnership is Suzanne Goodfellow. Formerly Director of Conservation at Dartmoor National Park Authority, she stressed the importance of partnership working: "Devon is a wonderful place for people and wildlife! And Natural Devon is in the business of bringing them together for their mutual benefit. We now have a great partnership of environmental, health, community and economic organisations working together to connect people and nature." TV wildlife-presenter Nick Baker will be speaking at Friday's conference in Collumpton, launching the State of Devon's Nature report, along with Devon Local Nature Partnership's own prospectus. The conference will bring together a broad range of interests - health professionals, farmers, economists, planners and ecologists to discuss how to achieve Natural Devon's vision for Devon. Suzanne Goodfellow continued: "Our new prospectus is based on extensive consultation with the people of Devon and sets out our priorities for the next five years. At the conference we will draw up a list of actions to help us achieve them. Natural Devon is also today publishing the State of Devon's Nature report, full of information about Devon's wildlife from a large number of expert individuals and organisations. We thank them for their contributions and hope that the report will be used by everyone to help them to make wise decisions about our natural environment and enjoy finding out more."
Photo Curlew copyright Darin Smith - All rights reserved
The State of Devon's Nature, is being launched this Friday (7 March 2014) - Report provides verdict on Devon's wildlife winners and losers 
* New report offers insight into fortunes of Devon's wildlife 
* Report warns of struggling species and suffering landscapes 
* Evidence shows that ambitious, collaborative work between landowners, farmers, conservation charities and statutory bodies offers best way forward 
* TV's Nick Baker to launch report at Cullompton conference