Tuesday, 27 October 2015

LiveView Photo + Optics Show, Barnstaple

Love photography? You'll love this... back by popular demand, J & A Cameras proudly welcomes you to their very own camera extravaganza, LiveView 2015! 

Sunday 22nd November sees J & A Cameras descend on The Cedars Inn at Roundswell, Barnstaple for the South West's largest photographic and optics show. If you've been thinking about a new toy for this Christmas then you're in luck, the show offers a first class view at some of the latest technology on the market with some unbeatable show prices to boot. 

Nikon, Olympus, Fujifilm, Sony, Pentax, Swarovski, Opticron, Vanguard, Sigma, GoPro and many more famous names will be on full show along with a small army of trade experts on hand to guide you through everything you see. Get hands on with some serious pro equipment or pitch questions to the people who make the gear you love. 

However, it's not all cameras and lenses, there will be bags a plenty, speakers and tripods, and for those of you who love nothing more then the great outdoors and wildlife, we have a vast array of binoculars and spotting scopes to fit every situation and budget. Now is the perfect time to get a new pair of binoculars to watch the deer, view the birds, or watch the ships sail by. If you want to get up close to tiny things we have microscopes, if those crossword clues are too small then we have magnifying glasses, and if you aim your sights a awful lot higher (quite literally), then check out the latest telescopes from Skywatcher and Meade. 'Tis the season to star gaze after all! 

Special guests include Devon Wildlife Trust, cosplay group 'Troop 69' and the beautiful birds from Exmoor Hawking, who will be with us providing some fantastic photo opportunities on the day. The show runs from 10.30am until 4.30pm and admission is completely free. Parking areas will be clearly marked within the grounds of The Cedars Inn, however alternate parking is available 10 minutes walk away at Roundswell Retail Park if needed. 
N.B. The list of guest exhibitors are subject to change so please contact the Showline 01271 375037 or visit www.jandacameras.co.uk/liveview for more information.

Photo and Optics Show, Barnstaple, North Devon
LiveView Photo + Optics Show
Sunday 22nd November 
 The Cedars Inn, Roundswell, Barnstaple, Devon EX31 2HE

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Devon events form part of national action. Wild About Gardens Week is urging gardeners to save hedgehogs.

Twiggy, Ben Fogle, Bill Oddie and Chris Beardshaw are backing Wild About Gardens Week this Autumn and urging gardeners to save hedgehogs. The annual celebration of garden wildlife hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts has joined forces with Hedgehog Street this year to highlight what gardeners can do to help this much-loved yet fast-declining species. See wildaboutgardensweek.org.uk for inspiration, competitions, events and booklet.

High profile supporters of Wild About Gardens Week explain how we can all help:

Ben Fogle, Patron, British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), says: "Everybody loves hedgehogs! It's a tragedy that they are disappearing so quickly particularly when it's so easy to help them. We can all have a go at planting a native hedge, creating gaps in fences for them to pass through, leaving leaf or log piles and allowing parts of the garden to grow wild to give them a home."
Chris Beardshaw, RHS Ambassador for Community Gardening and patron of BHPS, says: "As gardeners, we often forget that the garden is a refuge for our smaller visitors, many of whom have directed and influenced our appreciation of the outdoor environment. Thanks to starring roles in children's poetry and prose, the likes of bats, owls and squirrels have all played a part, not just in opening our eyes to our gardens and landscape, but as a major connection to our childhood. "Some of these distinctive creatures are in decline, in particular the hedgehog - a curiously shy creature which asks very little of gardeners. In fact they even allow us to be a little untidy as they use the leaves and logs for habitat and in return they will munch happily on the molluscs ravaging our favoured plants. When we are tending our gardens please give some thought for the residents and visitors who can benefit from our green spaces and reward us in so many ways."
Bill Oddie, The Wildlife Trusts' Vice President, says: "I can honestly say that I have not come across a wild hedgehog anywhere - whether in the woods or countryside or garden or my garden - for something like three or four years. That is really sad because, let's face it, they're one of these little creatures which everyone knows - Mrs Tiggywinkle. It's an animal that everybody loves. Nobody's frightened of them. "Hedgehogs do a fantastic job in your garden munching up worms in particular, the odd slug occasionally and, I dare say, they've been known to crunch open a few snails. Basically the hedgehog is the gardener's friend. There's no two ways about that. But not just that they are a delightful addition to your garden fauna -the birds, the animals, the insects - the hedgehogs, they belong there. We need them. They should be part of it. But if you are lucky enough to have them, you've got to make it possible for them to get in and to get out. Think of it as the hedgehog door - to food, to adventure and the way back home."
Twiggy, Patron of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, says: "Seeing hedgehogs in our garden when I was a child was a magical experience. Now we all need to help these special mammals - and there's so much that gardeners can do to reverse their decline. You can cut a small hedgehog hole at the bottom of your garden fence, leave wild nesting and hibernation areas, ditch the slug pellets and check that bonfire before striking the match! All so easy to do. Please help these wonderful creatures."

Hedgehogs are in trouble - research by People's Trust for Endangered Species shows that hedgehogs have declined by 30% in the last 10 years alone and there are now thought to be fewer than one million left in the UK. To help encourage people across Britain to think about how to make their gardens, schools and community spaces hedgehog-friendly, this year's Wild About Gardens Week will be a call to action and a celebration of the humble hedgehog, packed with events, competitions and opportunities to get stuck in. This will include:
  • A national call to action to create hedgehog holes in fences - a handy 13cm by 13cm template can be downloaded from the Wild About Gardens Week website.
  • A competition to design the best hedgehog home. There will be three categories: individual, group and school. The prizes will range from a trail camera to a visit from a hedgehog expert. Closing date: Monday 9 November 2015.
  • A host of hedgehog-themed events around the UK, from talks and workshops to community activities. At RHS Garden Harlow Carr, a new garden will be launched in participation with Hedgehog Street, showcasing hedgehog friendly planting and design. Add your event or search for those happening near you at: www.wildaboutgardensweek.org.uk/events
  • A downloadable new booklet, available from the Wild About Gardens Week website, will demonstrate steps you can take to help hedgehogs in your garden. 
  • A twitter Q & A about hedgehogs using #wildgardensQA on Wednesday 28th October between midday and 1pm. All information at: www.wildaboutgardensweek.org.uk
Devon Wildlife Trust will be celebrating Wild About Gardens week with a Wild About Hedgehogs day on Thursday 29 October at its Cricklepit Mill, close to Exeter's historic quayside. The event is free and takes place between 11am and 3pm. DWT's Jasmine Atkinson is organising the day and said: "This is a chance to join us for hedgehog-themed activities and crafts! We'll also be letting people know how to make their garden more hog-friendly with games and advice."

On Friday 30 October Devon Wildlife Trust's Cricklepit Mill opens its gates again for another seasonal event. This time The Trust is staging its own Wild Halloween with a spooky trail, a chance to create some creepy crafts and make potions in the mill's garden. This event takes place between 11am and 4pm and is free.

Devon Wildlife Trust. Wild About Gardens Week Events
Hedgehog - Photo copyright Tom Marshall (All Rights Reserved)

Wild About Gardens Week: Monday 26 October to Sunday 1 November 2015

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Rare bats win £700k lottery boost

A project which is working to secure a future for one of Europe's most endangered bat species has been awarded £707,000 of National Lottery funding. The Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project, which has received the grant via the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), will now work for the next five years across the county to secure the long term future of one of the rarest animals in Northern Europe. The project is being led by the conservation charity Devon Wildlife Trust in a partnership involving 18 other organisations.

The project's manager is Ed Parr Ferris:
'We're delighted to have gained this generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The greater horseshoe bat is a species that has seen its European population crash in the last 100 years, and has disappeared from more than half its British range. This has left them clinging on in just a few special landscapes. Devon supports the largest stronghold in Northern Europe. Our county still has a third of the 6,500 greater horseshoe bats that remain in the UK with the project focussing on 11 priority areas around key roost sites. It's the job of our project to work with roost owners, safeguard the surrounding countryside that acts as vital feeding grounds for the bats, and make people aware of the plight of this species.'

Greater horseshoes are one of the UK's biggest bats with a wingspan of almost 40cm. They were once common across southern England but changes in land-use such as urban development and a move away from cattle grazed pastures and hay meadows has led to their disappearance from much of the countryside. Now the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project will work with landowners and local communities close to the bat's 11 priority roosts in the Avon Valley, Berry Head, Branscombe, Braunton, Bovey Tracey, Buckfastleigh, Chudleigh, Tamar Valley, Dartmouth, Harbertonford and Southleigh. The project will work alongside farming communities, providing advice and assistance to manage, restore and create the networks of habitats these impressive bats need, through its own grant scheme and government grants. Working with communities and schools, the project will also help put this species back on the map, enabling everyone to play their part in conserving a species Devon can rightly be proud of. The project's ultimate goal is to restore the landscapes that the bats need to travel through and feed in.

Ed Parr Ferris said: 'Cattle-grazed pastures, wildflower-rich meadows, hedges, woodland edges, orchards and streams all play a key part in the bat's complex lives. They use these landscape features to navigate and travel safely and as hunting grounds to find their favourite prey: moths and beetles. The project will work with local farmers and communities to improve and conserve these features. This will be to the benefit not only of greater horseshoe bats but also Devon's wealth of other wildlife and our treasured landscapes.'

Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: 'Sadly, bats are not known for being cute or cuddly but their importance to our ecosystem cannot be underestimated and their drastic decline in numbers across the UK demonstrates a very urgent need to protect them. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the partnership led by Devon Wildlife Trust can now run this important project in key sites across Devon to conserve and boost bat numbers for the benefit of everyone.'

Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP for Exeter said: 'I'm extremely pleased this support has been awarded to this partnership. The Greater Horseshoe bat has suffered a terrible decline in numbers because of changes in farming practices over the last century or so, but Devon remains one of its strongholds. Work to stop and reverse its decline is extremely welcome.'

Ed Parr Ferris highlighted the importance of the local communities that the project hopes to inspire: 'We need the support of Devon's communities to provide a secure future for Devon's greater horseshoe bats. We need the communities that have these rare and wonderful animals in their midst to help us. That's what makes this project so exciting. We are now looking for schools and community groups to come forward and become champions for their local bats - helping to improve bat habitats, taking part in bat detecting surveys, and promoting pride in their local greater horseshoe bats.'

Anyone living close to one of the 11 Devon greater horseshoe bat areas and who wishes to help should contact the project's Community Engagement Officer, Helen Parr on 01392 279244 or by email on hparr@devonwildlifetrust.org and hparr@devonwildlifetrust.org
Devon Bat Project
 Greater Horseshoe Bats in Limestone Cave - Photo copyright Michael Hammett, Natural England (All Rights Reserved)
The Greater Horseshoe Bat Project has its own website www.devonbatproject.org where you can get lots more information including bat facts and video of the bats in their summer roosts. The project still needs to raise further funds to meet its targets for the next five years and welcomes any donations or support.

Friday, 2 October 2015


If you ever thought that scuba diving in North Devon would be dull then think again. The waters off the coast of Ilfracombe are littered with wrecks and populated by fascinating underwater life. A new short film - Every Dive is an Adventure - introduces members of Ilfracombe and North Devon Sub Aqua Club (ILFSAC) who dive alongside volunteers from Seasearch, surveying marine life as they explore this fascinating underwater landscape.

Film producer Jo Stewart-Smith talks about the inspiration behind this latest addition to the Boat Stories series "I had two people equally passionate about their favourite subject and was torn between whether to focus on exploring undiscovered wrecks or recording marine life in our short film. Luckily, because wrecks which lie on the sea floor act like rocky reefs and become magnets for marine life we are able to reveal a little bit of the excitement of both."

Jo says that the title for this film is a direct quote from ILFSAC Chairman Shaun Galliver who says in the film "Diving off the coast of North Devon is a challenge and we never know what we are going to find - whether we're looking for a new wreck or new marine life - every dive is an adventure."

Galliver, a self-confessed 'wreck head' told Jo about the many wrecks off the North Devon Coast "Around 1910 Cardiff was one of the world's busiest ports and in one year 13 million tonnes of coal or 300 ships a day travelled past Ilfracombe. Many of those either hit rocks or hit each other so we still have a lot of undiscovered wrecks here, we found four last year and even last week we dived two new ones."

He commented that to dive a new wreck, one that no one has touched or seen for 150 years, is amazing and the club can offer that opportunity to its members. ILFSAC has been exploring new wrecks since it was founded in 1960 so its club house is a bit like an Aladdin's cave of treasures from the deep. One of these holds pride of place at the bar; a ship's bell which came from the steamship The George Lamb which came a cropper on the rocks in the late 1800s.

Jo was entranced by the brilliant colours in ILFSAC diver, Maggs Ashton's photographs. Maggs is passionate about photographing this colourful underwater world 'people always say you must have photographed that in the Red Sea, I have trouble convincing people that they are found here in North Devon."

In the film Sally Sharrock tells us about Seasearch, a project which encourages divers to map out the sea bed and survey marine life "We work on the assumption that if we don't know what's there we can't protect it and the only people who see what is down under water are the divers. We train them in basic marine biology so that they know what they are looking for."

Talking about the variety and colourful nature of the marine life Sally says "It's like an old fashioned sweet shop where you have all the jars of different colours on the walls." On this dive she discovers a curious looking Tompot blenny and exclaims "they're always good fun, 'cause they've got a big smiley face!"

Every Dive is an Adventure will be shown on the big screen along with the 9 other Boat Stories Films at a free event on Friday 16 October 2015 at Bideford Cinema, Kingsley School, Bideford - details at www.bidefordcinema.org.uk.

Unsurprisingly, seats are selling fast so if you can't get to the screening you can watch the films online at www.boatstories.co.uk or look out for the DVDs which will be on sale in selected museums and information centres soon.
North Devon Moving Image Boat Stories
Underwater cameraman, Rich Stevenson, just surfaced and back in harbour,  ILFSAC, Seasearch members and camera crew after a successful mission, Neptune setting off on an adventure. Photos copyright Jo Stewart-Smith (All Rights Reserved)