Thursday, 31 December 2015

Magic Cooking. A new cooking club for children in North Devon

A new cooking club for children in North Devon will be launched at taster (!) sessions in Braunton and Barnstaple on 15 and 19 January 2016.

The Magic Cooking Pot is a cookery club for children aged 7 – 14 in North Devon and will be run by local charity South West Family Support. They plan to run 6 week courses after school in Braunton and Barnstaple, helping children to cook meals which can be taken home as a family dinner. The groups will be small and focussed so every child has the chance to get hands on experience and learn how to cook. The club will try out a new recipe every week, so that by the end of the course members will be confident and safe in the kitchen. The charity want children to find out more about food, flavour and where our food comes from, so there is a focus on healthy and more unusual foods – and tasting and experimenting is all part of the fun!

The income earned from the Magic Cooking Pot goes to support the charitable work of South West Family Support who help support families in North Devon when things are difficult to find a way to move forward.

The taster sessions on Friday 15 January in Barnstaple and Tuesday 19 January in Braunton are only £5 to cover the cost of tuition, ingredients and use of the venue. At the session everyone will be invited to join the club. Club members will receive an apron, the chance to book any of our courses and exclusive access to a secret page on our website. On the web page we share all the recipes we cook in our classes week by week and our members log on to add comments, their advice and make suggestions for extra ingredients or side dishes.

The Magic Cooking Pot can also run sessions for individual groups – so please do get in touch with organisers if you would like to request a session at a venue near you or for a group for your agency. Remembering that all profits will be reinvested in supporting families in need in the local area.

1st Taster Session 
  15 January 2016 4pm St Anne’s Arts Centre Barnstaple 
2nd Taster Session 
19 January 2016 4.15pm Braunton Academy 
Places must be booked in advance by contacting: South West Family Support or text or phone to 07805 642268. 
The office opens again for the new year on 4 January 2016 
A six week course for members will begin at the end of January and run weekly at 4pm 
Places need to be booked in advance 

About South West Family Support
South West Family Support is a charity working with children, families in their communities. We help support families when things are difficult to find a way to move forward. The charity offer a flexible and creative family support service across Devon. Our family support workers offer practical and emotional strategies to support children and their parents and help coordinate support around them. South West Family Support formed in March 2001. As a social enterprise we invest all income back into our work with families. South West Family Support is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Wildlife left guessing by mild winter weather

The mild weather is set to continue but as temperature records are broken and the ice rinks melt, Devon Wildlife Trust is asking us to spare a thought for our local wildlife.

Winter is a tough time for wildlife. It is a time of hibernation, migration and survival. But with temperatures reaching 14 degrees in Exeter at the beginning of the week, Devon's wildlife is not following its usual seasonal patterns.

The charity Devon Wildlife Trust is reporting some strange goings on at the 50 nature reserves it cares for across the county. David Wodehouse who helps manage DWT's Meeth Quarry nature reserve, near Holsworthy said:
 "The primroses are out at Meeth, normally a sign that spring is on the way. We also have marsh ragwort and wild strawberries in flower and our bee hives are still active."

Andrew Warren who has worked on The Trust's reserves for more than ten years added:
"Many of our winter birds including robins and song thrushes have been very vocal. I'm almost expecting to start seeing them collect twigs ready for nesting!" Birds do sing throughout winter but often in short bursts. The long songs being heard now suggest that these birds are thinking it might be time to find a mate and start breeding.

Devon Wildlife Trust has also been receiving reports that hibernating animals or those that normally lie dormant in the winter are being spotted out and about. Toads are one species that still seem to be very active this December. Some experts are concerned that this will have a knock on effect on toad numbers as female toads must go through a period of dormancy to develop their eggs ready for spawning in spring.

Sightings of hedgehogs are also being sent into the Trust with these prickly garden friends still being seen at people's garden feeding stations. Hedgehogs normally go into hibernation around October or November. Bats are another hibernating creature still on the move. East Devon based bat expert Sarah Butcher tweeted
"Common pipistrelle bat hunting over Devon Wildlife Trust Bystock Pools this evening. Bizarre for the shortest day of the year!"

Pete Burgess, Devon Wildlife Trust's Director of Development, Policy and Research said:
"Our wildlife has evolved over millennia to cope with our climate. As weather patterns change at an unprecedented pace, we are entering a period of great uncertainty. "It is unknown how our wildlife will cope with the recent mild weather. Everything has been delayed as if we are having an extended autumn, this is unlikely to have a significant long term effect unless it extends throughout the rest of the winter. If we have a mild spring followed by a cold snap, that's when you can have more serious problems."

Devon Wildlife Trust are asking members of the public to send in their unusual wildlife sightings via Twitter @DevonWildlife or Facebook. The Trust wants to get a clearer idea of the effect the weather is having on Devon's Wildlife. The charity advises that people help their local wildlife by providing a regular supply of fresh water and keeping birdfeeders topped up. To find out more about Devon Wildlife Trust visit  

Devon Wildlife Trust
Photo Hedgehog copyright Adrian Evans (All rights reserved)
Devon Wildlife Trust
Photo  Robin copyright Chris Root(All rights reserved)

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Fresh evidence of beavers discovered at four sites on East Devon river

Despite recent news headlines that a local beaver population had 'disappeared' from their East Devon home, a local wildlife charity is now claiming that it has evidence that they are very much alive.

In November the BBC reported the concerns of some local people that they had not had sightings of beavers on the River Otter for some weeks. This 'disappearance' was then reported by national newspapers. However, Devon Wildlife Trust has now come forward with evidence which shows that the beavers are still there, although they may have relocated their homes, known as lodges, along the river.

Devon Wildlife Trust is leading the River Otter Beaver Trial - a five year study of what is believed to be the first population of breeding beavers living wild in the English countryside for several centuries. The charity has said that it is currently monitoring four 'active areas' along the river where it has seen fresh evidence of the beavers' presence.

Mark Elliott is the Trial's manager and said:
"We knew the beavers had not 'disappeared' but it's good to be able to report recent evidence showing that they are still active on the river. Beavers are mobile animals and it's quite common for them to shift their lodges and feeding grounds. There's lots of room for beavers on this river so it's unsurprising that they have relocated from the places that we saw them last spring and summer."

The beavers have proved popular with local people and have also attracted many wildlife-lovers to East Devon after the animals gained national coverage when their story was featured on BBC's Springwatch programme. Devon Wildlife Trust's own series of beaver walks along the river were fully subscribed in 2015 and now the charity says it plans to run more next year to meet demand. However, winter is not the time to go beaver watching and any visitors are likely to leave disappointed. 

Mark Elliott explained:
"Beavers are largely nocturnal animals so they are difficult to see during winter when the nights are long. However, they will still be busy at this time building their lodges, preparing for mating in January and the birth of their kits in May. At this time we're keeping the locations of the new beaver sites a secret to ensure that disturbance to the animals and local landowners is kept to a minimum."

In February 2015 it was established that nine beavers were living on the River Otter. In May it is known that a breeding female gave birth to three kits taking the total to 12. This family were seen by many people throughout summer close to their lodge on a stretch of river near Ottery St Mary.

Devon Wildlife Trust is keen to record sightings of beavers to help it with its ongoing work monitoring the impact of the animals on local communities, local landowners and wildlife. Mark Elliott said: "

As we move into the New Year and the daylight hours lengthen beavers will be active at dusk and dawn. If people do see them then it's important they let us know so that we can get a clearer picture of the beavers' numbers and locations."

People with information can let the charity know if they see a beaver via email on and with details of the date, time, exact location and whether the beaver has a coloured ear tag.

The River Otter Beaver Trial receives no government funding. Devon Wildlife Trust is urging people to offer their support via its website
Devon Wildlife Trust is urging people to offer their support
Recent beaver activity has been found at four places along the River Otter in East Devon. Photo copyright DWT (All rights reserved)

Monday, 21 December 2015

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

It's been an event full year. Thanks for visiting hope you drop by in 2016.
Don't forget to feed the birds and wildlife over the festive season.
Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 is from 30th-31st January

Monday, 14 December 2015

Charity wins top green award

The environmental achievements of a Devon-based charity have been recognised with a top international accreditation.
In the past year Devon Wildlife Trust has targeted the impact it and its 80 staff have on the environment. As a result the charity has been able to reduce its gas consumption at its Cricklepit Mill headquarters in Exeter by 55%. Its electricity consumption across all its properties has also been reduced by 20%. A hydro-turbine installed at the Mill is also helping The Trust generate 40 kilowatts of its own clean, green electricity each day from water power - equivalent to around 50% of the building's total supply.
The Trust has also substantially reduced the amount of waste which goes in its dustbins, increasing its recycling rates from 45% to a whopping 89%. These positive changes have brought recognition with them. After a rigorous audit, Devon Wildlife Trust has just seen its top international accreditation for Environmental Management Systems, called ISO14001, renewed by the British Assessment Bureau. Stuart Hodgkiss has led the charity's drive to reduce its carbon footprint and other environmental impacts. Stuart said:
"Because of our work with wildlife we need to be an organisation that minimises any impacts on the local environment. Over the last two years we've reviewed every area of our work. The changes we've made have often been straightforward but they have made a good deal of difference. Our energy consumption is something we've worked especially hard to reduce and by turning down the ambient temperatures in our buildings, fitting 'smart' meters and installing low energy computers we've made real progress." Stuart added:
"Getting recognition with the award from the British Assessment Bureaux shows we're heading in the right direction. We're now looking to other areas where we can do better. For example, in March 2016 we're opening a visitor centre in East Devon. Seaton Jurassic will have a café and shop and in both we're putting in place a sustainable procurement policy. This will mean that our visitors can buy with confidence in the knowledge that their food and gift purchases will combine high ethical standards with low environmental impacts."
Another area of The Trust's work which will come under the green spotlight will be its use of vehicles. In 2015 staff trialled a number of electric vehicles and the charity now has a plan to begin to replace some of its conventional petrol cars with zero-emission models.

Devon Wildlife Trust
'Staff at Devon Wildlife Trust have increased recycling and composting to a whopping 89% of all waste.'

Monday, 7 December 2015

North Devon's nature feels benefit from Biffa Award

Some of North Devon's most stunning and wildlife-rich nature reserves have benefitted from £500,000 of Biffa Award funding as a Flagship project - money made available through the Landfill Communities Fund.

The support has allowed the charity Devon Wildlife Trust to make vital improvements at 11 of its nature reserves in North Devon. Sites at Meresfelle, Volehouse Moor, Mambury Moor, Stowford Moor, Veilstone Moor, Stapleton Mire, Ash Moor, Dunsdon, Vealand, Meeth Quarry and Ashmoor have all seen work undertaken to make positive changes for local wildlife.

Among the highlights Biffa Award has helped The Trust to restore and recreate nearly 50 hectares of 'species rich' grassland - an important home to wildflowers including orchids, ragged robin and birdsfoot trefoil. 250 further hectares of existing grassland is now in better long-term management. Five kilometres of traditional Devon hedgebanks have also been rebuilt, restored and replanted with trees including hawthorn, blackthorn, ash and oak. Wildflower seeds have been harvested from 50 hectares of existing Culm grassland to be spread on sites elsewhere. The project also saw 300 metres of the historic Bude Canal restored and re-watered at The Trust's Dunsdon National Nature Reserve, near Holsworthy. The canal is now home to frogs and dragonflies.

Devon Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve Officer Steve Threlkeld has worked on the project for the past three years. Steve said: "Funding from Biffa Award has made a crucial difference. For some time we've had a long list of improvements that we wanted to make to our North Devon nature reserves but without help we would have struggled to undertake them. Now it's very rewarding to see the positive changes that the work has made for local wildlife. To see wildflowers growing where they were once lacking, to see dragonflies flying over a new stretch of canal that you have created and to see a new Devon hedgebank planted up and growing, is very satisfying."

Local people have benefitted from the funding too. Much of the work carried out has been done by Devon Wildlife Trust staff in conjunction with local contractors, bringing money and work to the rural economy. Local volunteers have also played a key role, while The Trust has also organised a series of 16 public events showcasing the work done, its techniques and the benefits it can bring.

Matt Boydell, Devon Wildlife Trust's Land Manager said: "Our work under the Biffa Award is now in its final phase but its legacy will last. It's helped us improve our North Devon nature reserves and we believe it's been an example of positive land management for wildlife. We've learned a lot of lessons which will shape how landscapes are managed in the future."

Gillian French, Head of Grants, Biffa Award said: "We're really proud to have been a part of this incredible habitat restoration project across Devon. Over the past three years we have enjoyed our visits to Devon Wildlife Trust's Meeth Quarry nature reserve, and others to see how Landfill Communities funding has helped restore this unique landscape. "
North Devon's most stunning and wildlife-rich nature reserves
Harvesting wildflower seed at Vealand nature reserve near Holsworthy
Clearing the bed of the historic Bude Canal at Dunsdon National Nature Reserve with the re-watered canal after work was completed 
Photos copyright Devon Wildlife Trust (All Rights Reserved)  

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Charity and Kew Gardens combine to preserve Devon's trees

Devon Wildlife Trust has spent this autumn conducting a very different kind of harvest. 

The charity has been collecting seed from Devon's ash, hawthorn, blackthorn, holly and other trees at some of its 49 nature reserves as part of a national project to aimed at protecting the UK's woodlands. Devon Wildlife Trust is a partner in the UK National Tree Seed Project, which has been set up by Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, and made possible with funding generated by players of the People's Postcode Lottery.

Tree seeds collected as part of the project will be safely banked in the underground vaults of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank - forming the UK's first national collection of tree seeds. These will then play a vital role in conservation work to protect UK trees and woodlands, including against pests and diseases such as ash dieback. The collections, and associated data, will be available to researchers working on solutions to tackle the many threats facing our woodlands.

Speaking during National Tree Week (28th November - 6th December) and taking a break from collecting ash seeds, known as keys, from its Sourton Quarry nature reserve, near Okehampton, Devon Wildlife Trust's Andrew Warren said:

"We're proud to be contributing to a project which is protecting the genetic diversity of Devon's trees. Many people will be familiar with the threats that face our trees and woodland landscapes, for example, sudden oak death and ash dieback have both hit the headlines in recent years. Our work collecting the seeds of these and other Devon tree varieties is a step towards creating a kind of safety deposit for the future."

Clare Trivedi, UK National Tree Seed Project Co-ordinator, said:
"Almost all of the nation's favourite trees species - from oak to ash to beech - are affected by a variety of pests and diseases. We are thrilled that Devon Wildlife Trust is working with the UK National Tree Seed Project. This project is really important for the future of our trees, wildlife and landscape - but we cannot do it all by ourselves. Contributions from partners such as Devon Wildlife Trust are absolutely vital to help us ensure all areas across the UK are covered."

The UK National Tree Seed Project was launched in May 2013 and has a list of priority native trees and shrubs targeted for collection. This priority list gave ranking to individual species according to their conservation ratings, prevalence in the landscape and vulnerability to pests and diseases. Species on the list include ash, Scots pine, common alder, common beech, silver birch and yew. 

Devon Wildlife Trust's Andrew Warren said: 
"The seeds we are gathering today are just one of several collections that we've undertaken this autumn. Because Devon Wildlife Trust's nature reserves include many of the county's most treasured landscapes we're ensuring that we are getting seeds which come from each of Devon's corners - north, south, east and west. The collected seeds will act as a living legacy, recording the genetic make-up of our local trees in the early twenty-first century." 

For more on Devon Wildlife Trust's work
 'Close up of holy berries - one of the species of tree seed that Devon Wildlife Trust has been collecting for Kew Gardens' Millennium Seed Bank'  Photo copyright DWT (All rights reserved)

For more on Devon Wildlife Trust's work visit

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Howard Marks - In Conversation with "Mr. Nice" at the Factory, Barnstaple 13th December

Just over a year ago Howard Marks was diagnosed with Cancer of the Bowel which had spread to two other organs, he was given 10 months to live. Here we are 3 months after his predicted passing and after nearly 30 sessions of Chemotherapy combined with Cannabis Oil Treatment, which is more and more being used seriously for the treatment of cancer and other illness and everything from apricot seeds to moths. Howard has just released his latest book ‘Mr Smiley: My Last Pill and Testament’ which went into the Book Charts at Number 7.

Interviewed by Dub Pistols Barry Ashworth, expect stories from his incredible life as a drug smuggler, hunted man, inmate at a high security prison, to becoming a celebrity, a national treasure with a film made about his life.

Born in 1945 in Kenfig Hill, a small Welsh coal-mining village near Bridgend, Howard Marks attended Oxford University where he earned a degree in nuclear physics and post graduate qualifications in philosophy

Described by the Daily Mail (UK Tabloid) as 'the most sophisticated drugs baron of all time', Howard Marks has worked with the British Secret Service and has been connected with the Mafia, the IRA, MI6 and the CIA.

Busted in 1988 by the American Drug Enforcement Agency and sentenced to twenty-five years at America's toughest federal penitentiary; Terre Haute, Indiana. He was released on parole in 1995 after serving seven years.

In 1996 he released his autobiography, Mr. Nice, which remains an international best seller in several languages and was the best selling non-fiction book of 1997.

During 1997, he performed his first live shows, which discussed his life as a marijuana smuggler and his views on drug use and legalisation. The shows received excellent reviews throughout the national press, and his now legendary one-man comedy show, An Audience with Mr Nice, continues to sell-out at venues throughout Britain and Europe covering an ever-widening range of topics.

Howard wrote a monthly column for Loaded for five years and has written features for The Times, Observer, Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Time Out, GQ, and the Guardian. He has also penned Senor Nice, the sequel to his autobiography, collected together writings on intoxication for the anthology Dope Stories, co-wrote 101 Uses of a Dead Roach and has published the first of a series of crime fiction novels called Sympathy for the Devil.

His TV and Film career includes a cameo in Human Traffic, narrating Manumission – The Movie, presenting Channel 5 News on the day George Best died, interviews for Selena Scott, Hardtalk and This Week and appearances on Dinner with Portillo and Heartbeat amongst many others.

A Cardiff City supporter, Howard directed the Welsh Celebrity Soccer Six team that included Ian Rush and members of Goldie Looking Chain and reported on the 1998 World Cup in Paris for The Evening Standard. He is also a keen follower of Rugby Union, Boxing and especially Lawn Green Bowls, his interest in which was piqued when he learned it had been made illegal for the hoi polloi by Henry VIII.

Since his release from prison Howard has been politically active, standing for parliament in four separate constituencies (Norwich South, Norwich North, Neath and Southampton Test) in the 1997 general election on the single issue of the legalisation of Cannabis, catalysing the formation of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance. He applied for the position of Drugs Tsar, created by the Labour government in the late 90s but Keith Halliwell ‘pipped me at the post’. He continues to campaign vigorously for the legalisation of recreational drugs.


Doors open at 19:30pm
£20 in advance - Seated based on first come first seated
Physical tickets - North Devon Theatres & Beatsworkin, Barnstaple
Online tickets available from
More info –
Howard Marks "Mr. Nice" at The Factory, Barnstaple