Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Rare 'white blackbird' lands in North Devon

A rare albino blackbird has been spotted in Hatherleigh, North Devon. The 'white blackbird' was discovered by Devon Wildlife Trust's Jo Pullin in her back garden. Jo, who has worked for the conservation charity for 14 years, picks up the story: 
 "My children and I spotted something unusual in the undergrowth at the edge of our garden. We went to investigate and soon discovered it was a white blackbird. It looked like it had only just recently left the nest." 
"I've seen birds with odd colouring before, but never a completely white blackbird. It really stood out and looked very vulnerable." 

Albinism in birds is not unusual. It is caused when the normal pigmentation of feathers is missing. However, in most cases birds show patches of white feathers or dull colouring. This partial albinism, as it is called, is relatively common. But what was rare about the case of the Hatherleigh blackbird was that it lacked all colour, even in its eyes. It belonged to a condition which is much more unusual and is known as being a true albino. The story of the white blackbird may not have ended well. Its unusual looks may have meant it lived a short life. 

Steve Hussey from Devon Wildlife Trust commented on its likely fate: 
"Being pure white isn't a great survival strategy for a blackbird, particularly as a fledgling. When you've just left the nest you want to be as inconspicuous as possible to avoid the predatory eyes of cats and sparrowhawks. Added to this, part of the condition of albinos often means they have poor or little eyesight. I fear that this little chap's life was probably a very brief one." 

Jo Pullin seemed to confirm this distinctly off-colour prediction for the white blackbird. Jo said: 
"We looked for the blackbird the next day but couldn't see it anywhere." 

Spring is the time when many people find baby birds in their gardens. Despite their vulnerability the advice of Devon Wildlife Trust is to leave them well alone, while keeping pet cats and dogs away. 

The whiteBlackbird of Hatherleigh. Photo: copyright  Jo Pullin (All rights reserved)

 The whiteBlackbird of Hatherleigh. Photo: copyright  Jo Pullin (All rights reserved)

Celebrate woodlands as sensational spring story starts to unfold

The Wildlife Trusts are urging everyone to get out and enjoy one of nature's wonders: our woodlands.

Woodland in springtime is one of the great spectacles of nature, full of birdsong, wildflowers and the soft bright green of new leaves. The Wildlife Trusts believes that they are a spectacle not to be missed. It's why the charity is urging people to visit their local woodland in the coming weeks.

Steve Hussey, from Devon Wildlife Trust, said:
"A walk through a woodland during Spring offers opportunities aplenty to indulge your senses, and tune in to the wild, as the story of Spring unfolds; from the arrival of migrant birds to the unrolling of Bluebell carpets. Our message to people is to get out there now and enjoy this uplifting, free experience. Do not miss one of nature's most wonderful seasonal events."

Bill Oddie OBE, The Wildlife Trusts' Vice President, offers his advice on the best time to visit a woodland for the first time:
"Early spring, when the shapes of the branches are still clear but spangled with new buds. The birds are singing and you can see them, which isn't so easy once the trees are in full leaf. When the sun shines through those trees it can be just like the lights at a music concert. Even when raining, it's fabulous!"

April sees our woodlands spring to life. Listen for the great spotted woodpecker, and their smaller rare cousin the lesser spotted woodpecker, now drumming - beating out the rhythm of the season. Watch the darting and twisting flights of pied and spotted flycatchers as they hunt for flying insects.

Devon Wildlife Trust's nature reserves at Dunsford (near Exeter), Warleigh Point (near Plymouth) and Halsdon (near Hatherleigh) are all excellent places to see and hear woodland birds this spring. Under foot, a carpet of colour is quietly and steadily unfolding. Over the space of a few weeks in spring, from mid April onwards, bluebells set our woodlands ablaze with their bright blue flowers. The UK is home to more than half the world's population of Hyacinthoides non-scripta, making the bluebell our unofficial national flower, and their presence is a sure sign of very old woodland. The Wildlife Trusts care for hundreds of the finest bluebell woods, wonderful places to experience the sights, sounds and smells of spring. The Wildlife Trusts look after more than 400 woodlands across the UK - from flower-strewn ancient woodlands to wild coastal woods, damp and rich in lichen and moss. If the wood you visit is a remnant of ancient woodland, there could be carpets of wood anemones, followed by wild garlic and bluebells. Devon Wildlife Trust's Scanniclift Copse (near Chudleigh), Andrew's Wood (South Hams) and Lady's Wood (near Ivybridge) are all great places to see woodland flowers this spring. To help people explore their local woodland this spring The Wildlife Trusts have produced a guide to discovering favourite woodland walks and great places to see bluebells, ancient and unusual trees and woodland butterflies. All are available at

Bill Oddie concludes: "How to get the best out of a wood? Take photos, all through the year, in different light and weather, both close up and wide. Notice shapes and textures. Look at a wood as a work of art, which it is!"

Pied Flycatcher - Photo Neil Bygrave
Pied Flycatcher - Photo copyright Neil Bygrave (All rights reserved)

A Devon woodland with bluebells.- Photo Kevin New

 A Devon woodland with bluebells.- Photo copyright Kevin New (All rights reserved)

Tap link to find a Nature Reserve near you

Monday, 18 April 2016

Brother Strut; the critically acclaimed funk and soul band play The Factory 19th May

If you are a fan of anything funk and soul this is a night you would be insane to miss! As individuals Brother Strut have performed on records that have accumulated over half-a-billion sales, as a collective they form Brother Strut; the critically acclaimed funk and soul band. 

“You will wait a very long time indeed to see anything better, I can’t think who can top this” says Blues and Soul Magazine, awarding their debut album an astonishing 10/10.
The general public responded to the album with similar enthusiasm and the album entered the UK iTunes chart at number 2. Subsequent recording deals in the USA, Italy, South Africa, South East Asia and Australia followed. Whilst the band also featured in the top ten of the album charts in the UK and Italy, Craig Charles play listed it on his award-winning BBC6 Music, Funk and Soul Show.

Producer and sax player Stevie Jones assembled the bunch back in 2012, shunning the manufactured ‘X-Factor generation’s’ pursuit of fame at any cost. However, Brother Strut are far from just a recording studio band; From Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Madonna to Sting, George Michael, Amy Winehouse and Tina Turner to name but a few, Brother Strut’s members honed their prodigious talents on some of the world’s most prestigious stages alongside an array of music’s most cherished icons.

Indeed, the stage remains the band’s spiritual home. Peerless showmen as well as musicians, Brother Strut pride themselves on their ability to deliver unparalleled live shows. Composed of some of the finest and funkiest musicians around, Brother Strut includes Steve Pearce (bass), Frankie Tontoh (drums), Otha Smith (electric guitar), Sam Tanner (keys/lead vocals) and Stevie Jones (Saxophonist/keys).

As Saxophonist and producer Stevie Jones notes, Brother Strut are focused on delivering exceptional live performances of “awe-inspiring” quality and their unswerving dedication to this ethos has been the catalyst behind the band’s success.

Taking their album on the road, two spectacular sell-out tours followed. Gaining notoriety for their ‘barnstorming’ sets, Brother Strut’s passion for live music has endeared them to an audience who seek real music amidst the music industries increasingly corporate soul.

To this end, the band release their music through their own label Brother Strut Records. With their freedom intact, Brother Strut only take directions from their inspirations: funk, blues, American soul music of the 1960’s and ‘70’s and stunning live music.

Local support from Loney

Brother Strut to play The Factory, Petroc, Barnstaple, North Devon

Brother Strut at The Factory, Barnstaple 
Thursday 19th May
DOORS: 8pm PRICE: £10 Standing only
MINIMUM AGE RECOMMENDATION: All ages. Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult

ADVANCE TICKETS: Online tickets available from
Physical tickets available from Beatsworkin, Queens Street, Barnstaple and North Devon Theatres box offices
Box office booking fees may apply.
The Factory Petroc Brannams Campus Oakwood Close Barnstaple Devon EX31 3NJ 
M +44 (0)7446 692751

Friday, 15 April 2016

Seaton Jurassic welcomes Princess Royal

Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal was in the East Devon seaside town of Seaton on Thursday 14th April visiting the town's newest tourist attraction, Seaton Jurassic.

She arrived by helicopter in the early afternoon following an earlier engagement at Dartmouth Royal Naval College.

On arrival The Princess waved to onlookers who had lined the streets around the town's Underfleet. She then spent an hour touring Seaton Jurassic's exhibition halls, meeting children from the local Seaton Primary School and representatives of the many organisations that have been involved in getting the £4.4million attraction off the ground.

The charity Devon Wildlife Trust is Seaton Jurassic's operator and its Chief Executive Harry Barton escorted the Princess on her tour. The charity's Harry Barton said:
 "It was such a pleasure to show Her Royal Highness around Seaton Jurassic. I was struck by how interested she was in the local area and the wonderful natural heritage we have in East Devon. Her Royal Highness was very impressed by the commitment from local people and volunteers helping Devon Wildlife Trust run the Centre. I hope it encourages everyone to feel as proud of Seaton Jurassic as I am."

Seaton Jurassic is a flagship project for East Devon District Council, who own the centre. The Council's Leader Cllr Paul Diviani and its Chief Executive Mark Williams spent time with the Princess discussing the project and its importance to the town's economy. Cllr Paul Diviani said:
 "The Princess Royal was fascinated in how the project has evolved. We were very proud to be able to explain that East Devon District Council is the main funder of Seaton Jurassic which is already making a positive difference to the local economy. It is a unique project and we believe it will be a catalyst for the further regeneration of the area."

The Princess concluded her visit by unveiling a plaque which formally marked the opening of Seaton Jurassic. Afterwards, in a short speech, Her Royal Highness offered her congratulations to all the partners involved and said:
 "Seaton Jurassic is a real achievement and you have set a fine example in what you have done here. I would like to think that others will follow."

Mike Ruiter is Seaton Jurassic's manager and said:
 "The Princess' visit has been a wonderful culmination to a busy opening three weeks at Seaton Jurassic. We've been delighted by people's response. We've had almost 10,000 people visit us and the feedback we are getting about the visitor experience we're offering, our cafĂ© and shop have been very encouraging. My message to everyone out there is if you haven't already visited us, come and see what we're all about."

Seaton Jurassic is open seven days a week, 10am to 5pm. For more information go to 

Princess Royal giving her address at Seaton Jurassic - Photo copyright Matt Austin/Devon Wildlife Trust (All rights reserved)

 Princess Royal giving her address at Seaton Jurassic - Photo copyright
Matt Austin/Devon Wildlife Trust (All rights reserved)

Princess Royal at Seaton Jurassic - Photos copyright Matt Austin/Devon Wildlife Trust (All rights reserved)

Top: Pupils from Seaton Jurassic await HRH arrival 
Bottom Left: HRH meets Seaton Jurassic's manager Mike Ruiter (left) and Devon Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Harry Barton; 
Bottom Right: HRH is shown Seaton Jurassic's time machine by its creator Lloyd Turner. 
Photos copyright Matt Austin/Devon Wildlife Trust (All rights reserved)
Seaton Jurassic can be found on the Underfleet, Seaton, EX12 2WD, next to the Seaton Tramway. It has a pay and display car park just 100 metres from its entrance and excellent public transport links with the X53 Jurassic Coast bus stopping at its door. 

Seaton Jurassic is owned by East Devon District Council and operated by Devon Wildlife Trust.  

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Casting off down the cobbles. Clovelly Yarn Bomb set to make a colourful July

Visit Clovelly during the month of July and enjoy discovering the yarn-bombed areas of the famously picturesque fishing village
The *tight-knit* community of Clovelly residents have been busily preparing a ‘blooming’ lovely project ~ yarn-bombing the village, with the help of people from all over the UK & abroad, who are donating beautiful yarn samples!
Celebrity Design Guru Laurence Llewelyn Bowen is pictured with his white knitting which will have pride of place in a very special, secret feature of the Clovelly Yarn Bomb which will be revealed in July!
The village will look even more colourful than usual, with knitted donkeys, seaside garlands and crocheted ‘cobble-cosies’ plus much more. This unusual project is part of Clovelly's entry to the ‘Britain in Bloom’ competition and is in aid of the Devon Air Ambulance Trust.
Yarn Bombing is a type of street art that employs colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn rather than paint or chalk. Yarn installations can be easily removed if necessary.
Co-ordinated by Clovelly Silk in conjunction with the Clovelly Community Gardening Group
Clovelly is a place which people all over the world hold very dear to their hearts and thanks to social media, the group are inviting people to donate knitted and crocheted samples and contribute to this unusual project.
The Clovelly Silk workshop is offering a centre-piece for some very special knitted work indeed. Not to be missed, the breathtakingly beautiful and inspiring knitted creations of Alison Murray, All2Knit, will be on display at Clovelly Silk, in the Craft Yard, which is situated next to the Donkey Stables. Alison Murray has worked tirelessly to inspire her team of local knitters, who have created awe-inspiring pieces which have travelled the UK and abroad, raising money for charity.
In October 2012 Clovelly suffered a flood. As a torrent of muddy water rushed down the famous cobbled street, it left a trail of destruction. The misery of the flood failed to dampen the spirits of Clovelly residents and as people pulled together, Clovelly Community Gardening Group was formed. The clean up and recovery was so swift and profound that Clovelly entered the annual South West In Bloom competition. A regional competition which is part of Britain in Bloom, the largest horticultural campaign in Europe. Taking part in the competition has inspired many exciting projects over the past few years with a real emphasis on the pride and community spirit which is so strong in Clovelly.
Our chosen charity is Devon Air Ambulance Trust. As a village which is difficult to access, we are acutely aware of the invaluable work that the service provides. The D.A.A.T. helicopters are able to get to most of Devon within 10 minutes and the whole of Devon within 15. It now costs £5.5million every year to keep Devon’s two Air Ambulances operational.

Clovelly Yarn Bomb
in aid of the Devon Air Ambulance Trust
From the 1st - 31st July
Clovelly village, North Devon 
Normal admission charges apply. 
Clovelly Silk

Monday, 11 April 2016

Swingrowers play The Factory 29th April

Hailing from Sicily, this six piece quintet fuses electronic beats to their jazz/gypsy jazz stylings. They are one of Europe's pre-eminent electro-swing bands and it's a rare treat to have them appear in North Devon on Friday 29th April.

Swingrowers signed to Brighton based label Freshly Squeezed. Known for their mixture of jazz, swing manouche and dance/electro, they have extensively toured Europe and North America, opening sell-out shows for Parov Stelar, Chinese Man & Caravan Palace. On top of delivering official remixes for Caro Emerald and Swing Republic, Swingrowers also boast musical collaborations with The Lost Fingers, Gypsy Hill, DJ Pony Montana and have had their own songs remixed by Bart&Baker and Jamie Berry.

Following on from their debut album ‘Pronounced Swing Grow’ers' in 2012, Swingrowers have released their most recent album ‘REMOTE’ in early 2015. Swingrowers are one of the most exciting rising talents within the retro music scene and “a band maturing at a rapid pace”.

Come out swing, and stomping to live electro beats. With an explosive sound that reverberates back through time. Let’s show them a proper welcome!

Support from: Bicycle Repair Man

Swingrowers at The Factory, Barnstaple, North Devon
Doors: 8pm Friday 29th April
Tickets: Standard Entry £8
Physical tickets available from Beatsworkin, Barnstaple & North Devon Theatres Box offices.
Online tickets available from
NB Minimum age recommendation: Under 16s to be accompanied by an adult
The Factory Petroc Brannams Campus Oakwood Close Barnstaple Devon EX31 3NJ 
M +44 (0)7446 692751

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Clovelly Lectures: " Does the United Kingdom have a future and what can be done to preserve it? "

Clovelly Lectures runs a lecture forum on World Affairs, International Relations, Security & Defence and Science & Technology. The venue of this Forum is Clovelly on the stunning coastline of North Devon; a soft background to ask hard questions.

It seeks to provide a global positioning of British relationships and influences, with an emphasis on and analysis of Government policy and its direct impact on British lives.

Now in its 5th year, Clovelly Lectures has found in Devon a responsive audience. There is a curiosity and interest in listening and discussing matters that affect our lives in a fast, changing and confusing economic and political world. The attendance at these lectures has been enthusiastic and overwhelming.

Our latest Lecture coming up on Saturday 14th May 2016 looks at;

‘Does the United Kingdom have a future and what can be done to preserve it?’ a hot topic of debate with the EU referendum in June.

Former Attorney General and Present Chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee Dominic Grieve QC MP is speaking at Clovelly. Appointed to the opposition front bench in 1999 as spokesman on Constitutional affairs and moved to the Home affairs team covering criminal justice in 2001 before being made shadow Attorney General by Michael Howard in 2003. In 2008 he was made shadow Home Secretary and shadow Justice Secretary in 2009. After the General Election of 2010 he was appointed a Privy Councillor and Attorney General holding that office until July 2014. Mr Grieve is currently a member of the Standards and Privileges Committee of the House of Commons. His work in Parliament on civil liberties and the Rule of Law was recognised by two awards - Parliamentarian of the Year in 2005 and in 2014 by a Lifetime Achievement award from Liberty. He has specialised on issues relating to Law and Order, civil liberties and international affairs as well as having an interest in environmental issues. In 2015 he was appointed Chairman of the "Parliamentary Committee for Security and Intelligence."  

Clovelly Lectures. Dominic Grieve QC MP
Clovelly Lectures 
" Does the United Kingdom have a future and what can be done to preserve it?
Speaker Dominic Grieve QC MP 
Saturday 14th May, at Clovelly Visitor Centre EX39 5TA. 
For times and prices visit 
For further information, tickets or to subscribe to mailing list, please contact or call Clovelly Estate Office Tel: 01237 431200

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Queen’s 90th Birthday Cruise with Northam Lodge

This year the MS Oldenburg will be hosting a special Birthday Cruise organised by Northam Lodge, to celebrate The Queen’s 90th birthday. This will take place on Friday June 24th and will depart from Bideford Quay at 7.30pm. Boarding will take place as from 6.45pm and the cruise lasts for about 2 hours. The Alan Lewis All Stars Jazz Band will be providing the entertainment, no doubt including some rousing patriotic music.

Tickets cost £15.00 per person and please contact Mark or Fiona on 01237 477238 or email  or  TAP HERE for more information
The Queen’s 90th Birthday Cruise in aid of Northam Lodge

Northam Lodge is a Devon charity for providing services for people with learning difficulties and their carers

Monday, 4 April 2016

Riverfly volunteers ready for another busy season on the River Torridge

A volunteer project which is keeping a close check on the health of one of North Devon's best-loved rivers is about to begin another season.

The River Torridge in North Devon is the focus of a project which has brought together 50 local volunteers whose job it is to take regular samples of its water between April to September. The samples are then analysed to look for signs of life in the shape of invertebrates - water-living mini-beasts - known as riverflies.

The work of the volunteers is providing an important regular check on the river's health. The volunteers collect their samples at points along the watercourse. Their efforts, which began in 2014, is allowing a better assessment of the Torridge's water quality and is acting as an early-warning system with which to detect pollution incidents. Data collected by the volunteers is also being shared with the Environment Agency and will help to direct future land management locally.

Izzy Moser from the charity Devon Wildlife Trust, which is overseeing the project, says:
'It's fantastic to see communities coming together to protect local streams and rivers which are so valuable to us all. Our network of volunteers is one of best Riverfly networks in the country. Last year they collected more than 290 samples, about 12% of all the national data.'

The initiative is named 'Riverfly' after the water-living invertebrates that spend a large part of their lifecycle in rivers and still waters as larvae, before emerging in their masses as short-lived adult flies. Since riverflies are very sensitive to changes in habitat and water quality, they are good biological indicators for overall river health. Riverflies are also a vital link in the aquatic and land-based food chain, providing a food source for many fish, birds, insects and mammals.

Understanding local water quality is seen as vital for the futures of protected local species such as the endangered freshwater pearl mussel. North Devon has the only remaining populations of these mussels in southern England and through the Biffa Award funded 'Restoring Freshwater Mussel Rivers in England', Devon Wildlife Trust's Izzy Moser has also been working on the River Torridge with a number of volunteers to survey and improve conditions for the aquatic animals.

2016 is the third year of the Torridge Riverfly Partnership which was set up by the North Devon Biosphere and Devon Wildlife Trust. Riverfly monitoring is a great way to get your hands dirty, enjoy nature and collect valuable data to better understand the health of the watercourse. Izzy Moser says: 'This year, we are hoping to recruit more volunteers and perhaps extend the scheme into the River Taw catchment. We are also planning to deliver a training event to support new volunteers with the survey programme. If people are interested they can contact Matt Edworthy by email at or by phone on 01271 388647.'

The Riverfly project has been supported with funds from the North Devon Fisheries Local Action Group and Torridge District Council.
Riverfly volunteers taking samples from the River Torridge in 2014. Photo copyright Devon Wildlife Trust
 Riverfly volunteers taking samples from the River Torridge in 2014: