Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Reindeer in the city for charity Christmas event

Devon Wildlife Trust will be celebrating Christmas with its popular annual family event at the charity's Cricklepit Mill, in the heart of Exeter.

The converted medieval mill and garden will be open from 11am to 4pm on Sunday 11 December for the event.

Stars of the show at this year's Christmas at Cricklepit are likely to be the reindeer from a North Devon farm. Visitors will be able to pet and feed the reindeer before they see Father Christmas in his traditional green costume.

Children will also have the chance to create natural Christmas decorations out of willow and make bird feeders to give garden birds a nutritious, festive treat. A fun wildlife trail will also be set up in the garden.

Mince pies, hot drinks and live seasonal music will be available to keep visitors refreshed and entertained, while the charity's wildlife Christmas cards and  calendars will be on sale.

Devon Wildlife Trust's Jo Pullin, who is organising the day, said: 'Every year, we see dozens of families having a great time at Christmas at Cricklepit. It's a chance to have some fun, to explore one of Exeter's historic mills and help Devon's wildlife. Children will be able to take away new Christmas decorations they've made, as well as the memory of meeting reindeer in the city. The event always provides a welcome break from hectic Christmas shopping!'

Some of the activities are in gazebos in the garden, so visitors should wear warm clothing. Activities take place throughout the day, with no requirement to book places. Entry to Cricklepit Mill for this event is £2 per child and £1 per adult. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Devon Wildlife Trust's Cricklepit Mill can be found in Commercial Road, Exeter, EX2 4AB - two minutes' walk from Exeter's historic quayside. There is no parking at the Mill, but on street parking and car parks can be found close by.

For more information about this event and the work of Devon Wildlife Trust visit
Green Father Christmas; reindeer; children enjoy Christmas at Cricklepit
Green Father Christmas; reindeer; children enjoy Christmas at Cricklepit
Green Father Christmas, Reindeer and  children enjoying Christmas at Cricklepit - Photos copyright DWT (All rights resrved)

Monday, 21 November 2016

Extreme Beach Cleans

Reaching the parts that are hard to reach, the North Devon Coast AONB team, Skern Lodge and local volunteers are planning several events to remove marine litter washed up on the more remote parts of our coast.

“We are delighted to have funding from Tesco Bags of Help to involve the local community in protecting our wildlife and beaches by removing litter washed in from the sea,” said AONB Education Officer Cat Oliver. “Reaching the more remote beaches presents a number of challenges so we hope that combining the offer of a bracing walk or a chance to scramble down a cliff will inspire more people to help us clean up the beaches.”

The first ‘walk and beach clean’ is on Saturday 3rd December at Cockington Mouth from 10.00am to 3.30pm. This stretch of beach is a 45 minute walk south of Greencliff and north of Peppercombe, where the South West Coast Path dips down onto the beach (west of Abbotsham). Due to the remote location there is a phenomenal amount of marine litter stranded there that rarely gets taken away as there is no vehicle access. This is where Skern Lodge Outdoor Activity Centre comes in to provide the staff and a boat to remove the litter by sea. The National Trust, Keep Britain Tidy and Surfers Against Sewage are also supporting this event.

“We’re delighted to be able to work with the AONB team to share our skills, knowledge and equipment in looking after our outstanding coastline,” said John Watson, Skern Lodge General Manager. “We rely on the exceptional quality of the coast to bring people to North Devon.”

Plans for next year include a general beach clean, plus rock scrambling with Skern Lodge staff, at Hartland Quay on Saturday 25th February 2017. 
Marine litter on Cockington Mouth beach. Copyright North Devon Coast AONB (All Rights Reserved)
Marine litter on Cockington Mouth beach. Photo Copyright North Devon Coast AONB (All Rights Reserved)
Further information is on the AONB website calendar at 

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

November Highlight: Clovelly celebrates the Silver Darlings of the Sea.

This year Clovelly are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Clovelly Herring Festival, which is held to promote these tasty, nutritious Silver Darlings and support sustainable fishing.

The village once depended on the harvest of herring, which are caught in superb condition for a short season off its coast. Records go back over 400 years and in 1749, there were a hundred herring boats in the port. When fishing was good, 9000 herring could be landed at one time. Those days of massive catches are long gone and there remain just two herring fishermen who still employ sustainable fishing methods using drift nets and long lines.

There’ll be delicious herring specialities, cookery demonstrations, beer tastings, local food and craft stalls, live shanty singers, stiltwalker entertainment, face painting & henna tattos, a herring fishing photo exhibition, Herring Hunt and the National Trust event-themed children’s craft activities.

Maritime historian, Mike Smylie, will be returning with his “Kipperland” exhibition, which is devoted to the history of the herring. He will also be turning herring into delicate-tasting kippers and bloaters in his smokehouse.

There'll also be net making, flax processing and a Curragh on show provided by 'Flaxland' and a Herring Art Competition organised by The Small School, Hartland with the participation of other local schools. All the art will be on display on the day to be judged.
Clovelly Herring Festival - Photos copyright Pat Adams North Devon Focus (All rights reserved)
Clovelly Herring Festival 2015 - Photos copyright Pat Adams (All rights reserved)
Clovelly Herring Festival - Photos copyright Pat Adams North Devon Focus (All rights reserved)
History of the "Silver Darlings of the Sea" - Photos copyright Pat Adams (All rights reserved)
Clovelly Herring Festival, 10th Anniversary
Sunday 20 November from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Clovelly Harbour, North Devon
Contact: Visitor Centre. Tel: 01237 431781Email:

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Become part of the century’s most exciting conservation project, says Chris Packham

“The chance to make history” is the way that TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham is describing a campaign by the Devon Wildlife Trust.

The wildlife charity urgently needs to raise a minimum of £100,000 from a crowdfunding campaign to have a chance of securing the future of England’s only wild population of beavers. The beavers have made their home on the River Otter in East Devon. After being discovered in 2013 the beavers were originally set to be removed by government officials. However, a partnership led by Devon Wildlife Trust and involving local people and local landowner Clinton Devon Estates reversed this decision – but only for a 5 year trial period on a licence granted by Natural England.

This opened the way for Devon Wildlife Trust to launch the River Otter Beaver Trial in 2015, a five-year project which is monitoring the impact of the animals on the local landscapes, communities and wildlife. The Trial involves a lot of wide ranging activities, including:
  • monitoring the beavers’ welfare and introducing new animals to the river to
  • keep their small community genetically diverse;
  • working with local landowners and others to monitor and manage any impacts
  • the beavers are having on the local landscape;
  • and helping schools and other local communities take part in the exciting
  • story unfolding on their doorstep.
  • All project outcomes have to be fully supported by independent evidence.
The Trial is scheduled to finish in 2020 when the government will make a decision on the beavers’ future. However, Devon Wildlife Trust has to finance the whole of the project’s costs, which are estimated to be nearly £700,000. The charity receives no state funding for the project and now urgently needs to finance its beaver work.

Thanks to Devon Wildlife Trust’s supporters, to date the charity has raised nearly half of this sum, but it still has a way to go, so the charity has now launched a crowdfunding appeal. Crowdfunding allows the public to back your idea with pledges of money. Backers are then ‘thanked’ with rewards that reflect the money contributed.

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Mike Elsey has put the beaver crowdfunding appeal together.
He says:
“Rather than a simple plea for donations, we thought we’d do something different for Devon’s wild beavers. We’re asking people to pledge their support and in return we’re offering a range of very special unique beaver-themed rewards.”

These rewards include some highly unusual items. Among them is the chance to own a ‘beaver chip’ – a nibbled chip of wood actually gnawed by a Devon beaver. Other rewards range from a limited edition signed beaver cushion, designed by renowned artist Hugh Dunford Wood, a bespoke tour of the beavers’ river home in the company of an expert guide, a unique River Otter beaver soft toy, and even a personal appearance by ‘Nora’ the Devon Wildlife Trust’s beaver mascot.

Mike Elsey says:
“The rewards we’re offering are only available to people supporting Devon’s wild beavers. Pledges start at as little as £5, with the beaver chips being offered for those pledging £75.”

“Devon’s wild beavers have attracted so much interest, not just in Devon but across the UK and beyond. This is people’s chance to turn this interest into support. This is their opportunity to become part of this unique wildlife story and ensure that these very special animals remain in the wild at least until 2020.”

There are now thought to be around 20 beavers living on the River Otter. They are the first wild beavers in England for 400 years after the last populations were hunted to extinction. This summer beavers living near the East Devon village of Otterton drew hundreds of visitors all hoping to see a family which had had five kits (baby beavers).

Chris Packham has decided to back the crowdfunding appeal.  The TV presenter and naturalist is fronting a video for Devon Wildlife Trust. In it Chris says: “We have just four years in which to work with local people to prove to the government that beavers are good for the environment and can live in harmony with local people. If we don’t then the beavers will be removed.

“I have to tell you this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to help a magnificent and long lost mammal to thrive again.”

Chris Packham signs off with a direct appeal to the public:
“Please donate today to give Devon’s beavers a chance and to play a role in one of the most exciting conservation projects of the twentieth-first century. You never know it might pave the way for other native species to return to the UK.”

People wishing to support Devon’s wild beavers should visit 
There you can watch Chris Packham’s video appeal and find out about the range of unique beaver rewards being offered to people who pledge support.
 An adult beaver swimming in the River Otter. Photo copyright Mike Symes, Devon Wildlife Trust. (All rights reserved)
An adult beaver swimming in the River Otter. Photo copyright Mike Symes, Devon Wildlife Trust. (All rights reserved)
 River Otter beaver mother with her kits near Otterton, East Devon - Photo copyright Mike Symes/Devon Wildlife Trust (All rights Reserved)
River Otter beaver mother with her kits near Otterton, East Devon. Photo copyright Mike Symes/Devon Wildlife Trust (All rights Reserved)