Monday, 30 January 2017

Charity hopes to open 'Nature School'

A local conservation charity has announced that it hopes to open Devon's first 'Nature School'.

Devon Wildlife Trust wants to open the Nature School as a combined nursery and primary school aimed at children aged 3 to 11 years using the free school model widely adopted elsewhere. The Nature School would be a 'mainstream' school, open to all, following the National Curriculum, but one which the charity says would put outdoor learning and the natural environment at the heart of a high quality education for local children.

Okehampton has been put forward as the proposed location for the school. The town has been identified by Devon County Council as an area where there is an urgent need for more primary school places to be provided. If the Trust's proposals are successful the Nature School would occupy new premises to be built on the north-east outskirts of the town close to Crediton Road.

Devon Wildlife Trust is now talking to local authorities, people and schools in the West Devon market town to gauge their support for the proposal. The Trust's Chief Executive Harry Barton said:
"We are seeking support from members of the community across Okehampton, in particular from parents whose children would be eligible to attend primary school in 2018 or 2019 and who live in the Okehampton area or nearby."

As part of this conversation the charity is holding a Nature School consultation day. Staff from Devon Wildlife Trust will be on hand at the Ockment Centre<>, North Street, Okehampton between 2pm and 7pm on Friday 24th February to discuss the proposals and answer questions. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Devon Wildlife Trust has established a long track record of working with young people since its foundation in 1962. Now the charity is keen to extend this work deepening the positive link between young people the natural world. Harry Barton explained:
"Each year Devon Wildlife Trust supports many thousands of school children to learn through nature. Our plan to open a Nature School is rooted in our experience that children thrive, are happier and their attainment improves when their learning is linked closely to the natural world around them. The positive feedback we receive from the teachers, students and parents we work with is supported by an impressive body of independent research. Ofsted has also reported that learning outside the classroom contributes significantly to raising standards and improving pupils' personal, social and emotional development."

Harry Barton added:
"We hope that Okehampton will become the first community in Devon to benefit from a Nature School. The town has a fascinating history and is surrounded by wonderful countryside, with rivers, parklands and woodlands, and all within a stone's throw of Dartmoor National Park.  I can't think of a better place for a Nature School, and I really look forward to working with teachers and the local community to make it a success."
"Our intention is not to compete with other schools. At Okehampton there is a need for more primary school places which we can help address. We want to work alongside existing local schools and become part of a thriving school community delivering high quality education."

Devon Wildlife Trust's plan for a Nature School is one of four being proposed by Wildlife Trust's in England. The others include schools at Chippenham in Wiltshire, Nuneaton in Warwickshire and Smethwick in Birmingham.

The Okehampton Nature School is still at the planning stage and success will be subject to an application to the Department of Education (DofE). This application is planned for spring 2017 with a scheduled school opening estimated as early as 2018.

However, plans for the Nature School will only proceed if Devon Wildlife Trust can demonstrate strong local support. So, as part of its application process, the charity is now asking the public for its backing.

People who wish to register their support for plans to establish Devon's first Nature School can do so at a dedicated website

People with questions about Devon Wildlife Trust's Nature School plans are being urged to email & ; using the message title 'Nature Schools'

Children working with Devon Wildlife Trust in an outdoor learning environment. Photo copyright Charlie Tyjas (All Rights Reserved)
Children working with Devon Wildlife Trust in an outdoor learning environment. Photo copyright Charlie Tyjas (All Rights Reserved)

Thursday, 26 January 2017

North Devon Film Competition Produces a Feast for the Senses

A film competition has produced a series of wonderful short films showcasing the natural beauty of North Devon. 

Community film making organisation North Devon Moving Image CIC (NDMI) ran the Wild Shorts competition between May and November 2016 with the aim of raising awareness of the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). 

“Entries came in from new and experienced film makers of all ages and the quality and variety of subject and creative style was impressive.” Says NDMI Creative Director, Amanda McCormack, who hosted the Oscars-style Wild Shorts Awards ceremony in Barnstaple last Friday.

Twenty year old film student Rhys Harris, who travelled from Cornwall to North Devon to make his Wild Short, Places Afar, won both first prize in the Adults category and the overall Judges’ Choice Award.

Kathryn Jeffs, a Senior Producer at the BBC’s Natural History Unit was on the Wild Shorts judging panel.  She praised Places Afar, saying “Loved this film. Intriguing opening, beautifully filmed, captured my attention immediately. This had visual flare married beautifully with spoken word.  Contemplative, well paced, expansive and thoughtful. I could watch on loop. Wonderful!”

Rhys was delighted with the outcome “Winning the competition was a huge boost of confidence for me. The fact that something I made was able to win something means that I must be doing something right! I had a great time attending the awards show and I can't stress enough how thankful I am to everyone involved. Now I have the spike in motivation to go and make something new!"

The Wild Shorts project which included film making workshops for families, school children and adults was funded by the North Devon Coast AONB, Fullabrook CIC and the Tarka Country Trust. “The films produced for the Wild Shorts competition show how the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty provide a feast of the senses for all those who visit and enjoy them.” said AONB Manager Jenny Carey-Wood. “From the tastes of wild fruit and fungi, the feel of sand and shells, the sounds of seabirds and streams, the sight of the sea and sky and the views out to Lundy and inland to the heaths and woodlands. This project has comprehensively achieved the objectives of our Sustainable Development Fund by reaching new people and increasing understanding and awareness of the AONB.”

Thanking the project’s funders and partners at the Wild Shorts Awards ceremony, Amanda McCormack gave a special mention to the local business and organisations whose generous prize donations (see below) were a great enticement to participation in the competition. 

Full list of winners by category:
  1. Primary School: Rockpooling Club by Torchlight! by Paige, Daisy, Noah, Lily and Mr Hockley from Combe Martin Primary School. Prize 4 X child season tickets to Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park
  2. Secondary School: Colours in Nature by Willow Chater, Lauryn Reed and Ella Jenkins. Prize 3 X child annual passes to Ilfracombe Aquarium
  3. Age 12-17:  Our Guide to Sustainable Living by Seraphina Allard-Bridge and Martha Macdonald Prize 4 X Day passes to GoldCoast Oceanfest 2017
  4. Family: Mouth Mill by Alice Bollen, Remo Rossi and Lorenzo Rossi.  Prize annual family membership to Devon Wildlife Trust.
  5. Adult: a.  Winner: Places Afar by Rhys Harris. Prize Annual Membership to National Trust.   b.   Runner Up: My Favourite Walk: The Speke’s Mill Valley by Rhodri Davies.  Prize annual car park pass for Down End Croyde.
Judges’ Choice Award: Places Afar by Rhys Harris.

The 15 Wild Shorts shortlist nominees’ and winners’ films are now available to watch on the North Devon Moving Image website and Youtube playlist

 Primary School: Rockpooling Club by Torchlight! by Paige, Daisy, Noah, Lily and Mr Hockley from Combe Martin Primary School
Primary School - Tom Williams (local vet, wildlife vlogger & judge) Mr Hockley and young film makers from Combe Martin Primary School for their film Rockpooling Club by Torchlight! and Amanda McCormack (NDMI)
Secondary School: Colours in Nature by Willow Chater, Lauryn Reed and Ella Jenkins
 Secondary School - Lawrence Raybone (Ilfracombe Aquarium) and winners and nominees from Ilfracombe Academy Winners - Willow Chater, Lauryn Reed, Ella Jenkins for Colours in Nature
12-17 category - TV producer/director Martin Kemp (judge) nominee Jonathan Lethaby, winners Martha Macdonald and Seraphina Allard-Bridge, nominees Amazon Bray, Charlotte Phillipson and Amanda McCormack (NDMI)
 Family - Local film maker Jo Stewart-Smith (judge) Alice Bollen & Remo Rossi (winners of family category with film Mouth Mill), Amanda McCormack (NDMI)
Adult: a.  Winner: Places Afar by Rhys Harris. Prize Annual Membership to National Trust.   b.   Runner Up: My Favourite Walk: The Speke’s Mill Valley by Rhodri Davies.
Adult category nominees & winners: Rhys Harris (winner), Rhodri Davies (runner up), Chris Sharp (nominee), Thomas Martin (nominee), Catherine Oliver (nominee), Andrew Woollacott from Christie Devon Estates (judge) and Amanda McCormack (NDMI)
Judges’ Choice Award: Places Afar by Rhys Harris.
Judges' Choice - Judges' Choice category winner Rhys Harris for his film Places Afar, Jenny Carey-Wood (AONB & judge), Amanda McCormack (NDMI)
The 15 Wild Shorts shortlist nominees’ and winners’ films are now available to watch on the
 North Devon Moving Image website and Youtube playlist

Monday, 23 January 2017

Local charity nominated for top BBC Countryfile award

Local conservation charity Devon Wildlife Trust could be in line for a prestigious honour for its work with beavers.

The Trust has been nominated jointly with a similar project in Scotland in the 'Wildlife Success of the Year' category of the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2017. The nomination is recognition of the work being done by Devon Wildlife Trust with the beavers which are living on the River Otter in East Devon. The beavers are thought to be the first wild population in England for 400 years. The Trust is now hoping that people from across Devon, the South West and beyond will vote in the poll being organised by BBC Countryfile Magazine which will determine the winner.

The Trust's Steve Hussey said:
"We were delighted to hear the good news of the nomination. Now that public voting has opened we're urging all beaver supporters to get their votes in either on-line or via a copy of BBC Countryfile Magazine. If we can win it will show public support for these important and fascinating animals."

A breeding population of beavers was first discovered on the River Otter in 2014. No one knows how the beavers came to be living wild in East Devon. In 2015 Devon Wildlife Trust was granted a five-year licence from Natural England which allowed the beavers to remain after they were initially threatened with removal. The licence also allowed the charity to establish a project which will monitor the beavers until 2020 when a decision about their long term future is to be made by the government. The project involves several local partners including Clinton Devon Estates,
University of Exeter and the Derek Gow Consultancy.

Steve added:
"We're very proud to be leading the River Otter Beaver Trial. Beavers are remarkable animals which can add to the richness of our countryside's wildlife and play a part in improving water quality and even help guard against the worst effects of flooding. Beavers went extinct in the UK centuries ago, but now they are back in Devon they have certainly become celebrities attracting many hundreds of people hoping to see them."

Shortlisting for the BBC Wildlife Magazine Awards was done by a panel of judges which included Bill Bryson, John Craven and Anita Rani. The nomination draws attention to the beavers' long absence from the UK countryside and the historic work done with the animals both in Scotland and Devon.

The nomination reads:
"These riparian architects were hunted to extinction in Britain 400-500 years ago. Now, thanks to the success of a trial on the Knapdale Estate in Argyll, they've been given leave to stay and Government protection [in Scotland], making them the first mammals to be officially reintroduced to the UK landscape. In Devon, a wild breeding population is living on the River Otter and is being monitored by the Devon Wildlife Trust."

Other nominated projects in the same award category include conservation work done with dormice, cirl buntings, bumblebees and bitterns.

Devon Wildlife Trust's Steve Hussey added:
"All the projects nominated would be worthy winners, but there is something about beavers, the fact that they have been lost for so long and now are back which we feel gives them the edge. Being involved in the project, seeing the animals swimming in a Devon river has been such a thrill - it has meant being a part of an amazing chapter in our country's natural history. Surely that must be worth people's vote!"

People can vote in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2017 by going on-line and picking their winners at or by filling out a simple form in the February edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine. The poll ends on 28th February 2017.
A mother and kits on the River Otter, East Devon. Photo copyright Mike Symes (All Rights Reserved)

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Devon charity makes top appointment

An influential Devon conservation charity has announced the appointment of its new Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Dr Peta Foxall is taking over the role at Devon Wildlife Trust. She will head the charity's Board of Trustees, the body which determines the Trust's strategic direction. As with all the charity's trustee board members, Dr Foxall's position is an unpaid,voluntary one.

Dr Foxall brings a wide range of experience to the leadership role. Her background is in senior positions in the fields of education, science and health. She holds a PhD in biological chemistry and worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital before gaining a senior lectureship at the University of London. More recently, Peta was Professor and Director of Postgraduate Programmes at the University of Exeter Medical School and Chair of the School's research ethics committee.

In her personal life Dr Foxall describes herself as a "committed volunteer". She is a public governor of the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and works in her local community village shop. She also owns and manages an ancient woodland on the banks of the River Taw in Devon.

Dr Foxall will lead a 15 strong board of trustees for Devon Wildlife Trust which has more than 31,000 supporters. Its Chief Executive Harry Barton welcomed the news of her appointment:
"I'm delighted to welcome Peta Foxall to the role of Chair of Trustees. To be able to appoint someone of such experience and expertise is wonderful news for our charity.

Peta has been a Devon Wildlife Trust supporter since 2003 and has served as one of our trustees for six years, so she knows us well. We're looking forward to her sharing her broad experience of senior management with us. For an ambitious and growing charity such as ours her background in fields including health, education and the sciences will be a real plus."

Dr Foxall looked forward to her new role:
"I have worked with world-renowned hospitals and universities in London and Exeter and know that Devon Wildlife Trust has the same organisational integrity, commitment and courage as those centres of excellence. I am delighted to have the opportunity to translate my professional expertise to the role of Chair. I will focus on providing strategic leadership for the Board of Trustees as well as supporting (and occasionally challenging) the Chief Executive. Fostering an ethos of enjoyment in working together means we will have the insight, flexibility and strength to address the challenges and uncertainties that come our way as a wildlife charity."

Dr Peta Foxall steps into the role vacated by BBC filmmaker and well-known Devon naturalist Andrew Cooper who stepped down last autumn. It was a position that Andrew had occupied for 11 years.

Harry Barton paid tribute to Andrew Cooper:
"Andrew's legacy as Chair of our Trustees is a Devon Wildlife Trust which is doing more good work for local wildlife than ever before. Under his stewardship our supporters have grown to more than 31,000 people, our number of nature reserves has grown to 50, we are working with more landowners and farmers than ever before, and we have opened our first visitor attraction in the shape of Seaton Jurassic. It's a proud record to pass on."

Dr Foxall's appointment was confirmed at a recent meeting of Devon Wildlife Trust's trustees. She said:
"It is truly humbling to have been nominated by my fellow Trustees to be the Chair of Devon Wildlife Trust. Their endorsement means a lot to me because I value highly their tangible sense of responsibility to the Trust and collective knowledge and passion for wildlife and natural landscapes."

 Dr Peta Foxall, Chair of Trustees, Devon Wildlife Trust
  Dr Peta Foxall, Chair of Trustees, Devon Wildlife Trust

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Wille and the Bandits. New Album "Steal" available now. UK Tour Starts 20th January

Wille and the Bandits UK “Steal Tour” continues 20th January with a return visit to North Devon in March. If you missed them at The Factory, Barnstaple last October fans can catch up when they play at The Palladium, Bideford on the 18th March. Other local gigs include:
      • 20th January -  Penzance, The Acorn 
      • 21st January - Honiton, The Beehive 
      • 29th January - Minehead, Giants of Rock 
      • 2nd February - Bath, Chapel Arts 
      • 4th February - Poole, Mr Kyps
      • 17th March - Totnes, The Barrel House 
The new album “STEAL”, available to pre-order now, is the strongest sounding album yet from Wille and the Bandits. With three previous self-released albums, “New Breed” (2010), “Breakfree” (2012) and “Grow” (2013), the band have been building a reputation throughout the UK and Europe as one of the best live acts around, playing over 200 gigs a year. 

Among the artists they have shared festival stages with are Joe Bonamassa, Deep Purple, JJ Grey, Beth Hart and Wilko Johnson. The UK trio’s socially aware lyrics and multi-instrumentation makes for the most original and refreshing sound heard in years. 

Now signed to the Jigsaw label, the new album “STEAL” was produced and engineered by Dave Williams at The Grange Studios in Norfolk. It was tracked to analogue tape with the band live on the floor and without the use of any digital tools. The album sees the band deliver all the excitement and power of their electrifying live performances, while mixing it up with dynamic music choices, from hard to soft, electric to acoustic, a music roller coaster seldom achieved by recording artists these days. 

The band of Wille Edwards (Lead Vocals, Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Electric Lap Steel, Weissenhorn and Dobro), Matt Brooks (Six String Electric Bass, Five String Double Bass, String Arrangements and Backing Vocals) and Andy Naumann (Drums and Percussion) are joined by Don Airey from Deep Purple (Hammond/Keyboards) for three tracks on the album.  In support of the new album "Steal", the band will be touring the UK & Europe throughout 2017.  In April they will be touring Australia, New Zealand and India.

Wille and the Bandits. New Album "Steal" and UK Tour 2017
Who Said What about Wille and the Bandits
“Socially aware lyrics and planet hopping instrumentation makes for the most refreshing sound heard in ages”. CLASSIC ROCK

“This is Wille & the Bandits’ fourth album and it’s their strongest effort to date, with guitarist and vocalist Wille Edwards ably providing the six-string fireworks”. GUITARIST

“Wille’s playing remains a source of slide delight, with a crack rhythm section and Don Airey adding ethereal Hammond organ on a few tracks”. ACOUSTIC MAG.

“From the slide-driven Allmans influenced “Miles Away” to “1970” which sounds like Free, they play with a dynamic energy and have built an enviable live reputation”. UNCUT

“Steal” is a stunning album. The Bandits have taken blues-rock, dusted it off & freshened it up”. BUZZ MAG.

“This, their fourth album is strong enough to see them break through in a big way”. RHYTHM MAG.

“This phenomenal band produce intoxicating music that pulls you in, until you become drunk in the sound. The killer boisterous stadium rocker, ‘1970’ left a near full 100 Club breathless & stunned, in the nicest possible way”. BLUES IN BRITAIN

“It’s no surprise to me that these guys have been going down a storm on the festival circuit, with prestigious support slots with Joe Bonamassa and Deep Purple among others”. BLUES MATTERS

“Brilliant, there is so much good blues/rock around at the moment, not just Bonamassa.. 'Steal' is one of the best”. BEAT

“Wille and the Bandits sent campers home happy from the Great British R&B Festival - Rockin!” RECORD COLLECTOR

“One of the best up and comers that Britain has to offer in 2017, special talents and a hell of an album”. MUSIC-NEWS

“Wille is a superb slide player, I love what these guys are doing”. JOE BONAMASSA

“One of the best live acts in the country”. DAILY TELEGRAPH

“Love the soul in their music”. BOB HARRIS
“Easily the best support I can remember us playing with”. DEEP PURPLE 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

My Garden Today. Looking back and looking forward to an EVENTful Year

New resolutions and revolutions as the circle of life begins for another year in my North Devon Coast and Chronicle. It’s a fairly damp start but I have already seen Snowdrops rising, Pussy Willow and even a Daffodil and Marsh Marigold in bloom and to brighten the gloom a Song Thrush rested a while in the Apple tree today. 

The garden birds have been darting and dashing to and fro, a female Blackbird was singing atop the hedgerow yesterday and there was a cacophony coming from the privet in the front garden, a permanent roost for our local Sparrows. In addition to our regular visitors I was thrilled to see my first Firecrest and a Nuthatch. 

A bonny male Bullfinch brought New Year greetings on the 1st January 2016. Had to rescue a wee mouse from a wee house after he got himself trapped behind a suet ball in the bird feeder. February saw a couple of Red-legged Partridge on the field, it was, though, a good idea for the rest of the birds to take shelter as Henry and Imogen stormed in with eighty miles an hour winds. On 15th March Philip the Pheasant took up residence in the garden, returning each day for a drink of water. His mate Phyllis then did a recky of the site, supposedly to see if he’d chosen a decent spot for nesting. 

Marvin, the amorous Blue Tit returned to do his soulful dance on 5th April. It was wonderful to see the return of the Swallows on the 23rd and to catch sight of Mrs Tiggy and her little one at the front door at the end of April, there was also hale and snow flurries at that time so I hope they hadn’t come out too early.  We also welcomed a new “friend” in April a very cocky Spring Chicken who scurried about, pecking away in the front garden for a few days. I got up early at the end of April to listen and record the Dawn Chorus. Not quite as tuneful as I’d hoped but that’s nature for you. 

I was sitting quietly in the back garden at the beginning of May when a very noisy big yellow bird suddenly rose up from behind the hedgerow. Reminded me of watching Airwolf. It was in fact the “Linesman for the County”. I think we made a connection. Later on about 200 crows descended on the newly harvested field.   

Also had some magic moments while out walking, I watched as a deer galloped through the Bluebell woods at “Hart”land Abbey, and, as well as hearing the Skylarks as they hovered above us on Northam Burrows,  I also finally got a decent pic. Heard the screaming Swifts aloft in July and the 3rd brood of fledgling Sparrows emerged in my garden. 

I said farewell to the House Martins and Swallows as they gathered on the wire mid-August. October had a close encounter with a Servil at Tamar Otter Sanctuary, watched a Dipper dancing across the stones on Exmoor’s River Barle and recorded an Egret a Cormorant and a Heron down the beach at Sandymere.  November took pics of inanimate but lifelike big birds and other critters at the Rosemoor Garden’s Winter Sculpture Exhibition in Torrington. Returned in December to walk off all that Xmas fayre and recorded two Redwings. 

New Year’s Eve day enjoyed a bracing walk and watched the teeny Sanderlings tripping the light fantastic across the sand and surf at Westward Ho! Today (1st January 2017) the soggy damp day was brightened by the return of the Song Thrush in the Apple tree, hopefully he is now a regular.

There were some out of this world sunsets, sunrises and super moons in 2016 including a Strawberry Moon on the longest day, the 20th June.  I spotted an amazing low-lying red moon out my window at 4.30am on the 8th July. There was a Harvest Moon on the 17th September, got shots of the Supermoon (Hunters Moon) on the 15th, 16th and 17th October and finally there was another Supermoon on 14 November and again on 14 December! Also out of this world was Major Tim Peake, the first British Astronaut to walk in space. He made his historic Space Walk Live on the 15th January 2016. What an eventful year, round and around, resolutions and revolutions, looking forward to an EVENTful 2017 in North Devon, hope you are too. (Article P. Adams 1st January 2017) 
P.S  The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is from 28th-30th January this year.

My Garden Birdwatch - Photo copyright Pat Adams (All rights reserved)
Skylark - Photo copyright Pat Adams (All rights reserved)
Tap here to Sign Up for the Big Garden Birdwatch 2017
👀 👀
My Big Garden Birdwatch 30th/31st Januaary 2016  
3 Blackbirds 2M 1F - 6 Blue Tits
2 Doves -  3 Chaffinch 2M 1F
1Sparrow -  2 Robin
2 Starlings - 1 Willow Tit - 1 Wood Pigeon

Queens Birthday Honours 2016. Major Peake, The UK's first official astronaut, was on the International Space Station when he received the news he would become a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George for services to space research and scientific education. Wikepedia Stub - Tim Peake

Wikepedia Stub - Airwolf . An 80s action-espionage television series with Stringfellow Hawke, a pilot who has to retrieve the helicopter named Airwolf from the hands of its creator Dr. Moffet with the help from his friends, while going through a series of adventures.