Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Stepping into the Past at Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve

Here we go again, as we just start to think about Spring, the UK is hit by the "Beast from the East". Well there is snow on them there hills of Exmoor and Dartmoor but once again just a snow flurry today where I live near Bideford.

We had lunch at RHS Garden Rosemoor on Sunday hoping to capture a preview of the Snowdrops before their "Snowdrop Trails" start in February, but sadly due to very high winds the garden was closed so we took the opportunity to walk around Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve near Hatherleigh.

Hard to believe this was a working quarry up until 2004. It was purchased by Devon Wildlife Trust in 2012 and opened as a Nature Reserve in 2013. 

The clay pits of the past have flooded creating a series of lakes, ponds and muddy puddles. There are different colour-coded paths around the reserve some of which include access for wheelchairs/mobility scooters. 

The line of trees in the distance is the Tarka Trail which was once a railway line. The Marland narrow gauge locomotive, built in 1883, used to haul the white clay in open wagons as far as Torrington.

Not a lot of wildlife  to report we spotted a Buzzard aloft on the way then a couple of water fowl took off as we arrived at the Glebe.  Took a shot of some hoof prints in the mud up high beside Woolladon Lake, sadly did not to see the Exmoor ponies on this visit. We sat for a while in the freezing wind just taking in the view of the lake glistening in the Winter sun. Happy days.

Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve (DWT) Photo copyright Pat Adams North Devon Focus

 Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve (DWT) Photo copyright Pat Adams North Devon Focus
Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve (DWT) Photo copyright Pat Adams North Devon Focus

Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve (DWT) Photo copyright Pat Adams North Devon Focus
Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve (DWT) Photo copyright Pat Adams North Devon Focus 
Meeth Quarry DWT nature reserve is on the southern edge of the village of Meeth on the A386 between Hatherleigh and Great Torrington. Follow the access road for half a mile and the car park is on the left. Nearest postcode is EX20 3EP 
"The herd of Exmoor ponies are the unpaid workforce at Meeth Quarry. They work 24 hours a day, seven days a week munching the rank grasses and scrubby shrubs which would otherwise quickly overwhelm the nature reserve's open areas." 

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Clovelly Updates. Key changes down the cobbles.

The Red Lion Hotel situated on the harbour wall at the historic village of Clovelly, and looking across Bideford Bay will be undertaking further major renovations, starting in January and to be completed in March 2019.

The reception area will be refurbished using their much loved local Delabole slate (admittedly Cornish – but you cannot have everything in Devon) as the flooring. A reception desk picks up on our maritime tradition, and behind, as wallpaper, an enlarged map of Devon dating back to the 16th century, from the owning family's archives.

There will be comfortable seating in both the reception area, and the Lounge where oak flooring and rugs will replace the carpet.

An oak staircase will lead down to the Harbour Bar and Snug Bar. Both Bars will be refurbished, whilst not losing their original character.

The design criteria has been "traditional with a modern twist", and follows the brief of extensive renovation of the Restaurant in 2017 and the Sail Loft accommodation in 2011.

Red Lion Hotel, The Quay, Clovelly, Devon, EX39 5TF
Tel:: 01237 431237

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

"A Sigh for Devon" - Bicentenary of Edward Capern’s birth.

It was two hundred years ago, on 21st January 1819, that Edward Capern, Devon’s Postman Poet, was born into a poor, working-class family in Tiverton. His father, a baker, could not afford to educate his son and would never have dreamt that he would become nationally renowned as a poet, winning plaudits from the Prime Minister and support from the biggest literary names of the day.

The bicentenary of his birth would, perhaps, have gone unnoticed if his extraordinary story had not been brought back to public attention by Devon author Liz Shakespeare. She has written The Postman Poet, a novel based on the life of Capern, and has published 34 of his 600 poems in The Poems of Edward Capern. While writing the novel, Liz drew on historical research and details in the poems to tell the astonishing story through Edward’s eyes as he struggles to support his family, capturing the opportunities and inequalities of Victorian North Devon.

Edward Capern became a postman following the introduction of the Penny Post, walking the 13 mile round trip between Bideford and Buckland Brewer 364 days a year. He would jot down poems while he was walking and he often wrote on the envelopes he was about to deliver: “He had to ask the recipients if he could keep the envelopes because he’d written poems on them,” said Liz Shakespeare, whose own cottage was on Capern’s round.

He was entirely self-taught but he had a local benefactor, William Frederick Rock from Barnstaple, who saw Capern’s early poems in the North Devon Journal in the 1850s and supported the publication of the first volume of poems. The book was a national success, winning the support of Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Rowland Hill, the inventor of the Penny Post, as well as considerable local fame. Many people used to visit North Devon to see the Postman Poet set off on his round, at the same time as visiting the scenes made famous by Charles Kingsley’s book ‘Westward Ho!’ after which the seaside resort was named. Edward Capern was awarded a Civil List Pension by the Prime Minister for his services to literature and went on to write three further books of poems.

During her research, Liz found that some of his poems were intended to be sung, so collaborated with Devon musicians Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll who set them to music for their CD, The Songs of Edward Capern.

Most of his poems are happy and extol the beauties of the North Devon countryside, but he was also very aware of the darker side of life. Although he was careful not to upset the aristocracy who bought his work, Capern was keen to use his pen to champion the cause of the poor and he managed to slip in many reminders, amongst his happier verses, that the poor should not be forgotten, and that labourers should be paid fair wages.

One poem Nick and Becki have set to music is The Dinner Bell, a tale of the haves and have-nots in which Capern laments the plight of families who could hear the sound of distant dinner bells but had no food themselves.

In recognition of Capern’s commitment to social justice, £1 from each copy of the poetry collection sold is being donated to the Northern Devon Food Bank, and more than £500 has been raised so far.

Together, Liz Shakespeare, Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll have appeared at music festivals and book festivals to tell the story of Edward Capern through words and song.

On Monday 21st January Liz will be placing flowers on Edward Capern’s grave in Heanton Punchardon to commemorate the birth of Devon’s Postman Poet two hundred years ago. 

A Sigh for Devon
Bright haunt of the daffodil, myrtle, and rose,
Of solitude sweet, and of pleasant repose,
Where a welcome waits all with a heart in its hand,
My Devon! dear Devon! my beautiful land!
Blest region of valley, hill, woodland, and river,
I love thee, dear land, and shall love thee for ever.
Edward Capern
Edward Capern portrait - Photo copyright Burton Art Gallery (All Rights Reserved)
Portrait of Edward Capern - Photo copyright Burton Art Gallery (All Rights Reserved)
Devon author, Liz Shakespeare with musicians Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll
Devon Author, Liz Shakespeare with musicians Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll
The "Postman Poet" Edward Capern's Gravestone
Here lies The "Postman Poet" Edward Capern

Monday, 14 January 2019

Tarka Tales. Meandering beside the Marshes

This is Isley Marsh, the RSPB Nature Reserve just off the Tarka Trail beside the Taw/Torridge Estuary between Yelland and Fremington Quay. Visitor access is restricted to public footpaths, largely outside the reserve itself, but allowing expansive views across the estuary and the surrounding farmland. From here you can see across the estuary to Chivenor and Saunton Sands and the North Devon Biosphere..

It is an important haven in the busy estuary for undisturbed feeding and resting birds, especially the wintering flocks of ducks such as Teal and waders including significant numbers of Curlew, Greenshank and Dunlin. In recent years, numbers of little Egret have increased. 
An incredbly dull day on Sunday but we enjoyed the walk from Yelland to Fremington Quay. going past Isley Marsh we spotted two Spoonbills, a flock of Lapwing and a little Goldfinch. Further along the trail at Fremington Quay we saw 4 Oyster Catchers, 1 Curlew, 2 Shelduck and one Redshank. (Article photos credit Pat Adams 13 January 2019)
RSPB Isley Marsh Wildlife Refuge beside the Tarka Trail

RSPB Isley Marsh, North Devon. Photo copyright Pat Adams
RSPB Isley Marsh Saltmarsh and Mudflats beside the Taw/Torridge Estuary
Isley Marsh Notice Board. Photo credit Pat Adams

The Tarka Trail is popular with runners, walkers and cyclists. The section between Instow, Yelland and Fremington Quay is popular with birdwatchers. The Big Garden Birdwatch 2019 is from 26-28 January

Saturday, 5 January 2019

North Devon Focus. Looking back on a colourful 2018

A colourful reminder of the year around the Bideford Bay area and Exmoor.
Looking forward to a bright and beautiful 2019 on the North Devon Coast. Thanks for visiting and following.