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The Blackdown Hills celebrates 25 years of protection

PUBLISHED: 12:56 04 July 2016 | UPDATED: 12:56 04 July 2016

Typical Blackdown Hills landscape

Typical Blackdown Hills landscape

Archant

The peaceful, unspoilt countryside of the Blackdown Hills with deep hidden valleys and remote villages is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Laura Dale reports

Luppitt View at Blackdown HillsLuppitt View at Blackdown Hills

An area of outstanding natural beauty, the Blackdown Hills straddle the boundary of Devon and Somerset, and are often termed the Westcountry’s hidden gem.

Ancient hedgerows and flower-rich banks line small, irregular fields which date back to medieval times; and the larger fields with straight hedges on the plateau are from 19th century enclosures.

The stunning scenery is also a result of the area’s unique geology of Greensand, which provides the natural chert used in many traditional buildings. The area is also home to nationally important wildlife and archaeology.

The Blackdown Hills AONB is managed by a partnership of public bodies, local organisations and voluntary groups with an active interest in the Hills. One of its main projects is the Heritage Lottery Funded Blackdown Hills Natural Futures, which supports local people to set up community wildlife projects and gain new skills in ecological surveys and nature conservation.

Dormouse box installation at Blackdown HillsDormouse box installation at Blackdown Hills

So far the Natural Futures team have helped communities set up nature projects from conception, to providing advice and raising awareness. Blackdown Hills office manager Jackie Vaughan says: “It’s about getting people in the community involved in nature and wildlife, and protecting the landscape. Thanks to our Heritage Lottery funding, we can offer grants of up to £500 to get projects started.”

Natural Futures is currently supporting the Blackdown Healthy Living Centre (BHLC) to create an accessible wildlife friendly garden to brighten up an outside terrace. This will include ideas put forward by the Hemyock ‘Cameo Club’, a day centre for needy and elderly residents in the Blackdowns; and the ‘Bookworms’ group, a weekly play and activity session for babies and toddlers, their parents and carers. Ideas include: A number of wheelchair accessible raised beds planted with herbs, plants and flowers that will attract birds, butterflies, moths and other insects; installation of water butts to provide a sustainable source of water for the plants; bird and bat boxes; a cold frame for growing plants; tools and equipment for the groups to look after the plants.

They are also supporting the Newberry Field Open Spaces Management Group (OSMG) to incorporate some nature conservation elements into the design of a new community green space, including a wildflower meadow, a community orchard, a wetland area and hedgerow management. And in Honiton Natural Futures are involved in planting a wildlife area in The Beehive community centre car park, focusing on pollinators and bee friendly plants. w

If your community would like to: Create a wildflower meadow; put up bat, bird or owl boxes; plant an orchard or woodland; or make an existing community garden or public space more wildlife friendly; call 01823 681937 or email james.maben@devon.gov.uk

Visit: blackdownhillsaonb.org.uk

Events to celebrate the 25th Anniversary:

Goren Farm Meadow Festival

Saturday 9 July 12 noon to evening (open at 10am for those camping)

A special festival celebrating our vanishing wildflower meadows. Craft zone, circus skills, bug hunts, meadow walks, forest skills and demonstrations, pet corner area. Locally sourced food and drink. Camping in the meadows, bar with live bands and bonfire till late.

Cost: Adults £12.50; under 16 free. Camping: £5 fee per tent.

Location: Goren Farm, Stockland, EX14 9EN. Follow signs from Stockland Hill TV mast at Ridge Cross. Map ref: ST 232 023.

Phone Julian on 07770 694646.

Singing Walk

Saturday 24 September 
10.30am – 2.30pm

Walk and sing in the landscape with Caroline Rigby of the Blackdown Community Choir. Walk to Loughwood Meeting House, a thatched 17th century Baptist chapel owned by the National Trust, then return to Dalwood for more singing at the Tuckers Arms Inn, where you may wish to have lunch (please book). A gentle walk of no more than 3-4 miles.

Cost: FREE. Booking essential.

Location: Meet outside Tuckers Arms, EX13 7EG. Parking at Dalwood village hall

Call Blackdown Hills on 01823 680681 or email blackdownhills@devon.gov.uk

Improve your map reading: around Membury

Sunday 10 July 10am – 2pm

Improve your map reading skills and enjoy a walk with excellent views to the coast. Please bring a compass, walking boots, warm tops and waterproofs, and bring a packed lunch and drink. Circular walk visiting Membury Castle, apporoximately seven kilometres. Dogs must be kept on a lead.

Cost: FREE. Booking essential.

Location: Park in Village Hall car park, Membury, EX13 7AF.

Contact Tim Pitcher on 07715 49 02 29 or tim.pitcher@btinternet.com. To book phone 01823 680681 or email blackdownhills@devon.gov.uk

Hedgelaying course

Saturday 1 October 9am – 4pm

Learn to lay hedges in the Devon style. This is a very ‘hands-on’ course taking place in the East Devon countryside. Each pair of students will team-up with an experienced hedgelayer to lay a length of hedge on a Devon bank. Suitable for complete beginners and intermediate hedgelayers with an eye to taking part in our annual ‘Skills of the Hills’ competition.

Cost: £40. Booking essential.

Location: Meet at Yarcombe village hall, EX14 9AD. Map ref: ST 246 083.

For more information: hedgecourses@bhha.info or see website: bhha.info

Walking for Health: Grade 3 Walk

Thursday 14 July 10.50am 
(up to 90 mins)

Mid Devon Health Walks are run by the Westbank Centre, Exminster and are a great way to stay active. This walk may include steeper slopes, steps, uneven surfaces and possibly stiles. Wear suitable clothing and supportive footwear, and bring a bottle of water. Well-behaved dogs are welcome on a short lead.

Cost: FREE.

Location: Hemyock Parish Hall car park, Culmbridge Road, Hemyock, EX15 3QW.

To book call Anne-Marie Eveleigh 01392 824752 option 4 then 2, or email A.Eveleigh@westbankfriends.org

Blackdown mushroom foray 1

Saturday 1 October 11am – 2pm

Hunt for wild fungi and learn how to identify a variety of toadstools from the weird to the wonderful. After the walk, you can choose to join local botanist David Allen for a mushroom appetiser in the pub where there will be a display of your finds and more.

Cost: Adults £5; under 18s £3. Optional appetiser £3. Booking essential.

Location: The Old Inn, Kilmington, EX13 7RB. Map ref: SY 273 982.

For more information: Contact David Allen, Quantock Nature, on 01404 861394; email: leo@leoallen.plus.com

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