GoldCoast OceanFest 2015

Great weather and a great turn out at this year’s 3 day festival held in Croyde. We had our marquee celebrating our coastal festival, marking 50 years of our Neptune campaign. We were busy getting mucky with our bare foot trail, learning about rock pool creatures, badge making and asking the public to take selfies using our selfie frame.

Check out your selfie photo’s on our Facebook page:

 Alongside us was Matt from H2Outdoors, talking about wild and adventurous activities.

Check out the photos below.

Luke Johns


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Devon Rangers in Exmoor

Originally posted on A Dartmoor blog:

I’ve just got back from a couple of days in West Exmoor with the National Trust Devon Rangers. It was their annual get together to discuss all things rangery.

Exmoor1Rangers in red – just to the east of Heddon Mouth

Exmoor2Stunning landscape around to Woody Bay

Exmoor3Looking west towards Baggy Point

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Why are we celebrating butterflies this month in Heddon Valley?

June is butterfly month, or so you are reliably informed by the colourful bunting decorating the Heddon Valley National Trust shop. Children are tucking into their ice creams, completed trail maps in hand, while others are enjoying butterfly arts and crafts activities put on by the Rangers. It seems the valley has gone butterfly mad. More on our June events.

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The Heddon Butterfly Trail: Follow the caterpillars to find the butterflies.

So what is the fuss all about? Well Heddon is home to one of the UK’s rarest butterflies, the High Brown Fritillary. It’s one of only three sites in the UK where the High Brown still breeds and a lot of the work of the National Trust Rangers is focused on improving the habitat for this species.

High brown fritillary butterfly (Argynnis adippe) on a fern, Cumbria, UK

We had some good news earlier in the season as 2014’s High Brown survey results were published. The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (BMS) released survey results from 2014, showing that the one of nation’s rarest butterflies, the High Brown Fritillary, increased by 180% compared to 2013.

The High Brown Fritillary is critically endangered due to the loss of its woodland habitats. Heddon Valley is one of its few remaining strongholds thanks to the work of the National Trust and its partners. Successful conservation management combined with a warm, damp spring last year to create perfect conditions for rapid growth of the High Brown Fritillary population.

West Exmoor Lead Ranger Julian Gurney said; “After many years of extensive habitat management, surveying and partnership working with Butterfly Conservation, Natural England and Exmoor National Park, it is fantastic to see numbers increase so dramatically. Let’s hope this summer’s survey results are equally encouraging.” Read more here

The work and effort put into conservation won’t often yield results quickly or dramatically so it’s safe to say that all the National Trust team at Heddon are delighted with this morning’s news.

We will be celebrating the success of Heddon Valley this June with a month dedicated to our butterflies. A family friendly butterfly trail is running June 6th and run to June 28th, with arts and craft activities and butterfly painting. On June 23rd Jenny Plackett, a local butterfly expert, will lead a guided walk to find the High Brown Fritillary. Alternatively if you’d like to get stuck in and help build upon this success story you can join our Working Holiday on June 14th to 21st. Join us and leading butterfly experts managing and enhancing this very important habitat through vegetation control to benefit the High Brown and other fritillaries. Find out more.

A Small Adventure – Peppercombe Bothy

On a chilly May Monday night my wife and I decided to forgo our comfy double bed, duvet and central heating for a night of adventure. This wasn’t an extreme adventure requiring lots of skill, expensive kit and years of training but more about getting away from it all….for 12 hours.   As Alastair Humphry calls it a micro-adventure ( No TV, no phone signal, no wifi well actually no electricity!

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We were spending the night testing the new National Trust bothy that has opened at Peppercombe on the North Devon coast between Bideford and Hartland. We arrived at the bothy just before 9pm and were lucky enough to be treated to a beautiful sunset with the sun disappearing behind Lundy island on the horizon. The bothy is basic with no heating or electricity but has clean running water and a flushing toilet. (see photo for best loo with a view) (don’t forget to bring toilet roll ). Sleeping is on elevated wooden platforms (the bothy sleeps 4 and dogs are allowed) with roll mats and sleeping bags essential on your kit list.

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After the sun had set and darkness descended I turned my small camping gas stove on for a cup of hot chocolate before bed. It wasn’t long before I got into my sleeping bag and drifted off to sleep. My sleep however was rudely awaken at about 2am by torrential rain falling on the roof, it sounded like hailstone however I’m sure it was just heavy rain! These squally showers continued for the next couple of hours meaning my sleep was decidedly broken. At about 5am after the latest shower we began to hear the birds tweeting and we were then treated to a fantastic dawn chorus while we happily lay in the warmth of our sleeping bags.

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A morning cup of tea on my trusty stove followed and then we were out the door to explore. We headed to Peppercombe beach which is only a 5 minute walk away. Due to the winds and rough seas we decided to pass up the opportunity for a swim and some lobster hunting (I’ll be back though as I hear it’s a great spot for both) and headed back to the bothy for some porridge. With a belly fully of hot porridge we packed our bags, gave the bothy a sweep out and headed off to work (I was just in time for my 8.15 meeting) happy in the fact we’d had an adventurous night and feeling very alive (if a little tired!)


The bothy is a great place to escape from it all, whether you are walking the South West Coast Path which is some 250m away, looking for a camping adventure where you won’t get wet or like me just looking for something a bit different for a Monday night!

Rob Joules, General Manager, North Devon National Trust

If you want to have a small adventure of your own you can book a night in the bothy by calling our Holidays Team on  0344 335 1287.

Dapper Dippers: Dipping a toe in surveying our river systems

Originally posted on Wicked and wild, it's a nature blog:

One of the wildlife spectacles I am always enthralled by is the to-ings and fro-ings of the European dipper (Cinclus cinclus) along a watercourse, and you are guaranteed to see them on a stroll to Watersmeet.

White throated dipper by Irene Mel via Flickr White throated dipper by Irene Mel via Flickr

Dipper Cinclus cinclus by GrahamC57 via Flickr Dipper Cinclus cinclus by GrahamC57 via Flickr

This plump and charismatic bird thrives on clean rivers and streams, feeding on riverfly larvae and small fish. They are often spotted perched on a rock bobbing up and down; this is what has earned them the title of Dipper. They feed underneath the water and are incredibly well adapted for this activity with strong legs for withstanding rushing currents, broad wings for manoeuvring under the water and a thick plumage for warmth. The first time I watched a Dipper feeding I was amazed at how long they spend underneath the water. Check out the following video for a…

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June Events

We have a packed schedule of great events happening in June. So good they are worthy of a blog post!

We start with a boat trip along the Hartland coast from Clovelly. A National Trust Ranger will help you discover the wildlife and heritage of this hidden coastline. The evening cruise will depart at 5pm on Thursday 4 June and there are only a few places left, but there is another Cruise happening in July.

Meanwhile at the other end of the North Devon coast the West Exmoor team has been busy putting the finishing touches to the Heddon Valley family Butterfly trail which will be launched on 6 June and run for the rest of the month.

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The trail will be free to use and run daily. Meanwhile the weekends will feature regular activities and events all  of which are listed in the poster:

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Other exciting events happening in June include the National Trust joining in with the fun at the Goldcoast Oceanfest in Croyde and the production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Heddon Valley on the 20th. Tickets for this are available in Heddon’s National Trust Shop, at Watersmeet tea-gardens and Lynmouth Pavilion.

Finally on the 27th June (and after all that fun!) you might need to escape into the wild. You can join the West Exmoor Rangers for a wild camping session in the farthest reaches of Exmoor. There will be an introduction to Bushcraft, shelter building and a taste of some wild food.

All events can be booked by calling 01598763402. For further details see the Events section of this blog page. See you there!

Dry Stone Walling: A Volunteer’s Perspective

Tuesday 28th April was an exciting day because, along with my friend and fellow Full Time Volunteer Zoe Caals, I got to try my hand at dry stone walling. We had been invited along by Heddon Valley Ranger (and resident dry stone walling expert) Dan Cameron to join his Working Holiday group (, and I really couldn’t wait.

Now, you could be forgiven for not sharing my enthusiasm – I understand that patiently aligning broken rocks, as if some giant puzzle that had long lost its guiding picture, is not everybody’s cuppa! But it is something that I had wanted to learn more about for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it is a traditional method of building walls without cement or mortar, which dates back at least three and a half millennia (according to the Dry Stone Walling Association – and I do enjoy a bit of tradition.

But secondly, it’s a pretty sustainable method of building, which uses materials from within the local vicinity and (if done well) can last for many hundreds of years. Consequently, I was really intrigued to understand how the National Trust is engaging with such practices to help maintain the health of local landscapes.

So, with shovel and mattock in hand off we hi-ho’ed – volunteers on a mission to reinforce tradition and develop sustainable practice within the North Devon countryside!

Yes readers, you have guessed it correctly… I started my journey with a totally romanticised and pretty unrealistic (although I am assured quite normal) ideal of dry stone- walling, which was very soon to change…

To give you some idea, this is what we were met with…


Just a muddy bank… No artistically aligning stones in the sun whilst bunny rabbits skipped merrily around our feet… just lots of digging!


And some more digging… In fact a whole morning of digging, until we had removed all the earth that had caused the wall to collapse and uncovered the massive foundation rocks. I never thought I would love the sight of a foundation rock so much in all my life!

The members of the working holiday (some of whom were old stone walling hands) were very encouraging and provided us with lots of support, and by lunchtime Zoe and I had managed to dig back, level with the rest of the wall…


So that afternoon we were in a position to begin the giant stone puzzle, slowly building up our courses (or rows of rock) – rebuilding the wall.


Dan – who has the patience of a Saint – helped us out with our first two courses and then let us loose on the third. It took us nearly an hour, balancing and cajoling, selecting and placing and then replacing… until: “Dan, Dan come and check it out”. We were so proud of our third course, expectantly buzzing around our mentor for approval… but his silence and the slightly amused expression on his face said it all… maybe a little more practice needed before our wall stands for the next 100 years!

Exhausted by the end, I had a really fantastic day. It’s a method of building that I hope to get more experienced at in the future, and for anybody who wants a taster of this kind of work the National Trust holidays are a great experience. Sadly, though I wasn’t able to help finish off our section of wall, but my intrepid partner Zoe limbered up for day two and shares with us her experience and the finished article…

I returned to West Lyn on Thursday with the working holiday group to complete the walling that we had started earlier in the week. I was paired up with Richard who had quite a bit of stone-walling experience prior to the holiday which gave me some confidence.

First, we finished off the section of wall that he had been working on before. It quickly took shape and we found some large rocks to use as cap-stones to finish it off. Hopefully this will give it sufficient stability to stay put and cope with any disturbance from animals. We also replaced some of the turf on top of the wall which should also help to hold it together.

We then picked up where Josey and I had left off on Tuesday. It still needed several courses and we were starting to use up our ‘good’ stones. We collected stones which had been left over from other completed sections, and got to work piecing it all together.


Some of the key things to remember were to line up each course with the one below and to have the front edges of the stones sloping down so that you aren’t accidentally creating footholds in the wall for animals. We found it also helped to stand back regularly to check that the course is straight and that the stones look well aligned. Perhaps the most important thing is to have patience as it’s a slow process (especially for beginners!).

Stone by stone we rebuilt the wall, packing the gaps with earth as we finished each course. Our huge heap of soil from the initial digging on day 1 didn’t seem to diminish though and there was plenty left over! It was satisfying to complete the wall and we then had the chance to go and admire everyone else’s work. Dan calculated that between us we had done 36 metres of walling – good work, team!


Words by Josey and Zoe; Photographs by Zoe