Posted by: thebarkhouse | July 14, 2014

Lanacre to Withypool

Ponies at Lanacre Bridge, Exmoor

Ponies at Lanacre Bridge, Exmoor


Clouds were high, a good breeze blowing across the moors as we left the car behind at Lanacre bridge. The path rises gently away from the river and the road, we passed through a small herd of cattle chewing the cud and some Exmoor ponies who looked very content.

Through an inviting gateway the track follows the field boundary with the River Barle not far away below us. Good, easy walking, excellent signage and solid under foot.

Our aim was Withypool just some two miles away. The pathway had obviously been used some time ago as a track from a farm onto the moors, but there was little sign of recent activity. There is a diversion around the first farm and the path drops down to the river and follows along the bank for the rest of the way. Quiet and peaceful, a lovely afternoon walk. Wild flowers, grassy meadow, river quietly wending it’s way through the landscape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAComing out from the trees the path runs close to the river, the bridge, and a tea room not far away. A very tranquil picture and Exmoor countryside. The dog enjoyed the walk as well with the occasional dip into the river, she is somewhat elderly these days so well controlled.



Tearoom at Withypool

Finally we sat in the Tearoom, scones, strawberry and whortleberry jam, coffee and walnut cake and a pot of hot tea. Plenty of people enjoying the same experience, and god clean toilets on hand! The scene is a picture from yesteryear with the old petrol pumps in the background and a fabulous village shop across the road. Well refreshed we took a different rout back to the car. The road goes behind the Royal Oak Inn and we took the first left. A long gentle rise, tarmaced all the way, a quiet ‘no through road’ to the edge of the moor.

All in all a great afternoon walk, in total three hours, and when we returned to the car the ponies were grazing nearby, so we spent half an hour watching them.

Posted by: thebarkhouse | June 29, 2014

Green Cornfield

Green Cornfield

After the rains this view across a corn field with Ash Plantation at Stoodleigh on the horizon

Posted by: thebarkhouse | June 28, 2014

Walk to Iron Mill Stream

Great walk round Oakford yesterday afternoon in rain and steamy sunshine. Up out from Oakfordbridge, across the main B3227 into the deep cut lane towards the village. Turning right at the Old Police house the lane give a great view of the village with the Church and Village Hall, two of the most important institutions showing prominently. this lane take me to FordmoorX which as the name suggests is a cross between the ford and the moor, an old crossing probably centuries old when there really was an Oakford down. the banks, although wet, are full of flowers such as woodbine, dog rose, and I count the species in the hedge over a 30 yard stretch, holly, hazel, beech, ash, rowan, oak, blackthorn, hawthorn and that makes the hedge over 500 years old. Following the road round past Ringtones, left at the end and then right down the lane towards Nethercot. From the high down I now decend into the valley, the surface becomes rough and although recently skimmed, shows its age. The beeches on the banks have been laid several times and their roots are now skeletons. Iron mill stream runs along the valley floor, a wonderfully tranquil place, the hard surface of the ford laid a long time ago to take annimals and carts from Stoodleigh to Anstey. My walk continues through the woods to Iron Mill bridge. A Forestry company has taken over management of these woods and work has been done on the track. the woodland floor is carpeted with whortlberry and the trees are mainly skinny oaks, the birds are singing furiously, mainly the old storm cock high in the conopy. Irion Mill bridge has just been repaired following damage by heavy traffic and the lane takes me back up out of the valley to Stuckridge Cross. Back down the hill to Oakfordbridge where the Old Smithy and Mill stand guard. How lucky we are to have these wonderful walks through the most fabulous countryside with a landscape or history set out before us.Image

Posted by: thebarkhouse | March 7, 2014

Spring time in the Exe Valley


Flowing from high Exmoor to Exmouth the River Exe is joined by the River Barle at Exbridge draining all the water falling on Exmoor and the surounding catchment into the English Channel. During the last Ice Age the ice sheet stopped at Exmoor and the melt water ran south long before the Bristol Channel was formed. The landscape from Simonsbath, Exford, and Weddon Cross to Tiverton shows the result of the forces at work during that period creating afoundation for the fabulous landscape we see today. High moorland with peat bogs draining into steep sided valleys, twisting at underlying hard rock and eventually widening into a fertile wider valley.

North from Tiverton the river mianders through the valley starting with low hills on either side, eventually narrowing with your route climbing steeply onto open moorland. The main centers of habitation are Bampton, Dulverton, Withypool, Winsford, Exford, and Weddon Cross, plus many smaller hamlets. There is open, valley floor, farming in Bollam and Cove but the valley farms then move onto higher ground. Before Beeching in the ’60’s the railway ran through Cove turning right into Bampton and back across the valley at Brushford then on to Barnstaple. The tree lined valley from Cove norhwards is well covered with Oak and Beech trees, a few conifer plantations but the old woodland remains.

We live in Oakfordbridge in the Bark House, as its name suggests, a house for bark. Some of the old oak trees we have on our property have stumps more than 300 years old. The trees were copiced, trimmied to two or three trunks, and harverted after a few years for their bark. The peak of the bark industry was in the 18th century when oak bark was used in the tanning process and leather was the mainstay of life. There were tanners in most villages, Bampton was no exception, many glove makers employing children, as well as sadlers producing tack for all the horses.

At Exebridge the valley opens out into a modern flood plain but would have been a bog, with streamlets and river along with willow trees. In ancients time a track was picked through this area and was a main route from south Dorset to North Devon. There were tracks higer up on the moors which are much easier to pick out especially from Weddon Cross eastwards and from Shoulsborough across Five Barrows. The whole landscape ouses history and is crying out for it’s story to be told. From the low hills looking down onto Exebridge the two valleys of the Exe and the Barle can be seen clearly, as can the route out to Barnstaple through Brushford and on to Ash Mill.

Today, spring is coming, hazel bushes have catkins, willow shows white buds, birds are singing and there is a feeling of optomism in the air. We have had snowdrops, the primroses and daffodils are in flower, lambs are starting to appear in the lowland farms. We can look forward to the soft, green leaves of the beeches, plump pussy willow, and the first calls from Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Already Mallards are sorting out nesting sites, Robins are proudly dislaying in their teritories, and a pair or Kingfishers have been spotted on the river. Spring is ahead of us with blue skies, warmer and longer days, and sunshine lighting up the valley.


Posted by: thebarkhouse | May 2, 2013

Jacobites in Devon

Who would have thought of Devon as a hotbed of Jacobite support?

Like many people I enjoy the romantic vision of Jacobite stories and songs which I read about many years ago, but only recently came across the support for the cause in England. It appears that the West Country provided strong support for James III with many prominant people names as suporters.

Although Frances Atterbury, the Bishop of Rochester, was not a Jacobite at the time, he was in the archdeaconry of Totnes in 1701 and great friends with Johnathan Trelawney, the Bishop of Exeter. Atterbury turned Jacobite around 1716 and became a major player in the Atterbury plot to remove the Hanovarian monarch.

The Jacobite plot to bring James III to the throne was supported by many Tories and protestants who saw the Hanovarians as imposters and because of the industrial depression many clothiers in the west Country supported the Jacobites. James III had a list of people throughout the land who were named as supporters and Devon had a score of names on this list including Sir William Courtnay of Powderham, Sir Coplestone Warwick Blampfylde of Poltimore, Sir William Pole of Shute (MP for Honiton), Stephen Northleigh (MP for Totnes), John Rolle of Stevenstone, and Lord Clifford of Ugbrooke.

The local population also supported the cause. In Newton Abbot they removed rope from the bells to prevent a peel rung in celebration of the coronation. In Axminster there were events against William of Orange. In the surrounding area of Shute efegies of the Pope and the Pretender were dragged from bonfires, in Tiverton there were riots, in the Pelican public house in Exeter there were fights, and in Culmstock there it was noted that there were ‘idle’ and ‘disgruntled’ clothiers supporting the cause.

The Oath Rolls of 1723 brought further dissatisfaction and in Tiverton the outgoing mayor refused to support the incoming mayor so the town came under the jurisdiction of the County Courts so the people of the town were required to go to Exeter to sign the Oath (423 men and women of Tiverton signed)

Visit Devon and come to see some of the fine houses where these events took place. Powderham Castle, Thorncombe Manor, Ugbrooke Court. Also on a related matter of the Throckmorton Plot to murder Elizabeth I the village of Molland on Exmoor was and still is part of the Throckmorton Estate.

Posted by: thebarkhouse | March 28, 2013

Tiverton TIC

On Tuesday an e-mail from Heart of Devon spurred me into action, asking to support Tiverton TIC, possible closure. There was a meeting that day and later in the week on Thursday. Straight to Twitter to seek support, then to the aftermoon meeting. The meeting was a pre Council Cabinet meeting, Open Forum session at the beginning, Tiverton TIC funding coming on item 17. Both TIC mangement and MDDC officers put their case. Checked Twitter later and there was very little support.

Having listened to them all my feelings are as follows :-
The thought of a tourism focal  point ceasing to exist in or near Tiverton with no plan in place to address this issue is appalling. The TIC serves a range of tourist based businesses in Tiverton and the surrounding rural area, and although it provides a somewhat out of date format its demise should be linked to a seamless transfer to a more electronic system. This would enable some form of continuity and a continued service to small businesses in the Mid devon District.

At the meeting on Tuesday Councillors were informed that talks had been ongoing with the TIC for 18 months. In light of the initial comments from the Peer Group Challenge this is an outstanding example of lack of urgency. Many councillors will be in business and I would ask, ‘does it take them 18 months NOT to make a decision over a cost’? This lack of urgency define the district as can be seen from the progress on Jct 27 development, which could well provide a Tourism Gateway for Mid Devon and the Exe Valley.

The TIC seems to be asking for £6k, or £20k fromthe  MDDC  side of the argument. In light of the fact that MDDC will be spending £12k on re-sending Council Tax invoices, do councillors not feel that some funds should be made available to permit the seamless change to a 21st century Tourism Information Service.

Small rural businesses are operated by people who are prepared to look after themselves and often don’t seek help. Growth in the Mid Devon District could well be driven by these small businesses and some form of Small Business Champion to drive this , with the help of a Tourism Information Service, would be a great benefit. Does the promotion of Mid Devon figure in the growth strategy for MDDC? If so then this is a fine opportunity to make a decision and get on with it with some sense of urgency.

Posted by: thebarkhouse | March 22, 2013

Peer Group Challenge MDDC

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend an hour attending the Peer Group Challenge with Mid Devon District Council focusing on what the council is doing and what could be done to promote growth in the region. The meeting was facilitated by two respected business and council people from other parts of the country, and attended by four people associated with land development and myself. The developers were putting forward ideas relating to land around Tiverton and at Junction 27 on the M5. For my part I was championing small rural businesses and making various suggestions that would help them. The following are the points I raised :-
1. A local champion for small rural businesses based in MDDC to get a better voice at the top table of the district.
2. Promoting growth means that we should ‘buy local and sell national’, a philosophy that will draw money into the region.
3. The use of social media by MDDC is low key and requires a greater emphasis. It apears that any business not using social media could well be out of business in 3 to 5 years.
4. Lets have a community bank where local people can invest in the area and small inovative businesses can get loans, even a local ‘peer to peer’ investment scheme, a form of Dragons Den for Mid Devon.
5. Promoting our area and local businesses to the outside world is vitally important and the only way to enabling growth. The term ‘Mid Devon’ is a poor promotional tool and I feel there should be a more desciptive name for the region.
6. Many people talk about being behind, on or ahead of the curve, if we do then currently we are looking at the wrong curve. To promote growth we need to ‘Jump the Curve’, a leap of faith, onto the next curve, one that has an upward trajectory. To do this we need inovative thinkers and visionaries to inspire the business community – who is doing this in Mid Devon?

Our part of Devon has a huge amount to offer, great access by road, rail and air, a mixed population that can support each other, a lifestyle that is envied by others, landscape and buildings that have huge tourism potential. Lets tell the world about this fabulous part of Devon where the Council welcomes inovation, where they promote the area for business and tourism, where everyone is welcome, where the sense of urgency is a driver and a ‘can do’ attitude thrives to assist businesses.


Posted by: thebarkhouse | March 20, 2013


Tuesday 20 March was a great day for meeting people. Firstly we drove through Simonsbath and Brendon to the Colbone Inn for an Exmoor Tweet Networking morning. What looked like 25 to 30 people gathered from businesses across Exmoor and into the Quantocks, all like minded in grasping the importance of social media and supporting business across Exmoor, including Greater Exmoor and the Exe Valley. The gathering was promoted by who will be launching a web site Exmoor Club in the weeks to come, and inspirational speaking from Nicola (General Manager of THe Colbone Inn) who spoke about supporting each other in business to promote the Exmoor brand. In the evening I went to the Mid Devon Business Forum meeting at the Tiverton Hotel and met several business people from the Mid Devon area, followed by a great presentation on the importance of words in promoting your business. It certainly made me think and I shall be visiting my web site in the near future to review the copy that I have there. So all in all  a great day, ad I hope I can do it more often in the future to improve my business

Posted by: thebarkhouse | March 2, 2013

Rural change

A rush to build, and green energy is creeping over the rural landscape of Devon, and the world is changing. Black sheets of polished solar cells take the place of sheep and the shepherd has gone to his i pad, his collie dog fluffy black and white on the settee. Nestling in the valley by a dried up stream and old mill is modernised with the addition of an attached copy, an eco home in wood and glass, home now to a top of the range BMW and a professional couple. Where I stopped some years ago, and passed the time of day with an old farmer, now the byre is a self catering complex, the cattle long gone as is the smell of muck and the bark of dogs. Further on, the old manor closed up, now a weekend home, out buildings converted to more weekend homes and further planning applications for the long out of use shippen. Pigs, chickens, ducks are all gone, looking down from the clouds and wondering what happened. Where once there were four farms, there are now two. The tide of new country folk is eating into the rural fabric, a fashionable eco world where money buys idealism. This may be good but I mourn the passing of the shepherd and his dog, the bur of a rural accent, a timeless view of life, the unchanged link of man with the land. Entrusting the rural landscape to this new generation will hopefully be positive, breath new life to villages and I trust their door is not shut to the community.

Posted by: thebarkhouse | March 2, 2013

Visit friends and family

What a great day to catch up with friends and family and a visit to South Devon. First call was to Old Smokey House, Marldon to see my son and deliver a card for my granddaughter Lauren. Spen an hour with him and Joe and chatted through a great range of stuff, life, work, the future. Then off to Totnes on the Berry Pomeroy road for a short stop then on to Diptford for a walk round Beenleigh with the dog. Cold but nice. What a change in the area since I’ve been away, not sure I’m liking this new look to the South Hams, acres of solar voltaic arrays, old houses added to, farms not farming, and new houses popping up.Dropped in to Larcombe and a long chat comparing notes on flooding with friends. It put alot of things into perspective. Another short stop over in Diptford village to meet other old  friends and update on life over the last few months. Friends who’ve passed on, so sad, changes in the village, new buildings and just stuff. On down the A38 to Ivybridge and a quick visit to my daugher and grandson. A fabulous day, tears in my eyes, emotional to see everyone and the area I used to live. Love them all.

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