Tag Archives: exmoor

Concerts at Culbone

We’re quite partial to a quirky concert or two here at the Two Moors Festival and the more interesting our venue choice for performances during the main two-week event in October, the more popular they seem to be. Take last year for example – we decided it would be lots of fun to have an day of traditional classical and jazz, all played going down the Grand Western Canal on the last horse-drawn barge in the westcountry. You can imagine how quickly the tickets went!

Our penchant for out-of-the-ordinary venues really all began back in 2005 with cellist Natalie Clein and Culbone Church, the smallest complete parish church in England that can accommodate 33 people on a good day (and if the congregation squishes up a little!) . Although God made this house of worship small, he also made it perfectly formed, nestling it in a beautiful wooded copse just above Porlock and the north coast of Exmoor.

The history of this parish is a particularly rich one, so you’ll get a real taste of the past and hear some amazing music in a truly glorious setting if you do come to one of our Culbone concerts.

Culbone is mentioned in the Domesday Book (and the Guinness Book of Records!) and may well have been built to serve communities of lepers who dwelt in the woods for centuries. It’s thought that the rubble walls – which are original – are 12th century, while the nave could well be of Saxon origin. It was re-roofed in the late 15th century and a south window was inserted. The screen was built in the late 14th century, while the font behind the door could be Norman, although the pedestal it stands on is most likely Victorian. The porch is probably 13th century and it is thought that the spire – built of slate and deal – was added in around 1810. The bells are of particular interest, one of which is the oldest bell in west Somerset, dating from the 14th century.

The huts and cottages around the church, as well as numerous houses that once stood in the surrounding woodlands, may have now all disappeared but a great many more people have discovered the wonder that is Culbone thanks to our concerts over the years. Aside from Natalie Clein, we’ve welcomed the likes of violinist Tasmin Little, principal oboist with the Berlin Philharmonic Jonathan Kelly, soprano Caroline MacPhie and the Brasil Guitar Duo through the church doors – so it’s no wonder that audiences are keen to tackle the two-mile walk up the hill!

“Artists who expect a green room at Culbone won’t get it!” Two Moors artistic director Penny Adie says. “The church is so small that the only way the performer can warm up is by making sure the audience stays outside in the churchyard. You play in at least three jumpers and cross your legs as there is no loo! It’s only for musicians with character.”

Luckily, the performers all seem to get into the spirit of things when doing a Culbone concert. Jonathan Kelly and viola-player Matthew Hunter (also with the Berlin Philharmonic) even both insisted on walking to the church, with their instruments being ferried up by 4×4!

If you think this sounds like the concert venue for you, just remember to don sensible footwear. We’ve had people trying to get there in very smart shoes!

What’s the oddest place you’ve ever been to a classical concert?

Bogtastic!

Now that the Jubilee celebrations are over and done with you’re probably looking through your diaries, wondering what you can get up to next. Well, if you’re keen to continue the excitement of the last couple of days and want to get down and dirty in the countryside then you should definitely head to Simonsbath in Somerset on June 9th for Bogtastic, an adventure day suitable for all ages that will take you sploshing about through the mud between Blackpitts and Brendon Two Gates.

Between 10:00 and 16:00, you can try your hands and feet at welly wanging, dam-making, stream-dipping, bog-trotting, guided walks and conservation challenges, all hosted by the kind-hearted folk at the Heart of Exmoor, the Exmoor National Park Authority and the Exmoor Mires project.

Make sure you bring wellies (both for wanging and for wearing!) and suitable outdoor clothing, as it seems the sunny weather of a few weeks ago has once again forsaken the UK.

“This will be a fantastic day for all ages exploring this wonderful site – come and enjoy the fun. The day also includes an opportunity for youth workers and teachers to get free Environmental Survey Training from an experienced practitioner from the Peak District National Park – where they say that their peat is deeper than ours,” the Heart of Exmoor’s David Rolls remarked.

If you do go and take lots of pictures, please do send them in for our readers’ gallery. We’d love to see what you get up to on the day!

Sir Ranulph Fiennes: Everest, The Eiger and more

Sir Ranulph Fiennes has braved the wilds of the polar ice caps, tirelessly hiked his way up some of the highest mountains in the world, completed a 52,000-mile Transglobe overland expedition and has been dubbed the world’s greatest living explorer by the Guinness Book of Records. But now he’s facing an entirely new challenge – the audience in the Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple.

On June 8th, the 64-year-old – who was the first person to visit the North and South poles by surface means – will be taking to the stage to be interviewed by acclaimed mountaineer and photographer Ian Parnell, who accompanied Sir Ranulph on his expeditions up Everest and The Eiger.

Speaking to the North Devon Journal, the explorer and author of 19 books said: “Today is not like it was 30 or 40 years ago when we were pioneering these things, because today practically everybody’s grandmother is up Everest, every weekend. It’s not quite like it was. The ones that are left and not done are incredibly difficult.”

Exmoor seems to hold a special place in Sir Ranulph’s heart. Not only does he live here with his wife and daughter but he also uses its wild expanses of countryside as a training ground, where he selects the people to accompany him on his expeditions. Now, he’ll be discussing the challenges and fears he faced as a climber – a pursuit he first took up as he entered his 60s and after suffering a rather severe heart attack!

This sounds like it’ll be a very inspiring talk. If you go, let us know how it went.

Further information

Time: 19:45

Tickets: £18/£16/£12

Call (01271) 324 242 to book.

In lights: Dunkery Beacon

“Dunkery Beacon,” whispered John, so close into my ear, that I felt his lips and teeth ashake; “dursn’t fire it now except to show the Doones’ way home again, since the naight as they went up and throwed the watchmen atop of it.”

This may well have been the case in Lorna Doone, RD Blackmore’s tale of tyranny, true love and 17th-century politics in the heart of the Devon and Somerset countryside, but these days Dunkery Beacon – the highest point on Exmoor at 1,705ft – is set alight for very different reasons.

If you find yourself down south and in this part of the world on June 4th, make your way to this peak, part of the Anchor Chain of Beacons, which are all due to be lit at 22:00. According to Edwin Beckett, appointed beacon registrar for Dunkery Beacon, more than 4,000 beacons will be set alight on the 4th as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

“We request that visitors to the area bring a torch and take all their belongings and any rubbish home.  We are delighted with the help being provided by the National Trust, our parish council and volunteers from the area, Exmoor Farmers for the use of their car park and Mr and Mrs Harold Stevens for also allowing cars to be parked at their own risk in their field by Dunkery Gate,” he said.

You’ll have a truly spectacular view of the countryside if you do head to Dunkery Beacon in June, with lots of other beacons across the south-west and even Wales – used to alert people around England throughout the ages – visible from this particular point.

We’d love to see some of your photos if you do go to Dunkery on the 4th. Send them in for our readers’ gallery!

The Two Moors Festival garden party: A preview

The sun is shining, the weather is sweet and here at the Two Moors we’re counting down the days until our annual garden party takes place. On June 23rd and 24th, Barkham will be overrun with lots of talented musicians, all of whom are no doubt warming up their instruments, restringing their bows and optimistically packing their suncream in anticipation of two days of fun, frolic and playing an abundance of wonderful music on the croquet lawn and in the apple orchard.

We’ve been holding our garden parties every year since the Two Moors began and it has since become one of the most eagerly awaited events we put on – apart from the two weeks of concerts in October, of course! Come rain or shine (generally rain, in typical British summertime tradition), we welcome people from all over the UK, who come to enjoy a day out in the Exmoor countryside, complete with a delightful musical backdrop.

But music ain’t just the name of the game where the garden party is concerned and you need to make sure you come to Barkham with a very empty tummy. Think sinfully rich Devon cream teas, never-ending jugs of Pimms, summery salads, coronation turkey, vegetable quiche and all sorts of other tasty treats, all homecooked by festival artistic director Penny Adie and her merry band of helpers. This year, John Adie will also be throwing his chef’s hat into the ring and for the first time in festival garden party history he’ll be firing up the barbecue and grilling some of Devon’s finest sausages – all locally sourced.

Another reason both visitors and musicians love to come to Barkham for various musical shindigs is the fabulous festival dog, Flora. She’s a ridiculously friendly German Shepherd who craves attention, so make sure you give her a big pat on the head when you see her trotting around being nosey.

If you think the garden party sounds like something you’d like to attend, you’ll be pleased to hear that we have two tickets to give away, which come with a free glass of Pimms to top it all off.

All you have to do to win is answer this (very) easy question:

Who is the festival’s mascot?

Leave your answer in the comment box below and you could soon be enjoying the sun (hopefully) in the idyllic Devonshire countryside.

To book tickets (although you can buy them on the day), call 01643 831 370.

Tickets £6 each.

In pictures

Here are a few snaps of past garden parties.

Penny cooking up a storm
How many strawberries?
Flora joining in the fun
Get to work!
Relaxing on the patio
The perfect place to play music
Strike a chord
Some serious salad
In the gazebo

Walking with Dartmoor ponies

Dartmoor ponies have been seen roaming the hills and dales of this part of Devon since the Middle Ages and they have now become one of the biggest tourist draws of the countryside, with countless visitors flocking to the area each year to see these stout little beasts in the flesh.

Of course, some people are more clued up than others about how to wend their way through the countryside without leaving the indelible footprint of mankind behind, whether it’s picking up any rubbish, putting fires out thoroughly or keeping dogs under control and firmly on leads where necessary.

This latter point is particularly important when encountering the hardy ponies that roam both Dartmoor and Exmoor freely. Only last week a dog was seen near Burrator Reservoir on Dartmoor attacking a mare and foal, which resulted in both dog and foal being put down.

Such incidents are easily avoidable, if just a little bit of care is taken. Alona Stratton, breeder of registered Dartmoor ponies and former council member with the Dartmoor Pony Society, has advised tourists coming to the area that it is best not to disturb the horses and avoid approaching them.

“Leave them be,” she says. “Don’t try to feed or stroke them. By doing so you encourage them to go nearer to the roads. Keeping dogs on leads and under control is also important. Respect the ponies’ space and they’ll respect yours.”

The Dartmoor National Park Authority is also working to tackle the problem of dogs on the moors, launching new campaign Paws on Dartmoor in response to the increasing numbers of incidents involving uncontrolled dogs and livestock.

Between June 8th and 10th, a range of activities for dog-owners is being put on at Roborough Common to promote responsible access to the area, with professional trainers on hand to provide obedience tips, National Park rangers leading free guided walks and the Dartmoor livestock protection officer also offering advice and assistance.

So if you’re going to any Two Moors Festival events this year, please make sure you keep your dog well under control and show the ponies on Exmoor and Dartmoor the respect they deserve.

Should dogs be kept on the lead at all times when out walking or can they ever be well-trained enough to be let off?