Tag Archives: news

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.

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God Save The Who?

The British national anthem has been the subject of controversy for quite a number of years now. Whether people are arguing that there should be a specific song for England, bemoaning the fact that our great nation’s sportsmen and women don’t even seem to know the words or getting in a tizzy over the inclusive nature of its lyrics (“and like a torrent rush, rebellious Scots to crush”, anyone?), the anthem always seems to come up in conversation at least once or twice a year.

Now, we here at the Two Moors are joining the debate, since making what we consider to be a rather startling discovery this week – the fact that a seriously dwindling number of schoolchildren actually know this song, a song that has been around since 1745.

While youngsters in the US are brought up on a diet of stars and stripes and pledges of allegiance, patriotism in the UK is firmly off the curriculum, only receiving a brief, cursory mention every couple of years when something worth a party happens, like the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee.

It may be down to the fact that school assemblies in the UK are much less formal than they used to be and children do not have as great a connection with the national anthem as they used to 20 years ago. The Jubilee itself – only the second to take place in British history – also does not seem to be of much interest to youngsters, other than as a good excuse to go to a few street parties and dress up.

While the song is undoubtedly an important part of British history and a tune well used by many composers over the years (Beethoven and Handel to name just two), its relevance and interest these days is now being called into question. Similarly, so too is the monarchy, with a new YouGov poll revealing that while the majority of people believe the royals to be either fairly or very important today, a “notably outspoken group” believe the opposite, with others stating that the royal family is too expensive to maintain and helps perpetuate social inequality.

At exactly what point are we willing to forgo our nation’s cultural and social heritage? The words and tune to the British national anthem form an integral part of both of these, as well as being part of what makes Britain so special. While we may not always agree with French and American cultural values, it is doubtful that there are many children in either country that do not know the words or tune to the Marseillaise or the Star-Spangled Banner (Christina Aguilera excepted…).

That being said, while children may not appreciate the importance of the national anthem, it would seem their elders have a greater sense of historical perspective. According to the Official Charts Company, the anthem has become the first number one in the all-new classical singles chart, followed by other traditional tracks like Nessun Dorma, Jerusalem, Rule Britannia and Katherine Jenkins’ version of I Vow To Thee, My Country. Guess we know what the soundtrack to the UK’s street parties will be this Diamond Jubilee!

What do you think? Should UK children be made to learn the national anthem in school or does it matter if this part of our history disappears?

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!

Devon goes for gold at the Countryfile Awards

As any classical music fan will know, the countryside is often a huge inspiration for composers (Beethoven’s pastoral symphony, anyone?) and here at the Two Moors Festival we are, quite rightly, very proud of our beautiful south-west setting. Now, Devon has been recognised for the glorious destination it certainly is in this year’s Countryfile Magazine Awards, being nominated in several categories.

No trip to Devon – even if you come to us in bleak mid-winter – would be complete without a quick sample of a true-blue cream tea, a belief that tv chef Valentine Warner (who compiled the list of best regional dishes for the awards) clearly shares. “A cream tea should be treated as a ritual. If only I had the time to eat one every day,” he writes. Hear, hear!

But it’s not just sumptuous food that has the people over at Countryfile excited about the many and varied Devonshire delights. Oh, no – our little towns are going for glory this year as well and anyone who’s been to Totnes – described by countryside writer Nicholas Crane as a “visionary town with a castle, a busy market and a delightful location” – will certainly be happy to see it in the running for Britain’s favourite market town.

Clovelly – a quaint little village that has been owned and run by the same family for generations – is also in it to win it this year, with Countryfile presenter Jules Hudson adding it to the best heritage attraction category and describing it as a place that “offers a slice of romantic escapism into history and the feel of classic coastal settlement”.

So what are you waiting for? Go and register your vote and help Devon clean up at the awards ceremony for 2012. You could even win a two-night break in the county if you do take part.

What’s your favourite part of Devon? Where do you think people should visit first?

Two Moors Young Musicians Platform winners revealed

Earlier this month, the Two Moors Festival held its annual Young Musicians Platform competition, with the 2012 event receiving a record number of applications from talented musicians from all over the south-west. The standard was higher than ever before as the 17 who made it through to the second round battled it out for a place in the top four and a spot in a concert in Ashburton on October 13th as part of the festival’s main two-week event.

The judges have conferred, the votes are in and the winners can now be revealed. They are:

– Singer Lucy Bray, 18, from Exeter School

– Clarinetist Laura Deignan, 16, from Devonport High School for Girls

– Flautist Katie Roberts, 17, from Wells Cathedral School

– Recorder player Jacob Warn, 17, from Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School, Bristol

Festival artistic director Penny Adie had this to say about this year’s group of winners: “[They] exceeded expectation. Gifted and possessing that rare quality of inner musicianship, all four showed themselves to be at one with their instruments and each thoroughly deserved their awards. Recorder player Jacob Warn excelled himself with his slick command of the recorder, while Laura Deignan, (having entered previously), proved what a fine musician she is with a beautiful sound on her clarinet. Katie Roberts also produced a strong rich tone. Lucy Bray, the young soprano, came equipped for a professional performance. Already with a solid technique and at one with Lieder, she gave a beautiful performance.”

You’ll be able to see these four play in concert in October as part of the festival’s main two-week event, so keep your eye out for the soon-to-be-released brochure and the opening of the box office.

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?

Keep an eye out for the Olympianist

If you’re out and about between Land’s End and John O’Groats this merry month of May, then you really should keep your eyes (and ears!) very well peeled indeed for the Olympianist, who’s zipping from one end of the country to the other by bicycle and giving impromptu piano concerts for charity along the way.

The Olympianist is actually internationally renowned pianist and keen cyclist Anthony Hewitt, who pedalled away from Land’s End on May 9th and gave his first concert that day in Truro at Penair School. So far, he’s hopped off his bike and whipped out his piano (which is following behind him in a van) at The Old Chapel in Calstock, Exeter Cathedral, Market Square in Newbury and St Lawrence’s Church in Lechlade.

He’s already suffered one puncture (but was rescued by two locals, one of whom donated £5 to his cause), cycled his way through a lot of mist in Land’s End and is no doubt getting very used to giving concerts dressed head to toe Lycra as he aims to raise £20,000 for music and children’s charities.

“I am very excited about this Herculean task,” Anthony says. “It embodies the spirit of the ancient Games, which incorporated musical competitions into sporting events for normal citizens.”

Music-lovers will be treated to a very varied programme, with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Schubert’s Impromptu in Eb, Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 all to receive an airing either out of doors or at a pre-arranged venue at one of Anthony’s many stops along the route. Composer Steven Goss has also been commissioned to write a new work, Piano Cycle, which will be premiered on May 19th at Swaledale.

The Olympianist’s Route:

Get in touch if you’ve seen the Olympianist on your travels. You can also follow him on Twitter here.