Thursday, 29 March 2012

Seeing stars, follies in the woods - just two things that make Exmoor unique

‘Living here, I bet you take all this for granted’, is a frequent comment from guests, while gesturing towards the view of the moorland and Dunkery Beacon from our dining room.

Well, actually, we don’t – we feel incredibly privileged to be living here and I never get tired of that view. It changes many times in the course of each day because of the light and the clouds; it changes throughout the seasons because of the colours of the grass, gorse and heather.

Running a guest house is a pretty full-on job (not complaining – I love it), so we have to take the chance to get out and about when we can. There’s always something to learn about the area you live in; and as we’re not native to this area, there’s even more for us to learn.

Each year Exmoor National Park organises a series of Exmoor Awareness seminars for tourism businesses. This year I managed to attend two out of the three sessions, and am really glad I made the time to do so.

On 14th March there was an evening seminar – The Star Attraction – about, you guessed it, stargazing. Very conveniently for me, it was at our Wheddon Cross village hall, about two minutes’ walk away from us at Exmoor House. Exmoor is Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve, which is really something to celebrate (more info at )

We learnt about just how special this accolade is, and how we can help visitors (and ourselves) get the best out of their night sky watching.

Unfortunately, after a wonderfully clear afternoon, a dense cloud cover had emerged – so there was no real-life stargazing for our group. But presentations from ‘Dark Sky Man’ Steve Owens (you’ll find his blog at ) and the Exmoor Stargazers ( ) made up for it.

Town and Country Through the Ages was the name of the 28th March session, held in Dunster Tithe Barn with a walk around Dunster afterwards. Rob Wilson North and Jessica Turner (respectively Historic Environment Manager and Archaeologist for the National Park) gave us a fascinating and lively introduction to the way an archaeologist reads the landscape and the layout of towns and villages.

In the afternoon, Andy Player from the Crown Estate told us about all the work they do in the area, and some exciting future plans they have. He took us on a guided walk around the village (reminding us how it pays to go just a little off the beaten track; there’s much more to see). We also walked up through the woods to the Conygar Tower, the most prominent of the Dunster Castle follies; some wonderful views en route. Frank and I have done several walks from Dunster, but hadn’t got round to this one yet.

Of course, events like this are also a great opportunity for networking, which everybody took full advantage of. If you are a tourism provider on Exmoor and you haven’t yet been able to get to one of these seminars, I urge you to do so when the opportunity comes round again. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

More detail about Exmoor Awareness:
More than tea and fudge - my previous blog post about things to see in Dunster:

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