The Exmoor Radio Show – Episode 4

Exmoor’s Dark Skies Festival tours a Withypool farm | Solving the mystery of Simonsbath’s unfinished Ashcombe Gardens | The Lorna Doone Trail is updated | How calendar sales help Exmoor ponies | Why Exmoor burns moorland heather

The Exmoor Radio Show shares stories and conversations with the people who work and play in Britain’s most magical national park. The programme is recorded on location in Exmoor and produced in Lynton by Keri Jones. In this episode of The Exmoor Radio Show:

Exmoor Radio visits Kington Farm in Withypool for Westcountry Farm and Food Tours’ Dark Skies Festival event. Guests heard about the National Park’s incredible night skies with a presentation from an Exmoor Stargazers expert. Farmer Geoff Munsey shared his experiences of Exmoor farming. Geoff knew very little about farming when he gave up engineering and relocated from the Midlands, eight years ago. He explains that he’s learned to avoid alpaca spit and explains why he doesn’t name his animals. (00:51)

It could have been one of Britain’s great estate gardens, but Simonsbath’s Ashcombe Gardens was never finished. What was planned for this secluded site remains one of Exmoor’s biggest mysteries.

Exmoor Radio was guided around Ashcombe with the National Park’s Conservation Manager, Rob Wilson-North. He’s been trying to piece together the plans of industrialist John Knight. The millionaire wrote down very little about the vision for his garden. Rob has researched Knight family papers and arranged archaeological digs for clues, so the gardens can be recreated. (13:40)

R D Blackmore’s Exmoor-based novel, Lorna Doone, was published in 1869 – almost 150 years ago. Journalist John Burgess isn’t surprised that it remains popular today. John believes that the book contains all the elements of the perfect story.

He’s updated the ‘The Lorna Doone Trail’, which was first written in the 1960s. John shares some true and fictional stories connected to Lorna Doone and talks about his favourite places featured in the novel. (23:05)

Thousands of people buy calendars featuring beautiful Exmoor images as Christmas stocking fillers. Keri chats to the Exmoor residents behind some of the best selling pictorial calendars. Dawn Westcott sells calendars to raise money to support Exmoor Ponies. Wooton Courtenay photographer, Jamie Waters, works with her and he talks about the challenges of wildlife photography on the moor. Jamie talks about his favourite Exmoor scenes, too. (27:35)

We learn about the tradition of autumn and wintertime burning of moorland heather, known as ‘swaling’. Exmoor National Park’s Rob Parish hosted an event at Bossington Hill on Friday to answer questions on the controlled burning. Rob explains why the burning is undertaken and what would happen if the burning ended. It’s a very old tradition and Rob says that the name, swaling, is older than you might think. (33:13)