Saturday, 9 November 2013

Celebrating our natural beauty



Kimmo Evans with a trophy recently presented to East Devon AONB 
The idea of Winter Talks arranged in partnership by Fairlynch Museum and the Otter Valley Association, first suggested in 1979, is nothing new. As OVA Chairman Nicola Daniel pointed out while introducing the guest speaker at a joint event on 4 November the two groups have much in common: both are concerned with educating people about the history, geography, architecture and natural history of the lower Otter Valley.


Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats, along with a few other types use the Beer Quarry caves to hibernate in the winter.  Image credit John Scott
Kimmo Evans, Community Development Officer for East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, had come to tell us why the AONB is celebrating its 50 years. He began by giving some background on the origins of National Parks, mentioning the debt that we owe to people like the architect and civil servant John Dower (1900-47) and the politician Sir Arthur Hobhouse (1886-1965)  who laid the foundations for the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949. Nearer home it was Brigadier Peter Acland (1902-93) from Feniton, a former Vice Lord Lieutenant of Devon who proposed the East Devon AONB, officially designated as such in 1963. Kimmo went on to describe some of the projects funded by the organisation, which is financially supported with 75% from central government and 25% from local authorities.

Helping the bats of Beer Quarry caves, publicising the life and achievements of the Victorian antiquary and diarist Peter Orlando Hutchinson, pictured above - perhaps better described as a blogger suggested Kimmo - helping to protect rare creatures like the Dartford Warbler and the nightjar, contributing to Heath Week...  these are just a few of the areas in which the local AONB team has contributed with ideas and advice. As Kimmo put it, the organisation “tells the story of the landscape.” 



East Devon Way below Bulmoor, near Axminster  Image credit Derek Harper

A good example, showing that East Devon is not just about coastal resorts or the South West Coast Path, is the AONB’s ‘invention’ of the East Devon Way. Not one of your ancient trails like The Ridgeway or the Icknield Way, but an attractive and well planned route through beautiful countryside in our region which I’m finding rather tempting, having discovered  


Kimmo was less sure of the AONB’s role when it was a matter of protecting the area from increasingly intensive farming, recreation growth and hungry builders. “There will always be a threat from development pressures,” he admitted while apologising for ‘wriggling’ under some rather vigorous questioning. The AONB’s role, he said, was to “conserve and enhance, not preserve.” Nicola Daniel pointed out that the AONB is not a statutory consultee in such matters.



The nightjar's streaked and barred plumage provides ideal camouflage.
Image credit Dûrzan cîrano



However Kimmo was clearly enthusiastic about his job. Almost shocked at the number of people in the large audience who had never heard a nightjar - myself included - he was already planning to organise us for a trip to Woodbury Common to listen to their strange nocturnal ‘churring’ call.  Fairlynch Chairman Roger Sherriff concluded the meeting by thanking the speaker for “opening my eyes” to the work of the AONB: one example that he quoted was its involvement with Budleigh Salterton’s highly successful Food and Drink Festival organised by Budleigh in Business.

The real conclusion of course was provided by a mobile phone which a member of the audience helpfully switched on to let us all hear that weird ‘churring’ made by a nightjar. You can hear it too by clicking on

But much better would be to set off on foot along the East Devon Way, listening for the call as you move quietly through the twilight of Woodbury Common.


To read more about the East Devon AONB click on


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