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Dartmoor Society Award 2016

Miles and Gail Fursdon with Dr Tom Greeves

Dartmoor Society Award 2016

Posted in Press Releases on Tuesday 26th April 2016 at 10:02pm

At the 18th Annual General Meeting of The Dartmoor Society, held at Belstone on 23 April 2016, Dr Tom Greeves, Chairman of The Dartmoor Society presented Widecombe farmers Miles and Gail Fursdon with The Dartmoor Society Award 2016.

It is in the form of a finely hand-crafted ceramic plate made by potter Penny Simpson of Moretonhampstead and calligrapher Susanne Haines of Bovey Tracey. The plate is inscribed ‘for a superlative hydro system’.

Dr Tom Greeves, Chairman of the Dartmoor Society, said:

‘The microhydro system at Old Walls, Ponsworthy, near Widecombe, is probably the finest example we have of making wise use of Dartmoor’s core renewable resource of water, in a traditional way but with a modern purpose.

‘We have watched its creation and use since 1995 with fascination, and have visited it twice – in 2004 and 2015. It is a visionary scheme, developed with considerable practical skill and imagination, just as many of the ‘old men’ of Dartmoor would have tackled the problem of getting water to corn and tin mills.

‘The leat that was newly created from the Webburn river is a masterpiece of construction and an ecological wonder. The turbine house is small-scale and a regular home to a family of dippers.

‘The electricity generated is fed into the national grid but is the equivalent of providing the energy needs of about 90 homes.

‘It is an inspirational project which Miles and Gail have shared as widely as possible with the local community, by organising walks, etc. Dartmoor is immensely proud of what they have achieved and this Society is delighted to recognise this outstanding enterprise’.


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Visit to Old Walls Farm and Hydro System Near Ponsworthy

Posted in Events on Monday 13th April 2015 at 10:47pm

On Wednesday 25th March 2015 Gail and Miles Fursdon were our excellent hosts as they escorted 40 of our excited Members around their micro-hydro system which has been in operation since 1995. They both eloquently explained about their farming activities as well as walking us through their unique hydro system and gave all our Members the full history of the project.

Everyone enjoyed this well attended event and the afternoon was rounded off with refreshments including homemade cake. There will be a full report on this event in the forthcoming June 2015 Newsletter.

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English Heritage decision on New Bridge

Posted in General on Tuesday 26th May 2009 at 9:57pm

Members with long memories will recall that, following a detailed suggestion by committee member and farmer Miles Fursdon, in 2005 the Society initiated meetings with county council engineers, DNPA archaeologist, and the parish councils of Holne and Widecombe-in-the-Moor to make very small adjustments to the parapet of medieval New Bridge (listed Grade II*) which crosses the R. Dart, in order to reduce the damage done by collisions, and to avoid costs and the resulting considerable inconvenience to local people when the bridge was closed for repairs. Newsletter 24 (October 2005) pp.3–6 gives a full report. All parties seemed interested and supportive of the proposals. Since 2005, despite reminders from the Society, there has been very little activity on behalf of the county council, but in 2008 they seemed keen to move things forward and carry out the necessary work.

We have now received a letter dated 8 January 2009 from the Dept of Environment, Economy & Culture, Devon County Council, to let us know that English Heritage do not support alterations to the bridge.

The English Heritage view is that “...we should adapt to the bridge, not the other way about. The Moor is special and all agree that it imposes constraints...what you propose, though ingenious, has no guarantee of being a long-term solution. Importantly, it is our view that what is proposed would damage the design and affect the character of the grade II* bridge, besides being the continuation of ‘death by a thousand cuts’. There is no need for such damaging change; however slight, it is incremental. Earlier widening should not be seen as a reason for continued widening. This is a traditional, well-built, much-loved bridge in a particularly picturesque setting; a renowned beauty spot on the Moor...We appreciate that you have given the matter considerable thought and attention and recommend that this is extended to an objective appraisal of non-destructive options, including better signage and fore-warning of the restrictions; tightening of the restrictions and physical restrictions...”.

This is a very disappointing and somewhat patronising response, and much of what English Heritage states is open to question. The county council says it will now look at improved signing as the only option. A formal response by The Dartmoor Society will be considered.

Tom Greeves

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