BBC Countryfile comes to Exmoor

Countryfile at Cutcombe School Jessy Emery (Somerset Wildlife Trust) and BBC's Julia Bradbury with children from Cutcombe School examining barn owl pellets.

Stories from Exmoor National Park will feature on the BBC’s Countryfile programme this coming weekend (Sunday 20 January) following the team’s recent visit to the area.

In the programme, presenter Julia Bradbury discovers Alfred Vowles, a renowned Exmoor photographer of the 1900s. At that time, when photographs were still a novelty, Alfred Vowles was as close as you could get to a one man photo booth. Julia learns how this extraordinary man cycled over hill and dale, leaving a legacy of pictures which document times past, and rural life on Exmoor.

Holding his camera and tripod in one hand, and steering his six speed bicycle with the other, Alfred or ‘AV’ as he was known, was a familiar figure on the moors. 

Alfred’s talent was not only to get ‘action shots’, but speedily produce postcards of an event.  His darkroom was often a stable or chicken shed, and later his caravan, where he lived and worked. Julia meets amateur photographer Ray Turner, who still develops his own black and white film. With the help of Minehead Harriers trail hunt, they try and recreate an AV picture from the past.

Julia also retraces the steps of another of AV’s iconic photos at Tarr Steps, filmed before the recent floods which washed away part of the clapper bridge.

The Countryfile crew was also on the trail of the Doones. The famous Victorian novel Lorna Doone became a best seller and made Exmoor famous. Tourists flocked to follow in the footsteps of the lovelorn couple; and explore the stronghold of the Doones. But where does fiction end and fact begin?

The author R.D. Blackmore wove the landscape, places and local names into his plot. Even today’s maps mark an area near Badgworthy as Doone Valley or Doone Country.

Matt Baker starts off in the Valley of the Rocks, in search of Mother Meldrum. Then, with the help of Jenny Gibson from the Exmoor Society and the Revd Colin Burke from St Mary’s Oare, he tries to solve the mystery of what’s real, and what’s make-believe.

Matt then takes a bumpy ride with Rob Wilson-North (Conservation Manager at Exmoor National Park) to one of the remotest parts of Exmoor to explore the secrets of a deserted medieval village.

Another film shows Somerset Wildlife Trust trying to find new homes for barn owls with a project to get a barn owl box, 335 of them, in every parish in Somerset. Julia Bradbury joins children from Cutcombe and Timberscombe who get first hand experience when Breeze the barn owl comes to school. 

Expert Chris Sperring, from the Hawk and Owl Trust, explores nearby farmland to see whether it has the potential to host a new des res barn owl box and Jonathan Webber is on hand to show him round the family farm with a view to placing a box there.

The Countryfile film crew also visited Dulverton Middle school where they made a film about the Exmoor Curriculum which was due to be shown this weekend. However, a researcher from the BBC has since advised: “We have made a lovely film about the Exmoor Curriculum, however the programme is so packed this week, rather than shorten items, we have held the Dulverton school one over for broadcast at a later date.”

When the new date is announced, the National Park Authority will post the information on their Facebook and Twitter pages.


Published: 15 January 2013

Contact the press office:

Clare O-Connor
T: 01398 322244