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Pioneering Female Mathematician's Forgotten Legacy

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It will soon be possible to walk in the footsteps of 19th century computer pioneer Ada Lovelace when visiting Exmoor National Park, as work kicks off this month to restore and reveal parts of the historic carriage routes, viewpoints and other features that formed part of her former Porlock estate.

It is while walking the terraces of these once ornate gardens that Ada and the famous mathematician Charles Babbage were reputed to have come up with the principles behind the ‘Difference Engine’ - a forerunner to the computer.

The National Park Authority now plans to restore parts of the old carriage ways and other surviving features in Culbone wood, granting walkers on the South West Coast Path a taste of the sense of awe that must have been felt upon emerging from historic tunnels into breath-taking views out to sea, framed by groves of giant redwoods and firs.

The effect was created by Ada Lovelace and her husband, William King, as part of a Picturesque designed landscape inspired by the fashion at the time to try and capture the beauty of nature by design. Exmoor National Park Authority are also undertaking a detailed survey to identify if any of the original trees planted by the Lovelaces survive.

A guided-walk from Porlock Weir to Culbone delving into the history of Ada Lovelace and her mysterious former estate at Ashley Combe takes place next Wednesday on 18th September as part of the new Exmoor Historic Buildings Festival (16th- 22nd September).

Graeme McVittie, Exmoor National Park Senior Woodland Officer, said: “Woodland walks carefully planted with native and exotic species to maximise dramatic effect, long mysterious tunnels set to build anticipation ahead of awe-inspiring views and the remnants of meandering old carriage ways designed to show off the best of the coastal views, are all part of this estate’s forgotten legacy.

“The principles of the early 19th Century Picturesque movement were to create views or pictures into the natural world. And now we are simply trying to create a picture into their world, and the passions and inspirations that lay behind Ada’s genius.”

On 5th October Porlock will also be holding their annual “Cream Tea with Inspirational Women” in celebration of Ada Lovelace Day, held annually in honour of the achievements of women in science all over the world. The ticketed event held at Porlock Village Hall sees five women, from the worlds of art, travel, film, education and theatre share their passions, achievements and inspirations, with this year’s speakers billed as Molly Rooke, Hilary Bradt, Lynn Pearson, Jane Keeley and Sarah Peterkin. Information and tickets available from Porlock Village Hall (01643 863117).

Rosalinde Haw, who is organising the event, said: “We celebrate Ada for her connection to the landscape and the inspiration she brought to all women, at a time when the very idea of a female mathematician was often viewed as distasteful. Join us this October to hear from today’s inspirational women and how their passions have helped drive them to success.”

ENDS

Published: 11 September 2019

Contact the press office:

Ailsa Stevens
T: 01398 323665
E: info@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk