What the Locals Say About Lynton & Lynmouth
Living in Lynton or Lynmouth, the locals tell Robert Hesketh, is like being on holiday all the time
What do the locals think about the town?
Suzette Hibbert is a town and district councillor, as well as a member of Exmoor National Park, Suzette has been mayor twice.
What's special about Lynton and Lynmouth?
The first thing is the beauty of the place. There's a good sense of community, partly because we're a bit isolated. We have to be self-sufficient and look after each other. I love knowing everybody - there's nobody I couldn't say "hello" to.
What would you recommend visitors to see?
There's so much to see and do. The best way to explore is on foot. Enjoy the seafront; it's something really special. Take a walk up the East Lyn and drink in the beauty of the landscape. Be sure to visit Hollerday Hill too - the views of the coast and the Valley of Rocks are magnificent.
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What do local shops offer?
We've got some good cafés, restaurants and pubs. The service shops, including two mini markets and the fruit and veg shop are up in Lynmouth. There are some very nice gifts shops there too, plus the art and craft centre. We're very much a visitors' resort in Lynmouth, selling gifts and arts, including paintings of local scenes.
Dora Johnston has been co-ordinating the farmers' market for four years and has a café and a stall there, plus stalls at Braunton and Dulverton farmers' markets.
Why have farmers' markets?
It's community empowerment, putting local people from town and country in touch with each other. This brings life back to the centre of town. If you go out of the community to shop you don't see your neighbours. I was inspired to start the farmers' market because Lynton and Lynmouth had the highest take-up of supermarket home deliveries in the country.
What can you buy at the farmers' market?
There's a big variety: ewes' and goats' cheese; all sorts of meat and game, including venison and squirrel - not to mention squirrel tails and deer hides; fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, pies, herbal medicines and free-range chickens. Local groups, including the playgroup, school and Barbrook village hall have stalls too. Markets are in the Town Hall on the first Saturday of each month.
What's special about this farmers' market?
We support local musicians as well as local producers, so we have live music at every market. Recently, we've had people playing fiddle, tin whistle, flute, piano and also singing.
Ashley Clarke has spent almost his entire working life (28 years) at the cliff railway (www.cliffrailwaylynton.co.uk), starting as an apprentice when he was 17.
How does the cliff railway work?
It's very simple and works on counter-balance. The two cars are linked by wire cable; the heavier car going down pulls up the lighter car at the bottom. That's achieved by filling the top car's tank with 700 gallons of water - roughly three tons. When the drivers are ready to go, the brakes are released.
Could similar railways be built elsewhere?
Yes, they could under the right conditions. We're consulting on a similar railway on the Isle of Wight. A constant supply of water, like the one we have from the West Lyn, is essential. This is truly green transport - the water is returned to Lynmouth beach where it was headed in the first place. Probably nothing made today comes close to our carbon footprint.
Who uses the railway?
Although locals use it, it's mainly a visitor attraction, which is great for Lynton and Lynmouth. However, it was originally built to bring freight up from Lynmouth harbour. Before the railway, the donkeys and packhorses had a hard job on Lynmouth Hill, with its 25% gradient.
Colin Croxford is one of four partners running Lynton's Tourist Information Centre. He's also co-director, secretary and treasurer of Lynton Cinema (www.lyntoncinema.co.uk), the smallest in England and open all week.
What films do you show?
We show a whole range. Elizabeth, the Golden Years or Ladies in Lavender are typical 'Lynton films'. A big-name star and exposure on TV always boosts audiences. We have a very wide catchment. People come from as far as Bideford because they like our cinema, the parking's easy and our tickets are cheap.
How come such a small town has a cinema?
Lynton's had cinemas since the First World War, housed in five different sites. Ten years ago, a small group of us took over the old Methodist hall and converted it, with proper seating, heating and air conditioning, plus state-of-the-art 35mm projection and Dolby stereo sound. All this is only possible because the cinema is run on a voluntary basis.
And other entertainments?
The Town Hall's a great venue for dances and discos; sometimes a touring group put on a play. LAMA, the local music association, put on a musical festival in summer with acts from all over. There's also a home-grown Christmas pantomime, but only the cinema offers year-round arts entertainment.
Terry & Renee Dover came to Exmoor over 20 years ago to run a bed and breakfast. Outdoor enthusiasts, they became local walks' leaders six years ago.
What are your favourite walks?
Hunter's Inn (www.thehuntersinn.net) to Woody Bay along the coast path is really excellent. Another favourite route starts at Lynmouth and goes over the cleaves above Watersmeet. We love being out in the open - Brendon Two Gates is wonderful. For a shorter route, the path out to Countisbury is superb. The ponies are there and, in late summer, the heather is absolutely beautiful.
What is the most popular local attraction with visitors and why?
In Lynton, it's got to be the cliff railway - so interesting, different, scary for some, but a tremendous feat of engineering. People can't believe it works solely on
water. The Valley of Rocks, Watersmeet and Heddon's Mouth are the other big attractions.
What is the most interesting or unusual thing to see around Lynton?
This is a wonderful place, with beautiful scenery. Living here is like being on holiday all the time. Something really beautiful is to see the Exmoor ponies, the sea and cliffs in the Valley of Rocks. As for goats, you either love them or hate them!
Ione Willcock grew up on Exmoor, graduated in Environmental Science and has been a ranger with the Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA) www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk for the last eight years.
What is the role of an ENPA ranger?
It's a very varied job, including the upkeep of over 1,000km of public paths, conservation projects and working with the local community. One of the ranger's main purposes is to raise awareness and understanding of Exmoor's special qualities, with guided walks and events for the general public and working with schools. It's great to see the children get excited about their environment. We take them on walks, studying creatures and their habitats, the food chain - who's eating who and what's living where, and the effects of climate change.
What wild animals might visitors see?
Exmoor is packed with wildlife, but it's all a matter of seeing it. We have buzzards, wild red deer and Exmoor ponies up on the moor, woodland creatures such as owls, foxes, badgers, rabbits and stoats. Exmoor's rivers are home to salmon and trout, herons and dippers. Peregrines love Exmoor's coastline - but you have to be quick, they fly at up to 200mph.
What are the most important local environmental issues?
Climate change and renewable energy concern everybody. You can see an experimental wave turbine from Lynmouth Harbour. Electric generation from Exmoor's rivers is another possibility.