Month: December 2017


Season’s Greetings To You All

Welcome to our 2017 Seasons Greetings Newsblog
And what better way to start than by sharing this lovely painting of Hoar Oak Cottage as Santa’s Hideaway by 5 year old Maisy Smallman of Lynton.


We loved seeing a very cheery Mr and Mrs Claus and all the reindeers in their hideaway at Hoar Oak Cottage and if you look closely you can see, parked up behind the cottage, Santa’s sleigh ready for the off on Christmas Eve.  Santa will certainly be starting in the darkest of dark skies over Exmoor on his trip all around the world.  Maisy was one of four children winning prizes in this year’s Hoar Oak Cottage writing and drawing competition.  You can see Zoe and Mya Oxenham’s wonderful paintngs of the cottage on this link.  And you can read Ben Stevens fabulous 500 word story about Hoar Oak on this link.   They were all awarded £10 Book Tokens.  Well Done and Happy Christmas to you all.

A successful joint venture this summer……… 
……..involved the Friends of Hoar Oak Cottage teaming up with the North Devon Ramblers and Lynton Library to put on an exhibition about walking on Exmoor and walking to Hoar Oak Cottage.  It received many visitors and our friends at Lynton Library asked for it to be kept up through to the end of October when many still come to visit and walk on Exmoor.


The North Devon Ramblers run series of led walks throughout the year.  Their Winter walking festival is still on and you can find out more on this link.



And a date for your diary is a Walk and Talk to Hoar Oak Cottage on Sunday May 6th, 2018.  Tony Trick will be leading the walk for North Devon Ramblers and Bette Baldwin will be coming along from the Friends of Hoar Oak Cottage to talk about the history of the cottage and those who once lived there.
St John The Baptist, Lynmouth, Flower Festival…….
and it was great to be asked once again to take part in the Lynmouth Flower Festival and this year The Friends contributed two displays for this year’s theme – Lynmouth History in Flowers.  The first was commemorating the Overland Launch (below left) and the second a tribute to the Lynmouth Herring Fishing Industry (below right).  Great to celebrate St John’s new lease of life with a secure roof and wonderful new community facility thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and generous contributions for the public.  The flower festival raised a tidy sum too.  It all helps to keep this lovely church open and serving its community.

The Lynton Herring Fishing Industry remembered in flowers.
WW1 Commemorations…….
had a special meaning for The Friends of Hoar Oak Cottage in 2017 as this year marked the centenary of the death of Thomas Johnstone –  born at Hoar Oak Cottage in 1894 and who died on 16th August, 1917 in Belgium.   Thomas was a Corporal in the 5th Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment and a holder of the Military Medal.  He lost his life during a ferocious battle – an advance on the village of Langemarcke – which was part of the 3rd Battle of Ypre, also known as Passchendaele.  Thomas was remembered with a visit to Belgium in 2017 and thanks to the researches of Jim Baldwin and military historian Jeremy Banning it was possible to go to the precise field, next to the Steenbeek canal, where records show Thomas fell during that terrible battle.  Thomas’s body was never recovered and it is almost certainly the case that his remains still lie, along with many other fallen comrades, in that quiet field in Flanders.  It was a moving and emotional visit and a poppy and cross were placed in the field in his memory.

You can read more about the Johnstones on this link   about Thomas in the Hoar Oak Roll of Honour on this link and his WW1 story, told through the letters sent to his mother after his death,  on this link . 

Visitors from New Zealand
The Friends are very lucky to be contacted by people from all around the world who have links back to the Exmoor shepherds of old.  Our researches in to the Scottish shepherds who migrated to Exmoor  in the 1800s are, in particular, often ‘alighted’ upon when people are googling for their ancestors’ names.  Jill and Don Johnson from New Zealand are a case in point and they are descended from Don’s Howatson/Hewitson ancestors who came from Scotland to Badgeworthy on Exmoor.  You can read more of that story on this link.

This year Jill and Don made the long journey from their home in NZ to visit Scotland and Exmoor and really wanted to try and get out to see the remains of Badgeworthy Cottage.  As some of you will know it is a very long walk, there is no easy path and no chance of a Land Rover ride out to Badgeworthy.  But thanks to Donald Graham – another descendant of the Scottish shepherds and a great chum to the Friends of Hoar Oak Cottage – Jill and Don realised their dream when, guided and supported by Donald and his friend Pete, they made the long walk to Badgeworthy and saw where Don’s family had come from all those years ago.  And here they are – Donald Graham on the left and Jill and Don Johnson on the right – looking a bit wet but very happy to have made it to, as Jill described it, “the back of beyond”.

Skating on Pinkery Pond and drinks served by Shepherd Little
Nicky Rowberry, the trusty researcher and excellent genealogist for The Friends of Hoar Oak Cottage recently discovered this newspaper clipping from 1893 which talks about Mr. Little from Pinkery Farm.  This is the same Shepherd Little whose son, Bill, married Dorothy Jones and went to live and work at Hoar Oak Cottage.  We thought you might enjoy this charming newspaper item from 125 years ago about skating on Pinkery Pond and the kindness of Shepherd Little.  It was published in the Western Morning News on January 4th, 1893.

It reads…….
Skating on Exmoor
It is many years since the frost has been so severe as to make a safe sheet of ice over Pinkerry (sic) Pond, a lonely pier of water mong the bogs of Exmoor and situated about five miles from Lynton.  Tradition says there is a hot spring in it that will prevent a dog swimming across and that this portion never freezes, while it has gained a sinister character from the fact of a farmer named Gammon having drowned himself in it a few years ago.  However, a fine sheet of ice has been in evidence from some days and several skating enthusiasts have sallied forth from Lynton in search of enjoyment.  On New Year’s day a party of five had a very pleasant day on the pond.  The intense cold was somewhat temperd by the bright sunshine, and the advent of Mr Little the Scotch shepherd with a kettle and other signs of tea was very welcome.  The bright wood fire and the figures round it with a couple of collie dogs made a very pretty picture in the gathering twilight amon such wild and romantic surroundings.  The party started homewards after the moon was up and shared the fate of so many who essay to find a path across Exmoor.  However, the bogs being all frozen, there wa no danger and after walking rather more than an hour the light of a farmhouse was received with general cheer and the right road to Lynton was soon found after partaking of Farmer Watts’s hospitality.
 Love the phrase ‘so many who essay to find a path across Exmoor’.  It was true then and is true now!

A pale Exmoor pony on the night of the full moon – meet Lady Luna

As part of this year’s Simonsbath Festival a guided walk across Exmoor led to the discovery – just by Hoar Oak Cottage – of a dead mare and her barely alive and very weak foal.  It was a beautiful pale Exmoor pony foal and thanks to the kindness of Exmoor farmers the baby was saved, restored to health and now happily living amongst other rescued Exmoors.  You can read the amazing story – which incidentally got Hoar Oak Cottage mentioned in the national press!! – about who saved her and how she has got on since on this link.    And keep an eye out for 2018’s Simonsbath Festival when – on Wednesday June 13th, 2018 – there will be a talk about Hoar Oak Cottage.  All are welcome.  Tickets are £5 in advance and £10 on the door.  You can follow Simonsbath Festival on their website and we will be posting information on our Facebook and Twitter page.

And finally, we leave you with a seasonal photo of Hoar Oak Cottage in the snow…..
Wishing you Seasons Greetings and Very Best Wishes for 2018

You can find out more about Hoar Oak Cottage on these links:



And if you fancy reading short stories about life at Hoar Oak as told by the Cottage try the  HoarOakTalkingBlog:




Posted by Bette Baldwin

Hoar Oak Cottage Kids Paintings – 2017

We were so thrilled to have these two lovely entries into the Hoar Oak Cottage Drawing Competition at Lynton Library this year.

Two sisters, Zoe and Mya Oxenham from Lynmouth, had clearly spent a lot of time on their paintings which were beautiful interpretations of the cottage when it would have been lively with people and ponies and sheep.

We loved how the sheep were given beautiful woolly coats carefully made out of cotton wool and how the ponies looked like proper Exmoors with pale faces and long wild manes and tails.

The cottage looked really lovely with ivy growing up the walls and surrounded by the beech trees which offer shelter from the wild winds of Exmoor.   Well done to both girls who have been awarded a £10 book token for their hard work and artistry.

Keep an eye out for the announcement of our final prize winner this year – Maisy Smallman and her amazing drawing of Hoar Oak Cottage imagined as – well something to do with Christmas.  Sorry folks but you’ll have to wait until our Christmas Newsletter to see Maisy’s fabulous drawing!!


Posted by Bette Baldwin