What's it like working for a National Park? Dave Huxtable, a Centre Manager for Exmoor National Park says: "Anyone with a passion for educating people about our environment, for being surrounded by some incredible, remote and beautiful landscape could not go wrong working for a National Park." He also explains what Exmoor needs in terms of restoration, and how trials of a clever soil inversion technique are going.
The Chains, the north-western plateau of Exmoor, lies above 1,500 feet. A remote upland bridleway runs its length from Exe Head in the east to Wood Barrow in the west, offering stunning panoramic views. But walkers and riders spend more time looking at their feet and hooves due to the quagmire! This has a knock-on effect too – walkers and riders have diverted away from the path into a nearby SSSI which has become eroded, too. That's why we are raising funds for its repair through Mend Our Mountains (donate to the effort here).
In the latest of our series on getting to know the people who care for our National Parks, Sarah Stirling talks to Dave Huxtable, an Exmoor National Park Centre Manager.
SS: Were you born in Exmoor, or when did you move, and what do you find special about the region?
DH: I was born just outside Exmoor in North Devon. I have always found the National Park to be special with its rolling hills and dramatic coastline, wooded combes and hilltop barrows. It has something for everyone and is beautiful at all times of the year.
What particular conservation challenges does the region face?
Like many moorland environments we are exposed to the elements. While this adds to the wildness of the setting it also means that erosion on our rights of way network suffers in some areas and makes enjoying these scenes more difficult. As a result, this can mean that the public using the route spread into sensitive SSSI areas.
What is needed in terms of restoration / conservation?
Where the paths have been eroded the damage has spread and now the routes need significant work. We have trialled a technique called soil inversion. This does not remove any of the sensitive vegetation and soil from the site merely brings the harder, stonier sub-surface to the top making a better route for the public to use.
WATCH Mend Exmoor:
Why did you decide to work for the National Park?
For me it was a dream come true to work for Exmoor National Park. I grew up near the park and always imagined myself working for an organisation like this. It is a very friendly, inclusive place to work where we are able to make a real difference. To teach people about why a National Park exists, to show people these fantastic locations is just a real privilege.
What does your job entail?
I run Pinkery, Exmoor National Park’s centre for outdoor learning. My main responsibilities are to provide engaging, informative and fun residentials for school group interested in visiting Exmoor to see what it has to offer. This may take the form of river studies, mountain biking, conservation work or climbing at the Valley of Rocks to name a few. The purpose is to ensure that school children leave Pinkery with a better understanding of why Exmoor exists and hopefully to create lifelong memories of an amazing part of our countryside.
What would you say to anyone considering working in your industry, or volunteering?
Anyone with a passion for educating people about our environment, for being surrounded by some incredible remote and beautiful landscape could not go wrong working for a National Park. If you have a passion for the outdoors and would like to share that with others then it does not get much better.
Are you a hillwalker yourself? What's your favourite walk in Exmoor?
I love to walk in the hills and spend a lot of time on the high spine of Exmoor known as the Chains where it is as remote and wild as you could ask for. However, for me you cannot beat our coastline. Especially the Valley of Rocks and the SW coastpath. With towering vertical sea cliffs and wooded combes it is just perfect.
The Mend our Mountains appeal, which is generously supported by headline sponsors Cotswold Outdoor and Snow+Rock, is on track for its £1 million target with eight months still to go. So what can you do to get involved? From organising your own fundraising challenge (check out BMC member Richard Duckworth’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ challenge to walk all the projects supported by the appeal here) to donating money or buying something like a box of Clif bars, there are plenty of big and small ways you can do your bit, depending on how much time you have! You can either donate specifically to one National Park or generally to the greater cause.
Check out the Mend our Mountains website for more details of the campaigns currently going on in our other National Parks and how you can help.
For more information on Exmoor National Park: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk
Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million
Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million is a BMC campaign to raise £1 million to repair paths across the UK's 15 National Parks.
If you love the outdoors, we're asking you to support your favourite mountain by donating to Mend Our Mountains. You can donate online here.
WATCH: Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million