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A chat with the Editor of Dartmoor Magazine

Gardens, Events Coombe TrenchardSarah MarshComment
Front cover image of the March & April issue of Dartmoor Magazine

Front cover image of the March & April issue of Dartmoor Magazine

Supporting local independant enterprise - a catch up with the Editor of Dartmoor Magazine

I’m pleased to confirm that the Dartmoor Magazine will be joining our local exhibitor panel at Coombe Trenchards English Country Garden Festival this year on the 1st and 2nd of June.

Editor Sue Viccars has kindly included a feature about our Garden Festival in the Spring issue of Dartmoor Magazine, which is out now.

Always one for returning the favour, supporting independent enterprise in this beautiful part of Devon - todays blog post shares afew questions I put to Sue about her role as Editor, and what readers of the Dartmoor Magazine can expect from this lovely local publication.

Sue Viccars - Editor of Dartmoor Magazine

Sue Viccars - Editor of Dartmoor Magazine

Q. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be editor of Dartmoor Magazine.

A. I studied geography and archaeology at Exeter University, then took up a job with a publishing company in London for a brief spell before managing to move back to Devon (always the plan!).  After 20 years as a commissioning editor with David & Charles Publishers I went freelance in 2000, and now work as an editor (books as well as Dartmoor Magazine), author and photographer, specializing in writing walking books all over the South West, with particular reference to Dartmoor and Exmoor. I have been editor of Dartmoor Magazine since 2008, and joint owner of the business with my brother since 2013.

Q. What do you most enjoy about your role as editor?

 A. It’s really great to ‘have to’ get properly immersed in every aspect of somewhere as special as Dartmoor! I commission the magazine, and decide what should be published in each issue. I have regular meetings with my contributors, who are a great bunch of people and who all have a real interest in this remarkable part of the country.

I’m lucky to be able to work from home too, and have a genuine excuse to get out on the moor as often as I do. It’s also great that my other work – writing walking books – often doubles up with whatever I might be doing for the magazine: for example, photos I take when out and about can be used for a number of different purposes. 

Q. How long has Dartmoor Magazine been established, and what would you say is unique and special to the publication?

 A. The magazine was started in 1985, so it’s coming up to its 34th birthday! It's an unusual publication in that it’s not advertorially led, by which I mean that the articles aren’t dictated by the fact that we may or not be able to sell advertising space to support them.

It’s not a lifestyle magazine – there are not features on fashion, or cars, or interior design, for example. All the articles are about Dartmoor ‘proper’ – the photography is fantastic – and the editorial pages take pride of place (as opposed to having to wade through pages of advertising before you can get to something to read). It has a healthy and very devoted following, many of whom have bought every issue published since 1985.

Q. How many issues to you produce a year?

A. Four - spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Q. Where can our readers get hold of a copy of the magazine?

 A. Anyone interested can buy a copy of the magazine at one of our 80+ sales outlets across and around the moor, as well as at some of the major supermarkets in the vicinity.

Subscriptions and single copies can also be purchased via the website www.dartmoormagazine.co.uk or by calling us on (01647) 441174.

 Q. In this ever-changing digital age how do you feel about print?

 A. I still think there’s a place for print – curling up on the sofa with an iPad isn't quite the same as doing the same with a good quality magazine or book and having a good read!

 Q. Tell us about the spring edition of the magazine – what can readers look forward to?

 A. This spring’s issue is, as always, packed to the gunnels. We’ve got a fantastically dramatic front cover image of swaling – burning off the gorse on the moor, which is done in early spring – and an excellent article which discusses the pros and cons of the practice (it’s quite controversial).

The well-known Dartmoor photographer Chris Chapman interviews local character Tich Scott; wildlife presenter Nick Baker looks at the way Dartmoor’s hedges are treated at this time of year; and we’ve got two new series, one on Dartmoor’s village shops, and the other a beautiful photographic study of a particular hill or tor.

Then there’s a look at the local arts scene, at moorland flowers, local bunkhouses, two great walks, the latest news, and diary… there’s masses to interest everyone.

The contents page - Dartmoor Magazine - March/April 2019

The contents page - Dartmoor Magazine - March/April 2019

Q. If you had to choose a favourite time of year when it comes to the collation of the magazine and its content – what would you choose and why?

A. I don’t really have a favourite time. When you work as closely with the moor and with the changing seasons as I have to (when editing a quarterly magazine) you realise that every season has its own particular beauty. I suppose I could say that I prefer the ‘out of season’ times, when the moor is less busy – but there are always places to go, even in the height of the summer, where you will have the moor to yourself. 

Q. We are thrilled to be welcoming Dartmoor Magazine to our English Country Garden Festival on 1st and 2nd of June this year. What are you most looking forward to about the festival and fair season, and what will visitors to the festival be able to discover at your stall?

 A. It’s just the most beautiful place to spend a couple of days – especially in an English summer!

I enjoy meeting subscribers (and potential subscribers) throughout the summer show season, and it’s a good way of getting feedback about how people feel about the magazine.

On the stand we will also have a range of southwest walking books – ones I have written or edited – including my most recent, an extended and revised edition of The Two Moors Way: Devon’s Coast to Coast walk. We’ll also have Dartmoor cards and a good selection of books written by local Dartmoor authors. 

The Terrace in Summer at Coombe Trenchard

The Terrace in Summer at Coombe Trenchard

Our thanks to Sue for supporting us and for answering these questions.

If you would like to contact Sue about the Dartmoor Magazine or her other written works, do feel free to email her. editor@dartmoormagazine.co.uk

With just under 3 months to go until our English Country Garden Festival takes place for the 8th year, I shall be sharing more interviews and blog posts highlighting some of the terrific supporters and exhibitors that you can expect to find at this years event over the coming weeks.

Here’s to those warmer days, and to a great English Country Garden summer.

Sarah x

A look back at this years English Country Garden Festival

Events Coombe Trenchard, GardensSarah MarshComment

A huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone that came along and supported our much loved English Country Garden Festival on 2nd and 3rd of June this year

From the exhibitors and stall holders, to the volunteers and charities including Childrens Hospice South West, our media sponsors, Devon Life, and our hard working in-house team and family - all of whom helped us to put on a great event.

Good old fashioned community spirit was flying high throughout the weekend, and I am thrilled to share that the English Country Garden Festival 2018 was a terrific success.

Visitors numbers were up significantly this year, with over 2,500 people through the gates. 

The weather was most kind, our marketing activity made a real impact, and our exciting rebranding was very well received - everyone loved to see Jasper stealing the show on our new event logo designed by Laura of Mingo Mingo Studio.

Lorna and I continue to pay particular attention to the selection of high quality exhibitors, and our visitors remain delighted by what they find when they come along.

It is incredibly important to us that the festival provides a special, memorable, vibrant, high quality experience throughout - with a growing number of repeat visitors year on year, so we always aim to have a 30% range of new exhibitors to the Festival each year.

Our mission is to keep the Garden Festival fresh, interesting and supportive of local enterprise as the event celebrates some of the regions best independent producers, arts, crafts, and growers.

Our return visitor numbers are growing in our 7th year of the festival - and we're told how much they love the event from it's location, to the stalls, the atmosphere and the food.  Several have even declared it a calendar highlight for them, and the word is spreading, so we will continue with our quest to deliver an event that ticks the boxes and is thoroughly enjoyed by all.

The media support we enjoy from Devon Life and Cornwall Life magazines is greatly appreciated - did you see our two page editorial feature together with an exclusive 2 for 1 voucher this year? Our thanks to Andy Cooper and Catherine Courtenay particularly for the editorial and social media support they kindly provide.

This year for the first time, we introduced the ‘return for free on Sunday’ incentive, which proved a remarkable success, as not only did many visitors enjoy a second day for the price of one, but in most cases they returned with a family member of a group of friends.  We shall look to offer a similar scenario for next year, so watch this space. 

The English Country Garden Festival 2019 will be held on 1st and 2nd June 2019.

And we are already plotting and planning new ideas, recruiting new exhibitors and stall holders, as well as inviting our visitor favourites back for another year. 

Would you like to exhibit your wares and join us in 2019?

Our pitch fees are extremely reasonable, so if you or anyone you know would like to apply for an information pack, do get in touch by emailing lorna@coombetrenchard.co.uk

We couldn't create such a wonderful event without each and everyone mentioned above, and we truly appreciate and value your comments, feedback, ideas. We also love to see your images too.

Did you come along this year? 

We'd love to hear from you if you did, and we look forward to welcoming you back in 2019.

Kind words go a long way to help us here at Coombe Trenchard, so if you could take a moment to leave a Google review on us, we would be so very grateful. Leave a review.

Or if you'd like to share your thoughts and images with us direct, do always feel free to email us. My thanks to those who have already been in touch to say how much you enjoyed this years show, and for the comments on our facebook page too.

To learn that so many of you love Coombe Trenchard almost as much as we do, quite simply makes the hard work worth it.

Wishing you a wonderful summer, and I look forward to sharing more of what we have in store for next years festival with you soon.

Sarah x





What our friends say about Coombe Trenchards English Country Garden Festival

Events Coombe Trenchard, GardensSarah MarshComment

Time really does fly - and I cannot quite believe that we will be hosting our much loved English Country Garden Festival once again next weekend on the 2nd and 3rd of June.

The festival is a labour of love for us all here at Coombe Trenchard, and for our stall holders, our dear friends, supporters, and our volunteers - all of whom help us to ensure year on year, the weekend is seamless and throughly enjoyed by everyone.


As the last 7 days leading up to our cheery festival unfold, and we crank up a gear with all the preparations this brings, I thought I'd share a few words from a loyal member of the Coombe Trenchard community, Miranda Waite.

Miranda is the wonderful step daughter of Lorna Vanier, and for those that don't know, Lorna is indeed my right hand lady when it comes getting this show on the road each year, and I am extremely grateful to both Lorna and Miranda for their support.


Q. Tell us a little about yourself, and how you first became involved with the English Country Garden Festival at Coombe Trenchard?

A. I came to visit the festival the first year it started 7 years ago, and not only did I fall in love with the setting and location, I really enjoyed the variety of stalls and the friendly happy atmosphere.

Q. The Festival is delighted to welcome visitors and stall holders from across the South West, with a great emphasis on supporting local independent businesses and the tranquil setting that Coombe Trenchard gardens lend. For those that haven’t visited the festival before – can you share some personal highlights from previous years?

A. There is so much - it’s hard to pinpoint! I really love the plants, the artwork and sculptures, and the crafts. The crafts are brilliant every year and it's great to see many small independent local businesses and their wares.

Q. What would you say is unique and extra special about the annual festival, something that you perhaps don’t see at other garden shows?

A. The setting is second to none - you can't beat having a lovely Pimms whilst watching the croquet and soaking up the atmosphere (and hopefully the sunshine!) in the beautiful gardens.

Q. Can you tell us what you are most look forward to seeing and enjoying at the Festival this year?

A. The lovely selection of stalls - many familiar faces and there are always some new gems that Sarah and Lorna have found to be part of the show. Oh, and the food - the chance to enjoy some delicious food!

Q. Do you have a favourite spot within the Gardens and grounds of Coombe Trenchard?

A. There are so many beautiful spots on the estate, but I have to say I do love walking down through the woodland walk to arrive at the festival, it's so peaceful and unspoiled.

Q. Local foodie stalls and drinks play a huge part at events like this – tell us which stalls you will be savouring this year. 

A. The tea on the lawn.. with lots of home made cakes - plenty of Gluten free too! It's a real treat!


Q. The cream tea debate lives on – tell us, is it Clotted Cream first or Strawberry Jam?

A. Living in Cornwall now, I really ought to say jam first, which is the Cornish way....but I must confess I actually like my cream tea the Devon way, Clotted Cream first with a large splodge of jam on the top! 

Q. And finally, if you had to sum up the English Country Garden Festival in just three words, what would they be.

A. Beautiful. Delightful... and Delicious!


Heartfelt thanks to Miranda for these kind words which are echoed by so many of our visitors. Every year I am blown away by the lovely cards and notes of thanks which are sent to me after the festival - it is one of the reasons why I will continue to look forward sharing my home with others for years to come.

See you on the 2nd & 3rd of June!

Sarah xx



Looking ahead to the 'Home & Garden Show' 2016

GardensSarah MarshComment

By Ben Probert

Spring is an exciting time in the garden; as well as being treated to the glorious flowers of hellebores, snowdrops, primroses, daffodils and crocuses spring is the time gardeners get stuck in to planning for the year ahead.


As the days get longer and the garden at Coombe Trenchard reawakens from its winter slumber, it's time to make preparations for the coming season. Annuals are sown for the cutting garden, where flowers are grown for this year's weddings, and borders are tended as the perennials and shrubs burst into life.

spring seeds

Behind the scenes there's even more activity. 2016 sees another of Coombe Trenchard's fabulous summer Home And Garden Festivals, and already there is plenty of activity as bookings are taken and plans are drawn up. For anyone who hasn't been to any of the previous Home And Garden Festivals here let me describe what you can expect; dozens of stands featuring the very best in home and garden products, including top quality locally grown plants from some of the region's finest traditional nurseries, all set out on the lawns of the house.


The whole festival is deliberately planned to be a relaxed and friendly event, where you can enjoy the atmosphere of this special estate while you browse a wide range of products, many of which will have been made by the people you meet.


By welcoming traditional nurseries we aim to champion those hard working men and women who work all year round to grow top quality plants for your garden. I still don't think people really appreciate the importance of trying to source plants as locally as possible, despite such an appreciation of local food and other products.


Buying from your local traditional nursery, as opposed to buying plants shipped across Europe from factory nurseries in far-flung places, gives you the best opportunity to buy plants that have been grown in the same climate as your garden, meaning they have a much better chance of establishing and thriving. Add to that, traditional nurseries nearly always grow a more diverse range of plants than you would normally find at your local garden centre, including many old favourites and plants you might not have heard of before. Best of all, where could you get a better quality of in-depth advice about plants and gardening than from those people who dedicate their time to growing plants?!


Bringing local nurseries together in one place, especially with people who make and sell an interesting and diverse range of complimentary products for your garden and home, makes the Home And Garden Festival an excellent place to see what's on offer and buy something new, but the Festival isn't just about 'splashing cash'; enormous effort goes into making the weekend special, enthralling and unique.


There aren't many events in the South West where you can take tea on the terrace of an Edwardian 'Arts and Crafts' manor overlooking beautiful countryside before enjoying the mixed borders and the various areas of the garden, before browsing stalls selling beautiful products for your home and garden... if this sounds like the perfect use of a summer's day then join us for the Home And Garden Festival on the 4th and 5th of June, 2016!


To read more from Ben, take a look at his informative blog PenandTrowel

May in the gardens

Gardens, Events Coombe TrenchardSarah MarshComment
This months blog from Ben Probert looks not only at how the gardens are bursting into life, but also the impact that garden sculpture has on the gardens. 

May is a month of contrasts; at the beginning of the month it is still decidedly spring, with frost a real risk, but by the end of the month it's all but summer and plants are growing at incredible speed. It's a busy month for gardeners as lawns and borders grow quickly, and it's easy for them to get out of hand it they're not monitored carefully. May brings warmer temperatures but usually lots of rain (certainly here in Devon!), so mowing goes from being an occasional job to being a regular part of a gardener's routine in a matter of a week!

May brings the highlight of the the horticultural year; the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show attracts interest from all over the world, with nurseries, designers and other garden companies come together for a horticultural extravaganza on the lawns of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Actually getting to Chelsea can prove quite expensive, so most people take in the sights and sounds by watching the BBC's coverage. Whether you can be at Chelsea in person or in spirit, Chelsea week is also the time to do a very important garden job; the 'Chelsea chop'! Certain plants might flower earlier than wanted, so these plants are sheared back during Chelsea week, causing them to regrow and then flower a few weeks later. Certain Geraniums, Salvias, Asters and several other plants are perfect for the Chelsea chop, and it's a great way to make sure that you get a big display in your borders from June onwards, instead of having a few plants flowering at a time.

 The borders at Coombe Trenchard are certainly very healthy, and I put this down to a combination of the use of the right plants and a liberal dose of 'Coombe Trenchard gold', the fantastic home-brewed compost made from manure, green-waste and woody material. Most gardeners know about composting but a surprising number don't do it. Reasons include lack of space, lack of time (because composting does take a degree of time and effort) and the convenience of being able to buy a bag or two of compost as and when it's needed. A garden like the one at Coombe Trenchard generates a large amount of organic matter, and this is definitely not wasted! By the time the manure and organic matter has composted properly it's turned into a wonderfully rich, nutritious and bulky material, and this home made compost is absolutely fantastic for getting plants growing at their very best

The borders and Wisteria bursting into life

The borders and Wisteria bursting into life

A nice billowy mass of fresh growth and flowers is always a delight to see, but gardens are often left lacking... something. It can be hard to put your finger on it, but all too often what's needed is a man-made element to anchor and balance the exuberant planting. Installing something like a bench, a sculpture or even a bird bath can really change a garden; you put a feature into a planted area and the feature somehow manages to make the planting seem more rich and vibrant, while the planting also frames and shows off your feature. It's a strange illusion, but somehow the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.

The right choice of a garden feature is critical, and it's a decision that is best thought about before taking the plunge. What colour? What would look right? How tall? How wide...? Time and time again I've seen gardens where budget has been a constraint, but the garden has been filled (and sometimes I mean filled) with smaller, cheaper sculptures and statues that just don't suit the space, and I'm left wondering if the money had been saved and spent on something more appropriate.

Coombe Trenchard is currently hosting its sculpture exhibition, and I would strongly advise that gardeners take a look. Although the exhibits are most definitely works of art in their own right, displayed using the garden as a 'green gallery', their placement in the garden really shows the importance of 'right sculpture, right place'. Take, for example, this piece below...

Pelham System by Julian Wild

 This sculpture is made of rusting pipes, but this is not simply a pile of rusty old metal! The shapes, scale and colour of this piece look very industrial and unashamedly man-made, but sitting in a sea of wildflowers it looks fantastic. This sculpture would, certainly to my eyes, look rather drab in surrounded by concrete or indoors, but surrounded by the wildflowers it sits comfortably in its surroundings. Although surprisingly big it's not bulky, and is in fact the perfect size and scale for this part of the garden. A smaller piece here in the woodland would simply look small and out of place, and something big and bulky would dominate the wildflowers. It's a balancing act to get the right proportions, but it's definitely something worth the effort of getting right.

We come from Heaven, I from Hell 2012 by Robert Philips

We come from Heaven, I from Hell 2012 by Robert Philips

This example above works on a smaller scale; this tall sculpture acts as a perfect accent to the Cordyline australis behind, while low planting around its base acts to balance the height and wide of the piece itself. The sculpture and the planting both compliment each other perfectly. I don't want to spoil the fun of seeing these sculptures for yourself, so this is my final example. The Irish yews (Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata') in the yew avenue are tall and upright, and in the fairly long and narrow space between them a low and wide sculpture would have the wrong proportions. Take a small sculpture and put it on a nice tall plinth and you have a piece that sits comfortably in its surroundings.

You can combine art and comfort and go for a nice garden bench.... This bench is in Coombe Trenchard's woodland garden and is certainly not the kind of thing you see in your local garden centre or DIY store! It has to be big because it's in a big space, so a smaller bench would just get lost in this part of the garden. A high back allows this bench to be seen but also makes a sitting place into a visually striking feature. There's something very appealing about this bench; it's solid but also looks incredibly inviting. Where space and budget allow, a bench with character and substance could act as your principle seating and also as an artistic focal point.

Big Bench by Chris Amey

You can use plants themselves as sculptures; gardeners have been using plants to create topiary sculptures for centuries! You don't have to be wild and outrageous with your topiary, even something as simple as a shape made from box (Buxus sempervirens) can be the perfect sculptural element for your garden. The rule of thumb here is the same as with sculptures made of any other material; be bold! A small clipped shape in a big space will disappear as quickly as a small statue would, so plan for your masterpiece to grow to a reasonable size. You might have to plant several of one thing to get you the effect in a sensible time, and your living sculpture will need clipping and shaping regularly to keep it looking good. It's important to bear in mind that, even if you buy fairly large plants to grow and clip, creating your own topiary sculpture of any meaningful size takes time, so if you want something big and bold now you might be better finding yourself an artist...!

These shapes look great in long grass but have taken a long time to get this big!

By Ben Probert Penandtrowel.co.uk

Sculptural15 runs until June 20th, opening from Wednesday - Saturday 11am-5pm (closed June 6th for private event)