Bill Gratton (L) and Mike Watson (R) of the Sticklepath & Okehampton Conservation (StOC) Group being presented with the Dartmoor Society Award for 2022 by Peter Beacham, President of the Dartmoor Society

Dartmoor Society AGM elects new chairman and presents Society Awards

Ross Tibbles
Ross Tibbles

By Mike Rego

The Dartmoor Society recently held their 24th AGM at South Brent Village Hall, where the election of officers and executive committee members took place for new terms of three years.

With some 40 members in attendance, Acting Chairman Alan Endacott stood down at the end of his term, and Bill Murray was elected Chairman.
Prior to standing down, Alan presented the Acting Chairman’s Annual Report for 2021-22, describing how like 2020, 2021 was again a challenging year for the Society and for communities across Dartmoor, but with declining COVID-19 infection rates the year had ended on a note of optimism.

After summarising the Society’s events of the past year, Alan provided his views on some of the major issues that Dartmoor currently faces, such as climate change and how such a timeless landscape as Dartmoor can ‘be vulnerable to the whims of policy makers of successive governments and the influences of the media on society as a whole’.

In particular, Alan stated his belief that the Society has ‘an important role as scrutineers of any legislation or policies that might have a detrimental impact on the Moor or its communities’ and that the Society ‘should endeavour to see that a healthy balance is maintained between Dartmoor’s natural and cultural heritage and the needs of its residents and recreational users’.

With the election of new executive officers and committee completed, Bill Murray, the newly elected Chairman, announced the Dartmoor Society Awards for 2021 and 2022, the 2021 award presentation having been delayed by the pandemic.  
Each year the Dartmoor Society makes an annual award ‘to people who we believe have made special contributions to Dartmoor’, and the 2021 Dartmoor Society Award was made to Tim Sandles for the creation of his ‘Legendary Dartmoor’ website.  

‘Legendary Dartmoor’ is a free-to-access website with over 1,000 pages covering many diverse aspects of Dartmoor such as flora and fauna, history, folklore, the arts, places and traditions.

Tim started the website after developing an interest in archaeology and wanting to know more about the historic artefacts that he came across whilst walking on the Moor.

After developing an interest in website building in 1997, Tim decided to combine his two interests and the website evolved from there. Currently the website attracts some 40,000 ‘hits’ a month from all over the world.

The 2022 Dartmoor Society Award was presented to Bill Gratton and Mike Watson of the Sticklepath and Okehampton Conservation (StOC) Group, for ‘their dedication to the conservation of Dartmoor’.

StOC was established in 1991, evolving from a community project at the Finch Foundry in Sticklepath. Tuition was arranged and volunteers from the local residents, Okehampton College, Kelly College and the Leaze centre for students with learning difficulties all helped to complete the initial project. StOC is affiliated to the Trust for Conservation Volunteers (TCV).

The StOC website states that their aims are to help improve the environment in and around Okehampton and the surrounding districts by identifying and developing conservation work required by the community, achieved by encouraging the commitment of local people who want to learn about, care for and work at improving the local environment in practical ways.

Typical projects may involve bracken bashing and pulling Himalayan Balsam, strimming and raking of archaeological sites, and general maintenance including tree planting.

The awards were presented to the recipients by Dartmoor Society President, Peter Beacham.

Following the awards presentations, Tim Sandles gave a presentation on the evolution of the ‘Legendary Dartmoor’ website, from its inception to the present, along with how he developed his interest in Dartmoor and why he created the website in the first place.  

Outgoing Acting Chairman Alan Endacott summarised the current situation regarding the future of Dartmoor by stating:
“There are, undoubtedly, a lot of soundly-reasoned alternative arguments out there, along with perfectly viable alternative visions and there is much to be learned from experiences elsewhere, but we should all recognise that, like it or not, the Dartmoor we love is the product of thousands of years of human intervention and that this has given rise to the precious and unique ecosystems we have inherited.


‘We should weigh up the knock-on environmental consequences of importing food to replace that displaced by large-scale tree planting schemes.
‘It is far too simplistic to say ‘Let’s stop farming and plant more trees’. We have to find ways to do both – well.”

The following weblinks can provide more information about the Dartmoor Society and other projects and organisations mentioned in this article:
The Dartmoor Society –
https://www.dartmoorsociety.com/home

Legendary Dartmoor website –
https://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/

Sticklepath & Okehampton Conservation (StOC) Group –
http://www.stocgroup.org/