Above: a small group of campaigners and supporters outside the Yeo Dale Hotel in Pilton, after taking down (temporarily, for refurbishment) the Banner that has been such a feature of the campaign,
The Friends of Manning's Pit
Who we are:
A group of local residents who have come together to
save these much loved fields for future generations
Februarty has been a somewhat quieter month campaign-wise
and unlike last year it did not end with snow. It looks
likely now that this will be a snow-free year as far as
Manning's Pit is concerned but we have had some beautiful
frosty morning over the winter, and can now look forward
to spring as the splendid show of hazel catkins in the
February is Panto month, and this year's performance was
a special one, with many Manning's Pit supporters playing
important roles, both on stage and back-stage. Manning's
Pit was mentioned more than once and this time rather than
the banner, a Save Manning's Pit T shirt made an
We are now back in what we previously called the
phoney-war state, waiting to see what the owners of
Manning's Pit do next. They appear to be waiting too (the
term land-banking is often used when speculators purchase
land and then do nothing with it,) That is their
right, and maximising their profit is what they are about.
We hope that as time goes by they will decide to cut their
losses and give the local community a chance to purchase
The Presentation evening for the Poetry Competition was held at St.Anne's Chapel in Barnstaple, a small but very attractive venue which is run by The Plough Arts Centre. Our campaign has a link with this building though the artist F R Lee - there is a plaque on the outside of the chapel in memory of his brother, the architect Thomas Lee who died while swimming - or possibly surf-boarding - at Mortehoe.
You can read a full report of the occasion which was a great success on this page, along with videos of the prizegiving and many of the winners reading their poems. We would like to give special thanks to Julia Bird, our Judge, who came down for the occasion and David Weeks (Executive Director of The Week Magazine) who gave out the prizes. The event was also attended by the Mayor (who had to leave early and it not therefore in the photographs) and Brian Norman, whose poem The Battle of Manning's Pit gave us the initial idea for the competition.
The Results of the Inaugural Manning's Pit Poetry Competition were announced on December 30th.
The first prize in the Adult section went to Mark
Totterdell from Exeter, who is already an
established prize winning poet and was the Judge for the
Exmoor Society Dark Skies Poetry Competiion. Second was
Frances Corkey Thompson from Ilfracombe and third
Mark Haworth-Booth from Swimbridge.
The Under 12 prize went to two boys who wrote their poem
together, Theo and Toby Lawrence. They live in the house
that was once called Broadgate Villa, where Saki grew up,
and they love Manning's Pit just as he must have done.
We are thrilled with the response we have had from both
the local community and further afield, with entries from
the North of England and Scotland and international
entries too, most notably from India, as noted earlier.
Meanwhile, December was a quietish month, giving us time
to take stock of our achievements so far, and have
thoughts about the future. We have a number of projects
already in mind, the most exciting of which is an
Exhibition in Pilton Parish Hall that will take place over
the Festival weekend in July. This Exhibition will focus
on the environmental and ecological aspects of Manning's
Pit and the Bradiford Valley, and the Church will also be
involved. Nigel Dilkes, the vicar of St. Mary's Church in
Pilton, is a trained botanist with a special interest in
the enviroment and his input will be very much
Following on from the news that the Local Plan had been
adopted came the news that the 8 week period in which
Summix Ltd could ask for a Review into the Asset of
Community Value listing had passed without any such
request. While we can only guess at their plans, it
is likely that they realise they have little chance of
getting anywhere with a new planning application for the
next five years. So, as we say repeatedly, we have
won several battles, but we have not won the war until
Manning's Pit is owned by the local community or an
organisation that can be trusted to keep it permanently
The way ahead - we will have more to say about that as
time goes by, but we are not going to rest on our laurels.
We have more to do to establish Manning's Pit even more
strongly as a place of special importance with its
environmental attributes, its historical and cultural
links and perhaps more than anything its place at the
heart of our community.
This month we had our Big Autumn Party, which was great
fun, and very well attended on a bitterly cold night. It
was a chance to meet old and new friends, as usual the
amount of food and drink that our supporters produced was
quite staggering, and we all enjoyed ourselves. The
highlight of the evening was the first performance of
Martin Haddrill's new song for Manning's Pit, which is
now embedded on our Home Page.
The Inaugural Manning's Pit Poetry Competition closed on
the last day of this month, and we are thrilled with the
numbers of entries received. They go off to London to be
judged anonymously by Julia Bird. The results will be
announced on our website and there will be a Presentation
Evening at St. Anne's Chapel on Saturday January
12th. Julia Bird will be coming down from London for
We have received entries from across Britain, and also
some from abroad. We were especially pleased to receive
one from India, from Miss Stuti Billore of New Delhi.
Stuti has become friends with several supporters on
Facebook and sent us a most beautiful Save Manning's Pit
You can see another photograph with a message from Stuti on our Blog here.
On Monday night, October 29th, the Joint Local Plan for North Devon and Torridge was adopted, which is very good for anyone who cares about the future of Manning’s Pit, which is outside the development boundary. Following on from the listing of Manning’s Pit as an Asset of Community Value, it now has further protection.
You can read more about this here:
Other exciting news: Sir Richard Eyre signed our petition!
CH, CBE, film, theatre, television and opera director.Sir Richard has won numerous awards and is the first
President of Rose Bruford College.
His most recent film, The Children Act, was released recently and stars Emma Thompson. He was born in Barnstaple and participated in Shaun Ley's Radio Four Extra programme about Saki (In the Lumber Room)
He has signed our petition and wished us good luck with all our projects.
Here are two of our campaigners, Wendy and Kate, reading Julia Bird's books of poetry in Manning's Pit.
September 2018The news was announced on September 10th that Manning's Pit had been listed as an Asset of Community Value. You can read the full decision notice here:
There is also a good article by Sarah Howells on the North Devon Gazettte website, which also includes photographs from one of our earlier demonstrations.
While being listed in this way does not give complete protection to Manning's Pit, it ensures that the owners cannot sell without giving us notification and a six month period in which we can attempt to raise the money for a bid to purchase the land. At the end of this time, the owners do not have to sell to us, but nonetheless, this listing is another important step in our fight to save Manning's Pit.
The land owners have an eight week period during which they can request a Review of this decision.
Peter Christie signed our petition.
Well known in North Devon most especially for his knowledge of local history, he took part in Shaun Ley's 2016 Radio programme In the Lumber Room that commemorated the death of Saki . He was also helpful to us when we were setting up the Exhibition on the Museum in 2017.
Peter gives talks locally such as this one, in St. Anne's Chapel, Barnstaple: https://www.theploughartscentre.org.uk/event/peter-christie-talk-introduction-new-ideas-north-devon
After signing our petition, Peter wrote this:
'Saki is one of my favourite writers and his connection to this area guarantees my support for preserving it.'
Meanwhile, in Manning's Pit, a number of award winning poets from the North Devon Stanza of the Poetry Society were spotted seeking inspiration before writing poems to enter in our Poetry competition.
Here are some of them, seen at the entrance to Tutshill Woods, a little further on from Manning's Pit.:
You can read more about this on the blog, here:
The wait for news of the Planning Meeting date
Morning on February 24th is a big success.
Meanwhile, excitement builds when the weather forecast suggests that we might have snow in Manning's Pit at last.
On the final day of February we woke to a white
Ken Loach, the famous film director, has
signed our petition! That has excited everyone,
especially Pilton Cinema supporters, who gave his film
"I, Daniel Blake" a standing ovation when it was shown
in the autumn. We are so grateful to him for
We have had a fantastic response to our sudden call for extra funds - despite it being so close to Christmas - and our consultants have produced hard-hitting criticisms of Summix's latest submissions - you can read them on the Home Page..
No snow in Manning's Pit, but we had a
chilly message from Iceland:
The speculators who bought Manning's Pit have finally made their next move, and submitted more documents to North devon Council's Planning Department, mainly in regard to habitat surveys and Highways matters. Consultation has been re-opened and will now conclude on December 21st 2017 (see Home page for links to this)
Messages of support from various parts of the country,
and the world. continue arriving, and we have had an
interesting contact with the Melbourne Public Library in
Australia - three paintings by F R Lee were hanging
there in 1873 when he arrived in Melbourne on his yacht
Local artist Jill Rossey Green, whose montage was on
show at the Coffee Morning, offers prints for sale of her
work that was inspired by Manning's Pit. Go to Blog
for details: https://manningspit.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/jill-rossey-green/
Still waiting... but we had our latest Coffee Morning, which was a great success. It was good as well to make contact with people who have moved into Pilton recently. As the campaign has carried on, some of our supporters have had to move away, but the new people who move into their homes have in nearly all cases demonstrated their support as well.
Go to our Blog for more about this event:
From the jungle to the icy North... a late September
Message came from Greenland, along with photos of polar
bears as well.
We are still waiting for news....
Meanwhile, we have had more messages from abroad and other parts of the UK, go to our blog to see photographs of them (especially ones from Uganda) and the Green Man Festival.
Save Manning's Pit message written in Cassava leaves, from Uganda.
Photo taken by Acomo Lovelock, who has also walked in Manning's Pit.
We are waiting now to hear when the date of the Planning Committee will be, and as son as we have some information about this we will post it on the Blog and Facebook.
In the meantime, we will once again have a stall at the Green Man Festival, so we hope you will stop by to say hello if you come along.
This link gives more information about the Festival: http://www.piltonfestival.co.uk/index.html
We were very sad to learn that Trevor Beer has passed away. He supported our campaign because Manning's Pit was important to him, and we now have an extra reason to make sure that he did not support us in vain.
Here is a link to an article in the North Devon Gazette
And also a link to
a letter he wrote to the North Devon Journal back
General Election campaignWe are non-political and have supporters from all parties, so want to make clear that no particular party represents us in any way.
Before the election, each candidate gave us a statement about their position on Manning's Pit, which can be seen here.
We were pleased that they all gave us statements of support.
May 2017The Exhibition continues until May 20th.
We are now waiting to find out when the application to build on Manning's Pit will come before the North Devon Council Planning Committee.
Exhibition at North Devon Museum
This Exhibition is about the cultural and historical significance of Manning's Pit, and includes works by the eminent Victorian artist Frederick Richard Lee, the story of Benjamin Manning with exhibits including his signature on the Deeds of his house, connections to Saki, the famous short story writer, and Henry Williamson (Tarka the Otter. exhibits from more recent times include a stunning painting by Mark Manning (also known as Zodiac Mindwarp.)
Consultation Period closed March 16th.
You can see our consultants reports on the Home Page.
The response from local people was tremendous, over 250 letters of objection were received, and can read on the Council website.
More information here:
March 2nd Town Council Meeting
Two Reports on our Blog:
The phoney war is over, the application is in. Perhaps
it is Round One to us, and the speculators who bought
the Manning's Pit fields have been intimidated by
the enormous level of public resistance to the plans
displayed in their Exhibition last year. From an
original suggestion of 138 houses they have now put in
plans for 41.
Make no mistake, though, these plans would mean the
destruction of Manning's Pit. They strike at the heart
of this magical place that we all love so much, they
would drive a road right though the buttercup fields
that delight us all each spring, carve out earth from
the slopes and change the very shape of the field, where
generations of Pilton and Bradiford residents have
walked and played.
How appropriate it is that in the week that the plans are made public, our Save Manning's Pit Banner is playing a prominent part in the popular Pilton Pantomime. Manning's Pit is our Hampstead Heath, our Primrose Hill, our Central Park, our special place, and we will do everything in our power to keep it safe.
Go to our Planning
Application page to find out how to object to
We are thrilled to have received a message of support
from Michael Morpugo, the former Children's Laureate,
founder of "Farms
for City Children", and writer of "War
Horse" and many other wonderful Children's books.
He said, in a card received this week, that he
supports our " brave and important effort to stem the
tide of intrusion into our precious places." John
Norman and Harold Murch, who both played in the
Manning's Pit fields back in the late 1940s and early
1950s, visited Michael Morpugo recently. Harold
Murch has connections with the Farms for City Children
(he has taken children from Birmingham down to the
farm.) John is of course one of the stars in our film
"The Magic of Manning's Pit." Their visit inspired
us to write to Michael Morpugo, and we are delighted to
have his reply, to add Literary support to the support
we have had already from environmentalists James
Lovelock and Jonathon Porritt and - locally - Trevor
We like to feel that we can call Manning's Pit "Fields
for Town Children" because that is what they are - a
place where children in our town can play in real
countryside and be in touch with their rural
heritage. Manning's Pit also has important
Literary links because of the fact that Saki, the world
famous Short Story writer, grew up within sight of
Interestingly, there is another kind of Artistic and
Literary link to Manning's Pit through the daughter of
the famous Victorian artist Frederick Richard Lee. He
lived in Broadgate House, which was just across the road
from Saki's house, and his daughter became friendly in
later life with Henry Williamson (Tarka The Otter.) He
dedicated one of his books, The Village Book, to her.
The Second Manning's Pit Art
North Devon Journal April 7th 2016
Supporter Clare waves a Save Manning's Pit flag on the Arctic ice. See more of her photos of the Arctic here, including polar bears - a real danger while picking up plastic rubbish on the ice.
On her return, another Manning's Pit supporter baked this in her honour.
The Manning's Pit banner goes on its travels, seen at Tate Modern, Trafalgar Square, the houses of Parliament and Exmouth Rugby Ground
Save Manning's Pit messages come to our Facebook Page from Croyde, then Exmouth for the Rugby, North East Scotland , a class of children in Bangkok make a "Save Manning's Pit" banner, a message from the Falkland Islands and the latest message comes from Dubai
As news of the film, petition and posters spread, people from further away began to send us messages too. It was notable how many people who signed the petition lived in other parts of the country or abroad, but said they had played in Manning's Pit as children. They cared enough about it still to write to us.
Peter Heaton Jones MP and Environment Agency Chief Alan Burrows visit Manning's Pit, report includes a video of Peter Heaton Jones and Christine Lovelock (Friends of Manning's Pit) speaking about Manning's Pit..
Save Manning's Pit
Posters/Signs and Banners
| click here to see more
The Phoney War is over - The Second Battle of Manning's Pit begins.
We finally discovered who the new owners are, property speculators with head office based in London, called Summix Ltd.
We have waited since October 27th 2015 to learn what they want to do with Manning's Pit. Now we know, and it is even worse than anything we could have imagined
Framptons' plans - for the destruction of Manning's Pit
The Public Exhibition was held by Framptons (agents for the new landowners) on Monday 21st March at the Castle Centre, 25 Castle Street, Barnstaple, EX31 1DR, from 3pm - 8pm. Little did they know it was also going to be the venue for the launch of Martin Kemp's wonderful film "The Magic of Manning's Pit" - see the film embedded on the home page.
Below are some photographs from our marathon 5 hour long decoy demonstration. It was designed as a relay demonstration but some noble supporters were there the whole time.
|The Decoy Demonstration.
It was a real demonstration but one of its aims was to mislead. Framptons had no idea at all that we had hired a room in the Castle Centre, and there was about to be an alternative and far more alluring attraction in opposition to their Exhibition!
The Press and media came and took lots of photographs, at the beginning, when there were far more people, but we had no chance to take any ourselves, so a special thanks to Tony Hebblethwaite, who came at three, and later again, and took most of these photographs.
Five pm on the pavement opposite the Castle Centre, in full view of the Framptons Exhibition.
Five pm, on the pavement, two of the local people who spoke so movingly in "The Magic of Manning's Pit"
If you listen to The Voice, our local Radio station, you may have heard Chris Bulpett (left) being interviewed the next day.
And if you listen to Radio Devon you may have heard Tim Saunders, second right, speaking on Wednesday morning.
Around 6pm, or perhaps later, taken from a phone. It was getting much colder, but our supporters did not give up.
This final photograph (from his phone) was taken by Brian Greenslade, who had been away but came just in time for the last showing of the film.
|We had been worried about
whether people would be be able to cope with a five hour
long demonstration, but we shouldn't have been
anxious. Manning's Pit is a place that is special
not just because it is beautiful, not just because it has
a history and is a part of Pilton's heritage, but most of
all because so many people love it, and if standing on a
cold pavement for five hours was what was needed, they
were there for us
|North Devon MP Peter Heaton Jones meets
members of our group and walks around the fields.
North Devon Gazette Feb 3rd: MP shows support for Pilton's Manning's Pit
North Devon Journal: Feb 4th Friends of Manning's Pit get MPs support
| The news came at the end
of January - after rumours to the contrary - that the
new owners had indeed taken up the option on Manning's
Pit. It proved difficult to find out who they
The Exhibition about Manning's Pit, that was held in Pilton Parish Hall on the weekend of January 23rd and 24th, was a great success. Thank you to all of those who came, we were very pleased to meet you all.
The Exhibition included paintings and sketches of Manning's Pit and the surrounding fields by artists Tim Saunders, Zsuzsa Reynolds, Ann Beer, Margaret Reed and Christine Lovelock. There were also many photographs on Display, plus maps and information about the fields that are under threat. Another part of the Exhibition was a section on the History of Manning's Pit, and included a display of photographs from the Pilton Archive, and information Benjamin Manning himself. We are especially grateful to Margaret Reed for the time she spent researching his life for us. Thanks also to all of those who made cakes, and helped generally, whether with teas or setting up the Exhibition.
North Devon Journal report
North Devon Gazette Report
Our photographs: click on image to see all of them
Here is a link to the North Devon Journal report -
"Hundreds attend rally"
- do look at the Photo Gallery, especially photo 9, which is the one that was used in the Print version of the paper:
"Rally and March for Manning's Pit" in the centre of Barnstaple, Saturday December 19th, 2015.
A great crowd of people from Bradiford and Pilton came down to support this event, despite heavy showers, gusting winds, and all the pressures of this being the last weekend before Christmas. While rushing around we also managed to take some shaky photographs, and also to record some interviews afterwards with the attending local politicians, which are embedded below.
While we are non-political, we are grateful to have support from local politicians, some of whom came to join us yesterday. They all said they were impressed by what was described as an amazing turn out. in the circumstances (bad weather, busy time).
Our MP, Peter Heaton Jones could not come because of prior commitments, but he sent us a very helpful letter of support. We were especially pleased that Sir Nick Harvey, who was MP for North Devon for so many years, was able to come at the last minute (having been away)
Letter to North Devon Journal about Manning's Pit, from Trevor Beer, MBE.
Trevor has kindly given us permission to show the text of his letter (it isn't accessible online)
Trevor Beer's website
The link below has 18 photos of our first March:
Pilton residents show their feelings over possible development of local beauty spot -North Devon Journal, Nov 15 2015
The news in September that the Manning's Pit fields
were for sale were a shock to almost everyone in Pilton
and Bradiford. The Pilton Residents Group had been
fighting for several years to stop other building
developments, without success, and they said they could
not fight to save Manning's Pit.
An Exhibition of Manning's Pit paintings, from 2012,
before the land came under threat: