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Exmoor is going ‘green’ as the national park faces up to the challenges of climate change.

The national park authority is pushing on with a carbon neutral policy to ensure Exmoor's energy needs are met from within the moor. Small-scale solar, wind and hydroelectric generation are all playing their part.

The Pinkery Outdoor Education Centre, Simonsbath, stands out as an example.

There are photovoltaic panels and a small turbine so it is completely 'off the grid'. There are many small schemes being installed in the national park by private concerns. The national park authority has been very successful in attracting government funding to help others.

National Park Chief Executive, Dr Nigel Stone

A project to put in a generator using tidal energy near Lynmouth, that might eventually provide most of the town's electricity, is at the testing stage and is being supported by the park authority.

But Exmoor also faces a challenge from the impact of the green efforts of others: large-scale wind and solar generation sites outside the protected area.

"There is the worry that we will be hemmed in by wind turbines and solar farms," said Dr Stone. "We are fortunate that solar farms face south and so are less visible from Exmoor, but wind turbines as far away as the north of Barnstaple are highly visible."

The park authority was careful to try to balance its duty to protect Exmoor with the desire of others outside who want to increase generation capacity from renewable sources, he said.

There are red lines that the park authority would not cross, though.

"We would not entertain a solar farm within the park," he said.

With average temperatures predicted to rise over the coming decades, conservation of the landscape was also helping prevent a 'negative feedback' developing. Keeping peatland wet prevented carbon that is 'locked' in the ancient areas being released into the atmosphere and adding to global warming.

Extreme weather events – said by climate change scientists to be signs of the impact of global warming – also present Exmoor with a challenge. The winter storms of 2013-14 battered the moor, and steps down to Sillery Sands, east of Lynmouth, were a casualty.

We are seeing more intense rainfall – the same amount overall but in shorter bursts – which is damaging. Well-worn footpaths can become channels or water causing erosion. We have been repairing paths and improving drainage to make them more resilient.

National Park Chief Executive, Dr Nigel Stone.

Maintaining the park's 625 miles of public rights of way was a particular challenge as the authority's main funder, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, had cut the payment by 40 per cent in real terms over the last five years, he said.

England's most remote national park – in terms of distance from motorways, rail routes and large urban areas – is also witnessing the impact of global warming on the mix of wildlife as species usually associated with lowland areas move on to the moor.

"We can see the effects in bird species," said Dr Stone. "There is a decline in upland species such as grouse and curlews, which are just about hanging on. There is an increasing number of lowland species: windchats for example, grasshopper warblers and Dartford warblers.

"When you look at changes in insect population it is even more marked."


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