Thoughts about the future of

 Manning's Pit, and the Bradiford Valley

The Bradiford Valley, by

Stephen Pitcher

I am a retired local government senior manager and town planner, with experience in a wide range of fields. I am heavily engaged in the local community, with Trustee roles in several organisations, principally in the heritage and environmental fields. I also have an interest in social justice and am politically engaged.

The Bradiford Valley: what it is and what it could be


The Bradiford Valley cuts through the North Devon Downs, that area of high ground and open landscape that runs from Exmoor in the east to the coast between Saunton Down and Morte Point in the west. The Valley runs from north to south and is a contrasting secluded landscape of mills, meadows and wooded slopes. Although the Valley has the B3230 running through it for much of its length and defines the northern edge of Barnstaple right up to the point where it meets the Taw north of Pottington, the Valley retains an air of peace and seclusion.

The Valley in history

Despite this the Valley has been lived in for many generations. There are Iron Age enclosures on the hill slopes above it, at North Hill, Plaistow and Burridge, and small villages below in the valley floor, at Bittadon, Milltown and Muddiford. The road that runs for most of its length is a relatively late turnpike, but the valley has notably been used for its water power for much longer. There are still mills, or at least evidence of their presence, at Milltown, Plaistow, Blakewell, Anchor and Lion Mills and below Bradiford. The Valley has also been the location of two stone quarries, at Little Silver and Plaistow, although both of these have closed in the last twenty years.

Whilst farming and food have characterised the use of the valley throughout this period, more recently the valley landscape has provided the backdrop for leisure and cultural activities such as Broomhill Art Hotel and Restaurant, Muddiford Inn and Blakewell Trout Fishery, and has been the site of a notable smokery at Plaistow Mill.

The Valley in the future

Undoubtedly, we live on the edge of great change, economically and environmentally, with implications that could be as profound for the landscape and for people as the Black Death or the Industrial Revolution. Farming faces severe pressures as support regimes change. Tourism and leisure activities may also struggle as economic challenges increase.

However, we also live at a time when we are becoming acutely aware of the importance of landscapes and habitats to sustain life, including our own. Already the Tutshill Woods and Meadows have been recognised for their wildlife value, in their designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Devon Birdwatchers manage the wetland that adjoins the Bradiford Stream north of Pottington. There has also been a recent emphasis on improving the quality of the water in the streams that feed into the Valley.

In years to come, the importance of the habitats that the whole valley offers will become better understood. Our world desperately needs more woodland and natural meadows to sustain wildlife and to sequester carbon. The days of small designated sites will be replaced by the protection of whole landscapes and habitats.

Alongside that, there is also a need for better access to the countryside for urban populations. The Valley is difficult to access on foot and a better and more continuous footpath network could also link Barnstaple to its nearest countryside.

One step would be the designation of the whole of the lower valley as a Local Green Space, defining and enhancing the adjoining urban community. The Bradiford Valley could become a link in the chain of countryside that is managed for its natural qualities and its contribution to human wellbeing around the growing communities of Barnstaple.

  The future of  Manning's Pit and Barnstaple,

by Christine Lovelock

Chair of the Friends of Manning's Pit group,
 and organiser of this Exhibition with the help of Nigel Dilkes
and Marion Sanders from Pilton Church.

We all know how unattractive countryside at the edge of towns can become. Streams become full of litter and discarded shopping trolleys, rusting abandoned vehicles are left in fields, and farmers abandon hope of grazing livestock, hoping only to sell the land for building, and move away.

We do not want that to be the future for Manning's Pit, the Bradiford Valley, or the countryside surrounding Barnstaple either.

  To begin with, it is worth looking at, and thinking about - see link -  how a town such as Geneva looked in 1850.  The image at the link shows a city that has a clear demarcation between itself and the surrounding countryside, so different from modern towns with their urban sprawl.

The above is more of an ideal than a possibility, but there is a North Devon town, not very far away, that has some of the features that made older towns like Geneva so attractive.  Great Torrington  does have its suburbs and housing estates, but only on one side. The rest of the town is edged by open common land, giving people who live in the town the most wonderful views, and the opportunity to walk straight out into the countryside.

  As you can see from the map at this link, the Commons do not extend entirely around the town, and new estates have been built in the area on the right of the map. No doubt more will be built in the future. At the same time, Torrington with its Commons is a most wonderful place to live, where the inhabitants can not only enjoy beautiful views from most parts of the town, but also access the countryside on foot without the need for a car.

Preserving and enhancing both Manning's Pit and the Bradiford Valley as a green boundary along the western edge of Barnstaple would add benefits to our town in a similar way.  Beauty matters, a town with a beautiful setting is a town that gives its inhabitants a sense of pride.

We welcome more contributions to this discussion, please contact us if you would like
to add more thoughts.