Campaigners outside Yeo Dale Hotel, Pilton
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 to enjoy
The story of our campaign - from its beginnings in October 2015 until the present:

July 2018

Manning's Pit bakes in the sun, but it is always a delight to walk in the cooling shade of the river.

July in Pilton means Green Man Day, and we had our usual stall outside Mr Manning's old house.

We were able to tell people about the Nomination Form we have handed in to North Devon Distric Council, asking for Manning's Pit to be made an Asset of Community Value.

We have also adopted a Constitution and our policies are up on the website.

Back in April our solicitor wrote to Summix Ltd to inform that we would be interested in purchasing the land. Sadly. we are still  - - three months later - waiting for a reply from them..

Our stall on Green Man Day
Our stall in Pilton Street, witht he Tree of Love for Manning's Pit at the front on the left.

June 2018

Satish Kumar signs our petition!
Yet another celebrity endorsement to add to the many that we have had before.  Satish is the Editor of Resurgence and Ecologist Magazine, and most famous for a walk that he did back in 1962, from India to Europe. He has made many media appearances – including Desert Island Discs – and is an author as well.

Go to the Blog again to learn more about Satish.

Brian Norman's new poem

Yeo Dale Hotel Banner comes down - for the moment.

See the Blog: for photographs of the occasion.

May 2018

We are back in the phoney war stage, which is where we were for much of the last two and a half years. But never mind, we have been here before, and we do not give up!

Let's keep the messages coming - here's one from Stratford on Avon, from John and Christine:
"We went on a river cruise, and floating along the river, watching the sawns, and people sitting on the grass in a beautiful park, with Elgar's music as the sound track on the journey, we couldn't help but think how everyone needs green spaces, flowing rivers, wildlife and tranquility, which is what our campaign is all about."

Stratfdord on Avon

April 2018

We know the battle isn't over, and we know that Summix could come back again with new plans, but we decide to enjoy the moment.
We have a party!
Here's a link to the report about it on our Blog:
The photograph below shows us watching "The Magic of Manning's Pit" on the big screen.

Watching the film, at the April 2018 party

March 2018

Planning Application 62524 has been withdrawn.

On Monday March 5th Summix withdrew their planning application.  We do not as yet know why they have done this, and we cannot be sure that they will not put in another one, or sell the land on to other speculators/developers.
At the same time, this is great news, and we feel we should congratulate all of our supporters in Pilton, Bradiford, Barnstaple and beyond, for making it clear how much this special place means to so many people.

More snow:

There was snow again in March and, as always happens, locals were out in force with theri sledges - on Sunday March 18th they were there from 7am until dusk!

Sledging March 18th 2018

February 2018

The wait for news of the Planning Meeting date continues....

The Coffee Morning on February 24th is a big success.

We are excited to learn that that Dr Sandie Byrne, author of The Unbearable Saki, has signed our Petition.

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 wonderland...


January 2018

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 signing.

The Planning Meeting will not be in February, so the earliest date it can be is March.

After Iceland, here's a Save Manning's Pit message from a much warmer place : on top of a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka

December 2017

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:

Message from Iceland

November 2017

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 Linda.

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:

Near Hailes Abbey in the Cotswolds
Save Manning's Pit message from near Hailes Abbey in the Cotswolds

October 2017

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:

It was a privilege to meet with Richard and Anne Williamson at the beginning of the month at a book launch in Bideford, and we now have a copy of Tarka the Otter signed by Henry Williamson's son himself.  Richard Williamson is also the grandson of Sarah Hibbert who used to live in Broadgate House and was herself the daughter of the famous Victorian artist Frederick Richard Lee.

Messages from abroad keep on coming, this one was from two Pilton children, on holiday in Spain.

Pilton children in Spain

September 2017

From the jungle to the icy North... a late September Message came from Greenland, along with photos of polar bears as well.

Message from Greenland

The wait continues....meanwhile we continue having messages from abroad, especially one from the Costa Rican rain forest, and our online petition now has 3017 signatures. This is a large number for a campaign focused on a small local piece of land.  The population of Pilton is only about 5000, and that number includes children and elderly people in residential care. Also, as we discovered while doing our house to house survey, quite a large number of people in our community prefer not to sign online - we have a paper petition as well for those people to sign.

Costa Rica

August 2017

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.

Message in cassava leaves from Uganda
Save Manning's Pit message written in Cassava leaves, from Uganda.
Photo taken by Acomo Lovelock, who has also walked in Manning's Pit.

July 2017

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:

June 2017

Trevor Beer

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 in 2015.

General Election campaign

We 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 2017

The 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.

April 2017

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.)

March 2017

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:

February 2017

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 these plans.

Manning's Pit banner in Panto

January 2017

Headline News:

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 Beer. 

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 Manning's Pit.  

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 Exhibition.

When we held our first Exhibition a year ago, we were still in the dark about whether the option on the purchase of Manning's Pit would be completed. Only a few days later the news came that it had been been. Little did we imagine then that a whole year would go by without a planning application being submitted, although of course one could come in at any moment.

Last year we had five artists exhibiting - this year we had more than double that, and all who came were impressed with the quality of the work on show.   More than anything, the paintings demonstrated the love that all the exhibiting artists feel for this most special place.

The Children's Competition was a great success, and as, with the adult work, the children showed how much they cared for Manning's Pit.  There were three age groups, and while one of the most favourite subjects was the rope swing, many of the works submitted demonstrated careful observation and a feeling for the landscape.  Peter Heaton -Jones, the MP for North Devon, presented the prizes to the Children on Saturday morning, and spoke in support of the campaign to the assembled group of families and visitors. 

He said how impressed he had been by the number of window posters and signs on display in Piton as he walked to the Hall from his car.   This was interesting as he did not know that there were fewer up than normal as many have been temporarily taken down, either to make way for Christmas decorations or because they were faded and needed refreshing before going up again! 

In the photo below - Peter Heaton-Jones, MP for North Devon, presenting his prize to Dylan Knox Bulpett, winner of 1st prize in age group 6-11. 

For more about the Exhibition, click on the photo below:

Peter Heaton Jones with Dylan Knox Bulpett

Our map of the world

Also we have had more Save Manning's Pit messages from abroad including  Boston,  Coney Island, New YorkMiami   and Little Havana in the USA as well as Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and  some dancers on a beach in Haiti.

Dancers in Haiti

 We haven't quite covered the whole world, but we are not doing badly, considering how small Pilton and Bradiford are!  There remain a few gaps, and we are hoping for messages from Africa, Russia and South America this coming year. One of our supporters was in Antarctica in the spring last year, but set off before we had  the idea of  asking people to send Save Manning's Pit messages back!  If you find a photograph missing on the map, let us know - for some reason they sometimes vanish again after they have been uploaded safely.

December 2016

We remain, as we have been since March 2015, in what we call a phoney war situation. The London-based speculators who bought Manning's Pit have yet to put in a planning application.  One could come in at any day.

Message from Lapland

Save Manning's Pit messages continue arriving from all over the world. In recent weeks we have received a number of messages from Australia, including one from Graham Manning of Coogee, NSW, some from Cumbria, from Cleeve Hill, Cheltenham, from Bristol, including one from the Bear Pit,  from Taunton, from the Republic of Ireland and the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, and Acton, Massachusetts,USA as well as the beautiful one above from two very special Pilton children visiting Father Christmas in Lapland.  

And we must mention this message that comes on the back of Gordon, who lives in Pottington, Barnstaple, and runs round Manning's Pit.

Gordon from Pottington

November 2016

November 16th

The Youing's Drive application is approved. This is a very different piece of land  from Manning's Pit as it is inside the development boundary, but it was purchased  by Summix Ltd,  who also purchased Manning's Pit.

November 4th

Peter Vaughan comes to Manning's Pit again - read more

Peter Vaughan and
                  group members
Peter with group members

October  2016

It is nearly a year since the Manning's Pit fields were sold at auction. A planning application has not as yet been submitted although of course it could come at  any moment. As soon as it does so we will inform you of any action that you can take to help.
Meanwhile, we need to raise funds to commission expert help to fight an application. If you can help in any way, either by donating, or pledging support for when the time comes, please contact us by email:

September 2016

John and Mary Breeds came to do a Moth Survey on Sunday September 11th   Their enthusiasm for all forms of wildlife and plants is inspirational and we are so grateful to them for coming along to do this for us. A select group of supporters joined us as the surveys were set up close to the Manning's Pit bridge, and we were all fascinated by the moths and insects that we saw.  Tim Saunders was so inspired that he wrote a poem!

The Breeds run wonderful wildflower walks on Braunton Burrows on summer evenings and several of our supporters have been along on them and can highly recommend them.

August 2016

Panda Sanctuary
We have messages of support  from a Chinese Panda Sanctuary, from the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Spain, Majorca, the Lakes, Corfu in Greece and other holiday destinations.  See them all on our map and Facebook Page photos.

July 2016.

The Phoney War is not in fact over, despite our previous post below. 

The speculators who have bought Manning's Pit have not yet put in an actual planning application. We have no idea when it will come, although we do know that they have been doing various surveys in the fields.

What we do know is that support for our fight to keep these fields safe for future generations to enjoy has grown and grown, both locally and further afield, as the map of messages and posters, and the petition both demonstrate so vividly.

June 2016

Clare on Arctic ice

April 2016

                  Tate Modern

Class of children in Bangkok School

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

Springtime brought more than flowers to Pilton and Bradiford.
 It began slowly, with one or two window posters and signs, and then they began sprouting everywhere, to become the talk of the town. 

By the Longstone
Pilton Street
Bull Hill
    click here to see more posters

March 2016

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. 
on the pavement opposite the Castle Centre- 5pm
Five pm on the pavement opposite the Castle Centre, in full view of the Framptons Exhibition.
Five pm on the pavement
Five pm, on the pavement, two of the local people who spoke so movingly in "The Magic of Manning's Pit"

Five pm - despite the cold
If you listen to The Voice, our local Radio station, you may have heard Chris Bulpett (left) being interviewed the next day.

A little later than five
And if you listen to Radio Devon you may have heard Tim Saunders, second right, speaking on Wednesday morning.

Inside the Castle Centre
Thumbs down for the development

around 6pm or maybe later
Around 6pm, or perhaps later, taken from a phone. It was getting much colder, but our supporters did not give up.
Almost over.. five to eight
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

February 2016

Peter Heaton Jones with group members 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   

January 2016


Exhibition Photographs
Exhibition Paintings

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 were.

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 

December 2015

Before the march
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

November 2015

Videos of Our first Demonstration, in Manning's Pit, November 7th 2015  (scroll down to see)

113 people gathered, in bad weather, at very short notice - which is why few people had time to make placards.

The link below has 18 photos of our first March:

Pilton marches for Manning's Pit - Tony Gussin,North Devon Gazette, Nov 14 2015

Pilton residents show their feelings over possible development of local beauty spot -North Devon Journal, Nov 15 2015

Pilton Manning's Pit Public Meeting - North Devon Gazette, Nov 4 2015

October 2015

Fears for the future of Manning's Pit -  Tony Gussin, North Devon Gazette, Oct 14 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.
The Manning's Pit fields were outside the development boundary, and special to the whole community. Someone had to do something. On Wednesday October 7th  The Friends of Manning's Pit  was formed as a group, and a Facebook Page was set up. but there just wasn't time - with the level of expertise that we had - to raise the money and organise everything for a full bid before the Auction on October 27th.

Estate Agents Stags had persuaded the owner to change the conditions of the Auction, so that rather than be open to any bid, whoever bought the other smaller plot that he was offering for sale (about 4 acres, behind Youing's Drive and inside the development boundary) would have the option to buy the larger Manning's Pit plot (four fields, over 26 acres) for £250,000.  Having made contact with the owner, and raised enough to cover the deposit,  we still had hopes that this option would not be taken up but sadly it was. The new purchasers had a three month time limit to complete on this option, so we were still hopeful that they might pull out. 

An Exhibition of Manning's Pit paintings, from 2012, before the land came under threat:

and from 2010, about a calendar made by Martin Haddrill