This August we celebrate the centenaries of two indefatigable women associated with Exmoor: Hope Bourne and Anni MacEwen.
Hope Bourne was born 100 years ago today, on 26 August 1918 in Oxford, and I wrote about her here. An eccentric lady she moved to Exmoor as a child and lived most of her life there in exiguous conditions in a tiny leaking caravan at Ferny Ball near Withypool.
She had little income and no home comforts. She went out on the moor in all weathers, shooting for the pot, painting and writing about Exmoor, and campaigning to keep it wild and free.
She died in 2010 and there is a discreet memorial to her, a signpost on the Two Moors Way on the edge of Withypool.
The Exmoor Society has an archive of her possessions.
Ann (Anni) MacEwen was born in Sutton in Surrey on 15 August 1918. She was a distinguished town planner and founding partner of Colin Buchanan’s consultancy. With her husband Malcolm she bought the Manor House at Wootton Courtenay on Exmoor in 1968 and they soon became embroiled in battles to stop the moorland from being ploughed.
Calm, persistent and very determined she provided the counterpoise to Malcolm, who was sparky, excitable and fired on all cylinders in all directions. They were a forceful team.
Malcolm was a member of the Exmoor National Park Committee, often a lone but powerful voice, and between them Malcolm and Anni played a significant role in stopping the devastation of Exmoor’s moorland. Their constant lobbying, alongside the Council (now Campaign) for the Protection of Rural England and Council (now Campaign) for National Parks, persuaded the government to set up an inquiry under Lord Porchester in 1977 into the moorland ploughing. The Porchester Report of the same year was influential in achieving a better deal for moorland in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Anni and Malcolm wrote the seminal work National Parks: Conservation or Cosmetics? in 1982 with a sequel Greenprints for the Countryside? in 1987. You can read Anni’s obituary from The Guardian here and listen to an audio clip here. Anni died in 2008.
I think of Anni when my hydrangea at Telfer’s Cottage comes into flower each year. The MacEwens had a rambling hydrangea on the north face of the Manor House. On Anni’s recommendation (and my mother’s) I planted a hydrangea on the north side of my house, and it has flourished energetically—just like Anni and Malcolm.
I remember Anni and Malcolm very well, from the days when Ronnie Vinnicombe produced evidence to Porchester for the Devon Ramblers Association, and I went along because I walked Exmoor such a lot. We all expected Porchester to be a disaster, but it was an unexpected miracle. Everyone who loves Exmoor should be very grateful to these campaigners.