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NEWS RELEASE No: 1337916 MARCH 2010

‘Skylarking’: The Story of the Militia at Leigh Hill

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old sepia of militia

Thanks to the Neroche scheme people are able to hear the fascinating history of a Somerset Militia group, in the pub they used to frequent!

As part of the wide number of projects funded by the Neroche Scheme, local artist and Historian Tim Staples has been researching the story of the Leigh Hill Military camp.

A few miles East from Wellington Monument, just past the Merry Harriers at Forches Corner, sits a solitary brick fireplace in the middle of an otherwise empty field. This is all that remains of what was once the camp at Leigh Hill.

During the late 19th century, this field would have looked vastly different. Up to 250 tents and some permanent buildings housed up to 1900 men of all ranks from the Somerset Militia, who would descend on the area for a season of training and parading.

The militia was a part-time defensive force that could be called upon for the protection of the British Isles. They were appointed from the local gentry or the regular army and were required to spend around 28 days a year training, which is what the Leigh Hill camp was used for.

During his talk Tim will tell people what he has discovered about day to day camp life including their training regime and what happened to them when they were caught mucking around or ‘skylarking’.

The talk is on Wednesday 31 March Tim at the Merry Harriers near Clayhidon – the pub that was once ‘the local’ for the officers – and starts at 9pm. To book your place to hear this fascinating story call the Neroche office on 01823 680846 – places are limited.


About the Neroche Scheme

The 3 million Neroche Scheme covers 35 square miles within the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its vision is to ‘liberate the landscape’ through a series of projects to restore wildlife, improve access and uncover the heritage of the landscape and its communities. The local community is closely involved in shaping and running the scheme, which is led by the Forestry Commission on behalf of a partnership of local authorities and agencies, backed with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Neroche Scheme opened the popular Staple Fitzpaine Herepath Trail in 2008. The Scheme is also developing Forest Schools with local primary and secondary schools, conserving wildlife in the Forestry Commission woodlands in the area, and running storytelling and bushcraft events for the public.

The Neroche Partnership is led by the Forestry Commission, with the Blackdown Hills AONB Partnership, Natural England, Somerset County Council, Devon County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Mid Devon District Council, South Somerset District Council, the National Trust, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation, and Somerset Art Works Ltd.

Gavin Saunders, Neroche Scheme Tel: 01823 68084