THE Exmoor Society returned to its roots at the Simonsbath House Hotel as part of the society’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

It was at the Simonsbath House Hotel - then known as Simonsbath Lodge - that the society was first founded on November 28, 1958.

It was owned by John Coleman Cooke, who became the society’s first chairman.

As part of the celebration event, members were entertained by trustee Roger Watts who brought alive the reasons for the formation of the charity.

The society’s president, Sir Anthony Acland, proposed a toast ahead of the buffet lunch.

In 1958, proposals to afforest The Chains - the central moorlands area - were made public. The National Park had only just been designated, mainly because of its wild and remote moorland.

Rachel Thomas, current Exmoor Society chairman, said: “Local people from the Dunkery side of Exmoor and Barnstaple area were horrified at the idea.

“They started a petition which gained 3,000 signatures and were successful in persuading the Forestry Commission to withdraw their plans.”

Afterwards the Sunday Times ran a piece titled 'No Conifers for Exmoor', reporting that a new Exmoor preservation society had been formed in the wake of the protest.

Cllr Steven Pugsley, ENPA member, outlined what he considered to be The Exmoor Society’s achievements today.

He mentioned the series of studies which the Society has commissioned in relation to moorland, landscape, upland farming and natural capital all providing evidence to influence National Park policy.

He emphasised the development of the new and prestigious Exmoor Resource Centre and the Exmoor Review, now in its 60th edition.

He also referred to the Society’s Pinnacle Award for young entrepreneurs, encouraging new generations of young people to live and work on Exmoor, keeping it vibrant and alive.

He described The Exmoor Society in 2018 as supportive, active, professional and enjoyable, adding: "Today it is widely respected and in vigorous health."