Warning (posted in March)

April update to this post: this warning can now be discounted, but reasonable care is advised.

A tree by the area near the Manning’s Pit bridge lost a very large branch in the recent storms. It now appears that two other branches (big enough to cause serious injury if they fell on anyone) could also be at risk of falling any time.

Please be careful if crossing the Manning’s Pit bridge, and avoid the area that has recently been cleared of brambles.

The fallen branch is pale in colour, and the tree above (from which it fell) has two trunks, one covered with ivy.
This photograph is from late January, and shows Dad’s Army clearing the brambles. You can see the tree that lost its branch (later) on the left, and also you can see how close this tree is to the Manning’s Pit bridge. Please be cautious if using the bridge or the footpath on the right.

Solstice Celebration

We’re more than a little late posting these photographs from December, but better late than never. We had a little gathering in the fields just before Christmas to celebrate the Winter Solstice. In 2020, only three of us had been there at dusk, and we had vowed that if we managed to buy Manning’s Pit we would hold a proper celebration the next year. We had no idea that a year on we would still be in a pandemic, so the celebration was very low key, but some of us did bring candles and some brought mulled wine in flasks as well. Touch wood, let’s hope that in December 2022 we can do it properly, with some carol singing and mince pies as well.

Dusk arrives

Saki Short Story Competition Prize Giving

All five prize winners came to Pilton on Saturday October 30th to receive their prizes in Pilton Church, and then read their stories to an enthusiastic audience in Pilton Church Hall.

Heere are the results, plus links to more information about them and links to their stories,

First Prize Kathleen Wing, Plymouth, Devon The Shaman

Second Prize Jenny Tunstall, North Somerset, Ursa Major

Third Prize Marka Rifat, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, In the time of plenty

Local North Devon Prize, sponsored by Broomhill Estate

John Croker, Bideford, Rondo’s Rhythmic Rodents

Local Pilton and Bradiford Prize, sponsored by Broomhill Estate

Ian Lewin, Bradiford, A Tight Turn

More information about the competition can be found at https://www.manningspit.com/saki/

The following – below – contains photographs and a description of Saturday’s event.

We are very grateful to the Rev Marion Sanders, her husband Bill and Carole Tudor for their help in making the event in the Church possible. It was so special having this event in the church that Hector Hugh Munro (Saki) attended when he was a boy. We would also like to thank Bev Snowden and our brilliant Compere David Weeks for introducing everyone, and our Town and District Councillor Ian Roome for presenting the local Prizes (kindly sponsored by Broomhill Estate).

Here is our First Prize Winner, Kathleen Wing, from Plymouth, after she had been given her prize by Christine Lovelock, Friends of Manning’s Pit Chair.
Jenny Tunstall, from North Somerset, received her Second Prize from the Friends of Manning’s Pit Treasurer Tim Saunders
Marka Rifat from Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, with her Third Prize, given to her by Friends of Manning’s Pit Chair, Christine Lovelock
John Croker from Bideford won the North Devon Local Prize. This prize was sponsored by Broomhill Estate. District Councillor Ian Roome handed over the Prize as Broomhill were not able to attend
The Pilton and Bradiford Local Prize was also sponsored by Brooomhill Estate. As they were unable to attend, District Councillor Ian Roome also handed over this prize to the winner Ian Lewin. These five photographs were all taken by Jim D N Smith.

We started this page with photographs of the five Prize Winners, but the event began with a few words of welcome from Rev. Marion Sanders. She kindly said how grateful the Church were to our group for saving Manning’s Pit, and spoke about how much the fields meant to local people, especially during the pandemic.

We had a problem with photographs at this point, but Martin Haddrill has managed to send us a still from his video (more about that another day):so we now have a photo of Marion as she gave her introduction.

Marion then handed over to Friends of Manning’s Pit Committee member Bev Snowden, who spoke with great passion about Saki. Like quite a few of us, she hadn’t warmed to his stories the first time she read some, but she now calls him a genius, and she recommended that anyone who wanted to appreciate Saki should begin by Googling his ten most popular stories.

Both Bev and Marion’s words were inspirational, but unfortunately their photographs were the only ones that did not come out well. This wasn’t either of our photographers fault, but mainly our own, for not giving clearer instructions to begin with, so apologies! We had also hoped to do a rehearsal, but Covid restrictions got in the way of that.

This next photograph, of Bev, although blurry, does catch something of her enthusiasm and thanks to Richard Martin for catching the moment.

After her passionate speech, she handed over to our brilliant Compere, David Weeks.
David is a high profile Commercial Director in Media with 30 years’ experience working on titles such as The Economist, The Week, Pearl and Dean, and the Discovery Channel. He appears on panels during Media Week and is a judge for various advertising awards.
He also lives in Pilton and walks in Manning’s Pit with his family and dog Storm. Photo JDNS
Kate Shaw is member of the Friends of Manning’s Pit Committee and here you can see her reading from The Square Egg by Ethel M Munro, which is a biography of Saki by his sister.
Here is an excerpt from the excerpt:
“She took us regularly to Pilton Church on Sunday mornings…” Photo JDNS

Following on from Kate’s reading about Saki’s childhood, Peter Christie, one of our three Judges, was introduced. The other two Judges, Sir Richard Eyre and James Lovelock, were unable to be with us, but David thanked them for their involvement

Peter is a writer, historian, lecturer, District Councillor and former Mayor of Bideford. While Kate had read from a book about Saki’s childhood, Peter spoke about Saki’s death at the Battle of the Somme. He quoted from a local newspaper article about it – with a headline “Well-Known North Devonian killed in Action.”

Following Peter’s talk, the prizes were presented – see the photographs at the beginning of this post – and we then left the Church and walked down through the Churchyard and across the road to Pilton Church Hall. This was a route Hector Hugh Munro would have known well, so we were literally walking in his foosteps.

Earlier, during the Prize Giving Ceremony, Richard Martin was busy taking snapshots at the side of the church, here is a slideshow:

While we were in the Church, a couple of helpers had remained in the Hall, getting everything prepared and setting out refreshments. Masks had been worn by everyone in the Church, except those speaking and presenting, but in the Hall people were drinking and eating, so this was not the case.

Here we are, above, in the Hall. Kathleen Wing the First Prize winner has just sat down to eat something with her daughter, while Ian Lewin, winner of the Pilton and Bradiford Prize, is talking to Third Prize winner Marka Rifat, who came all the way from north eastern Scotland. On the other table you can see John Lovelock, with Clare, our intrepid Arctic Explorer, sitting opposite him. Photo JDNS

This is the time to say a special thanks to our magnificent team of helpers, most especially Katie Martin, Denise Smith, Yvonne Hellicon, Christine Lewin and her daughter Jess, Chris Bulpett and Tim Saunders and there must be others not mentioned here, please email a reminder if you have been left out by accident! Then there are all those who donated drinks and refreshments. As always we had too much rather than too little. Plus thanks of course photographers Jim Smith and Richard Martin and Martin Haddrill with his video camera.

Richard Martin was busy again with his camera while we were talking, eating and drinking – here is another slideshow with some of the many photos that he took. Click on the arrows at the side to move the photographs.

Then it was time for everyone to sit down again, for the readings.

The first to read was Marka Rifat, from Aberdeenshire. Her story was a very short but beautiful one. It was called “In a time of plenty” and you can read more about her, and link to the story, on our website here; https://www.manningspit.com/saki/prize-winners/marka-rifat.html

The second story to be read was Ursa Major by Jenny Tunstall, and Tim Saunders, who loved this story most especially, had asked if he could read it – it is quite dramatic and Tim enjoys acting. Tim is not only our Treasurer and sometimes Panto star but an artist as well.

You can read more about Jenny and find a link to the story at this website page https://www.manningspit.com/saki/prize-winners/jenny-tunstall.html

Here’s a charming image of Jenny, from earlier, as well.

Then it was time for the First Prize winner, Kathleen Wing to read her story too. You can read more about Kathleen here on the website: https://www.manningspit.com/saki/prize-winners/kathleen-wing.html

Here she is, reading her story The Shaman, which was a perfect example of a Saki-like story. It could be described as a story about a somewhat unassuming woman in her fifties who is underrated by a younger man who thinks he knows it all – a modern take on Saki’s stories in which pompous people have their pretensions punctured..

Finally, the two Local Prize winners read their stories:

John Croker from Bideford prepares to read his story Rondo’s Rhythmic Rodents. This amusing story was enjoyed by everyone, bringing smiles to all our faces. Here is the link to his page and his story: https://www.manningspit.com/saki/prize-winners/john-croker.html

Finally, the most local Prize winner of all, Ian Lewin read his story, a sad and atmospheric tale that felt very much as if it was set in the Bradiford Valley.


Fortunately, while that tale was sad, it isn’t a lament for Manning’s Pit. When the Competition was launched, the future for Manning’s Pit was uncertain. Now it is assured.

A final short slide show (photos from Richard Martin)

Thank you to everyone for making it a great evening, and thank you to all who entered the Competition, no matter how they fared. We appreciated every story, and were only sorry there could not be more prizewinners.

We will be adding news shortly about those stories that were Highly Commended.

Prize Giving Evening Update

It was Nigel Dilkes, who was Vicar of Pilton until recently, who suggested we hold our Saki Short Story Competition event in the Church. It has close historical connections to Saki. He used to come to the Church as a boy, with his sister and brother and Aunt “Tom”‘. It is quite possible thatt Benjamin Manning would have been there sometimes too, and we know that Crimean War hero Colonel Hugh Hibbert and his wife Sarah Hibbert were regular members of the congregation, around the same time. So we are very grateful to Revd Marion Sanders and Church Members for allowing us to begin our evening there.

The Event begins in Pilton Church and then we move to Pilton Church Hall at half time for refreshments.Please note there will not be be toilet facilities at the Church, but these will be available at the Hall, which is one of the reasons why we will be making the move, along with having more space for wine and nibbles.

With Covid cases high in the area, and some vulnerable people possibly attending the Event, we have limited the numbers of people attending. We are also asking people to wear masks while in the Church and seat themselves one meter apart unless in a bubble. Also if it is wet, please be careful on the cobbled path leading to and from the Church as it can become slippery.

If you would like to come to this Event but have not contacted us yet, please do so at once as we still may be able to fit you in. .


Saki Short Story Competition Prize Giving Ceremony, October 30th

The winning stories have been chosen and the results will be announced on October 30th

The Prize Giving Ceremony will take place at Pilton Church, full details in the attached poster:


All three Prize Winners will be there to receive their prizes, coming from as far afield as the north-east of Scotland. The winners of the two local prizes (for North Devon and also for Pilton and Bradiford) will also be there to receive their prizes, kindly sponsored by Broomhill Estate.

One of our three well known Judges (Peter Christie) will be there in person and the event will be compered by David Weeks. The first part of the event takes place in Pilton Church with its historical links to the young Saki – and then the event moves to Pilton Church Hall, where there will be a chance to meet the writers and hear some of their stories read.

Men at Work

Our Dad’s Army have been busy again today, not at all deterred by the miserably wet weather.

Here they are about to start, fixing a gap in the hedge at the side of Shearford Lane.
Posts going up, to make the hedge secure and stop and risk of accidents.
All safe and secure… what a wonderful team, and thanks to Chris for taking the photos and organising everything.

A kind of Open Day…

We did have plans for a big celebration, but decided instead to defer that to the spring or summer next year. Instead we simply spread the word that we would be there in the fields today from 2-4 pm to answer questions and say hello to new supporters. Then it began to drizzle and we almost cancelled the plan, but by 2pm the sun had come out again, and we had a lovely afternoon chatting to people who turned up.

We didn’t manage to photograph all the groups who came through, but here is a nice photo of some of us near the Windsor Road entrance. It was especially lovely to see Steve and Sheila Pitcher back in Pilton again for a visit. Steve was a very important member of our Committee during the crucial planning battles, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude.
Here are Teresa who owns alpacas, Christine who ran our dog show and Katie our seceretary having a chat about fund raising ideas. Teresa made some interesting suggestions!
Finally here is John with our wonderful supporters Robin and Susan, while some other long time supporters, the Townend family, walk off into the distance. Many other new and old supporters came along during the afternoon, and we enjoyed chatting with them all.

Entry at last!

Following the celebratory sip of bubbly, the plan was for Wendy, assisted by Twinkle, to cut the tape, but she decided that as her husband Joe was one of those who built the gate, it would be most special for their grandchildren to do the honours.

Joe and Wendy’s grandchildren cut the tape. (photo by Jim D N Smith)
The children are asked forward by their grandparents. Photo by G H

We would like to thank Pearce Constructions for their support in licensing access to Manning’s Pit from Windsor Road, and to Tozers and Wollens for their assistance in enabling this to happen.

It completes the wonderful achievement by all the local community and supporters from across the world. Together – in the words of Ryan Voules whose poem inspired us all – we have saved Manning’s Pit.

Local residents are finally able to enter Manning’s Pit from the main access to the field. Photo by Jim D N Smith

Grand Gate Opening Cerenomy

There will be more to come later, including photos of Wendy and the children cutting the tape, but here for now are photographs of the team enjoying a well-earned glass of bubbly.

By the main gate, now moved forward into the field to provide better access.
Gary, Jim, Barry, Joe and Chris – all the talents! Kissing gate designed by Chris, and tested out this morning by a mother and child in a pushchair – it worked, of course.