Friday, 26 October 2007

Council jewellery sale aids breast cancer charity

A GEM of a sale in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer is being held in the West Somerset Council chamber, in Williton, on Wednesday, October 31.
Event organiser Kayleigh Steadman of KJ Collection, said: “We are hoping to beat the amount we raised at the sale last year, and have some great offers on.
“It is a good opportunity for local people to treat themselves or to find a gem of a present for Christmas.”
A wide range of silver and gemstone jewellery will be on sale, including pendants, rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings, as well as a selection of simpler gemstone and glass pendants.
For a more exotic treat, there will be an ethnic touch with hand-crafted jewellery from Peru, and a choice of freshwater pearls in various lengths, sizes, and colours.
Kayleigh said: “Everything in the range is sold at below retail price, so it is all good value for money.
“Fifteen per cent from every sale goes towards the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, so it is for a good cause, too.”
The sale takes place between 11 am and 2.30 pm, ahead of the chamber being used for a meeting of the full council which starts at 5 pm.
Breakthrough Breast Cancer is one of two charities being supported this year by KJ Collection.
Anybody interested in holding a charity jewellery sale can contact Kayleigh on 07980 739616 or by visiting

Postmaster buys Post Office to secure service for Dulverton

POST Office services in Dulverton have been saved for the foreseeable future after Christopher and Christine Dubery succeeded in purchasing the property at a London auction.
Mr and Mrs Dubery owned a lease until 2013 on the two-storey property in Fore Street, but auctioneers Savills put the freehold up for sale on behalf of Land Securities Trillium Property Partnerships, which was consolidating one of its property portfolios.
Mr Dubery travelled to London to bid for it and succeeded at a price of £215,000 after a competing bidder pulled out.
Mr and Mrs Dubery now have to await the outcome of a Government review of the Post Office service before they can be certain of carrying on in business.
The Government plans to close a further 2,000 sub-Post Offices nationally and will announce the fate of those in the Taunton area in December.
For Mr and Mrs Dubery, it was a relief to acquire the freehold of the Dulverton building, as they also live there.
Mr Dubery, who is currently also temporarily running the sub-Post Office in Milverton, said: “I have been to auctions before for things like antiques, but nothing with property, and being that we live there as well there was extra tension.
“I think the adrenalin was pumping quite a bit. It was quite nerve wracking.”
Mr Dubery said it would now be business as usual, pending the Government review, although he was quite confident Dulverton would not be among those listed for closure.
He said: “We will carry on living there and running the Post Office, and hopefully we will be there until we retire.”
Mr Dubery has also applied recently to Royal Mail to take over the Milverton sub-Post Office on a permanent basis.
  • Our photograph shows Dulverton sub-Post Office. Photo submitted.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Tropiquaria breeding success helping to save endangered bird species

THE Tropiquaria animal centre, at Washford Cross, has revealed a major breeding success with an endangered species of bird, the Northern Helmeted Curassow.
The large birds live in Venezuela and North Columbia, where their numbers are thought to be less than 10,000.
Attempts to conserve them in the wild have been difficult because of the need to enforce the existing protection laws.
Triopiquaria has what is believed to be the only breeding pair in the UK, and through removing the eggs and incubating them artificially, staff have bred and are in the process of rearing 10 chicks this year.
Senior keeper Vicky Roe-Mottershead said: “We are absolutely delighted to be involved in breeding such interesting birds and to be contributing to what is a truly international rescue project.”
Tropiquaria managing director Chris Moiser said: “The staff have worked really hard on this project, and when you consider that the parents normally only rear two young a year, having 10 at various stages of development is truly wonderful.”
Tropiquaria normally opens only at weekends from the end of October, but is now available for exclusive weekday group bookings between November and February.
  • Our photograph shows keepers Sarah Crawley (left) and Becky Welsh with the two youngest Curassow chicks. Photo submitted.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Steam and diesel trains provide views of Somerset in Autumn

THE West Somerset Railway is offering a mixture of steam and vintage diesel hauled trains for its ‘Somerset in Autumn’ weekend of October 27 and 28.
Three of the steam locomotives will be guests from other lines, namely ‘Stanier Mogul’ 42968 from the Severn Valley, the tiny London, Brighton and South Coast Railway ‘Martello’, which dates to 1880 and is on hire from the Bressingham Museum in Norfolk, while Great Western tank engine 1450 will once again recreate the lost branch lines of the West of England with its ‘auto-train’ coaches.
Six steam engines currently resident on the West Somerset line will also see service, five being of Great Western origin and two, numbers 88 and 44422, which saw service on the Somerset and Dorset line.
The diesel engines will come from the fleet of 1960s machines cared for by the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group.
These will include Class 47 D1661 ‘North Star’, which was added to the Williton line-up earlier this year.
Apart from an intensive train service between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead which will run between 9.10 am and 6.30 pm on each day, visitors will find plenty to do and see.
A free vintage bus service will link Dunster Station and the village while the museums along the line and the Diesel Heritage Centre at Williton will be open to the public.
For those who would like to leave their car at home, Cooks Coaches is running a free half-hourly bus service from Taunton Railway Station (under the bridge, near the Booking Office), Taunton Castle Green in the town centre, and the Silk Mills Park and Ride scheme, on both days starting at 9.30 am.
The railway’s shops will be open for those who would like to do some pre-Christmas shopping.
WSR general manager Paul Conibeare said: “We have deliberately timed the Somerset in Autumn event for the half-term holidays and also for the weekend when the clocks go back to give visitors another chance to see both an interesting collection of engines at work and the beauties of the Somerset countryside from the comfort of our trains.
“Our main season ends on November 1 and then we will be hard at work on maintenance and more planning for 2008 in the gap before our ‘Santa Trains’ start on December 1.”
  • Our photographs show (top) diesel engine North Star arriving in Minehead, and (bottom) steam engine number 42968 at Williton. Photos by Claire Rickson.

Exmoor Food Festival finishes another year in style - now booking for 2008

THE annual Exmoor Food Festival finished in a feast of activity at the Porlock Food Fayre when more than 750 visitors sampled the best of Exmoor food and drink from 27 local producers.
The ever-popular ‘Exmoor Breakfast’ in the Moorland Hall, Wheddon Cross, served around 230 breakfasts on both Sundays of the festival, and earned its place as a firm favourite in the festival calendar.
An open day at the sheeps milk ice cream producers, Styles, in Rodhuish, was also a hit with visitors, and a new addition to the festival, the Lyn Food Fest and Treasure Hunt proved to be a big draw for both visitors and local people.
Food festival organiser Kate Harris said: “This year has proven to be even more successful than ever. Plans are already under way for next year’s events.”
Any local producers who want to take part in next year’s festival should contact Somerset Food Links on 01458 241 401 to book their place.
The festival was sponsored by DJ Miles Tea and Coffee Merchants and featured locally-sourced sausage sizzlers, succulent roasts, medieval banquets, seafood and game dishes.
The Saffron Kitchen offered hands-on sessions for visitors to learn how to give local produce an exotic Indian twist, or there were Mediterranean-style meals available at the Royal Oak, in Porlock.
Cider making, wine tasting, and a tour of Cotleigh Brewery were also available, while DJ Miles Ltd opened the doors to its unique tea and coffee blending shop in Porlock.
A Fair Trade Supper with African dance night was held in Monksilver and an Exmoor horn lamb tasting took place in the Culbone Inn, near Porlock.

  • Customers who took part in a survey of Exmoor Horn lamb at four leading restaurants across Exmoor gave it a big thumbs up and scored it nine out of 10 for its eating quality.
    The results of the survey were announced at the lamb tasting day by the Exmoor Horn Sheep Breeders’ Society.
    Visitors to the event were treated to delicious local Exmoor Horn lamb served in a Somerset mixed herb bap, especially created for the food festival and the lamb tasting day by The Avenue Bakery, Minehead, and accompanied by roast potatoes.
    In the survey, eight lambs from Exmoor farmer JR Richards and Sons were slaughtered and butchered locally by Combe Martin Meats and supplied to four leading restaurants across Exmoor which specialise in serving local produce.
    The participating restaurants, Andrew’s on the Weir, in Porlock Weir, Exmoor Forest Hotel, in Simonsbath, Tarr Farm Inn and Restaurant, at Tarr Steps, and Woods Bar and Restaurant, Dulverton, asked diners who chose lamb off the menu to complete a brief questionnaire at the end of their meal, and more than 100 forms were completed.
    Ian Rigby, the society’s meat marketing consultant, said: “These results reinforce what many of us who eat Exmoor Horn lamb have known for years, that lamb produced from this breed that is naturally reared in its native surroundings is very special and tastes absolutely fantastic.
    “We are now working on developing an Exmoor Horn brand for both lamb and mutton so people will be able to identify and buy these meat products in the future.”
    Exmoor Horn sheep and their ancestors have roamed the hills of Exmoor for centuries and have long been prized for the eating quality and flavour of its lamb and mutton.
    At the beginning of the last century the meat was much sought after by some of the most prestigious restaurants in London.
    As farming systems changed and became more intensive, however, with the post-war quest for cheap food, traditional breeds like the Exmoor Horn became less popular and numbers declined.
    Exmoor farmers never lost faith in their native breed and through a strong breed society, formed over 100 years ago, they improved the breed and maintained commercial numbers to the current level of 19,000 registered breeding ewes.
    The society’s chairman, Pauline Lyle, said though a long standing traditional breed, the Exmoor Horn was in no way a rare breed, and when crossed with a Bluefaced Leicester ram the resultant Exmoor Mule was considered to be one of the most productive sheep around.
    Exmoor National Park Authority has also recognised the importance of the breed as an integral part of Exmoor’s heritage by awarding the society funding to maintain and increase flock numbers on the moor, through the Exmoor Sustainable Development Fund.
  • Our photographs show some of the exhibitors at the Porlock Food Fayre: From the top - Nutcombe Chocolates, Brendon Hill Crafts, Cranfields, Dunkery Vineyard. Photos submitted.

Boxing club launches exercise sessions for women-only

WOMEN of all ages can limber up without being self-conscious thanks to a new initiative in the Watchet Boxing Club gym.
The sessions, which have been organised by West Somerset Council, offer afternoon and evening workouts so women can choose how to fit the exercise into their lifestyles.
Qualified gym instructor Izzy Silvester is running the women-only sessions for anybody from beginners to experts, no matter whether they are teenagers, mums, or grandmothers.
District council leisure, culture and recreation portfolio holder, Councillor Neil Parbrook, said: “We live in a very health conscious age so it is a sensible idea to give ladies who might feel inhibited with men around the opportunity to get fit in a ladies-only atmosphere.
“They will learn how to exercise correctly, and hopefully discover that keeping fit can be fun, too.
“We would like to thank Watchet Boxing Club for supporting the sessions.”
Monday afternoon sessions are from 1.15 pm to 2.15 pm until December l7, except during the schools half-term, at a cost of £2 per session. Creche facilities are available at the local children’s centre.
Thursday evening sessions are from 7 pm to 8 pm until December 20, except during the schools half-term, and also cost £2 per session.
Anybody who is interested can go along to the sessions for an introduction, or they can contact Sam Fahey on 01984 633655 or 635980.

Roadshow visits town to give advice on saving energy

AN Energy Saving Week roadshow is again visiting Minehead and will be in the town on Friday, October 26.
It features advice, freebies, and a special visit from giant washing machine, all designed to prove to local residents that being green really is easy.
District council environmental health manager Ian Timms said: “The Bristol and Somerset Energy Efficiency Advice Centre is a one-stop source of free information on all matters relating to saving energy in the home.
“Whether your motivation is saving the world, saving the pennies, or keeping out the winter chill, their friendly experts can help.”
“Last year, the Minehead roadshow helpers spoke to over 150 people and delighted many who did not know that they qualified for free insulation simply for being over the age of 70, on a low income, or in receipt of a qualifying benefit.
“As well as information on grants for insulation and heating, they are happy to be quizzed on all matters under the energy-saving sun, from renewable energy to low energy lighting.”
The Energy Saving Week roadshow will be outside Woolworths, in The Avenue, between 10 am and 4 pm.
Every visitor will receive a free energy saving light bulb.

Half-term fun for youngsters with Minehead police and puppet theatre

POLICE in Minehead are coming together with youth workers to keep local youngsters active during the schools half-term break.
On Thursday and Friday, October 25 and October 26, Police Community Support Officers from Minehead and youth workers from the Somerset County youth service will be running an art project on the Seward Way Estate, in Alcombe.
Professional sculptor and model-maker Rick Ellam will be taking part in the project, which is called Shadow Puppet Theatre.
The aim will be to produce a play by the end of the two days.
PCSO Luisa Skinner said: “Children from all ages can attend free of charge and make characters for the play, help build the scenery, or compose a script.
“Refreshments will be provided, but we would ask children wear old clothes and ensure any under-10s come with an adult.
“Our message to all local children is to come along and enjoy the fun.”
The event will be held in the multi-use games area in Sandpiper Close between 11 am and 3 pm.
For more information contact Minehead Police Station on 0845 4567000.

Keys to £1.75m new workspace units are handed over

THE keys to a new £1.75 million workspace development on the former Wrigleys factory site in Williton have been handed over to West Somerset Council.
Builders Rok presented the keys to the development on the village’s Roughmoor business estate at an opening ceremony where councillors undertook a guided tour of the much-needed workspace.
The council’s economic development portfolio holder, Councillor Michael Downes, said: “We have invested over a million pounds in the project and we are delighted by the interest being shown by local businesses.
“It will provide space for new and existing businesses to flourish, and hopefully provide more jobs for local people which can only be good for our economy.
“We are committed to widening opportunities for businesses across the district, and work is also underway on new workspace at Dulverton and Minehead.”
The remainder of the project funding comes from the European Regeneration Development Fund South West Objective 2.
The former Wrigleys factory has been completely refurbished to provide five self-contained office starter units, with a further nine workspace units built to the south of the site.
The original ground floor office, which dates to the 1960s, has been retained and now hosts a reconfigured, modernised reception area complete with shower room and toilets for the disabled.
The workspace was designed to allow a high degree of flexibility in the layout to accommodate a wide range of tenants over a prolonged period.
It will be serviced accommodation, meaning somebody will be on hand to deal with visitors to the resident businesses.
Project manager Pete Vallance said: “We have redeveloped a redundant brownfield site rather than building on a greenfield site, and our contractor, Rok, has also met exacting energy efficiency standards which means the project has been completed using sustainable building materials to further minimise any impact on the environment.
“Williton is a growth area and needs high-quality workspace. We are really pleased to have delivered this project so that local businesses can continue to expand, and new businesses have the best start possible.”
Rok area director Chris Hyde said: “This is a significant contract for Rok and we are delighted to be bringing our refurbishment and new build expertise to the project.
“It will create much-needed high quality workspace in West Somerset and set high environmental standards by regenerating a brownfield site.”
Anybody who wants more information on workspace availability in either Williton or Dulverton should contact Alder King by telephoning 01823 444 879.
  • Our photograph shows (left to right) Councillor Michael Downes receiving the keys from Rok contracts team leader Colin Ayres, watched by council project manager Pete Vallance. Photo submitted.

Plans are submitted for £6.5m Museum of Somerset

AMBITIOUS plans to deliver a new £6.5 million Museum of Somerset have been submitted for planning permission.
The plans set out in detail how the vision for a restored Taunton Castle and 21st century museum will be realised.
The aim is to create an exciting new visitor attraction which tells the story of Somerset from prehistoric times right up to the present day.
Gallery spaces will be fitted out using the latest exhibition design techniques to display the museum’s internationally important collections, setting a new standard in the South West.
People will be able to access and learn about these in a variety of ways, such as through interactive displays.
The new museum will offer much-improved services for visitors, including a cafe, extended opening times, and a large temporary gallery capable of staging national touring exhibitions.
It is hoped that visitor numbers will double to more than 60,000 annually.
Plans also allow for much more of the castle itself to be opened to the public, parts of which date back to the 12th century.
There will be a new welcome centre in the castle courtyard and a north entrance leading to Goodland Gardens.
There will also be vastly-improved access for people with disabilities.
Somerset County Council is now working on submitting detailed information to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) about what the Museum of Somerset will deliver.
Earlier this year, the HLF announced £4.8 million had been set aside from its budget for the project, which will cost £6.5 million overall.
A public fund-raising campaign was launched recently to raise £250,000 of the remaining £1.7 million.
Grants and contributions from the project’s stakeholders, including Somerset County Council, have also been secured towards the total.
Assuming the planning application and proposals to the HLF are successful, building works are programmed to start in September of next year with an expected opening in the summer of 2010.
This would require the closure of the County Museum by March 31 to carry out the huge task of carefully dismantling, packing, and storing every single object.
An open day is being held at the County Museum on Sunday, November 18 to give visitors a last chance to see behind the scenes of Taunton Castle before the development works start.
Project leader Tom Mayberry said: “We are pleased to have reached this important milestone in our efforts to create the Museum of Somerset
“We have conducted a lot of work with the public to find out what they want from their museum and are confident these plans will deliver their aspirations.”
County council community services portfolio holder, Councillor Justin Robinson, said: “The council is committed to looking after Somerset’s cultural heritage and the new facility will provide a fitting home for the history of this county, which is sure to be enjoyed and appreciated for many generations to come.”
  • Our images show how the Museum of Somerset might look inside: Top - ‘Youth Gallery’ gives a glimpse of how the county of Somerset developed from the 8th to 17th centuries. Middle – ‘Mezzanine’ shows how the Great Hall may look. Bottom -the ‘Bloody Assizes’ image shows how this gruesome chapter in Taunton Castle’s history might be brought to life. Images submitted.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Second information evening to show latest thinking on New Horizons project

AN information event on the £50 million New Horizons project in Minehead is being held at West Somerset Community College on Thursday, November 1, between 5 pm and 7 pm.
New Horizons aims to revolutionise learning, leisure, cultural, business, and health facilities for the people of West Somerset by providing a new community hospital, skills and enterprise centre, sports and leisure centre, and replacement all-weather sports facilities.
It will also provide 5.3 acres of housing, 30 per cent of which will be affordable housing for local people to rent or buy.
District council deputy leader Councillor Simon Stokes said: “Public consultation has been key to getting this fantastic project right for local people.
“We have been delighted by the positive feedback and we have arranged further events so that residents can come along and see the latest plans.”
The information evening will feature displays and the opportunity to talk to representatives from the delivering partnership about:
  • Community Hospital
  • Skills and Enterprise Centre
  • Rural Skills Centre
  • Sports, Leisure and Learning Facilities
  • Housing provision and affordable housing

Aedas, the project’s architect and lead consultant, has designed the masterplan to accommodate the facilities on the site off Seaward Way, in Minehead, with the exception of the rural skills centre, which will be located on land below Conygar Tower, at Dunster.
The plans have been submitted to the district council and will go to the planning committee for a decision before Christmas.
College principal Nick Swann, representing all parties, said: “Our last open evening was really successful and this is a further chance for local people to come along for an update and to see how all the elements work together.
“We will make the displays as informative and interactive as possible so that people can really get an idea of the benefits the scheme will bring to West Somerset.
“There will be opportunities to ask questions and to feed back views and suggestions. We have been delighted with the support the project has received so far.
“Following sustained efforts to get New Horizons off the ground, we are very pleased with the rate of recent developments.
“Robust business planning must now be completed to map out how the leisure centre part of the scheme can be operated in the most efficient way to achieve best value.”
Somerset Primary Care Trust capital project director Simon Corrick said: “The development of the New Horizons project and new community hospital for Minehead is an exciting and innovative initiative and one which will benefit the whole community.
“Minehead Hospital will be the second of four new community hospitals built by Somerset PCT, and with finance already secured to pay for its development, tendering and design work will be able to progress in line with plans for construction to start in 2008.”
New Horizons is being delivered by a partnership of West Somerset Council, Somerset County Council, Somerset Primary Care Trust, and the West Somerset Community College.
More information on the project is available on West Somerset Council’s website at

  • Our image above shows the New Horizons masterplan. The buildings are colour coded: Orange - community hospital; pink - skills and enterprise centre; blue - sports and leisure centre; yellow - housing; red - performing arts centre (phase two). Image submitted.

BBC saves money by axing plans for Somerset

THE BBC has dropped plans to give Somerset its own dedicated full new radio station.
The cost-cutting measure follows a review of spending plans because of a lower than expected licence fee settlement..
However, the BBC is to start broadcasting its existing Somerset Sound station on its own FM frequency, 95.5 FM, from December.
In addition to improved sound quality on FM, BBC Somerset is also set to benefit from new broadband video investments over the next few years, subject to necessary approvals.
It would mean Somerset licence fee payers being given access to an increasing range of audio, video, and text information about what was happening in their area.
BBC Somerset editor Simon Clifford said: “For years now our listeners have been asking why we do not broadcast on FM.
“So this is great news and puts us on an equal footing with other BBC local radio stations by having our own FM frequency on 95.5.
“With the new frequency and our BBC Somerset mobile studio, which allows us to broadcast from virtually anywhere in the county, I am really excited about the way the station is developing.”
The FM presence will be made possible by changing BBC Radio Bristol’s FM frequency to an enhanced 94.9 FM service.
In turn, Somerset will have 95.5 FM as its main frequency and the station’s output will reach more of the county with a higher quality signal for its existing dedicated local programming
BBC Somerset will continue to be broadcast on 1566 AM and online at
The Somerset programming currently splits from BBC Bristol at breakfast, mid-morning and for the drive programmes on weekdays, breakfast on Saturdays, and ‘Pick of the Week’ on Sundays.
More details are available by visiting, or the BBC Reception Advice website at or by telephoning BBC Information on 08700 100 123.