Saturday, 8 December 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Town forgets to celebrate Sir Arthur's 90th birthday

SIR Arthur C. Clarke (pictured), the most famous person to have been raised in Minehead, is due to celebrate his 90th birthday on Sunday, December 16.
But in his home town, the anniversary will pass almost unnoticed as there are no plans for any public occasion.
However, after The Post alerted the Mayor of Minehead, Councillor David Hawkes, the town council could send a civic greetings card to Sir Arthur and possibly link up with him via a webcam chat.
Councillor Hawkes said he would liaise with Air Arthur’s brother, Fred Clarke, who lives in Bishops Lydeard, to see what could be arranged.
He told The Post: “I know of Sir Arthur and the plaque on his house, but I did not know it was his birthday.
“Nobody has suggested doing anything, so I suppose it shows there is not a lot of interest at the moment.
“But I am always open to ideas and it would be nice if we could do something, and it would be good for the town as a whole.”
West Somerset Council spokeswoman Stacey Beaumont told The Post when asked if the district council planned to do anything to mark Sir Arthur’s birthday: “We have no plans.”
Fred Clarke told The Post that the only celebrations of which he was aware were being organised by Sir Arthur’s staff in Columbo, Sri Lanka, where he lives.
Mr Clarke said: “I spoke to him a few days ago. He is keeping pretty well.
“He is now in a wheelchair completely but seems to be quite happy and cheerful.
“I spoke to his staff and they are laying on celebrations over there.
“It would have been nice for something to be done in Minehead as well. He has great affection for Minehead.”
Sir Arthur, probably best known for his groundbreaking novel 2001 A Space Odyssey, later made into a Hollywood film by director Stanley Kubrick, was born in Blenheim Road, Minehead, and went to school at what is now the Richard Huish College, in Taunton.
He has lived in Sri Lanka since 1956 and has only occasionally returned to Minehead, once, in 1992, to have the Freedom of the Town bestowed on him ‘in recognition of his distinguished services to science and the arts’.
Sir Arthur was knighted in 1998, but the honour was not bestowed on him until 2000 due to a row over a national newspaper allegation against him which was later shown to be unfounded.
He is credited with inventing the idea of satellite telecommunications, writing a private paper on it in 1945, and two decades later he saw his vision turned into reality with the advent of satellites in geostationary orbits.
The International Astronomical Union has named the geostationary orbit at 36,000 kilometres above the equator The Clarke Orbit in tribute to Sir Arthur.
The learning resource centre in Richard Huish College has been named in honour of Sir Arthur, who also has an asteroid and a species of dinosaur discovered in Australia named after him.
NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter, which is looking for evidence of past or present water and volcanic activity to help answer the question of whether life has ever existed on Mars, is also named in honour of Sir Arthur’s work.
Fred Clarke is currently setting up a group to encourage budding young inventors.
It will be called the Pip Youngman Group after the late Taunton inventor, who worked with young people aged from 13 to 24 years.
Mr Clarke said: “It is for youngsters who have ideas which we will encourage them to develop.
“We will check out an idea to see if anybody has done it before, and do drawings and models to try to see if we can get somebody to take it up.”
Mr Clarke said he was inspired by what had happened to Sir Arthur, whose communications satellite invention was not taken up by anybody in England and so was eventually given to an American.
“Now, we spend millions every year on satellite communications which we pay to the Americans,” he said.
“I do not want to see that happen to any more of our young inventors.”

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Exmoor 'big bridge' players help raise cancer care funds

MORE than £1,000 has been raised for Somerset Cancer Care from a ‘Big Bridge’ event recently held on Exmoor.
The charity is a division of St Margaret’s Somerset Hospice and provides information, support, and free stress-reducing complementary therapies to anybody affected by cancer - patients and their families and carers.
The charity’s Exmoor committee organised a bridge and lunch event in Winsford where the draw alone raised £239, and the total sent to the charity was £1038.20.
Sixteen tables of bridge players filled the village hall and everybody enjoyed a hearty lunch as well.
Among the organisers were volunteers Joan Bidie, Jane Lewis, Jenny Williams, and Cathy Nicholls, and non-volunteers Joan Cooper, Sue Ashburner, Brenda Coates, Anne Phillips, Rosie Strickland, and Alice Windsor Clive.
Money was also raised for St Margaret’s Somerset Hospice through the sale of its Christmas cards.
Committee member Cathy Nicholls said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who organised the ‘Big Bridge’ event.
“It was a fantastic day and the hard work of everybody involved really shone through.”
  • Our photograph shows Dave Williams (left) and Peter Nicholls preparing refreshments for the ‘Big Bridge’ fund-raising afternoon. Photo submitted.

Grants available to put empty homes back into housing market

RESIDENTS in West Somerset are being asked to keep an eye open for any homes which appear not to be lived in.
West Somerset Council has dedicated December to encouraging people to report homes which have been empty for six months or more.
The council can help owners bring such properties back into use so they can be leased to local people.
The council’s housing portfolio holder, Councillor Peter Humber, said: “West Somerset has a real shortage of affordable homes to rent and we have grants available to help bring houses onto the market.
“We have recently brought one home back into use and a further eight have schedules of work planned, but we have the capacity to bring more back into use with local people’s help.
“Sometimes, homes are inherited and have new owners who are not in the area, or they have fallen into disrepair because owners either do not have the interest or money to bring them up to a decent standard.
“Owners of redundant commercial buildings can also be helped where there is potential to convert buildings into dwellings for local people.”
The council is offering grants of up to £10,000 to bring empty homes up to the Government’s decent homes standard.
It can also help owners lease properties to people nominated from housing waiting lists or to sell them to local housing associations so they can be let.
Grants of up to £5,000 are available to owner-occupiers who cannot currently live in homes because they do not meet the decent homes standard.
Council environmental health manager Ian Timms said: “If the public knows of empty houses in their area, they can contact the council in confidence and we will track down the owners and do our best to get the house back into use.
“Even derelict properties can be returned to use, so we would encourage anybody who knows of an empty property to contact us.”
Grants are not available for second homes which may stand empty for many months.
Anybody who wants to report an empty home in West Somerset should call 01643 703704, or email

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Two women rescued from Exmoor farm machinery

AN air ambulance rushed an Exmoor woman to hospital early on Sunday, December 2, after firefighters freed her from beneath a farm vehicle.
The unnamed woman became trapped under a four-wheel drive Kawasaki Mule utility vehicle (example pictured) on a farm near Dulverton at about 8.30 am.
Another woman who tried to release her also became trapped and had to be rescued by the fire and rescue crew from Dulverton.
It took more than half-an-hour for the firemen to stabilise the vehicle and release both women, the first of whom was then put on board the waiting helicopter to be flown to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, in Exeter.
Paramedics on board a road ambulance also attended the scene.
  • Fire and rescue crews also attended three Exmoor properties which were experiencing flooding overnight on Saturday-Sunday in the Exford and Bridgetown area, near Dulverton.
    Crews from Dulverton and Porlock were called out and they used light portable pumps to remove water and also helped to clear up with mops and buckets.