Saturday, 15 March 2008

Danesfield young scientists win top prizes

STUDENTS from Danesfield Middle School, Williton, scooped one of the top prizes at the prestigious UK Young Scientists’ and Engineers’ Fair organised by the British Association for the Advancement of Science and held in London.

The event, which marked the start of National Science and Engineering Week, showcased outstanding science and technology research projects from students aged 11 to 19 across the UK.
Danesfield pupils Megan Peeks and Alex Christmas were awarded the Best CREST Science Project at Bronze Level for their project investigating the durability of natural dyes.
They have won £1,000 for their school, to help fund and support future CREST and STEM projects, and Megan and Alex each received £20 in tokens.
Sir David King, president of the British Association said: “The achievement of the young people who gain these prizes is not just winning an exciting trip or a handsome trophy.
“In completing their projects they have been able to work like real scientists and engineers, and to find out for themselves how enjoyable and rewarding that can be.”

  • Pictures is association chairman Professor Patrick Dowling with Alex (left) and Megan. Photo submitted.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Launch of bowel cancer charity support group

A PATIENT support group for those affected by bowel cancer has been formally launched at Musgrove Park Hospital.
The Somerset Colorectal Cancer Support Group (SCCSG) has been in existence for just over a year, but the formal launch event celebrated:
  • The opening of a new consulting room in the endoscopy suite at Musgrove which has been furnished with more than £2,000 raised by SCCSG
  • The presentation by SCCSG of a £20,000 diathermy machine for use in gastrointestinal surgery at the hospital
The group exists for anybody in the county who suffers from bowel cancer, their family, friends, and carers, and for anybody receiving treatment for colorectal cancer at Musgrove Park or any hospital in Somerset.
As well as raising money, the group runs a range of support and information groups, both on an individual or group basis.
The next drop in session will take place on April 8 from 6.30 pm to 8 pm at St James’ Church, in Taunton.
A social event to Ilminster Theatre is planned for April 30.
Consultant colorectal surgeon at Musgrove, Chris Vickery, said: “I am grateful to everybody who has worked hard over the last year or so to set up the SCCSG.
“I am also extremely grateful to all those who have contributed to the charity.
“The equipment and furniture purchased so far is much needed and greatly appreciated by medical staff and patients.
“I hope and believe that the SCCSG will continue going from strength to strength, supporting the care of patients in Somerset with colorectal cancer.”
The charity’s chairman, Annie Lanigan, said: “This was a successful event with the Lord Lieutenant, the High Sheriff, and the MP being joined by representatives from Macmillan Cancer Care, the Ileostomy Association, members of our group, donors and supporters, as well as representatives from Musgrove Park staff and management.
“An exciting finale was the totally unexpected boost to our funds of a cheque from the High Sheriff, David Medlock, who generously gave me an envelope as he was leaving.”
  • Our photograph shows former bowel cancer patient Maurice Day, of Wells, a founder trustee of SCCSG, cuts a ribbon to launch the charity. Also pictured are (left to right) chairman Annie Lanigan, Josie Day, and Derek and June Cooper, from Wells. Photo submitted.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Railway's spring steam gala beats inclement weather

DESPITE some less than inspiring weather at times the first weekend of the West Somerset Railway’s Spring Steam Gala was a success with lots of happy faces enjoying travelling behind a fleet of the giants of the steam age.
The railway had hired in no less than seven ‘guest’ machines for the gala and these joined forces with six engines that are normally resident on the line to make up a happy ‘baker’s dozen’ for visitors to see, ride behind and photograph.
Among the stars of the show for many were London and North Western Railway ‘Super D’ number 49395, a heavy freight locomotive whose restoration was largely funded by Pete Waterman and ‘Black 5’ 45110 which was one of the engines that was in service on the last day of British Railways steam on August 11th 1968.
Other attractions along the 20 mile line between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead were book signings, museum openings and art exhibitions.
As is often the case with WSR galas, many local accommodation providers reported ‘full houses’ as visitors flocked from all parts of the country to take part in one is traditionally one of the first major events in the steam enthusiast calendar.
WSR general manager Paul Conibeare was pleased with the first weekend.
He said: “We were sorry that the weather did not allow us to show Somerset in spring at its very best but pleased with the number of people who turned-out to enjoy themselves and to give our 2008 season a very good start.
“The gala will resume on Thursday, March 13, and continues to Sunday 16th, after which we will have a one-day break until the Easter programme starts on March 18.”

  • Our photographs show (TOP) three ex-Great Western Railway Prairie tanks numbers 5542, 5553 and 4160, and (MIDDLE) visiting London Midland Scottish Railway Engine 45110 from the Severn Valley Railway waiting to leave Minehead. Photos submitted.

Vulcan Road - what you think about council plans

WEST Somerset Council has received a Statement of Community Engagement report from Consensus, the independent consultancy company appointed to consult with local people on the future of Minehead's Vulcan Road Car Park.
Consensus met with interested parties including the Minehead Chamber of Commerce, local pressure group DIRECT and students from West Somerset Community College.
There was also a three-day public display and consultation in The Avenue, one of Minehead's busiest thoroughfares, where local residents and groups such as Minehead Conservation Society had their chance to state their preferences on the car park's future.
The six options put forward included a range of uses and all included affordable housing, an hotel and parking for coaches, with the exception of Option 6. Nearly 400 people responded to the survey and the overall indications are:
OPTION 1. Mixed retail and industrial units 4.8%
OPTION 2. ASDA 15.6%
OPTION 3. Open A1 retail 8.8%
OPTION 4. Sainsbury 24.1%
OPTION 5. Tesco 7.3%
*OPTION 6. None of the above, but… 34.1%
Multiple Choice. (More than 1 option selected). 5.3%
*However, the report gives a health warning relating to the outcome of Option 6.
It states that people should note that the response to Option 6 is not a simple 'no' vote.
Instead, Option 6 aimed to provide respondents with the chance to reply to the question - if none of the above, what would they like to see on Vulcan Road?
The responses to Option 6 showed that some people wanted a 'hybrid' of one or more of the options, while others did not object to developing the site in principle but would like it to be used for a different purpose.
Very few respondents voted in favour of keeping Vulcan Road in its present form.
The aim of the report was to provide West Somerset Council with a qualitative insight into local people's concerns and aspirations for Vulcan Road.
The report also states that there is scope for a further 'hybrid' option, which may involve a combination of aspects of the current proposals and the exclusion of other aspects.
The council's acting head of paid services, Adrian Dyer, said: "The report is a useful insight into how the community would like to see the site developed.
"It also gives us a wider view of topics and issues that influence and impact on the community, and it may help us not only in this decision-making process, but may also help inform future choices in Minehead.
"The report has been sent to members and will be considered by cabinet on April 2.
"Full council will then debate any recommendations arising on April 16 at a venue to be confirmed."
The report is easily available on the 'popular pages' section on the front page of West Somerset Council's website at

My daughter on her way to North Pole record

PROUD Watchet mother Julian Burbury spoke yesterday (Wednesday) of the bravery being shown by her daughter, Hannah McKeand, who is attempting to become the first woman to reach the North Pole alone and unaided.
Hannah, aged 34, (pictured, right) who was raised in Watchet but now lives in Newbury, Berkshire, set off on Friday from Canada’s Ward Hunt Island hoping to cover the 478 miles to the pole in just 60 days.
Two years ago, Hannah set a new record - for both men and women - for the fastest solo ski trek to the South Pole in a time of 39 days, nine hours, and 33 minutes.
Now, Hannah will have to negotiate the frozen Arctic Ocean, at time swimming in a suit through waters as cold as minus 60 degrees and where floating ice can crumble and pile up into long ridges as high as a house.
She will ski, walk, and swim, and has to carry all her equipment, including pepper spray and a shotgun to ward off polar bears, and her provisions on a 120 kg pulk.
Hannah expects to burn up to 8000 calories a day - the equivalent of running a marathon every day – and to compensate for the weight loss she has had to put on three-and-a-half stone in preparation for the expedition.
Her provisions include a mixture of freeze dried meals and high calorie snacks such as chocolate, fudge, cheese, butter, salami, nuts, and oil.
Mrs Burbury told The Post how Hannah had spoken to her using an internet telephone just before setting off from the island.
She said: “I am very, very proud of her. I think it is wonderful and I am watching her progress and I think she is definitely going to do it.
“I think if she does not do it, then nobody else will.
“I have the computer on all the time to check her progress and she is going at a rate of knots. If she does it, I think it will be a record nobody else will beat.
“Ward Hunt Island is a piece of glacier which has been undisturbed for 3,000 years, but the aerial view shows the cracking that has started and it is coming apart, so Hannah might be the last person who is able to do this particular journey.”
While Hannah hopes to raise £5,000 for the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, she also still needs funds to help cover the actual cost of the expedition.
Anybody who wants to support her financially can send donations via West Somerset’s local radio station Quaywest FM, in Watchet.
Mrs Burbury said: “There are so many people who remember her, that I hope they will feel able to give something to help with the cost.”
Five years ago, British explorer Pen Hadow, then aged 41, became the first person to reach the North Pole unaided from Canada.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Indian food producer to open restaurant in market town

PLANNING permission has now been granted for award-winning Indian food producer Mignon Johnson to convert empty offices to a restaurant in Wiveliscombe.
The restaurant in Silver Street will be branded Moorkhana, which is the trading name of The Saffron Kitchen range of meals currently produced from Mignon’s home in Lydeard St Lawrence.
Work on converting the premises is due to start in the next few days and the restaurant is likely to be open by the beginning of May.
A special telephone number has been provided to local residents while the work is ongoing in case they need to raise any issues.
Mignon and her husband Andrew have already taken on some staff, but are still looking for more employees, especially kitchen assistants, cleaning staff, and waiting staff, whom they hope will be people who live locally.
The couple are keen to support the Wiveliscombe economy through generating new jobs, continuing to source local produce wherever possible, and bringing more visitors to the town
Samples of the food which can be eaten in the Moorkhana restaurant will be available at the Milverton Street Fair on bank holiday Monday, May 5, which Mignon and Andrew will be attending.
Moorkhana has recently also been awarded five stars under Taunton Deane Borough Council’s ‘scores on the doors’ scheme of inspecting food businesses, which means it is rated as having an ‘excellent level of compliance’ and being ‘highly confident in management of food safety’.
Mignon, who is an Indian national, said: “The Moorkhana restaurant is going to be very different from the type of Indian restaurant people have become used to in this country.
“All of our meals use family recipes which we cook ourselves and that means we will have a select menu and not the seemingly endless choices you find in some restaurants.
“It may surprise some people, for instance, to learn that there is no such dish as chicken tikka masala in India - it is something that has been created over here to suit English tastes.
“As well as serving authentic food just like you would find in India, we hope to educate customers about what they are eating to increase their enjoyment of the food and add value to their restaurant experience.
“Our market research shows we are likely to attract people from a large area of Somerset, so it means there are opportunities for other Wiveliscombe businesses to also benefit.”
Moorkhana will be a family-friendly restaurant where children will be welcome, and it also has a function room which can be used by local organisations. Customers will also be able to order takeaway dishes.
Moorkhana has built its reputation over the past few years by regularly attending farmers’ markets in Taunton, Wellington, Cotford St Luke, Minehead, Exeter, Crewkerne, and Glastonbury, and more recently by supplying select delicatessens.
Anybody who would like to work in the Moorkhana restaurant should contact Mignon and Andrew Johnson by telephoning 01984 656931 or emailing to
More information about Moorkhana and its range of Indian foods is available by visiting the websites and

  • Our photograph shows Mignon and Andrew Johnson outside the offices they plan to convert into an Indian restaurant. Photo submitted.