Friday, 9 May 2008

New curator takes over at heritage railway museum

A NEW voluntary curator has been appointed by the West Somerset Railway Association for the Gauge Museum, at Bishops Lydeard Station.
Ian Coleby, who lives in Taunton with his wife and teenage daughters, has been a volunteer signalman on the West Somerset Railway for 25 years.
He has been a railway enthusiast since childhood and recently published a book ‘The complete history of the Minehead Railway from 1848 to 1971’ after more than 20 years of detailed research.
Mr Coleby said: “I am honoured to be appointed as curator of the Gauge Museum.
“I have been interested in the history of the railway and the local community for many years and this appointment provides the ideal opportunity to build on that.
“I look forward to building on the good work done in the museum in the past and developing it in the future.”
The Gauge Museum and visitor centre is based in the old goods shed at Bishops Lydeard station.
It houses a collection of historical railway artefacts and archive documentation connected with the history of railways in Somerset.
The goods shed was built in 1862 and thus provides an ideal starting point and interpretation centre for the many visitors to the railway throughout the year.
It is open whenever WSR trains run.
The museum is looked after by a small team of dedicated employees but new faces are always welcome.
Anybody who is interested in helping should contact the curator at Bishops Lydeard Station on 01823 433 856 or
  • Our photograph shows Ian Coleby standing alongside a Great Western Railway 1897 sleeping car, which is one of the Gauge Museum’s significant exhibits. Photo courtesy of the WSRA.

Restoration of 700-year-old hall wins chartered surveyors award

PAINSTAKING restoration work on Clerks Cottage, in Spaxton, together with the owner’s social responsibility during its conservation last night saw the building project named as one of the winners in the South West regional heat of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Awards 2008.
Clerks Cottage (pictured) is a Grade II* listed 14th century hall which has been restored from extreme dereliction using traditional craft skills and locally-sourced materials.
Another local project also impressed the judges - Dunster Tithe Barn Community Hall, which was highly commended for the outstanding support of the local community in the rescue and restoration of the barn for community use.
The project at Dunster comprised the restoration and repair of the tithe barn and adapting it for life as a multi-purpose community hall.
The two projects were among four from Somerset which were recognised at the regional finals held in the Bath Pump Rooms and hosted by local broadcaster Bob Constantine.
Now in their 18th year, the RICS Awards celebrate and recognise exemplary projects across five awards categories - building conservation, regeneration, sustainability, community benefit, and project of the year.
The winning projects now have the opportunity to compete in the national final which takes place at the Millennium Hotel, Mayfair, on October 17.
Kevin McCloud, presenter of Channel 4’s Grand Designs, will host this year’s grand final.
RICS regional chairman Tony Westcott said: “The RICS Awards celebrate excellence in managing the wide variety of buildings that make up our rich built environmental heritage.
“The standard of competition for our awards, as always, has been extremely high.
“The achievement of these Somerset projects in winning so many of this year’s awards is truly remarkable.”
Clerks Cottage was a finalist in the building conservation category, where entrants are required to demonstrate particular attention to background research, the construction materials/techniques used, and the project’s long-term prospects.
It was also nominated in the project of the year category, which was sponsored by English Partnership.
Dunster Tithe Barn was a finalist in the community benefit category, where projects must demonstrate outstanding achievements in providing community facilities, and also in the project of the year class.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Steam train test as Britain's Strongest Man contest returns

HEAVYWEIGHTS from across the country will converge on Minehead sea front again next month to battle for the title of Britain’s Strongest Man 2008.
Last year’s champion, Terry Hollands, who is returning to defend his title, said: “I have been training hard and I am looking forward to the competition. I am definitely up for the challenge.
“It is great to be coming back to Minehead as it is a fantastic venue.”
This year, as well as lifting cars at the harbour and barrel loading on the beach, the organisers have set up a new challenge of pulling steam trains at West Somerset Railway’s Minehead station.
Terry Hollands said: “That really will be a test of strength.”
The event is sponsored by, produced by IMG Media, and supported by West Somerset Council.
It will be televised for Channel 5 and a series of programmes will be broadcast later in the year. Contestants will stay at the town’s Butlins resort.
Qualifying rounds lift off between June 7 and 9, with trials including tyre flips, chain drags, Atlas stones, and keg tossing.
The finals will be held on June 11 and 12 with the challengers lifting cars and pulling trains.
The presentation ceremony to announce the winner of this year’s Britain’s Stongest Man will be held on the beach.
District council economic development and tourism portfolio holder, Councillor Michael Downes, said: “We are delighted that Britain’s Strongest Man is returning to Minehead for a second year running.
“We are happy to support national competitions of this calibre in West Somerset.
“All of the events held on our land are free of charge and give a lot of pleasure to local people and tourists.
“The council are thrilled to bring this event back to West Somerset because of the boost it provides to tourism and our local economy.
“We wish the contestants the best of luck in this great challenge.”
For more information on the event, go to Britain’s Strongest Man website at
  • Our photographs show (TOP) challenger Darren Sadler (MIDDLE) defending champion Terry Hollands, and (BOTTOM) challenger Ross Stone. Photos submitted.

School is a dinner winner for second year running

SCHOOL dinners at Minehead Middle School have been judged the best in the district for a second year running.
The school was named ‘District Winner’ in Somerset County Council’s annual ‘Best School Dinner Awards’.
The council invited all primary and secondary schools in the county to submit a description of a main course which they serve regularly, to find the ‘Best School Dinner’ in Somerset.
The Minehead lunch will now go head-to-head with winning secondary schools from the other districts in Somerset.
To find the district winners, menus were shortlisted on the basis of healthy ingredients and cooking methods.
Minehead’s menu featured beef en croute, new potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and gravy.
The competition judges, county council chairman Councillor Alan Gloak and healthy schools adviser Dr Kath Wilson will now visit all the district winners to sample the menus and select one primary and one secondary school winner for the overall award.
Councillor Gloak said: “This is the second year that we have run the ‘Best School Dinner’ awards and we are very pleased with the enthusiasm of the local schools.
“The standard of entries is very impressive and reflects our commitment to encourage young people to eat healthily and be active.”
The winning schools will be invited to an award ceremony to be held in July.
There were no primary school entries from either West Somerset or Taunton Deane.
The Sedgemoor district secondary school winner was Brymore School of Rural Technology, in Cannington, while Spaxton Church of England School was the primary winner.
Castle School, Taunton, was the Taunton Deane secondary school district winner.

Plastic and cardboard recycling starts - but not for us

PLASTIC bottle and cardboard recycling collections are being launched next week by the Somerset Waste Partnership – but West Somerset will miss out on the new service.
The partnership is trialling the much called-for service only in parts of Mendip, Taunton Deane, and Sedgemoor.
The Wiveliscombe and Bishops Lydeard areas also miss out on the Taunton Deane trials.
Those residents who are involved in the pilot rounds, which run until March of next year, will receive a new green box for cardboard and plastic bottles which has been designed to stack neatly on their existing green box used recycle paper, glass, food and drinks cans, foil, clothes, shoes, and car batteries.
The pilot service has been named Sort It Plus, and a series of roadshows to explain it will be held in the Taunton area on May 15 and 16.
Somerset county councillor and waste partnership chairman, Councillor Nigel Woollcombe-Adams, said: “The Sort It Plus trials will build on the success of current recycling collections in Somerset, by testing new service options and new collection vehicle designs.
“It is important local residents covered by the trials understand the new system, so all will be sent a service leaflet to explain the trial arrangements and we will hold roadshows to answer questions face to face.”
Taunton Deane Borough Council environmental services portfolio holder, Councillor Melvyn Mullins, said: “A lot of people ask about adding plastic bottles and cardboard to our kerbside recycling collections and the trials will influence the collection system introduced across Taunton Deane.”
The new service involves the collection of cardboard and plastic in addition to the existing collection service which comprises:
  • Weekly collections of food waste
  • Continued recycling collections for paper, glass, cans, foil, clothes, shoes, and car batteries
  • Fortnightly collections for refuse
  • Optional charged composting collections for garden waste
The Somerset Waste Partnership provides waste and recycling services on behalf of all local authorities in Somerset: Mendip, South Somerset, Sedgemoor and West Somerset District Councils, Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset County Council.

Vintage visitors add to busy time for heritage rail line

VINTAGE cars and motorcycles will feature on the West Somerset Railway during the four days from Thursday to Sunday of this week.
On Thursday, May 8, there will be a visit by a group of French Jaguar car owners who will be making a return journey on the steam railway between Bishops Lydeard and Williton.
At Williton, they will be met and given a guided tour of the facilities of the Williton Engineering Workshops which undertake a wide variety of engineering work on vintage machinery and includes cars in its work portfolio.
On Sunday, May 11, members of the Westland Classic Motorcycle Club will be visiting the railway as part of a ‘Spirit of the Sixties’ outing, taking a special train ride from Minehead to Blue Anchor and back as part of a day out which will see their vintage British motorcycles making a round trip from South Somerset and Dorset around West Somerset and Exmoor.
In between the visits, Saturday, May 10, will be notable for the arrival in Minehead of two excursion trains from the mainline network.
First Great Western is operating one of its High Speed Trains from Westbury via Bristol as a fund-raiser for the charity Railway Children, which provides care for abandoned children who have taken up residence at railway stations in the developing world.
All of the First Great Western staff on duty will be doing so on a voluntary basis to help the charity.
The HST is due into Minehead at 12.30 pm and will leave at 5.40 pm, giving its passengers plenty of time to enjoy their day at the seaside.
The second excursion train will come from further afield as the WSR welcomes back the Mid-Cheshire Rail Users Group, which is starting its day from Altrincham.
The train will be ‘top and tailed’ by Class 67 diesel locomotives and is due to arrive at Minehead at 2.10 pm and to leave at 3.45 pm.
WSR general manager Paul Conibeare said: “The range of visiting groups shows the growing appeal of the railway.
“It is a good tribute that we are welcoming back the Mid-Cheshire folk whose last visit was marred by problems on the mainline network, and the motorcyclists from Westlands whose 2007 trip was on the wettest Sunday of the year.
“Despite that, the West Somerset Railway obviously impressed them favourably enough to prompt a return.
“Two special trains in Minehead Station on May 10 will also make for a challenging day for the station staff who will have to work around shunting movements to make sure that rubbish is cleared from the coaches and the water tanks replenished during their time at the station as well as dealing with passenger queries, taking bookings, and other duties during the day.
“And in a final addition to the visitors on the Saturday, members of the Institute of Railway Signalling Engineers will be paying us a visit and looking around.
“It promises to be quite a day.”
  • Our photograph shows an earlier visit to the West Somerset Railway by a Virgin Trains HST, pictured passing through Crowcombe Heathfield Station in 2005. Photo by Dr Peter Darke.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Exmoor micro-generation symposium leads the way on energy from local sources

NEARLY 200 people from all over Exmoor attended the E4Exmoor event held last Friday at the Ralegh’s Cross Inn and organised by the Exmoor Trust.
Both morning and afternoon sessions were packed with people from a wide variety of backgrounds - including householders, communities, businesses, and councils - to receive the best possible advice on the importance of local contributions of micro-generated energy.
Professor Sir Ghillean Prance, former director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, at Kew, spoke with deep insights of the importance of protecting the ecology and bio-diversity of Exmoor.
His attendance as a scientist of international standing demonstrated the importance of the Exmoor area, its habitat, ecology, and diversity.
Mukti Mitchell, a nationally-known expert on low carbon lifestyles, spoke about practical ways of reducing people’s carbon footprints.
Ben Eardley, from Renewable Energy for Devon (RE4D), was a mine of information about cost-effective ways to obtain sources of renewable energy.
Ian Bright, from Somerset County Council, described the authority’s approach to reducing low carbon emissions to meet targets and also covered the remaining technologies.
There were opportunities to raise questions on planning, funding, and all the technologies during a panel discussion and also with suppliers of equipment who displayed all types of energy generation, both of electricity and heat.
Because Exmoor has ample supplies of water, wood, and wind, there was considerable support for improving investment in water and wood.
The conference was an appropriate reminder of the significance of the need for local action to help preserve Exmoor’s unique environment.
Mr Mitchell believed it was the first such comprehensive symposium in the country and felt it should act as a template for a national run-out of such events.
Exmoor Trust chairman Edwin Beckett said that the rocketing price of fossil fuels would mean many people on Exmoor were likely struggle to avoid ‘energy poverty’.
He hoped the trust would continue to help advise on funding and drew attention to the easy reference aide memoire which was now available on
Because of the depth of feeling and enthusiasm in both sessions, it was considered important for an action programme to be followed through.
Therefore, a group met immediately to determine how best to carry forward the issues arising from the event.
Archie McIntyre, the business trustee who organised the event, said the success of the symposium was a great credit to the support from his fellow trustees and also to Edwin Beckett, their retiring chairman.