Friday, 29 August 2008

Exmoor activities lined up for Tour Britain spectators

A HOST of events and activities in Exford and Dunster has been announced for the day when the Tour of Britain cyclists race through the area next month.
The events will help to celebrate a spectacular day of excitement and entertainment as the world’s best cyclists, including British Olympic Gold medal winners Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas, descend on Exmoor on September 9.
In Exford, the entertainment will start in the morning when local people and businesses take part in a fancy dress cycle ride.
Lots of activities will take place on the village green, including a falconry display, live music, Exmoor ponies, a barbecue, skittles, bale throwing, an egg and spoon race, a photography competition, and a display of international flags to represent the 16 teams taking part in the race.
Exford School will also be involved and there will be two craft marquees with many more activites and things to see.
Exford is an ideal place to watch the cyclists mid-race, as they arrive from the direction of Withypool at around 12.45 pm and then head towards Wheddon Cross.
The narrow medieval streets of Dunster, with its castle and the picturesque Yarn Market, provide an idyllic backdrop for the race as it thunders through at around 1.25 pm.
Visitors should arrive early, however, to enjoy activities being held from 11 am to 3 pm, including Rollapuluza cycle roller racing which has been organised by local businesses together with Active Exmoor and Somerset County Council.
It is a fun and easy version of cycle racing which will give participants an opportunity to find out if they are ‘faster than Chris Hoy’, the British triple Olympic Gold Medal winner, with prizes on offer to the fastest riders.
Cliff Nicholson, of Spears Cross, in Dunster, and William Wake, of Dunster Castle, have helped organise the roller racing.
Mr Wake said: “With so many visitors coming into the village to watch the tour pass by, we felt we had to provide some entertainment and cycle roller racing is ideal.
“Cyclists will readily want to race, but more importantly visitors, just here to watch the race, will be egged on by friends to have a go.
“Cycling is an up and coming sport in the UK and this is an ideal opportunity to encourage people to try it.”
Somerset County Council has also organised a free park and ride coach scheme from Vulcan Road, in Minehead, to make it easier for people to visit and enjoy the day.
The park and ride will operate from 10 am until 4 pm.
The county’s economic development portfolio holder, Councillor Alvin Horsfall, said: “I am very excited about the day, which is not far away now.
“I hope that people get there early and enjoy all the fantastic things there are to do.
“It promises to be one of the best days of the year for Somerset.”
Somerset County Council is hosting the South West stage of the Tour of Britain, which will start in Chard and finish in Burnham-on-Sea.
The race, which is the toughest stage of the tour, is expected to attract thousands of visitors to the county.
Participants include Mark Cavendish, the only Briton to win four stages of the Tour de France in a single year.
More details about the events or more information about the race, including road closures, can be found by visiting
  • Our photograph shows some of last year’s Tour of Britain riders passing along the Exmoor coast. Photo by Guy Harrop

LETTER: Thanks for making cancer care cards

Dear Editor - I would like to say an enormous thank you to everybody who has so generously spent time designing and making unique cards in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care this year.
Each year, Marie Curie Cancer Care runs the Create a Card for Cancer Care campaign in partnership with ‘do crafts’, the website and magazine for crafters.
We call upon our supporters to create one-off cards which are then sold in Marie Curie Cancer Care Shops across the UK for £1 each.
This year alone, we received a record-breaking 111,400 cards, and I would like to call on your readers to go along to their local Marie Curie Cancer Care shop and buy one of these bespoke cards.
All the money raised will help Marie Curie Nurses like me care for terminally ill people in their own homes, allowing them to spend their final days with the people they love the most.
Lorna Clarkson
Nursing Ambassador of the Year for England
Marie Curie Cancer Care

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Hospital award for helping children with life limiting illnesses

SUZANNE Heayns, a play specialist in Musgrove Park Hospital, in Taunton, has won the title of August employee of the month for her work with the COMPASS team.
The COMPASS team work with children and families with life limiting illnesses across Somerset.
Suzanne was nominated because of the work she did to organise a weekend in Huish Woods for children who have brothers or sisters who are unwell.
The weekend was so successful that the team now plan to make it an annual event.
Dr Chris Clinch, clinical psychologist at Musgrove, said: “I nominated Suzanne for this award because she showed such dedication to this project and organised it with creativity and vision.
“She wanted to give these children a chance to meet, play, and talk with other children who are going through the same experiences.
“It is well known that siblings are more likely to experience emotional problems and get less attention as families are so burdened.
“This weekend successfully represented a positive and empowering experience for the young people involved and the time given by Suzanne and her team members was indeed above and beyond the call of duty.”
Suzanne, who lives in Kingston St Mary, will in October have worked for 20 years at Musgrove, which is run by the Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust.
She said: “I was really pleased and surprised when I learnt that I had won employee of the month.
“It came completely out of the blue.
“I love my job and do find it very rewarding, but I am also very pleased that the important role of the play specialist within the paediatric department has been recognised in this way.”
  • Our photograph shows Suzanne Heayns (right) receiving her award and flowers from foundation trust chairman Ros Wyke. Photo submitted.

Bike building workshops help former young offenders find jobs

FORMER young offenders are being given the skills to put their working lives into gear as part of Somerset County Council’s Geared Up project.
The county’s Youth Offending Team (YOT) has established the project, which invites young offenders to develop their social and mechanical skills repairing mountain bikes.
Geared Up encourages team working, and provides participants with valuable skills which can lead to employment.
The young people attend weekly workshops and work in pairs to repair and rebuild second hand bikes.
The sessions teach patience and co-operation as well as the practicalities of bike-building.
Geared Up participant Luke joined the project after being excluded from school and finding himself in trouble with the police.
He used the skills taught in Geared Up to find employment, and now volunteers to assist others on the project.
The scheme is open to those who have been through the Young Offenders programme, and are not in education, training, or employment.
The workshops are held in Bridgwater and a limited number of spaces are currently available, details of which can be obtained from Emer NcNicholl, YOT operational manager on 01458 440820.
Geared Up has received £7,500 from the Youth Opportunities Fund (YOF) which has funded the equipment, tools, and bike components used to date.
It is awaiting accreditation under the Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN), which will enable the project to provide nationally-recognised qualifications to the young people involved, which will provide a boost to their CVs and improve their chances of securing a good job.
Emer McNicholl said: “Young people have greatly benefited from Geared Up, and their achievements have inspired them to make positive changes in their own lives.
“It is great to see former young offenders like Luke putting their troubled pasts behind them and helping others to do the same.”
Councillor Pauline Clarke, the council’s portfolio holder for strategic services for children and young people, said: “Somerset County Council is proud to champion the Geared Up project, which enables former young offenders to gain valuable skills and change their lives for the better.
“The council is committed to developing a high quality of life for the people of Somerset, and this project ensures a brighter future for both the young people involved and the community as a whole.”
Completed bicycles will be distributed to disadvantaged young people and victims of crime once they have been tested for road safety.
  • Our photograph shows YOT youth justice worker Nick Foulkes (left) helping young people at a Geared Up workshop. Photo submitted.

Vulcan Road - Morrisons beats Tesco and ASDA to supermarket deal

SUPERMARKET chain Morrisons is set to buy Minehead’s Vulcan Road car park site from West Somerset Council for nearly £8 million.
The council, which has suffered a financial crisis since the Independent group took control after last year’s elections, has chosen the firm as its preferred ‘anchor retailer’ for the site, which is close to the town’s Tesco supermarket.
Morrisons is likely to build a ‘medium’ size supermarket together with a petrol filling station, and will also provide 14 coach parking bays to support the area’s tourism transport needs.
The Bradford-based company has outmanoeuvred rivals Tesco, which was favourite to acquire the site, and also ASDA, which had been closely linked with it previously.
The council decision is seen as bowing to the influence of the Direct pressure group which supported many of the Independent candidates in last year’s elections.
Direct opposed allowing a supermarket into the town which would have competed with existing shops selling ‘white goods’ and electrical goods such as refrigerators and televisions.
Morrisons, which has 375 stores around the country serving 10 million customers a week, is a food specialist with only a limited range of other products such as music CDs, toys, and garden furniture, as well as its petrol stations.
The firm led the way with fuel price cuts which have seen the cost of a litre of petrol fall back by up to 12p in recent weeks.
District council leader Councillor Keith Ross said: “Last year’s consultation with local people and businesses prior to the meeting played an important part in reaching this decision.
“Residents wanted to see an alternative supermarket to improve their choice of where to shop, and businesses did not want to see A1 retail development on the site.
“While the bids submitted have broadened since the consultation and the economic situation has changed, we have listened to, and abided by, local people’s wishes.”
The Vulcan Road consultation undertaken at the end of last year showed more than 40 per cent of respondents wanted to see a supermarket on the site, with only slightly more than seven per cent favouring a larger Tesco.
The local business community, headed by electrical goods shopkeeper Graham Sizer, did not want to see A1 retail development on the site as they felt it would be detrimental to the town centre.
Councillor Ross said: “While Morrisons was not among the supermarkets that originally expressed an interest, it submitted a very competitive bid that matched the aspirations of the majority of local people.
“We are looking forward to working with our partners to bring positive changes for Minehead and the villages it serves.”
The option selected will provide a supermarket with a net sales area of 23,254 sq ft with an 18,000 sq ft limitation on convenience foods, and 261 customer car parking spaces.
The council will now enter a three-month exclusivity period with Morrisons during which further negotiations will take place, and anticipates that contracts will be signed in November.
Members of the council debated for 90 minutes last night before reaching their decision, which was approved with only one abstention.
The prospect of another petrol station in Minehead was generally welcomed as the town and neighbouring villages were rural and many people depended on their cars for transport.
There was broad agreement the petrol station would bring more competitive prices and that in the event of another strike or fuel shortage, the supply to residents would be more secure.
Morrisons proposes to build the supermarket so it is oriented toward the town centre to encourage inward trade to the town.
Councillors expressed a wish to see footpaths linking with the other elements on the industrial site and the town, so all businesses could have the opportunity to benefit through better access.

LETTER: Grow a tache to help fight male cancer

Dear Editor – I am writing as an ambassador for the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign with some tips for you men out there.
There's nothing that us ladies like more than a man who will put their money where their mouth is and have some fun for charity.
Everyman’s TacheBack campaign, a fund-raiser where men ditch their razors and grow a sponsored moustache throughout September, gives you boys the ideal opportunity to do just that.
All money raised goes to funding important research into testicular and prostate cancer, diseases which affect 37,000 men like you every year.
So, visit, get growing, and you might get more than just a moustache to be proud of - you might just manage to lure a lovely lady.
Happy growing!
Sarah Champion
Virgin radio presenter and TV star

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Survey asks residents for opinion on state of West Somerset

AGENCIES across Somerset have joined forces to find out what matters to local residents in West Somerset.
A new survey, known as the Place Survey, is taking place next month to ask people at randomly selected addresses for their opinions on the current state and their future hopes for the district.
West Somerset Council leader Councillor Keith Ross said: “It has been recognised that no single organisation can tackle complex issues such as reducing crime or achieving sustainable development without support from its partners.
“We hope residents welcome this new approach in identifying what matters to local people.
“We are asking people to complete the questionnaire and return it to us so that we can tackle the issues that people care about.”
Each district needs a minimum of 1,100 responses to validate its research.
The survey results will be available next January and the Place Survey will be carried out again in 2010 to track changes in perceptions and to monitor if any improvements have been achieved.
The West Somerset survey, which forms part of a national survey, is being undertaken in partnership with the five other principal local councils in the county, Somerset Primary Care Trust, and the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.

Safety crackdown nets taxis and private hire vehicles

A SAFETY crackdown on private hire and taxi cabs in West Somerset has been carried out jointly by West Somerset Council, the police, and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA).
They joined forces for the operation last week, on Thursday, August 21, when 22 vehicles were rounded up by police motorcyclists and taken to Minehead police headquarters.
There, they were inspected by the council and VOSA.
Four prohibition notices - which stop the operator from trading with immediate effect - were issued.
Three notices were lifted after minor remedial work was completed by qualified mechanics, but one hackney carriage from outside the district had to return to its home town for remedial work.
District council licensing committee chairman Councillor Jenny Hill said: “We were pleased to find that the majority of private hire and taxi cabs were in a safe and sound condition, and those that did not meet the stringent standards only needed minor work to bring them up to scratch.
“However, it shows that we are not prepared to compromise public safety or public trust in the generally good service provided by our licensed operators.”
Police Inspector Carol Pearce said: “Road safety is an important issue for all road users, whether drivers, passengers, or pedestrians, and we were delighted to help our colleagues with this operation.
“All vehicles suffer general wear and tear, so we recommend that all drivers regularly check their vehicles to ensure that they comply with the construction and use regulations.
“Local police conduct roadside checks to ensure vehicles are roadworthy and appropriately insured and taxed.”

Council holds free interactive workshop for district's ageing population

PEOPLE aged 50 years and over who live in West Somerset are being invited to a free, lively and interactive ‘Ageing Well’ workshop and lunch at Halsway Manor (pictured) on Thursday, October 9, from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm.
West Somerset Council housing and well-being portfolio holder Councillor Kate Kravis said: “We are hoping older people in West Somerset have a lot to say, and we want to hear it.
“The workshop is going to be friendly and informative but, most importantly, it is a great chance to get involved at a grass roots level to help develop a better future for everybody.”
An Audit Commission report published last month revealed that by next year, more than half of all West Somerset residents will be aged 50 years or older, compared to a national average of 34 per cent.
The workshop will feature wide-ranging discussions which will include service development, fear of crime and anti-social behaviour, health and well-being, and volunteering.
There will be a break at mid-day for a free lunch.
The council’s community portfolio holder, Councillor Neil Parbrook, said: “There will be some short presentations but plenty of opportunities for people to give us their views.
“We would like the event to be as lively and interactive as possible.
“People aged 50 or over tend to know their own minds and, as one of the largest and most vibrant sections of the community, we want to make sure that they have an equally active part in shaping the future so that it is increasingly positive, dynamic, supported, and fulfilling.”
The district council has teamed up to organise the workshop with the Somerset Primary Care Trust, Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Magna West Somerset Housing Association, Somerset County Council, and the West Somerset Strategic Partnership.
There will also be exhibitions and information available on a wide number of initiatives which are already available in West Somerset.
Help with travel arrangements is available, and more information, including how to book a place on the workshop, is available from Gail Sloman or Sarah Wilsher on 01984 635208 or by emailing

NASA moon landing exclusive for arts festival weekend

PORLOCK is preparing for literature lovers from across the country who will be descending on the village next month for its annual arts festival.
The festival has again attracted leading lights of the literature and media worlds, including Sunday Times columnist Roland White and BBC crime correspondent and murder mystery writer Simon Hall, who will conduct a fun and thought-provoking discussion with insights on the media from people in the know.
The event will also host an exclusive premiere, the first public UK showing of some of NASA’s previously withheld footage of the original moon landing.
It also features this year’s Orange Prize winner, Rose Tremain (pictured), author Dame Margaret Drabble, who is a sponsor and festival patron, and Fleet Street columnist and biographer Valerie Grove.
The festival has an action-packed agenda to keep people of all ages entertained during the weekend, which runs from September 11 to 14.
It includes storytelling, a Pelham puppet exhibition, a pottery talk and demonstration and a poetry picnic in Porlock’s Jubilee Garden with music and open microphone.
The historic village will also be buzzing as artists and craftspeople throw open the doors of their studios and showrooms.
Artisans will display their techniques, work, and collections, including silver jewellery, basket making, pottery, blacksmith’s art, wood sculptures, paintings, textiles, and felting.
Festival organiser Tony Pinnington said: “We are delighted with the response so far.
“Ticket sales have been strong, so we are advising people to book now to make sure they do not miss any of the festival highlights.”
The programme and information on how to book tickets or where to stay is available by logging on to, emailing or calling 01643 863150.

Anti-hunt group creating Neighbourhood Watch-style 'eyes and ears' network of residents

RESIDENTS of West Somerset are being urged to be ‘eyes and ears of the countryside’ to protect fox cubs from illegal hunting.
The anti-hunting organisation International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has launched a Neighbourhood Watch-style advertising campaign to help prevent illegal fox cub hunting.
It wants local residents to report to the police if they see any suspicious activity which resembles cub hunting.
Cub hunting is the practice of training young dogs to kill fox cubs so they develop a taste for blood, and traditionally formed part of the hunting calendar.
The Hunting Act 2004 outlawed the practice, but animal welfare groups remain concerned that some people could be continuing the early morning activity, in an attempt to keep the sport alive.
IFAW hunt monitor Kevin Hill said: “Cub hunting is a particularly barbaric activity.
“Dogs would not naturally hunt foxes, they have to be trained from a young age by taking them to a fox habitat and letting them loose with older, more experienced dogs.
“Hunters surround the woods and block any escape routes for the fleeing foxes.
“Many people will be shocked to learn about this aspect of hunting and we encourage locals to be the eyes and ears of the countryside to help stop this cruelty.”
The newspaper advert features a photograph of a young fox and reads: “He’s only a few months old, but already they could be baying for his blood.
“Over the coming weeks, the International Fund for Animal Welfare believes that a cruel and illegal activity could be taking place in your area.
“Some people may be training their hounds by setting them upon fox cubs, an archaic practice that was banned under the Hunting Act.
“If you see any suspicious behaviour please contact the police. For information on what to look for, visit”
IFAW and the League Against Cruel Sports have written to every police force in England and Wales asking them to be especially vigilant in looking out for cub hunting from August until November, and to take action where appropriate to prevent this illegal activity.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

PROPERTY: Clanville Grange developer offers free estate agency service

HOUSING developer Barratt is offering to act as a free ‘estate agent’ for anybody who wants to buy one of its newly-finished homes in Minehead.
The firm will sell a buyer’s existing property to ‘save them time, money, and hassle’ if they want to move to the new Clanville Grange estate, on Minehead’s North Hill.
Barratt sales director Caroline Hill said: “Appointing Barratt as your ‘estate agent’ to sell your house when you want to buy a brand new Barratt property may seem unusual - but more and more people are discovering it can be a smart way to buy and sell in one easy move.”
The housebuilder’s completely free agency selling service includes obtaining full market value for the buyer’s old home, and Barratt will also arrange and pay for a Home Information Pack and legal fees.
With the Clanville Grange development, Barratt is offering the service on a range of contemporary one and two-bedroom apartments.
Barratt arranges for an independent professional valuation of an existing house and agrees a realistic asking price before marketing it professionally, preparing sales literature, arranging advertising, and putting up a ‘For Sale’ board.
Once a buyer has been found, the sale is smoothly progressed, and when the new home is ready, the move goes ahead.
Mrs Hill said: “Our agency selling service has been popular for many years as buyers can secure the new Barratt home they want, on the plot of their choice, while we get on with selling their old one.”
Current availability at Clanville Grange includes one-bedroom apartments from £155,000.
More information on the agency selling service is available by calling 01643 709738 or logging on to
  • Our photographs show (TOP) some of the Clanville Grange homes recently completed by Barratt and (BELOW) a typical bedroom on the estate. Photos submitted.

Free frisbees for beachcombers as new online auction site is launched

BEACHCOMBERS were able to bag a bargain on Minehead seafront at the weekend as part of a promotion for, the UK’s new online penny auction which allows consumers to buy new retail goods at well below their normal price.
Madbid promotional staff spent Saturday morning handing out freebie frisbees with special voucher codes to people on Minehead beach and nearby.
The frisbees were promoting the fun new website at, which officially launched this month.
And they also contained vouchers for 10 free bids on the site valued at more than £10. features premium retail products ranging from gadgets such as iPods, mobile phones, and laptops, to lifestyle products such as holidays and games consoles - often at a fraction of their retail cost.
Some recently closed auctions, for example, saw a Canon Ixus 70 plus kit sell for £2.23, a £100 Marks and SpencervVoucher fetch £1.86, and a Sharp 32-inch LCD television go for £4.33.
  • Our photographs show some of the freebie Frisbee recipients. Photos submitted.

LETTER: Nominate GPs for award for supporting carers

Dear Editor - Looking after a loved one who is sick, disabled, or frail is not easy – it can be physically hard, emotionally draining, and very isolating.
In a recent study, 74 per cent of unpaid family carers in the South West say that their health and well-being is worse off as a result of caring.
Often, the person that carers turn to for support is their GP.
This support can vary greatly from practice to practice and yet it can make all the difference to carers.
The Simplyhealth Caring Awards (in partnership with The Princess Royal Trust for Carers) are looking to celebrate all the good work being done throughout the UK today to support carers.
I would like to draw your readers’ attention specifically to the Simplyhealth Carers’ Choice Award that looks to recognise all the fantastic work being carried out by individual GPs.
Carers in West Somerset, Taunton Deane, and Sedgemoor can now say ‘thank you’ by nominating their GP for this award.
This year’s prize is £250 each for the winning GP and for you.
To nominate, all you need to do is write a letter about how your GP supports you as a carer.
It is very important to focus on the support they give to you, not just the person you care for.
Please e-mail or write to The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, Freepost RRRY-JLXK-GZCG, Unit 14, Bourne Court, Southend Road, Woodford Green, IG8 8HD.
You need to remember to include contact details for both yourselves and your GP.
The closing date for all the awards is October 10, and more information can be found on
The winners will be announced at an event in November.
Sheila Hancock
Actress and author