Saturday, 3 January 2009

Tenth anniversary show for West Somerset entertainment venue

THE Mineral Line is celebrating its tenth anniversary this month after a decade of presenting a varied programme of lively dance nights and entertaining supper evenings in Roadwater Village Hall.
The milestone will be reached on Saturday, January 17, with a performance by The Mandibles (pictured), an exciting and talented young band of Bath-based musicians who blend together a mixture of gipsy swing, ska, tango, jazz, and blues.
The Mineral Line survives thanks to the hard work and inspiration of a 12-strong committee of volunteers who choose and organise the range of performances.
Entertainment has ranged from cabaret performances of flamenco, off-beat humour, and original groups of musicians such as The Ukelele Orchestra and Celloman, to nights of reggae, salsa, jive, and blues music.
More volunteers are always being sought and anybody who would like to help should call 01984 640058 or email
Tickets for The Mandibles cost £7 and are available from The Roadwater Shop, The Valiant Soldier public house, and Toucan Wholefoods, in Minehead, or by calling 01984 640058.
More information about the Mineral Line is available by logging on to

Exmoor businesses take euro for a pound in chase for tourism trade

THE pound sterling has reached parity with the euro in West Somerset – ahead of the currency’s falling value on the world’s money markets.
A number of shops and businesses in the medieval village of Dunster have agreed to accept payment for goods and services in either euros or pounds and are counting both as the same value.
They are believed to be the first in the country to do so, hoping that the move could bring a trading boost, especially from European visitors.
The Dunster initiative was started in the run up to Christmas by Yarn Market Hotel owner Antony Brunt, who is also chairman of the Exmoor Tourist Association.
Mr Brunt had seen how the one-for-one exchange rate helped Northern Ireland businesses when the value of the pound dropped and brought shoppers across the border from the Republic of Ireland.
Now, several other businesses in the village have joined in.”
Mr Brunt said: “There is a near parity at the moment on the exchange rate and I thought we could go that little bit further and give some incentive to visitors with the New Year coming up.
“With what has been happening in Ireland, people going across the border to get a good deal, we thought we could do something similar.
“Tourism is one of the major industries in Dunster, so we need to keep doing things to attract those tourists.
“We feel customers need to be given that extra incentive, especially customers from overseas and European customers.
“Everyone has been talking about doom and gloom in the tourism industry, but if you are proactive and get what business is out there, it can turn the current climate into a success.
“The currency status at the moment is going to encourage UK visitors to stay in the UK and it is going to make the UK more appealing for foreign tourists.
“I think there is a great market in Europe. England is a lot cheaper now. It is a wonderful opportunity for UK tourism.”
Mark Phillips, owner of clothes shop Coastal Living, said: “We get a large percentage of European visitors and it just makes sense at the moment.
“I also think it is a good idea because it will make us more welcoming to tourists using the euro and could prove a boost to trade.
“We receive a lot of Italian and Scandinavian visitors and this is a positive gesture towards them.
'”Of course, I will keep an eye on the exchange rate and we can only do this if the near-parity continues.”

Friday, 2 January 2009

Recession in 2009 could 'devastate' town's shopping centre

THE shopping centre of Minehead could be 'devastated' as the recession claims more retail victims in 2009.
Insolvency experts have warned that more than 10 national or regional retail chains risk going bust during January alone - on top of those which have already gone into administration.
And locally, The Post has been told of up to five Minehead town centre outlets which could soon be lost - not including Woolworths, which will close on January 5.
The gloomy news comes on top of predictions that unemployment nationally will hit three million this year.
Nick Hood, a partner in Begbies Traynor, the UK’s leading business rescue, recovery, and restructuring specialist, said few retailers would have made profits during the Christmas trading period because of discounting.
The profits made at this time of year often helped retailers stay afloat for the rest of the year.
But Mr Hood said: “The problem facing the management of retail chains is whether they can find funding to restock in January, pay their VAT bills, and survive through until Christmas starts again next October.”
He said retailers now faced the danger that banks and suppliers which were prepared to support them over Christmas might no longer be willing to do so.
Retailers were also particularly vulnerable in January because they often had more cash and less stock than at any other time of the year, so it was a prime time for creditors to force them into administration.
Although The Post has names of local branches of retailers supposedly ‘at risk’, we have decided not to publish them.
Locally, Minehead Chamber of Commerce has urged West Somerset residents to shop locally and support traders.
Chamber spokesman Graham Sizer said every pound spent in local shops would circulate several times before the money was taken out of the area.

PROPERTY NEWS: Part-buy and part-rent options on affordable homes

PEOPLE looking for an affordable home in West Somerset are being urged to buy rather than rent.
Magna West Somerset Housing Association said it had a number of a part-buy, part-rent properties available immediately through its development company Charter (S.W.) Ltd.
They included properties in and near West Somerset, in Stogursey, Lynton, and Bampton.
A Magna spokesman said: “You can buy part of the property and rent the remaining part.
“Your monthly outlay would typically be between £500 and £600, depending on the value of the property you part-buy and the type of mortgage you take.”
Charter (S.W.) Ltd’s core area of operation covers Somerset, Devon, and Dorset, and in addition to traditional affordable rented housing, it offers additional options to local communities in fulfilling housing needs, including shared ownership, shared-equity opportunities, and sub-market renting.
At its Lonlay Meadows development, in Farringdon Lane, Stogursey, the company is offering part-buy, part-rent on a first floor one-bedroom coach house apartment with private entrance and garage, lounge, kitchen, and bathroom for £42,000.
The outside of the property is rendered with feature wooden cladding.
It also has five new one-bedroom apartments available with private entrance and parking, open plan living room and kitchen, bathroom, central heating, and double glazing, starting at £38,000 under the same scheme.
In Lynton, two two-bedroom apartments are available at The Chapel, featuring open plan living rooms with fully-fitted kitchens and family bathrooms, central heating, double glazing, and parking, from £56,500.
The Bampton development, known as Scotts, offers a 40 per cent share in a two-bedroom apartment from £54,500.
The traditionally-built apartments on the edge of the town were carefully designed and built to a high standard by local developer Devonshire Homes and feature an open plan living room and kitchen.
Each is fully fitted with white goods, including oven/hob, washer/dryer, and refrigerator, and is carpeted throughout.
More information about the Charter homes is available by calling 0844 463 8031.
Anybody who wants to part-buy, part-rent one of the Charter homes should register at
  • Our images show (from the top) Lonlay Meadows, Stogursey, The Chapel, Lynton, Scotts, Bampton. Images submitted.

Smoke detector fitted after New Year's Day kitchen blaze

FIREFIGHTERS from Williton tackled a kitchen blaze last night in May Terrace, Washford.
Two fire engines attended the incident, which happened shortly after 7 pm and found smoke billowing from the rear of the house.
The fire was caused by an electrical fault within a washer-dryer and was it was put out by two firefighters wearing breathing apparatus and using a hose reel jet.
The washer-dryer was destroyed by heat and fire, and the kitchen was badly damaged by smoke.
The fire and rescue crews found smoke detectors were not fitted in the property so they ensured that one was fitted while they were at the scene.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Oven blaze leads to safety advice from firefighters

TWO fire engines from Williton were mobilised this afternoon to reports of an oven fire in a property on Greenway, Watchet.
However, on arrival just before 3.30 pm the crews found the blaze was already out.
Fire alarms were not fitted at the property and the fire and rescue crews gave some safety advice and ventilated the property.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

'Skulduggery' allegation after voters fail to turn out for by-election

A FORMER Minehead town councillor who unsuccessfully tried to reclaim his seat in a by-election which attracted possibly the country’s lowest-ever turnout, is calling on the Electoral Commission to lobby for a change in the law.
Tony Berry is a past-chairman of Minehead Conservative Association and also formerly the finance chairman of Minehead Town Council.
His defeat in a town council by-election in October has exposed a loophole in English electoral law which he claimed allowed for the result of a local election to be manipulated to the disadvantage of candidates who were not rich.
Mr Berry stood as an Independent candidate in the by-election, which was won by a 19-vote majority by a Conservative candidate in a poll which attracted just 233 votes out of 3,165 eligible voters - a meagre turnout of only seven per cent.
He blamed town council ‘skulduggery’ for the poor voter turnout, as the council failed to issue polling notices, failed to publish notices of election in the ward, failed to advertise the election in local newspapers, and failed to use its website to advertise the by-election.
Mr Berry said the decision not to issue polling cards was taken by the town council clerk - whose husband was agent for the Conservative candidate - and who failed even to notify him of the decision.
The result was that many voters either did not know the by-election was taking place, or thought they could not vote without a polling card and stayed at home.
Now, Mr Berry has been horrified to discover that there is no statutory public organisation which can investigate and ensure local elections are run fairly.
Local electoral procedures can only be challenged by those rich enough to be able to go to court and use the judicial processes.
Mr Berry has raised his concerns about the conduct of the by-election with both the Electoral Commission and the Audit Commission, and he has received confirmation that the town council breached Electoral Commission guidance in several respects in its conduct of the October by-election.
He is now calling on the Electoral Commission to lobby for it to be given statutory powers to investigate electoral skulduggery and to be able to re-run elections where wrongdoing is proven.
Mr Berry said: “I am not casting any aspersions on the successful candidate in this by-election, but I have no doubt the result would have been greatly different had more people come out to vote.
“I only found out by accident two days before the by-election that polling cards had not been sent out, despite it being normal practice to do so, which did not leave me much time to get around 3,000 people to tell them they could still vote and where to vote.
“I do not want the by-election re-run. What has happened is history now. But I do want to see fairness in local elections and it should not matter whether you are rich or poor, if something underhand goes on then there should be an authority which can put matters right.
“I think most people would have believed, like me, that the Electoral Commission was created to ensure that all elections are carried out fairly, so I was extremely surprised to find it is a watchdog without any teeth at all and they can only offer ‘advice and guidance’ on local elections.”
Mr Berry has also written to Minehead’s mayor, Councillor Simon Stokes, asking him as a matter of urgency to ensure the council adopts a formal set of procedures for running elections to include all the guidance points issued by the Electoral Commission.
  • Our photograph shows Tony Berry studying some of the correspondence from the Electoral Commission. Photo submitted.

Arrests top 180 in Christmas drink-drive crackdown

MORE than 180 people have been arrested since the launch of Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s Christmas drink-drive crackdown on December 1.
The total of 183 arrests included 26 across the West Somerset policing area.
The campaign is part of a national move to target irresponsible and dangerous drivers over the festive period.
Supt Andy Pullan, of force’s the road policing unit, said: “"This campaign is about reminding people that drinking alcohol and driving is a lethal combination.
“Everybody is aware of the dangers, but there are still the reckless few who are prepared to gamble on others and their own lives.
“Each year 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured nationally on our roads in drink-drive related crashes.
“Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink could lead to a penalty of six months imprisonment, a fine of up to £5,000, and a minimum 12 month driving ban.
“Campaigns like this reinforce the message that drinking and getting behind the wheel of a car is unacceptable.
“We will continue to show drivers that they will get caught if they drink and drive and there are severe consequences when they do.”
Officers have been carrying out high visibility road-side checks across known drink-drive hotspots throughout the force area and taking the opportunity to provide law abiding motorists with some car crime prevention advice.

Queen honours West Somerset training academy founder

THE retiring principal of Foxes Academy, Minehead, has received an MBE in the Queen’s New Years Honours List.
Maureen Tyler-Moore was honoured for her services to special needs education.
She co-founded with Sue Jenkins the training academy for young adults with learning disabilities in 1996 with just three students.
Since then, the hotel and catering industry training establishment has grown to accommodate more than 70 students.
Earlier this year, Maureen announced she was stepping down as principal to be replaced by Vanessa Cleere, who has worked at the academy since 2006.
Maureen and Sue will continue to develop the training centre as directors of the company.
All of the students who attend the academy have conditions which affect their learning, such as cerebral palsy or Down’s syndrome, or may suffer brain damage and/or epilepsy.
They spend up to three years under close supervision in a working hotel environment acquiring skills intended to help them gain employment in the hospitality industry.
Mrs Tyler-Moore said: “The only way you can teach these kids is in a practical way.
“We are proud of what we achieve at Foxes.
“We turn students into people that have the confidence to go out there and get on with their lives.”
Both Maureen and Sue were working in geriatric care and were looking for a new challenge when they had the idea for Foxes Academy.
Maureen said: “We felt strongly that it was not enough just to teach young people with special needs how to cook, make beds and wait at tables.
“Unless they learn how to get up on time in the morning, catch a bus to work, look after their money, and so on, they are never going to find and hold down a job.
“So, you have to teach them independent living skills as well, and you cannot do that in a classroom.”
Other Somerset honours included an MBE for 90-year-old Margaret Way for voluntary service to speech and drama.
Miss Way, who is speech and drama secretary of the Somerset Music and Drama Festival, began teaching in the 1930s.
She served in the Army during and after the Second World War and earlier this year was also presented with a Somerset High Sheriff’s Award and a Mayor’s Civic Award in recognition of her contributions to the community.
An OBE was awarded to Somerset County Council’s cultural services head, Robert Froud, for his services to local government.
Mr Froud was formerly the county librarian and has given more than 30 years’ service.
Brigadier John Hemsley also received an OBE for voluntary service to the St John Ambulance Brigade and to the community in Somerset.
The ex-Somerset Light Infantry officer is chairman of the St John’s Fellowship in the Priory of England and the Islands, an old comrades association which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.
Somerset County Council’s lieutenancy officer, Diane Stanton, received a Royal Victorian Order.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Hospital staff receive awards for 132 years of patient care

THE matron and three senior nurses of Minehead Hospital have been recognised for their combined 132 years of service to patient care.
Hospital matron, Sue Meade, staff nurses Tracey Griffin and Christine Bard, and outpatients sister Linda Arscott received commemorative certificates and specially engraved glass paperweights.
The presentations took place at an NHS long service award ceremony held at the town’s hospital just before Christmas by Somerset Primary Care Trust chairman Jane Barrie.
Mrs Barrie commended all of the staff in the hospital for their hard work during year and their commitment to delivering high quality care to patients.
She said: “The board of the primary care trust and I appreciate and thank all Minehead Hospital staff for their continued hard work and efforts.
“This year, Government inspectors the Healthcare Commission awarded the second highest rating of ‘good’ for the standard of our community health services and this was due to the continuing hard work of all staff.
“It is your commitment and determination to improve the quality of the care and treatment that is appreciated by local people, the primary care trust and the National Health Service.”
Sue Meade has worked in the NHS for more than 29 years and was appointed matron in Minehead in 2004.
She started working at Minehead in 1983 as a staff nurse and had previously worked at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
Sue became acting sister in 1983 and was promoted to sister in January, 1985.
She has always been at the forefront of developing local services and has been playing a leading role in the development of the new Minehead hospital which will be built off Seaward Way.
Tracey Griffin has worked in the NHS for more than 26 years, starting her career as a student nurse in Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, in 1982.
She became a staff nurse on the surgical ward of Minehead Hospital in January, 1986, and was promoted to senior staff nurse in 1988.
In 1994, Tracey was promoted to sister with the surgical team, and as well as managing surgical services for the local community she has run specialist blood clinics for West Somerset.
Christine Bard has 41 years of service with the NHS, having qualified as a nurse in the 1970s.
From 1978 to 1982, she worked in Yeovil District Hospital, before being appointed to Glastonbury Health Centre in 1987.
In 1992, she transferred to Williton Hospital, and then started working at Minehead Hospital in 1995 as a staff nurse in the outpatients department.
She retired from Minehead Hospital in February, 2007, but returned a few months later to again work in the outpatients department.
Linda Arscott has 36 years’ NHS service after starting as a student nurse in Frenchay School of Nursing, Bristol.
In 1975, she started as a staff nurse with Wiltshire Health Authority and then moved to Hertfordshire Health Authority as a staff nurse.
She moved to Somerset in 1988 and joined Minehead Hospital as a staff nurse on the wards.
Linda was made acting sister on the medical ward in1990 and later went to the nearby Irnham Lodge medical centre as sister of the day hospital until it was relocated to the hospital site in 1994.
Since then, she has worked as sister responsible for the outpatient department of Minehead Hospital.
  • Our photograph shows (left to right) staff nurses Christine Bard and Tracey Griffin, outpatients sister Linda Arscott, matron Sue Meade, and primary care trust chairman Jane Barrie. Photo submitted.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Old oven gloves cause farmhouse fire

THREE fire and rescue crews from Porlock and Minehead were called to a farmhouse blaze this morning at Home Bush Wood, Luccombe.
The brigade was alerted at just after 9 am when the fire was spotted in the living room of the property.
One appliance from Porlock and two from Minehead were mobilised, plus a command support unit from Wiveliscombe.
However, the Porlock firemen were first on the scene and they quickly realised the blaze could be put out without the support of the other appliances, which returned to their stations.
A log basket was found to be alight and it was removed from the living room and the firefighters used positive pressure ventilation and a dry powder extinguisher to put out the flames.
The cause was an old set of oven gloves which had been used to stoke the fire with logs and which had then been placed in the log basket where they ignited.
The damage was restricted to three sq ft of direct burning, and 500 sq ft of smoke damage.
Smoke alarms were fitted to the property.
The firefighters also carried out a ‘hot strike’ to neighbouring properties.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Tropiquaria takes Christmas delivery of baby giant tortoises

FATHER Christmas delivered a present with a difference for one of West Somerset’s leading visitor attractions this year.
Six baby giant tortoises arrived at the Tropiquaria animal centre, at Washford Cross, just in time for Christmas.
The tortoises are currently only about five inches long, but during the next 30 years should grow to be more than two feet long and weigh nearly 16 stone (100 kgs).
They are African spurred tortoises, which are the third largest tortoise species in the world.
In the wild, they are found in a belt across the full width of Africa just south of the Sahara Desert.
They are currently rated in the conservation stakes as ‘vulnerable’.
Tropiquaria director Chris Moiser said there was currently a lot of opinion which suggested the species should be listed under the more worrying classification of ‘endangered’.
Mr Moiser said countries where the tortoises were found were all suffering climate change, some had civil wars going on, and many had rapidly rising populations where the domestic livestock competed with the tortoises for food.
In addition there had been illegal exports for the pet trade.
Mr Moiser said it all meant tortoise populations were becoming fragmented, and fragmentary populations could easily die out.
One recent estimate put the wild population at between 18,000 and 20,000 animals. Mr Moiser said: “So, as well as increasing the number of African species on display in our tropical hall, which was a long-term aim when Jane and I took over Tropiquaria, we have another species that needs nurturing in captivity as an insurance policy for the wild.
“Fortunately, these tortoises, given the right conditions, do breed well in zoos, and Tropiquaria’s six babies all came from a zoo in Yorkshire where they were bred.”
Tropiquaria senior keeper Becky Welsh said that she was delighted the giant tortoise species had been added to the centre’s collection
She said they were all were eating well and did not seem to be upset by the move from Yorkshire.
Quirky fact about the species:
  • It has a role in desert edge ecology of mixing and fertilising the soil through its digging and defecation, respectively
  • It spreads a number of seeds with its dung including the seeds of the date palm from which gum Arabic may be obtained, as well as dates
  • The best known use of gum Arabic is making chewing gum

Our photograph shows Tropiquaria senior keeper Becky Welsh with one of the baby giant tortoises. Photo submitted.