Saturday, 17 January 2009

Madonna flies eventing trainer Daisy to Florida for grand prix lessons

EVENT rider Daisy Trayford (pictured) was today setting off from Timberscombe to catch a flight to America to coach a star pupil – singer Madonna.
Daisy, aged 27, and husband Richard run horse sales and schooling business Exmoor Eventing, from where Madonna has bought a total of four horses.
Now, the singer has asked Daisy to spend two weeks coaching her at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Centre, in Wellington, Florida.
Two of the four horses, all-rounder Boris and young eventer Sportsfield Silver Lining, have been flown to Florida and Madonna was expected to compete in the $50,000 Equisport Agency Grand Prix.
Daisy said the relationship with Madonna began two years ago when her agent contacted the yard, which commands prices in excess of £30,000 for its animals, to source two horses for the singer.
She said: “I picked out a bunch for her to try and she kept two on trial and decided to purchase them.
“Then she asked if I could go to her Wiltshire estate to help her get going on them and our relationship grew from there.
“Madonna and I just clicked. I took it all in my stride and I think she appreciated that.
“She wanted something nicely schooled and quiet, but she also likes to let the handbrake off, which does not always go hand-in-hand.
“So, we needed to find her a quiet horse with ability and a brain, too.
“They are not horses that are going to compete at the highest level, as this is not what she wants.
“She loves to jump, hack out, and hunt, and these guys fit the bill perfectly.
“If you work for her, you are in her friendship circle. I go for drinks and I went to her 50th birthday party and her latest gig at Wembley, where I sat next to Fergie, from the Black Eyed Peas, Naomi Campbell, and Gwyneth Paltrow, which was a bit surreal really.”
Since then, Daisy has continued teaching and riding out with Madonna, who has bought a further two young eventers from the Exmoor yard.
Daisy, who most recently rode out with Madonna on Boxing Day, said: “Teaching is not really my thing.
“I have always been a rider and I produce horses to sell, this is my love, but, when I have the time, I like to help those who want to be a better rider.
“When I teach her, I still tell her to put her heels down just like I would my Pony Club kids.
“She is very fit and supple, which helps, and she listens to everything you say.
“Being on tour, she has not ridden much lately and she wants me out there to help her get going again.”
Daisy said she had also learned a few lessons from Madonna during their sessions together.
“She is an amazing person who never moans about being tired, even with her hectic schedule,” said Daisy.
“Since meeting her, I have become more focused than ever.”
The only downside to the relationship was finding enough time to run the eventing business as well as riding and teaching.
“Madonna likes to ride at weekends but this is my busiest time competing, which is tough,” said Daisy.
“At times, I have been driving back and forth from an event to keep all sides happy.
“I am grateful for what she does for me as she supports me financially, which helps towards my eventing career.
“This year, I have given her my diary of events so we will see how that goes.”

Friday, 16 January 2009

ITV companies fined for failing to spend enough on local programmes

THE two ITV commercial television stations broadcasting to West Somerset viewers have been fined a total of £40,000 for not spending enough money on local programmes.
The broadcasting regulator Ofcom said ITV West and ITV Westcountry had failed to invest at least 50 per cent of their budgets on programming outside the London area in both 2007 and 2006.
Licensees for the ITV regional stations stipulate a minimum level of investment required for programmes produced outside the M25.
An investigation by Ofcom also found some ITV programmes made in London had initially been misallocated as ‘out of London productions’ when they were audited.
The out-of-London quota applies by both value and volume of programming and although ITV met the 50 per cent volume quota in both years, it failed on the value test.
The proportion of investment outside London in 2006 was only 45.6 per cent and fell further to 44.3 per cent in 2007.
Ofcom’s content sanctions committee, which issued the fines, noted that in both rulings the breaches had been repeated, with the size of the shortfall against quota greater in the second year.
ITV West and ITV Westcountry were each fined £20,000, as were each of ITV’s other nine regional stations.
ITV executive chairman Michael Grade said: “This fine is yet more clear evidence that the regulatory burden on ITV is 20 years out of date.
“Our duty is to invest as efficiently as possible in UK production, not to be an instrument of Governmental industrial policy or social engineering.”

Thursday, 15 January 2009

A&E sister is hospital's first 2009 'employee of month'

ACCIDENT and emergency department Sister Jan Giles has won the January ‘Employee of the Month’ award at Musgrove Park Hospital, in Taunton.
Jan was nominated by her colleagues in the department, who described her as an extremely capable and competent sister.
Musgrove consultant Gillian Bryce said: “Jan constantly steps in to cover colleagues’ shifts at short notice, at times she almost lives in the department.
“She is always a pleasure to work with and she can be relied on to give an extremely high standard of care and efficiency at all times.
“She never shows stress and keeps others calm even when the department is at its busiest.”
Jan, who has worked at Musgrove for 34 years, was presented with her award at a special ceremony in December.
Representatives from local businesses which sponsor the hospital’s employee of the month scheme were invited to attend and were thanked by hospital trust chairman Ros Wyke.
Mrs Wyke said: “The scheme was launched in 2005 to celebrate and reward individual staff who make a special contribution to the work of the hospital.
“It has been really successful, with many staff nominated each month by their colleagues, and the winners enjoying the prizes generously donated by the local business community.
“We are continually grateful for the generosity of those companies whose sponsorship make this initiative possible and I would like to extend my thanks to them all.”
The prizes are given monthly by Spirit Health Club, at the Holiday Inn, Taunton, the O'Bridge restaurant, Esporta, Musgrove Flowers, Haircare at Musgrove, and Q-Park.
From this month, winners will also receive a free CD of their choice given by new sponsor NHS Discounts.
  • Our photograph shows Jan Giles, receiving her award from Ros Wyke watched by (left to right) Q-Park manager Dave Simms, Mark Harrison, of Spirit Health Club, and Emma Bacon and Angela Austin, both from the O’Bridge restaurant. Photo submitted.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

School placed in 'special measures' for failing Ofsted inspection

SHOCKED parents and community leaders in Watchet were today coming to terms with news that the town’s Knights Templar First School (pictured) had been placed in ‘special measures’ after failing an Ofsted inspection.
Ofsted inspectors visited the school during November to sit in on classes and sample the learning experience.
But their resulting report in which they declared the school’s academic and teaching standards to be ‘inadequate’ has only just been made public.
Somerset County Council, which spends more than £4 million a year on public relations and other publicity activities, tried to gloss over the news with a press release which talked mainly of how an action plan had been put in place to address the Ofsted concerns.
News of Knights Templar’s poor performance was all the more unexpected because it received a ‘satisfactory’ rating when Ofsted last visited in 2004 together with praise for several significant strengths - although the inspectors pointed to a high proportion of pupils who found learning difficult and that standards were below the national average.
The ‘special measures’ status means Knights Templar will receive regular visits from Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools (HMI) and Ofsted’s school improvement division until it is considered to again be providing an acceptable standard of education.
During the monitoring visits, HMI evaluates the standards being achieved, the progress made by pupils, and the quality of education being provided.
It also assesses the progress made in addressing Ofsted’s key issues.
As well as its criticism of academic and teaching standards, Ofsted also said there were several positive aspects of Knights Templar’s performance.
It said pupil attendance had recently improved and was now considered ‘good’.
The behaviour of pupils had also improved from ‘satisfactory’ when the school was last inspected in 2004 to being ‘good’.
Ofsted also praised the good attention the school provided for pupils’ welfare, and importantly, the inspectors recognised that students felt safe and enjoyed school, and they praised the school’s strong Christian ethos.
The headmaster of the 215-pupil school, Keith Atkins, said: “We accept the findings of our recent Ofsted inspection and we are going to work very hard to address our areas for development.
“We are pleased that the caring ethos of our school was recognised, and the children’s spiritual development and behaviour were identified as good.
“As the new head teacher at Knights Templar, I am pleased that our recent improvement and progress has been recognised.
“We will continue to work together as a team to ensure that we keep developing the school.
“I would like to add my thanks to all the parents who have shown their support of the school during difficult times, and I would like to promise them that we will continue to strive to give their children the best possible start in life.”
Key points of the action plan agreed by the school governors and the county education authority included:
  • Building on the recognised improvements the new headmaster had made in the short time he had been in post
  • School leaders and staff taking significant steps to address the issues raised by the inspection
  • Continuing a strong commitment to addressing the issues effectively and swiftly
  • Encouraging a positive ethos within the school
  • Governors and staff working closely with the education authority to address key issues

The county’s head of schools and achievement, Judith Richardson, said: “I am convinced that the school and the council have put in place appropriate measures to bring about a swift improvement in the school.”
Council education portfolio holder Councillor Gloria Cawood, who is currently overseeing closure plans for a number of small schools in Somerset, said: “We will be working closely with Knights Templar First School to ensure it moves swiftly out of special measures and improves on the areas identified by Ofsted as needing improvement.”

Council offers cash to put empty homes back into use

GRANTS of up to £10,000 are being offered by West Somerset Council so empty homes in the district can be restored to use.
The council may also be able to help owners of idle commercial buildings, flats, or empty storage areas above shops where there is potential for conversion to a dwelling.
Residents are being encouraged to report homes which have been empty for six months or more to allow the council to contact owners and look at putting the properties to good use.
The council’s housing portfolio holder, Councillor Kate Kravis, said: “Despite the effect of the current economic climate on the housing market, there is still a chronic shortage of affordable homes to rent and buy in West Somerset.
“We can help owners of properties who are struggling to bring homes up to the decent homes standard, or who have inherited the property but do not live in the area and are worried about managing the property.”
As well as funding grants of up to £10,000 for empty homes to be restored to use, the council can also help owners lease their homes to people looking for affordable housing to rent.
Advice and support is available on selling properties to local housing associations so that they can be let to local people.
Grants worth up to £5,000 may also be available to owner-occupiers who cannot currently live in homes because they do not meet the decent homes standards.
Councillor Kravis said: “Members of the public can play their part by advising us of properties that are vacant.
“We can then contact the owners and try to bring the homes back into use for local people.”
Grants are not available for second homes which are vacant for long periods during the year.
Anybody wishing to report empty homes in West Somerset should call 01643 703704, or email

Missing Nafisa is found safe in London

A TEENAGE girl who went missing 13 days ago has been found safe and well, police said today.
Nafisa Diyar (pictured), aged 13, of Minehead, disappeared on Sunday, January 4, during a trip to a Devon activity park.
She was thought to have headed for London on board a train to contact a relative who lived in the city, although she never arrived at the woman’s address.
After an appeal for help from the public, Nafisa was discovered yesterday in Ealing, West London, although police did not issue any further details of what had happened to her.
Police had been concerned that Nafisa was ‘vulnerable’ because of her young age.
The media was thanked by police for its help in locating missing Nafisa.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Appeal to help catch burglars who terrified elderly Exmoor couple

AN elderly Exmoor couple were robbed in a terrifying ordeal last night by three masked men who burst into their home armed with wooden clubs.
The aggravated burglary happened between 7 pm and 7.30 pm at a secluded property near Exford in Room Hill Road - the B3223.
The couple were restrained by the raiders, who then searched the premises before they were believed to have left in a vehicle.
Although unharmed in the incident, the couple were badly shaken by the experience.
They managed to alert police shortly after the three men had gone.
Police were today still trying to establish what items had been stolen in the burglary.
They appealed for any information from the public which might help to catch the raiders.
The three burglars were similarly dressed in dark ‘walking’ or ‘ski-type’ jackets, dark trousers, gloves, training shoes, and dark balaclavas or ski masks.
They were described as having an untidy appearance.
Police would like to hear from anybody who may have seen any unusual people, vehicles, or activity in the area, or who may have other information about the incident.
Anybody who thinks they can help should contact CID at Bridgwater Police Station by calling 0845 456 7000.
Alternatively, they can call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, where they do not have to give their name and where they could receive a reward.
A secure Crimestoppers contact form is also available over the internet at

Academy aims to help district's farm businesess and would-be farmers

AN alliance with the Fresh Start Academy has been forged by West Somerset Council to bring a ground-breaking farming initiative to the district.
The project will encourage young people looking for careers in farming and will also help established farmers diversify and expand their businesses.
Anybody involved in farming, or who wants to start a career in agriculture, is invited to the launch of the Somerset Fresh Start Academy at Bridgwater College’s Cannington Centre at 7 pm on January 22.
Keynote speakers at the launch will be John Alvis, from Alvis Brothers cheesemakers, and Ian Trumain, a successful agribusiness entrepreneur.
Fresh Start is an initiative led by the farming industry and supported by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
It aims to help farmers understand more about the business side of running a farm, following a programme suggested by academy members.
Council economic development portfolio holder Councillor Michael Downes said: “Now, more than ever, local businesses involved in rural enterprises could do with business support and information.
“We are aware that farmers need dedicated support and training which is tailored to their individual needs, and we are proud to be involved with this excellent initiative.”
Somerset Fresh Start Academy co-ordinator Jonathan Lacey said: “Fresh Start Academies have been operating successfully at various colleges around the country for the last two years.
“They have helped new entrants and established farmers gain the knowledge and confidence required to commence new and grow existing businesses.
“The annual programmes are structured around the requirements of the members from suggestions made at the outset.
“In addition, the academies enable good contacts within the industry to be developed locally, hence providing opportunities for new entrants to obtain valuable advice from mentors where appropriate.
“We will be starting Somerset’s first Fresh Start Academy in January, and look forward to meeting as many people as possible at the launch on January 22.”
More information about Fresh Start Academies is available by visiting or by contacting either Jonathan Lacey on 01458 223224 and email, or Jeremy Kerswell, Bridgewater College head of land based studies, on 01278 655001 or email

Crowcombe youths asked for views on playing with £34,000

YOUNGSTERS in Crowcombe are being asked how they would like to see a £34,000 cash bonanza spent on improving play space in the village.
West Somerset Council, in partnership with children’s charity Barnardo’s South West and Crowcombe Parish Council, has won £34,000 Playbuilder funding from the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Children and young people of all ages are invited to a mini play day and consultation event on Saturday, January 17, at Crowcombe Village Hall.
There is a morning session from 10 am to 12 noon and an afternoon session from 1 pm to 3 pm for children to sample free activities, and have their say on how the play space should be developed.
District council community portfolio holder Councillor Neil Parbrook said: “This is an excellent chance for young people to try out a range of free activities including building dens, ball games, hoops, team fun, and a whole lot of messy but fun outdoor activities.
“We want them to enjoy their environment and their play space, and to let us know how we can spend the money in ways which will inspire them to even more adventurous play.
“A big difference can be made with £34,000 as to how children spend their time, and anything that encourages outdoor games and traditional play is welcome.
“It encourages children to socialise and overcome challenges and provides a healthier and happier start in life.
“We hope lots of people will come along and enjoy the activities on offer, as well as come up with some suggestions on how to make the most of this great opportunity to develop local play space.”
Barnardo’s South West children’s services manager Michael Hammond said: “This funding gives children and communities an opportunity to redesign their local play space to make it a space that children find exciting and challenging, and that communities feel ownership off.
“Children playing happily outdoors can be a sign of a very healthy community.”
All activities are free, but people are reminded to wear old clothes.
Children aged under eight years must be accompanied by an adult.
More information is available by calling Louise Kennedy on 01984 618344 or emailing

Monday, 12 January 2009

Morris men open their doors to potential new members

RESIDENTS of West Somerset are being invited to have a go at the traditional pastime of Morris dancing amid fears that it could die out within the next 20 years.
As fewer young people take up the activity, possibly because they are too embarrassed, the Morris Ring - the ‘trade association’ for Morris troupes - has warned the tradition could be lost forever.
Now, the West Somerset Morris Men are holding an open event for local people to get up close to the dancing and even have a go themselves.
The evening will include performances by professionals, a talk on the history of Morris dancing, and an opportunity to have-a-go at some of the moves.
It will be held on January 22 at Halsway Manor, near Crowcombe from 8 pm to 10 pm.
The Morris men practice at Halsway Manor every Thursday evening, followed by a visit to a local pub.
West Somerset Morris Men squire Joe Raucki said: “The recent coverage of Morris Dancing in the media has created an enormous interest from all parts of the community.
“To explain what it is and to demonstrate how it is done, we have organised an evening at Halsway Manor.
“The Morris men will demonstrate a variety of dances involving sticks and handkerchiefs interspersed with information about the history of Morris and the current UK and worldwide situation.
“Any men or lads who would like to have a go at doing Morris will be especially welcome.”
  • Our photograph shows the West Somerset Morris Men on a visit to the Czech Republic. Photo submitted.

Cryptozoologists conclude 'Beast of Exmoor' carcass is grey seal

A CARCASS found washed up on a beach in North Devon which initially was suggested could be the remains of the ‘Exmoor Beast’, has been officially identified as that of a grey seal.
The skull (pictured) of the creature found in Croyde Bay was taken away for examination by the Centre for Fortean Zoology, which is based in North Devon and investigates reports of ‘unknown’ animals.
Centre director Jon Downes and colleagues studied the skull and other evidence to identify it as quickly as possible.
They concluded it was a grey seal with ‘abnormal nasal cavities’ which gave it more a ‘beast’ appearance.
Mr Downes said: “The story is solved. It was a seal which may have had slightly abnormal nasal cavities.
“We are now in a position to be able to state this as incontrovertible fact.
“The CFZ went out and got the skull, and will be keeping it in our museum because of the minor position which it will always hold in the history of cryptozoology.”
Photographs of the corpse were also sent to be studied by Tetrapod Zoology, which agreed with the conclusion.
Zoologist Darren Naish said: “Without doubt it is a grey seal after all.
“Short nasals and a deep nasal cavity are both characteristic of Halichoerus, the grey seal.
“The skull definitely belongs to that taxon, case closed.”

Sunday, 11 January 2009

EU foal microchipping plan sparks fears for future of Exmoor Ponies

EUROPEAN Union legislation forcing foals of semi-feral ponies to have to be microchipped have caused anger among Exmoor Pony owners.
The new rule means that from July 1, foals must be microchipped by the December 31 following their birth, or within six months of birth, whichever is later.
It affects not just ponies on Exmoor, but also those living wild on Dartmoor, in the New Forest, and on the Welsh mountains.
But there were fears the cost of the new measures could lead to foals becoming ill or dying if an owner was unable or unwilling to comply.
One pony owner, Sue Westwood, said: “If you are selling a £3,000 animal, you will not worry about paying an additional £70 to get it microchipped, but for a foal that sells for £50 to £100, it is too much.
“If vets cannot treat a foal unless it is chipped, then owners will not call them out.”
Valerie Sherwin, who runs the Moorland Mousie Trust charity which preserves and promotes the Exmoor Pony said: “I cannot see what good it is going to do from an identification point of view.
“You cannot read the chips unless you get right up to the pony and, bearing in mind these are wild animals, the only time that will happen is when they are rounded up in the autumn.
“If a pony is involved in a road accident, the first thing we need to know is what its brand number is, so the ponies will have to be branded as well.”
Mrs Sherwin said the system would be difficult to police and some owners could be tempted to ignore the regulation.
MP Roger Williams, who has opposed the EU regulation, said: “The new regulations could have a significant financial impact and result in the loss of ponies.”
A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said a public consultation exercise on the new regulations was currently being carried out and would close on February 2.
The Defra spokesman said: “The draft legislation already contains derogations for ponies in the New Forest and on Dartmoor, so it may not be the case that all animals must be microchipped.
“Organisations involved in looking after semi-feral herds are encouraged to comment on the draft legislation.
“Microchipping provides an essential link between a horse and its passport and strengthens existing horse identification requirements.
“It may also prove useful for disease control and surveillance purposes and for the recovery of stolen horses.”
The Defra consultation document can be found at

Memories of Exmoor activity centre wanted for 40th anniversary celebrations

AN Exmoor activity centre for children with special educational needs and others from troubled backgrounds will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year.
Yenworthy Lodge, near Oare, was opened in 1969 especially to provide activity holidays for children from Oxfordshire.
It can accommodate up to 36 pupils aged from five to 16 years, plus five accompanying staff, offering surfing, rock climbing, kayaking, and canoeing.
The centre is set in six acres of beech and oak woodland and continues to be owned by Oxfordshire County Council as part of its outdoor education programme.
Groups of young offenders and children of asylum seekers have also been hosted by Yenworthy.
To help celebrate its 40th birthday, anybody who has spent time at the centre is being asked to send in their memories of it
Photographs, letters, and other records of time spent at Yenworthy will be used to create an anniversary exhibiton.
Centre manager Steve Cox, who has run Yenworthy for 22 years, is also organising an open weekend early to mark the anniversary in May.
Mr Cox said: “We offer children the chance to explore and have fun under the proper guidance.”
He said anybody who wanted to contribute their recollections of the centre could email him at or write to him at Yenworthy Lodge, Oare, Lynton, Devon, EX35 6NY.
Anybody interested in attending the open weekend should call Mr Cox on 01598 741266 or visit the website
  • Our photograph shows Yenworthy Lodge manager Steve Cox with some of the youngsters who have taken part in activity holidays at the Exmoor centre. Photo submitted.