On Sunday 5 February, the West Group Young Farmers will be at the Regal Theatre in Minehead with their Annual Performing Arts Competition.  This year’s theme is  Entertainment  and the afternoon promises to be full of interest, enjoyment and laughter as the four Young Farmers’ Clubs in our local area compete against each other for their annual theatre performances.

The members are aged between 10-26 years old and each team will present a short ‘Entertainments’ performance to display their drama, dance, singing and comedy skills. At the end of the day, the judges will appoint their chosen winner.

The doors open at 1pm and the first performance begins at 2pm.

Tickets cost £7.50 (includes a programme) and are now available from the Regal Box Office (01643 706430), which is open 10am until 3pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 1pm on Saturdays.  Under 13s get in free!


North Devon Council and Devon County Council are consulting on options to improve links for pedestrians and cyclists between Anchorwood Bank and Barnstaple town centre.

There are a number of ways in which crossing the River Taw could be improved – including a new bridge, or changes to the existing Long Bridge, to improve capacity. In consultation with Historic England, the councils have identified six crossing options.

Local residents and businesses are invited to consider these six options, and to provide feedback as to which are considered most beneficial and deliverable.

Taw Footbridge Options (revised)Executive Member for economic development and regeneration, Councillor Pat Barker, says: “We are particularly interested to understand the views from businesses and organisations in the town centre, and from those who regularly use the town centre for shopping, services and eating out.

“Improving the ability to cross the river is important to ensure the town centre doesn’t lose trade from Asda and the other retail developments at Anchorwood Bank. We want to make sure the option we choose is best for the town and your views are really important. Please go online and have your say.”

Local member for Barnstaple Longbridge ward, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “In principle I support the idea of a pedestrian and cycling footbridge across the river and I will read the options put forward with interest and make my judgement as part of the consultation process. However, I do not now, nor will I in the future, support any structural modifications or appendages to the current Longbridge, which I believe should be preserved as the historical gateway to Barnstaple.”

“The six options are explained on the council website. The main document sets out the options and provides a summary of the main benefits and issues, with a more detailed assessment of the options within Appendix B of the document. consult.torridge.gov.uk

The deadline for feedback is 5pm on 2 March 2017. The full document can be downloaded from the council website. If you experience any problems downloading the document, email localplan@northdevon.gov.uk


The dramatic decline of bumblebees and other pollinators has hit the headlines in recent years. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is working with landowners to take urgent action to reverse this downward trend.

Why do we need bumblebees on farmland?
Pollinators are essential for maintaining a healthy and sustainable farm. We depend on them to pollinate clover pasture, 75% of our food crops, diverse herbal swards, and wildflowers. The decline of pollinators has enormous repercussions. They are a free resource, but need a continuous food supply through the spring and summer, and somewhere to nest and hibernate.

What West Country Buzz is doing and how to get involved
Landowners are incorporating easy, simple changes into their management plans at no extra cost. For example, encouraging flowers along tracksides, leaving small patches of long grass in unproductive areas ungrazed/uncut on rotation for nesting, or reducing the frequency of hedgerow cutting to encourage flowering. This has a huge impact on bumblebees’ chances of survival.

Grants are also available to support pollinators through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme’s Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package. If you’d like to find out more or get involved, visit the website bumblebeeconservation.org/about-us/our-projects/west-country-buzz/

NOTE: If you click on the link you will see that it says Devon, but in fact the project covers the whole of the South West, so if you are Somerset don’t worry – you can still get in touch with the project.

To arrange a free farm visit for no-obligation advice on enhancing your land for pollinators, call Cathy Horsley on 07951 154530.

PHOTO: As featured in our summer 2014 article on the ‘plight of the bumblebee’.


An amazing 100 residents in the village Porlock are now qualified to administer CPR and in the use of a defibrillator.

The initiative began as the result of an unusual incident. In the summer of 2016, a resident of Porlock, Denise, attended a funeral, where a member of the congregation had a huge heart attack during the service. It was only thanks to the prompt response of three nurses sitting behind him, who recognised what was happening, and who, after considerable effort, managed to restart his heart, that his life was saved.

Despite the fact that it was in the middle of the day, in a town (Minehead), it took 25 minutes for the first responders to appear and 45 minutes for the paramedics and an ambulance to arrive at the scene.

Porlock has the greatest density of elderly people in the country and Denise, realising the importance of a quick response for saving lives, set about organising the fundraising needed to provide the village with a defibrillator and organise user training.

A series of Community Soup Days and generous donations from local organisations and individuals rapidly raised over £6,000 – enough for not one but two defibrillator, as well as training for 100 people.

The first defibrillator, which went live this week, is sited on the side wall of Abbeyfield. The second will be ordered very soon and sited at Porlock Weir.

Denise said, “We hope that by spreading the word we may be able to encourage other communities to follow suit. Many places now have defibrillators but I’m not sure how many people are confident in their use, or appreciate the importance of prompt CPR in conjunction with the kit. There is a 5% chance of survival without intervention and a 50% chance with CPR AND a defibrillator, and the chances of survival fall by 10% for every minute that passes.”

An advisory notice on behalf of the South West Ambulance Service is on the wall next to the Abbeyfield cabinet. Full instructions are available in the cabinet along with the defibrillator. There will be some more signs put up around the village to ensure visitors are also aware of its existence and location.

The enormous support given by Dr Ed Ford, a local GP and West Somerset trauma doctor, enabled monthly training sessions to take place. Training is not essential in enabling anyone to use a defibrillator, but, having been trained, participants are confident to use it in order to save a life. Many of them have taken part, including pub owners, shopkeepers, the local vicar and even the village undertaker.

Everyone knows about the problems the NHS is currently facing and there is a need for communities to take more responsibility for their residents. Porlock has shown what can be done to support themselves at this time.

The official launch of the defibrillator will take place on Tuesday 31 Jan at 2pm at Abbeyfield in Porlock. Everyone is welcome.

The very popular Community Soup Days have been phenomenally successful, and have really helped to bring the community together. They are continuing, on a monthly basis, with any further funds being raised going to raising money for floral displays around the village.

TOP: A training session in progress. Photo by Maureen Harvey


The West Somerset Community Land Trust (WSCLT) is carrying out an important piece of research to establish what the housing need is in the area, including where people need houses, what they can afford and what their requirements are. To take part in the first stage of this research, and help create this valuable resource for housing providers, go to: www.wsclt.com, and fill out the short housing needs survey. The deadline is 31 January.

Following the survey, focus groups will be carried out to get a more in-depth understanding of people’s needs. Meanwhile, housing professionals and those that work with people who may be in need are being consulted.

CLT is also looking to recruit ‘local housing contacts’, both to signpost people in the community to them, and to identify potential sites. This will mirror the successful work being carried out by the Exmoor Rural Housing Network. If you are interested in becoming a housing contact, or would like more information, please contact Maureen Smith on 01643 709478 or Hester Watson on 01643 821768.

Once the local housing need has been established, the CLT hope to build or renovate a series of high standard, sustainable, community owned rental properties, which will provide local people with affordable rents and security of tenure.

Maureen Smith, WSCLT Secretary, said: “The shortage of sustainable housing which is affordable to live in, in Minehead and West Somerset as whole, will continue to worsen as few large sites are available and those that are have got a lack of infrastructure. Providing this will increase costs and deter developers. Small sites, including the mystery brownfield site announced recently, can help, but hardly constitute a “housing boom”. As so many homes built for the open market disappear into the second home category or become expensive private lettings, providing permanently low cost homes is the way forward and is what West Somerset Community Land Trust has pledged to do.”

WSCLT received initial startup funding from Forum 21, Somerset Community Foundation and the National CLT Network. It is working to provide homes that are genuinely affordable based on local wages not national averages. The organisation will be community controlled and any homes built or renovated will be owned for the benefit of the community to meet the needs and requirements of the community.

To take part in the survey, discuss becoming a housing contact, become a WSCLT member or supporter, or for more information, please go to: www.wsclt.com or contact Maureen Smith on 01643 709478.


The Wellington School Philosophy Team returned to King’s College, Taunton, last night in a bid to retain its trophy as winners of the Inter-School Philosothon competition.  The team of 11 young philosophers from years 9-11 dazzled and impressed a range of judges with their insightful contributions to discussions but alas ultimately had to surrender the much-loved trophy to Bristol Grammar School on the evening.

The Philosothon is a philosophy competition judged by leading Professors and lecturers in philosophy.  The idea is new to the UK and was born in Australia in 2007.

The fourth ever Inter-School Philosothon was held at King’s College, Taunton with a large number of participating schools from around the region.

The team, which spanned Year 9 to Year 13, consisted of Reyhan Taraq, Will Davis, Hamish Hunter, Marianne Baly, Dak Natakala, Lizzy Fanshawe, Edmund Tallack, Freddie Renyard, Sophie Bennett, Isabel Elliott and Amy Green.

The team were given a number of philosophical stimuli – this year these included a Dostoevsky passage and a lesser-known issue raised by the Charlie Hebdo attack – which they had to discuss whilst being judged by teams of eminent philosophers.  The Wellington team, though separated throughout, performed at a very high level in each of their groups and scored highly for their ability to articulate conceptual difficulties as well as include and carefully build on the ideas of others within their groups.

Philosothons encourage students to investigate complex philosophical and ethical questions within a small group known as a ‘community of enquiry’. In this setting, students do not see other group members as rivals but take their place as a fellow philosopher attempting to offer solutions to some of the world’s most controversial and problematic ethical and philosophical questions.  In the process of preparing and participating in Philosothons, students have the opportunity to develop higher order thinking and communication skills.

“The joy of Philosothons is that they do not aim to identify and reward the loudest or the most confident, but rather to bring out of students their original ideas, help them to formulate complex ideas and questions and play their part in moving towards answers through courteous and inclusive questioning and discussion,” commented Katja Sass, Wellington School’s Head of RS and team coach.

PHOTO:  Wellington School’s Philosothon team. From left, back row: Lizzie Fanshawe, Izzy Elliott, Will Davis, Edmund Tallach, Freddie Renyard, Reyhan Taraq, Dak Natakala.
Front row: Rachael Davies – RS teacher, Sophie Bennett, Amy Green, Marianne Baly, Hamish Hunter and Katja Sass, Wellington School’s Head of RS and team coach.


At 21.50 on the evening of 20 January in the Tedburn St Mary area, one of Devon’s Air Ambulances was targeted by a green coloured laser. The crew were on their way to Holsworthy to help an elderly lady who had fallen and needed essential medical treatment at the major trauma centre in Plymouth.

The increasing sales of powerful hand held laser pens have always been considered to be a viable threat to all aircraft but this is the first significant incident involving Devon Air Ambulance, which has occurred only a few weeks after the introduction of night operations.

Rob Mackie, DAA’s Safety Manager and a helicopter pilot with 34 years of experience, said: “Thankfully, on this occasion, due to a quick-thinking crew member, the team were able to continue to Holsworthy to help the patient. However, we recognise that should this have not been the case, and had a crewmember received injuries to their eyes or if the crew had been temporarily blinded, it might have meant aborting the mission and us not being able to get to a patient in need.

Rob continued: “Hand-held lasers are not illegal in this country and they are usually quite low powered and suitable as presentation pointers.  However, it is very easy to acquire military strength lasers on the internet at very low prices and it is the misuse of these higher powered lasers that has caused the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) and other industry bodies to call for them to be classed as offensive weapons.

“I am sure that most laser attacks are caused by thoughtlessness rather than malicious intent so we would call on anyone with a laser to think of the consequences before they shine them towards an aircraft. Lasers can cause a catastrophic blinding light and can quite easily damage a pilot or crew members eyes or distract the pilot enough to cause an accident.

“It would be better all-round if they were regulated but in the meantime we would certainly also ask any parent who knows their child owns one of these devices to explain the consequences of misuse to them.  This includes the damage they can inflict on themselves or others by shining the laser beam in their eyes.”  

The Charity fully supports moves to get high-powered lasers classed as offensive weapons. The service has submitted a Mandatory Safety Report to the Civil Aviation Authority on this incident.


The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is holding its 15th annual Open Art Show until 18 February, showcasing the best new work from ten local artists.

The show, which promotes the work of amateur and professional artists working in North Devon, was officially opened by Peter Heaton-Jones MP.

Judges from White Moose Gallery, PETROC and Quay Drawing helped to choose the selected artists, who are either local residents, or their work has been inspired by northern Devon, Exmoor and Lundy Island.

Pete Newell, one of the judges involved, says: “It has been a challenge and pleasure to help assemble this exhibition. There was a wide range of artists, artworks, style and subject matter to select from and I hope that the chosen works reflect the quality and diversity of art practice currently underway in North Devon.”

Visitors to the show can enjoy work by:

• Gerrard Lindley
• Roger Cockram
• Louise Thompson
• Luna North
• Lesley Anne Cornish
• Debbie Lee
• Gill Jones
• Tony Williams
• Penny Armitage
• Roger Humphries

Executive Member responsible for leisure and culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “The standard of entry for this year’s Open Art Show was extremely high as always. The artists who live and work in, or are inspired by, northern Devon are extremely talented. Why not come along to the museum and see for yourself? Especially as entry is free.”

The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is open from 10am to 4pm on Monday to Saturday, admission is free. Check out the museum’s Facebook page to keep up to date with all the latest news and events.


To be ranked among the top tea brands for four years in a row is quite an achievement for the West Country based family business, Miles Tea & Coffee. ‘Best Brands’ magazine have just issued the 16/17 edition showing that Miles is now ranked as the second most popular brand for independent retailers to stock in the UK. Miles has moved up two places since first being voted in the top five brands.

John Halls, Operations Director, said, “This is a brilliant recognition for Food and Drink producers in Somerset and the West Country. This is just the kind of positive news we need to kick start another season. We have also had a good year with stores such as Tesco seeing an increase of 20% in the sales of Miles Tea and Hot Chocolate. We hope next time we might make the top spot in Best Brands.”

So how has Miles outranked the giant brands in the tea market? John says, “It’s down to our heritage and quality. We’ve got a genuine story to tell of family tradition along with great-tasting blends. A recent survey shows customers try our products and then stay brand loyal, that’s a good indication of our consistent quality. The Somerset coastal location is very important with our secret ingredient being ‘West Country warmth!’”

PHOTO: D J Miles in a photo that was included in our profile article back in the autumn of 2011 and which is reproduced below. Click on each image to expand and read.

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Jack and Alison Clegg have moved their photography business from Porlock to Minehead. We wish them all the best with this development! Jack is a long-standing contributor to the magazine and his photography stars on the current winter cover. The photo above shows a red kite which Jack photographed in Valley of Rocks. The image accompanies Trevor Beer’s Country Matters article on page 63 of the winter magazine (which is all about wildlife in winter in the Valley of Rocks).

Here is a message from Jack and Alison about their move, which we have promised to share…

As our lease has now ended at the shop in Porlock, we are relocating the business. We would like to thank you for your custom and support over the last six years and we look forward to your continued custom and support in the future. We have found that with the ever-increasing popularity of the photography courses, we are away from this shop too much to justify staying here.

Exmoor Photography is continuing as normal. However, we will be concentrating on the following services,

  • Exmoor Photography Courses
  • Online Gallery Sales
  • Commercial Photography
  • Canvas & fine quality printing service (not kiosk)

All of our products and information are available online
as always on the following websites.
If you have any questions or would like
to book your photography course
Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Gallery: www.exmoorphotography.co.uk
Course & Photo accessories: www.exmoorphotographycourse.co.uk
Alternatively, you can contact us on
T: 01643 702312 (active from Monday 23rd January 2017)
M: 07790 885506
E: exmoorphotography@btconnect.com

Exmoor Photography
85 Marshfield Rd
TA24 6AJ.

You are welcome to visit the office BY APPOINTMENT ONLY,
please contact us on the above numbers to make an appointment.
We will be running the business from our H/A until we find
a larger retail premises in a bigger town.

  • Please note if you have a Photography Course GV, please contact us (as per normal) to book your course by contacting us on the above numbers.
  • Please note if you have a current shop GV you can use it on the gallery website as above or as part payment against one of our photography courses.