The following statement has been issued by the Somerset Stages…
The Organising Committee of the Somerset Stages Rally have decided to have a “Year Out” in 2018, which would have been our 40th running of the Somerset Stages Rally.
After considerable discussions we have reluctantly come to this decision. The factors creating this are mainly due to the very much reduced entry level for our 2017 Event. The reduced entry level trend is occurring generally across all gravel events for reasons well known by all concerned.
However, the organising costs are continuing to rise each year, jeopardising the financial side of the Rally.
This has created a considerable overall financial loss, which has seriously impacted our reserve funds from previous year’s Events. Also, we cannot see any signs of this situation improving in the near future, which would obviously impact entry levels in 2018.
This, together with some possible logistical restrictions on Stage usage in 2018, and some complications on public road closures for competitive use in the area. This will need to be resolved during the coming year, including arranging suitable insurance cover.
We are sure the businesses in the Minehead area and within the Exmoor National Park will be disappointed to hear this news, as they do support the Competitors and Organisers and we, and the Competitors, do generate a significant income into the local economy.
The Organising Team plan to return in 2019 with our 40th Anniversary Somerset Stages Rally, again using the Forestry Commission gravel roads, the Porlock Toll road, and a section of closed public road, if at all possible.
When the 2018 championships and rule changes have all been confirmed, we will announce our plans for 2019. In the meantime we would like to thank all those who have supported the event since its inception in 1977.
Howard West – Event Director
Jason Hayes – Clerk of the Course
PHOTO: The 2016 event winner Luke Francis / John H Roberts in their Evo9 – courtesy Gasmark Media.
Somerset Wildlife Trust is joining the celebration of marine life that will be taking place across the UK from Saturday 29 July to Sunday 13 August, as part of National Marine Week, to inspire everyone to show a little love for the county’s little-known, unique marine wildlife and habitats.
Somerset has nearly 50 miles of coastline which includes a variety of habitats such as sand dunes, rocky shores, tidal estuaries and the longest continual stretch of coastal deciduous woodland in England – all home to a wealth of captivating species, world class geology and fascinating history and heritage.
National Marine Week is the perfect opportunity for families to get out exploring some of Somerset’s natural coastal wonders. Try the rocky shore around Brean Down where you can find Beadlet Anemones, Green Shore Crabs, Common Periwinkles and Limpets, and at Minehead beach at low tide you may see starfish like the Common Sunstar and Common Brittlestar!
In August look out for the small wading birds, Sanderling and Dunlin, as they start to arrive on our beaches having made their journey from the Arctic in search of warmer climes.
National Marine Week is not only a chance to get out and about and appreciate the beautiful species that can be found locally, but to raise awareness of the wildlife that is under threat and what can be done to protect it for the future.
Michele Bowe, Director of Conservation, Policy and Strategy from Somerset Wildlife Trust, explains why we should spare a thought for our coast when enjoying it this summer: “Climate change and rising sea levels, harnessing the Severn Estuary’s natural power for energy generation, alongside general coastal development, are just a few reasons why Somerset’s coastline is under serious pressure, and this is why we are in the second year of a comprehensive three year coastal survey to increase the scientific evidence base of Somerset’s coastal wildlife. This work is crucial, as in order to deliver conservation programmes that protect our county’s marine wildlife for the future, we need to discover and understand in more detail what is there.”
What can you do to help Somerset’s Coast?
Somerset’s coast is rich in wildlife, from the seriously cute Ringed Plover chicks, to the debatably cuddly Sea Slug, and the bouncy Bouy Barnacles in Minehead to the very delicate Moon Jellyfish at Steart Marshes. There is so much to discover, love and protect along our coast. Why not get involved this National Marine Week? Perhaps you can do a volunteer survey, or support the Wildlife Trust’s coastal appeal that is funding their survey work? You can also join in one of our many events that are happening over August. From a Beach Clean to looking for Porpoise, to scoring the coastline to see what you can find on our ‘Rockpool Ramble’ or a ‘Seashore Safari’ there is something for all the family to enjoy. For more details on these events and more, please go to www.somersetwildlife.org/events .
Don’t forget to tweet @SomersetWT, with what you find.
Celebrity chef Michael Caines MBE, who visited Calvert Trust Exmoor earlier this month, has agreed to become an Ambassador for the charity, calling the centre “one of North Devon’s ‘hidden gems”.
“Calvert Trust Exmoor is a fantastic facility,” Michael explained following a motivational speech he gave to an invited audience of visitors and local dignitaries at the centre on Tuesday. “It provides amazing opportunities for people who are challenged in life through a variety of disabilities, and it also supports the families who care for them.”
Born and raised in Exeter, Michael lost his right arm in a road accident in 1994, but has risen to the top of his profession, being named AA’s Chef of the Year in 2007 and holding two Michelin stars for 18 consecutive years. Michael describes the accident as a defining part of his life, alongside the day he was adopted in terms of importance.
“My upbringing defined my outlook in the sense of who I am; but the love and support of friends and family that got me through that difficult day,” Michael said. “That day changed me, for sure. It made me a better person because I became more compassionate. If it hadn’t been for the compassion of others, then I’d have never got through that day.”
Calvert Trust Exmoor CEO, Heidi Watson, said the charity was delighted that Michael has agreed to become an Ambassador. “He’s a shining example of someone who has not only overcome disability but has proved to the world what a disabled person can achieve in their lives.”
Michael, who recently added The Coach House at Kentisbury Grange to his portfolio and the newly opened Lympstone Manor near Exeter, explained that the local community can play its part in helping the guests that stay at Calvert Trust Exmoor: “The community has a big role to play, making sure that the individuals who come here, for whatever reason, whatever background or circumstances, whatever their individual story is, get the opportunity to live a thorough and fulfilling life – one that challenges them and gives them the qualities of life that we all want: ‘happiness.’ That’s the one key quality that I think is vital.
“We’re all challenged; we all have demons,” he continued. “Some of us might suffer from depression, some of you might have got up this morning feeling like it’s a tough day; but their days are always tough and always challenging. This wonderful facility at Calvert Trust Exmoor gives people what I call ‘positive challenges’ that add value to their lives, and in doing so breaks down that word ‘disability’ into opportunity and ability.”
One of the UK’s most celebrated chefs, Michael concluded by saying that every day he gets now is “a gift”.
“I could have died at 25, but I didn’t. Life is short enough anyway, and given those challenges that we have, they make us a stronger and a better person. If you’ve been given opportunity to continue your life and drive forward with the help and support of others, then your potential can be realised too.
“It’s really inspiring to see so much passion in the people that run Calvert Trust Exmoor and the community that supports it. And I’m very proud to be associated with the centre.”
This coming Sunday – 30 July – is the lovely Porlock Horse Show, so it seems like a good moment to re-run a story by Tony James from our summer 2016 magazine, all about the Tuckers at West Luccombe Farm and this time-honoured event. We hasten to add that, as it stands, the forecast for the 2017 show (see poster, below) is looking promising!… (Photo above shows Charmain, John and Edith in the kitchen at West Luccombe Farm, by Andrew Hobbs).
“When I looked out of the window and saw the weather, I just couldn’t believe it,” says Charmain Dascombe (née Tucker). She
shudders at the memory. “We’d never had anything like it. All those poor people… “.
As it proved, it would take more than appalling weather to wash out the biggest event in the West Luccombe calendar – the traditional Porlock Horse Show, which for the past 40 years has been held on one of Charmain’s dad’s fields, and which, in July 2013, blithely carried on as usual, despite unseasonable cold, torrential rain and gale-force winds.
For Charmain, secretary since 2000, it was the culmination of nearly six months’ work and not a few sleepless nights putting together a show which has more than doubled in size since the time four local farmers sat around a kitchen table in 1971 to think of a way of raising money for local good causes. Since then, the show has only been cancelled a few times, including once during the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.
“We lost the sheep classes because of foot-and-mouth and we had to fight quite hard to bring them back,” Charmain remembers. “Now they’re stronger than ever, which is as it should be, because sheep are very important around here.”
The show, like most things in this neck of the woods, has hardly changed in conception over the years – a classic country event with horse and pony classes, a traditional gymkhana, a parade of hounds, Exmoor Horn sheep classes, competitions for stags’ antlers and a dog show with prizes for the scruffiest ‘Doodle’ and the waggiest tail.
But make no mistake, this is a serious show, impeccably organised, with top-class competitors and stock and, while some similar rural events may have languished for lack of interest, the West Luccombe show has flourished. It now has four rings instead of the original two and the dog show has grown to the point where it has its own field.
Charmain has no doubt about the secret of its longevity. “The main aim is to have a really good family atmosphere and for children to have a nice day and to come away with a rosette. That’s the whole point of it really.”
She’s been involved with the show since childhood and her father, John Tucker, has been chairman for the past 25 years. Does he enjoy it? The reply is a cautious, “I don’t know if ‘enjoy’ is the right word.” But Andrew Hobbs and I saw him out there in last year’s wind and rain and he had a smile for everybody. John’s mother Edith, 95 at the time of writing this article, always played an active part in the show and Charmain has this photo of her presenting prizes in 1981.
Not surprisingly, the show becomes the main topic of conversation over mugs of tea in the kitchen of John’s West Luccombe Farm,
a welly’s throw from the show field. It first moved there in 1976 after five years in Old Lane, Bossington, and has been in West
Luccombe ever since.
“The access to Old Lane was difficult and so my father offered a field here,” John recalls. “The problem was that the show was always on the last Sunday in July – it still is – and my father disagreed with that. He was very traditional that way, but eventually we managed to persuade him.
“The show wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the dozens of local helpers who come every year. Last year was probably the worst conditions we’ve ever had but they still turned up to make the sandwiches, steward the events and put up the jumps. The lovely thing is that
we’re now getting the grandchildren of the original helpers. That must bode well for the future.
“We don’t like meetings so we usually only have two a year – one in January about general organisation and the other to decide who will get our money! I have to admit that Charmain is left with most of the work and that can be pretty stressful, but she does a great job.”
“I never thought I’d hear you say that,” says his daughter with a smile.
The show generates around £2,000 a year for Porlock causes, which have included the cricket and football clubs, recreation ground, the
Visitor Centre, village hall, Christmas pantomime and plants for summer flower schemes.
You’ve got to tread carefully in this tight-knit little world… Charmain’s husband, David Dascombe, is a cousin of Julian Dascombe at Burrowhayes, who got his ten-acre field from John Tucker’s father… Janet Harding, of Horner Vale Tearoom, was last year’s show president and her husband Mike is the treasurer…
Not surprisingly, West Luccombe Farm, with its massive stone barns and impressive buildings, dominates this tiny hamlet. John Tucker has leased it from the National Trust since he was 29, after a Hardyesque turn of events combining good fortune and sadness with risk and challenge.
Since 1940, John’s father had farmed sheep on the family’s 700 acres at Lucott, high on the moor above Nutscale Water, and he was also the tenant farmer of 350 acres at West Luccombe. John took over Lucott when his dad moved down the valley to West Luccombe in 1963. “Then, after my father died in 1979, I approached the National Trust to take over the tenancy at West Luccombe.
“The agent asked if I would take on the ground at West Lynch as well, because the tenant, Tom Rawle, was retiring. That meant that our National Trust acreage would double overnight – from the 150 acres at West Luccombe to a total of 300, with West Lynch. And this was on top of the 700 acres at Lucott. I decided to go for it. You do these things when you’re young!”
Now responsible for 1,000 acres, John had to move fast. “I didn’t have enough stock for the land so I started growing corn, which I had never done before. We grew as good malting barley as you could get anywhere in the country and were getting £160 a ton –
more than you can get now.
“The problem was that because the ground was so stony you could only get about two tons an acre, when it was reckoned you needed double that to make a living. So we gave up and went back to sheep.
“I confess I got a lot more pleasure from that,” says the man who’s now a nationally-recognised judge of Exmoor Horns and whose son Dick, now running the Lucott farm, was judging sheep at the last Porlock Horse Show.
John reckons that Lucott land, much of it at 1,500ft, is ideal for his 1,300-strong flock. It’s cooler in summer and there are fewer
flies. “Exmoor Horns will live off very sparse vegetation and, if you cross them with a Leicester Bluefaced ram to get an Exmoor Mule, they’ll compete with any North Country breed and are easier to handle than Exmoor Horns.”
Life could be tough on the Dunkery slopes but it had its compensations. “When I was living up at Lucott during the winter of 1962-3 the snow was so bad I didn’t go to school from Christmas to Easter,” John says. “It was great. The snow was higher than the hedges and I rode my pony over the tops of gates. They brought us hay with a helicopter and I walked on the ice across Nutscale Water.”
But on this warm evening, winter seems an unreal memory. This year’s show is approaching fast and there’s still lots to do before Charmain, John and their band of helpers can be pretty certain that, come rain or shine, it will once more be a day to remember.
HMP Kirkham prison officer Andy Maxfield from Inskip in Lancashire is finalising plans to set a brand-new Guinness World Record by driving from John O’Groats to Land’s End on a John Deere lawn tractor, whilst raising money for the charity, Alzheimer’s Society.
The ‘Driving the Distance for Dementia’ Challenge will set off from John O’Groats at 8am on Tuesday 25 July 2017; the signposted distance to Land’s End is 874 miles. The planned route expects them to arrive in the South West on Saturday, passing Bristol around midday, then on to Taunton and Crediton, reaching Okehampton early Sunday morning then past Redruth, Penzance and finally their end destination Land’s End.
Roger Prior, Director at Masons Kings said, “As the local John Deere dealership for Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, we are looking forward to seeing this challenge arrive in our region on Saturday. It’s going to be exciting to see how the X750 lawn tractor, a popular product at Masons Kings, gets on with such a big distance and different terrains. This is such a great cause and myself and the rest of the team can’t wait to see this Guinness World Record achieved.”
This distance has not been attempted before on an unmodified lawn tractor, but Andy is still hoping to complete the distance in less than five days on his own. He has recently been promoting the challenge at shows and events in the north of England, starting with a visit to his beloved Blackburn Rovers FC – see the club’s video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2hyoHbP5j8&feature=youtu.be – and including this month’s Great Yorkshire Show.
Andy Maxfield will be using a 24hp X750 John Deere lawn tractor and accompanied by support vehicles provided by John Deere. The X750 has power steering, cruise control and a top road speed of around 10mph. Andy will also be supported by his wife Karen and their two daughters Kathryn and Kaitlyn.
Andy’s 77-year-old father James and James’ mother Theresa were both diagnosed with dementia, which prompted Andy to start seriously fundraising for the charity in January this year. “Initially I had the idea of a fundraising ball to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society, which will be held on Saturday 9 December at Preston Masonic Hall,” he said.
“After that, because friends and neighbours often take the mickey out of me for being into lawnmowers – I’ve got eight altogether for cutting the grass around the village – I just thought it would be appropriate to try for the world record for driving a lawn tractor the length of Britain. I asked John Deere, although I don’t have one of their mowers at home, as I know they make quality products and I wanted something to get me from A to B without breaking down!”
John Deere Limited, turf division manager Chris Meacock, said: “Our UK and Ireland employees select a specific charity each year to support with a variety of fundraising activities. By coincidence we had chosen Alzheimer’s Society when we were approached by Andy Maxfield to help with the Guinness World Record attempt, so it was very good timing on his part!
“We are delighted to back this very worthy cause and are looking forward to the challenge. In addition to providing the X750 for ‘Driving the Distance for Dementia’, we have offered Andy a new X350R lawn tractor worth over £5,000 as a special raffle prize for the family’s charity ball in December.”
Sue Swire, regional community fundraising officer for Alzheimer’s Society in Lancashire, said: “It’s wonderful that Andy is taking on such a great challenge to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society to unite against dementia, and we are really grateful. Funds raised from the challenge will help us move a step closer to a world without dementia – dementia devastates lives, but dementia won’t win.”
Andy Maxfield’s charity ball has a JustGiving website page for donations at www.justgiving.com/andrew-maxfield, with the total already standing at over £2,200 in early July, and donations can also be made by texting MAXF80 £3 to 70070. More information on the ball and the challenge are available at www.facebook.com/ForgetMeNotPreston, and by following Andy on Twitter @AndyMax69.
Alzheimer’s Society is available for anyone affected by dementia and there are lots of ways the charity can help – for details call the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 or visit www.alzheimers.org.uk.
Watchet’s ambitions to have a state-of-the-art Bowling Club are closer to being realised thanks to a £50,500 grant from a Leisure Fund secured from the Hinkley Point C project which is administered by West Somerset Council.
Watchet Bowling Club is keen to transform its facilities and provide a high-quality community venue for the area and the money will go towards the first phase of the project to replace old garages with a new indoor bowling rink.
The high-achieving club has a real track record: the women players reached the semi-finals of two trophies last season, while the men won the league and also swept the board in county competitions.
A new indoor rink will give the club the space for county-level competitions and make it possible for games to be played simultaneously, rather than have to wait for the one rink to become available.
The club has now gained planning consent for this project and is hoping the community will also support the initiative through the newly launched Somerset West Lottery. The club is one of the local good causes that will benefit from the weekly draws.
Tickets for the lottery are now available to buy and the first weekly draw takes place on 29 Jul, with a top prize of £25,000 on offer and a two-night stay in The Royal Seven Stars Hotel in Totnes as an additional bonus prize for this first draw. The lottery is a joint West Somerset Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council project to help community initiatives.
The Bowling Club started out on its journey to transform its premises four years ago and, after consulting the community, drew up plans to improve its own facilities while also providing a real community hub for educational, recreational, sporting and social activities for all age groups.
The initiative has three main strands:
replacement of garages with a new indoor double rink bowling green with associated facilities
internal and external alterations to the existing clubhouse to provide a quality community venue able to accommodate 150 people
erection of an extension to provide a gym
The club is working in partnership with Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership and local providers and clubs.
The successful bid for funding from West Somerset Council will be followed by bids to other funding pots including Sport England, Power to Change and the Big Lottery.
Club treasurer, Marilyn Binding, said: “Watchet has no community venue able to accommodate large numbers. Our improved venue will fill this gap and it will provide somewhere for all sectors of the local community to take part in a wide range of activities.
“Our proposed project will act as an accessible and inviting focal point for our current population and newcomers moving here to work at Hinkley Point and join in with what is happening locally.
“The centre will make the most of the opportunity to target both workers themselves and their friends and families – encouraging them to participate together in community activities, including healthy living, educational, social and leisure activities.”
Cllr David Westcott, Lead Member for communities with West Somerset Council, said: “This is an ambitious project with a real community focus that will provide Watchet with facilities that many larger towns would envy.
“The Club has also shown the initiative to make a successful bid for funding from our Leisure Fund and to become one of the good causes supported by our local lottery.”
Exmoor National Park Authority has just published its annual Rights of Way & Access Report. The National Park Partnership Plan identifies a first-class rights of way network as one of its 12 priorities for action and the new report showcases the wide range of work undertaken to care for extensive public rights of way network and permitted paths between April 2016 and March 2017.
Exmoor National Park’s public rights of way network extends to almost 1,000km (footpaths 438km, bridleways 464km and Restricted Byways and Byways Open to All Traffic 64km). The network is one of the special features of Exmoor and offers unrivalled access on foot, horseback or bicycle – a recent visitor survey shows that 70% of visitors enjoy a short walk and 43% a long walk (over 2 hours) as part of their stay on Exmoor.
Dan Barnett, Access and Recreation Manager, said: “Our wonderful public rights of way are the backbone for getting out to enjoy Exmoor and our visitor expenditure forms the biggest single share of the Exmoor local economy so it is vital that we continue to keep our paths in great condition.”
Ceri Rapsey – Access and Rights of Way Support Officer added: “Recent surveys show that 96% of the Exmoor National Park’s public rights of way are open and easy to use, which is our highest score to date.” The surveys are undertaken by volunteers using a nationally agreed criteria.
Other highlights from the report include: · 16 major path repairs undertaken, many funded through the Headwaters of the Exe project, part of South West Water’s Upstream Thinking programme with funding from South West Water and Exmoor National Park Authority.
· Two Moors Way 40th anniversary relaunch resulting in numerous trail improvements, new pocket guide, website and promotional video.
· A dedicated group of volunteers have surveyed 10 parishes and adding up to 518 hours.
· Record numbers of public path diversions to resolve long-standing issues on the network
· Vegetation was cut back on 184km of routes during 2016/17, a figure that has increased year on year since 2012 reflecting the highly priority given to this important maintenance work.
Managing water flow is critical to protect path surfaces, particularly with the increase in heavy rain and flash floods, and a total of 1,185 drains were repaired or cleared during the year. When major repairs are carried out or new drains installed, capacity is increased wherever possible to improve the resilience of the paths network.
Exmoor’s traditional, wooden rights of way ‘furniture’ (gates, signposts, stiles etc) is one of the best loved features of the National Park – there are approximately 286 bridges, 375 stiles, 1,942 field gates, 2,500 gates, 241 sets of steps and more than 2,700 signposts.
The cream tea tradition flourished in the West Country following the tourism boom in the 1850s, aided by the opening of railways. Fitting therefore that the Victorian Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway should be at the centre of a cream tea controversy.
The Cliff Top Café, perched 500ft above Lynmouth, is already famous for its amazing views and home baked cream tea scones almost as high as the cliffs themselves. But cream tea etiquette has been well and truly tested recently, with the launch of the Cliff Railway ‘Naughty Cream Tea’.
Café Manager, Jasmine Knowles, launched the ‘Naughty Cream Tea’ as a bit of fun to celebrate the provision of an alcohol licence at the Café but said that, “The twist on tradition has become an instant hit, the visitors seem to love it.”
The Naughty Cream Tea replaces the traditional pot of tea with a Prosecco, a locally Brewed FatBelly Ale or even wine or local cider and provides the perfect accompaniment to that long walk and the stunning views. With huge scones, local clotted cream and spoonfuls of jam, this new twist on the traditional is probably the Naughtiest Cream Tea in the West Country!
However, the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway believe that some traditions must remain; tea is still available and, whilst in Devon, you don’t cut your scones, simply break them apart with a gentle twist, dollop, don’t spread the clotted cream and always, always put the jam on top!
Following the success of roastery tours last year, Miles Tea & Coffee has decided to run some more on selected dates through the summer months in the historic Roastery building in Porlock. Miles has over 120 years’ experience in the tea and coffee industry and a preview behind the scenes is a must for any hot beverage lover!
Tours will last about an hour including coffee tasting, a free pack of coffee, a talk with Mitch, the Head Roaster, and you will learn about the roasting process and the history of Miles.
Just imagine coffee beans flying through pipes above you, the roaster roaring and the aroma of freshly ground coffee.
Sam Burton, Marketing Manger, said, “Each participant will be provided with full production clothing and will be required to fill out paperwork before arrival to meet our SALSA quality requirements. Tours will be pre-book only as tours will be limited to 10 people and there will be a small charge of £7. Last year we had a waiting list of 20 people so be sure to book your place early.”
To book your place please email firstname.lastname@example.org the tours are pre-book only and limited to small groups. Morning tours take place on 27 July, 31 August and 28 September.
Join the company for a #TastingTuesday this Summer, find out more online at www.djmiles.co.uk in the news section.