WATCHET PESTICIDE FREE ACTION GROUP

A group of locals have recently started The Watchet Pesticide Free Action Group and set up a Facebook page having discovered that Watchet Town Council was contracting out the spraying of a glyphosate-based weedkiller on the town’s pavements and pathways and in the council-run resident’s car park in West Street where they also rent out allotments.

Ione Harris, who lives in West Street, first noticed plants around the car park dying in 2016 and because the poison had been sprayed within feet of the allotment rented to her by the Town Council she asked what had been used. The council said it was Glyphosate and a complaint was made that such a chemical should not be used next to land rented for the growing of food.

When she noticed again the distortion of the leaves and the death spreading across the car park in late May of this year, and as the full area of dead plants became clear it was even nearer the allotment than the year before, she again made a full complaint to the Council.

PHOTO AT TOP: The car park after the application of weedkiller and (below) some images of it beforehand.

It became apparent over the next couple of weeks that the entire length of West Street had also been poisoned and eventually the resulting death could be seen across the entire town. The Glyphosate had been sprayed up against peoples houses and garden walls near the river basin, the slipway to the beach, the edge of the marina, near the children’s play area on the Memorial Ground, etc and more residents started to lose poppies, daisies and other wild flowers from outside their houses and more voiced their concern at the use of a hazardous chemical without warning and without regard for the safety of their children and pets.

Glyphosate products carry many warnings to stay away while its wet.

Following many complaints made to the Council, this use of weedkiller was discussed at a Council meeting.

A resolution was passed and the Council agreed to remove West Street Car Park bordering the allotments from the contract and to look into alternative methods to use around town.

However, the contract continues for a ‘treatment’ twice yearly and this October the Council’s contractors were again due to spray the pavements and pathways with Glyphosate.

The Watchet Pesticide Free Action Group has been formed by concerned residents to try and end the Town Council’s use of pesticide . They have looked into various alternate methods of controlling unwanted plant growth and is raising awareness of the issue in the local area.

It has been pointed out to the Council that the use of weedkiller does not clear the unwanted plant growth away and that the carcasses of poisoned plants remained across town for many weeks after treatment. That the town looks worse in fact. The group suggest hand weeding would be the best solution in most areas and would enable the cleaning away of any build up of dead plant matter and earth rather than the spraying of pesticide that increases the build up and less desirable, vigorous weeds are more able to set seed.

The group believe that hand weeding (which many residents already do outside their own properties), together with other methods in specific problem areas, could be used and could well work out to be cheaper.

The group also believe that using such a harmful chemical in public places without warning is not good practice and that Watchet could rather be an example to other towns to end the use of pesticides, to be more environmentally friendly, to increase the diversity of flora and fauna and to be more visually pleasing for residents and visitors alike.

The group are aiming for a pesticide-free town and are formulating a plan to actively enhance the bio-diversity of the area by introducing more wild flowers to otherwise unused grass verges and banks. They envisage a wealth of flowers, all native and found within a mile or two of Watchet; a celebration of the beauty of the area in which they live.

Glastonbury has gone pesticide-free and other towns are working towards it.

The group believes this to be an achievable aim and seems the obvious way forward for such a pretty coastal town.

 

 

MINEHEAD TO HOST A MARITIME MILE

Minehead has netted more funding to help revitalise the town. The LEADER funding – EU money allocated to help rural areas – of almost £80,000 has just been announced and means Minehead’s dream of creating a Maritime Mile can be realised.

It will complement the Enterprising Minehead project that has already won substantial funding to make the resort the go-to seaside destination by making the most of its traditional appeal as a seaside resort – but with a twenty-first-century twist.

The aim is to give Minehead the buzz that is needed to bring new visitors in, while retaining the Edwardian charm that keeps holiday-makers returning year after year.

The Maritime Mile initiative will create a new heritage interpretation trail, running the length of the seafront to showcase Minehead’s maritime history, myths and legends. An open-air gallery will be built at the trail’s central point to display images and artefacts from Minehead’s past.

The Maritime Mile walk will link to existing features like the South West Coast Path/England Coast Path and signpost to other points of interest along the seafront that will be included in the new interactive/interpretation signage.

The signs will feature augmented reality technology to make the walk exciting and interactive – and it will link to a new website that will be launched. West Somerset Council will be working with Minehead Museum and Butlins on the materials. Augmented reality uses computer-aided graphics to add an additional layer of information to aid understanding and/or interaction with the physical world around you.

The central area of the seafront trail will incorporate the open-air gallery as a showcase for the trail and will be an attraction in its own right. This is the central gateway to the seafront from The Avenue and West Somerset Railway, and will have real impact.

The gallery will be formed from stone-filled gabion baskets with gallery images of Minehead mounted onto marine plywood. Content for the gallery will depict historic images of the town provided by the local community and the museum. The gallery will also include augmented reality to make it more fun – and informative.

A new state-of-the-art responsive website will also be developed to capitalise on marketing the town as a key destination and will also link to the seafront trail/walk and its innovative technology.

Cllr Andrew Hadley, Lead Member for economic regeneration, said: “This is excellent news for Minehead, and will give an added boost to the exciting projects already being developed to regenerate The Esplanade and give our visitors even more reason to come and enjoy what Minehead has to offer.”

“We will be working hand-in-hand with the community, and our Coastal Community Team to deliver this imaginative and exciting project,” said Cllr Roger Thomas, who chairs the Coastal Communities Team in Minehead.

“Our team of officers has worked incredibly hard to secure funding from a variety of sources so that we can invest in Minehead to benefit the local economy and provide visitors with a fun and informative way of finding out about Minehead’s past.

“We are lucky to have a fascinating history that can be brought to life through harnessing the incredible technology that is available now. “

QUANTOCK HILLS AONB AND DUKE OF EDINBURGH PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITION 2017

Following on from the success of last year’s photography competition, the Quantock Hills AONB and Duke of Edinburgh Awards are running the competition again.   The AONB team say, “We love the Quantock Hills and we know you do too, we really what to see the wonderful images and films you have captured whilst on your Quantock adventures. It would be great to get as many entries as possible from all ages, encapsulating what this beautiful landscape means to you. If you need inspiration you can always view last year’s entries on the Quantock Hills AONB Flickr page www.flickr.com/photos/157033168@N08

“This year we are very kindly being supported by Taunton Leisure, who are donating prizes for the winning entries in each category. Also all photographs and films will be exhibited over the Easter holiday at the National Trust’s Fyne Court Music Room.”

There are four categories you can enter your masterpieces into, two extra ones for this year!

  1. Best Landscape Image – must be of the Quantock Hills but can be taken anywhere
  2. Best Expedition Image – must be of a Duke of Edinburgh expedition, ideally on the Quantock Hills
  3. Loving the Great Outdoors – any image that you think fits the category
  4. Film entry – fits any of the above but is a film no longer than 30 seconds

A maximum of three entries per person per category is allowed, and if you want to enter an image in more than one category you can.

Jeff Brown, Somerset County Council’s Duke of Edinburgh Award Manager, says: “The Quantock Hills provide the setting for thousands of young people on their first Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition.  This 2 day, 1 night adventure will provide a physical and mental challenge as well as teaching practical life skills; navigation, countryside code, route planning, campcraft, teamwork and leadership.  This competition will allow them to share all their experiences, good and bad, so don’t forget the photos of; sore feet, walking through horizontal rain, the World’s best hot chocolate cooked on a Trangia at the end of day 1, or the feeling of pride when you complete your first ever expedition.”

Chris Edwards, Manager, Quantock Hills AONB Service says: “So many fantastic amateur photographers are inspired by the Quantock Hills and we regularly see really great photos on Facebook and Flickr so do submit your best Quantock images to this competition and we will showcase them in an exhibition and on social media. We may even use them (accredited of course) in documents we produce – celebrating your impressions of this nationally protected landscape in a more lasting format.”

The deadline for submissions is 5pm on 23rd February 2018.

See the Quantock Hills AONB website for full rules and details on how to enter www.quantockhills.com/news/article/the_quantock_hills_aonb_and_duke_of_edinburghs_award_photography_competitio/

By submitting an entry to the competition you are giving permission for the Quantock Hills AONB Service and the Duke of Edinburgh Award to use your photo or film in their marketing material, displays, leaflets, magazine and newspaper articles (produced by third parties) cards, calendars and other forms of publicity at our discretion. Your photo or film will be credited to you.

PHOTO – Previous landscape winner by Frank Clatworthy

BOOK SIGNING WITH JACKIE MORRIS TO CELEBRATE THE PUBLICATION OF THE LOST WORDS

Number Seven Dulverton is thrilled that renowned illustrator Jackie Morris has found time to visit Exmoor during her current national tour celebrating the publication of The Lost Words. This stunning book highlights the words that are sadly disappearing from our dictionaries to be replaced by contemporary terms for our increasingly technological world.

The Lost Words stands against the disappearance of wild childhood and is a joyful celebration of nature words and the natural world they invoke – without ‘Acorn’ there would be no woodland habitat, no owls roosting, no carpet of bluebells.

Award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane has written the most mesmerising acrostic spell-poems which are accompanied by Jackie’s distinctive watercolours creating an enchanting book that captures the irreplaceable magic of language and nature for all ages. Readers may be familiar with his best-selling titles ‘Landmarks’ and ‘The Old Ways.’

Throughout the day a collection of Jackie’s prints and originals will be on display, copies of the book will be available for sale and Jackie will be on hand to sign copies. She will also be reading and demonstrating her adept skills with watercolour and brush.

For further information do contact Davina Jelley info@numbersevendulverton.co.uk 01398 324457

DATE: Friday 27th October 11am – 4pm
VENUE: NUMBER SEVEN
7 THE HIGH STREET
DULVERTON
SOMERSET
TA22 9HB

KING’S COLLEGE OPENS PARTNER SCHOOL IN INDIA

King’s College has recently opened a new partner school in India – King’s College, India – in the city of Rohtak, just north of New Delhi. Pupils from King’s College and King’s Hall School were delighted to welcome a group of their fellow Indian pupils for the first time, in mid-October, as part of a regular exchange programme. As well as immersing themselves completely in the lives of the schools here in Taunton for two weeks, the visitors involved their British counterparts in the magic of Diwali, the Hindu festival of light.

The visiting children and their teachers celebrated the two-day festival with great enthusiasm, enjoying creative workshops, musicals and fireworks. As well as educating staff and pupils about rangoli – intricate floor patterns made using coloured powder – the pupils from King’s College India performed a stunning musical show depicting the celebration of good over evil and the victory of light over darkness in the school theatre.

The celebrations ended on the Thursday night with a fireworks display in the grounds of King’s Hall, followed by a sumptuous Indian supper.

Commenting on their first week in the UK, KCI School Manager, Captain Yashika Dalal, said: “Our first week has been wonderful. We’ve enjoyed celebrating Diwali with our fellow King’s pupils here in Taunton. The Diwali lunch was lavish and included tasty Indian curries and sweets, which took us by surprise – that we were able to enjoy the home made delicacies overseas. It was such a warm gesture.”

VISIT A LIFEGUARDED BEACH THIS HALF TERM

RNLI lifeguards will be maintaining patrols on some of the busiest beaches in Cornwall and Devon over the school half term period (21-29 October).

With a growing number of people looking to spend time at the beach out of the summer season, as in previous years, additional lifeguard cover is being provided at some of the more popular beaches in the region to help keep people visiting the coast this autumn safe.

Community Safety Partner at the RNLI Steve Instance says: “It has been a busy 2017 season for our lifeguards, who have worked hard to keep large numbers of beachgoers safe. They are well trained to deal with a whole range of scenarios from rescues in the water, to first aid incidents and lost children. We would encourage people who are planning to head to the coast this half term to visit a lifeguarded beach.”

Beaches operating a lifeguard service this half term in Cornwall are Porthtowan, Perranporth, Praa Sands, Gwithian, Porthmeor, Sennen, Fistral, Watergate Bay, Towan and Mawgan Porth, Polzeath, Widemouth and Summerleaze.

In Devon, there will be lifeguard patrols at Croyde, Woolacombe and Bantham beaches.

For those who aren’t able to head to a lifeguarded beach, it’s important they take steps to keep themselves and their families safe. Ways in which they can do this is to:

–        Read safety signage at the entrance to a beach

–        Go with a friend or tell someone on the shore where you are going

–        Be aware of the conditions and your own capabilities in the water

–        Check the tide times

–        Carry a means of communication

As part of the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign the charity advises that you do not enter the water if you see someone in trouble, but call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. If you have something that floats, throw it to them.

Anyone in difficulty in the water should try not to panic or fight against any currents. They should hold onto anything buoyant they have, call for help and raise their hand to attract attention and try to keep their head above water.

You can find out more about how to stay safe in and around the water by visiting RNLI.org/RespectTheWater.

GOOD CAUSES BENEFIT FROM LOCAL LOTTERY

Local good causes are continuing to benefit from the Somerset West Lottery – a joint enterprise launched by Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset Councils.

Somerset West Lottery payments to good causes in the two districts for £3,728.40 have recently been approved.  This is an increase of £612.90 to local good causes on the previous payment.

Trident Youth & Community Centre and Taunton Town Football Club continue to top the ticket sales and will receive payments of more than £100 each.

Watchet Bowling Club, Compass Disability Services and Home-Start West Somerset are well on their way to 200 ticket sales.

So far, a total of 83 local good causes have registered with seven welcomed last month alone. The number of supporters has risen to more than 750.

It costs £1 per game to play and winners could win up to £25,000 as part of the weekly draw. Each week, the winning numbers are published on the Somerset West Lottery home page:  www.somersetwestlottery.co.uk

Players have a 50 to one chance of winning one of the prizes. From each £1 ticket, 60p goes to local good causes, 20% goes to the prize fund, and the balance meets running costs and VAT.

The lottery management company, Gatherwell, has been appointed to run the scheme.

 

SOMERSET WILDLIFE TRUST LAUNCHES ‘SAVING SOMERSET’S BATS’ APPEAL

Guest post from somerset Wildlife Trust

To support its on the ground efforts to secure the future of the county’s bats, Somerset Wildlife Trust is pleased to launch Saving Somerset’s Bats – an urgent appeal to raise £30,000 to strengthen habitats in three key areas in the county which support important bat populations – in particular several rarer species that we stand to lose in Somerset entirely unless action is taken now. The Trust is asking wildlife lovers across the county and beyond to swoop into action and help ensure Somerset remains a thriving stronghold for UK Bats.

Did you know… 16 out of the 17 breeding species of UK bat call Somerset home?

Thanks to the diversity of habitats we have here in Somerset, we are able to offer safe homes to suit nearly every kind of bat currently found in the UK, as well as provide a rich variety of food sources. Changes in our land use over the past few decades, however, such as urban development, more intensive agriculture and changes to farming practices have led to habitat loss, fragmentation and the destruction of roosts – all are having an impact on our bats.

Michele Bowe, Director of Conservation, explains why it’s important that the public get behind our bats and support the appeal: “Because of their nocturnal nature and less than cuddly reputation, people don’t always realise that bats do have another role to play apart from being the focus of a Halloween party piece!  Bats are in fact great indicators of the state of our environment. They are top predators of nocturnal insect life – making them experts at natural pest control – and they’re very sensitive to changes in land use practices.

“Bats rely on a good mix of habitats and healthy numbers of a range of insect species throughout the year. If certain bat species aren’t doing well, this may be because of changes in their preferred habitat or insect prey. As our natural environment continues to come under pressure, now is the time to ensure we do everything we can to make sure the remaining habitats we have are in the best health for bats.   I hope that as well as raising essential funds, the campaign also lifts the lid on how much we need these special animals.”

Funds raised from the appeal will go towards three key areas:

On our Mendip Reserves we urgently need to secure the diminishing population of the greater horseshoe bat by managing species-rich grassland habitats, grazed well by cattle and, in some places, the extensive removal of scrub and bracken. Cattle grazing is critical as cattle dung attracts important food sources such as dung beetles – the larvae of which are particularly important for young bats that are making their first feeding flights. We also need to improve hedgerows, which act as linear route maps, to enable greater horseshoe bats to hunt for food and urgently need to repair Wadbury Bat House – a critical roost for greater horseshoes in this area.

In the Blackdown Hills we need to conserve and enrich our woodland habitats for our woodland specialist bats such as the noctule and brown long-eared bat by regular coppicing work and maintaining rides and glades. The Blackdown Hills is also one of only six known roosting locations for Bechstein’s bats in the UK, so it’s of primary importance that we ensure the protection of dense, native ancient, deciduous woodland in this area, which best supports these special creatures – which are also rather partial to woodpecker holes as a first choice for a summer roosting site!

Protecting our urban bat populations is just as crucial as those in more rural areas. Our county town of Taunton plays host to significant populations of common species such as pipistrelles, but it also has a confirmed population of the Leisler’s bat, and also lesser seen species such as the serotine bat. Taunton is the South West’s fastest growing town and is undergoing significant change. We are working with planners and developers to ensure that bats can navigate safely across the newly designated garden town to feed and breed. Connecting the town’s green spaces and waterways creates and enriches habitats to host healthy urban bat populations.

For more information on the appeal, Somerset’s bats and to make a donation online please go to: www.somersetwildlife.org/savingsomersetsbats

You can also make a donation by phone on 01823 652 429.

PHOTO: Pipistrelle bat © Amy Lewis

HALF TERM FAMILY ACTIVITIES AS PART OF DARK SKIES FESTIVAL

The Exmoor Dark Skies festival from the 19 – 29 October 2017 has something for all and provides some great half terms activities for families.

Local children and adults can experience the marvels of the stars above during a mobile planetarium session at Lynton (23 October), Dulverton (24 October), or Dunster (28 October) as part of the inaugural festival, whatever the weather. The sessions, lasting from 45 minutes to 1 hour, offer a 360-degree-space learning experience. High-resolution images, movies and sophisticated computer simulations are projected throughout Space Odyssey’s inflatable dome – above, behind and all around the audience – to create a breathtakingly immersive and inspirational experience.

Every fascinating session will be led by Simon Ould, an experienced science teacher and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. Simon uses his extensive teaching knowledge to carefully adapt the delivery and content of each presentation for the particular group involved.  Simon said, “Adults and children are often blown-away by an experience in our dome. I’m delighted to be bringing our 6.5 metre Voyager dome to Exmoor as part of the Dark Skies Festival.

“For many children a session in the dome introduces them to the wider world, solar system and the universe for the first time. It really is unforgettable and can impact a child’s understanding for the rest of their life.”

The dome sessions start from just £3 for a child and £5 for an adult and advance booking is highly recommended. Sessions at Dunster also include some solar and stargazing and a workshop with astro-physics students from Exeter University. Visit www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/darkskiesfestival for more details, session times and booking. Alternatively call the Lynmouth National Park Centre on 01598 752509 (open 7 days).

There are over 35 events across Exmoor throughout the festival, which is sponsored by Airband. The festival is officially launched on Friday 20 October at Winsford Village Hall with the premier of a new short film on Exmoor’s Dark Skies followed by a presentation on Exmoor’s Dark Skies and opportunities to see the Northern Lights by presenter and astronomer Will Gater. Other events include a guide to Astrophotography with Dr Lillian Hobbs of the Royal Photographic Society on 19 October, special film showings of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘Space Odyssey 2001’ and opportunities for a glow stick night swim with Channel Adventure.

Katrina Munro of the Exmoor National Park Authority said, “We’ve had huge interest in the festival with many events already fully booked, but there’s plenty of opportunities to enjoy the planetarium sessions and other events. Exmoor was the very first International Dark Sky Reserve to be designated in all of Europe and we are excited to be able to help people enjoy them during this festival. We’re hoping for clear skies but the vast majority of the events will be running whatever the weather.”

EXMOOR HISTORIC SIGNPOST PROJECT: VOLUNTEER SLEUTHS REQUIRED

The aim of Exmoor National Park Authority’s Historic Signpost Project is to record, refurbish, celebrate and explore the history of Exmoor National Park’s traditional signposts. This is a two-year project funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA) and Somerset County Council.

Much of the motivation for this came from local communities concerned about the state of some signposts in their areas and a desire to preserve and celebrate the distinctive character of the signs that are a much-valued part of the Exmoor landscape. As such, they are an integral part of Exmoor’s history and heritage. During the 1960s, councils were advised to remove existing signposts and replace them with standardised signs. However, Somerset did not do this, particularly on Exmoor, and so the distinctive cast-iron, black-and-white signs remain.

The ENPA is working with the Exmoor Society and volunteers to trace the history of the signposts. Dr Helen Blackman, the Exmoor Society’s archivist, said: “The starting point is the history of individual posts. The kind of questions we would love answers to are: how long have they been there?; do they and the crossroads that they are positioned at have specific names?; is there anything in particular that has happened to them, such as removal during the Second World War and later replacement?”

From this, volunteer researchers are aiming to find out about the importance of routes and locations and so help piece together a wider history of travel around the moor. Dr Blackman continued: “Have you ever wondered why some towns and villages are clearly signposted, whilst other have so little to indicate their whereabouts? For example, to some visitors it may seem odd that many signposts point to Watchet, now a relatively small town. However, the signage reveals something of its previous significance as a port and a major centre for paper manufacture.”

The Exmoor National Park is seeking more volunteers to help uncover this fascinating history. No experience is necessary, as training will be given by Dr Blackman; all that is required is some spare time and enthusiasm for research and detective work.

Routes over Exmoor have also evolved, as roads were tarmacked in the 1930s and some tracks were preferred over others. The signposts and their history can help piece together why this might be. Were some routes considered more direct, or did they cover easier terrain? Did they pass somewhere previously significant, now largely forgotten?

Dr Blackman concluded: “Do you have old photos and slides of Exmoor that include views of the signposts? These could be close-ups, or just photos that happen to include the posts such as the one pictured* or have any stories to tell about why crossroads have particular names? We would love to hear from you if you have information that would help with the project, please email exmoorsocietyarchivist@gmail.com.”

  • PHOTO: Molly Groves in 1963 standing next to the top of Oare Post, Hookway Hill which is buried in snow. Photo courtesy of Mrs Groves.