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.

 

 

LEISURE CENTRE PROJECT FOR NORTH DEVON MOVES FORWARD

The dream of a new leisure centre for North Devon took three monumental steps closer to reality last week, with exciting news from Sport England as the icing on the cake!

The project, led by North Devon Council’s Parks, Leisure and Culture team, will see a new eight-lane swimming pool and other leisure facilities built onto the Tarka Tennis Centre at Seven Brethren, Barnstaple.

Last week a planning application was submitted and validated, with hopes that this will be determined by December. The search for an operator to design, build, operate and maintain the new leisure facilities is now live, with details of the contract online at www.supplyingthesouthwest.org.uk – the closing date to register an interest and submit a response is 27 October 2017 at midday.

On Thursday 14 September, Sport England confirmed that its Investment Committee is in support of the project and has formally invited the council to submit an application for funding. This means Sport England has ring-fenced £1.5m towards the project, and will work alongside the council to support its application for funding. If successful, construction of the new facilities could begin in autumn 2018 and be complete by summer 2020.

Executive Member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “We may have been fairly quiet about our leisure centre project for a while, but behind the scenes a huge amount of work has been going on to drive the project forward and this is the news we’ve been waiting for from Sport England. I am so delighted by their decision to support our application and look forward to continuing to work with them to progress our funding bid.

“We also reached two key milestones last week, with the planning application lodged and the contract out to tender. I would like to congratulate the officers for what they have achieved so far and thank them for their professionalism and continuing  hard work. North Devon Leisure Centre is coming to the end of its useful life and we’ve got to work hard to secure this funding to provide a new pool and leisure facilities to replace it.”

To keep up to date with the progress of this project, follow the council’s blog www.newleisurecentre.wordpress.com.

 

WANSBROUGH: WATCHET PAPER MILL HERITAGE EXHIBITION

Over the past 18 months, Contains Art, an arts project in Somerset, has been working together with organisations across Watchet and Somerset on a heritage and creative project to celebrate and commemorate Wansbrough Paper Mill, which closed at the end of 2015, ending more than a quarter of a millennium of papermaking in this small coastal town . The project has been made possible by National Lottery players through a £26,400 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

In the months before the closure in December 2015, artists, photographers and filmmakers began capturing images and memories from the Paper Mill, resulting in a large body of work. A creative exhibition took place last year at Contains Art and the Wansbrough project culminates this September with a Heritage Lottery Fund supported exhibition displayed along the Esplanade for the whole month. The exhibition includes history, photos, images, memories and more. It provides a unique opportunity to celebrate the history of the Mill, its importance to the town and area, its people and its legacy.

The exhibition will be displayed outdoors so it can be viewed at any time during September. Saturday 23 September sees a free Community Event from 2pm-5pm on Watchet Esplanade with papermaking, paper craft, paper bunting – fun for all the family.

The Wansbrough project has included, alongside creative and heritage exhibitions, a comprehensive photographic and measured recording of the buildings on the site with a laser drone survey and laser surveys of special hard-to-access parts of the site.

The project team, supported by dozens of volunteers, have also compiled an archive of documents found at the Mill. This will be deposited at Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton as a permanent resource for the future. Contains Art also invited members of the community to bring along their own documents relating to the Mill. These included an amazing number of wonderful photographs, press cuttings, samples and documents, which have all been scanned and logged and will be deposited with the rest of the work from the project at the Heritage Centre.

In partnership with Watchet Market House Museum, the project has recorded oral histories from former mill workers, capturing their memories and stories from the Mill. A CD of these oral histories has been created alongside a listening station in the Museum where you can hear extracts.

As well as the temporary exhibition, the project will culminate in a booklet detailing much of the history, stories and memories as well as the photos and documents we have discovered. The final piece of work is a permanent Quick Time Virtual Reality (QTVR) website, which will be launched later in the autumn, where you will be able to explore the site in 360 images, and view lots of the photos, films, oral histories and images we have collected during this project. The QTVR will provide a permanent legacy for Watchet Paper Mill and a unique opportunity to view the Paper Mill for years to come – a modern conclusion to a heritage project.

BID FOR A PROSPEROUS MINEHEAD

The launch of the proposed Minehead Business improvement District (BID) is being held at Butlins Village, Warren Road, Minehead tomorrow, Tuesday 5 September.

Minehead Chamber of Commerce has invited businesses in the proposed BID area to attend this event when they will outline ideas about how a BID scheme in Minehead could increase the vitality and viability of the town centre.

Guest speaker, Paul Batt, Chairman of Weston BID, will share his experiences of their BID, and what the scheme has meant for his business and Weston super Mare over the past six years.

Graham Sizer, Vice-Chairman of Minehead Chamber of Commerce, said: “The proposed BID will help us to deliver projects and initiatives to support the town centre, helping business to thrive. This is about the business community taking a leading role in how our town develops in the future. We need the town’s business community to get involved in helping us to decide the priorities and actions that a BID could bring to our town. When we carried out interviews for the Feasibility Study earlier this year, we were delighted by the positive reception that this proposed scheme received from a wide range of business people in town. I do hope as many of those who received invitations will join me to hear about this great opportunity for business to work together to create a prosperous future for Minehead.”

Lucy Ball from Destination Management & Marketing, who carried out the feasibility study for a Minehead BID, will explain to guests how BIDs work and how such a scheme could benefit Minehead. She will also outline the next steps in the process of developing a BID for Minehead. Lucy commented, “The crucial element of all successful BIDs, is the involvement of local businesses from the outset of the scheme. We hope that representatives from across a broad spectrum of the Minehead town, business community will want to join the BID Steering Group to help us to get this scheme right for the town.”

Of more than 270 BID schemes nationally that have gone to ballot, the great majority have voted in favour of these schemes. Businesses involved in BIDs have found they have been given a voice to influence how the towns they operate within are managed, and are able to deliver projects and have the influence necessary to survive and flourish.

GREEN FLAGS STILL FLYING FOR BICCLESCOMBE & YEO VALLEY

Bicclescombe Park in Ilfracombe and Yeo Valley Community Woodland in Barnstaple have both retained their Green Flag status, as two of the UK’s best green spaces.

The parks are among a record-breaking 1,797 UK parks and green spaces that have received a prestigious Green Flag Award this year. This international award is a sign that the parks boast the highest possible environmental standards, are beautifully maintained and have excellent visitor facilities.

Both parks are owned and managed by North Devon Council with the help of very active community groups including the Friends of Yeo Valley Woodland and the Bicclescombe Park User Group. This is the 14th consecutive year that Bicclescombe Park has achieved Green Flag status, with Yeo Valley Community receiving the Award for the 7th time.

Executive Member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “We are absolutely delighted to receive a Green Flag Award for Bicclescombe and Yeo Valley again. We know how much quality green spaces matter to residents and visitors and this award celebrates the hard work that goes into maintaining them to such a high standard – my congratulations to all those involved, especially the community groups for all the hours they dedicate to our parks.”

International Green Flag Award scheme manager, Paul Todd, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating another record-breaking year for the Green Flag Award scheme. Each flag is a celebration of the thousands of staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to maintain the high standards demanded by the Green Flag Award. The success of the scheme, especially in these challenging times, demonstrates just how much parks matter to people.”

If you would like more information about becoming a volunteer at one of these parks, please contact the council’s Parks Team on 01271 388326 or email parks@northdevon.gov.uk.

PHOTO: The flag was raised at Yeo Valley Woodland at 10am on 1 August. Photo shows from left to right: standing: Councillor Ian Roome, Councillor Joy Cann, Parks Officer Andrew Moulton, Mike Field, Stuart Passmore; crouching: Stuart’s daughter, Charlotte, with her daughter.

There will also be a small flag-raising ceremony at Bicclescombe Park, on 9 August at midday. The public and park visitors encouraged to attend to help celebrate.

BLENHEIM GARDENS VOLUNTEERS

Going back to grass roots help is bringing Blenheim Gardens in Minehead back to its blooming best.

Volunteers, working with West Somerset Council’s open spaces staff, have put in countless hours – gaining recognition from Britain in Bloom and the heartfelt thanks of West Somerset Council during Love Parks Week.

The national initiative, running from July 14-23, is encouraging people to use their parks and enjoy the experience.

Blenheim Gardens is West Somerset’s flagship park and covers six acres in the centre of Minehead. Created in the 1920s, the gardens are mature with spring and summer bedding displays, a wide range of trees, shrubs and perennials that thrive in the mild maritime climate.

The park has its own bandstand for summer concerts and brass bands – always a family favourite – as well as a seasonal putting course, a Burma Star Memorial Garden which provides an area for quiet reflection, and seating.

There are plans to make Blenheim Gardens more sustainable with a greater emphasis on perennials and shrubs rather than thirsty annual bedding plants.

Cllr Martin Dewdney, the council’s Lead Member for the environment, said: “Blenheim Gardens is quite simply beautiful. The park is a wonderful oasis close to the beach and the centre of Minehead and I know it is well loved by residents and visitors.

“The volunteers do so much for the park and I would like to take this chance to thank them on behalf of the community and the council. Blenheim Gardens is a place to treasure, thanks to our volunteers.

“There is something for everyone in the park – plants to enjoy, a pitch and putt course, grass for the children to play on and the very popular café. In the summer, there’s a programme of music in the Bandstand featuring traditional brass and silver bands as well as local groups.”

Blenheim Gardens has a Facebook page, where you keep up to date with the latest events.

This photo is thought to date back to the 1930s.

 

 

 

WATCHET COMMUNITY MAKERS UPDATE

A group known as the Watchet Community Makers has been carrying out valuable community builds in the town, as part of its ambition to share and increase skills, strengthen connections between people and enable community organisations to develop at low cost.

The group recently began work on Watchet’s Scout hut, creating a much-needed large-scale, built in storage solution on the request of Simon Bale, the Scout Leader. This will be a two-month-long project. Following the Scout hut, the Makers plan to repaint the Watchet Community Centre.

The group also recently finished building a series of large wooden benches for Knights Templar School, on request of the Head, Frances Burns. These are positioned around the playground to enable the children to enjoy quieter, restful times during breaks.

Watchet Community Makers meet twice weekly, on projects that are proposed by the local community. The group’s focus is on the built environment, covering areas such as construction, painting, plastering and carpentry.

The makers use monthly meetings to decide which projects to tackle, and in what order, with workshop sessions taking place on Thursdays (7-9pm) and Sundays (3-5pm) each week, in a community workspace at Harbour Studios on the East Quay.

Community Maker Sarah Ward said: “I have found the group very welcoming and easy going, and it’s been great to see how much can be achieved in a short space of time. I’m looking forward to all the new and exciting projects planned for the warmer months when we can work outside.”

The scheme was initiated by social enterprise regeneration company, Onion Collective CIC, thanks to money raised by Healthfull, as a result of extensive research carried out in the town, asking its inhabitants what they felt Watchet needed for a stronger future. During this process, the community expressed a desire to make sure skills and trades were not lost and would be able to be passed to other people. In Watchet there is a division of skills and experience with a wealth of knowledge begging to be passed on and shared. This project therefore aims to break down some of these divides with people learning from one another, working together, developing skills and relationships and supporting personal and community development.

If you are a community organisation and have a project you would like to suggest for the town, or if you would like to join the team of makers, please contact the Onion Collective on 01984 633496 / info@onioncollecive.co.uk.

Exmoor Magazine would love to hear from you if you have a similar initiative running in your town or village. We already know about Porlock’s fabulous Guerrilla Old Job Squad and we also think there might be a group called the South Molton Meddlers? Please get in touch and we can share your news too! Email: editor@exmoormagazine.co.uk

WATCHET COMMUNITY MAKERS: A CALL FOR PROJECTS

A group of volunteers, known as the Watchet Community Makers, are requesting that local community organisations get in touch to put forward projects for them to complete in the town.

The group meets twice weekly to work under the guidance of local tradesperson, Ian Wedlake, with projects being proposed by the local community. Their focus is on the built environment, covering areas such as construction, painting, plastering and carpentry.

So far Watchet Community Makers have helped to refurbish the Watchet Boat Museum, built benches for Splash Point, made a planter for a Christmas tree at the Visitor Centre, and are working on a series of bench planters and a playhouse for Knights Templar School.

Once projects are proposed, the group uses monthly meetings to decide which to tackle, and in what order. The workshop sessions take place twice weekly, on Thursdays (7-9pm) and Sundays (3-5pm), in a community workspace at Harbour Studios on the East Quay.

Community Maker, Jack Mitchell, said: “I’m really enjoying being part of this project. I like being able to see the results of our work in the town, and feeling part of the community. It’s also a bit of a laugh. We’re all very different people with a range of skills, so we’ve already learnt a lot from each other.”

The scheme was initiated by social enterprise regeneration company, Onion Collective CIC, thanks to money raised by Healthfull, as a result of extensive research carried out in the town, asking its inhabitants what they felt Watchet needed for a stronger future. During this process, the community expressed a desire to make sure skills and trades were not lost and would be able to be passed to other people. In Watchet there is a division of skills and experience, with a wealth of knowledge begging to be passed on and shared. This project therefore aims to break down some of these divides with people learning from one another, working together, developing skills and relationships and supporting personal and community development.

If you are a community organisation and have a project you would like to suggest for the town, or if you would like to join the team of makers, please contact Sally Lowndes: sally@onioncollective.co.uk  / 07832 137047.

PHOTO: Watchet Community Makers at a carpentry workshop, building benches for Splash Point

 

 

WATCHET COMMUNITY MAKERS CALLS FOR VOLUNTEERS AND COMMUNITY-BASED PROJECTS

Watchet Community Makers is calling for volunteers to attend the first session in its newly opened workshop on the East Quay on 20 November. The project brings together skilled and unskilled people to share knowledge and friendship, while working collaboratively on built projects in the town. Onion Collective is simultaneously calling for community groups and organisations in the town to bid for work to be carried out by the group.

The scheme was initiated by social enterprise regeneration company, Onion Collective CIC, in 2015, thanks to money raised by Healthfull. Volunteers for the group have already worked on major projects for the town, including rebuilding the platform inside the Watchet Boat Museum and the construction of benches and seats around Splash Point.

The new workshop sessions will take place twice weekly, on Thursdays (7-9pm) and Sundays (3-5pm) under the guidance of experienced local builder, Ian Wedlake, in a community workspace at Harbour Studios on the East Quay. The first project, which will launch on Sunday 20 November, will be to make the workshop fit for purpose creating a space that volunteers can make use of throughout the week for their own projects, with tools available, and for the group to talk through potential projects put forward by the community.

Watchet Community Makers was created as a result of extensive research carried out in the town, asking its inhabitants what they felt Watchet needed to flourish. Employment and tourist attractions were identified as key components and the community maker space will form one part of the East Quay Foundry Project, which is a proposal to build workspaces for ‘makers’ of all types, from light industrial, to fine art to craft and web-based. It is a place where visitors can come to see makers at work. It will include a café/restaurant with views out onto the marina and coast, and small bespoke self-catering accommodation pods for the adventurous traveller, and a larger gallery to house exhibitions of national importance. The scheme includes a ‘look-out tower’ for visitors to climb and see un-rivalled views of the West Somerset Coast, the Quantock Hills, and Exmoor National Park. The project aims to bring life and energy back onto the Watchet quayside, with music, entertainment and activities throughout the year. Crucially it also aims to bring jobs into Watchet through staffing needed to run the facility as well encouraging entrepreneurship by providing inexpensive workspaces for start-up enterprises to run side by side with the volunteer community makers.

For more information, to book a place on the workshops, or to suggest a project for the town, contact Sally Lowndes: sally@onioncollective.co.uk / 07832 137047.