Watchet’s second year of colourful Street Fairs begins on 2 April, with music from the Dark Town Strutters, kids’ trapeze and silk and rope drop in workshops from incredible local performer, Lyn Routledge, mouth-watering street food from Broomsquire and Little Van Rouge, fruit and veg, art, craft, local produce and more, all spread across the Esplanade.
The committee is also excited to announce that it has reggae band, Dojo, booked for the May event. Their new single, ‘Bethel’ has been championed by David Rodigan on Radio 1 Extra.
The Street Fairs are run by Watchet Coastal Community Team, who are working to develop tourism and economic growth in the town. They will run on the first Sunday of every month from April through to October.
Last year’s inaugural Street Fairs were a huge success, and led to a threefold increase in the number of visitors to the town.
Cllr Rosemary Woods said, “We’re really excited to be embarking on the second year of Street Fairs. They were a lot of fun last year, and made a big difference to the town, bringing in plenty of visitors. We also aim to support local start-ups, and the evidence is that last year’s events were a real boost for people.”
The Fairs are funded by the central government national initiative, Coastal Communities, which aims to boost Britain’s coastal towns. 118 Coastal Community Teams were created last year and given a share of £1.18m to help drive forward coastal areas growth.
Watchet Coastal Communities Team, which is the organisation behind the Street Fairs, is made up of local people, businesses and organisations in Watchet and includes Town Council, District Council, Watchet Chamber of Trade, Onion Collective CIC, Conservation Society, Market House Museum, West Somerset Railway, Watchet Boat Owners Association and other local business representatives.
Pitches are priced £15- £20. To book a pitch contact Molly Quint on 01984 632592 or email: email@example.com
The bank between Harbour Road car park and the train platform in Watchet, known as Rope Walk, is getting a makeover, with weekly community gardening sessions and a commemorative art installation, preserving and celebrating the contribution Wansborough Paper Mill made to the town, both planned for the next month.
Community gardeners will be meeting from 9-12 each Saturday, and ask that if anyone wants to join them, they bring forks, gloves and enthusiasm. Any expert knowledge would also be welcome. The sessions are being run by the Onion Collective CIC, who manage this plot of land between the rail crossing and the visitor centre. Money for the plants has been donated by Watchet’s Community Bookshop.
Sally Lowndes of the Onion Collective said: “We’re hoping to brighten up the bank between the car park and the train platform. The ground is full of ivy and brambles at the moment, so it’s quite heavy work clearing it, but we hope to plant lavender, rosemary and other bee-friendly, fragrant flowering plants there. It’s one of the first sights people have when they arrive in Watchet, so it’s important it looks loved.”
An art installation by Watchet’s Dot Kuzniar, which commemorates the town’s historic paper mill, and was made in collaboration with some of the last workers at the mill is also planned for the fencing behind the bank, and should be in place within the next month, thanks to help from the Watchet Community Makers.
Jon Barrett of Watchet’s Contains Art said: “The closure of Watchet Paper Mill saw the end of 250 years of paper making in this small coastal town. Its decommissioning at the end of 2015 had been quick, though its impact was huge. Long defining the identity of the town there was a real risk that along with the end of its operation the personal memories would be lost forever. Dot is one of several local artists who worked fast to record, preserve and celebrate the story of this Mill, and by installing her work in such a prominent position we aim to commemorate the important contribution the mill made to Watchet.”
If you would like to get involved with the gardening, come along on Saturday mornings, between 9 and 12. For any more information, contact the Onion Collective on 01984 633496 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Wansborough Paper Mill heritage project, contact Jon Barrett at Contains Art 07583 368072 / email@example.com.
PHOTO: From left to right, Jess Prendergrast, Sally Lowndes, Georgie Grant, Jenny Barron and Rosemary Woods, clearing brambles.
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
Residents in High Bickington have this weekend celebrated the long-awaited opening of their very own community shop. The not-for-profit shop, which is based in the village’s Meeting Point building on the B3217, is entirely volunteer led and now provides people with the convenient opportunity to access locally produced goods, general foods and household items as well as a seating area where people can meet for a coffee and a slice of homemade cake. Councillor Andy Boyd officially opened the community shop and welcomed its first customers on Saturday 8 October.
The project has been driven by a group of people living in High Bickington who recognised the ever-growing need for a local shop within the village which would stock a wide range of provisions. The shop is registered as a community benefit society, guaranteeing that all profit will benefit the whole community and no one individual.
Funding to date has been achieved through a combination of grants, including from the Trustees of the Meeting Point as well as the Parish Council and the High Bickington Community Fund. Over 100 people have also paid to become members of the shop and support its progress during the past two years since the initial idea was proposed.
Dr David Halpin, Chairman of the management committee, said: “The last village shop in High Bickington closed 12 years ago and as the community has grown, so has the need for there to be a local shop to provide basic essentials for people who may not have regular access to the supermarkets in our surrounding towns of Barnstaple, Torrington and South Molton.
“It will be a meeting place, a communication centre and an important lynchpin of village life. We hope that the shop will be much more than just a convenience store but also a meeting place for neighbours and friends to have a drink and a chat.
“It should add to our village in a way that enriches the lives of the volunteers and customers and will help people stay in High Bickington by reducing isolation as well as making food available locally and more conveniently.
“Much of the appeal of our wonderful village rests on its sense of community and it is the reason that so many people have moved here and remain here, so the presence of a shop does, we feel, greatly enhance that community spirit.”
All staff at the shop are volunteers including the manager and there will be ongoing opportunity for local people to receive training and be involved. For more information about the shop please contact the manager Sue Birch via the shop’s own phone on 01769 561177.
The shop will be open seven days a week from 8.30am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm on Saturday and 10am to 12pm on Sunday.
David concluded: “With the shop opening, High Bickington will regain the privileged status of being one of the few North Devon villages that enjoys a wide range of amenities including a church and chapel, a primary school, a post office, two pubs, a GP surgery, a new development of affordable housing, workshops and our community hall. What a great place to live!”
“I thought they couldn’t take away our buses… ? But actually they can, can’t they?”
These were the questions posed to me today by a bemused and upset 64-year-old Betty Kisby from Porlock, when I met her – and countless others – in Minehead’s Wellington Square. Here, a petition to ‘Save Our Buses’ was being signed by hundreds of people in the deflating October drizzle. After signing, rather than drifting off, they hung about chatting with one another, all trying to understand the situation.
The background sound from this largely senior gathering was more akin to the low drone at a huge Irish wake than an angry protest. I think that’s probably because people haven’t got their heads around this yet. Many will only have learnt about the cuts – not proposed but finalised, and reportedly without proper consultation – yesterday, thanks to Tony James’ extensive and timely rundown of the situation in the West Somerset Free Press, which also included a call to arms to get biros at the ready from 10am today.
If the overheard conversations were anything to go by, I think that every single person in the Square had probably read that article and they seemed pleased to see several journalists coming to find out more. I’ve rarely had a queue of people wanting to talk to me!
But they also wanted to know if I knew any answers. I was taken aback. I thought I was going to be the one asking questions, like ‘How would losing the bus affect your life?’ But as people milled around chatting, signing, trying to grasp the bombshell, the refrains were everywhere.
“They [the bus company] are actually going to do this aren’t they?”
“Is there NO chance of a reprieve?”
Yes, apparently they are.
And no, apparently there isn’t.
The Free Press reported yesterday that, “The buses were financed by the County Council until the First Bus subsidiary, Buses of Somerset, provided a commercial service. The company said it has now been forced to the conclusion that the West Somerset routes are no longer viable.”
Minehead’s Mayor, Councillor Jean Parbrook, gave generously of her time in talking to me, but also seemed weighed down by an apparent lack of hope. “If you think about it, it’s all been a horrible accident,” she said. “Gordon Brown gave people a bus pass which, ultimately, has made the buses unviable. People have said that they would be willing, or could manage, to pay a bit – or all – towards their fare. But it seems like this isn’t manageable.”
“Do you think there is any way this can be rescued,” I asked her, sounding like a stuck clock. She gave me a frown. My Granny would have called it a ‘square look’.
County Councillor Terry Venner seemed to agree. “I think there’s very little hope. But what I want to achieve here is simply to highlight the fact that there is a need for the buses and that this petition has support. If we can get 1,000 signatures today, that’s 10% of the resident population. The aim of the campaign is to raise enough support to persuade the County Council cabinet to seek alternative funding and put the services out to tender. It’s not a luxury we’re talking about. It’s a necessity.
“The government has spent millions of pounds getting the message out to people telling them to use public transport, to walk, take the bus, choose any means of transport but the car, yet at the same time they are cutting funding to County Councils so that they, in turn, can’t fund our buses. It’s a vicious circle. We are back to where we started where the car is now king. And if people can’t drive, if they are infirm or simply too old, they are stuck – well and truly snookered. We need to show the County Council what this means.”
Terry was kept incredibly busy as people arrived in ones and twos, in groups of all sizes, on foot, on mobility scooters, in wheelchairs – and in droves on the buses – on the No.10 from Porlock and on the 101 Town bus. These – together with the 14, which runs from Minehead to Bridgwater – will cease at the end of this month. “That just leaves the 28,” said Terry. “Three out of four of West Somerset’s buses – gone.”
Betty Kisby said she wasn’t sure what she’d do. “I use the No.10 two or three times a week. I don’t drive, I have no car. I have lived in Porlock all my life. I use the bus for shopping, the dentist, hospital appointments, meeting friends, all sorts. It’s my lifeline out of Porlock.”
“Will you have to move?”
“Well I’m contemplating it – if I can get my husband to agree to it.” Betty’s friend uttered an amused groan.
Betty was even more keen that I speak to the couple standing next to her. “They’ve come all the way from Birmingham today!”
“I’ve been coming down to holiday in Porlock since I was knee high to a grasshopper – actually just one year old,” said Mr Withers. “My wife Sarah and I are regular holidaymakers and we saw it on Facebook and thought we would come down this weekend and sign the petition.”
“When we come down on holiday we use the bus, the No.10, out to Minehead and back, which means we can go into town for a meal and a drink, use the facilities and go on the steam train from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard, which we love to do.”
“Will you still come down here on holiday if there is no bus?”
“We’ll still come to Porlock but we won’t be coming to Minehead nearly as much. It’s the businesses in Minehead and Porlock that are going to suffer as well as the bus users, because people will either not come into town from Porlock when they are on holiday and vice versa. So I reckon it will affect the tourism industry quite badly, although for the people who live here it’s even worse; it’s a disaster.”
Ray and Mary Mayfield from Minehead, and their friend Muriel Cracknell, were close by, listening. “I’m 90,” Ray told me. “Although I can still drive, lots of my friends can’t. When you can’t drive any more, like I won’t be able to soon, not having the 101 will mean we just can’t get out around town.”
“That is the 101 right now,” said Mary, and pointed over the road to the bus stop outside Toucan Wholefoods.
Waiting at the bus stop for a full busload of passengers to disembark was a frail gentleman, leaning against the glass of the shelter. He was a delight to listen to, but sadly my recording did not pick up his name. Wracking my brains for the lost name and failing, I posted on the Revive Minehead facebook page this afternoon, asking if anyone could help me. I got plenty of replies.
“The gentleman is Eric Freeman. Well into his nineties, he still does mileage records for the West Somerset Railway,” wrote Steve Martin.
“Yes it’s Eric,” added Emma Stacey. “Lovely man. Smiled as soon as I saw this photo.”
“He spends a lot of time sat in Morrisons lovely man,” wrote Teresa Williams.
I wonder how many of these people would know Eric were it not for the 101 bus. How would he do his volunteer work for the West Somerset Railway? Imagine the prospect of losing just this one part of his life.
The bus driver was very quiet as we paid. We told him where we were from. At first I thought he didn’t want us to talk to him. But in actual fact he was just really sad and upset.
“Is there a chance that you will lose your job with these cuts,” asked our photographer.
“It’s a real possibility, yes. I can see it from all angles. It’s not the bus company’s fault. I blame Tony Blair’s government. They made a promise which it’s financially impossible to keep.”
On the bus, Eric looked miserable too but he wanted to talk. I asked him if he lived alone…
“Oh yes, up on the hill.”
“Will you walk into town when the bus is gone?”
He threw his head back and laughed. “No, my dear, look at me. I can barely get from the bus stop onto the bus.”
“So, what will you do? Will you move.”
“No choice, my dear. Nothing else for it.”
Imagine that, at 90 odd. It’s absolutely rubbish. I’m 41. I’m not using the bus to get to Minehead yet. There won’t even BE a bus for my generation by the looks of it. But I’d like it if there was a bus for my parents.
I get upset about lots of things in the news, so much of it makes me feel powerless, but usually with local issues there seems to be more chance of influencing the outcome. In this instance I’m not so sure. I think this is a fight, however hopeless it might seem today, to get involved in.
Have you signed the petition? It’s everywhere – in all the local shops and businesses. Actually, thinking about it as I type, we need one online. Who’s up for starting it… ?
PHOTO AT TOP OF PAGE: Mary Mayfield and her friend Muriel Cracknell. Photo by Andrew Hobbs.
If you work in the media, can help spread the word and would like to use this piece and these images, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org or message through our Facebook page: Facebook.com/exmoormagazine.
Sunday 2 October is set to see the Watchet Street Fair coming to its climax on the Esplanade. The Apple Street Fair will be the last fair of the season for this new venture which has seen fairs in Watchet on every first Sunday of the month since May.
Stalls from across the county will be selling all sorts of interesting goods, from boutique knitwear and artisan food, to pottery and craft. There will be a unique performance from the ‘Somerset Players’ for the first time – players drawn from a number of brass/silver bands from across the county will be performing during the afternoon. This has been organised by Watchet’s Ruth Austin who is usually seen on the cornet with the Burtle Silver Band. Players are expected from as far as Wincanton, Wells, Burtle and, of course, Watchet.
West Somerset District Cllr Rosemary Woods says: “We are all set to have a wonderful last Street Fair for the season. The Majorettes will be performing, plus our local buskers are expected and music from Joel Tait and his friends will fill in the morning and any gaps in entertainment. The kids/parent crafts will be there in the morning: we are building on the favourites which have included flowers – sun visors, Indian headdresses and royal themed crowns. Apples are our theme, surprise is our game!”
Watchet Coastal Communities Team, which has organised these events, is made up of local people, businesses and organisations in Watchet. Special thanks go to all those on the Street Fair Working Group who work so hard to make these events happen.
The Street Fairs aim to attract more visitors to Watchet and to celebrate local festivities, as well as help support start-up businesses in the area. The Fairs have been funded by the central government national initiative, Coastal Communities, which aims to boost Britain’s coastal towns. Watchet is one of 118 Coastal Communities Teams set up last year by government to help drive forward coastal areas growth.
To book a pitch for the 2017 season contact Molly Quint tel: 01984 632592 or email email@example.com.
If you take photos on Sunday at the last Street Fair and would like to share them with Exmoor Magazine, you can use #exmoormagazine, send to @exmoormagazine or post on our Facebook page: facebook.com/exmoormagazine.
A self-taught artist is being dubbed “the Michaelangelo of Watchet” after he stepped in to singlehandedly paint a giant mural on the town’s harbour wall after a £21,000 grant for the project was turned down.
Watchet Arts Group had applied for Hinkley Point Community Impact Mitigation Fund money to transform the shabby sea defence wall in the Old Mineral Yard car park into a heritage mural as part of a tourist trail around the town.
When the scheme was rejected in March after concerns about whether it offered value for money, Watchet Arts Group turned to ‘Plan B’ – and invited local artist Pat Dennis to design and paint a mural illustrating the town’s industrial and maritime history on the 30-metre by 5-metre stretch of concrete.
Said Molly Quint, co-chair of Watchet Arts Group: “We will be reapplying for small grant to cover materials and expenses but we are delighted that Pat agreed to take on the commission. He loves and understands Watchet and its history and is the perfect man for the job.”
Now nearly half way through the mammoth task, 61-year-old Pat said: “I have done quite a lot of artwork on buildings around the town but nothing on this scale. I approached it with real trepidation but now I’m enjoying the job, and the reaction of the public has all been positive and encouraging.”
Murals in Watchet’s Pebbles Tavern and Esplanade Club, plus pictures in local exhibitions including Watchet East Quay’s Contains Art gallery, have contributed to Pat’s growing reputation as a talented and original painter.
“I have been painting and drawing since I was a child but only now do I feel confident enough to show my work in public – and people seem to like what I do,” Pat says.
“I’m very flattered that I’ve been given virtually a free hand to include whatever I like.”
His mural is a colourful collage of Watchet’s historical past, ranging from sea monsters of the Jurassic coast to the paper and wool trades, and the influences of industry, the sea, Christianity, Brunell and JMW Turner, who visited Watchet in 1811.
“I’m inventing things as I go along,” Pat admits. “I jot down ideas in sketchbooks, but it’s not until I actually start work on the wall that I get a clear idea of what I want to do. I’m particularly keen on making the wall appeal to children so that they’ll be more interested in learning about the past and get more inquisitive.”
The town mural was the idea of former WAG chairman, the late Tim Prior, who lived nearby. In the original grant application it was hoped that the project would improve a “rundown and underused area of the town”.
The grants board said that the earlier scheme, involving ten giant panels depicting key industrial landmarks, would have been a valuable tourist attraction and had been well presented, but there were worries about value for money and high costs.
“We think Pat’s mural will be of great interest to both tourists and local people,” Mrs Quint said. “It will be a real asset to the image of the town and it’s fascinating industrial history. And it’s got Pat’s distinctive quirky humour, too.”
Now living in Watchet but originally from a Crowcombe farming family, Pat first gave a clue to his artistic potential at five when his parents found him drawing –in three-dimensional perspective – with chalk on the kitchen floor!
“In those days no one from somewhere like Crowcombe went to art college and at 15 I was expected to go out and earn a living,” Pat remembers. He did an apprenticeship, worked as a motor-mechanic in Minehead for 35 years, and later became a dockmaster at Watchet marina.
But he never stopped painting and drawing and says he learned the technicalities from books and experience, as he went along. “The house was always full of pictures and murals in the children’s bedrooms,” says Pat’s wife Velda.
“He’s always been too modest about his ability. He’s always had a natural talent and it’s great that people are now beginning to recognise that his work is something special.”
“When I was asked to take on the entire mural singlehanded I thought:’What have I got myself into?’” Pat says. ”Now I’m really enjoying the challenge. I just hope people like it.”
Residents and community groups in West Somerset are being asked whether they would support a local lottery to raise funds to support the voluntary sector.
West Somerset Council is considering running a “local authority” lottery to help to provide a source of funding for groups in the area and wants to know if residents would support the move.
Local authority grants for community and voluntary groups locally – and nationally – are dwindling due to the continuing pressures on the public purse so West Somerset Council is looking at alternative ways of helping.
Council lotteries are running successfully in other parts of the country and West Somerset is looking to run its project with an experienced company if the public and the groups support the idea.
The online lottery would offer £1 tickets, with buyers having the choice of supporting a general fund or a specific group that would be listed on the website. It is estimated there would be a I in 56 chance of winning a prize.
Groups would contact the Council to be listed and would be included after checks were made and would receive any funds raised paid direct every month. For every £1 ticket sold, 60p would go to the group, 20p would go to the prize pot, 17p towards running costs and 3p VAT.
If there’s enough support for the initiative, the Council would apply for a local authority lottery licence and monitor the scheme. The groups benefiting would not pay any charges.
Cllr David Westcott, Lead Member for Communities, said: “The local voluntary and community groups do such important work here in West Somerset so as a Council we are considering how we can further support them.
“This local authority lottery looks like a fun and effective way to raise much-needed funds, but we want to hear how residents and community groups feel. If this is something the community would support we are ready to sign up. Please use our website survey to have your say.”
Brompton Ralph Village Hall Committee has bought and installed a brand new modular stage just in time for their popular Christmas Review.
The project was made possible thanks to £1,000 of West Somerset Council’s Developer Section 106 contributions for Brompton Ralph and fundraising by the local community, which was used as match funding.
Due to the modular nature of the stage, the Village Hall Committee plans to use the staging for other events in the hall, such as the flower show. Members also plan to lend the stage to other organisations, for example for music concerts at the church next door.
Other recent improvements to the hall have included the installation of new ceiling lighting, thanks to a grant from the Brompton Ralph Parish Council.
Cllr David Westcott, West Somerset Council’s Lead Member for Community & Customers, said: “I am delighted to see the Brompton Ralph Village Hall Committee making improvements to the hall. These facilities are vital in our rural communities and provide much needed hubs which brings all the community together, building community spirit and reducing isolation and loneliness.”
PHOTO: Pictured from left to right (back row): Derek Cleeve (Village Hall Chair), Paul Clarke (Village Hall Fundraiser Organiser and Web Site Management), Cllr David Westcott, Lead Member for Community & Customers at West Somerset Council, Sheila Cleeve (Village Hall Committee Member), (front row): Trisha Clarke (Village Hall Treasurer), Hazel Scott (Village Hall Secretary), Nora Gammon (Village Hall Vice Chair).
On Saturday 21 November at 2pm the Exmoor Society and linguistics researcher Vicky Garnett will host a new event: the Exmoor Language Garden, a celebration of language on the moor.
They will investigate the relationship between the landscape, culture and language currently in use, as well as older forms of Exmoor dialect. The event will include talks from publisher Steven Pugsley and well-known children’s author Victoria Eveleigh. Musicians Tom and Barbara Brown will discuss the language used in folk music and demonstrate music and language combined through song.
The Exmoor Society has been working with Vicky Garnett who has been collaborating with local schools, including Minehead First School and Dulverton Middle and Community School. Many of the children from these schools will have work on display at the event, which will also have activities around the room to encourage thinking about the study of language, and how the language and landscape of the area are intertwined. There is even the opportunity to take part in some live ongoing research into language on the moor.
The idea of a language garden comes from linguistic theory and provides an easier way to understand changes in language. It’s an extended metaphor in which some languages or dialectics are like weeds – tough survivors that thrive anywhere no matter what you do to them. Others have preferences for different soils or light conditions but are fairly persistent, whilst some can only be cultivated with great care in very particular environments.
This will be a drop in event running from 2-4.30pm so anybody interested is welcome to attend, at the Town Hall, Dulverton. The organisers are particularly interested in gathering memories of older words and forms of expression that are now rarely used and are receding from memory. They would like to hear stories, poems and songs, in fact anything relating to language on Exmoor.