Category Archives: Sport


Minehead will once again play host to the only loose surface stage rally in the South of the UK as the Somerset Stages Rally returns to the town for its eighth April event.

As the competition released its regulations last week, organisers confirmed their offering of 42 competitive stage miles in the Brendon Hills and Exmoor National Park. The event will welcome competitors from the Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series, MAXXIS Tyres MSA English Rally Championship and REIS Motorsport Insurance ASWMC Loose Surface Rally Championship.

Comprising familiar forest roads on Exmoor, the 2017 Somerset Stages Rally will also consist of the unique 3.73 mile test along the all-asphalt Porlock Toll Road (run twice) which inevitably provides a challenge for the predominately loose surface contenders. Once again The Beach Hotel will play host to Rally Headquarters during the event and rally teams will base themselves along the Minehead seafront for the scheduled services throughout the day.

Over 100 of the UK’s best rally drivers will head to the West Country to tackle the rally which was named as the best ASWMC event in 2016 and event organisers Burnham-on-Sea Motor Club and Minehead Motor Club believe they have all the ingredients for a great rally for both competitors and fans alike.

“We have a fantastic base for the rally thanks to West Somerset District Council, Somerset County Council, Minehead Town Council and the Minehead Events Group,” says Jason Hayes Clerk of the Course. “The town provides an excellent backdrop to host the rally and certainly creates a fantastic atmosphere during the weekend.  Competitors and fans love it as well with spectators being able to get up close to the teams at the seafront service area as well as the start and finish celebrations along the seafront.”

And the stages are promising to provide crews with a challenge on all of the events 14 stages. “We have tried to provide a bit of variety again this year and have come up with a format that means we can have a few longer stages.  Add to that the challenging Porlock Toll Road stages and the event should provide both seasoned competitors and newcomers to the sport a thrilling day’s motor sport.”

There will be plenty of opportunities for fans to get a slice of the action with a Spectator Stage in the Kennisham forest complex, offering the chance to see the action twice during the day.

More information is available at and you can keep up to date with all the latest news on the event Facebook and Twitter feeds.
PHOTO: The 2016 event winner Luke Francis / John H Roberts in their Evo9 – please credit to Gasmark Media.


North Devon Council would like to know what local people think of plans to extend the Tarka Tennis Centre to include a new eight-lane 25m pool, learner pool and fitness gym, exercise studios, sports hall and a full-size 3G artificial grass pitch.

The council is holding a public consultation event at North Devon Leisure Centre from 10am-9pm on Wednesday 22 February, to find out how local people use their leisure facilities and what they will need within the new facilities to make their experiences better. The architects, leisure consultant and council staff will be on hand to discuss the project and record public opinion.

Executive Member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “Our plans for a new leisure centre are picking up pace. In January we appointed a leisure consultant and architect and we now wish to consult the public on our design concepts before we move forward. We want to make sure we’re including the right mix of leisure facilities and to do so we need to hear from the people who plan to use the centre.

“North Devon Leisure Centre is coming to the end of its life and we have a great opportunity now to deliver a replacement facility that meets the needs of as many people as possible. Realistically, we won’t be able to meet everyone’s aspirations – we know we can’t afford to replace everything we have in the existing leisure centre and building a 50m pool, for example, is just too expensive to deliver. Please pop down to the leisure centre on 22 February to let us know what you think.”

If the council is successful in its bids for Sport England funding and can obtain planning consent, construction of the new pool and leisure facilities at Tarka Tennis Centre could begin in Autumn 2018 and be complete by Summer 2020.

If you can’t make it to the event but would like to comment on the new facilities, you will be able to fill in an online form at from Wednesday 22 February.



Since December last year, Mid Devon District Council has invested £45,000 in the swimming pool changing facilities at Exe Valley Leisure Centre in Tiverton and Lords Meadow Leisure Centre in Crediton. Investment includes new flooring, application of vinyl to all lockers, changing cubicles and toilets to give a bright and fresh feel to the area, and upgrades to the vanity area.  Also, new lock mechanisms have been installed to the lockers in readiness for the release of the new £1 coin in March.

As of 19 January, Exe Valley Leisure Centre has introduced a ‘No Shoes’ policy in the swimming pool changing rooms and the same change is expected at Lords Meadow Leisure Centre in February.  When visiting the swimming facilities at the leisure centres, customers, staff and contractors will be required to remove all outdoor footwear or use the blue overshoes provided.  Alternatively, customers will be able to purchase flip flops from reception.

Mid Devon District Council is committed to investing in its facilities for the benefit of all visitors. With an average of 22,000 visitors a month to their swimming pools, outdoor footwear brings a large amount of dirt and contamination into the changing areas and toilets.  As customer feedback rates housekeeping standards as one of the most important factors when visiting the facilities, the introduction of the new policy will improve the customer experience; excelling in the day to day standards and enhancing the overall experience.

Councillor Colin Slade, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing, said, “This is a positive and exciting move forward for the leisure centres and a welcome improvement to the customer experience when using the swimming pool facilities. I hope our customers will agree with and embrace our new policy.”

With the flexible timetable of early morning, late night and weekend swimming, Mid Devon Leisure is ready to welcome everyone to their pools, regardless of swimming ability or age. For further details please visit their website, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.


A boxing club based in Barnstaple has recently been awarded two grants to help provide essential start up equipment.

Barum Boxing Club received £550 as a Community Councillor Grant from North Devon Council.  Councillors Frank Biederman, Adam Bradford, Des Brailey, Joy Cann, David Luggar, John Mathews, Joe Tucker and David Worden each contributed from their Community Grant funds. This helped to pay for a new punch bag, suspension springs and head guards.

In addition, the club was awarded £5,000 from the Town and Parish (TAP) Fund. The council worked with Devon County Council to provide this funding which helps to ‘kick-start’ local projects.

Executive Member responsible for leisure and culture at North Devon Council, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “The council is proud that every year our community councillor grants and the TAP fund both help to support local clubs and organisations that benefit the people and environment of the North Devon Council area.  They help to continue the valuable community work that is already being done and also to ‘kick start’ other projects such as this one.  We were happy to have the opportunity to help Barum Boxing Club get the equipment they needed and wish them every success in their future. I would also like to thank the councillors who have contributed from their community grants.”

Devon County Council Leader, Councillor John Hart, says: “This is great news for the boxing club and for people in the local community.  We’re continuing to make funds available to communities to use how they see best. This money is available to parish and town councils to spend in ways that will benefit their communities. I firmly believe decisions should be made as locally as possible to encourage local accountability and I have always advocated more partnership with our district, town and parish colleagues. If we believe in the ‘resilience’ of our smaller communities, then this is one way of pump-priming activity.”

Gavin Lane, Chairperson of Barum Boxing Club and Sports Centre, says: “The support from North Devon Council and Devon County Council has been essential for our new club. As a partnership of Barnstaple Kick Boxing, Barnstaple Combat Sport MMA and Barum Boxing Club, we have been able to buy some initial equipment and stabilise our finances for our first year. This help has given us the chance to look to the future and focus on high quality training and coaching for our rapidly growing membership. Our venue is also available for use by other clubs and activities.”

Through the Community Councillor Grant Scheme, each North Devon councillor has £1,000 to support projects and services run by community or voluntary groups and not for profit organisations each year. Youth clubs, toddler groups, sports clubs, museums, village halls and environmental groups have all benefited from grants in the past for running costs, start-up costs, costs towards a new facility or refurbishing an existing one, towards an event or equipment for a new project or service.

Grants from the TAP fund can be used to help with start up and running costs for projects and services at a community level.

For further information regarding Barum Boxing Club, please contact Gavin Lane on 07901 654999 or Rick Huxtable on  07855824317.  Alternatively you can visit their Facebook page.

For further details about community grants and support available
from the council or to make an application visit The office council can also be contacted on 01271 388327.

Photo shows from left to right in the middle row:
Cllr Adam Bradford, Cllr David Luggar, Cllr Joy Cann, Gavin Lane (club Chairman), Rick Huxtable (club treasurer), Michelle Forrest (club secretary), Des Brailey (NDC Council Leader) Brian Mulholland (boxing official) and Phil Waites (club committee member) along with members of the club in the back and front rows.


Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance is once again encouraging supporters to sign up early for their Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge 2017 after another overwhelming response last year.

The event, which is not designed as a race, involves cycling through some of Dorset and Somerset’s most beautiful countryside and takes place on Sunday 14 May 2017.

Last year’s event sold out within three days of online registration being open and demand is expected to be even higher this year. The event saw cyclists of all ages and abilities take part raising over £70,000 for the life-saving charity.

Online registration will open at 9.30am on Tuesday 13 December, via the charity’s website: and, with only 600 places available, those wishing to take part will need to be quick to avoid disappointment. So why not set yourself a reminder now. We will also put one on our social media pages the day before. Participants can enter as an individual or as a team.

The Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge offers two different routes and distances. For those who like a challenge, the brilliant 54-mile cycle which starts in the Somerset port of Watchet and finishes at West Bay near Bridport will not disappoint.

With a mixture of quiet back roads, interspersed with some very demanding climbs and equally hairy descents, the event has something to offer for everyone! A staggered start will see the stronger cyclists set off first at 11am with the less experienced riders departing at 11.15am. A shorter 11-mile route starts at the Royal Oak public house in Drimpton at 2pm and also finishes at West Bay.

Bill Sivewright, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Chief Executive Officer, said, “We are thrilled to be able to announce the date for our Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge 2017. This will be our seventh year in the saddle and every year the event seems to get better and better. I believe one of the main reasons for this is the feedback we get from those who take part and the stories of courage and determination along the way.

“We always strive to build on the success of the previous year and with this in mind we are once again restricting our numbers to 600 cyclists. We are also continuing with a staggered start time in order to keep the event as safe as possible and to encourage all standards of cyclists to take part without fear of being overcrowded.

“With such a demand, there will undoubtedly be those who are disappointed not to gain a place which is why I cannot stress enough, how important it is to register early! We are really looking forward to this years’ event and hope that everyone that enters will once again encourage their family and friends to sponsor them in a bid to make 2017 the best Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge yet.”

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance has flown more than 11,500 missions since its launch in March 2000, saving many lives and aiding recovery with outstanding immediate care and rapid delivery to the hospital best suited to meet the patient’s needs. With no direct Government or National Lottery funding, we rely on the generosity of the public and events like Coast to Coast for support.

To register online, visit the charity’s website: or for more information call: 01823 669604. Alternatively you can email:

Entrance fees are: Adults (£20) & Under 16′s (£10).


The Under 14 and Under 16 girls’ hockey teams at Blundell’s School are celebrating after winning the Devon County Championships once again. An U14 Blundell’s team has now won the trophy five times in a row, while it is the second year running that the U16s have retained the title. Both teams won without conceding a single goal in their tournaments.

The U14 team racked up wins against Torquay Girls’ Grammar (6-0), Sidmouth College (5-0), Plymouth College (2-0) and St Peter’s Prep (4-0), to progress to the semi-finals. Tight control at the back and open, flowing play up front ensured victory over Mount Kelly in the semi-final (4-0), and although Maynard pushed the team hard in the final, Blundell’s dominated from the beginning and were rewarded with a second half goal to seal the win (1-0).

The U16s beat Exmouth Community College (3-0), Mount Kelly (4-0), West Buckland (4-0) and Kingsbridge Community College (3-0). This put them in good stead for the semi-finals against Shebbear when the girls calmly put 5-0 past their opposition. They met West Buckland again in the final when the Blundell’s team proved why they were yet again the best U16 team in the county by winning 3-0.

Victory for both teams was a result of impressive teamwork and they now progress to the West regional finals.

Photo shows: The U16 Devon hockey champions


More than £146,000 is to go towards plans to enhance South Molton Swimming Pool.

At a North Devon Council Executive meeting on Monday 6 June, members agreed to release the S106* funds for the project.

Executive member responsible for health and wellbeing, Councillor Brian Moores, said: “Investment in this facility is very much needed. Therefore, the release of these funds will make a huge difference and enable this vital work to take place. Modernising the changing rooms, replacing doors and putting in new flooring, ceiling and tiles are all part of the works – and although there is likely to be some disruption, we hope users, old and new, will be fully supportive of the project.”

South Molton ward member, Councillor John Moore, said: “The pool is a great facility, which is used not only by local people, but also by those in surrounding areas, including Braunton and Appledore. I’m delighted this money is to be released to further enhance the facility and improve the swimming experience for everyone who comes here, now and in the future.”

South Molton ward member, Councillor David Worden, said: “As well as a refurbishment of the pool area, the foyer and the reception area will also be reorganised as part of the project, along with some structural works to the building. This will ensure the pool will be fit for purpose, benefiting everyone who chooses to swim here, for many years to come.”

The S106 money will be allocated to the South Molton Swimming Pool Trust, which owns and operates the pool. The Trust will also be putting more than £5,500 towards the project, with work likely to start in two stages during the autumn to minimise disruption to the users of the pool.

*S106 money is paid to the council by developers, as part of the conditions of planning applications. This money can only be used for things such as education, local community and public open space projects. In this instance, the S106 money has come from Elan Homes for its development near Nadder Lane.



A Wellington School pupil has had the opportunity to compete on the splendid Olympic Rowing Lake at Eton. Edward Fuller In Year 8 travelled up to Eton to compete in the Junior Open Doubles race.

He and his partner, Phoebe Muiz, who was the only girl in the race, triumphed over boys a year older to bring home the Gold Medal, against tough competition.

Ed has been rowing for TWO years and now trains at Exeter Rowing Club where he attends four sessions a week both indoor and out on the water.

What makes his achievements all the more commendable is the fact that he also bravely battles a medical condition that would make many an individual settle for an easier life. Edward suffers from severe haemophilia, a condition which means that the blood cannot clot properly.

Although bleeding can be from cuts or grazes on the skin, most bleeding that occurs is internal, into muscles and joints and is therefore not visible to the untrained eye. To overcome this risk of bleeding his mother Helen injects him intravenously at home four times a week with a clotting factor which then allows him to undertake most mainstream activities.

This win is the latest in a stream of rowing accolades for Ed – congratulations – a great triumph!

Ed will next be competing in the Wimbleball Regatta, the Totnes 1K race and the Plymouth Regatta.


PHOTO: Ed Fuller and his partner Phoebe Muiz on the Olympic Rowing Lake.


A Wellington School pupil has beaten off stiff competition from across the UK to win a coveted cycle track competition.

Evan Richards in Year 9 competed against 200 young riders from across the UK when he cycled at the Wales National Velodrome, Newport to complete in the third and final round of the Icebreaker Series.

After five events, Evan took the overall win in the Under 14 category.

Evan is no stranger to cycling success, having competed in and won a range of track and cyclo-cross events throughout the UK in past months.

The ever popular Icebreaker Series, now in its 7th year, comprises 3 rounds of endurance based Omniums for youth riders. Riders can enter single rounds but will need to compete in all three rounds to be eligible for the overall Series title. Each round includes scratch, elimination and points races for each category.

Overall Leaders jerseys will be awarded at the end of each round. Medals will be awarded after each round with overall trophies awarded at the final round.

Icebreakers are an ideal opportunity for experienced youth riders to brush off the cobwebs and test themselves against the best in the UK. Equally it is an opportunity for those riders relatively new to track racing to test their fitness in early season.

Congratulations Evan – a superb achievement!


Photo: Evan Richards – (centre) – winner of the U14 Icebreaker Series.


One of the most exciting top ten in recent history will head a 130 strong field away from Minehead this weekend, as the Somerset Stages rally returns once again to the seaside resort on Saturday 16 April. Competitors across the country will descend on the town as crews contest almost 40 miles of competitive stages in the North of the county.

Organised by Burnham-on-Sea Motor Club and Minehead Motor Club, the event forms the third round of the RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series and the Maxxis Tyres MSA English Rally Championship. Coupled with competitors from the ASWMC Loose Surface Rally Championship, rally fans and casual spectators are guaranteed a full day of action in the Exmoor forests.

Charlie Payne, partnered by Carl Williamson in their Ford Fiesta, will head the field away from the Minehead seafront as number one seed this year. The Yorkshireman currently tops the BTRDA Rally Series standing after a maximum points haul at last month’s Malcolm Wilson Rally.

Luke Francis from Rhuddlan and John H. Roberts are second on the road in their rapid Mitsubishi E9 and will undoubtedly take the fight to Payne throughout the 13 stages during the day. Durham ace Steve Petch partnered by Michael Wilkinson will start at number four in their Ford Fiesta R5+ and Paul Benn makes an outing in his Ford Focus 02 WRC with Richard Cooke alongside at number five. Welsh duo Steven Clarke and Steve Pugh are at six in their Mitsubishi E6.

Eyes will be firmly on Thomas Preston at car seven, as he debuts his brand new Skoda Fabia R5 on the event, along with co-driver Jack Morton. The Skoda is a rare sight on UK events and more akin to the British Rally Championship, but the Lancashire man has chosen the Somerset Stages Rally to get acclimatised to loose surface rallying in the machine.

Leading local crew Tristan Bailey and James How, both from Taunton, will bring their stunning Mitsubishi WRC 04 to the event. They will be hoping to better their seventh overall on the event achieved back in 2010, making a rare appearance in the car.

Another crew to debut the car on gravel are Martyn and Dawn England from Illminster who will take their brand new Ford Fiesta R5+ into the forests for the first time this weekend. They, too, will aim to better a ninth overall in 2015 with their new machine.

There have also been several entries lodged over the past week which could make an appearance towards the top of the leader board on Saturday, despite not being early enough to make the final seeded entry list. Mark Donnelly could make the trip from Ireland in his Impreza WRC and Steve Simpson is waiting for a spare part for his Fiesta before he makes the trip to Minehead.

Two-wheel-drive front runner Julian Wilkes from Taunton returns to the event in his Vauxhall Nova with co-driver Will Rutherford-Child in a bid to keep the regular contenders from the Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400cc at bay.

The bulk of the event mileage takes place in the Exmoor forests but the now traditional Porlock Toll Road stage will also provide a challenge for the predominately loose surface contenders. Once again The Beach Hotel will play host to Rally Headquarters during the event and the teams will base themselves along the Minehead seafront for the scheduled services throughout the day.

There will be plenty of opportunities for fans to get a slice of the action or even up close and personal with the cars throughout the day. The field will be flagged away from the ceremonial start on Warren Road Seafront bright and early at 8am on Saturday. Crews will be returning to the seafront service area throughout the day for routine maintenance and repairs.

For something a bit more fast paced, the spectator stage in the Kennisham orest complex is the place to go, offering the chance to see the action twice during the day. The first run through the stage kicks off at around 9.30am and provides over two hours of action. The second run of the stage sees crews returning just after lunch at 1.40pm.

Those fortunate enough to complete the event will get the chance to celebrate at 3.30pm with the ceremonial finish on the Minehead Seafront (Warren Road), with the winning crews spraying champagne to celebrate victory.

More spectator information is available at and you can keep up to date with all the latest news on the event Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Here’s some footage from last year…

2015 BTRDA Rally Series Round 3 - Somerset Stages

PHOTO: A great mix of cars will be present at the event, including the spectators’ favourite, many Ford Escort Mk2s. Pictured are Boyd Kershaw and Bryan Hull – two-wheel-drive frontrunners. Photo courtesy RalliPhotos Wales.