Category Archives: Towns Around Exmoor


Somerset Wildlife Trust’s most successful urban wildlife projects, Routes To The River Tone is delighted to announce ‘Celebration Of The River Tone’ – an entire week of nature-based activities for all at half term.

The celebration is aimed to give people the opportunity to enjoy, discover and explore Taunton’s amazing green spaces, wild places and the stunning wildlife that lives along the river.  The programme of events aims to inspire people to support the charity’s ongoing work to reconnect people with nature and reap the health and wellbeing benefits of spending quality time outdoors.

The Routes to The River Tone project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with additional support from Viridor Waste Management, was launched in 2014. Over the past three years the project has worked with local people  and partnership organisations to provide a wide range of public  events, school wildplay sessions,  citizen science projects, interpretation for greenspaces, community gardens, trails (art, history, misguided, story and geocaching) and opportunities to get involved in practical conservation.

Nick Tomlinson, Routes the The River Tone Manager, said: “We really weren’t prepared for the overwhelming response we received when we started to talk to people from the communities, neighbourhoods, schools and community groups across Taunton.  The cumulative amount of passion, enthusiasm and interest that people have shown over the past three years and the popularity of the events we have put on, really shows that people in Taunton really do value nature and understand how critical it is that we make ourselves responsible for ensuring our wild places are still there to enjoy going forwards.

“Once people are helped to discover the natural places on their own doorstep, they value their local greenspace even more and have a greater desire to look after it. We are very proud of what the project has achieved and I am really excited about the programme of events we have put together with partners and local community groups to celebrate the successes of the last three years.”

Simon Nash, CEO of Somerset Wildlife Trust, added: “Community-based support for involvement and engagement with the environment is the key to the long term, sustainable management of Taunton’s wild and open spaces, as well as the health and wellbeing of the communities that surround them. Projects such as this one leave a significant and lasting legacy that can be taken beyond the life of the project itself and owned by the people who enjoy these places the most.”


Celebration of the River ToneCelebration of the River Tone – 13th-18th February 2017
Welcome to our Celebration of the River Tone, part of Somerset Wildlife Trust’s urban project – Routes to the River Tone. Join us as we celebrate our town’s amazing green spaces, wild places and the stunning wildlife that lives along the river through a week of nature-based activities. There’s something for all the family, so why not join us, and be part of it!

RTRTLitterboxesLitter Pick for Wildlife (in association with the Inland Waterways Association)
When: Monday 13th February, 2.30-4pm
Where: French Weir Park Slipway (near Clarence St.)

Help your local wildlife by removing litter from along the riverside. All equipment and guidance provided  by the Inland Waterways’ Volunteers.

How to book: No booking required.
Further details or 07977 263840

RTRTBirdboxesBuild a Bird a Home
When: Tuesday 14th February
Session: 1 10am
Session:  2 11am
Session:  3 2pm
Session: 4 3pm
Where: New COACH outdoor classroom, French Weir Park

Join us and build your own bird box for free as part of National Nest Box Week. All materials provided.

How to book: Book your time and a bird box kit by visiting

RTRT_StoryTrailStory Trail
When: Thursday 16th February
Where:  Brewhouse Theatre, Orchard, Taunton TA1 1JL

Join Ollie the Otter and his friend as these characters perform and launch you on an exploration of the river. Enjoy reading the story of Ollie the Otter and Vern the Water Vole as you discover the hidden waterways and green spaces of Taunton. Great family fun (walk is 1.5km pram and wheelchair accessible). You may also like to join a craft workshop or enjoy The Lorax film.

Craft Workshops – 10.30am, 12pm and 1.30pm, Free
Story Walk – 11pm, 12.30pm and 2pm, Free
The Lorax Film PG – 3pm, £4 per ticket

How to book:     Please contact the Brewhouse Theatre, Orchard, Taunton TA1 1JL 01823 283244

RTRT_StorytimeStory Time
When:  Friday 17th February
(Session1) 1.15pm- 2.45pm
(Session 2) 3.00pm-5.30pm
Where: New COACH The Parkroom, French Weir Park

Fantastic fables, wild tales and clay art to launch our new picture book about the wildlife of the River Tone.

How to book:  Book to ensure a place  by visiting

RTRT_River of light_FusePerformaceRiver of Light Finale Event (in partnership with FUSE Performance )
When: Saturday 18th February, 3- 7.30pm

Join us as we create a River of Light with willow lanterns and streamers followed by a fire performance, live music and food.

Willow Streamer Making Workshop: 3-4.30pm at the Brewhouse Theatre

River of Light Procession: Starts at 5.30pm from the Brewhouse Theatre/Castle Green
Fire Performance: 6pm Goodland Gardens
Band and food: 6.30-7.30pm Goodland Gardens

How to book:  No booking required

For further details on the Celebration of the River Tone activities and events visit or contact or call Claire, Nick, Olivia or Rose on 01823 652 400


Business leaders from across North Devon met recently, on Tuesday 31 January, to discuss a number of regeneration projects in the pipeline for Barnstaple.

‘Opportunity Barnstaple’, a half-day conference for businesses and partners, was organised by North Devon Council to share ideas and provide an update on projects driving the economic regeneration of the town.

Executive Member for Economic Regeneration, Councillor Pat Barker, said: “The event was very well received, with more than 60 stakeholders attending, including businesses, developers and representatives from public bodies. We were pleased to be able to update everyone on some major regeneration projects that are already underway. It was a very positive event and I’m looking forward to working with partners to make the most of the exciting opportunities we have to develop the  town.”

Delegates at the event were given an update on the Barnstaple WiFi trial, projects to regenerate The Strand and Seven Brethren, car parking, the town’s Flood Defence Study, a master plan for Pilton Park and the Taw footbridge consultation. There was also information from Devon County Council on sustainable travel grants for businesses and an update on the A361 North Devon Link Road project.

A link to all of the day’s presentations can be found on the council’s website



North Devon Council is carrying out further consultation on proposals to close Barnstaple Pannier Market at night.

The council, which owns the market, intends to exercise a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), which would restrict people from gathering in the market by closing public access in the evenings and overnight.

A public consultation was carried out late last year to find out what local businesses, residents and stakeholders thought of the proposal. Following this exercise, the PSPO has been amended to reflect public concerns regarding anti-social behaviour in the market at night.

As significant changes have been made to the original PSPO, a further consultation will now be carried out.

Executive Member for Community Safety, Councilor Pat Barker, said: “We had a good response to our first consultation and following some changes, we are now carrying out a further consultation on the proposed Order. Because there is a public right of way through the market, we aren’t able to close it at night without applying the PSPO. Due to the amount of anti-social behaviour going on in the market at night, including vandalism, drinking and even arson, we are very keen to protect the building and the public by closing it at night.”

The consultation on the amended PSPO begins on Thursday 2 February and runs until Thursday 27 April 2017. Have your say online at or write to Pannier Market PSPO Consultation, North Devon Council, PO Box 379, Barnstaple, EX32 2GR.



North Devon Council and Devon County Council are consulting on options to improve links for pedestrians and cyclists between Anchorwood Bank and Barnstaple town centre.

There are a number of ways in which crossing the River Taw could be improved – including a new bridge, or changes to the existing Long Bridge, to improve capacity. In consultation with Historic England, the councils have identified six crossing options.

Local residents and businesses are invited to consider these six options, and to provide feedback as to which are considered most beneficial and deliverable.

Taw Footbridge Options (revised)Executive Member for economic development and regeneration, Councillor Pat Barker, says: “We are particularly interested to understand the views from businesses and organisations in the town centre, and from those who regularly use the town centre for shopping, services and eating out.

“Improving the ability to cross the river is important to ensure the town centre doesn’t lose trade from Asda and the other retail developments at Anchorwood Bank. We want to make sure the option we choose is best for the town and your views are really important. Please go online and have your say.”

Local member for Barnstaple Longbridge ward, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “In principle I support the idea of a pedestrian and cycling footbridge across the river and I will read the options put forward with interest and make my judgement as part of the consultation process. However, I do not now, nor will I in the future, support any structural modifications or appendages to the current Longbridge, which I believe should be preserved as the historical gateway to Barnstaple.”

“The six options are explained on the council website. The main document sets out the options and provides a summary of the main benefits and issues, with a more detailed assessment of the options within Appendix B of the document.

The deadline for feedback is 5pm on 2 March 2017. The full document can be downloaded from the council website. If you experience any problems downloading the document, email


The planning application for The Southern Extension – a major housing-led, mixed-use development in Ilfracombe – has been updated, taking the project another step forward.

The plans for the development are now being led by Inox Property Group following Resign’s decision to withdraw from the project. Inox’s application is for 750 homes, along with community facilities including shops, business units, a primary school and a health centre. It also outlines green open spaces for the local community and cycle and pedestrian routes. Amendments to the original application include changes to the mix of land use and phasing across the application site.

The council will now consult on the amended plans as well as a new application which has also been received for playing fields on land immediately adjoining the southern extension site.

Lead Member for Strategic Planning at North Devon Council, Councillor Jeremy Yabsley, says: “It’s great news that the application is progressing – it’s an exciting project for the area and I look forward to seeing it develop.”

Local ward member Councillor Mike Edmunds says: “Damien Hirst and his team from Resign should be thanked for all the hard work that they have done to take this application forward. I am delighted that Inox – a company with a proven track record  – have agreed to take on the first phase of the Southern Extension which includes the primary school and sports pitches.”

Local ward member Councillor Geoff Fowler says: “I very much welcome the move towards the next stage of this application. It has huge implications as to how Ilfracombe will expand in the future.”

The 106 document controls the development of the infrastructure and facilities that will be provided on the site. It also controls contributions that will be made to community projects in the area by the developers as part of the application.

Full details of the application, including plans and progress, are available to view on the North Devon Council website.



Plans to enhance The Strand in Barnstaple will proceed, following a meeting of North Devon Council’s Executive on Monday 5 December.

The council’s ambition for The Strand is to create a vibrant and busy leisure space, making the most of the waterfront and historic architecture. These ambitions are echoed in the Barnstaple Coastal Community Team’s Economic Plan, created following public consultation events in the town. To achieve this the council has agreed to offer an area of land on the eastern end of the Strand to a third party, to deliver better use of the area and promote a cafe culture.

The area of land, which was once a fish market, is on the bridge side of the Tea on the Taw cafe. Expressions of Interest will be sought to select a third party to deliver a scheme to enhance the area.

Executive Member for Economic Development, Councillor Pat Barker, says: “As the Anchorwood Bank development proceeds, there will be a shift of interest to the riverside and The Strand has real potential as a great place to eat, drink, relax and enjoy events in the town. We hope that by making some improvements to the look and feel of the Strand, and exploring ways of making better use of the fish market site next to Tea on the Taw, we can make it a more vibrant and attractive place for people to enjoy their leisure time.”

Meanwhile, the Queen Anne’s building (which was home to Barnstaple Heritage Centre) will be marketed in January 2017. The council hopes to find interest in the building as a cafe, restaurant or similar leisure use.

For more information about the enhancement of The Strand, email Read the Barnstaple Coastal Community Team’s economic plan for the town online at


Work has started on essential work on cliffs above Quay Street in Minehead – and it’s very much business as usual for traders in the area.

West Somerset Council has commissioned experts to carry out remedial work on the steep hillside to protect properties below and the project is likely to take three weeks.

Work got under way on Monday 20 June at the harbour end of the road and is progressing well, with contractors taking full advantage of calm weather.

The highly visual nature of the work is drawing onlookers who are able to watch the operation from safe vantage points. Residents are welcoming the work that is being carried out above their properties.

Cllr Mandy Chilcott, Deputy Leader of the council and a Minehead ward member, said she was pleased the work was on schedule and that the weather was favourable.

“The reason we have to carry out this essential work now is to take full advantage of fair weather, rather than the autumn when it could have been affected by strong winds. It is vital that the remedial work is done as soon as possible.

“I know that residents are relieved this work is being done and we are also working with businesses in Quay Street, Quay West and the harbour and would encourage people to do all they can to support them. It’s vital this work is carried out and we are doing our utmost to minimise disruption.”

Quay Street is being closed to vehicles from 9.30am-4.30pm on weekdays but pedestrian access is being maintained – meaning people can easily reach affected businesses – Tea at the Quay tearooms, The Old Ship Aground pub, The Echo Beach café, the fishing tackle shop at the harbour and charter fishing boats.

The road closure is in place for safety reasons as a heavy-duty crane is operating on site, taking material – tree branches and rock – from the hillside.

Operational work includes emptying nets designed to catch debris, strengthening fixings for the nets and some tree removal and maintenance.

Quay West car park is closed for the duration of the work as it is the compound for machinery, equipment and welfare facilities for those working on site. The gents’ loos are closed but the ladies’ remain open for the public. Special parking arrangements are in place for affected Quay Street and Quay West residents and businesses.


Exciting projects that will help inject new life into West Somerset’s coastal heritage have won more than £90,000 from the government.

Three schemes were among the 77 successful projects in bidding for awards from the £3 million Coastal Revival Fund set up to help communities to start the work to bring back into use buildings and assets which have suffered years of disrepair.

“This is fantastic news for West Somerset,” said Cllr Karen Mills, who holds the economic regeneration portfolio. “The area has been really successful in winning funding and I would like to thank and congratulate everyone involved.

“We are fortunate to have some very creative and energetic partners who are working so hard with us on behalf of West Somerset.”

Minehead’s Enterprising Esplanade has won £20,000 for its waterfront initiative. This project will refurbish existing Edwardian buildings, create new trading posts, visitor attractions and improve links to the South West Coast Path.

The scheme envisages Minehead’s sea front being transformed from an uninspiring expanse of sea defence concrete and wind-swept open spaces to an exciting destination full of family fun, and enterprising trading opportunities, heralding the renaissance of its Edwardian hey-day.

The aim of the project is to attract more visitors to Minehead, by providing a much improved visitor experience. Being able to significantly enhance the sea front will engender far greater community pride, and provide many more opportunities for enterprising business start-ups as well as increased trade for existing businesses.

In Watchet, the Onion Collective has been successful in winning the maximum grant available – £50,000 – to create a rope walk pathway leading from the Brunel designed Boat Museum building, alongside the West Somerset Railway towards the East Quay harbourside area and Splash Point to refurbished Victorian Pleasure Gardens.

“A footpath will be created from the new Boat Museum Visitor Centre extension along the side of the railway track to the Goviers Lane crossing. This will give a really easy access along to the new Visitor Centre for people coming from the railway and will include viewing areas for the trains and interpretation panels.

“Work is due to start on the Boat Museum in early Jan and the footpath won’t be far behind, with both hopefully being ready in May 2016,” said Naomi Griffith, Director with the Onion Collective.

The Friends of the Steam Coast Trail have won £24,000 from the Coastal Revival Fund to help to create a safe network of multi-user paths in and around the West Somerset coastline. The Coastal Revival Fund would provide feasibility studies into studies into extending the network into Minehead, and how to encourage cyclists around Watchet.

The project has won widespread support from the local community and will provide a real boost for tourism as people will be able to enjoy the area’s wonderful coast without having to negotiate busy main roads.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Britain’s coastline is part of what makes us one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Our coastal towns are cherished not just by the people who live within them but by the nation as a whole. The value of our tourism industry also means they are playing a crucial role in the UK’s continuing economic recovery.”

PHOTO: Minehead Beach in 1904, courtesy the late Hilary Binding, from her article ‘Minehead: Gateway to Exmoor’, which was published in our summer 2012 issue of the magazine (see pages 59-61).


In the last three months alone, Onion Collective CIC, the Watchet-based, community-led regeneration group, has secured over £300,000 of investment for Watchet. Since June 2015 Onion Collective CIC has been awarded funding by the Health Lottery, Coastal Communities, EDF Community Impact Mitigation Fund and Big Lottery’s Awards For All. All of this funding is for the improvement of opportunities for local people and for the improvement of local infrastructure.

Most recently, a grant of £46k has been awarded from money raised by HealthWell CIC through the Health Lottery, for a project called Watchet Community Makers.

Over two years, those wishing to learn carpentry, building and construction skills will be invited to volunteer and join a group led by experienced builder Iain Lambert. Community groups will be invited to bid for projects around the town, where the Makers group will design, build or fix projects that need doing. This way, the volunteers will learn by doing, and collect a wide variety of skills based in this practical, hands-on method of learning. The project also means that slowly areas of Watchet could be improved for everyone to enjoy. One of the projects earmarked for Watchet Community Makers will be the construction of a new timber frame for the interior of Watchet Boat Museum.

The project is about creating and empowering a maker team for Watchet. The team will work together every week, initially once a week for a few hours, but as the project develops this could increase. The team will work with tools and equipment, learning techniques ranging from joinery to plaster work to outdoor furniture construction, whatever it is that a project demands. A major purpose of the project is that by the end, those involved will feel empowered to either start their own business, or engage in further training. But at its heart this project is about people working together to make their community a better place.

If you are interested in becoming involved in this project please email Naomi Griffith

To find out more about the project in an informal way, you can go to Makers Club on the 2nd Tuesday of every month.

In July it was announced that the Watchet Coastal Communities Team led by Onion Collective, in partnership with West Somerset District Council, was successful in winning £10k from the Coastal Communities Fund towards improving tourism strategy and implementing a new framework and vision to encourage more visitors to the town, for those visitors to stay longer, and thus increasing visitor spend. This strategy will be developed with numerous stakeholder organisations within Watchet.

In June it was confirmed that Onion Collective were successful in their EDF Community Impact Mitigation Bid to win £243k to carry out refurbishment work on the existing goods shed and to build a Visitor Centre extension, housing new civic office space and a taxi cab office. Planning permission has now been granted for the build, and construction is due to start this autumn.

£10k was awarded in August by the Lottery’s Awards For All grant for the Splash Point pleasure gardens project. This project was designed to turn an unloved clifftop field above Watchet’s marina into ‘re-imagined’ pleasure gardens as it was known to be in Victorian times. The project includes a three-day workshop which took place earlier this month and saw a structure on the site being built by local people, led by architect Piers Taylor, timber expert Charley Brentnall and landscape architect Marc Dix.

Onion Collective Director Naomi Griffith says: “We really believe that this investment is just the start, we are working on some incredibly exciting projects that will help to bring about real positive change in Watchet. We are also extremely proud that all the projects that we are working on have been inspired by in depth consultation with local people, and that local people are also helping to move the projects forward. In this way we feel that regeneration in the town is truly community led. For us, that is what makes the work we are doing so important and empowering.”

Chair of Watchet Town Council and Mayor of Watchet Cllr Peter Murphy says: “Watchet Town Council is pleased to be working with Onion Collective on the project to refurbish the Boat Museum which includes a new civic space for the Council.  This is part of wider activity by Onion Collective and I particularly welcome the Community Makers project which should enhance skill levels in the town.   The achievement by Onion Collective in securing over £300,000 for the town this year so far represents tremendous progress towards the regeneration of the town.  Well done to all involved!”

All projects that Onion Collective engage with, and apply for funding for, are focused on achieving the objectives that were defined by local people during the 2014 public consultations. Those objectives are to improve tourism in the town, to strengthen the wellbeing of community, to improve opportunities for job creation, to supporting a making culture; improving skills and providing opportunities for sharing skills, and also to help to improve public space by increasing public access and ensuring quality designs that are characterful and relevant. In this way we believe that together, as a community we can build a stronger future for Watchet.


Minehead Vision Group Public Consultation

This Thursday, 19 March, the Minehead Vision Group will be holding a drop-in consultation from 3pm until 8pm at the Minehead Information Centre in the YMCA Beach Hotel. The event will be showcasing the achievements of the Vision Delivery Team over the past two years and will be looking for public input into shaping the next stage of the project.

The first phase of the Project comes to a close at the end of the month and sees the end of the Vision Manager and Vision Assistant’s contracts. Vision Manager Stephen Hooper says, “We have achieved a lot over the past two years and feel we have attracted in significant additional investment to enhance the town’s offer as a visitor destination for the cultural tourist.  We would like to acknowledge the support from the Vision Group that we have received, in particular, our Project Mentor – Bernard Maynard Smith, and West Somerset Councils Economic Development Officer – Corinne Mathews.”

Find out more:

Stephen Hooper, Vision Manager: Email:

Corinne Matthews, West Somerset Council Economic Regeneration Officer: Email: