WALK THE WEST SOMERSET COAST PATH IN MEMORY OF SOMEONE SPECIAL

St Margaret’s Hospice is offering the chance to remember a loved one while enjoying some stunning Somerset scenery.

Entries are now open for the charity’s Great Somerset Memory Walk, which will see participants covering 12.4 or 25 miles of the West Somerset Coast Path on Sunday 15 September.

The sponsored walk starts at Butlins in Minehead, with the choice of finishing in West Quantoxhead or completing the full route to Steart Marshes. Buses back to the start are included in the entry price of £15 for adults and £10 for children under 16.

Participants are encouraged to raise sponsorship to help St Margaret’s Hospice continue providing care and support to 3,800 people across Somerset each year who are facing a life-limiting illness.

Sonia Bateman, events fundraiser at the Somerset charity, said: “Many of our sponsored walkers will be celebrating the life of a loved one, as we will be offering everyone a Great Somerset Memory Walk bib to decorate with their own personal dedication message. People are equally welcome to take part if they just want to enjoy the coastal walk and do their bit to help us care for people in our community.”

Walkers will set off between 8am and 9am, and the last groups are expected to reach the finish line before 6pm.

To find out more and book your place, visit www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk and search ‘Memory Walk’.

PHOTO: West Somerset coast near Kilve

GLORIOUS SOMERSET GARDENS OPEN TO HELP ST MARGARET’S HOSPICE

More than 50 beautiful gardens across the county are opening to visitors in aid of St Margaret’s Hospice.

The charity has just launched its 2019 Glorious Somerset Gardens season, which kicks off with Little Orchard in East Huntspill on Sunday 28 April, and runs until September. Last year’s programme of garden visits raised an amazing £16,600 for the hospice.

Susan Bickle, coordinator of Glorious Somerset Gardens, said: “Here at St Margaret’s Hospice we know how important our gardens are to the health and wellbeing of our patients and their families, providing places of relaxation as well as reflection.

“For years our loyal supporters have been opening their gardens to raise funds for us. This year we have more than 50 amazing gardens to visit, including village walkabouts, a school allotment, an arboretum, a private nature reserve and many stunning gardens with beautiful views. There is something to interest everyone. Many gardens will also be offering delicious cakes, scones and teas, or added extras such as children’s trails and book sales.”

Among those supporting St Margaret’s Hospice by welcoming visitors are garden owners across Mendip and Wells, South Somerset and the Blackdown Hills, Taunton, the Quantocks and Sedgemoor, West Somerset and Exmoor, Yeovil, East Somerset and West Dorset.

Full details of locations, opening dates and admission prices can be found in the Glorious Somerset Gardens 2019 brochure, available from St Margaret’s Hospice shops, selected local garden centres and tourist information centres.

Susan added: “We are so grateful to all our garden owners and volunteers. We hope people will enjoy discovering these wonderful gardens while helping to make each day count for patients and their families facing a life-limiting illness across Somerset.”

Season tickets, priced at £25, are available for anyone who would like to explore the wide variety of participating gardens. They can be ordered from Susan Bickle on 01935 709182 or via the St Margaret’s Hospice website by searching for a season ticket.

More information can be found at www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk/glorious-somerset-gardens.

NEW! SOMERSET COUNTY SHOW LAUNCHES THIS YEAR

Many people have asked why Somerset has no County Show, well now at last it has and in the county town of Taunton! The two-day event is now scheduled to be held at Taunton Racecourse on an annual basis, every September. Plans for the 2019 event, which takes place on 20 and 21 September, are well underway with a huge array of activities and displays already booked.

The show is designed to showcase the very best that Somerset has to offer, with the emphasis on individual and community participation. As befitting the venue, equestrian enthusiasts will be well catered for, with polo and the Pony Club all represented, along with the hugely entertaining British trials and scurry driving team event – and The Shetland Pony Grand National, to name but a few.

Field sports of all disciplines are included, with a challenging open clay shoot, gun dog scurries, fly casting, falconry, archery and air rifle range, with have-a-go facilities available under expert supervision.

For dog lovers there are gun dog demonstrations and competitions, agility, exhibitions, and a fun dog show, so bring your dog on a lead with you!

Tone FM are hosting a community stage providing up and coming entertainers, bands and choirs a chance to perform in public, so if you “have got talent” get in touch to book your slot! Celebrity chef Lesley Waters is hosting cookery demonstrations throughout the weekend and creating a range of dishes using local produce available from the many artisan producers in the food and drinks hall.

There will also be plenty of street foods to enjoy, with local beer and cider provided. Classic and Vintage cars will be converging from all over the county, and no show would be complete without the smell and sounds of the steam engines. There are also plenty of activities for the children to enjoy, including a puppet show, fun fair, climbing wall, bouncy castles and ferret racing!

If you are interested in being part of this prestigious event or would like trade space or sponsorship details, contact Sharon Mitchell on 07739 964843 or by email on sharon@somersetcountyshow.co.uk.

ILFRACOMBE RNLI THANKS VOLUNTEERS FOR LONG SERVICE AT AWARDS CEREMONY

An awards ceremony has been held at the Ilfracombe RNLI annual dinner to thank 12 RNLI volunteers for their service to the station. Eight awards were given out to crew for long service and a further four service awards were given to crew standing down.

Andrew Putt, the RNLI Regional Improvement Manager, gave out the awards at the annual RNLI dinner on 12 April 2019 at Ilfracombe Golf Course. The awards included a 40-year service award to all-weather lifeboat (ALB) Coxswain Andrew Bengey and 20-year service awards to Head Launcher and Launch Vehicle Driver Gary Belgrove, Inshore Lifeboat (ILB) Helm and ALB Assistant Mechanic Stuart Carpenter, Shorecrew Mark Gammon, Assistant Coxswain, Mechanic and ILB Helm Leigh Hanks, Deputy Launching Authority Ian Meadlarkin, Second Coxswain Carl Perrin and ALB crewman Steve Ashton.

The station also presented certificates to Andy Maslen who was leaving the station after 14 years’ service, and Matt Simpson who was standing down from the Ilfracombe Station after 23 years’ service. A further Letter of Thanks was given to Mark Weeks who stood down as a Tooltrak Launch Driver but continues as ILB Helm and ALB crew. Dr Sean Ross was awarded a Letter of Thanks from the Institution for his role as Lifeboat Medical Adviser, a role from which he has recently stepped down.

Andrew Bengey, Ilfracombe RNLI Volunteer Coxswain, who received an award for 40 years of service, says, “When I first joined the RNLI the crews were mainly commercial fishermen. The RNLI has changed a lot over the last 40 years – now there is much more training available and people now come from all walks of life. I still enjoy being a volunteer with the RNLI, there is great camaraderie and teamwork, and you know someone’s always got your back. Over the years I’ve probably been out on over 800 shouts and there’s a lot of satisfaction when you know that you have helped someone. The RNLI is a great organisation and I would recommend it to anyone.”

Chris Wallis, RNLI Operations Manager for Ilfracombe RNLI Lifeboat, says: “The RNLI depends on the work of volunteers to carry out many different types of roles. At Ilfracombe RNLI we are honoured and proud to give out these long-service awards to our dedicated volunteers who give up their time to help us save lives at sea.”

Photo by Jo Bolton.

HIGHEST NUMBER OF BRITS HOLIDAYING AT HOME – EXMOOR AIMS FOR ITS SHARE WITH DRAMATIC NEW VIDEO

A survey released by VisitEngland today shows that over 7 million Brits are planning a UK break this Easter weekend. This is the highest figure recorded since the survey began in 2013.

VisitEngland Director Patricia Yates said, ““It is great to see so many Brits are planning holidays at home in the UK in what is set to be a cracking Easter, bringing a boost for businesses and local economies. Right across the country visitors will find experiences to enjoy no matter what the weather.”

This report coincides with a big marketing push from Visit Exmoor and the launch of a brand new video: Exmoor #VisitMoorThanOnce promoting the highlights of one of the smallest, yet most diverse of the UK’s National Parks. The video has already reached over 40k viewings on Facebook and Instagram. Watch the video here www.facebook.com/VisitExmoor/.

It was filmed by Olco Studios, partners Connor Purcell and Ollie Pritchard-Barrett, who grew up on Exmoor. These young film makers have travelled all over the world filming for the likes of the Discovery Channel, but both wanted to shine a light on how beautiful their home was. “Although we know this area, we were both blown away by the landscape. Getting up before dawn to see the sun rise and staying out in pitch darkness to capture the stars gave us a whole new perspective,” says Connor. “Everyone was so friendly,“ adds Ollie. “We were regularly whisked away to look at new-born lambs and meet families during filming.”

Connor has a special connection to the place as his grandfather is renowned local artist Maurice Bishop, who has a cameo in the film. The video is social media optimised – the format perfect for viewing on a phone or tablet.

The video was commissioned by Visit Exmoor. Jennette Baxter, Visit Exmoor’s Marketing Manager, is delighted with it. “We wanted to highlight the different colours of Exmoor, to show how varied and attractive the landscape is and to show different ways to explore the area. Exmoor is an accessible wilderness, you don’t have to drive for hours to get off the beaten track, it’s here on our doorstep.”

The new video, a new Bradt Travel Guide to Exmoor, the 150th anniversary of Lorna Doone and the continued #EatExmoor project are all putting Exmoor firmly on the map this year, and the area is well positioned to capture those brits looking to stay in the UK this summer.

BICCLESCOMBE PARK RECEIVED PRESTIGIOUS AWARD

Bicclescome Park in Ilfracombe has once again received a prestigious Pride in Parks award.

The park has been awarded four out of five stars for demonstrating excellent maintenance and development, good community involvement and care of the environment. Pride in Parks is run by Southwest in Bloom, in conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society.

Bicclescombe Park is owned and managed by North Devon Council with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers from the Bicclescombe Park User Group.

Mark Kentell, Contracts Delivery Manager at North Devon Council, says: “Bicclescombe is a wonderful park and we are very proud that the judges agree. Of course, none of this would be possible without the volunteers who give up their own time to help keep the park at such a high standard. So I would like to send a big ‘Thank You’ to all of them.”

As well as this award, the park has flown the Green Flag, which recognises well-managed parks, since 2004. Judging for the 2019/20 Green Flag awards take place at the end of May and the results are expected in July.

If you would like to volunteer at Bicclescombe Park, please get in touch with the Bicclescombe Park User Group on Facebook or contact the council’s parks team on 01271 388308 parks@northdevon.gov.uk

ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN BIKES FOR EXMOOR!

Exmoor Adventures, who are celebrating their tenth birthday this year,  are excited to announce that they have purchased a fleet of E-mountain bikes.

Dan French, owner of Exmoor Adventures, writes:

“What better way to celebrate ten years of trading than with a brand-new offering for the area. We now have 8 hardtail and full suspension E-bikes to add to our existing fleet of 35 mountain bikes. This will make us the only supplier of E-mountain bike hire on Exmoor and the Quantock Hills, aiming to attract new audiences to the area, as well as catering for local residents.

“E-bikes have grown hugely in popularity over the years, with sales in the UK now matching sales for traditional bikes. Even Sir Chris Hoy rides one – “E-bikes are a nice combination of using your own human power and having a bit of assistance too. And once you’ve ridden an E-bike, you completely get it,” he has said.

“The motor ‘assists’ you as you pedal, so you still get to exercise, with a welcome boost up the hills, which is needed with the steep inclines of Exmoor.

“We’ll be promoting an ‘E-bike route’ which will take participants from Porlock Weir, up onto Porlock Hill and across the moors where you can enjoy fantastic views across Exmoor and the coastline, before descending back down to sea level.

“We’ve had a lot of positive interest and will be teaming up with local accommodation providers and businesses to offer packages and unique experiences.

“We’ll be hiring out the bikes from our base at Porlock Weir, as well as running guided E-rides and other courses and events. With Locanda and the Ship Inn being popular places to eat and stay at the Weir, and the Porlock Weir Hotel also opening soon, along with local shops and cafes to choose from, this will be the perfect place to start and finish a ride.

“Why not join us on Good Friday  (19 April)  for a half-day guided ride starting from Porlock Weir and heading up onto the moorland. Aimed at beginners to off-road cycling, it costs only £50pp including instruction and E-bike hire (6 spaces available).

“A big thank you to Exmoor National Park who have helped to fund this new project, and local company Tuned Cycles for helping us get them ready for the trails!

“These E-bikes are perfect for all ages (14+) and abilities – please get in touch to find out more, and keep an eye on our social media and website for upcoming special events. Come and have a go!”

Standard mountain bike hire: £25 per day
Hardtail mountain E-bike hire: £50 per day
Full suspension E-bike hire: £65 per day
www.exmooradventures.co.uk

STEAM PUNK FESTIVAL COMES TO THE REGAL THEATRE, MINEHEAD

Steam Punk is a nationwide organisation, promoting events across the UK which attract crowds of people who arrive in their steampunk gear. As part of the Minehead Early May Steampunk Festival there will be two events at the Regal Theatre on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 May.

On Saturday the Steampunk Cabaret Show will stage Victor Sierra, a three-piece band from Paris featuring Commander Bob, The Legendary Converted Princess and Big Machine. They have played at steampunk festivals in Europe, the UK, and America and have produced five well-received albums of original music.

Acting as Master of Ceremonies will be Greg Chapman (pictured), magician, comedian, juggler, unicyclist, escapologist and storyteller – one can never tell what he’ll do next!  He will introduce support acts, Doctor Gray and his Orchestra of One, Kiss Like Ether, Ichabod Steam, the beautiful Lux DeLioux and Ichabod Steam performing his new Dark Side Gothic Adventure.

On Sunday at the Steampunk Variety Show, MC Greg Chapman will appear again to introduce The Wattingers who describe themselves as Slaughterhouse Steampunk Blues.  These brilliant musicians present their original songs and videos with a dark sense of humour.  Support acts include Kiss Like Ether, The Retro Clones (one-man act supported by moving images of himself playing other instruments), and the beautiful Lux DeLioux.  (Same lovely Lux, different routine!)

Both performances starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost as follows: Adults £16, Friends £15.50, students/children/ES40s £10. They are available from the Regal Box Office (01643 706430), which is open
10am-3pm Monday-Saturday or online at www.regaltheatre.co.uk.

SLEET AND SNOW FAIL TO DAMPEN WEST BUCKLAND SCHOOL’S ‘EXMOOR RUN’

It was a case of ‘four seasons in one day’ for West Buckland School’s annual cross-country run, ‘The Exmoor’!

The event, which has taken place on the last Thursday of the Easter term for over 160 years, involves pupils from year 8 upwards running up to 10 miles across some of Exmoor’s most beautiful, and steep, landscape, back to the main school.

If that’s isn’t tough enough, all senior school students from year 8 and above walk around eight miles to the start points, one of which was covered in snow this year, before they even begin the run back to school. This year’s race started in snow, threw in some hail, wind and sunshine and finished in sleet.

It is a very popular event, with over 60 parents, former pupils, friends and members of the local community participating in the race. Although most people run to achieve their best time, the sense of camaraderie is fantastic, with runners stopping to help those who need it, determined to help them to finish. Well done to all who participated in this much-loved and equally dreaded event!

RNLI APPLEDORE AND ILFRACOMBE TOW 300-TON MS OLDENBURG TO SAFETY

The volunteer crews of both the RNLI Appledore all weather Tamar class lifeboat Mollie Hunt and RNLI Ilfracombe all-weather Shannon class lifeboat The Barry and Peggy High Foundation were launched on Saturday 6 April following reports that the Lundy ferry MS Oldenburg had suffered a mechanical breakdown at Lundy Island.

The RNLI Appledore lifeboat was launched at 5.20pm, and the RNLI Ilfracombe lifeboat crew launched approximately half an hour later, with both lifeboats arriving at Lundy around 6.45pm. The weather was moderate with a fresh easterly wind and small waves.

On arrival at Lundy both lifeboat Coxswains assessed the situation and discussed the appropriate course of action with the Master of the MS Oldenburg and the Coastguard agency. At this point the MS Oldenburg was secured to the jetty and the passengers had been removed from the ship and were safely ashore, leaving seven crew members on board. A commercial tug had been requested and was underway from Pembrokeshire, however this was not scheduled to arrive until around midnight. There was some concern that the weather was forecast to change over the next few hours before the tug was due to arrive, with stronger winds and tide which could potentially cause damage to the ship.

Following this consultation the Ilfracombe lifeboat crew secured a tow line, which was left slack, to the stern of the MS Oldenburg as a precaution, in case the weather worsened and both lifeboats then stood off ready to assist if necessary and to await the arrival of the tug. The tug arrived just after midnight and Ilfracombe lifeboat was stood down and returned to station at 2.15am. Appledore lifeboat remained on scene whilst the tug towed the MS Oldenburg off the jetty stern first, and then secured the tow from the front of the ferry. Once the tow was underway Appledore RNLI returned to station, arriving on their mooring at around 4am, with the crew home at 4.45am.

Carl Perrin, RNLI Volunteer Coxswain for Ilfracombe RNLI lifeboat, says, “The lifeboats stood by prepared to act if required if the weather had deteriorated. However, fortunately the wind did not increase as forecast. Before the tug arrived the sea conditions around the jetty due to the tidal state were starting to worsen as the depth of water under the vessels was reducing on the ebb tide. The RNLI Appledore and Ilfracombe lifeboat volunteer teams worked together to provide assistance the MS Oldenburg.”

The RNLI Ilfracombe lifeboat was launched again at 7.25am on Sunday 7 April to assist the MS Oldenburg into port at Ilfracombe. The two all weather lifeboats currently at station, The Barry and Peggy High Foundation and the relief Shannon class Stormrider were launched to help the tug bring the MS Oldenburg safely into the harbour. The lifeboats secured lines to the stern of the MS Oldenburg and helped slow and control the vessel as she came into the harbour. RNLI Ilfracombe volunteer shore crew helped to secure the MS Oldenburg into her berth.

RNLI Coxswain Leigh Hanks says, “This was a big team effort from the station. Some of the crew had only returned to station at 2.15am and had only got to bed at 3.45am before they were paged again to assist at 7.25am. Conditions for bringing the MS Oldenburg back into port were testing with a fresh easterly wind and the fact that the ship weighs almost 300 tons. The crew train extensively for situations like this and we do take part in joint training with the MS Oldenburg in case of emergencies as we are her home port.”

Later the same day RNLI Ilfracombe were requested to launch to Lundy Island again, to evacuate an individual who required medication who had been stranded on the island overnight. The Ilfracombe lifeboat launched at 3.45pm and arrived at the Island at 4.30pm. The lifeboat returned to station at 6pm, bringing back the individual for whom the evacuation was requested and a further five people including two individuals who were scheduled for surgery in the next 48 hours and a surgeon from a local hospital. Arrangements are being made by the owners of the MS Oldenburg to bring back the remaining passengers.

PHOTO: The MS Oldenburg being towed into Ilfracombe harbour with Ilfracombe lifeboats assisting.