COMMITMENT TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE REITERATED BY NORTH DEVON COUNCIL

North Devon Council has reiterated its commitment to the environment by signing up to a joint Devon-wide climate change declaration.

At a Full Council meeting recently, councillors voted unanimously to sign up and also agreed to setting up a special working party to look specifically at tackling climate change and what the council can do to help prevent global warming.

The climate declaration involves committing to helping the country achieve a 45% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and by 100% by 2050.

The council also appointed a lead member for climate change, Cllr Caroline Leaver.

Cllr Leaver says: “We all need to work together to tackle this huge threat to our future. We can all do our bit and, of course, that’s important, but we need to work with all of our partners and our community to strengthen action through collaboration. The scale and urgency of the global challenge from climate change must be recognised and acted on or the world will be an entirely different place by the time a child starting primary school this year finishes their secondary education.

“I look forward to working with council members and officers, and other organisations and groups, to tackle this massively important issue. It’s time for us to be bold. I relish the challenge ahead.”

More information on the Devon Climate Declaration can be found on Devon County Council’s website. The declaration has been prepared and signed up to by a consortium of public, private and voluntary organisations collaborating through a Devon Climate Emergency Response Group.

 

NEW REPORT REVEALS THE STARK IMPACT OF RURAL ISOLATION IN SOMERSET

Did you know that almost 4,000 pensioners in rural villages in Somerset have no access to transport? Or that the growth in young people’s loneliness is higher than any other age group?

These were just two of the findings from Somerset Community Foundation’s recently launched Hidden Somerset: Rural Isolation research report. The new Hidden Somerset reports are designed to shine a spotlight on, and raise awareness of, some of the important issues affecting people in Somerset – as well as the great work being done by local charities and groups. Thanks to generous funding from The Fairfield Charitable Trust, the first report, focusing on Rural Isolation, was published in July 2019. Further reports, each of which will focus on a different issue, including homelessness and social mobility, are planned to follow later this year and into 2020.

The inaugural Hidden Somerset launch event was held at the Rural Enterprise Centre, on The Royal Bath and West Showground. Invited guests heard a presentation of the findings of the research from Somerset Community Foundation (SCF) Programmes Director Val Bishop, which revealed that:

  • There are a number of hidden needs in Somerset linked to rural isolation including loneliness, poor access to vital services such as GP surgeries, shops and banks, and significant barriers to opportunities for work and learning
  • Lack of access to transport was the most significant issue for all age groups – in parts of Exmoor, for example, households are an average of 40 minutes away from their nearest food store and 50 minutes away from a GP
  • Younger people in rural communities are more likely to be working multiple, seasonal jobs with lower pay which, combined with high housing costs, means home ownership is impossible for many young families and forces many to move away
  • Although there have been significant improvements in access to broadband, a lack of digital skills and access to high-speed broadband and mobile data are still significant barriers for many. Remote areas of Somerset also have few free Wifi hotspots, creating financial barriers to getting online and accessing learning and employment opportunities.

The chairman of a local rural community group responded to the survey: “Lack of transportation is my number-one problem. If I could get transport to pick up the elderly – even those who live a short distance away – I could straight away increase the number of members, especially those who are on their own. We could then also support the surrounding villages at our meetings.”

A panel at the event, made up of four charities, social enterprises and community groups, brought to life some of the more challenging aspects of rural life and the creative and entrepreneurial ways they are tackling local issues. A representative from Exmoor Young Voices – which works to highlight the needs of young people in the area – spoke of the grave difficulties for younger people who want to stay living on Exmoor in light of high housing costs, low wages, and limited employment opportunities. The group are lobbying for changes to local planning regulations to enable more young families to self-build and are looking to start a loan fund to help them buy land.

Raj Singh, Deputy Chief Executive of the Community Council of Somerset, was one of the panellists, and highlighted the vital importance of Village Agents and their innovative and flexible approach to helping individual villagers across Somerset. Raj shared a story of an elderly and isolated resident who was stuck in hospital because he needed a simple adjustment made to his home that no agency had been able to resolve. The local village agent was quickly able to purchase and install the necessary equipment and get him home at a cost of less than £10, as well as helping the resident to build new friendships which reduced isolation and improved his overall health and wellbeing.

Justin Sargent, Chief Executive at Somerset Community Foundation, said: “Isolation is one of, if not the greatest ‘hidden’ issue that communities face here in Somerset and it affects thousands of people across the county. Building stronger communities is essential if our rural areas are going to remain vibrant and inclusive places to live, and local philanthropy has to be a part of this.

“One of the most obvious and profound effects of isolation is loneliness, which can have a significant impact on both mental and physical health. But it is also an issue that local community action is very effective at addressing, preventing other more serious problems from escalating. The discussions that our Hidden Somerset report has so far inspired are helping us identify specific roles that we, and our donors, can play to make the greatest difference. Most immediately, we will increase the impact of our annual Surviving Winter campaign – where people can donate their Winter Fuel Payment to help people who are living in fuel poverty – by funding more community winter dinners around Christmas time, bringing more people together. However, I am sure there is much more we can – and will – do in the future.”

The next Hidden Somerset report will look at homelessness and will be published in November 2019. If you are interested in supporting the work of Somerset Community Foundation and would like to obtain a copy of Hidden Somerset: Rural Isolation, please call 01749 344949 or email: info@somersetcf.org.uk

You can also download a copy of Hidden Somerset: Rural Isolation by visiting: www.somersetcf.org.uk/about-us/publications

COMMUNITIES CASH IN WITH GRANTS FOR SHOPPING AND SAILING ON EXMOOR

Exmoor National Park has invested in a community shop and an accessible sailing boat with the latest grants from the Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund. Roadwater Community Shop and Wimbleball Sailability have both been awarded funding of up to £2,500 in support of projects helping Exmoor communities thrive and opening up fresh opportunities for people to experience the National Park.

Wimbleball Sailability has offered sailing experiences for disabled people at Wimbleball Lake on Exmoor for over 30 years. The new funding will help towards the purchase of a new eight-seater sailing boat, ensuring many more people can experience the thrill of a day out on the water.

David Mather, who helps run the programme, said: “Disabled people from across Somerset and North Devon, including many care-home residents, regularly enjoy sailing trips with the help of our dedicated team of volunteers. Thanks to this funding we look forward to introducing many more people from the disabled community to Exmoor and the opportunities that exist to enjoy the freedom and fun of sailing.”

The funding will also help pay for a community hub and information point for the National Park within Roadwater Community Shop & Post Office, as part of work to upgrade and extend the existing building, which is run with the support of more than 60 volunteers.

Shop volunteer Robert Wetheridge said: “Since the village took over ownership and running of the shop last year, officers at Exmoor National Park have supported us in countless ways – through their Partnership Fund, planning advice, community project planning fee reimbursement and advice on access to Carbon Reduction funding that has paid for installation of a small solar panel.

“Once complete the building upgrade will increase accessibility to all, provide a small cafe and community hub area, plus an outdoor patio with a view over the village hall recreation ground and swings. We all have our fingers crossed that construction can begin in early autumn and are so grateful for all the ongoing support.”

Philip Kiberd, Funding Officer at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “These two projects show how a relatively small contribution of up to £2,500 can make a real difference to those living in the National Park or coming to enjoy what it has to offer. We’re particularly looking for projects that can enhance the landscape, help nature, investigate heritage or introduce new people to the National Park and would love to hear from anyone with a great idea.”

You can apply to the Partnership Fund Small Grants scheme at any time. Funding decisions are made around four times a year with the next due in the autumn. Apply at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/partnership-fund or for friendly advice contact the Funding Officer on 01398 322237 or by emailing partnershipfund@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

NFU TO SPONSOR EXMOOR HILL FARMING NETWORK

The South West NFU is pleased to announce it is to renew its sponsorship of the Exmoor Hill Farming Network (EHFN).

The EHFN is a farmer-led organisation which works to improve farm incomes, profitability and sustainable land management in the upland areas of Exmoor. As the leading representative body for farmers and the voice of the industry across the South West, the NFU will continue assisting the EHFN’s work.

Matthew Uren, Somerset county adviser for the NFU, said: “We very much value the work that the Exmoor Hill Farm Network is doing for farmers, particularly in the current period of political upheaval and uncertainty, so we are pleased to be able to continue to support this valuable project.”

EHFN chairman Dave Knight said: “The EHFN is absolutely delighted to be sponsored for another year by the South West NFU and we are pleased that the NFU values the hard work the EHFN has done, and continues to do, to bring training, information, skills and social events onto Exmoor for the farming community.

“With ongoing political and rural economic uncertainty, in particular with regard to rural support payments and agri-environmental schemes, it is very important to have strong farming voices from strong organisations, working together to look out for UK agriculture.”

Deanna Gladki, West Somerset NFU Group Secretary, said: “In the run-up to Brexit, we need to make sure that the farming voice is heard and that we are engaged with farmers in all areas and we look forward to working with the EHFN to achieve this.”

Photo shows (l to r): Katherine Williams (EHFN project officer), Dave Knight (EHFN chairman), Deanna Gladki (West Somerset NFU group secretary), Matthew Uren (NFU Somerset county adviser).

NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO PROMOTE RESPONSIBLE DOG WALKING IN THE COUNTRYSIDE LAUNCHED BY EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK AND OSCAR & HOOCH

Exmoor National Park and leading Somerset-based pet accessory company Oscar & Hooch have joined forces to launch a national campaign to promote responsible dog walking in the countryside.

The campaign, which will run for the duration of the summer school holidays, will encourage dog-owning families and other dog walkers to go out and enjoy the spectacle of the Exmoor National Park and other UK beauty spots whilst at the same time reminding them to keep their dogs under control at all times so that wildlife, livestock and other visitors are not disturbed. Dog walkers will also be encouraged to clean up any dog mess and dispose of it properly to keep the Park and other destinations clean and tidy for other walkers to enjoy and to prevent any harm or disease to other animals and wildlife.

According to statistics provided by The Kennel Club, since 2010, dog ownership is up 10% and is now at 8.5 million dogs. 26% of homes have a dog and astonishingly over half of all outdoor visits include a dog.

There are many benefits to welcoming dogs in the countryside such as encouraging healthy lifestyles and supporting local visitor economies. Owning a dog not only provides owners with the opportunity to go out and enjoy the great outdoors but also has many health benefits. Owning a dog is good for mental health, providing interaction with other dog walkers and companionship.

However, there are also some concerning issues associated with irresponsible dog ownership. According to NFU Mutual, the cost of livestock worrying has risen 67% over the past two years in the UK. The rural insurer said not all livestock farmers insure against sheep worrying, but it estimates the annual cost to the industry is now £1.6m, while the average cost of a claim has risen by more than 50% to £1,300.

All the UK National Parks have a policy of encouraging responsible dog walkers and Exmoor, like the other National Parks, has a set of guidelines for dog owners to follow. Keeping a dog under close control, particularly around livestock and areas of ground-nesting birds is a key issue, as is regular worming and clearing up dog mess responsibly.

Dan Barnett, Access and Recreation Manager for Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Generally, your dog should be under close control at all times and there are specific areas and times of the year that they need to be kept on a lead. There are around 620 miles (1,000km) of public Rights of Way (e.g. footpaths and bridleways) on Exmoor for you and your dog to enjoy. On public RoW there is no legal requirement to keep your dog on a lead but, unless you are very confident about your dog’s obedience, we strongly recommend that you do as they must be under close control. There are all sorts of scents and smells that may prove too tempting to resist and result in your dog disappearing into the distance. You will inevitably meet livestock, other people, dogs, cyclists and horse riders at some point and there is potential for confrontation if your dog is out of control.

“There are over 18,000 hectares of open access land for you to explore where the public have a right of access on foot with a dog, however your dog must be kept on a lead of less than two metres during the bird-nesting season (1 March to 31 July) and at all times near livestock.”

The six-week national awareness campaign will consist of an online quiz which entrants can enter to win an Oscar & Hooch collar and lead each week. This will be integrated with a social networking campaign on both the Exmoor National Park and Oscar & Hooch social media platforms together with a press campaign across all national and regional media. Oscar & Hooch will also be donating 10% of sales through their website over the six week period when customers use the code EXMOOR at checkout, contributing towards the upkeep and preservation of Exmoor National Park.