ON THE TRAIL OF MINEHEAD’S HISTORY

From bathing machines to The Beatles, from smugglers to stagecoaches – Minehead’s history has been brought to life in a newly enhanced set of Storywalk trails.

They’re designed to guide visitors around different areas of the town while revealing its history – all via a website on a mobile phone.

Three of the trails concentrate on the original settlements – Higher Town, Middle Town and Quay Town – which were eventually joined together by new building as the town’s popularity as a Victorian seaside resort led to major expansion.

And three more offer a fascinating guide to the trees and shrubs in the Parks Walk – essentially a mile-long arboretum leading from a point close to the town centre into open countryside.

All the trails have been researched and created as a website accessible on a mobile phone by Dunster-based author Chris Jelley, who’s been supported by Minehead Information Centre and Minehead BID, the traders’ consortium set up two years ago to promote the town and raise its profile as a holiday destination.

He said one of the challenges was deciding what to leave out, given that Minehead has such a long and fascinating history, from its origins as a small but bustling trading port surrounded by farms to a modern holiday resort.

“It is always tricky striking a balance between making the trails family- friendly and informative,” he said.

The Storywalks reveal the past importance of herring fishing, recount how some of the earliest aircraft landed on the beach and trace the history of the West Somerset Railway, including the time it was used by The Beatles for filming ‘A Hard Day’s Night’.

The trails bring together folklore, local customs and dialect words as they guide users to features and buildings which were key to the town’s development.

Minehead BID manager Andrew Hopkins said the updated Storywalks offered a wonderfully interesting way of discovering the modern town – and its history.

“A lot of our visitors never stray very far from the town centre,” he said. “They only see what the Victorians and the Edwardians created – with a few modern additions.

“But it literally only requires a few yards’ walking to find oneself in an older, even more attractive Minehead, with original cottages, cobbled paths and a real sense of time standing still.

“And some of the Higher Town locations featured offer magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.

“We’re delighted with what Chris has produced for us, particularly his celebration of the Parks Walk, a particularly undervalued attraction offering a real oasis for relaxation.

“And the fact that these trails can be followed so easily via a mobile phone should hopefully encourage a lot of our visitors to discover them.”

The Minehead Hidden History Storywalks are free for all to access at: minehead.storywalks.info

UK GARDENS ON CUSP OF AN ALMIGHTY EXPLOSION OF SUMMER COLOUR

UK gardens and green spaces are on the verge of a unique explosion of summer colour as the peak of two flowering seasons combine to create the most dramatic spectacle seen in years, says the UK’s gardening charity, but the best of it could be over in days.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) reports that this year’s weather has provided the optimum growing conditions* for summer flowering. The warm, wet winter followed by the sunniest May on record and then a bout of rain in June has produced an exceptional crop of summer blooms.

Stronger, bigger buds and more prolific flowering has created abundant displays of early blooms such as lilies, rhododendrons, irises, roses and hydrangeas, and mid-summer flowers such as verbena, rudbeckia, heleniums and geraniums are now coming into their own.

The apex of this floral extravaganza may happen this weekend and at the four RHS Gardens the show has already begun but the seasonal overlap could pass by quickly as early summer flowers are likely to start going over next week.

At RHS Garden Rosemoor, in Devon, Curator Jon Webster says, “Fiery displays of reds, oranges, yellows and purples on plants like red hot pokers, rudbeckia, dahlias and goldenrod are springing to life in the Hot Garden while whites, blues, pinks and silver foliage bring an oasis of calmness in the Cool Garden.” The largest rose gardens in the South West are also still brimming with colour and scent from over 2,000 roses.

RHS Partner Gardens are reporting colourful spreads including The Bishop’s Palace Gardens in Somerset which is also awash with daylilies including ‘Chicago Sunrise’, and pretty blue salvias – and their multi-coloured Bishop series dahlia collection is the best it’s ever been with Garden Manager James Cross saying: “Everything has come together to produce the best summer colour I have ever seen.”

Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticulturalist, says: “Our work is done in the garden so happily all that’s left to do is enjoy the summer flowers. The unique blast of brilliant colour that’s about to hit will bring even greater enjoyment than normal but you’ll need to be quick to catch its full glory.”

All visitors to the gardens (RHS members and non-members) need to book online so that social distancing can be controlled and in accordance with Government guidelines for ‘track and trace’. Although there may be availability on arrival, the advice is to pre-book to avoid disappointment as some sessions get completely filled.

PHOTO: Dead-heading at Rosemoor to prolong flowering.

NEW DEVON AIR AMBULANCE HELICOPTER TOUCHES DOWN IN DEVON FOR FIRST TIME

Loud cheers went up around the Devon Air Ambulance airbase at Exeter airport earlier this month, as their new Airbus H145 helicopter flew down the runway and settled onto the helipad – it was the first time this new generation aircraft had landed in Devon.

The new helicopter arrived at Exeter as part of a training flight from the Airbus Helicopters UK facility in Oxfordshire, where the aircraft is currently based. DAA formally accepted the new H145 last month and since then its pilots have been undertaking extensive training on the new aircraft. The flight into Exeter forms part of a three-week training programme which includes classroom-based theory, ‘visual’ and ‘instrument’ flight training containing a mixture of proficiency and flight skills tests and a theory exam.

DAA Flight Operations Director Ian Payne said, “It’s fantastic to see our new H145 helicopter flying into Devon for the first time, it marks the culmination of several years of hard work and development to get the very best aircraft for the people of Devon.”

“Those with a keen eye will notice the new H145, registered G-DAAS, is slightly bigger than our current EC135 aircraft which means we have a larger internal space to treat and convey patients, we can carry more emergency medical equipment and it has a longer flight time between refuelling. The advanced technology and aviation systems that are included with this aircraft really make the H145 a complete package and will ensure we have the very best airborne capability to deliver our enhanced and critical care for many years to come.”

“Despite the impact of Coronavirus, the new aircraft was delivered on time by Airbus Helicopters UK and we’d like to extend our thanks to the whole team at Airbus for their support and attention to detail throughout the project lifecycle”.

Gary Clark, Head of Civil Business, Airbus Helicopters in the UK, said: “We greatly appreciate Devon Air Ambulance’s continuing confidence in our products, and we look forward to supporting them for many years to come. The H145 provides a substantial enhancement to air ambulance operations and we are confident that it will enable DAA to offer even higher standards of service in its vitally important field of work.”

This training flight is one of a number the pilots will carry out as they gain experience of the H145’s array of advanced aviation technology and systems that deliver handling, autopilot and navigational aid functions. Once the pilot training is completed in Oxford during August the new aircraft will be permanently based here in Devon, where more crew training will be carried out before the aircraft goes into service later in the year.

Ian Payne added: “As soon as the H145 is based here in Devon we will be rolling out training across the whole of the Patient Services team. Our paramedics and doctors will not only be learning about the aircraft’s flight management and safety systems, but they will also learn how and where their medical equipment is stored and accessed so that in an emergency the new patient treatment area quickly becomes second nature.

All of this crew training will need to be delivered whilst we remain operational from 7am to 2am, 19 hours a day, so we expect it’s going to be a very busy time as we build up to the point of introducing the new aircraft into service during the autumn.”

DAA Chief Executive Heléna Holt said: “We recognise the huge responsibility we owe to our supporters to ensure we get the best possible aircraft to meet the needs of our current and future HEMS operations in Devon. We are confident the new H145 is the right aircraft and will be a huge asset in helping us to bring urgent medical care to those who need it most.

Our thanks, as ever, to all the businesses, communities and individuals who support us. We look forward to the day that we can invite you all to come and see the new aircraft which has been made possible by your generous support.”

 

NATURE LOVERS CHALK UP OVER 2,000 SIGHTINGS IN SUPPORT OF EXMOOR CONSERVATION PROJECTS

Over 2,000 plant and wildlife observations have been recorded online by members of the public in response to a plea from Exmoor National Park Authority to help rescue vital conservation projects that have been hit by the coronavirus lockdown through volunteers being unable to carry out their usual monitoring. People were asked to help by joining the National Park’s WildWatch project on iNaturalist and using the app to log any sightings while out on Exmoor.

To date this has resulted in 227 people logging 2,024 observations of 818 different species on the platform. A further 417 people, including professional botanists and National Park conservation volunteers, got involved in helping verify the sightings to get the data up to a standard where it could be used to inform conservation efforts, such as problem invasive species in the National Park.

In a video shared on social media to thank contributors, Exmoor National Park Outreach Officer Patrick Watts-Mabbott, said: “We’ve had an amazing response to our ‘Exmoor Wildwatch’ and ‘Exmoor from Home’ projects on iNaturalist.”

Top sightings include Eye Bright (top), an ancient herbal remedy with anti-inflammatory properties, and the charmingly named Dog Vomit Slime Mold (here) – single-celled amoeba-like organisms that come together to form fungi-like sporing masses.

Patrick added: “I could talk about the amazing orchids, minotaur beetles, moss, grasshoppers, birds, butterflies, reptiles and even butterfly eggs that have been spotted. But as we are on Exmoor we’d better look at the iconic bell heather that is just starting to bloom. By mid-August places like Brendon Common, Dunkery Beacon and Winsford Hill, will be purple and buzzing with bees.

“So if you’re planning a visit to Exmoor this year, download the iNaturalist app from the usual places and search the projects for ‘Exmoor Wildwatch’. Then get recording. There’s no need to know everything you find, just get some good photos, ideally from different angles, and upload them. Our volunteers will help you identify them.”

Free wildlife spotter guides are from National Park Centres in Lynmouth, Dunster and Dulverton or online at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/Whats-Special/exmoor-wildwatch.

Top photo: Eye Bright. Both photos by janexmoor.

LAUNCH SYSTEM FOR ILFRACOMBE’S HARBOUR WASTE SHARK IS NEARLY READY

The new launch system for Ilfracombe Harbour’s very own waste shark, ‘Sharkie’, is getting closer to completion thanks to the arrival of a new shark cage and a lot of hard work.

The custom-built shark cage, along with a trolley and a waterproof cover, have been presented to Ilfracombe Harbour Staff and The Shark Ambassadors from Commando Logistic Regiment, Royal Marines Chivenor and the North Devon branch of the Royal Marine Association. ‘Sharkie’ is the nickname given to the aquatic drone, designed to clear unwanted debris such as plastics and oil from waterways and a much-loved resident of Ilfracombe Harbour. The items will be used to transport it from its home to the new bespoke launch system once complete and installed at the harbour.

The new launch system for ‘Sharkie’ is currently being  set up specifically for Ilfracombe’s tidal range by harbour staff and The Shark Ambassadors. The Shark Ambassadors are local residents who have volunteered their time to help with the set-up of the system and operating ‘Sharkie’ and also the organising of other volunteers who will be trained up when the system is complete. Once complete and Covid-19 restrictions ease, it will mean that ‘Sharkie’ can be launched on a more regular basis in the harbour.

Lead Member for the Environment at North Devon Council, Councillor Netti Pearson, says: “‘Sharkie’ is a real asset to Ilfracombe and as a resident of the town I look forward to seeing it back in action. I was at the launch last year, it is a novel way to raise awareness of the amount of plastic waste that washes up in the harbour and is a useful tool for measuring and reducing other pollutants in the water. The new equipment will make it easier to launch ‘Sharkie’, and house it safely, so we will be able to see it in action more often.”

Ilfracombe Harbour Master, Georgina Carlo-Paat, says: “I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Commando Logistic Regiment, Royal Marines Chivenor and the North Devon branch of the Royal Marine Association for all their hard work developing these items for us to house ‘Sharkie’, the resulting cage, trolley and cover are brilliant and have moved the completion of the project a huge step closer.”

Chairman of the Royal Marines Association in North Devon, John Peel, says: “The communities of Ilfracombe and North Devon are very appreciative of the Armed Forces and the work they do and particularly those stationed at RMB Chivenor and the base at Instow.  As chairman, acknowledging the responsibilities we have to our local veterans, it is great to have such a good relationship within the community and we are always very well received when out and about.

“It is a great pleasure to able to support projects when they come around and the ‘Sharkie’ project has, yet again, been an opportunity to collaborate in a positive way and continue to enhance relationships.  We look forward to being able to come back to Ilfracombe for future events.”

‘Sharkie’ was first launched in Ilfracombe Harbour in March 2019 and has been stored away during the winter months. This recent project has been funded with a grant from the AONB along with other local contributors. Once launched, the drone has the capabilities to gather air and water quality data, and filter chemicals out of the water such as oil, arsenic, and heavy metals through filtering pads.

‘Sharkie’ is controlled by harbour staff alongside the Shark Ambassadors and all waste recovered from it will be deposited in the Ocean Recovery Project bins at Ilfracombe Harbour, then collected by North Devon Council for sorting.  Ocean Recovery will then recycle the separated plastic waste into pellets, which can in turn be made into kayaks and composite flooring.

 

BARNSTAPLE PANNIER MARKET REOPENS FRIDAY 3 JULY

The doors to Barnstaple Pannier Market are set to open again to customers at 9am on Friday 3 July.

Following the reopening of non-essential shops earlier in the month, officers from North Devon Council have been working hard on a new layout and Covid -19-compliant trading conditions for the market so that customers and traders can return safely. Measures include:

  • a phased return with the first markets being held on Friday 3 July and Saturday 4 July, opening at 9am
  • a new one-way system with the market entrance off Barnstaple High Street and three exits – one onto Butchers Row, one onto Market Street and another next to the Queen’s Theatre
  • more room between stalls
  • hand-sanitising stations
  • new signs explaining how to move around the market and shop safely
  • contactless payment available where possible
  • risk assessments completed by all traders before opening

Lead Member for Economic Development and Strategic Planning Policy at North Devon Council, Councillor Malcolm Prowse, says: “The reopening of Barnstaple Pannier Market is another step towards getting the economy of North Devon fully open again. Many of our traders have continued trading during the closure, but there is nothing quite like being back in the market with your fellow traders and customers.

“The new regulations in place will ensure the market is as safe as possible, and our friendly market staff will be available to help with any queries customers have. We ask that customers continue to follow social-distancing guidelines and practices when visiting the market, to help with this, at busier times, visitor numbers may be restricted for a short while as customers finish their shopping. Our officers will be monitoring and reviewing restrictions at the market frequently so that any necessary changes can be made so life at the market can return to as normal as possible, as soon as possible.”

Ward Member for Barnstaple Central at North Devon Council, Councillor Robbie Mack, says: “Barnstaple Pannier Market is an important part of the town centre and our local economy. I want to give a big thanks to Hannah Harrington from the Town Centre Management Team, staff members and of course the market traders for making it possible to reopen. Please support local suppliers, keep supply lines short and shop safely in our pannier market.”

Stay up-to-date with news about Barnstaple Pannier Market on the market’s very own facebook page and the North Devon Council website.