HAVE YOUR SAY ON CYCLING IN WEST SOMERSET

Guest post from Sarah Ellwood, The Steam Coast Trail

Terrified of cycling on the A39? Sick of cyclists on the road? Wish your kids could safely cycle to school? Take our very quick ten-question survey.

The government’s recent announcements to invest £2 billion to encourage more cycling and walking is very welcomed. There’s plenty of work going on in urban areas to improve the safety of cyclists and get more people out on their bikes, but way less in rural areas such as West Somerset. We are working to change this.

The phenomenal success of our first two paths prove that people want to cycle in West Somerset: since 2017 we’ve recorded over 180,000 trips, over a third of which are cycle trips.

I know I saw loads more bikes out on the roads during lockdown, especially families. On my rides I’d sometimes see more cyclists than cars so I know lots of you are out there! But the numbers are definitely dipping now restrictions are easing and we want to know why.

Experienced in providing safe places to cycle, the Steam Coast Trail team has a pretty good idea of what these barriers to more cycling may be. But to progress our mission to make more lovely mixed-use paths we need evidence to highlight what’s stopping so many people from using a bike for short journeys in West Somerset.

Whether you’re almost permanently dressed in Lycra or hate the thought of getting on a bike, please take our quick ten-question survey. It’ll just take a minute or two!

Thanks very much,

Sarah Ellwood
Project Officer – Steam Coast Trail

THE MUSEUM OF BARNSTAPLE AND NORTH DEVON WELCOMES VISITORS BACK

Staff and volunteers at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon welcomed visitors back this week.

Admission is free, but to ensure the safety of staff and visitors, an advanced booking system is being introduced to help manage visitor numbers so social distancing can be maintained and ensure the museum experience is a safe and welcoming one.

All visitors are being asked to book a timed arrival slot in advance on the Museum website between the new opening hours of 11am-3pm (last admittance at 2pm), Wednesday to Friday.

Museum curator, Alison Mills, says: “Visitors will be able to explore our permanent displays, view the temporary exhibition ‘James Ravilious: An Eye for Life’ and visit our museum shop.  Anyone wishing to visit just the shop will be permitted without booking, but please be aware there may be a short wait outside due to the small size of the shop.

“Visitors to Bromley’s tearoom will not have to pre-book. The tearoom access is now separate through the side door on the Square and tables will be available outside in good weather.”

For further information and visitor FAQs please the museum website. Anyone without access to the internet can phone the museum to arrange a booking slot on 01271 346747.

EXMOOR DARK SKIES FESTIVAL PREPARES FOR LIFT-OFF

Exmoor National Park’s popular Dark Skies Festival is set to go ahead this October (16th-31st) as businesses across the region prepare to deliver a host of ‘Covid-friendly’ events in celebration of the region’s spectacular starry night skies.

With so many festivals and other occasions off the cards this year, it’s hoped the celebration – organised by Exmoor National Park Authority – will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy and a fresh way of enjoying the stunning beauty of the area at a traditionally less-busy time of year, and day.

Ranger-guided night walks, stargazing suppers, dusk safaris and expert astronomy talks are among the many events planned, along with some brand-new experiences such as Dark Sky Boat Adventures and Well-Being Retreats under the stars. All have been thoroughly risk-assessed to ensure they can be enjoyed safely, with advanced booking a requirement for all events due to limits on group sizes and makeup.

Katrina Munro, who coordinates the festival for Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “The Festival celebrates our designation as an International Dark Sky Reserve and we’re proud to have by far some of the lowest levels of light pollution and darkest skies in the country. With the help of our dedicated National Park Rangers, staff and local businesses, we’ve done some re-thinking and careful planning, with all working hard to ensure every precautionary measure is in place for the Festival to run as safely as possible. For some this will mean a much more exclusive experience, shared only among select family and friends of your choosing, making it extra special for those lucky enough to get tickets.”

Jennie Wild from Exford-based business Wild about Exmoor has been running stargazing experiences for several years and has recently adapted her business model. “Recently we’ve started taking small groups out on the moor for private stargazing adventures and the response has been amazing. During such difficult times it’s incredible what a little time under a magical star-lit sky like Exmoor’s can do for the soul. From the response we’ve been getting its clear people so need that right now -an unforgettable experience for all ages.”

For those who would rather help celebrate the National Park’s dark skies from home, there will also be on-line events focused on stargazing, nocturnal wildlife and the importance of dark skies. Follow #ExmoorDSF on social media for updates or sign up to Exmoor National Park’s Dark Skies newsletter on their website.

The Festival events programme and booking information can be found at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/darkskiesfestival, where there are also details of this year’s Festival competition themed on ‘Exmoor at Night Photography and Astrophotography’. The competition is supported by local businesses including Exmoor Magazine, Wicked Wold Gin and Miles Tea and Coffee, along with Astronomy Now magazine and Celestron telescopes. There are four categories, under 16 and 16+ age classes, with a range of fantastic astronomy-themed prizes on offer, including the chance to see your photos featured in several of the region’s glossy magazines.

Photo credit: Richard Presley, Dark Skies Over Dunkery Beacon.

RECIPES FROM HERBY4 TO GO WITH AUTUMN ISSUE

In our autumn issue (we should have finished our shop deliveries by about 15 August), we have an article by Jo Laver about Rachael Jarrett and Andy Rock (‘Rocky’) of Bicknoller-based company Herby4. In there we have promised readers some recipes to go with the article, which Rocky has kindly sent in. He says:

These are a couple here that people have recommended to us and some of our own!

Tofu Paneer Recipies
Basically, any recipe that uses paneer cheese or firm-pressed tofu will work well with Tofu paneer.  There are plenty out there but here are a couple of mouth-watering options….

1) Try this recipe from the  BOSH Brothers. www.bosh.tv/recipes/crispy-chilli-tofu. Using Tofu Paneer, don’t bother about all the pressing of the tofu in the first couple of paragraphs.  We also use Herby4 apple juice  (from any of the range we happen to have open – they all work) instead of orange juice. Simply jump straight into coating it in flour (paragraph 3) and it’s a very quick and very impressive meal!

2) Secondly  have a look at this mouth-watering Spicy Tofu Makhani recipe from In Our Kitchen online recipes. drive.google.com/drive/folders/1PdD2fhAQri83ZKw4PuLXTrxuP0_rVhxJ To keep it vegan you could leave the butter out and up the amount of coconut milk.  Either way it is a brilliantly creamy option. The longer you leave the tofu to soak up the spices the better!

Apple-Smoked Tofu recipes

Apple-smoked tofu goes well with just about anything and can often be used instead of bacon or cheese. It has plenty of flavour of its own so any used will enhance and add protein and flavour to stir-fry dishes, thai dishes or salad. Some of our family favourites are even simpler though.

3) Easiest breakfast ever!!!

  • Take a slice of Herby4 apple smoked tofu in one side of a toaster
  • Put a crumpet in the other side of the toaster
  • When they have both popped up, put the tofu on the crumpet with a dollop of ketchup.  Hey presto.

You will not believe how good this really is!!

4) Tofish and Chips. (Our daughter’s favourite!)

  • Make a vegan batter using flour, water, a pinch of salt and a gram of baking powder
  • Coat a slice of apple-smoked tofu in batter and deep fry!
  • Eat with chips!!

5) Grated apple smoked tofu on pasta. (Our son’s favourite!)

  • Simply make pasta with your favourite tomato sauce
  • Grate a chunk of our apple-smoked tofu on the top!

It really is that simple! Enjoy!

SOMERSET WILDLIFE TRUST EMERGENCY APPEAL

The following is a press release which has been issued by Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Somerset Wildlife Trust has launched an Emergency Appeal for Somerset’s wildlife in response to the devastating impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the charity’s ability to fundraise for its work to reverse wildlife declines, restore biodiversity and reconnect people with nature.

Already dealing with the financial challenges surrounding reductions in EU funding, and the immediate and enormous cost of the rapid onset of Ash Dieback disease on its nature reserves, now, as a result of Covid-19, the Trust is looking at a shortfall in its budgeted income for this year of at least £200,000.

At a time when the Trust should be at the peak of its fundraising activities, with membership recruitment and events happening across the county, and delivering vital habitat management programmes with the help of hundreds of volunteers, many of its staff and recruiters have been furloughed, events cancelled, and work programmes are far behind where they should be. Reserve teams are also under additional pressure to repair the physical damage on sites from anti-social behaviour that took place whilst staff was at its bare minimum.

The Trust is appealing to members, supporters and those passionate about Somerset’s nature to support the charity now, when it needs help the most. The funds raised by its emergency appeal will help bridge the significant gap in its finances this year so it can continue its work for wildlife, capitalise on the current drive towards a greener recovery, and ensure Somerset can continue to play its part in addressing the national and global ecological and climate crises.

Katie Arber, Director of Fundraising & Marketing, comments: “Along with members, supporters and volunteers, we are desperately disappointed to have had to cancel our key fundraising activities this year, particularly at a time when the environment, climate change and loss of biodiversity were at the top of the political agenda and high in public consciousness. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge and immediate impact on our income and will for years to come.

“The fact that even more people have turned to nature to help them during lockdown however is brilliant news, and we hope local wildlife will continue to be part of their lives. We now need everyone’s help to continue to do our work to support wildlife and habitats here in Somerset, and every donation will enable us to do this.”

CEO, Georgia Stokes (pictured), adds: “The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. To reverse nature’s decline we must restore and connect valuable habitats for wildlife and restore natural processes also providing essential carbon stores and helping to adapt to climate change.

Many of us have discovered during lockdown that we need nature to benefit our physical and mental health and recognised that nature really is the life support function for our lives, our communities and our businesses.

“Whilst Covid-19 has hit us at the worst possible time, we mustn’t lose the momentum that existed before lockdown for building a more environmentally sustainable, wildlife-rich county, and urge everyone who turned to or connected with the natural world for the first time to continue their support and give if they can to help us continue the work we do during what will be difficult times ahead.”

To donate to Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Emergency Appeal, visit the website here: www.somersetwildlife.org/emergencyappeal or ring 01823 652429.

Photo: Georgia Stokes by Matt Sweeting.