Category Archives: Business News

The launch of the Minehead Gift Card: an easy way to support local businesses

What a great idea! The new Minehead Gift Card is available to buy, offering an easy way to support local businesses and keep money locked into Minehead.

Cards can be purchased from £5-£500 and spent with a variety of businesses in the town, on shopping, food and drink, accommodation, leisure and attractions and services.

One of the places where the Minehead Gift Card can be spent is The Lighting Company, an established lighting and homeware business with a flagship store in Minehead. Glenn Ross is from The Lighting Company and says, “As for all businesses, managing the uncertainty of lockdown has been a challenge. In this third lockdown, we’ve taken it as an opportunity to completely refresh our Minehead store, develop new ranges, work on photography and upskill staff – the majority of whom have been working throughout.

“We employ over 20 people locally, and are passionate about supporting Minehead. The Minehead Gift Card will keep money local, and that can only be a good thing. Because it can be spent with lots of different businesses in the area, there is that security too. Money spent locally stays local and that benefits everyone.

“There has been an increase in interest for British-made products and, after the first lockdown, that support from locals was fantastic. People are shopping here in Minehead rather than driving to other towns and cities.

“We’re really excited to have customers back in store again from April 12th. While online is a really important channel for us, a presence on the high street is vital. Customers want to look, feel and touch the products, guided by an experienced member of staff.”

Janet Thompson is the founder of Grown Up Marshmallows, a local artisan producer of gourmet marshmallows, and opened a shop on The Avenue in Minehead a week before the first lockdown. She says, “Our product is created in small batches in Exmoor National Park, using fruit we’ve grown ourselves, and packaged with 100% recyclable, biodegradable, compostable material. Creating a local product was important to us. With the lockdown, we had to adapt our business, supplying hamper companies, refining our product and creating items like the toasting kit, and actually last year was our best year yet.

“All of our boxes of marshmallow have the Exmoor flag, so they’re ideal for tourists but we’re really lucky to have experienced that local support, too. Without locals, we don’t have a business. We hope that people will buy the Minehead Gift Card to show their support for our town.”

The Minehead Gift Card became a reality following a £100,000 grant from Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) through the Emergency Town Centre Recovery Fund, led by a steering group set up by Minehead Business Improvement District (BID) of local business owners and leaders from Minehead Town Council, Somerset West and Taunton and Somerset County Council.

The funding has meant that the scheme has been opened up to businesses from right across Minehead, including the Alcombe Fish Bar. Jill Foster from the Alcombe Fish Bar said the gift card will also be useful for people wanting to buy gifts for those living in the area:

“I think the Minehead Gift Card is a great idea. I had someone ring me from Nottingham wanting to buy a voucher as a gift for family that live locally. The Minehead Gift Card is an easy way for someone to give a nice gift. Locals might also buy it for themselves, so they can treat themselves to a takeaway.

“People are starting to put local as their first choice, and realising that they can get what they want locally, often cheaper too. The Minehead Gift Card is going to be especially important for us to support those businesses that have been closed during lockdown, it will be really beneficial for our area.”

The new Minehead Gift Card is part of the award-winning Town and City Gift Cards programme from fintech Miconex, with over 60 schemes across the UK and Ireland, including Bath, Exeter and Tavistock. Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex and said the gift card makes it easy to shop local in Minehead: “We all want to support local businesses after this latest lockdown and shopping locally is a simple way to do that. Over 86% of Generation Z shoppers have purchased a gift card and 81% of people are supporting local businesses more than before the pandemic. With the Minehead Gift Card, people can get out and experience Minehead, visit new businesses they’ve never been into and keep money locked into the area.”

Businesses from across Minehead can still register to be a part of the scheme using the following link: or by contacting Richard Robbins at Minehead BID by emailing

Top: Janet Thompson, founder of Grown Up Marshmallows, and Glenn Ross from The Lighting Company.


West Country Blacksmiths shortlisted for 2020 GAGA Construction Awards

Exmoor-based bespoke metalwork specialists West Country Blacksmiths have had a project at the Courthouse Mews development in Somerton shortlisted for the 2020 GAGA Construction Awards.

The awards celebrate the design and construction of bespoke metalwork both nationally and internationally. The work of West Country Blacksmiths has been shortlisted alongside projects including The Wave in Bristol, Luton Airport entrance canopy, the Giant Eagle of Triberg, Germany and the new training complex of the Premier league football club Brighton & Hove Albion FC.

The metalwork was produced as part of the development of the former Courthouse and Market Place buildings, which have been tastefully converted and extended to provide eight apartments and a two-bedroom house and dedicated Art Care Education (ACE arts) space in the heart of Somerton. The metalwork was bespoke designed and made to complete this development and included a fully automated gate with decorative archway, over 53 metres of wall-top railings, six Juliette balconies, handrails, balcony railings and a bench.

Each piece of handcrafted metalwork is galvanised with a unique acid etch finish to offer long-term, low-maintenance protection.

The blacksmiths used a range of skills and procedures to produce the metalwork include laser scanning and Cad designing, CNC profiling, forge work and highly accurate quality fabrication.

The concept for the metalwork was the brainchild of Frank Martin (Trustee and founder of ACE arts), who said, “Finding creative partners who are able to deliver on my personal inspiration is a rare talent, which West Country Blacksmiths have. As Creative Director my design brief was inspired by through mirror images, and it has become a reality in a medium I am not usually associated with. Everyone at Courthouse Mews is delighted with West Country Blacksmiths’ work, a unique and stunning finish to the development that has helped to  Somerton become “one of the most creative, contemporary and forward-thinking towns in Somerset.”

The award has now been running for 26 years, with previous winners including The Eden Project in Cornwall and the Imperial War Museum in Manchester.

This is the second successive nomination for these awards for the craftsmen of West Country Blacksmiths – after having two bespoke projects shortlisted from six projects for the 2019 design and detail award. Sadly, they missing out on the award that time, which was given to dePaor for the Pálás Cinema in Galway. However, 2019 was still a successful year for the blacksmiths who won the  highly acclaimed Staircase of the Year Award at the Architects’ Journal  for a bespoke staircase project completed for a property in the nature reserve of Sartfell Mountain on the Isle of Man in partnership with Foster Lomas Architects.

West Country Blacksmiths company director Kieren Roberts said, “We are very grateful of the recognition of our work. We are privileged to have an incredibly talented team and together we work extremely hard to produce metalwork to the very best standard regardless of the size and type of project. We thank everyone at the Courthouse Mews development; they were a privilege to work with and we are excited by our future opportunities. As a small company this type of recognition among some of the country’s biggest construction projects is unbelievable. The support we get from the local community is amazing and our focus is to serve the community of Somerset, producing the very best possible metalwork service.”

West Country Blacksmiths are based at the National Trust forge in Allerford on the edge of Exmoor. They produce bespoke metalwork locally and nationally, and their work can be seen in prestigious locations such as Kensington Palace. The team also continue to offer a traditional ‘blacksmiths shop’ whereby they repair and restore items for the local community.


Exmoor-based craftsmen West Country Blacksmiths are to feature on Channel 4’s Grand Designs House of the Year 2019. The four-part series showcases the finalists of the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects House of the Year.

Among the finalists for the award is a truly unique and amazing property built within the Sartfell Nature Reserve on the Isle of Man. The building was designed by London-based architects Foster Lomas, a company which was founded by William Foster and Greg Lomas who both grew up in Somerset.

Central features of the house, which has already won multiple national and regional awards, include a set of bespoke metal staircases, walkways and library book shelving. The metalwork, which totals over eight tonnes, was all made and installed by West Country Blacksmiths and has received industry recognition by being award the AJ specification Staircase of the Year award 2019.

The blacksmiths welcomed a team from Grand Designs to Allerford Forge to interview Kyle Roberts of West Country Blacksmiths and CAD designer John Hesp to learn more about the work involved in producing the metalwork. The blacksmiths were also filmed at work in the forge.

The series starts on Wedneday 23 of October, with the episode featuring West Country Blacksmiths due to be aired on Wednesday 30 October at 9pm.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Edmund Sumner.


Entrepreneurs, business owners and managers from across Exmoor are invited to a free networking and workshop session to launch the Rural Enterprise Exmoor initiative on 24 October at Wheddon Cross. Businesses of any size and from any sector who are active within Exmoor National Park are invited to the session to network and share challenges and opportunities.

A free buffet lunch will be provided during a networking session at the start which will include stands from a range of business support organisations. Presentations will then be given, including an introduction to the Rural Enterprise Exmoor project, case studies from local businesses grown on Exmoor, and an introduction to the work of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership from their Chief Operating Officer. The session will finish with an overview of the new research being undertaken by Wavehill, an independent research organisation, prior to a workshop.

“We are really excited to be able to bring together so many groups and organisations who are working to support enterprise on Exmoor,” commented Dan James, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Sustainable Economy Manager.

“Exmoor is a very special place and as well as being home to some of the most stunning landscape in the country it is also home to a range of enterprising people and businesses. Whilst Exmoor offers many benefits it is one of the most rural areas of England and so brings with it some unique challenges. We’re keen to help bring businesses together to share ideas and hear first-hand what more could be done to further grow appropriate business activity within the National Park.”

The workshop will mark the launch of a significant new business survey being undertaken across the length and breadth of Exmoor to capture business views. The research will map out business activity across Exmoor for the first time, providing a comprehensive picture of business activity and sectors operating in the area. The project will also look to broaden understanding of operating businesses beyond the national datasets which capture those who are VAT or PAYE registered and don’t provide a true reflection of the number of sole proprietors and small home-based businesses found across Exmoor.

The event takes place from 12.30 – 4pm at the Moorland Hall, Wheddon Cross, TA24 7DU. Attendance is free but spaces must be booked in advance at

For further details email or follow @RuralEntExmoor on Facebook and Twitter.

Rural Enterprise Exmoor is supported and funded by the Exmoor National Park Authority, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, West Somerset Opportunity Area, Somerset County Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council and North Devon Council.


The Exmoor White Horse Inn has been shortlisted to win a Countryside Alliance Award in the Pub category.

The Awards are the Countryside Alliance’s annual celebration of British food and farming, enterprise and heritage through our small hard-working businesses. The awards are now in their fourteenth year and have become the definitive rural business award to win.

They are set apart from other award schemes because they are driven by public nomination, offering customers the chance to say why their favourite businesses are worthy of national acclaim. The awards received over 17,000 nominations this year, so The Exmoor White Horse Inn has done extremely well to be shortlisted.

Serving the Exmoor Community for over 30 years they are now the longest serving licensees in the inn’s 500 year history. Welcoming visitors by wheel by hoof and by foot, the inn is an intrinsic part of the Exmoor National Park.

Countryside Alliance Awards Director Sarah Lee commented: “We have been overwhelmed by nominations this year. The secret to the Rural Oscars’ popularity is that they honour the people involved in these businesses and not just their produce or services. They exist to sing the praises of those who work hard to keep our communities and rural economy ticking, but don’t seek the spotlight. These awards provide a cause for celebration in a time of great uncertainty in the countryside. Our local produce is second to none and there are many community heroes and businesses worthy of national recognition.”

Peter & Linda from The Exmoor White Horse Inn commented: “We are thrilled to have been shortlisted as regional finalist. It is especially gratifying as we are celebrating our 30th year as custodians of The Exmoor White Horse Inn in the heart of the Exmoor National Park.

More information about the awards can be found here.

Photo by Peter Hendrie.


A bespoke staircase project made in Somerset by Exmoor-based West Country Blacksmiths has been shortlisted for the Architects’ Journal Architecture specification award 2019 in the category of ‘Stairs and Lifts’. The staircase was created for a property in the nature reserve of Sartfell Mountain on the Isle of Man.

The project is a real Somerset-based collaboration. The house was designed by Foster Lomas, a London-based architects practice which was originally founded by friends Greg Lomas and Will Foster who both grew up in Somerset and visit family in Somerset regularly. The metalwork design concept was developed between architects, CAD Designer John Hesp of Porlock and West Country Blacksmiths based near Minehead.

The central feature of the property is eight tons’ worth of bespoke metalwork all made by West Country Blacksmiths at their historic National Trust Forge on the Holnicote Estate near Minehead. The metalwork includes two staircases and walkways made from steel and perforated stainless steel and also incorporates steel bookshelves which span over two floors.

The metalwork has been finished with a unique antiquing acid etch treatment with a protective lacquered finish with exception of the handrail which has been hand polished prior to the protective lacquer finishing. The treads and walkways have been made from perforated stainless steel which has been grain polished.

The team took over seven months to develop the design and produce metalwork which was sent from Somerset to the Isle of Man on two lorries with the team’s tools. The craftsmen of West Country Blacksmiths flew out to meet and carry out the installation of their metalwork which took over seven days to complete.

West Country Blacksmiths co-founder said, “We were privileged to be given the opportunity to work on this project and we’re extremely proud of what the team involved in the project have produced. We are so proud that the quality of design and execution of this metalwork has been recognised by industry experts and shortlisted as one of the six best ‘Stairs and Lifts’ projects in the country.”

The awards will take place on 15 February in Manchester and will be attended by the team involved in the project.

The building was also shortlisted in the AJ Architects ‘House of the Year’ category for 2018.

PHOTO: by Edmund Sumner.


The award-winning broadcaster and adventurer Ben Fogle has been into Williton recently getting a makeover for his classic Land Rover.

Ben (45) who has become famous for his love of the wilderness and inaccessible places, owns a Puma Defender 90 Land Rover – but recently wanted to upgrade various parts of his top-of-the-range four-wheel drive.

To get the job done he turned to Williton-based Exmoor Trim, who made various changes to all manner of gear including the hood (above) and even the steering wheel (bottom).

“Ben has always had a love for Land Rovers – he even wrote a book called Land Rover: The Story of the Car That Conquered the World,” said a spokesman for the specialist company.

“So, when the time came for Ben to make a change, he chose Exmoor Trim fitting technicians to do the work, saying it ‘felt like the right fit’.”

Exmoor Trim, which produces seats, hoods, canvas seat covers and hundreds of other accessories for Land Rovers, worked with Ben on making a bespoke ‘stayfast’ hood.

The high-tech cover was handmade by specialists in Exmoor Trim’s hood department.

Ben’s Land Rover was then sent across to Exmoor Trim’s fitting centre where the fitting technicians made numerous changes, including mounting a classic Evander Wood Rim steering wheel and new slimline boss kit.

The adventurer said he was delighted with the changes: “My thanks to Exmoor Trim for the beautiful new canopy on my Land Rover… She looks amazing!” he said.


Local Tea & Coffee merchant Miles continues to work with Somerset CCC following a successful year.

The Miles directors have announced a commitment to another year of partnership with the Somerset County Cricket ground. This will involve sampling on selected days throughout the year, competitions and exclusivity across the tea sector. Miles award winning tea blends will be available at outlets in the ground.

This is an exciting year for the County ground, with an International game and the Women’s World cup.

Sam Burton, Marketing Manager at Miles, said, “Following continued investment in our Somerset production sites, this partnership provides us with a perfect opportunity to share our passion for quality tea and provide a future for employment in our rural area. We are all excited to be working with Somerset CCC in such an historic year and congratulate them on hosting the Women’s World Cup and an international game.

Jez Curwin, Head of Commercial Operations at Somerset County Cricket Club, said, “We are delighted to continue to work alongside Miles Tea & Coffee as a local business, a good cuppa and cricket make the perfect combination. We are looking forward to developing a long working relationship.”



Jack and Alison Clegg have moved their photography business from Porlock to Minehead. We wish them all the best with this development! Jack is a long-standing contributor to the magazine and his photography stars on the current winter cover. The photo above shows a red kite which Jack photographed in Valley of Rocks. The image accompanies Trevor Beer’s Country Matters article on page 63 of the winter magazine (which is all about wildlife in winter in the Valley of Rocks).

Here is a message from Jack and Alison about their move, which we have promised to share…

As our lease has now ended at the shop in Porlock, we are relocating the business. We would like to thank you for your custom and support over the last six years and we look forward to your continued custom and support in the future. We have found that with the ever-increasing popularity of the photography courses, we are away from this shop too much to justify staying here.

Exmoor Photography is continuing as normal. However, we will be concentrating on the following services,

  • Exmoor Photography Courses
  • Online Gallery Sales
  • Commercial Photography
  • Canvas & fine quality printing service (not kiosk)

All of our products and information are available online
as always on the following websites.
If you have any questions or would like
to book your photography course
Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Course & Photo accessories:
Alternatively, you can contact us on
T: 01643 702312 (active from Monday 23rd January 2017)
M: 07790 885506

Exmoor Photography
85 Marshfield Rd
TA24 6AJ.

You are welcome to visit the office BY APPOINTMENT ONLY,
please contact us on the above numbers to make an appointment.
We will be running the business from our H/A until we find
a larger retail premises in a bigger town.

  • Please note if you have a Photography Course GV, please contact us (as per normal) to book your course by contacting us on the above numbers.
  • Please note if you have a current shop GV you can use it on the gallery website as above or as part payment against one of our photography courses.


The National Parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor contain some of the most remote and poorly connected parts of England. But that is about to change when they get connected to the superfast digital highway through one of the largest wireless broadband infrastructure projects ever to be undertaken in the country.

Matt Hancock, Minister of State responsible for digital and culture policy at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, recently unveiled the roll-out of the Connecting Dartmoor and Exmoor (CDE) superfast broadband programme across the National Parks. It is being hailed as a game changer for the region’s economy by business and community leaders from Devon and Somerset.

The Minister said: “Fast, reliable broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity, perhaps especially in rural areas such as Dartmoor and Exmoor. It’s great to see Connecting Devon & Somerset (CDS) working together with the National Park Authorities, West Somerset Council and Airband on this innovative approach to roll out superfast broadband in such a remote and challenging area.

“The faster speeds will bring significant benefits to local people, businesses and public services, and open up the National Parks to a much wider marketplace so that even more people can enjoy these places of outstanding beauty.”

Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet member for Business, Inward Investment and Policy, added: “The Connecting Dartmoor & Exmoor programme builds on the success of the first phase of the CDS programme and is already making significant impact with some 2049 premises already able to connect to the wireless network and many more will be able to connect before Christmas. This will bring long-term economic benefits to the Moors that will be felt for many generations to come.”

Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth for Devon County Council, commented: “The roll-out to the National Parks represents an important element of the second phase of the CDS programme. It will enrich residents’ lives by providing easier access to public services and education resources for our young people, whilst providing a major stimulus to the farming and tourism sectors which are crucial to the local economy.

“The innovative approach that has been taken with the roll-out across the National Parks is also testament to the open procurement route used for the second phase of the programme which ensures we provide competition, choice and value for money to the communities that we are serving.”

MP for Central Devon Mel Stride, said: “It’s vital that rural areas have the same access to faster broadband as their urban counterparts and I am delighted for my constituents in the Dartmoor National Park area that will receive both social and economic benefits. It will make the region an even more attractive place to visit, work and set up new enterprises.”

The National Parks have played a key role in balancing the need to rollout broadband to really hard to reach places, whilst conserving the landscape of the area.

Chairman of Dartmoor National Park, Bill Hitchins commented: “We are delighted to have supported this new approach to connecting our most rural communities and businesses to faster broadband. National Parks are national assets that we are very proud to look after, however they are living, working landscapes that still need good connectivity to ensure our businesses and communities thrive.”

Cllr Andrea Davis, Chairman of Exmoor National Park added: “Superfast broadband will provide a welcome boost to those living and working on the moors. Dartmoor and Exmoor have been leading the way being the only National Parks to gain funding through the Rural Community Broadband Fund for phase one and now funding and supporting the rollout of the largest wireless broadband network in the country. Our staff have worked hard to secure these benefits for the area whilst conserving the special landscape loved by so many.”

Airband, a specialist in high speed wireless broadband for rural areas, is delivering the £4.6m scheme to connect 5,800 homes, farms and businesses across Exmoor and Dartmoor.

The Airband solution uses state of the art data radio technology delivering speeds of 30Mbps or more, ensuring high speed connection where fibre is not available. Its technology is also future-proofed so will be able to exceed these speeds in years to come.

The technology works by passing a signal from a radio on a transmitter or mast to a radio attached to the final building. A cable then takes the connection into the building allowing the home or business to connect to the internet the same way as via fibre or a standard broadband connection.

The roll-out of the infrastructure has been a major engineering feat. Designing a network in such sensitive and nationally important landscapes as the South West’s two National Parks demands great care and consideration, not only  to conserve  the moorland skyline but also its rich wealth of nationally important archaeological and wildlife sites. In addition, groundworks have been challenging due to the difficult terrain and have required the use, for example, of specialist equipment to drill through rock before installing poles. The dramatic topography of the moors has also presented accessibility challenges, where at times vehicles have struggled to climb steep hills or reach very isolated spots. Despite these challenges, works have continued to progress and the connectivity on the moors is now live in areas.

The nature of fixed wireless infrastructure means that there has been no need to dig up roads and lay cables to connect with the exchange points, again minimising the impact of the works on the environment.

Redmond Peel, Managing Director of Airband, commented: “We’re delighted to be involved in coming up with a next generation communications solution for one of the most challenging areas in the country in terms of the dense treelines, long distances involved, hills and existing structures. Through our experience of rural deployments and specialist expertise in implementing fixed wireless broadband, we’ve been able to minimise disruption and maintain this area of outstanding beauty.”

As part of the unveiling of the CDE programme, schoolchildren at local primary school Ilsington got a lesson with a difference when they were provided with a futuristic view of the digital world. Pupils had a demonstration in virtual reality and the use of iPads whilst listening to a talk on the unlimited potential of technology that will form an ever-increasing part of their lives as they grow up.

Connecting Dartmoor & Exmoor, which forms part of the 2nd phase programme to extend superfast broadband coverage beyond the phase one deployment, is part of the Connecting Devon & Somerset (CDS) superfast broadband roll-out programme across the wider region.

About Connecting Devon and Somerset
Councils across Devon and Somerset are working together to bring faster broadband to the area and deliver improved broadband for rural Devon and Somerset – the “final third” – rural areas that are unlikely to benefit from commercial investment in broadband.

The Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme covers Devon County Council, Somerset County Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council, and North Somerset Council areas.

In 2011 the programme secured £32 million of funding from the government agency Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and both Somerset and Devon County Councils put in £10 million each. Further funding from Bath and North East Somerset Council brought the public sector total close to £53 million.  With the £41 million additional investment from BT the Programme is investing £94 million to improve broadband connectivity.

In addition, over £700,000 of additional funding was secured working with Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park’s to extend the reach in this phase to around 75% of Dartmoor and 69% of Exmoor premises by the end of 2016.  In 2014 BDUK announced a further £22.75m allocated to the CDS programme to support the extension of superfast broadband coverage to 95 per cent of premises nationally. This has been matched locally, which means the programme has over £45 million further to invest in bringing superfast broadband to the area.

About Connecting Dartmoor & Exmoor
The Connecting Dartmoor and Exmoor programme is led by Connecting Devon and Somerset Partnership with the support of Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities.  It is being delivered by Airband Community Internet Company and will connect 5,800 homes, farms and businesses across the two National Parks using fixed wireless broadband technology.

It kick-starts phase two of the publicly-funded Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband programme which aims to provide 95% of Devon and Somerset with superfast broadband.

About Airband
Airband is an internet service provider that focuses on delivering superfast broadband to hard to reach and rural communities across England and Wales where a traditional fibre solution cannot be used. This is achieved by using fixed wireless radio wave technology to bring speeds of 20Mbps to 1Gbps, connecting users to the internet via overground transmissions rather than digging up roads to lay underground cables. The result is a low impact solution ideally suited to rural areas, National Parks and AONBs.

With 10 years’ experience, the Airband team plan, install and maintain a private network, tailoring the solution to the local environment, taking into account the geography, the existing wireless landscape and the economics of each project, enabling the best possible connection and speed to each location.