Category Archives: Environment

DUNSTER BEACH HUT URGES OTHERS TO JOIN THE PLASTIC FREE REVOLUTION

Salad Days and Holi Moli, two multi-award-winning 5-star beach huts at Dunster Beach, have received further recognition, this time by Surfers against Sewage and Plastic Free Minehead & West Somerset.

“The two beach huts have a long list of awards, but this one is really special,” said Brett Bates, who co-owns the beach huts with his partner Susan Juggins. “We have always been environmentally conscious, during the refurbishment and the running of both our huts, but when we got involved with Plastic Free Minehead & West Somerset, an environmental action group run by Surfers Against Sewage as part of their Plastic Free Communities campaign, we decided we could go one step further and make our little green huts just a little bit greener.”

Dunster Beach Huts looked at all their processes and supplies to see how they could become as single-use-plastic-free as possible. Brett said, “Some areas were easier than others; for example, we have always done beach cleans inspired by 2 Minute Beach Clean, so we now actively encourage our guests and social media followers to do their own beach cleans, and the ‘David Attenborough effect’ has certainly made it easier to get this message across.” Guests at Salad Days and Holi Moli are now provided with their own picker sticks and beach clean bags. Brett and Susan changed some of their supplies to include eco-friendly shower and shampoo cubes instead of plastic bottles, locally made natural guest soaps, homemade jam and marmalade in reusable jars, homemade wax food wraps to replace cling film and glass water bottles in the fridge to save wasting water by running the tap to mention just a few of the changes. Even their doggy guests can get involved using bamboo dog bowls, refillable water bottles and biodegradable poop bags. Their guest changeovers have become greener too, by only using environmentally friendly cleaning products and using old tea towels as cleaning cloths instead of bought-in cloths.

“Our aim now is to continue on this green path even further, by being even more conscious of our sustainability as a company, but also in our private lives and to encourage other Somerset businesses to follow our lead and help give the world a single-use -plastic-free future,” Brett concluded. For further information on becoming a plastic-free champion see the Surfers against Sewage website or follow Plastic Free Minehead and West Somerset on Facebook.

HEDGELAYING SKILLS REWARDED

The important work of Exmoor’s hedgelayers has once again been recognised and rewarded through the Exmoor Hedge Competition.

Peter Smith received first place and the ‘Mary Stacey Trophy’ (locally made using beech wood from a laid Exmoor hedge), which was kindly donated by the late Mrs Stacey of Foxhanger Farm, Brompton Regis.  As winner, Peter is also invited to join the judges in deciding the winners of next year’s competition.

Well-laid hedges store more carbon, harbour more wildlife and provide a range of environmental benefits that far outstrip any other method of boundary management. They are also key to the National Park’s landscape, wildlife and farming history and provide employment for numerous skilled craftspeople during the winter months.

In recognition of this valuable work, Exmoor National Park Authority launched the Exmoor Hedge Competition in partnership with the Devon and Somerset Hedge Groups, together with the generous support and sponsorship of the Exmoor Trust.

Susan May, Chairman of the Exmoor Trust, and Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, presented the prizes of up to £200 to the winning hedgelayers. First Place in the Open Class was Peter Smith, who laid the hedge for Timothy and Sally Stevens of Summerings Farm, near Wheddon Cross. Second prize went to Gary Atkins, who laid one of the hedges belonging to Shiamala Comer at Ashott Barton Farm, Exford. In third place was a hedge belonging to Robert Kilvington of Parsonage Farm, Hawkridge, whose hedge was laid by Adam Tarr of Lower Hunstone.

Heather Harley, Conservation Officer (Farming & Land Management) for Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We’re extremely grateful to the Exmoor Trust and the Devon and Somerset Hedge Groups for supporting this competition. This traditional skill is so important to the wildlife and landscape of the National Park and an integral part of the rural community.

“Agri-environment support for hedge management has changed dramatically over recent years and the future of hedge management on Exmoor is not certain. I hope that this competition goes a little way to promote the work of these craftspeople.”

Susan May, Chairman of the Exmoor Trust, said: “The Exmoor Trust is very pleased to continue to sponsor the Exmoor Hedge Competition and to support this very important rural skill.  Exmoor would not look like it does today if it were not for these skilled hedge-layers. With uncertain times ahead for agriculture, management of the land and hedgerows becomes ever more important.”

Those looking to develop their hedge-laying skills may be interested in the one-day introductory courses being offered in the Quantocks this autumn, organised by Somerset Hedge Group (£25 per person). See www.fwagsw.org.uk/Pages/Events/Category/events-and-workshops.

For more information about the competition, grants for hedge management or farming and wildlife advice, contact Heather on 01398 322277 or hjharley@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk

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.

 

FARMERS URGED TO BID ONLINE FOR FLOOD WORK

Farmers across Somerset are being invited to bid in the UK’s first countywide auction for works to help stop flooding.

The auction will be run online from 26 February – 12 March using a new Environment Agency web app, which can be found at www.nfmauction.org.uk.

The website offers Somerset farmers a unique combination of possibilities: first, to select for themselves different natural flood management (NFM) activities; second, to pick out parts of their land where they believe those activities will produce the best flood prevention results for them and for local communities; third, to bid for funding for those activities.

As the main purpose of NFM activities in Somerset is to slow the flow of water down through the higher parts of river catchments, the web app will not allow farmers to place bids for land in low-lying Internal Drainage Board areas, but the auction otherwise covers the length and breadth of Somerset.  After the auction closes, bids will be checked by the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SW (FWAG SW). Grants from Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) will then be given to the best, most competitively-priced ideas.

Cllr John Osman, SRA Chairman, said: “This is still a very new system, but all the signs are that it has many strengths. It cuts out paperwork. It saves time and money. It draws on farmers’ unrivalled knowledge of their own land. It’s easy to use – and it gets results.

“Last summer, as a trial of the web app, there was a much smaller auction in the catchments of the River Tone and River Parrett in Somerset and the SRA gave out 22 grants to winning bids. Flood risks to local communities have been reduced through improvements that farmers have been able to make. So it’s a win-win.

“Now we’re opening it up across the county, I hope many Somerset farmers will give it a go.”

Grants are being offered for five different natural flood management measures: maize management, grassland subsoiling, hedge planting, soil bunds, and leaky dams. All help to slow the flow of water, while delivering other benefits. Grassland subsoiling, for example, aerates the ground so that more rainwater can filter in; it also improves the soil.

Anthony Gothard, a Stoke St Gregory farmer who won a maize management grant in last year’s trial auction, said: “It only took me a few minutes to place my bid online and there wasn’t any paperwork. I’m really pleased with what I’ve been able to achieve with the grant money.”

Since the devastating flooding of the Somerset Levels in 2013-14, hundreds of natural flood management initiatives have been carried out across Somerset, as part of the county’s pioneering Hills to Levels project and overarching 20 Year Flood Action Plan. Hills to Levels has so far won two national awards, and this new auction shows Somerset continuing to lead the UK with fresh ideas for tackling local flooding hotspots.

For further information relating to the auction or the Hills to Levels project please contact Victoria Munday victoria.munday@fwagsw.org.uk or Ellen James ellen.james@fwagsw.org.uk

PHOTO: Hedge planting funded by the 2018 auction.

SOMERSET MP MAKES PROGRESS WITH RIVERS AUTHORITIES BILL

The following is a press release from the Somerset Rivers Authority, issued earlier this month (more on this topic tomorrow…)

A Private Members’ Bill to help secure the future of Somerset Rivers Authority, and give local people more powers to tackle flooding, is making progress in Parliament.

After an hour-long debate in the House of Commons, the Somerton and Frome Conservative MP David Warburton’s Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill passed its Second Reading stage, unopposed. The Bill will next be examined more closely by MPs in what is known as the Committee stage.

Mr Warburton opened the debate by reminding MPs of the devastating floods of 2013-14, when “100 million cubic metres of water covered Somerset’s otherwise green and pleasant land… Livelihoods really were driven to the brink, and people were understandably driven to despair.” Somerset drew up a 20 Year Flood Action Plan, from which came a provisional Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA).

If Mr Warburton’s Bill makes it all the way through the House of Commons and House of Lords, there will then be a public consultation across Somerset, after which the SRA could be firmly established in law as a Flood Risk Management Authority with powers specially focused on Somerset. The SRA would be independently able to raise funds for its work through a share of council tax known as a precept.

Mr Warburton told the House: “A flood risk management authority would have duties and would, for the first time, be able to put its finances on a stable footing as a precepting body. The Bill includes additional safeguards for local taxpayers, of course, and would allow the rivers authority to plan its water and flood management schemes into the future and thereby create a safer, more secure environment for us all.”

Reacting to news of the Bill’s successful Second Reading, Cllr John Osman, Chairman of Somerset Rivers Authority, said: “I’m delighted to see the Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill making progress. Somerset Rivers Authority is doing a great deal of extra work to tackle flooding problems across Somerset, but legislation is needed to secure its long-term future.

“David Warburton has had to be extremely persistent in getting matters to this stage, and everyone involved with the SRA is very grateful to him for his determination.

“In the debate, it was heartening to hear support from other MPs. Let’s hope that continues.”

North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones (Conservative) said in the debate that he looked upon Somerset “with envious eyes” because Mr Warburton’s Somerton and Frome constituency was covered by Somerset Rivers Authority.

Mr Heaton-Jones went on: “The SRA has done extraordinarily valuable work for his constituents, and householders and residents in the other constituencies across Somerset…  I particularly welcome my hon. Friend’s Bill and his contribution today, because it seeks to hark back to a time when we rightly had rivers authorities, which were doing work that is best done by local experts, local people – those who know the environment.”

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Flooding and Coastal Communities, Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said the Opposition thanked Mr Warburton for bringing the Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill forward. It was “long overdue’ and rivers authorities would be “a good thing”.

Mr Pollard concluded: “We face unprecedented challenges in defending our lowland areas and coastal communities from flooding. The Bill is welcome, and it will help communities if local authorities use the powers. We need to look at how we can incentivise communities to get there, and we need a comprehensive plan for every community at risk of flooding. If we cannot get this Private Member’s Bill through Parliament, I encourage the Minister to ensure that the Government swiftly adopt the measures to make sure that communities that could benefit are not hindered by the fact that the Bill was not introduced in Government time.”

George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall, and Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, congratulated David Warburton on bringing an “important Bill” forward. Mr Eustice recalled his own experience of Somerset flooding, and said: “The Government fully understand how important this issue is for the people of Somerset and fully support the work of the Somerset Rivers Authority… The Government fully support the Bill going to the next stage.”

PHOTO: SRA-funded work to repair the joints between 300 8-metre concrete slabs in the River Avill’s flood relief channel at Dunster, looking out to sea. In this picture, the joints are being cleaned out.

EXMOOR AND DARTMOOR PROJECTS WANTED FOR 2018 AWARD

Exmoor and Dartmoor projects contributing to our beautiful National Parks could receive a £2,000 boost in recognition of their work thanks to the Campaign for National Parks’ Park Protector Award.

The Award, sponsored by Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust, celebrates the work being done to protect and improve National Parks across England and Wales with the winner receiving a £2,000 bursary and a runner up receiving £500 courtesy of Breedon Group.
Nominations are being invited until Tuesday 31 July. Nominated projects must be seeking to conserve or enhance the biodiversity or a heritage site, improve access to the Parks, or protect an area in a National Park.

Fiona Howie, chief executive of Campaign for National Parks, said: “The Park Protector Award is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate amazing projects happening across the English and Welsh National Parks. The Ramblers Holiday Charitable Trust and Campaign for National Parks urge you to submit a nomination if you know of or are involved in a project doing important work.”

A community science project in the Peak District National Park took the top prize in 2017. The project monitors wildlife in the National Park, looking at the effects of climate change and other issues. Previous winners have included Arun and Rother Connections in the South Downs and Fell Futures in the Lake District.

Find out more: www.cnp.org.uk/news/2018-park-protector-award-searches-its-next-winner

PHOTO: Robbers Briedge by the late Brian Pearce, courtesy of Elaine Pearce

ECO-FRIENDLY PUPILS FUND COACH SUSTAINABILITY PROJECT

Eco-friendly pupils from King’s College recently welcomed to the school the Club Captain of Taunton Rowing Club, Steve Swan.
Steve met with the Head of the King’s Sustainability Strategy, Christina French, to discuss the various sustainability measures implemented across the school and to see how the children could get involved in his latest project: a rainwater-harvesting system at Taunton’s Centre for Outdoor Activities & Community Hub (COACH).

Earlier this month, members of the sustainability group visited the centre, where they took part in an interactive design workshop. Students had the opportunity to audit the building and come up with their own strategies and ideas of how the centre could be more sustainable.

In the coming weeks, King’s pupils will work closely with COACH and Taunton Rowing to construct the rainwater system after donating £500 to help fund the project.

Pictured, left to right: Thomas Newman, Harvey Richard, Steve Swan and Christina French.

PLASTIC FREE DEVON CONSORTIUM FORMED

North Devon is one step closer to becoming a plastic free district, thanks to the formation of a new consortium.

Earlier this month representatives from a number of charities, voluntary groups and organisations met at a workshop hosted by North Devon Council to discuss how they could each contribute towards making North Devon plastic free. They decided that, by working in collaboration, they could provide residents, businesses and visitors with a clear understanding of how to make a practical difference to their coastlines and communities.

The new consortium will work in partnership with Plastic Free North Devon (PFND), a grassroots community movement that uses the framework developed by environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) in their Plastic Free Coastlines campaign. The local community organisation is supported by SAS and The Pickwell Foundation, and recently received additional funding from the Big Lottery Fund and Fullabrook Community Interest Company. It aims to inspire North Devon residents, tourists and businesses to reduce their ‘plastic footprint’ and drastically reduce the consumption of single-use plastic throughout the whole of North Devon, not just the coastal areas.

The consortium will be made up of a number of groups and organisations, including:

•  Plastic Free North Devon
•  North Devon Council
•  North Devon Biosphere
•  North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
•  The National Trust
•  Beaford Arts
•  Barnstaple & District Chamber of Commerce
•  Martin Dorey, founder of the 2 Minute Beach Clean
•  Petroc
•  BeachCare, Keep Britain Tidy
•  Ilfracombe Town Council
•  Beth Newsome from Seadog, representing small food and drink businesses.
North Devon Council’s Executive Member for the Environment, Councillor Rodney Can, says: “I am delighted that we are taking such positive steps towards making our beautiful district plastic free. By working in collaboration with Plastic Free North Devon, and other groups who share our concern about plastic pollution, we will be able to deliver a clear message to the public and businesses on how they can make some positive changes of their own. Plastic pollution is everyone’s problem; we all need to take responsibility for the plastic we use, and how we dispose of it, in order to tackle this global environmental crisis.”

Surfers Against Sewage’s South West regional representative and PFND coordinator, Claire Moodie, says: “The formation of this consortium is an amazing opportunity for the plastic free movement to really gain momentum and take action fast and effectively across the region. The sharing of resources and expertise between the stakeholders involved will help spread the message to every part of North Devon and ensure we move forward together to protect our precious environment. Everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to make a difference – however big or small, every action counts. This campaign is about empowering every community to come together, make their voices heard and start a wave of change.”

Writer and founder of 2 Minute Beach Clean, Martin Dorey, says: “I firmly believe that the only way we’ll solve our plastic crisis is through community, collaboration, people and passion, and this initiative does all this brilliantly. It unites a lot of caring, committed people to work in the best interests of us all.”

The new consortium will be meeting in early May to develop the Plastic Free North Devon action plan.

More information on how you can reduce your consumption of single-use plastics is available on Surfers Against Sewage’s website. To keep up-to-date with Plastic Free North Devon’s news follow their Facebook page.

EXMOOR LAUNCHES NEW PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

Exmoor National Park’s future vision for the next five years was launched today, welcomed by Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Defra Minister for National Parks, in a video address at the Exmoor National Park Authority and Exmoor Society’s joint Spring Conference held in Dulverton Town Hall.

Exmoor National Park’s 2018-2023 Partnership Plan* has been led by Exmoor National Park Authority, with input from around 80 partners, landowners, local communities, organisations and businesses, through a rigorous programme of workshops and meetings. Opinions were also sought through a public survey and key evidence on the Park’s special qualities gathered through the State of the Park Report.

Under the core themes of ‘People, Place, Prosperity’, the Plan sets out key strategies needed to ensure Exmoor’s diverse and beautiful landscapes remain rich in wildlife and history, and that people everywhere have the opportunity to enjoy its special qualities. It also highlights the need to foster a vibrant local economy for Exmoor’s communities by providing new routes for innovation and entrepreneurship, and for increasing rural productivity.

Key priorities include a commitment to maintaining Exmoor as a working living landscape, with farming at its core. Increasing rural productivity through targeted land management schemes, and support to help new and young farmers diversify their farming income and develop rural skills form a vital part of the strategy. This interaction between people and nature has persisted for centuries and is crucial to maintaining the rich array of wildlife and habitats found on Exmoor today.

Increasing opportunities for people to enjoy and get involved in maintaining Exmoor as one of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK is also a mainstay of the Plan. Exmoor’s first rate rights of way network is a shining example of this, with an impressive 96 per cent of routes classed as open and easy to use – the highest of all National Parks.

Work to encourage more people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to enjoy the Park will also continue, following a rise in the number of young people visiting, including over 6,500 students last year alone, and continuing support for local schools through the Authority’s Learning Partners Scheme.

Ensuring local communities thrive through a vibrant local economy is another key ambition. While visitor numbers have been steady over the last five years, the length of time people stay in the park is up by 35 per cent. The report highlights the positive impact this is on the local economy, with the Exmoor tourism industry currently valued at around £115 million.

Challenges for the Park are also addressed, including how best to restore Exmoor’s renowned purple heather moors, which rely on careful management by Exmoor’s hill farmers, along with the Authority and other partners.

In the video address to conference delegates, Lord Gardiner said: “I am delighted to support the launch of the Exmoor National Park Partnership Plan. It sets out an exciting agenda for the next five years.”

Sarah Bryan, chief executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “This Plan is for all those who care about Exmoor: the place, its communities and the benefits the National Park provides to the nation. By providing a framework for working together, we hope it will mean people can continue to be inspired by its extraordinary beauty and sense of place, while supporting those who rely on it for their livelihood to reap the many benefits that National Park status can bring.”

Robin Milton, Chairman of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We are extremely grateful to our many partners for sharing their views and to the more than 900 people who responded to our public opinion survey, showing just how cherished Exmoor is by so many. At this time of substantial political change and uncertainty, we hope this will allow us to capitalise on this unique chance to help shape Exmoor for future generations, whilst continuing to enrich the local economy and landscapes.”

RECYCLE FOR MID DEVON: PRIMARY SCHOOL DRAWING COMPETITION

Winning entries will have a lorry named after them with their artwork displayed on the vehicle.

Mid Devon District Council is running another exciting competition for all Mid Devon primary school children. They would like children of primary school age to enter a drawing which shows what Mid Devon District Council collects as part of its kerbside blue food caddy collection and/or its subscription-based garden waste collection.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Clive Eginton, said: “We have six new lorries that need names and some lovely artwork. All the lorries have a split body where food and garden waste is collected and stored separately. The drawings should give a positive message to inspire people to recycle their food and garden waste. Food waste sent to landfill doesn’t harmlessly breakdown and as it rots it releases methane – a harmful greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Food waste collected from your blue caddy is processed into energy and fertiliser. Garden waste is made into compost which is excellent to mix with soil to grow fruit and vegetables.”

The drawings need to be A4 in size and landscape, using paint, crayon, chalk or any other type of drawing material, but not photographs, sorry. They can be done in school or at home but schools may wish to submit more than one entry. However, only one entry per pupil will be accepted and  the decision of the judges will be final.

Other than these rules, pupils can use their imagination, so let the creative juices flow! Good luck!!

The competition entry closing date is midnight on Tuesday 8 May 2018 and winning pupils will be notified by Friday 18 May 2018.

All entries must be posted or delivered to:

Mid Devon District Council
Street Scene Services – Recycling Competition
Phoenix House
Phoenix Lane
Tiverton
Devon
EX16 6PP

See the website for full terms and conditions: www.middevon.gov.uk/media/345268/recycling-drawing-comp-2018-tcs.pdf