Category Archives: Towns Around Exmoor

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: http://bit.ly/mineheadgiftcard or by contacting Richard Robbins at Minehead BID by emailing info@mineheadbid.co.uk

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

 

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

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.

 

HAVE YOUR SAY ON THE ILFRACOMBE SEAFRONT MASTERPLAN

Local residents and businesses are being invited to take part in a public consultation event to comment on a new masterplan for Ilfracombe seafront. The consultation includes a face-to-face event at the Landmark Theatre on Thursday 30 and Friday 31 January and an online survey an online survey – www.northdevon.gov.uk/Ilfracombe-consultation – which runs until 9 March.

As part of Ilfracombe’s Strategic Plan 2015-2025, North Devon Council and the Ilfracombe Regeneration Board have been working together to oversee the process of a new public realm masterplan for Ilfracombe seafront. Consultants Node were appointed to create a masterplan that will enhance the seafront’s natural beauty, draw tourists and local residents to the seafront area of the town and help regenerate the area.

A stakeholder consultation took place last year, during which members from a wide range of Ilfracombe’s community groups were asked to help shape the masterplan in a way that represented the views of Ilfracombe. Now the public are being invited to examine the ideas and share their own in a six week online consultation, which began on Monday 27 January or by attending a face to face event at the Landmark Theatre on Thursday and Friday (30-31 January).

Some of the ideas that are the subject of the Ilfracombe seafront masterplan consultation are:

  • improve accessibility and connections to the High Street and the harbour
  • more seating, shelter, lighting, interpretation and dog bins are needed throughout the seafront area
  • public spaces need a clear function and purpose in order to make the seafront a better experience
  • the wilderness and natural aspects of Capstone Hill should be protected
  • more activities for all ages including young and elderly should be provided
  • play park precedents from Paignton and Minehead should be looked at
  • the museum should be extended or possibly relocated to the old pavilion site
  • a fitness and/or art trail could be incorporated that also includes sculpture and work by local artists
  • an outdoor amphitheatre / stage should be incorporated with three possible locations: Jubilee Gardens / Capstone Hill top / Old Pavilion site

North Devon Council’s Lead Member for Economic Development and Strategic Planning Policy, Councillor Malcolm Prowse, says:  “We have lots of exciting ideas for how we would like Ilfracombe’s seafront to be regenerated in order to improve the health and well-being of all those who live and work in the town – as well enhancing the enjoyment of the tourists who visit it. We now want to hear from our residents about what they’d like to see happening on the seafront, to make sure we have captured the views of those who matter most. I hope the people of Ilfracombe will help us by sharing their views, either by coming to our face to face event in Ilfracombe or taking part in the online consultation.”

Officers from the council’s regeneration team will be available to chat through their ideas at the Landmark Theatre between 10am and 2pm on 30-31 January. Residents who are unable to attend the event can take part by completing an online survey at www.northdevon.gov.uk/Ilfracombe-consultation between 27 January and 9 March.

BARNSTAPLE URBAN SPORTS FESTIVAL

Barnstaple is set to host an exciting new event, as the Urban Sports Festival and a range of adrenaline sports come to town in September.

The Barnstaple Urban Sports Festival is a one-day event designed to showcase non-mainstream sports to the local community, with entertainment on offer for all the family. The festival will take place on Sunday 8 September at various locations across the town.

North Devon, which has recently been labelled ‘England’s Adventure Coast’ by Visit England, has a strong connection with adrenaline sports, thanks to its surf culture and outdoor lifestyle. The festival will feature exciting sports such as BMX, skateboarding, rollerskating, scooter trials and parkour, celebrating Barnstaple’s offer as an ‘urban playground’.  As well as the various activities being demoed, there will be have-a-go sessions for children and adults, street food, live music and competitions on offer.

Barnstaple Town Centre Manager, Hannah Harrington, says, “We are incredibly proud to be hosting the Urban Sports Festival in Barnstaple. This will be a free community festival-style event that will be great fun for participants and spectators alike. Get the date in your diary and bring your family along to enjoy the day with us.”

North Devon Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economic development and regeneration, Councillor Malcolm Prowse, says: “This promises to be an exciting event for the people of North Devon and we would like to see as many residents attending it as possible. You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to go along and enjoy the day but, who knows, you may feel inspired to take up a new hobby!”

More information about the event is available online www.urbansportsfestival.co.uk If you’re interested in getting involved in please contact Vanessa Harrison vanessa.harrison@northdevon.gov.uk or 01271 388216.

BARNSTAPLE MAKES BID FOR HIGH STREET FUND

A new fund to revitalise High Streets across the UK opens this month and Barnstaple is making a bid for its share.

North Devon Council is working alongside Barnstaple Town Centre Management (BTCM) to apply for the government’s Future High Streets Fund, which has been set up to regenerate high streets and make them fit for the future. The first round of applications opened on 22 March and the council will be submitting its strategic vision for the town centre, taking on board ideas put forward at the BTCM meeting earlier this month.

Councils across the country will be submitting similar bids and not everyone will be selected. However, if the initial bid is successful and Barnstaple gets through to the second stage of the process, there will be a wider consultation with local businesses and residents of the town to ensure the vision meets the needs and aspirations of the local community.

Matthew Brend, Chair of Barnstaple Town Centre Management, says: “We all know that our town centre is evolving. Unprecedented changes in shopping habits and the retail landscape mean that we need to think about what function we want our town centre to play in the future. Barnstaple Town Centre has traditionally been the heart of our community, the place where people come to meet and socialise but with the changes in retail and lifestyles we need to ensure that there are still reasons for people to come and spend time in the town and ensure that it remains at the heart for generations to come. BTCM look forward to playing a local leadership role in delivering real change.”

Hannah Harrington, Barnstaple Town Centre Manager, says: “The Future High Streets Fund is an exciting opportunity that could help us turn our visions into reality. This is an initial stage in a very competitive process and Barnstaple will be up against a large number of other towns, who will all produce their own proposals however we believe we have a strong vision and our own unique set of circumstances which will hopefully make our bid successful.”

North Devon Council’s Executive Member for Economic Regeneration says: “This is an excellent opportunity for Barnstaple and any regeneration of North Devon’s largest town will also have a massive knock-on effect on the whole of the district. The High Street Fund isn’t about drawing down money to make the place look pretty, its for bold new visions, projects that will transform High Streets and make them fit for the future.”

If you would like to join Barnstaple Town Centre Management and put your forward your ideas for the town, contact Hannah Harrington (hannah@barnstaple.co.uk).

PHOTO: The Square, Barnstaple – Nos 3-7, built in 1844 by R.D. Gould of Barnstaple; Nos 1 & 2 were added in 1887. Photo by ‘Reading Tom’.

MINEHEAD MUSEUM’S FIFTH BIRTHDAY

Minehead Museum celebrates its fifth birthday today and, as it enters its sixth season, can now claim to be well established.  With nearly 10,000 visitors in 2018 (plus one parrot), the museum can rightly say it is a popular destination for both tourists and residents. During the past five years, not only have the number of visitors grown steadily year by year, but so, too, has the collection.

This year the museum will have more items on display than ever before but it is always pleased to be offered additional artefacts and documents relating to the history of the town. If you think you may have something of interest, please do let them know.

Without the support of a loyal base of volunteer stewards, the museum would not be able to remain open six days a week from late March to early November. If you, or anyone you know, should happen to have a spare morning or afternoon that you could offer to the museum, they would be delighted to hear from you. Stewards are the face of the museum and if you are interested in research and local history, it could be a rewarding way to spend some time.

Find out more on the website: www.mineheadmuseum.co.uk

PHOTO: Minehead Museum’s Punch & Judy puppets:
A well-known attraction at seaside towns, Mr Punch made his first documented appearance in England on 9 May 1662.

The puppets now on show in Minehead Museum belonged to Roy Van Dyke, magician, comedian and Punch & Judy performer. Born Roy Hobbs, in Alcombe Road, Minehead, he learnt his early skills from Cecil Govitt, a conjuror lodger in the family.

Roy was a Gold Member of the Magic Circle and a regular performer in the Gaiety Theatre, which he also managed for a number of years.

His Punch & Judy puppets are Minehead Museum’s latest acquisition, having been donated by the Hobbs family this year. They can be seen in the Museum, which opens for the season on 23 March, and which is located at the Beach Hotel.

 

WATCHET COASTAL COMMUNITY TEAM WINS MAJOR FUNDING

Watchet Coastal Community Team is delighted that their application for £240,000 for Place Based Social Action has been successful.  The project is one of only ten places countrywide to be awarded the funding from The National Lottery Community Fund and Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). They are now able to deliver six strands of community action projects that aim to work with and engage local people to help solve local problems.

The funding is to support volunteering and social action in the town over three years, and is the result of a year’s worth of work by the WCCT to establish what the local difficulties were in the town and co-design solutions as to how local people might be involved in fixing some of those problems.  Led by Watchet Coastal Community Team as a membership organisation, the WCCT are particularly pleased to have Onion Collective as the delivery partner in the scheme, making full use of their experience and expertise.

The funding will support six projects that include: young people, peer tutors and a ‘mini university’ community transport, information sharing, deliberative democracy and digital gaming. Part of the mini university project will also be to refurbish the much-loved Harbour Community Bookshop building at 7 The Esplanade, as a community volunteer build.  If anyone is interested in becoming involved with any of the projects please contact Georgie Grant, secretary of WCCT at Georgie@onioncollective.co.uk  This successful bid is a great example of collaboration between the whole Watchet community, as well as Onion Collective, Watchet Town Council, West Somerset and Taunton Deane District Council, Somerset County Council and Watchet Coastal Community Team.  The WCCT are thankful for the level of collaboration and unified desire so see the best outcome achieved for the town.

The Placed Based Social Action programme is funded using £4.5 million of Government and National Lottery funding. It aims to support communities to put social action at the heart of plans which make a positive difference in the local area. It gives people the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the design and delivery of local services by bringing together communities, local authorities, public sector organisations, service providers, civil society organisations and businesses to address local priorities.

Following the three years of delivery for this project, up to five of the ten partnerships now put through will be awarded further funding of up to £255,000 to develop and expand their plans for another three years to December 2024.

Watchet Coastal Community Team is a partnership organisation made up of 30 local organisations, businesses, community groups and Town, District and County Council. The team work collaboratively to help further initiatives that help to benefit the town both economically and socially. The Watchet CCT now want to appeal to any local people who are interested in becoming involved with any of the projects, and who would like to know more.  To find out more about the projects called Georgie Grant on 07940 950396 or email her at Georgie@onioncollective.co.uk. There will be more information about the projects available shortly at the website at www.watchetcct.co.uk

NEW BRIDGE LIGHTS WILL ILLUMINATE BARNSTAPLE’S HERITAGE

Barnstaple’s historic Longbridge will be all lit up, when new lights are fitted early next year.

North Devon Council secured funding to make improvements to the pedestrian links from Barnstaple train station to the town, and is using some of the funds to install new lights to illuminate the town’s historic bridge.

Barnstaple Longbridge is a thirteenth-century stone medieval structure which has been widened on three occasions to allow for the changing transport needs of the town. The lighting project, which has the support of Historic England, Barnstaple Town Council and the Barnstaple Coastal Community Team, was granted listed building consent at the end of last month. Work will be carried out in January by local contractors M&E Alarms, who will install lights on each of the columns.

Executive Member for Economic Regeneration, Councillor Pat Barker, says: “Not only does the Longbridge provide a vital transport link to the town centre, it is one of the town’s oldest structures, popular with local photographers and visitors. This project will make the townscape more dramatic at night and shine a light on one of the town’s most significant historic features.”

Local ward members for Barnstaple Longbridge, Councillors Des Brailey and Dick Jones will be pleased to see the new lights installed. Councillor Jones says: “Des and I are looking forward to seeing the bridge all lit up, it’s one of the town’s most iconic landmarks and we should do more to show off the town’s best features for residents and visitors alike. The new lights will also complement the new museum extension and draw more focus to the Longbridge as the gateway to the town.”

There may be some minor disruption when the work is carried out early next year, with more details released closer to the time.

WINTER WORK PLANNED AT ROTARY GARDENS IN BARNSTAPLE

Further improvements at Rotary Gardens in Pilton will continue over the winter months.

North Devon Council’s parks team will be replacing some of the shrub beds, adding more colour with new herbaceous planting and installing some more seating around the gardens for visitors to enjoy.

A number of low-quality trees will also be taken out to open up the views around the pond area and will be replaced with more suitable tree species elsewhere in the gardens. This is the latest in a series of improvements in the park, including a tree trail, interpretation boards and memorial plinth.

Executive Member for Parks, Leisure and Culture with North Devon Council, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “We like to let local residents know if we’re planning any tree work, so they don’t get alarmed. The trees we’re taking out are not of great value and aren’t suitable species for their setting. Those we take out will all be replaced with better specimens, more appropriate to the park and will much improve the look and diversity of the gardens in the future. I’m sure the extra seating will be appreciated, as it’s such a lovely space to sit and enjoy the views.”

Local ward member for Pilton, Councillor Mair Manuel, says: “We have been working together for some years on improving Rotary Gardens for the benefit of residents, visitors and community groups. The changes so far are very obvious and this additional work will further enhance the gardens, with the seating placed to take advantage of the tidying up that has been done, the new plantings and opening up of the views. All will add to the beauty of Rotary Gardens and confirm it as a great asset for the community of Pilton.”

Stay up to date with news and events from the council’s parks team on Facebook (www.facebook.com/northdevoncouncil) or follow @ndevoncouncil on Twitter.