WELLINGTON SCHOOL ACT DURING THE CRISIS

Meanwhile, over at Wellington School, although the doors are closed, the school remains committed to doing everything possible to support the local community. Here are some of the steps which they have taken:

  • Car parks have been given over to overflow patients from the local hospital
  • The Headmaster, Eugene du Toit, is in communication with local hospitals to offer the school’s boarding houses to NHS staff who will be working long shifts or who need to self-isolate. There is also the possibility that certain categories of patients (e.g. those in long-term care, but who don’t have critical medical issues) could use our boarding houses if beds need to be made available to cope with COVID-19 related pressures
  • So far, 55 pairs of goggles and hundreds of surgical gloves have been donated to the procurement department of Musgrove Hospital
  • Children of key workers continue to be looked after by staff, with activity primarily based in the Prep School.

The pupils have a full remote learning programme in place. The timetable is stuck to rigidly, with skype sessions, learning platforms and resources in place to ensure lessons are delivered.

The Headmaster delivered his end-of-term assembly remotely to all the community and reminded them that, “Wellington School is not defined by whether or not we are all in one place at the same time. We are defined by our sense of community, the lengths we go to in supporting one another, our indefatigable spirit in rising to a challenge. We are in this together and we will get through this together.”

WEST BUCKLAND SCHOOL SUPPORT LOCAL MEDICS BY PRODUCING FACE PROTECTION MASKS

West Buckland School’s Design and Technology Department has responded to the urgent need for PPE (personal protection equipment) for key workers in North Devon, by starting to make plastic face masks using the school’s 3-D printer.

In addition, the science departments at the school have donated all the safety goggles and glasses that they currently have in stock, to local doctors’ surgeries in North Devon and the school’s caterers have donated fruit and veg waste to Exmoor Zoo to feed to their animals.

Initially approached by a local GP surgery, the DT team sourced a template for the PPE face masks off the internet and used PLA (polylactide), a biodegradable material which is both suitable to protect medical staff when treating potential Covid-19 patients and can also be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. Production is in full swing and already the school has been able to supply protective masks to North Devon Hospice and South Molton Community Hospital who are both delighted. A spokeswoman from the hospice said: “Thank you so much. This is very thoughtful and innovative of you.”

The school are hoping to continue to produce more masks as long as there is a need. They have begun to co-ordinate a small team of individuals and local companies who own 3-D printers and there are several other companies across the region who are doing similar excellent work, ensuring that as many key workers across the region as possible can receive the vital protection they need.

ENPA SAYS, “THANK YOU FOR STAYING AT HOME”

The following is a press release issued by Exmoor National Park Authority:

Exmoor National Park was a much quieter place at the weekend following updated Government coronavirus guidelines stating that people should stay local and use green spaces near their home.

Teams from Avon & Somerset and Devon & Cornwall police backed by National Park Rangers worked together to reinforce the message that the public should stay at home and not travel to countryside beauty spots for exercise or any other non-essential reason.

The response follows extraordinarily high numbers of visitors across the UK’s 15 national parks last weekend, triggering concern that people travelling to them en masse could spread the virus.

Dan Barnett, Access & Recreation Manager, said: “We’re extremely grateful to everyone for foregoing their visits to the National Park over the weekend and until restrictions lift. The importance of these places for people’s health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated and we fully appreciate the sacrifice many are making to protect fellow citizens.”

The Government have been clear that public rights of way should remain open for local people to exercise. Anyone accessing the countryside from their own home must keep at least 2 metres apart from other people, sanitise hands regularly and wash them on return.  Dogs should be kept under close control, on a short lead or at heel.

The law in England does not allow the National Park Authority to close any part of the public rights of way network for COVID-19 reasons. Anyone with concerns about public access can contact the National Park’s Ranger team for advice at info@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or 01398 323665.

Dan Barnett added: “Public rights of way that cross working farms or are close to people’s homes can cause concern for those self-isolating there due to age or ill-health. This is understandable and we ask that people are extra vigilant with their hygiene in these areas. As always spring is lambing time for many of our farmers, so please take care to close gates behind you and always keep dogs on a lead near livestock or moorland where birds may be nesting.”

The National Park Authority are only available to inspect rights of way where there are emergency or safety issues at this time.  Issues can be logged online at Explore Somerset (roam.somerset.gov.uk/roam/map) or by contacting the National Park’s Ranger team. For up-to-date Rights of Way advice see: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/out-and-about-essentials.

SOMERSET WILDLIFE TRUST LAUNCHES #WILDLIFEWINDOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN TO LET WILDLIFE HELP OUR WELLBEING DURING SELF ISOLATION AND SOCIAL DISTANCING

Somerset Wildlife Trust has launched a social media campaign called #wildlifewindow across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to encourage people in Somerset to share the wildlife they see outside their windows and in their gardens, as well as share positive actions they are taking for nature while at home during the covid-19 outbreak.

With so many people now working from home, self-isolating or social distancing, the campaign #wildlifewindow aims to continue to get people to connect with nature and wildlife, even though it is currently more difficult to go outside, and demonstrate that their spaces, large or small, are homes to wildlife where they can make a difference. Somerset Wildlife Trust hopes this will help keep morale high, reduce feelings of isolation by allowing people to communicate with a community of other wildlife-lovers, and reduce the feelings of being ‘trapped’, bored or like they can’t do anything to help wildlife when indoors.

They want you use the hashtag #wildlifewindow across the social media channels in order to share what wildlife you can see out of your window whilst in isolation, or what you are doing for wildlife while at home or in your garden – whether that’s getting around to making that hole in your fence for hedgehogs or putting water out for the birds.

Head of Communications, Kirby Everett said, “Evidence shows that connecting with nature helps people feel happier and healthier, improving both physical and mental wellbeing. We hope that by encouraging people to enjoy and value the wildlife on their doorstep and through their window, the current distancing or isolation measures will be easier to withstand and may even create a great sense of community online in a difficult time. We also hope that it might lead to positive changes in terms of how people value of nature after isolation ends, and also drive more people to act for it at a time it needs us the most.”

As at 18th March (please check the Trust’s website for latest info) Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserves currently remain free and open to all and are excellent places to unwind with wildlife, get fresh air, clear your head and exercise away from any crowd, if you are not in government advised self-isolation. However, they do recommend you take sensible precautions, taking into account the health and safety of yourself and others if you do choose to enjoy the reserves during this time.

Somerset Wildlife Trust will be sharing the #wildlifewindow images and posts they receive, as well as hoping to share short videos, images and interesting wildlife facts to keep us all entertained. You can follow them on Facebook on Somerset Wildlife Trust, Twitter on @SomersetWT and Instagram on @somersetwt.

Photo by Ben Hall.

NEW SOLAR LITTER BIN TRIAL FOR NORTH DEVON

A smart bin is being trialled in North Devon in a bid to reduce littering in the district.

Barnstaple High Street is the first location for the solar-powered bin, which can take up to seven times more rubbish than a standard bin as the waste gets crushed and compacted several times a day, using only energy from the sun.

Even when it’s not a sunny day, infrared technology means that energy can be collected without direct sunlight so the bin will still work. The units are sealed to stop birds and vermin getting in and can be opened using a foot pedal or by the handle on the pull-down door. When the bin is full a sensor sends out an email, so that it can be emptied before it overflows.

North Devon Council’s Lead Member for Environment, Councillor Netti Pearson, says, “This trial is at a fairly low level with just one bin at present, but we will be monitoring its progress to see what difference it makes. We will place the bin in busy areas, and position it in tourist hotspots over Easter, to see how well it works.

“Smart bins bring many benefits, such as lower carbon emissions as they need to be emptied less often, so refuse collection trucks make fewer journeys. The advantages are clear – they cut down on littering, save time and money on collections, deter vermin and best of all they use renewable solar energy.”

Local ward member for Barnstaple Centre, Councillor Robbie Mack, says, “Barnstaple High Street gets a lot of traffic – and therefore a lot of rubbish! Currently, the bins here are emptied daily. A bin like this should mean less risk of overflowing and littering in the High Street, and we all want to see less litter. I’ll be interested to see the results of the trial.”

The bin will also be trialled in other locations in North Devon during the six-week trial, and if it proves successful more of them may be rolled out across the district.

DEVON AIR AMBULANCE EXPANDS SERVICE WITH CRITICAL CARE CARS

From 2 March, when poor weather or maintenance prevents Devon’s emergency aircraft from flying, two new critical care cars mean the charity’s critical care teams can still provide specialist life-saving care by road.

In the Autumn 2018 Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced £10 million in capital funding for air ambulance services.  Devon Air Ambulance applied for £226,061 of this fund, to purchase two critical care cars, all their medical equipment and 35 public access defibrillators.

Devon Air Ambulance state: “Proud of being 100% independent, Devon Air Ambulance have always been forward thinking, putting the patient at the heart of all that we do. Our service delivers life-saving enhanced and critical care to our patients wherever their injury or illness has occurred, whether at home, work or out and about within Devon. Our clinical teams treat the most critically ill and injured patients and then assist in conveying them to specialist treatment centres, with the aim to improve outcomes and reduce deaths.”

Nigel Hare, Operations Director, said, “The two fully-equipped Volvo XC90 Critical Care Cars (CCC) have now arrived and will shortly be going into service.  These CCCs provide resilience and capability across our geographically large county when one of our aircraft is unable to fly. This development ensures our highly skilled critical care paramedics and doctors, and their advanced life-saving equipment, mirroring the medical equipment on board our aircraft, can still be delivered to scene, improving the clinical outcomes for patients.

“The CCCs are very safe, fast, and equipped with all that’s needed for our teams to deliver life-saving treatment to a patient. They are fitted with blue lights and warning sirens and our teams have also undergone extensive enhanced emergency response ‘blue light’ driver training.”

Darren Goodwin, Operations Manager, said, “We undertook a lot of research for this project, looking at the vehicles similar services were using and what would be the best fit for Devon. The Volvo XC90, which is also used by many other emergency services, was the best fit for our service.  We would like to thank Volvo UK for their help and support with this project and of course the Department of Health for the grant given which allowed us to buy these life-saving vehicles.”

BISHOP TO VISIT ILFRACOMBE LIFEBOAT

The Right Reverend Jackie Searle, Bishop of Crediton, will be arriving in Ilfracombe on Sunday 8 March, and will visit the RNLI Ilfracombe lifeboat station to meet the volunteers and bless the lifeboats.

Bishop Jackie will meet some of the volunteers who support the work of the RNLI in Ilfracombe, including those who work in fundraising, in the RNLI shop and in the boathouse and visits teams, as well as members of the crew and shore crew. After spending some time with the volunteers Bishop Jackie will tour the boathouse and will say a prayer of blessing over the lifeboats and the work of the RNLI.

The boathouse will be open to the public from 9.40am and members of the public are welcome to join the volunteers for the prayer of blessing.

It is a busy time for Ilfracombe Lifeboat Station, which has just launched a campaign to raise £12,000 to go towards a new D class inshore lifeboat, about which you can read more here.

The Revd Peter Churcher, Vicar of Pip and Jim’s Church in Ilfracombe and Chaplain to Ilfracombe RNLI, says: “It is my joy to serve the RNLI Ilfracombe as Chaplain, and I am humbled by the amazing work of the volunteers who invest so much time, in such a variety of ways, in this vital life-saving work. I am very pleased that Bishop Jackie will be visiting the RNLI and meeting the volunteers to celebrate the work they do.”

He adds: “The visit to Ilfracombe RNLI is part of JOY 2020 where Bishop Robert, Bishop Jackie and Bishop Nick will be touring the county and taking part in events in all sorts of places across Devon. These promise to be great events for those with a strong faith or none at all. They will show that Christianity isn’t about buildings, rules and rotas, but it is about people and God’s immeasurable love for every single person in Devon.”

Photo: Revd Peter Churcher Chaplain to Ilfracombe RNLI and Jo Bolton Chair of the Ilfracombe RNLI Management Group with the station’s Shannon class lifeboat.

DEFRA SEEKS NEW BOARD MEMBERS FOR EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are seeking to fill 3 vacancies on the board of Exmoor National Park Authority as part of a nationwide recruitment drive.

Of the 22 Members who make up Exmoor National Park Authority, 10 (including 5 nominated by Parish Councils) are appointed by the Secretary of State for Defra and 12 by local councils with land in the National Park. The new appointments are expected to commence in July.

Speaking about recruitment across a number of National Park Authorities in England, Defra minister Lord Gardiner said: “I am looking for a diverse group of passionate and committed individuals who want to help shape the strategic direction of our National Park Authorities. As a Secretary of State appointed Member, you will have the opportunity to help conserve and enhance our most treasured landscapes now and for future generations.

“I welcome applications from people who have a clear understanding of land management and rural communities, as well as protection and enhancement of the environment. Applications are also encouraged from people with experience in planning, commercial and business leadership, communications and stakeholder outreach.”

Committee meetings take place in Dulverton up to 12 times a year, with many opportunities for Members to further contribute to the work of the organisation according to their own interests and skill set. A basic allowance and expenses are available if needed to help cover costs.

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Members play an instrumental part in shaping the future direction of the National Park, helping us fulfil our statutory purposes and achieve the delicate balance between people and nature that makes our landscapes so special. We warmly encourage anyone with the right skills and experience to apply for this hugely rewarding role.”

The closing date for applications is Friday 6 March at midday. Full details of how to apply are available on the Cabinet Office* website.

Photo: South West Coast Path Exmoor by Jim Johnston @jjohnstonphoto

SOMERSET WILDLIFE TRUST LAUNCHES APPEAL TO PREVENT THE POSSIBLE EXTINCTION OF THE COUNTY’S DORMICE

Somerset Wildlife Trust has announced an urgent appeal for £35,000 to help secure a positive future for the county’s dormice in the face of possible extinction.

Despite once being common, in the last 100 years the native hazel dormouse has become extinct in 17 English counties, with recent UK reports showing that their numbers have declined by 51% in just 18 years. Somerset could easily be the next county to lose its dormouse populations unless positive action is taken now to make their habitats safe, and to provide the best conditions in which these vulnerable, and adorable, little mammals can thrive, now and in the future.

Somerset Wildlife Trust is urging wildlife and nature lovers in Somerset and beyond to donate what they can to support additional woodland management and monitoring programmes needed in the county, before Somerset’s dormice are lost without a trace.

Dormice declines are linked to the loss of habitat and decreasing traditional woodland management practices. Across Britain, just 3% of woodlands are today being managed using traditional management techniques such as coppicing and hedge-laying, while in the 1940s, that figure was almost 50%.

Senior Reserves Manager, Chris Eyles explains, “Dormice need well-managed, connected woodlands through which they can safely move to find food, breed and have secure places to hibernate – something that is already becoming increasingly problematic for them as we continue to see the impacts of a warming climate. Milder winters can sometimes cause dormice to waken from hibernation before adequate food sources are available. Woodland habitats are disappearing all over the country, so dormice populations are becoming fragmented and their future in Somerset looks uncertain.”

“Traditional techniques such as coppicing, thinning and hedge-laying enable us to maintain a balance of healthy habitats in our woodlands, and provide the perfect conditions within which dormice can thrive. But we have a huge amount to do.  We need your help to do more and faster.”

Monitoring their populations to keep them safe: Through regular surveying we know dormice are present on several Trust nature reserves, including Langford Heathfield and Black Rock, but there are plenty more with great potential which are currently not being surveyed! In fact, there are currently only 28 dormouse survey sites across all of Somerset, which is not sufficient to get enough baseline data to understand the true health of the county’s dormouse population. With more funds, we can install more dormouse nest boxes and train new volunteers to regularly survey these sites, so dormice have the best chance of breeding success in the years to come.

Chris continues, “Donations to the Dormouse Appeal will help us create ideal dormouse habitat, enable us to install more nest boxes and train more volunteers to carry out regular dormouse surveys to collect vital data about their health, so please do help if you can.”

“Every donation, whatever the size, will make a real difference. To donate to the Dormouse Appeal, please visit the Somerset Wildlife Trust website at www.somersetwildlife.org/dormouse-appeal or telephone 01823 652429.”

 

EXMOOR HILL FARMING NETWORK CIC IS LAUNCHED

The Exmoor Hill Farming Network has established itself as a Community Interest Company (CIC) and has been running as an independent, 100% farmer-led organisation since 1 February this year. The move  means greater independence for the Network, which already works with around 318 farming businesses, with opportunities to reinvest assets in the community and attract new sources of funding.

The newly appointed board consists of 11 directors and 4 advisory board members, led by Dave Knight, who has been Chair of the Network since its establishment 5 years ago.

Until now, the Network has been hosted and supported by North Devon +, an economic delivery agency for North Devon and Torridge, which runs a number of rural development programmes in the area.

Dave Knight said, “We are immensely proud of the progress the Network has made under the auspices of North Devon + so that it is trusted by farmers and other land-manging businesses in the Greater Exmoor areas as a source of valuable advice, training and support in these uncertain times. North Devon + has played a key role in this success and we hope to continue a close working relationship going forward.’’

The Network was established in early 2014 to improve the viability and sustainability of Exmoor farming businesses.  It does this through knowledge transfer, peer-group support, training, and co-operation to safeguard upland farming, rural employment and landscape management.  It has become one of the most sought-after initiatives on Exmoor, providing the ‘go-to hub’ of information and contacts for land-based businesses, overseen by its highly regarded Network Officer, Katherine Williams.

The majority of the costs of running the Network are met by funding from The Prince’s Countryside Fund, Exmoor National Park Authority and North Devon Council, due to run until 31 January 2021. Other key partners and sponsors include Masons Kings, NFU, Dunster Show Society, Exmoor Farmers Livestock Auctions, Baldwins and Towergate Insurance. During the past 18 months, the Network steering group has undertaken a Governance Review set out by the Exmoor National Park Authority. The Group took advice from other organisations such as Farm Cornwall and The Cumbria Farmer Network, who operate a similar structure, to build confidence that a fully-fledged independent route was in the best interest of Exmoor’s farming communities.

Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said,It’s been a pleasure to see the Exmoor Hill Farming Network grow from strength to strength and we’re pleased to see them complete their independence through this next step. Having a strong voice for the farming community on Exmoor is vital to sustaining the traditional farming practices and ways of life that make our landscapes special. We look forward to continuing to support them in this next venture.”

Ken Miles and Jenny Wallace, Joint CEO’s, North Devon +, said, “The Exmoor Hill Farming Network has been a wonderful and truly innovative project that North Devon + has been involved with from the start.  It provides vital resources and support for the farming community and is a model for community involvement that others have followed.  We at North Devon + are really pleased to see it now flourishing and becoming independent and are proud of our role in the Network’s development.  We look forward to seeing how the Network develops further and to working with the Network in the future.”

The Network hub will remain at Cutcombe Market by kind permission of Exmoor Farmers Livestock Auctioneers and will continue to aid farmers with its flagship Exmoor’s Ambition project feeding into DEFRA’s Test and Trials of its new Environmental Land Management Scheme.

PHOTO: Representatives of EHFN CIC Board

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