EYES TO THE SKIES IN DEVON!

Pupils from Bampton School will take one giant leap in their understanding of space this October when they will be asking questions to an astronaut live on board the International Space Station! Over the summer holidays are researching great things to ask and around 15 of the best will be selected.

The children will have about ten minutes to ask their questions as the ISS zooms overhead at five miles per second! They will use special amateur radio equipment provided by ARISS UK, a team of volunteers that establish the contact.

Bampton School is the only state school in the country to have been awarded the opportunity this year, following a rigorous selection process.

Head Teacher Gary Bladon says, “I am thrilled that we have been able to secure such a unique experience for the children of Bampton School. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the school and the wider community in Bampton. We have changed next term’s topic to look at the subject of communication with all sorts of activities planned in and out of school time to create a real impact and a lasting legacy.”

The contact is currently scheduled for the week commencing Monday 7 October. There will be a screening of the event at the Riverside Hall in Bampton for parents and residents who wish to see it. It’s likely that schools across the county will be watching too. Anybody interested can watch the contact as it will be streamed on this link live.ariss.org Amateur radio enthusiasts all across Northern Europe will also be tuning in to the downlink radio frequency from the ISS.

Nick Bull has three children currently attending the school and is coordinating the contact as a result of his interest in amateur radio. Nick says, “This has brought three things together that are all close to my heart – my children, radio and space! I can’t wait to see the look on the children’s faces when the astronaut’s voice begins to crackle through the static. I have been to a previous event to help set this up and I can tell you it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The drama and tension is something I’ll never forget. It will be no different in Bampton!”

SHOPKEEPERS URGED TO ENTER BEST SMALL SHOPS COMPETITION

Shopkeepers, not only in North Devon, but across the region, are being encouraged to enter a competition which celebrates the creativity of independent retailers on the UK’s High Streets and the role they play in building local communities.

The Best Small Shops competition is free to enter and is open to all independent retailers from any retail sector across the UK. A shortlist of 25 of the most impressive applications will be shortlisted by a panel made up of established representatives from the independent retail industry. The judges are looking for evidence of business innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, and what has been done by the shopkeeper to have a lasting positive impact on their community.

North Devon Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economic development and regeneration, Councillor Malcolm Prowse says: “We are very lucky in North Devon to have a brilliant array of quality, independent small shops that help make our district such an attractive place to live and visit. We’d love for our local shopkeepers to have the hard work they invest in their businesses recognised in a national competition like this one and urge them to nominate their shop for an award.”

Hannah Harrington, Barnstaple Town Centre Manager, says: We have many excellent independent retailers in Barnstaple, with 75% that have opened their doors over the past seven years being independents. The same can be said in other parts of the district and it’s time we shouted about the success of our small shops and the boost they give to our local economy and communities.”

Nominations must be submitted by Monday 9 September. Shortlisted finalists will be invited to an awards ceremony in London in November where the winners will be announced.

You can nominate your business through www.bestsmallshops.co.uk. Every business who enters the competition will be displayed on the Indie Retail Directory, raising customer awareness throughout the UK.

OUR SOMERSET STORIES: HALSWAY MANOR PROJECT

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been awarded a grant of £39,000 from the Hinkley Point C Community Fund (HPC Community Fund). The grant will support ‘Our Somerset Stories’, an exciting new project to be run within four rural Somerset communities; these include Stogursey, Spaxton and Williton, with a fourth to be confirmed.

The project will see schools working with writers and artists to create new work inspired by their community – past, present and future, leading to publications, exhibitions, creative archives and new folk traditions. This will run alongside creative workshops for the wider community, and celebration events for everyone to enjoy.

Creative Lead Alice Maddicott will co-ordinate the project for Halsway Manor. She says, “We’ll be creating new opportunities for people to discover and be inspired by their folk history and heritage, and celebrate what makes their community special to them.”

Crispian Cook, Chief Executive of Halsway Manor Society, commented: “Halsway is an important resource which enriches lives of people both locally and nationally. We are grateful to HPC Community Fund for their support, which allows us to continue to develop our provision and make a difference to people living within our immediate vicinity.”

HPC Community Fund is managed by Somerset Community Foundation to help local communities mitigate the impacts of Hinkley Point C and maximise the opportunities that arise from the development for the communities (in Somerset) through schemes, measures and projects which promote the economic, social or environmental well-being of those communities and enhance their quality of life.

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts provides a permanent home for the enjoyment, study and development of folk music, dance and culture in England. Established as a charity in 1966 and unique in the UK, it hosts over 340 days of residential and outreach activity every year, for all ages, and covering all facets of the folk arts from instrumental music, song and dance to traditional storytelling, crafts and instrument making. For more information visit www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

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.

ILFRACOMBE LOCALS RAISE CASH TO LAUNCH HARBOUR’S MARINE ROBOT

Two Ilfracombe residents have raised £300 in a show of community spirit to ensure the town harbour’s marine robot can continue its clean-up.

Carol Chapple and Rose Fisher, who live close to Ilfracombe Harbour, organised a raffle to raise money to fund the WasteShark launch project when it became apparent that Ilfracombe’s high tidal range was preventing the robot from being used on a regular basis.

The autonomous marine robot was first launched in Ilfracombe in March this year to help clear the harbour of waste. The WasteShark is designed to roam distances of up to 5km of water, capturing plastics, microplastics, oils and other pollutants.

Ilfracombe was the first place in the UK to host the WasteShark, which is the world’s first marine robot designed specifically to eat waste and collect data. It does not emit carbon or produce noise or light pollution, so is kind to nature and poses no threat to wildlife.

Ilfracombe is located on the Bristol Channel, which has the second highest tidal range in the world (the first being in the Bay of Fundy in Canada). This has meant that the launch system devised by the manufacturers of the WasteShark does not always work in Ilfracombe Harbour. Together with local firm Coastal Engineering Services, Harbourmaster Georgina Carlo-Paat and Deputy Harbourmaster Ric Simpson designed an alternative launch system, consisting of a crane and bespoke shark cage to name but a few parts.

Ilfracombe Harbourmaster, Georgina Carlo-Paat says: “I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the Lantern Court community and local residents for organising and taking part in a raffle in support of the WasteShark. Raising this money to go towards the launch system will enable the ‘shark’ to go out and about more often and keep our beautiful harbour clear of debris. Thanks to the community’s efforts we are now well on the way to having the WasteShark on a regular patrol around the harbour.”

You can keep up to date with what’s happening at Ilfracombe Harbour on North Devon Council’s website www.northdevon.gov.uk/business/ilfracombe-harbour.

PHOTO: Ilfracombe Harbourmaster Georgina Carlo-Paat (centre) with Carol Chapple (left) and Rose Fisher (right).

EXMOOR POETRY BOOK LAUNCH AT THE DUNSTER SHOW

The launch of a new collection of enchanting poems inspired by encounters with Exmoor hill farmers, along with poetry readings and a book signing by the author, are just some of the exciting activities on offer in the ‘Big Exmoor Tent’ at this Friday’s Dunster Show (16 August).

Poet Adam Horowitz received grants from Exmoor National Park Authority’s Partnership Fund and Exmoor Society to spend time on Exmoor Hill Farming Network farms signed up to the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association – an alliance of farmers committed to feeding livestock solely on grass for the benefit of nature, animal welfare and the planet.

The resulting poetry evokes both the drama of the landscape and the delicate balance between farming and nature that helps to create it, and will be available to buy for the first time as part of an expanded second edition to The Soil Never Sleeps, published by Palewell Press and available for £9.99. Also for sale will be artwork by Jo Sanders, whose illustrations depicting two Exmoor Horn sheep feature on the cover of the new book.

Adam, who stayed on two different hill farms during his time on Exmoor, said: “I helped out where I could and absorbed the beauty of the national park and the practical concerns that go in to maintaining that beauty, as well as the continued health of the soil and the land.

“My hope is that The Soil Never Sleeps – which weaves celebration of the land with the voices of the farmers and the science of farming – will play a small part in the ongoing, and very necessary conversations about the future, and continued vitality of the British landscape.”

The Big Exmoor Tent is sponsored by internet service provider Airband, who provide both wireless and fibre broadband for rural and hard-to-reach areas.  Alongside poetry, it will feature a host of activities celebrating the National Park, including birds of prey from North Devon Hawk Walks, local produce direct from the farm, green woodworking demonstrations, information about volunteering, badge-making, quizzes and free National Park pocket guides. Discover Exmoor’s amazing array of fauna and flora with the Exmoor Natural History Society, find out how to get active with Exmoor Adventures and get top tips for enjoying the area from Visit Exmoor.

Ben Totterdell, Exmoor National Park’s Interpretation and Education Manager, said: “This year marks 70 years since the legislation that created national parks, and we’re immensely proud to be one 15 that now exist in the UK. The Dunster Show is a fantastic celebration of the deeply rural ways of life that sustain these stunning landscapes and we hope as many people as possible will pay us a visit to discover all that goes into helping protect them and get top tips for enjoying them.”

Airband, who are sponsoring the Big Exmoor Tent, said they were delighted to be part of the event: “The world needs more poetry and the best poetry can be truly magical,” said Airband’s Devon Project Manager Martin Hewlett.

PETITION TO SAVE THE EXMOOR HOSTEL SECURES 1,000 SIGNATURES AND STILL RISING!

Dulverton Catholic Parish Action Group has secured over 1,000 signatures to its petition to reverse the closure of the Dulverton Residential Centre and St Stanislaus Catholic Church by the Clifton Diocese.

The Dulverton Residential Centre, also known as Exmoor Hostel, sleeps 36, mostly in dormitories. It is popular with schools, colleges, youth and family groups with bookings. This year alone, it has been booked by Radley College, Oxford Brookes University, Downside School, Bath University, GDSA Scouts, St John’s College, Cambridge, Bromley Canoe Club, Hampton School, Henley Juniors, Winchester College, Bristol Ariel Rowing Club, Dauntsey’s School, King’s Rochester School, Channing School, Rochelle Torrington, Claire’s Court School and Winchester College.

The Centre takes groups from 15 to 36 of all ages including family groups coming to the area for a holiday or for a wedding.

Visitors at the Centre come for the rowing on Wimbleball Lake, canoeing and kayaking on the River Barle, cycling, hiking, orienteering and all the other glories of Exmoor.

The Centre brings much-needed customers to Dulverton, including the Co-op, Catley’s Fish and Chips, The Bridge Pub, Mortimer’s, The Copper Kettle, The Lion, Woods, Tarr Steps Farm and many other venues, shops, stores and restaurants, not only in Dulverton but in the and surrounding area.

Despite being run as a not-for-profit charity (£13 to £16 per person per night), the Centre and Church are financially viable and cover their own outgoings.

The Centre does need a facelift, but professional estimates put the cost of this at no more than £50k, funds for which already lie within the Catholic Parish’s own resources.

A spokesperson for the petition states in their press release, “The reality is that the diocese, with over 100 parishes to run, cannot be bothered with the responsibility of this remote rural parish, dwarfed by the demands of such centres as Bristol and Swindon. The Church and Centre buildings are so close that one cannot be sold without the other. The church is collateral damage.”

The Dulverton Catholic Parish Action Group is committed to reversing the diocese’s decision and, among many other measures, has founded a Petition to the Bishop of Clifton which has just secured 1,000 signatures (and still rising).

On Friday 9 August the Parish Action Group Chairman said ‘thank you’ to the Co-op in Dulverton and its store manager, Paul Kingdom, for allowing a petition display in their store-front and ‘thank you with flowers’ to Chrissy Thomas who secured the signatures.

Readers wishing to support the petition should click here.

The Action Group have convened a public meeting at 11am on Saturday 24 August in the field with marquee between Oldberry Lane and the River Barle (just on your right as you go over the bridge leaving Dulverton). Cakes, cider and lemonade will be served. All are welcome.

PHOTO: Paul Kingdon, Co-op store manager on the left, Chrissie Thomas in the middle and Simon Roderick Rous, Action Group Chairman, on the right.

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.

 

NEW REPORT REVEALS THE STARK IMPACT OF RURAL ISOLATION IN SOMERSET

Did you know that almost 4,000 pensioners in rural villages in Somerset have no access to transport? Or that the growth in young people’s loneliness is higher than any other age group?

These were just two of the findings from Somerset Community Foundation’s recently launched Hidden Somerset: Rural Isolation research report. The new Hidden Somerset reports are designed to shine a spotlight on, and raise awareness of, some of the important issues affecting people in Somerset – as well as the great work being done by local charities and groups. Thanks to generous funding from The Fairfield Charitable Trust, the first report, focusing on Rural Isolation, was published in July 2019. Further reports, each of which will focus on a different issue, including homelessness and social mobility, are planned to follow later this year and into 2020.

The inaugural Hidden Somerset launch event was held at the Rural Enterprise Centre, on The Royal Bath and West Showground. Invited guests heard a presentation of the findings of the research from Somerset Community Foundation (SCF) Programmes Director Val Bishop, which revealed that:

  • There are a number of hidden needs in Somerset linked to rural isolation including loneliness, poor access to vital services such as GP surgeries, shops and banks, and significant barriers to opportunities for work and learning
  • Lack of access to transport was the most significant issue for all age groups – in parts of Exmoor, for example, households are an average of 40 minutes away from their nearest food store and 50 minutes away from a GP
  • Younger people in rural communities are more likely to be working multiple, seasonal jobs with lower pay which, combined with high housing costs, means home ownership is impossible for many young families and forces many to move away
  • Although there have been significant improvements in access to broadband, a lack of digital skills and access to high-speed broadband and mobile data are still significant barriers for many. Remote areas of Somerset also have few free Wifi hotspots, creating financial barriers to getting online and accessing learning and employment opportunities.

The chairman of a local rural community group responded to the survey: “Lack of transportation is my number-one problem. If I could get transport to pick up the elderly – even those who live a short distance away – I could straight away increase the number of members, especially those who are on their own. We could then also support the surrounding villages at our meetings.”

A panel at the event, made up of four charities, social enterprises and community groups, brought to life some of the more challenging aspects of rural life and the creative and entrepreneurial ways they are tackling local issues. A representative from Exmoor Young Voices – which works to highlight the needs of young people in the area – spoke of the grave difficulties for younger people who want to stay living on Exmoor in light of high housing costs, low wages, and limited employment opportunities. The group are lobbying for changes to local planning regulations to enable more young families to self-build and are looking to start a loan fund to help them buy land.

Raj Singh, Deputy Chief Executive of the Community Council of Somerset, was one of the panellists, and highlighted the vital importance of Village Agents and their innovative and flexible approach to helping individual villagers across Somerset. Raj shared a story of an elderly and isolated resident who was stuck in hospital because he needed a simple adjustment made to his home that no agency had been able to resolve. The local village agent was quickly able to purchase and install the necessary equipment and get him home at a cost of less than £10, as well as helping the resident to build new friendships which reduced isolation and improved his overall health and wellbeing.

Justin Sargent, Chief Executive at Somerset Community Foundation, said: “Isolation is one of, if not the greatest ‘hidden’ issue that communities face here in Somerset and it affects thousands of people across the county. Building stronger communities is essential if our rural areas are going to remain vibrant and inclusive places to live, and local philanthropy has to be a part of this.

“One of the most obvious and profound effects of isolation is loneliness, which can have a significant impact on both mental and physical health. But it is also an issue that local community action is very effective at addressing, preventing other more serious problems from escalating. The discussions that our Hidden Somerset report has so far inspired are helping us identify specific roles that we, and our donors, can play to make the greatest difference. Most immediately, we will increase the impact of our annual Surviving Winter campaign – where people can donate their Winter Fuel Payment to help people who are living in fuel poverty – by funding more community winter dinners around Christmas time, bringing more people together. However, I am sure there is much more we can – and will – do in the future.”

The next Hidden Somerset report will look at homelessness and will be published in November 2019. If you are interested in supporting the work of Somerset Community Foundation and would like to obtain a copy of Hidden Somerset: Rural Isolation, please call 01749 344949 or email: info@somersetcf.org.uk

You can also download a copy of Hidden Somerset: Rural Isolation by visiting: www.somersetcf.org.uk/about-us/publications

COMMUNITIES CASH IN WITH GRANTS FOR SHOPPING AND SAILING ON EXMOOR

Exmoor National Park has invested in a community shop and an accessible sailing boat with the latest grants from the Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund. Roadwater Community Shop and Wimbleball Sailability have both been awarded funding of up to £2,500 in support of projects helping Exmoor communities thrive and opening up fresh opportunities for people to experience the National Park.

Wimbleball Sailability has offered sailing experiences for disabled people at Wimbleball Lake on Exmoor for over 30 years. The new funding will help towards the purchase of a new eight-seater sailing boat, ensuring many more people can experience the thrill of a day out on the water.

David Mather, who helps run the programme, said: “Disabled people from across Somerset and North Devon, including many care-home residents, regularly enjoy sailing trips with the help of our dedicated team of volunteers. Thanks to this funding we look forward to introducing many more people from the disabled community to Exmoor and the opportunities that exist to enjoy the freedom and fun of sailing.”

The funding will also help pay for a community hub and information point for the National Park within Roadwater Community Shop & Post Office, as part of work to upgrade and extend the existing building, which is run with the support of more than 60 volunteers.

Shop volunteer Robert Wetheridge said: “Since the village took over ownership and running of the shop last year, officers at Exmoor National Park have supported us in countless ways – through their Partnership Fund, planning advice, community project planning fee reimbursement and advice on access to Carbon Reduction funding that has paid for installation of a small solar panel.

“Once complete the building upgrade will increase accessibility to all, provide a small cafe and community hub area, plus an outdoor patio with a view over the village hall recreation ground and swings. We all have our fingers crossed that construction can begin in early autumn and are so grateful for all the ongoing support.”

Philip Kiberd, Funding Officer at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “These two projects show how a relatively small contribution of up to £2,500 can make a real difference to those living in the National Park or coming to enjoy what it has to offer. We’re particularly looking for projects that can enhance the landscape, help nature, investigate heritage or introduce new people to the National Park and would love to hear from anyone with a great idea.”

You can apply to the Partnership Fund Small Grants scheme at any time. Funding decisions are made around four times a year with the next due in the autumn. Apply at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/partnership-fund or for friendly advice contact the Funding Officer on 01398 322237 or by emailing partnershipfund@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

0345 224 1203