Funding to the Quantock Rangers to be cut - Act Now!
If you've read this, please see update below.
By Simon Youé
Somerset County Council is proposing to cut funding to the Quantock AONB service by £20,000. Unfortunately, this means that the Rangers will lose a further £60,000 in matched funding from DEFRA. In losing £80,000 the Rangers stand to lose 2-3 full time posts.
Tim Whittingham and myself have started a petition on SCC's web site to oppose the proposed cuts.
To make an even greater impact, write to your County Councillor. Simply fill in your post code in the box below for the e-mail address of your councillor.
For more information about, and reaction to the cuts see: quantockpetition.org.uk
1st August 2014
It appears that our local MP for Bridgwater & West Somerset, Ian Liddell-Grainger, has been busy campaigning on our behalf. He as been
"...working quietly behind the scenes to urge a rethink and I am happy to tell you that the proposal [to cut AONB funding] has now been dropped."
see his web site
However, on 29th July, in a written reply to Cllr. Mike Rigby, Cllr. David Hall, deputy leader of SCC insists that no decision has yet been taken:
"...The position remains as I have set out on numerous occasions. I have taken no decisions with regard to next years AONB budget."
Confused? I am, so please keep signing the petition and contacting your County Councillor.
The Coleridge Way for Somerset Levels Relief Fund
James Charlesworth, Oliver Beaman, Josh Mc Carthy,
Dominic Tinnelly (staff) and Brandon Simmons
Bridgwater College residential students, based at the Cannington Centre, have undertaken the 36 mile long trek from Nether Stowey to Porlock to help raise money in support of the Somerset Levels Relief Fund.
Students gave up their free time once a week for three and a half hours to complete the walk in four stages across the Quantock Hills, Brandon Hills and Exmoor National Park; each stage was approximately 8.4 miles.
One student in particular, Brandon Simmons, who has come to study at Bridgwater College from Bermuda, personally raised over £200 with the kind contributions of friends and family all the way from the Atlantic Island, which has its own Somerset Island.
Brandon’s parents said, “We had been made aware of the flooding but did not realise how bad it was until we looked it up on the internet. Brandon had then told us that he was doing a fundraising walk and we decided that we would see if we could help in a small way.”
Dominic Tinnelly, Student Liaison Team Member who helped plan and lead the event said, “The students have done a brilliant job rising to this challenge and for such a worthy cause; they have done themselves and Bridgwater College very proud.”
Artist Wanted for Commission
Contains Art have taken up the mantle of the long-standing Watchet Kids Festival and are running a smaller scale version of the event at Contains Art, Watchet on Saturday 26th July 2014.
The Kids Art Day will include workshops and performances for children and young people to engage with throughout the afternoon.
Kids Art Commission
Contains Art wish to commission a local artist to produce a socially collaborative work by engaging with visitors during the Kids Art Day.
The theme of the work is ‘Views of Watchet’ (as is the theme for the whole event) and should reflect and represent this in some form. How you chose to interpret this is up to you: we do not wish to prescribe that – it may be in terms of opinions, attitudes, landscapes, scenery or any other interpretation.
For more details click this link (pdf)
April 25th 2014
Halsway Manor Society “absolutely delighted” to get green light from West Somerset District Council. Halsway Manor took a big step towards realising their plans to develop their facilities as a national centre for the folk arts last night, when West Somerset District Council passed their planning application. Councillors were supportive of the scheme and commented on the quality of the consultation with local people during the preparation of the plans. The Halsway Manor Society now plan to raise £4M in order to build a timber framed activity centre in woodland behind the manor, restore the historic manor, and add a new performance space. The aim of the scheme is to conserve the heritage of the manor and make the site more accessible for people of all ages and abilities to participate in a wide range of folk arts activities.
Established as an independent Charity in 1965, Halsway Manor is a folk arts centre that provides courses, events and activities for everyone interested in traditional music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore, arts and crafts. Located in the Quantock Hills - an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - in West Somerset, Halsway Manor has a fascinating history that goes back over 600 years. The Manor has a warm friendly atmosphere, tranquil woods and gardens, great food, a bar, a range of overnight accommodation and camping in the grounds. The Kennedy Grant Library contains thousands of books and recordings of folklore, customs, traditional folk music, dance and song - an excellent resource for research and study.
"We are absolutely delighted that WSDC have passed our planning application. We can now launch our funding appeal and start the planning work to realise this exciting scheme which brings many benefits both for the preservation of the historic building and for anyone who wants to participate in folk arts courses, events and activities.”
Paul James, Chief Executive
For more information see: www.halswaymanor.org.uk
by the Friends of Quantock
Friends of Quantock are pleased to announce that the silhouette of the clump of trees at Seven Sisters on Cothelstone Hill, which is such a well-loved feature if the Quantock Hills, will be maintained.
Some weeks ago it was announced that the beech trees planted some 40 years ago to replace the original ‘Seven Sisters’ was to be clear felled because of concerns about damage to a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Following the announcement Friends of Quantock received a flood of enquiries expressing consternation at the proposed loss of this iconic landmark and raised concerns about this with English Heritage and Natural England.
A meeting between all parties took place yesterday and it has been agreed that a comprehensive scheme for the protection of the hilltop will now be prepared and put in place. The scheme will include the planting of a new clump and a phased felling of trees that pose a threat to the archaeology while at the same time ensuring the preservation of the of the Seven Sisters both as a focal point for the hill and as an iconic silhouette when viewed from a distance.
There will be a survey to establish both the best location for a replacement clump from a landscape perspective and to investigate in more detail the extent and nature of the heritage features. The whole scheme will be made public and it is hoped that there will be opportunities for the general public to be involved and take part in the survey work.
We hope that this will ensure both the preservation of the iconic view of the Quantocks and ensure the protection of important heritage features.
Friends of Quantock would like to express their appreciation of the co-operation of English Heritage, Natural England, Somerset County Council and the AONB Service in achieving a satisfactory outcome from a difficult situation with conflicting interests. We shall continue to work with them for the protection of our beloved hills.
Campbell Rooms in need of Urgent Help
After welcoming thousands of visitors over the past 25 years, we now face closure. Not for lack of popularity, success or funds, but for lack of volunteers.
If you live within range of Aley, Over Stowey, we need you to save us. You don’t need any connection to the Scouts, just a few spare hours each month and a desire to see us stay open for the next 25 years. We need occasional and regular volunteers to help maintain the centre, and people to join our management committee too.
If you might be able to help, or know someone else who might, please phone or email us now (see the ‘contact us’ page). Unless enough of you do, the Campbell Room may have close at the end of 2014.
For more information about the Campbell Rooms see: www.campbellroom.org.uk
Contains Art is an exciting new venue in Watchet providing artists' studios, a space for exhibitions and events and a networking centre for West Somerset's creative industries.
Three shipping containers, sited on Watchet's East Quay overlooking Watchet Harbour Marina are being turned into a home for four artists studios and a project space. The containers will be undergoing refitting out and refurbishment over May- June 2013.
The project, which grew out of Creatives Club and the Making the Links in West Somerset project, is being overseen by Creatives Club.
Entries are wanted for their first exhibition, Open Art Postcard Exhibition. If you are creative and fancy showing your work at our exhibition and donating the sale of your postcard to help raise funds for this new community Arts Centre why not create a card and pop it in the post.
For more details about the project see www.containsart.co.uk
See our diary for exhibition location.
Story Boxes on the
Monday 3rd June and the final of the 6 story boxes will be installed for the summer of 2013 along the Coleridge Way. The concept is simple, find one, read the story so far, add a paragraph or drawing but no more, then leave for the next walker. Return as often as you want but you cannot add more unless someone else has put their mark in the book. Books will be exhibited as part of Somerset Art Week in September as well as Coleridge Cottage later in the year.
Two of the books have been started by guest Authors Jackie Morris, (Author Illustrator) and Taffy Thomas (UK's first Storyteller laureate), and endorsed by Rosemary Middleton, a direct descendant of Coleridge himself.
The Zing Somerset App was launched in March 2013 to aid the people of Somerset in starting and sustaining physical activity. It’s a great way to record your weekly activity and gives motivation to continue.
Have your say on how the Quantocks are mangaged
The Quantock Rangers are asking you to have your say about how they look after the Quantock AONB.
"Due to funding cuts, resources are now very tight and it is important that we concentrate on the right areas of work. We need you to tell us what you think is most important. Your answers will help us produce a new Management Plan for April 2014."
To take their survey, and be entered into a prize draw, visit: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QuantockHills
Quantock Hills AONB threatened by County Council cuts
by the Friends of Quantock
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in Somerset are facing swingeing cuts in funding in the latest Somerset County Council budget proposals. Despite an overall cut of some 6% in council spending, the budget for AONBs is to be reduced by almost 90% from £45,000 to £5,000. The impact on the Quantock Hills is even worse, as SCC proposes to cut its contribution from £21.5k to a derisory £1.65k. As Local Authority contributions are needed to draw down the Defra grant in the ratio of 1 to 3, the implications could mean a fall in the AONBs budget of up to £80k. Furthermore, the District Council funding partners are likely to follow the county’s lead and reduce their grants to the Quantocks as well with similar knock on effects.
It is deplorable that the County Council totally fails to recognise that the high quality of the county’s environment attracts individuals and businesses to Somerset to live and work and is the main asset of the tourist industry. Protected landscapes, like the Quantock Hills AONB, are what makes Somerset’s countryside so special and are an important element in the high quality of life of residents here, contributing significantly to their physical and mental wellbeing. Visit the Quantocks and you will see many people from Taunton, Bridgwater, surrounding villages and beyond using this very special landscape – walking, riding, cycling or just enjoying the spectacular views. The AONB team helps them all get the very best from their visits, but they need adequate resources to continue this work. Funding for AONBs is modest and excellent value for money - for every pound invested by the County Council the Quantocks Hills AONB brings in at least £15 from other sources, this is why the proposed cuts are not only inequitable, but make no economic sense. A county like Somerset needs to invest in its environment; it’s a key to its prosperity and to the wellbeing of its people.
Alan Hughes, Chairman of Friends of Quantock said: ‘The Quantock Hills AONB is one of the jewels in Somerset’s landscape, contributing to the distinctive character of the county and much enjoyed and valued by local people. If the hills are to remain beautiful, a place where we can all escape the pressures of modern life to enjoy stunning views, rich wildlife and links to our past, we must be prepared to invest in its management. I would urge our county councillors to reconsider these draconian cuts in the AONB’s budget. This is a most precious place, we must treasure it and look after it.’
Friends of Quantock take over custodianship of Halsway Hill & Over Stowey Custom Common
Following the controversy surrounding Somerset County Council's sale of land on the Quantock Hills the Friends of Quantock, a registered charity that was established in 1949, has recently taken over the management of Halsway Hill and Over Stowey Custom common.
The Friends of Quantock will hold these areas as custodians in perpetuity on behalf of the people of Somerset and visitors. The challenge now is to raise approximately £5000 per year for running costs.
How can you help?
Simply by becoming a member of The Friends of Quantock, annual membership is just £12 per year per household, or you could make a donation. Memebership form available here.
Or by buying this book by Peter Haggett.
Professor Peter Haggett CBE, a Friends of Quantock member, who was born, bred and schooled in Somerset. A former Cambridge don and Bristol University professor, he has returned to his roots to write this affectionate biography of a deeply fascinating but often overlooked corner of England’s rich and varied countryside.
Professor Haggett has kindly offered to donate the profits from this book to the Friends of Quantock towards their appeal.
For more details about the Friends of Quantock see friendsofquantock.com
Going, Going, Gone!
David Huxtable Sells
5th April 2012
by Simon Youé
At a press conference today, councillor David Huxtable announced that Somerset County Council has completed the sale of Great Wood to the Forestry Commission. The very same body that the government wanted to dispose of last year.
Councillor Huxtable further announced that negotiations to sell further parts of the Quantock Hills are in progress.
Although the Forestry Commission is, currently, a body to be trusted with stewardship of such a precious asset, the fact of the matter remains that there is still uncertainty as to their own future. This in turn leaves the future of this much loved, and probably the most used part of the Quantocks, a hostage to fortune.
Councillor Huxtable stated that, "The terms of the sale that we have, we think protects the land.". However, when I pushed him, more than once, to be explicit about what terms in the sale he was referring to, he did not appear able to give a direct answer.
Great Wood has been sold by one public body to another, currently, public body for the sum of £250,000 - before expenses. In the overall picture of the Council finances this is a very small sum. In fact the only reason that just one man was able to take the decision to sell is because the totality of the land on the Quantock Hills has been declared a 'minor asset' by SCC.
Make your mind up! Either the sale of this land will go a long way towards saving our schools, roads and bus services - or it is a minor asset. You just can't have it both ways!
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