West Somerset Railway Weekend Events

WSR PLC is pleased to announce plans for two Living Museum community weekends at Minehead station on the West Somerset Railway.

Sat/Sun 25th/26th July

Sat/Sun 1st/2nd August

(Further dates may be announced dependant on the level of interest shown in these events).


West Somerset Railway

Exact details are still to be confirmed but it is hoped to include the following activities:

  • Live Steam Engine performing shunting activities around the station
  • Turntable in action: with a steam locomotive being turned 180 degrees
  • Shunting competition for children to work out how to shunt wagons
  • Visits to engine shed with close inspection of locomotives
  • Hourly tours of the Minehead engineering workshops
  • Cafes open for sale of refreshments, hot food and drinks
  • Burger van available for snacks in the station yard
  • Bookshops open for sale of books, magazine, models etc.
  • Railway groups selling various items of railwayana

Other options being considered for the weekends include

  • Vintage bus rides along Minehead sea front and past Parade shops
  • Local musicians playing on the platform 
  • Punch & Judy shows 
  • Small model railways layouts (weather permitting)

Entrance tickets are expected to be: £5 per person

Tickets will be bookable in advance online or via contactless purchase on the day.


Tree planting advice in Mendip

The Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Unit has released a guide to help landowners that would like to combat climate change and help nature recover by planting trees. This guide, in the form of a flowchart, helps people choose the right tree for the right place to benefit wildlife and the special qualities of the Mendip Hills AONB.

Woodland cover across the Mendip Hills AONB is 12% (2376 hectares).
The AONB Partnership would like to increase this to 13.5% (2664 hectares) to help the national drive for planting more trees in order to help address climate change and help nature recover.

Tree planting is one important tool in fighting climate change and can be
beneficial for wildlife but it’s essential this is done in the right way otherwise
it can actually be harmful. The Mendip Hills are extremely important for
a whole range of habitats including grassland, heathland, wetland, caves and woodlands. The combination of these habitats that are home to many rare species, from wildflowers and butterflies, to adders and bats is important.

The special qualities of the landscape also need to be protected, this is why it was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1972. The open, windswept plateau with drystone walls cutting across the landscape is important to protect and the hot, south facing slopes with views across the Somerset Levels are very special places to be.

Generally the best place for new trees is along the north facing slopes where there are already woodlands that can be connected and the grassland is not as wildlife rich as the south facing slopes.

Jim Hardcastle, Mendip Hills AONB Manager said, ‘This guide is to help landowners, no matter how big or small their land, to get the right tree in the right place that will help nature recover and keep the special character of the area that people treasure. We’ve designed it as a flowchart so you can see other options that may be more suitable for helping wildlife on the land you own. By using the process and links in the guide here you’ll be able to help wildlife and protect the character of this nationally designated and protected landscape.’

The guide is available to download at: https://www.mendiphillsaonb.org.uk/2020/06/29/new-tree-planting-guide-for-the-mendip-hills-aonb/  

Council announces new future for Birnbeck Pier

After years of decline at the mercy of the wind and the tide, the fortunes of a Grade II* listed Pier in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset look set to brighten thanks to efforts by North Somerset Council, Historic England and the RNLI.

Birnbeck Pier, a Victorian structure built between 1862 and 1867, is unique due to its connection to Birnbeck Island – the only pier in the country to connect the mainland to an island. The privately-owned pier has continued to deteriorate over many years, moving onto Historic England’s national at-risk register in 1999.

Birnbeck Pier

North Somerset Council’s concern about the deterioration of the pier resulted in the serving of a repairs notice to the private owner in September 2019. In late 2019, the RNLI began initial conversations with the council and Historic England on the possibility of the charity moving back to the Island, which would include a transfer of ownership.

At a meeting on Tuesday 14 July, the council will receive a report to authorise the issuing of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) for Birnbeck Pier. This process could take up to 18 months until confirmation is received from the Secretary of State.

Leader of the Council, Don Davies, said: “We are delighted that an organisation as professional as the RNLI has decided to step in and potentially take ownership of Birnbeck Pier. We have given the owner many opportunities over the years to undertake the necessary repairs needed to preserve the pier, without success, even starting legal action to CPO the site as a last resort. This is a fantastic result following a great deal of work from council officers, Historic England and the RNLI.

“Clearly there is a lot of work to do to restore the pier and re-establish the lifeboat station back to its original home. We would like to thank Historic England for their ongoing support in securing a future for Birnbeck Pier and look forward to seeing this historic structure reopened to the public, as well as providing vital lifesaving to North Somerset.”

Duncan Macpherson, RNLI Principal Estate Manager says: “The RNLI are really encouraged by the positive steps being taken by North Somerset Council to initiate a CPO process in order to take ownership of Birnbeck Island. The charity has been working alongside North Somerset Council and Historic England on the feasibility of re-establishing a lifeboat station on Birnbeck Island and this is a significant step towards that goal.

“Weston-super-Mare is a very important search and rescue base for the RNLI but is also a very complex area in which to build a lifeboat station. Birnbeck Island offers the best solution for the safe and most effective launch and recovery for the volunteer lifeboat crew at all states of the tide. The move will be a significant investment for the charity and the future of lifesaving in Weston-super-Mare. Of course, the pier also has huge historical significance to the community of Weston-super-Mare and, although there are a number of challenges to overcome still, the RNLI are delighted to be part of the journey to bring it back to its former glory.”

Rebecca Barrett, Regional Director for Historic England in the South West, said: “This is wonderful news. Birnbeck Pier is one of England’s finest Victorian piers, but it has been on our Heritage at Risk Register for over 20 years. We are delighted that such a promising solution has now come forward.  We will continue to work closely with the RNLI, North Somerset Council and other partners to rescue this outstanding and much-loved structure.”

Council announces new future for Birnbeck Pier

Somerset Open Studios goes digital 19 September – 4 October

Featuring over 200 artists and makers, this year’s Somerset Open Studios, 19 September – 4 October, is going to be a digital extravaganza. Curate your own tours of the artists’ works through the interactive brochure, see into their studios and discover what goes on behind the scenes.  Get hands on and interact with artists through a programme of inspired talks, workshops, demonstrations and films all hosted on Somerset Art Work’s website somersetartworks.org.uk.

Amongst those taking part from across Somerset are glass artist Fabrizia Bazzo, jewellery maker Sarah Fox, ceramicist Treston Holmes, visual artist Leo Davey and Nick Fraser, who uses scrap and salvaged material for his sculptures.

The decision to go digital has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Somerset Art Works continue to put the safety of participating artists, audiences and staff at the centre of their decision-making. For this reason, the difficult decision was taken to not invite people to visit artists’ studios in person this year, but instead develop the event digitally. The physical Open Studios event is being moved to 18 September – 3 October 2021 with the bi-annual Art Weeks Festival in 2022.

For more details, visit somersetartworks.org.uk or email paul.newman@somersetartworks.org.uk

Follow on Twitter @SAW_Somerset; Instagram at somerset_art_works and Facebook @somersetartworks.page Using hashtags #somersetartworks #somersetopenstudios #openstudios2020.

The Royal Navy International Air Day – Rewind!  

Join the Royal Navy International Air Day on Saturday 11 July for a free action-packed live streaming featuring the best displays from Air Day this century! 

Royal Navy Sea Harriers

2020 was set to be one of the best Air Days yet, so it was with great disappointment that the event was cancelled earlier this year. Fortunately, there is now no need to miss out. The organisers have collaborated with Planes TV to bring you an online Air Day for free! This will be an opportunity to see a large variety of incredible Air Day displays from the last 20 years, including performances from aircraft operated by the Royal Navy, past and present such as the Sea Hawk, Sea Harrier, Sea King and F-35 Lightning; foreign military fast jets such as French Navy Super Etendards and Polish Air Force MiG-29; and some rare and wonderful participants like the Vulcan bomber, South African Airways 747 and the huge Antonov An-124. As well as the display footage, there will be fascinating commentary from Royal Navy personnel, display pilots and operators. Get ready to turn up the volume and enjoy ‘Air Day – Rewind’ with the best acts of the last two decades and a few surprise displays from the mid-90’s all from the comfort of your own home.

If you would like to join the Royal Navy International Air Day for this thrilling live stream it will take place on Saturday 11 July 2020 from 11:00 to 17:00 and can be seen live on the Royal Navy International Air Day Facebook page and various other platforms. Look out for the display schedule which will be released in due course.

Useful Royal Navy International Air Day links

Facebook:        www.facebook.com/yeoviltonairday

Twitter:           www.twitter.com/yeoviltonairday

Instagram:      www.instagram.com/yeoviltonairday

YouTube:         www.youtube.com/yeoviltonairday

Website:         www.royalnavy.mod.uk/airday

A Year of Adventure for Mendip Hills Young Rangers

The Mendip Hills AONB Young Rangers are coming towards the end of their first year of the programme, which started in September 2019. The Young Rangers meet every month and take part in a variety of activities, which takes them through a real life Mendip Hills Ranger experience. It’s been a fantastic year of adventure with so many highlights, including a brand new uniform sponsored by the Mendip Society.
They began the year with some exhilarating adventure activities; canoeing and bush-craft, followed by caving and climbing. This gave them the chance to really experience what Mendip has to offer, and get to know one another better.
The Young Rangers had a hands on learning experience with an outdoor activity First Aid course and learnt how to deal with emergency scenarios. This training equips the Young Rangers with skills that will enable them to explore safely, and have the confidence to look after each other on the hills.
The Young Rangers began to learn the value of conservation in the AONB this year. They  explored ancient woodland habitats, took part in drystone walling and visited local farms to compare and contrast both modern and traditional methods of agriculture. In March, due to Covid 19, the programme was put on hold. We have been delivering the programme remotely and providing online sessions through which they have learned navigation and wildflower identification skills.

The Young Rangers have also been working towards completing their John Muir Award for conservation. They have to complete tasks which demonstrate they have discovered, explored, conserved places on the Mendip Hills AONB and then share them with others.

Lauren Holt, Ranger Volunteer Coordinator with the Mendip Hills AONB Unit said, “We aim to deliver sessions that incorporate all aspects of the Mendip Hills AONB. These young people are our future ambassadors of the Mendip Hills. Investing in young people allows us to secure the future legacy of conserving and enhancing the Mendip Hills AONB, offering something totally different to other youth groups. Technology has allowed us to maintain the connection with our Young Rangers and we look forward to when we can all share an adventure together again in the future! Well done to the Young Rangers for a great first year with Mendip Hills AONB. An additional thank you to the volunteers who support the programme and to the Mendip Society for the money towards their new kit.”
Mendip Hills Young Rangers

Opportunity for new food and drink entreprenuers

Organisers of eat:Festivals, which take place across Somerset, are offering support to new businesses to enable them to make their first steps into trading. The Bursary, sponsored by Thatchers Cider, aims to encourage business start-ups to consider festival trading and an entrepreneurial spirit in Somerset. The producers to benefit from a free pitch at the Weston-super-Mare September festival and there is support from the organisers throughout the year. 
The Thatchers Bursary is for food and drink producers who have not engaged in retail trade before.
Sarah Milner Simonds, from the festival told us
“We want local businesses to benefit from the festival. By partnering with Thatchers Cider we are able to offer a chance for new businesses to make their first steps into trading. We recognise we have an opportunity to assist in developing the skills, abilities and knowledge of all food and drink producers.”
Bev Milner Simonds, joint festival director said:  
“We know that COVID-19 is affecting every business and some people are pivoting or diversifying – we also know that there will be some new businesses just starting out. The scheme is designed to encourage business start-up and self-employment within the local area.
Interested businesses need to complete the simple form on our website www.eatfestivals.org and we hope that this will be seized on by new traders.”
Martin Thatcher of Thatchers Cider says, 
After such a difficult few months for everyone, it’s fantastic that eat:Festivals are planning their return to eat:Weston in September. It will be a much-welcomed return for traders who excel in such a diverse array of local food and drink. The Thatchers Bursary gives an opportunity for first time traders to introduce their produce to visitors, and we’re looking forward to selecting this year’s recipients with Beverley and Sarah over the coming months.
Nikki Seymour of Bake me Crazy (pictured)
“I was awarded a Thatchers Bursary to trade at eat:Minehead festival in 2019, it has been great to join the #eatfestivalsfamily. We had access to expert advice on how to get the best out of the day, free publicity, as well as being able to trade for free. We love meeting customers face to face; getting feedback and discussing new orders. We had a brilliant day’s trade and the feedback was tremendous.”
Applications for the bursary need to be in before 1 August 2020 and there are 10 bursary places at the eat:Weston event on 26 September.
For more information about the bursary or the festivals visit www.eatfestivals.org