It’s hard to imagine that large areas of Somerset were once covered in water – most of the Somerset moors are below sea level, hence why they are so prone to flooding. It wasn’t until Dutch engineers drained the levels back in the 17th century that we were able to farm the land as we do today.
Go back even further – some 200 million years – and it’s even harder to imagine a prehistoric dolphin-like reptile swimming in the waters close to where we now live.
You may have guessed that I am focussing on Street in this week’s column – a village well known around the world for the quality and sheer number of fossilised Icthyosaurs found nearby.
This week I am dedicating the column to Shepton Mallet. In many ways the town is in the process of a successful transformation. The centre is in the midst of major resurfacing works and the Town Council is leading on a rebranding and updating of town signage. Even its own logo has changed which now includes the Glastonbury Festival Pyramid, which of course is just on Shepton’s doorstep.
The town is looking forward to the reopening of the lively Art Bank and Shepton’s increasingly vibrant artisan shops and cafés. The Library has been saved in its town centre site and is about to go through an extensive remodelling. During the construction works at the Market Cross and Town Street, Mendip’s Friday Market has moved until the summer to a temporary home in Great Ostry Car Park. The next market will be held this Good Friday.
We are lucky in Mendip to have five distinct settlements – Wells, the smallest city in England, the village of Street, and three very different towns of Glastonbury, Frome and Shepton Mallet.
In this week’s column I wanted to focus on Glastonbury, known worldwide of course for ‘the’ festival, which will hopefully be returning next year after two fallow years.
Aside from the festival, Glastonbury is such a magical place, steeped in history, myths and legends. Its independent shops on the high street are like no others and in happier times its pubs and venues are filled with live music and dancing.
You may know that on May 6th in Mendip you will be able to vote for who represents you as Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, or PCC. There will be some local bi-elections taking place too.
The PCC oversees your local police force, so voting is important to make sure the representative prioritises the things that matter to you. You can find out more here: www.avonpccelection.org.uk.
Over the past few days, the issues of policing and safety on our streets have been thrust into the limelight. We have all been saddened and shocked by the disappearance and death of Sarah Everard in London, and no doubt many of you have been following the subsequent debates on media channels around the police handling of the vigil this past weekend.
For this week’s column, I want to talk about the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, (AONB), one of 46 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
AONBs cover 18% of the countryside and include 12,000 miles of footpaths and bridleways. The land within them is protected by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, conserving the area to enhance its natural beauty. To become an AONB, Natural England considers a number of ‘natural beauty’ factors, such as the landscape and scenic quality, relative tranquillity, and the cultural heritage (e.g. archaeological remains).
There was a packed agenda at Mendip’s Full Council meeting, with financial business dominating matters. We may be dealing with a national pandemic, but your District Council is getting lots of business done! I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some of the highlights.
Despite Covid, we’ve continued to deliver essential services including, licensing, planning, enforcement, waste collection and protecting the homeless. Your Council Tax supports all this vital work. But to maintain these services, we need to raise the Mendip element of the Council Tax by around £5 extra compared to last year.
Heather Shearer is standing as the Lib Dem candidate for Avon & Somerset's Police & Crime Commissioner election taking place on 6th May 2021.
Heather is Vice Chair of Somerset's Police & Crime Panel, the Mendip District Councillor with special responsibility for Community Health & Safety and a member of the Safer Somerset Partnership.
We all recognise the enormous pressure the NHS and care system have been under during the past 12 months. There’s been much praise, appreciation and love for these critical workers. And rightly so. But this week I wanted to dedicate the column to the unsung heroes of the pandemic who’ve made our daily lives that little bit better.
They are our postmen, postwomen and delivery drivers who work around the clock bringing mail and parcels to our doors. The retail staff serving in shops, helping us stock up with those essential items.
Somerset’s Lib Dems are celebrating a big win for local residents in need of help after the County Council agreed a grant of £400,000 to fund Citizens’ Advice freephone ‘Somerset AdviceLine’.
At the County Council’s yearly budget meeting yesterday, a proposal prepared by Lib Dem Deputy Leader Councillor Liz Leyshon to direct emergency Covid funding towards the freephone county-wide ‘Somerset AdviceLine’ project was supported by every Councillor present.
Sedgemoor Councillor Nick Bayliss, who represents residents in the Highbridge & Burnham Marine area, said:
“I was absolutely devastated reading the news of this morning’s fire at the Motorsports base at Bridgwater College.