Busy bank holiday weekend for ambulance crews in North Devon

North Devon Gazette

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This was an exclusive story. After thinking of the idea and contacting SWASFT, I wrote it for local title the North Devon Gazette and produced a radio report for my hourly news bulletins on The Voice commercial radio.

Emergency ambulances were sent out around North Devon almost 360 times across the bank holiday weekend, the Gazette can reveal.

South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT) figures show 358 emergency responses from Saturday, August 25 to Bank Holiday Monday – a slight fall from 370 in 2017.

Across Devon the service responded to 1,797 calls, including 1,309 in the rural areas of North, East and West Devon combined.

A SWASFT spokesman said: “We experienced a busy long weekend, despite receiving fewer calls than we anticipated.”

There were 7,733 calls throughout the South West region – stretching from Wiltshire to Cornwall.

It is a six per cent decrease on the total number of calls in the August bank holiday last year, when the figure was 8,227 and Devon-wide saw 110 more incidents needing a response.

But the average of almost 2,600 emergency calls each day this year requiring an ambulance meant it was still a hectic weekend for paramedics.

It follows SWASFT’s campaign leading up to the August bank holiday to reduce unnecessary 999 calls, encouraging the public to call NHS 111 with non-life threatening issues.

“The reduced number of calls may have been in part down to our campaign,” the trust spokesman added.


Exclusive: North Devon cyclists fear decline of cycling despite Tour of Britain

North Devon Gazette

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This was an exclusive story. I was seeing plenty of positive coverage about the Tour of Britain coming to my home town (tourism boost, getting people into cycling, a spectacle etc), but I knew there was. another, less rosy, story deep down. So I went out, spoke to local cyclists and found it. Here it is published online and on my radio bulletins.

As the final potholes are filled for the Tour of Britain’s arrival on Monday, some North Devon cyclists have warned the ‘dangerous’ cracks in North Devon’s roads are causing the decline of grassroots cycling.

Teams of maintenance workers have been seen sprinkled along the tour’s Devon Stage route over recent weeks, racing against time to fill potholes before the cyclists arrive.

Devon County Council says the event will generate £5million for the county’s economy, but the Gazette has learned of a less rosy picture among the cyclists who see North Devon’s roads at their best – and worst.

Cyclist Andy Brock, who works at a North Devon bike shop, said: “The roads are getting worse and worse – it’s just dangerous and to avoid the potholes you often have to swerve onto the centre line, it’s so dangerous.”

The Raptor Racing member added: “We’re finding that most roads are deteriorating badly and they’re just not getting the funding they need. You get certain places like Stibb Cross near Bideford where the actual road condition is appalling, especially going downhill.”

Marten Gallagher, a cyclist from Torrington, said: “It’s certainly a shame that we suddenly buck up our ideas to make sure the roads are nice and smooth when we’ve got a cycle race. Let’s see it happen all the year round.

“It’s definitely putting people off of cycling in the grassroots, a lot of people, my two daughters for one, say that they won’t cycle on the road anymore.”

Devon last hosted the Tour in 2016, when 250,000 people were thought to line the route, and one in five came from outside the region.

Stuart Hughes, DCC cabinet member for highways management, said the route was selected for low maintenance, or where it is already planned, so the cost has been kept low.

He said: “To put the costs into context the last Devon Stage to travel through North Devon in 2012 generated approximately £7.3m of extra spending in the county according to an independent report.

“This was a significant boost to Devon’s economy. This compares favourably to the £200,000 it costs the County Council to hold a typical Devon Stage.”

But Mr Gallagher disputed the economic case, saying: “If there’s an economic benefit to Devon from having the Tour of Britain come through it and because of that we can justify repairing the roads, then what about the economic benefit to the NHS and for the environment generally.

“In pure monetary terms for the NHS, in terms of people keeping fit and reducing our demands on that service, what about paying us back for that, in the same way.”

Featuring the likes of Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, the 174.9km Devon stage will finish on The Strand in Barnstaple before travelling around the country ahead of the grand finale in London on Sunday, September 9.

Mr Brock, who works at a North Devon bike shop, added: “It’s not like you want to smash every Strava segment, but actually you can’t ride at a safe certain pace because of the potholes, and as soon as it starts getting wet it’s treacherous – you don’t know how deep that pothole puddle is so you’re starting to move across the road in reduced visibility”

“The A377 is really bad, you’ve pretty much got to ride in the middle of the road. It’s a massive knock on effect with repairs if you hit a pothole.”

Several cyclists that the Gazette spoke to said the roads in France and Italy are worlds apart from North Devon.

Mr Gallagher also said the Tarka Trail was ‘bloody dangerous and not being repaired’, so he feels no choice but to use the roads from Barnstaple to Torrington to avoid the track.

“The main issue for me is that the potholes at the edge of the road, where cyclists have to cycle, don’t seem to get treated with the priority they deserve, simply because they don’t fit in with the depth requirements that are aimed at cars,” he added.

Five years reporting on a local Archant news desk…

North Devon Gazette

Below are just some of Ewan’s numerous bylines for his local Archant title, the award-winning North Devon Gazette. For more since 2014, search the ‘North Devon Gazette’ tag on this site or search the paper’s archive. 


Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 03.00.11

Shown are only a selection from 2018 – Ewan has been reporting for the Gazette since 2014

Selected stories

Busy bank holiday weekend for ambulance crews in North Devon

Brexit hate crime steers clear of North Devon

Pictures: ‘You’re not welcome here’ say Barnstaple Trump protesters

First Barnstaple Pride march is a ‘landmark moment’

Wounded veterans dive beneath Lundy Island coast to explore shipwreck

Pictures: Thousands flock to Pilton Green Man Festival 2018

Virtual monsters pop up all over North Devon as Pokémon craze sweeps Britain

Pictures and video: Rapturous applause at festival to honour Pilton’s late greats

Bideford woman hopes to share 40th birthday party with Gary Barlow

Heritage steamship begins voyage to Bideford

North Devon athletes compete on national stage at Gateshead

Quaking good time at Chulmleigh old fair

Bideford awards citizen of the year for ‘tireless’ work in community

Pictures: ‘You’re not welcome here’ say Barnstaple Trump protesters

North Devon Gazette

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Around 100 people gathered in Barnstaple Square tonight to protest against the Donald Trump’s visit to Britain, “standing shoulder to shoulder to say go away Trump, you’re not welcome here.”

Summer feast for foodies on the North Devon coast

North Devon Gazette

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North Devon’s wildest foodies are set to stage a summer feast on the rugged rocks of Morte Point this weekend.

Looking across cliff tops, beaches and valleys, foodies will tuck into a seafood stew over an open fire following a valley walk on Sunday (July 15) and revel in dessert from the heights of Bennett’s Mouth.

The ‘one-of-a-kind’ evening is a joint venture between The National Trust and successful local caterers Seadog Foods, which began in 2016, aiming to celebrate the coast and its community.

Seadog Foods has gone from strength to strength since it was established in North Devon five years ago with a street food approach, winning ‘Best of the Best’ at the 2015 British Street Food Awards and making the bill at Glastonbury and Bestival.

Sunday’s event will also feature sea shanty band Anchors Aweleigh, and foodies’ creative streaks will be unleashed in live painting and wood demos.

Peter Cousin from the National Trust said: “Seadog was the perfect partner to bring these foodie events to life as like us, they are committed to creating a sustainable future for food production.

“In North Devon, the National Trust is carefully managing their land to remain agriculturally productive and better for nature.

“We have been looking after beautiful areas across North Devon including Bennett’s Mouth and the Kipscombe, so it will be looked after forever, for everyone.

“These events will be a great occasion to celebrate these surrounds as well as the fantastic produce from the local area.”

The pair team up for another event on August 10 and 11 at Kipscombe Farm on Exmoor, with a long table barn feast, spiced with local ingredients and continuing into the evening with camping and campervan pitches.

Jim Coslett, co-manager of Seadog Foods, said: “Beth and I are really looking forward to creating a unique, intimate dining experience at these amazing secluded locations.

“We’re really happy to be working with the National Trust to showcase some of their best land and we’re confident it’ll be the ultimate foodie experience for everyone involved.”

Limited tickets are still available for Sunday’s event, beginning at 2pm in Mortehoe, for £40 by emailing seadogfoods@outlook.com.


Trump protest set to hit Barnstaple

North Devon Gazette

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Barnstaple will join nationwide shows of defiance to Donald Trump this evening (Friday) in its very own protest against the US President’s visit.

Organised by Stand Up to Racism North Devon, the rally will be held from 5-7pm in The Square.

Nearly 250 people have said they are going or interested in the Facebook event, protesting against the President having been invited by the Government on a three-day working visit to the country.

It forms part of dozens of rallies across the country, including protests planned tonight in Exeter, Plymouth and Totnes and thousands took to the capital’s streets today.

The President arrived in the country yesterday and following a black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace last night, he today met Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers and the Queen at Windsor Castle.

The working visit falls short of the state visit that was initially proposed, but it has not stopped protesters expressing their anger – with a 20ft tall ‘Trump Baby’ flying above Parliament Square today.

Dave Clinch, a member of the Stand Up to Trump group, said: “Some say the office of the president should be respected, but that does not mean you have to respect the person who is President.

“It’s appalling that he should have been invited. Today’s protests have been big so far, and anti-racists in Barnstaple will add their voice too.”

Michele Jayne, who is attending tonight, said: “North Devon is an open and tolerant community, and I march to support all the people who are marginalised by Trump.”


The Landmark Legal Challenge to Universal Credit System Explained


See it published on RightsInfo here. Shared over 300 times on social media.

A controversial new social security benefit, currently being rolled out across the UK, is facing a major legal challenge. But what’s the challenge all about and what impact might it have? 

The Biggest Challenges Ahead For England’s New Education Secretary



With Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle now completed, we have a new Secretary of State for Education.

He’ll be facing a number of challenges as part of the role, all in the name of narrowing inequalities in educational experience and outcomes, so here’s a quick look at what’s ahead for Damian Hinds.

So, Education and Human Rights?

Image Credit: Marcos Luiz / Unsplash

Following Britain’s decision to leave in the EU referendum, education has featured prominently in the debate about whether EU citizens currently living in Britain should be entitled to public services in the same capacity following Brexit. The government has also been criticised for its inaction on unaccompanied child refugees from Calais, and pressure on British public services was part of this discussion. Particularly in inner-city areas, there have been challenges with language barriers and educational outcomes.

The right to education is clearly laid out in the Human Rights Convention, with the text specifically setting out that “no person shall be denied the right to education”. This also sits alongside broader issues about gender, ethnic and class divisions in the British education system – something which plays into the equality at the heart of our human rights.

The removal of coursework and accompanying changes to the grading system at GCSE may reduce the stark gender gap at this level – with girls outperforming boys in every subject as recently as 2013 – but the rollout of universal credit has been criticised for negatively impacting free school meal eligibility for poorer students. Essentially, there’s a lot going on here that plays into our rights.

Are White Working Class Boys Being Forgotten?

Image Credit: UNISON / Flickr

Angela Rayner, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, has brought the underachievement of white working-class boys back into focus. She claims the focus on ethnic and gender gaps in education has created a “negative impact”whereby the struggle for many in this social group to adapt to the school environment has been neglected.

Whilst ensuring a multicultural educational experience is still especially relevant following Brexit and heavy EU migration flows, it is alarming that white working-class boys in Britain are the least likely to achieve five GCSE passes or go to university, and 35,000 of them are currently in prison.

What’s The Deal With Free Schools?

Image Credit: Pexels

A staple of Conservative education policy since 2010, the current government is following through with David Cameron’s 2015 manifesto pledge to build 500 free schools by 2020. As with the mass conversion of comprehensive secondary schools to academies, free schools are relatively autonomous of government control. They can be established by parents, faith leaders and businesspeople (to name a few), and claim to offer a more flexible educational experience.

But some question the standard of teaching, whether they favour a particular social group, and the amount of funding being ploughed into this scheme at a time when teacher recruitment and retention is worryingly low. Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former Joint Chief of Staff, has criticised Justine Greening for putting a brake on free schools so it will be interesting what Hinds does with them. Previously, his voting record shows he is a fan of greater autonomy for schools.

Right, And What About Tuition Fees Then?

Image Credit: Faustin Tuyambaze / Unsplash

Hinds is expected to announce a long-awaited major review of university funding, as debate continues over whether university tuition fees make higher education more accessible or exclusive.

The Chancellor has already explored capping fees at £7,500 rather than £9,250. Hinds also arrives at a time of outcry over Vice-Chancellor salaries, and debates over whether no-platforming policies violate free speech. However, he has previously voted to raise tuition fees.

So, What’s Damian Hinds All About Then?

Image Credit: HM Revenues and Customs / Flickr

In terms of what we know about his views, Hinds has already made it clear he plans to scrap the cap set on faith schools – something we’ve written about extensively here. It’s a complicated issue but has several human rights implications for both religious freedom and equality.

In terms of human rights more generally, he’s previously voted in support of LGBT+ rights, but has previously voted to scrap the Human Rights Act, as well as the duty of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to:

Support the development of a society where people’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice or discrimination and there is respect for human rights.

Whichever route Hinds takes to try and level the playing field for education in the UK, it’s likely to have a massive impact on one of our fundamental rights. Education is the building blocks for the rest of our lives, so many hope he will continue Greening’s efforts on improving equality and relationships teaching in schools.

As with all comment pieces, this article is the opinion of the author and not RightsInfo.