Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Rural Broadband Update for Biddisham

Orange = superfast broadband coming soon  Green = superfast broadband is here  

Last week I attended a 'Get Up To Speed' Digital Champion meeting with Connecting Devon and Somerset. The aim was to find out when superfast broadband was coming to Biddisham, who would get it and what would happen for the 5% at the end of the lines? 

Good News - The cabinet on the A38 opposite the New Moon will be enabled in October 2015. Those living within 1km of this cabinet will be able to purchase a Superfast Broadband package from BT.
Others should see an uplift in speeds.

We will take a poll around Christmas time to see what has actually happened and if the main part of Biddisham have benefited.

Bad News - The remaining properties suffering with speeds of less that 0.5mbps at the end of the lines, won't be seeing any improvement. I was told not to expect any news until 2020 as it is not financially viable to bring super fast broadband to these properties.

Can James Heappy Help? - I will be meeting with James Heappy MP on Friday 31st July to discuss what can be done for the 5% in the meantime.

Village Hall WiFi Hub? - One idea would be to turn the Village Hall into a superfast broadband hub with wi-fi for residents of the parish to use when needed. Would this work for you? Any ideas or suggestions would be a great help.

George Osbourne to make Broadband a Utility - There will be a campaign to ask George Osbourne to make Broadband a utility. Contact him via email here. 

Does anyone care? Is fast working broadband important to you? Do people care enough to do something about it? Or are people happy paying for a service that doesn't work? Is it important to access the same information, entertainment, services as people have in cities? 

Broadband is not a luxury - the residents of Biddisham, Tarnock and the surrounding villages are not all the ultra rich living on remote grand estates at the weekends. These are normal people, farmers, pensioners, young families just the same as in towns and cities. People working from home just needing to carry out their business which requires broadband as an essential tool. 

These are also homes with young people in education. These young people have not chosen to live here and need working broadband to carry out their studies. An example is at Crab Hole farm where George, a music student, is required to have his own YouTube channel as part of his course. Their broadband speeds are 0.14mbps and BT can do nothing to improve this despite rewiring the house. How is George and others like him able to study and stay in the countryside?

There is more info on the broadband page of solutions we have found to work in the time being like satallite broadband. 

More Info and People to contact. 

Connecting Devon and Somerset Website 

Iwan Best at Connecting Devon and Somerset with any concerns and questions about broadband

James Heappy MP 

CEO of BT Gavin Patterson


Ombudsman Services to notify them about poor service and provision from your provider. 

Alternative Suppliers

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

People of Biddisham - Henry Body

Henry Body sprint racer, 'a legend in his own lifetime' Classic Bike Magazine.

In response to my request for stories and history of Biddisham, Henry Body came forward with a wealth of information. 

Henry, born in Biddisham in 1934 as one of 10 children, is the longest living resident of Biddisham. He attended the primary school at the old school house for a month before it closed and then went to the village hall opposite his house for schooling, taught by Pheobe Egbert.
His grandparents lived at Apple Tree Cottage and his father George Body founded the saw mills at Castle Head. 

Today Henry lives with wife Norma in the house they built together in Biddisham. Their two daughters Melanie and Susan both live nearby. The house is full of details that could only have been created by a Body's skills. The beautiful polished wooden floors and hand crafted doors and staircase are a testament to the Body family work ethic. 

Henry described how Biddisham used to be 'everyone used to know each other and everyone would would help each other. It was made up of tight knit families' 

Henry has so many stories and was able to explain each resident of Biddisham when he was growing up forming the foundation of a village map that we will be working on in the next few months. 

Henry's grandparents.

Grandmother Kate Body outside apple tree cottage, Biddisham.

Henry and his twin sister as babies. They were runners up in the west of England baby contest. 
Henrys twin sister Beryl passed away as a baby in 1936.

A gathering before felling the tree in Badgworth at the top of the school rooms.

Transporting a tree trunk along the A38 when the road was a little slower. Henry's father rides the motorbike and sidecar hauling the trailer. Henry is the child on top and Knowledge Body of Poplar Farm sits on the back.

Making the babycham crates at the saw mills in the 1950s. Henry and Wallis Barrett. 

Henry as a toddler with sister Georgina at the garden fete held at the Old Rectory, Biddisham.

Henry on the left as a teen with Jim Harding, Peter Harvey and Baby George, Henry's uncle.

Henry's father George Body. George trained as a carpenter and apprenticed with Bill Wiseman at Rose Cottage which used to be the wheelwrights. When Wiseman couldn't keep George on as an employee he went out on his own. 
As a carpenter George would make the coffins for the village and the Body's would take care of the bodies in the surrounding area as undertakers. They would lay out, measure up, hand craft the coffin and even dig the graves. 
Later George founded the saw mills and during the 2nd world war was deemed too important to the country to be enlisted, having the biggest output per man in the southwest.  He was contracted by the government holding their stock and producing pit props for the mining industry. 

George Body along with all his children built Castle Head house from the first concrete thermal blocks. The house was built in too halves as there were rules which made house sizes dependent on family size. Everyday after school Henry and his brothers and sisters built the house by hand together. 

George along with Knowledge Body also built the bridge at Poplar Farm. There are two sets of Body's in Biddisham connected through the Emery family. 

After the war George was contracted to make wooden crates for Babysham and Coxley cider producing thousands of crates. 

As a hobby George and friends formed the Mendip Vale Motorcycle Club at the New Moon Inn. Henry used to help out and soon picked up skills in engineering and racing. 

George was also a member of the Antonia Dance Band where he would play the accordion along with Harold Forder, who lived with Knowledge Body at Poplar Farm, and Ken Tricky. They would play for miles around at all the village dances. It was at a village dance that Henry met wife Norma. 

Henry's mother and father George and Elsie 1940s 

Baby Henry in the 1930s 

An event in the village hall in the early 1930s. Dances and events were held often in those days before home entertainment. 

The saw mills at Castle Head Burn Council, Johnny Monks and Bill Salvage. 

Image from classic bike magazine by Gary Freeman

Henry Body featured in Classic Motorcycle Magazine 2014. Henry happens to still be the British Sprint Champion and has held this motorbike racing title for the past 14 years on his vintage Douglas bikes. Henry has entered 273 sprint races and won 268 on the bikes he has built himself.

" a lot of famous riders had everything at their disposal. I've had rubbish at my disposal - all this stuff is wore out - but I know my bike and I know what's wanted to make him go. We were brought up to do things to the best of our ability, and that's what I've tried to do. I've always done the things I wanted to - at least what I could afford. The thing is to do as much as you can in life, nobody can take it away from you. If I had my life over again I'd do even more" classic bike magazine July 2014 article by Rick Parkington.

Image from classic bike magazine by Gary Freeman

Image from classic bike magazine by Gary freeman 

Image from classic bike magazine by Gary Freeman

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Wind Turbine

An application for a single wind turbine has been received by Sedgemoor Council and is out for consultation. The earliest decision will be made on the 5th August 2015

Planning Application Number 24 - 15 - 00016

Location: River Yeo Farm, White House Lane, Loxton, BS26 2US

Total Height including blades 76m

Here is a link to the full planning application where comments can be made if wished. 

Here is the link to the Sedgemoor Planning Portal where you can type in the application number on the right. 24 15 00016

There is information in the planning application and supporting documents to look through that answers questions and allows comments to be sent directly to Sedgemoor council via a form.

The Biddisham and Badgworth parish council will be discussing the wind turbine on Monday 27th July at their meeting. The public are welcome to attend and can comment at the open forum at the beginning of the meeting.

Please find below a map along with images from the official public planning application submitted by Dist Gen for initial information.

Location Map

View from the Webbington Hotel

View from Rooksbridge Road near York Farm

View from opposite Chestnut Farm, Biddisham Lane 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Places of Biddisham - The Old School House

Outside the school house late 18th Century on Biddisham Lane. In the background you can just see the old St. Vincent's Orchard which is now a row of bungalows.

The Old School House was built in the 1858 by Rev.Filleul and opened years before the Forster Act for compulsory primary education in 1870. Below is a picture of the Filleul family who lived in the Rectory, Biddisham.

The Rvd. Philip Valpy Mourent Filleul had returned from Tazmania and settled in Biddisham as the rector with his wife and two sons where he remained into old age.

Rvd. Philip Valpy Mourent Filleul

Henry Body of Biddisham now aged 81 attended the school for just one month before it closed in 1939 and was relocated to Biddisham village hall on the A38.
In 1944 the old school house became a Youth Hostel sold by the Rvd. George Thomas Evans and finally in 1952 it became a house as it is today.

Thank you George and Serena Hatton for sharing these pictures, deeds and maps.

Deeds from 1944 when the Old School Hose became a Youth Hostel. 

1930s map of Biddisham

Monday, 13 July 2015

Pole Cat Found in Biddisham

 This little polecat appeared in the garden last weekend, we had to quickly put him in a box before a dog got to him as he didn't seem to be acting all that quick.

We gave him some food and water and kept him in cool until he had recovered enough for us decide if he was wild or someones pet. Taking a peek into the box he confirmed he may be a little wild!

We rang around and asked everyone we could think off if they had any ferets, no one was missing. The Vincent Wildlife Trust was helpful in identifying him via twitter and have recorded his location. After disputing with the RSPCA and Secret World as to whether he was indeed wild (and quite rare) or tame we eventually found him a place at Secret World Wildlife Rescue.

We found him in the bin asleep at one point.
They took him in and gave him some food and have told us he was very young and had most likely lost his mother. He will be re-released at West Hatch once he is strong enough.

It was very important that the Pole Cat was wild as he would be released as such and this also means we have a rare newcomer to the area. Pole Cats are a rare and protected species.

Safely at Secret World
It was lovely to drop him/her at Secret World, they have a fantastic facility to take in wild animals and re-release them where possible. Whilst we were there we were lucky to see the badgers sleeping in their sets, their fabulous peacock and Terrapin on their desk. The charity take care of all our local wild animals when in need of help and we were very thankful they could take in the pole cat.

It would be great to have a record of Biddisham wildlife over the years. This could also prove useful for conservation of habitats and the village.

You can donate to Secret World or help out in other ways by following this link. 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

People Of Biddisham - Arthur Steel Flight of the Navigator

 Early in June I was honoured to have a private audience with Mr Arthur Steel of Coombes Way, Biddisham. It was Richard Cross who called me and said I MUST speak to Arthur. So I went along with a notebook and thankfully something to record our conversations. Three hours later Arthur at 97 left me quite exhausted with his energy for telling the dramatic stories of just part of his life so far.

Many of you will know him around the village, Arthur was parish Clerk for 18 years (apparently Guy Gibbs said it would just be six weeks!) and moved to Coombes Way in 1970.

Arthur was born in Bristol on the 8th October 1917, and as a child gained an exhibition scholarship for his above average results at school. As a bare kneed Scout he was at King George VI coronation waving to the princesses and was even in the rare presence of King Edward VIII with Lord Baden-Powell at St Georges Chapel, Windsor. 
After school and during the Great Depression of 1933 he was grateful to get a job at MAC metal works in Bristol.
Here he met his future wife Rachel spotting her in 1937 and eventually taking her out on their first date on the 3rd March 1938.

Ray in Bristol awaiting Arthur's return.
From Bristol Arthur applied for an office manager job that involved training for the metal firm all the way up in Alloa Scotland producing mining and fire pumps.
 Ray and Arthur continued their relationship long distance as Arthur kept himself occupied playing Rugby for Bridge of Allan and Dunblane, running the Scouts groups, setting up the first YMCA in Clackmannanshire and lots of swimming and hiking.

War broke out in September 1939 and may of Arthur's friends enlisted. Arthur felt terrible watching his friends go off to war whilst he was safe in an office, however he joined the Home Guard but wanted to help even more. He had been turned down due to an impressive scar on his back, a result of being hit by a tram on Gloucester Road, Bristol as a teenager.

The services told him he was more use at home working on the fire pumps and degaussers. But Arthur wouldn't let it go and got his Bristol doctor to write a note that would get him enlisted.

FIT AIR CREW was eventually stamped on Arthur Steel's name after a medical passed with flying colours. He had the biggest chest expansion of the group and could swim two long lengths under water, something that would prove very useful.
Arthur reported to the Air Crew Reception Centre at Hyde Park, London and joined the production line of thousands handing him his uniform and punching him with four TBAT vaccinations.

From here his intensive training began taking him from Torquay, to Cranwell, Canada and back to Scotland. It was decided that Arthur would be a Navigator Wireless Operator. He was able to send 18 words a minute, dictate 25 words a minute, take photographs, read maps, direct the pilot etc, etc. all whilst in the bubble of a Beaufighter plane.

Ray and Arthur's wedding day in Bristol 1942.

On leave in 1942 Ray and Arthur were married at the St Anne's Methodist Church Bristol on the 30th May. A marriage that would last 63 wonderful years after such a long distance beginning.

Arthur arrived in Halifax, Canada in January 1943 on the storm worn Andes ocean liner in the freezing cold. Canada was so cold Arthur saw Niagara Falls in frozen silence! Training was good in Canada with no rationing as he clocked up flight hours seeing the beauty of Canada and the Atlantic islands.

Finally after two and half years of navigational training in the Beaufighter plane in 1944 Arthur was ready to see real service from North Coates Airfield.

Pilot Tony Adams

On the 20th July 1944 on a mission to Norway the Beaufighter piloted by Tony Adams and navigated by Arthur Steel plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, this is what happened next .......................

The Article in the Grimsby News by Stuart Russell. Rescued Airman in Sea Drama

"With a rope tied around his waist a Grimsby fisherman dived into the North Sea to rescue an injured airman.
Earlier an aircraft was seen to plunge out of control into the water by the mate of the trawler Median which was fishing several miles away.
The skipper immediately ordered the vessel to proceed at full speed to the scene although the course took him through a minefield.
   Some 15 minutes later the airman was seen clinging to a float.

Two attempts were made to position the trawler alongside him, but as there was a danger of running him down, it was only possible to bring the vessel to within 15ft of him. 

 It was then that James William Daykin of 1 Elm Road, Cleethorpes, a trimmer on the Median, went into the water , managing to fasten a line around the injured man. 

Meanwhile, with help, Skipper Ernest James Rogers of 125 Queen Mary Avenue, Cleethorpes, drew the two men towards the trawler and lifted them on board. 
 The vessel the made it's way back through the minefield and to port.

In January 1945 Skipper Rogers received the MBE (civil division) for his part in the rescue and Mr Daykin was commended for brave conduct, also being awarded the vellum of the Royal Humane society for his gallantry."

Arthur's Reply to the Letter dated 30th December 2003

Dear Sirs, 

You recently carried an article by Start Russell in a series "Bygones Special - Yesterdays Heros" with one of them headed "Rescued Airman in Sea Drama", It featured the actions of Skipper Ernest Rogers of the trawler S.S Median who ventured his vessel into a minefield, after seeing an aircraft crash into the sea, and Mr James Daykin who dived overboard to bring a line to the badly injured airman. 

I assure you these men and the rest of the crew of the Median, are remembered daily, with gratitude and respect. Without them I should not be here but with my pilot, and our aircraft, at the bottom of the North Sea. 

On that day 20th July 1944 the North Coates Beaufighter Wing was briefed to attack shipping off the coast of Norway. Flight Lieutenant Tony Adams, my pilot, with me as his navigator, in torpedo aircraft U/254, were well on the way, when our port engine started giving trouble. We informed the Wing leader, and set course back to base, getting as far as 40 miles off Flamborough Head, by which time the engine was vibrating so badly it was increasingly difficult to do anything. For a few more miles we struggled on, until the engine finally tore itself out of it's mounting, causing the aircraft to flip over, and diver vertically into the sea. I noted the air speed indicator showed 280 knots - about 320 miles per hour - as we fell, and I knew we should both be dead within a few seconds, as no-one ever survived such incidents. 

I regained consciousness deep under water, tapped by cables and torn metal, struggling to hold my breath, and furious that I was drowning instead of being instantly killed on impact. Ultimately I could hold my breath no longer, and clearly recall taking three deep breaths of seawater. By a miracle I broke clear and surfaced coughing and spluttering. After a time I was conscious on my surroundings, watched the tail of the aircraft disappear under the sea, and our dinghy, which had released from the wing, set off for the horizon in a brisk wind. I managed to stay afloat partly by my Mae West jacket, but mainly from using the fuel tanks that had floated from inside the wings when the aircraft disintegrated. Tony was nowhere to be seen, although I kept calling but with little hope he could still be alive. 

My right leg was swinging about, from the knee joint, and I wasn't in great shape, but had to stay conscious if I had any hope of surviving. Many miles out to sea, injured, no dinghy and with nly a fuel tank under each arm, things weren't too optimistic. 

After sometime I became aware a vessel was heading my way, and begun to blow my whistle. as issued to all aircrew and which I was told was heard nearly a mile away. All I had to do was keep afloat, which I just about managed until this wonderful trawler got close - and went past as it still had too much way. I managed to hang on, it came round again, a man dived over and tied a rope around me, and I was pulled in. There was a nasty moment as I got nearer to the propeller, which was still turning, but I was hauled aboard and promptly lost consciousness. While I was out, Ern Rogers got someone to kneel on my thigh while he pulled the dislocated knee back into place. He told me, later, that he would never have attempted it if he had known the leg was also broken but he certainly saved my whole leg - and my life. 

They searched for Tony but there was no trace, so they started back to Grimsby I was transferred to an Air Sea Rescue launch and taken to Immingham, the to Grimsby hospital and, some days later, to various RAF hospitals, where I spent seven months before returning to North Coates. 

Ern and Mrs Rogers visited me in hospital. bring a gift from the crew, and we corresponded regularly, until Ern died. I was able to attend his funeral and am still in touch with his daughter Jean, who sent me the cutting. Mrs Daykin, whom I also visited, told me her husbands skin came away in large flakes all over, as did mine, from immersion in a mixture 100 octane fuel and salt water. I only saw Mr Daykin once more, as he was usually at sea, when I was able to call. 

Having read this article I felt I must pay tribute to these men, who risked their lives, and gave me back my own. This was nearly sixty years ago and, now 86 and reasonably fit I continue to enjoy my life with my wife and family, thanks to these Grimsby trawlermen. 

There is an inexplicable postscript. My wife, expecting our first child, was at the cinema with a friend. The newsreel was showing the Beaufighter Wing attacking shipping off the Dutch coast. For the first time in her life she suddenly had a blinding migraine, and had to be taken home. We checked later and it was the moment we hit the sea. Co-incidence - or something else?

Yours Faithfully

A G Steel
The memorial at North Coates, Arthur should have been 242, no one else ever survived a Beaufighter crash.

Arthur continued his RAF service moving into intelligence and then on to demobbing servicemen even boxing champion Freddie Mills. The only member of the forces on leave on V.E night, together with Ray he spent the evening looking at new pre-fab homes and thinking of their future instead of wildly celebrating like the rest of the Europe.

Ray and Arthur finally settled in the South West with children John, Shelia and Peter. He didn't get back into a plane until 1971 and revisited Canada in 1984 for more adventures.

Throughout his life Arthur has had many near misses from being hit by a tram, electrocuted by bad wiring, bomb misses and the North Sea miracle. Even an angry resident of Biddisham managed to thump him!

Arthur has many, many more tales to tell and is still in the RAF reserves.

After the war with daughter Shelia and son John.

Thank you to Arthur and Shelia for sharing your time and stories.