The first edition of The Moorlander of 2018 consisted of only 32 pages; it seems pretty thin compared to the 56-page tome that we publish now, but we did have a couple of good stories on the front.
The first was the shocking conflict of interest by Dame Ruth Carnall the former chair of North East West Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW). Her integrity was brought in to question when we found out that she and her husband also ran a private consultancy firm Carnall Farrar that advises clinical commissioning groups in England, including the NEW clinical commissioning group which she chaired.
Dame Ruth Carnall’s company was paid a total £658,514 while she was chair. When confronted, she quit but kept the money.
On the 8th of January the first pony was killed on Dartmoor after being hit by a car. We reported on Ivybridge becoming the first Plastic Free town in the UK and covered problems with staff shortages and drugs at HMP Dartmoor.
In edition 44 we reported on high street banks closing across Dartmoor and being replaced with mobile banks. After seeing the NatWest mobile bank only stayed in Chagford for half an hour a week, The Moorlander discovered that the NatWest mobile banking service was only open five and half hours a week for the whole of Dartmoor.
At the end of February the historic Hatherleigh market closed after 800 years, the end of era. Well not quite, today the fight goes on to try and save what’s left of the market. The main story on the front was that five masked men had been arrested after an armed robbery in Yelverton.
In March the film Silent Child won an Oscar with profoundly deaf six-year-old Maisie Sly from Devon playing the lead. Holy Street Manor was sold for £5.5 million, the largest house sale ever on Dartmoor. The snow arrived trapping dozens of people in their cars on the A30; one couple, Sara and John Lunt, spent their wedding night on a mat in the French classroom of Okehampton College after being rescued.
Fly tipper Connor Calam avoided jail after dumping waste across Dartmoor. Prince Charles visited HMP Dartmoor to see and hear part of a performance of Bizet’s opera Carmen by members of the Prison Choir Project. The Moorlander environmental correspondent Laura White investigated recycling in West Devon and found that it was rubbish, and a former water treatment facility at Belstone was auctioned and sold for £28,000. The photographs of the inside made a stunning looking spread.
In May we celebrated the 50th edition of The Moorlander and after deciding that the paper needed revamp, we introduced TM2 – a lifestyle section with Simon Heyworth being our first big interview. The subsequent interview was with the remarkable 99-year-old Captain Tony McCrum RN who joined the Navy at aged 13. During the Second World War his ship was sunk at Dunkirk, he was part of the invasion of Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and Frejus and served in the Far East for the invasion of Japan before the Japanese surrendered.
In June we reported that a ‘special’ train left Okehampton for Oxford and Stratford-upon- Avon, starting the summer Sunday service to Exeter, helping OkeRail to ramp up the pressure on the Department of Transport to reinstate the rail link to Exeter. A new motoring column was introduced, written by Paul Beard and we congratulated Geoffrey Cox MP for Torridge and West Devon on becoming Attorney General.
MDMA or Ecstasy took the lives of two teenage girls in two weeks. The Moorlander reporters Laura and Ben worked on a special report into ‘County Lines’ where drug gangs in the
metropolitan areas such as London, Manchester and Liverpool find new clients in the rural areas, especially in the South West.
By the summer The Moorlander had increased its pagination by 16 pages since the beginning of the year and increased its print run and sales.
Posters started appearing across Dartmoor warning of the EXTREME RISK OF FIRE – Dartmoor was dry as a bone during the summer heatwave. The Government announced that nuclear waste could be stored in national parks; during an interview Dr Kevin Bishop, the CEO of Dartmoor National Park Authority, he said he would be powerless if the government wanted to store nuclear waste on Dartmoor although he thought it unlikely.
Dorothy Ellis, the last First World War widow in the UK, died. There was camel racing at the Chagford Show. The new football season started with The Moorlander Newspaper sponsoring Chagford FC.
In September, Fiona Bruce and the Antiques Roadshow arrived at Buckfast Abbey. Drones were being used by criminal gangs to deliver drugs to HMP Dartmoor and other prisons, and also to find farming equipment to steal.
In October The Dartmoor pony sales were threatened with cancellation after new laws brought in by Defra but went ahead after a compromise between Dartmoor Commoners and the Department of Environment Farming and Rural Affairs over pony passports.
After two years campaigning by this newspaper a ‘Crutches Amnesty’ was brought in by the government. Mel Stride MP said: “The Moorlander are to be thoroughly congratulated on their
campaign to raise awareness of the issue around medical equipment that can and should be brought back into use.”
Edition 63 of The Moorlander was the paper that I am most proud of this year. It marked the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War, and carried a number of features on the subject including an interview with War Horse author Michael Morpurgo. It was also the largest paper that we have ever produced at 64 pages.
In December the roll-out of Universal Credit meant that people previously on benefits had to wait up to six weeks before getting any money and Devon Food Banks were in crisis, being used 52% more than ever before, and in a country with the fifth largest economy in the world. In the Christmas edition of The Moorlander our front-page story was how a new high street bank could be started. The proposal by South West Mutual had two councils pledging £100,000.
The TM2 interview was with Philip Reeve from Widecombe-in-the-Moor who had just had his book Mortal Engines made into a large-budget film by Peter Jackson. As a bit of fun we also wrote an interview with Father Christmas.