THE YEAR

The year started and ended in tragedy in January a 66 year man was killed taking part in a hill climb off road motor event at Clifford Bridge near Drewsteignton after he was thrown from his open topped car and was trapped under the vehicle.

 The community of Chagford said a fond farewell to Chagfarm founder Davon Friend, his wicker coffin was carried through the town before a service in the village hall. Davon had died a few days before the new year. Davon was 37 years old.

After a Freedom of Information request The Moorlander revealed that £2.4 million was spent on external consultancy by the North East West Devon (NEW) Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to basically close our hospitals on Dartmoor. We also found out that the CCG were using a ploy to keep beds empty to look as if the hospital was underused and therefore could be closed.

In July the last baby was born in Okehampton Maternity Unit before it closed its doors.

Lloyds Bank announced that it would in effect be closing all its banks on Dartmoor, the last to go would be Moretonhampstead and Chagford the last thatched bank in the country, they closed in May.

The Moorlander started a petition which 1,200 local people put their names to. Our petition went up to Lloyds Bank headquarters in London. Where the CEO who is paid £8.5 million, still closed the Dartmoor banks.

Fly tipping has become a major problem on Dartmoor we followed the councils fly tipping officer to find any clues as to who was dumping this mess. The problem is ongoing and in some areas getting worse as local councils have begun charging for disposing waste.

In a recent book by top crime writer Patricia Cornwall comes up with new evidence that artist Walter Sickert could have possibly been Jack the Ripper. Sickert lived in Chagford for a while during the First World War and painted view around the church and town. Sickert was known for his dark paintings and sketches of women in particular The Camden Murders. So did Jack the Ripper stalk the streets of Chagford?

After being asked to write a piece about Chagford for the Sunday Times best places to live, bearing in mind the recent loss of services to the town, The Moorlander organised a meeting to voice fears that the town was losing its way and what we should do now.  The Future of Chagford meeting took place on a wet blowy Wednesday evening. The Jubilee Hall only has 120 seats but over 230 people turned up to the event since then Chagford has a spring in its step. On a sad note one of the towns two historic hardware stores Webber and Son has closed, but the premises are soon to become part of the revitalisation of the town.

Flower boxes started appearing all over Chagford thanks to a team of local ladies, all part of the ‘Future of Chagford’ project, and the ladies loos became the talk of the town.

There was an air of excitement surrounding the first direct train from Okehampton to London Paddington in nearly 50 years as hundreds of people turned up and boarded the Royal Oke train. But not long after leaving the station the whole project very nearly came to a grinding halt when the train brokedown but managed to make its way to Exeter where we changed trains. Trains Minister Paul Maynard said there was a compelling case for a new rail service.

Since then things have moved apace with Transport secretary Chris Greyling announcing that there would be a new service from Okehampton to Exeter from the new Okehampton Parkway station.

In edition 23 of The Moorlander Mel Stride gave us a first hand account of what happened to him during the lock-down of the Houses of Parliament during a terror attack when a policeman was killed.

Donald Trump was sworn in as president of the United States of America, so a demo took place in Ashburton against Donald Trump being made president, which if seen by ‘The Donald’ would have been put down as Fake News.

Martin Brady gave an account of the failings in the NHS 111 service after 85 year old mother Jean had a fall in the garden. She lay on the grass for hours as temperatures fell while they waited for an ambulance.

Jean was also the last patient to stay at Okehampton Hospital before being transferred to Tiverton Hospital miles away from her family. Thankfully Jean is still with us.

Theresa May called a General Election to be held on the 8th June to strengthen her majority but it all went horribly wrong she lost her majority and had to do a deal with the Ulster DUP to retain power but at a cost. We didn’t cover ourselves in glory either with a headline about the Land Value Tax.

The Moorlander also had its first anniversary 27 editions and now 48 pages. The View from the Whitehouse column started, no not spouting the views and twittets of Donald Trump, no much better Maggy Whitehouse our ireverent Rev’d.

We had a note from Clarence House saying that The Moorlander was on HRH Prince Charles must read list.

BT announced that they would start removing red phone boxes from Dartmoor back tracking on a former statement. A number of phone boxes did get a reprieve where there was no mobile signal.

Police investigated three fires broke out at the Coppelia House care home in Moretonhampstead 25 residents had to be evacuated on all three occasions. Police arrested a 20 year old worker at the home.

A possible merger between West Devon and South Hams Council was mooted with an increase in council tax of up to £63 per year for South Hams residents.

Farmer’s became concerned over the plans to release wild cats like Lynx on Dartmoor as part of a rewilding project. Prince Charles open the new Young Farmers Headquarters in Cheriton Bishop.

15 year old Leah Kerry died after taking MDMA in a Newton Abbot park she would not be the last teenager to die in the area after taking the drug.

The Gardeners Question Time panellist Anne Swithenbank became a columnist for The Moorlander with a month by month guide in what to do in the Dartmoor garden.

The Moorlander found out through a Freedom of Information request that dozens of Devon councillors failed to pay their council tax, some were even issued court summons.

Thousands of people enjoyed the Dartmoor Folk Festival and the Chagford Show.

Following leaked information we exclusively reported that the cladding on Newton Abbot Hospital had been supplied and fitted by the same company that put up the cladding on Grenfell Tower which became a towering inferno killing 71 people.

In September the Red Arrows honoured the Lustleigh Show with a fly past on a beautiful sunny day where thousands of people attended.

In October Dartmoor was on alert for the deadly Asian Hornet and the Moor Otters went on sale after a hugely popular campaign by Dartmoor National Park Authority, the money raised helping funding after their budget had been cut by central government by 40% since 2010.

The Moorlander features in a Stateside play, as a prop in a production put on by The Flowertown Player in South Carolina.

Chris Greyling the Transport Secretary came under pressure to restore the inland rail link across Dartmoor from Plymouth via Tavistock and Okehampton to Exeter and beyond, and give the West Country an alternative to the coast link via Dawlish which washed away during the big storms of February 2014, effectively cutting off the West Country.

At an auction we find an extraordinary set of First World War photographs taken on the front line.

For this year’s Remembrance Day we focused on Lydford, the small village which lost so many sons and daughters in nearly all of the conflicts over the past 100 years, including: The First and Second World Wars, The Falklands and Iraq.

In December the Ring of Bells pub at North Bovey reopened two years after a fire which gutted the historic pub.

The Gyuto Monks of Tibet arrived and played to a full church in Chagford a highly unusual sight for Dartmoor.

Christmas came with a bitter twist as two eighteen year old young men died after a night in Plymouth.

A sad end to a difficult year.

Stuart Clarke

Author: Stuart Clarke

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