Local Newspaper Review for the week of April 9th, 2020 by Harry Mottram including some notes on social media

With no reporters on the Gazette and those on the Mercury affected by the coronavirus lockdown it comes as no surprise both papers are thin on news.

The main bulk of the stories are about the crisis and how people are coping and being good citizens, and in particular how businesses are still managing to either keep their customers supplied or are saying how they are helping the NHS.

The Gazette leads with the death of Lord Bath, 87, from coronavirus who owns a large chunk of Cheddar Gorge. Perhaps best known for his ownership of Longleat the aristocrat was once worth £157m according to the newspaper. What happens next to the caves, visitor attractions, various businesses, the car parks and more to the point, the now derelict Cox’s Mill (the former hotel) is up for speculation.

Police action

Also in the Gazette the chief constable of Somerset and Avon Constabulary Andy Marsh is quoted as saying the force has no plans to set up road blocks to investigate where people are going. He cautions against people setting off by car to visit second homes or go on holiday though – and thankfully doesn’t suggest there are plans to investigate the shopping baskets of residents. Alarmingly the police say they’ve had more than 1,000 reports from people saying they’ve spotted neighbours or others breaking the lock down rules. (Depending on your view they are either helpful citizens or snitchers.)

Over in the Mercury there is a report by the same police force who have issued 23 penalty notices to people deemed to have breached the lock down regulations. It it includes six offenders who spat at or bit police officers claiming they had the virus. All were charged said the police. But spare a thought for one chap who the police fined for driving 100 miles to see his girlfriend in Weston-super-Mare. Surely this could be the first instance of fined for being in love?

Vet is shut

The Gazette’s Maxine Irving’s column continues her account of life under lockdown with a story that will chime with many. She is unable to take her pet cat to the vets due to its closure – one of the many inconveniences of the emergency. And also in the Gazette there’s another strong picture feature by Marion McMullen – this time on the late actor Laurence Olivier – and his leading ladies.

The Mercury’s sports pages report on the end of the incomplete rugby season and has some lovely photos of back in the day including one of Winscombe RFC’s Easter team in 1964. Merv Colenutt continues to keep the back pages of the Gazette going since there’s no sport with more articles on local football – all excellent copy since Merv has an encyclopedic knowledge of Somerset soccer.

Finally on the letters pages of the Gazette there’s a stunning photo by Jason Byrne of dance student Lilly Bell pictured performing with Glastonbury Tor in the background and a tall cross in the foreground symbolising much of the spirit of Holy Week and Easter in particular.

Social Media News

Away from the local press there’s plenty on social media although little in the way of hard news. What there is comes as a snapshot of life during the coronavirus emergency. People are clearly getting out and about and taking extended walks to places they don’t usually discover on their doorstep – although the fine weather helps.

For instance people in Axbridge have been ‘up the hill’ and rediscovered the old ochre mine and taken dogs for walks in fields on the Mendips where cattle are in calf – and according to one local farmer depositing their dog poo bags there. Yeuk.

The Thursday 8pm communal clap for the NHS has been taken up with enthusiasm by many although in Axbridge there was something of a conflict of opinion on Facebook over the idea. Shall we say there was a spat between residents as to whether it was semi compulsory or voluntary? All I can report is words were exchanged. You see – the lock down is beginning to get to people. Yes, we will all go crazy eventually.

Corona & the Cheddar Valley community

There are lots of people on social media doing good things by offering to volunteer to help those in need and can’t get out. The excellent Facebook group ‘The Corona & the Cheddar Valley community – lets help each other’ is well worth a visit if you can help or need help.

Finally to cheer you up Axbridge magician Damian Surr has been posting some amazing tricks to entertain people on Facebook – so the lock down does have some magical moments after all.

For more features, reviews, news and views on a variety of subjects visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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