2018 was an action-packed year for residents across Chard, Ilminster and the rest of South Somerset.

Here are some of the highlights from the News' eventful first six months of the year.


  • THE YEAR was off to a generous start as the Dowlish Wake Phoenix Appeal was given the last £10,000 it needed to complete the rebuild of the pavilion. The original pavilion was destroyed in 2016, sparking a huge fundraising campaign to gather the funds to rebuild. The £10,000 was given to the group by Gannett International, which owns Newsquest, the Chard and Ilminster News’ parent company.
  • A group of teenagers were being hunted after a vicious attack at a home in Bonfire Close, Chard. Police put out the appeal to track down the five people who were involved.
  • OPTIONS were revealed for the upgrade to the A358. The stretch of road between Taunton and Southfields Roundabout near Ilminster is being redeveloped as part of the government’s £15billion road investment strategy. Which route did they pick? We’re still waiting a few later.
  • CATHY Barnett Eye Care opened after the Boots branch closed its doors. The Fore Street store was taken over by Cathy Barnett, who had worked in the store for 23 years.
  • SOMERSET County Council announced it would be building three new schools in Chard, Ilminster and Crewkerne as part of a £140million investment into education across the county.


  • SOUTH Somerset’s deer whisperers star in BBC Country File. Mike Gage, who runs the South West Deer Rescue and Study Centre in Wayford, near Crewkerne, said the Countryfile visitors ‘loved’ the sanctuary, which cares for around 160 deer.
  • IT’S announced inpatient beds at Chard Community Hospital are to remain closed for the ‘foreseeable future’ Staffing issues meant the beds of the inpatient unit couldn’t be staffed. This remains a topical issue for Chard as the beds are still not reopened.
  • SOUTH SOMERSET District Council is set for some hard financial times as it is announced the authority will get £1.8million less in government funding than it did in the past year. The local authority spending deal left the district with £15.9mill in core spending power, compared to £17.7million the year before.
  • HEARTFELT tributes are paid to Robert Duval, of Hinton St George, who died in a car crash. Mr Duval was travelling near Honiton in a BMW when he was involved in the crash involving a HGV. His family said the beloved father ‘touched’ so many lives of the people around him.
  • MESSAGES of thanks were voiced from the victim of the Chard Carnival accident in 2017. Theresa Finn thanked the emergency services for keeping her alive.
  • SOUTH Petherton’ Carnival was cancelled after the committee was unable to find a new chairman.


  • THE community rallied around as the Beast from the East hit the county. A Chard couple who were set to get married put out a public appeal after a guest of honour became stranded at Eagle Tavern with the ring and the cake. Sharon Parsons called on Chard residents to help get her son Shane to the ceremony where they were married during their ‘spontaneous’ special day.
  • A FAMILY-OWNED Christmas tree farm was shocked to find their home on fire. Despite the severe damage to the barn building and smoke damage to an adjoining barn, Martin is remaining optimistic. He said: “The house is OK and the business is all right and these things just sort of put themselves back together in time, don’t they?”
  • The Ministry of Defence confirmed a British soldier from Broadway near Ilminster - who was expecting his first child with his wife – had died in a “tragic diving incident”. Lance Corporal George Partridge, 27, died on March 26 at the National Dive Activity Centre in Chepstow. He has been described by his commanding officer as an “exemplary soldier”.
  • A PLAN for more than 300 homes in Chard was ‘strongly rejected’ by the town council. The application was first submitted by Persimmon Homes in July 2016 and after being rejected, it returned in May 2017 only to be rejected again. Persimmon submitted the plans once again with some amendments for the homes between Tatworth Road and Forton Road.


  • CHARD residents wanted to send a strong message to supermarkets about the usage of plastics. After carrying out some shopping at Tesco, members of the group Sustainable Chard gathered outside to remove all the unnecessary plastic from their items, and leave it with the supermarket to sort out.
  • ILMINSTER’S Robert Paxton picked up a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games for bowls.
  • RESIDENTS near Whitelackington Road, which runs from Stocklinch to Whitelackington, hit out at Somerset County Council for the state of the road they labelled the ‘worst road’ in Somerset. The residents and the parish council came together to call on SCC to sort out the pot hole-riddled road.
  • MORE than £2,000 was raised by students and staff at St Bartholomew’s School. The money was raised during a mega-marathon. The school was inspired to carry out the charitable act after losing beloved headteacher David Carter, who had a fatal heart attack in 2017.


  • AN international man-hunt was launched to find a retired vicar who was found guilty of sexual assault of a teenaged boy. Reverend Jonathan Robinson was convicted in India before he was believed to have fled the country. Robinson, who lives in Martock, has since appeared before Taunton Magistrates’ Court.
  • TWO people were honoured for their response in the 2017 Chard Carnival tragedy. Mick Clark and Anna Smith were given outstanding service awards following the shocking accident in which a road crew member became trapped under a cart. The pair rushed to aid the victim, Theresa Finn.
  • SOMERSET County Council announces it is looking into plans which could abolish all councils in the county in place of one unitary authority. The plans would see South Somerset District Council, as well as Taunton Deane, West Somerset, Sedgemoor, Mendip and Somerset County Council, replaced with one council.
  • PLANS emerge for the KFC at site off Southfields Roundabout.
  • CHARD’s Guildhall played host to an incredible display of power in the Britain’s Disabled Strongman Competition. A packed crowd came to support Gary Clarke who was competing in the competition.
  • MAIDEN BEECH Academy secured a £750K grant to make improvements. The Crewkerne school needed to replace life-expired doors and windows.


  • TWO parents launched an appeal to help their four-year-old son walk unaided again. Jace Webberley’s parents had already raised more than £11,000 towards life-saving surgery, but more donations were needed. Louisa Webberley and her partner Tony Willcox, who are originally from Ilminster, continue to try and raise £40,000 to pay for an operation called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy.
  • A FAMILY were left devastated after a vicious attack at Chard Reservoir. A woman was left in hospital after the attack. The case, which shocked the town, was shown on BBC’s Crimewatch Roadshow. The victim was out walking her dog when the attacker struck.
  • AMBITIOUS plans are revealed to transform Chard. South Somerset District Council announced the scheme to bring ‘significant changes’ to the town. The project, entitled Chard Refresh, would focus on regenerating the Bowden Mill site.
  • A RESIDENT at a South Petherton care home got to live out her dreams of being a radio DJ. Barbara White, from Burnworthy House Care Home, was invited by BBC Somerset in Taunton to be live on the air.
  • JULIE Fowler took over as Ilminster Mayor. She said she hoped to ensure all planning applications were considered in line with local need, as well as wanting to establish Herne Hill as a nature reserve.