Axminster: The worst town I have ever visited!

Is this review just a rehash? – compare “Don’t try to escape by bus”. Does Axminster deserve to be trolled? – Owl

Four places in Devon have been listed in the top 50 ‘worst’ places to live in England – according to their own residents.

The annual survey broke records for 2022, with 110,172 locals voting for their own communities and offering a sniping insight on what it’s like to live there.

While no Devon town or city managed to reach the top 10, a total of four places were included in the top 50 worst places to live in England.

Starting at least-worst, according to the voters, was Plymouth, which came in at 48th.

Riviera town Paignton was listed at 40, followed directly by Axminster.

The top/bottom Devon place on the list, however, was Torquay – a town which in October was said to be the most dangerous place in the county.

Torquay was voted as the 33rd worst place to live in England, though residents would agree this might not be fair.

Living in Axminster, Devon

Axminster: The worst town I have ever visited!

www.ilivehere.co.uk

I travel around a lot these days, and have visited countless towns and cities across the land. I’ve been to places where I witnessed seagulls eating fresh sick, places where the desolation rivals that seen in war torn Aleppo. Places where you’re lucky to get out alive after 7pm. Yet none of them compares to Axminster, by far the worst town I have ever spent time in!

At First Glance

At first glance, Axminster appears to be a quiet and pleasant town, with a small shopping area, a pretty railway station, and a large Tesco. But it’s only when you dig a little deeper, that the truth soon reveals itself.

Local Yokels

Let’s begin with the locals. I don’t mean those who have moved from better areas, no, i’m referring to the local locals. These people are really something else. You can’t even talk to someone without being approached by strangers at a later date, who know exactly what was said down to the most minute detail. That said, if they approach you and ask about who you’re friends with/dating, then you’re lucky, as most are the sort who will stop their car alongside you, wind down the windows, shout a load of abuse at random, then drive away (had that happen a fair few times).

Little of Note

The town itself has little of note apart from a medium sized Tesco, from which access to the town centre on foot requires a climb which is comparable to scaling the north face of the Eiger, whilst making your way past a large cow statue (which a number of locals have likely violated over the years). Once on the high st, you will find the traffic is atrocious due to the lack of a north/south relief road, and convoys of tractors race through, almost knocking you off the narrow pavements. Many of the shops here have disappeared in recent years. The newsagents has gone and the small department store (Trinity House) has also gone. All that really remains is the River Cottage restaurant which more geared towards tourists than locals anyway.

Getting Out

One of the main ways to leave town is the bus of course. The main bus stop in town is actually a traffic island with a bird bath on it, well, i say bird bath, but over the years it’s spent more time being used as a toilet or a sick bucket than it ever did bathing birds.

Education

The school (which i attended during my teens) was a ****, reprehensible, and often incredibly violent place, which at the time (1990’s) was put into special measures thanks to it’s crumbling structures and unpleasant atmosphere.

I could go on forever as to why Axminster is utterly dreadful, but instead i will conclude with this; i spent many years walking the streets of Axminster, i was miserable, it is a fleapit.

New images of aftermath of huge cliff falls near popular Sandy Bay caravan park

Dramatic drone images have captured the aftermath of another cliff fall in East Devon.

Chloe Parkman www.devonlive.com 

The pictures, which were captured by Ziggy Austin at Rock Solid Coasteering, were taken near Sandy Bay caravan park – and they captured the extent of East Devon’s notorious crumbling cliffs.

Over the last 18 months, there have been a number of cliff falls in the area with some of the most notable taking place in Exmouth and Sidmouth.

The pictures, which were taken on Monday, show some caravans are now just metres away from the edge of the cliff.

Back in August, the stretch of cliff saw five massive falls in one morning.

Crumbling clay tumbled from the cliffs between Sidmouth and Salcombe Mouth, which sparked a warning from Beer Coastguard Rescue Team.

In a statement made on Facebook last year, a spokesperson said: “Cliff falls this morning, please stay away from the base of cliffs and take note of the signs, they are there for a reason.”

The images were captured near Sandy Bay (Image: Ziggy Austin at Rock Solid Coasteering)

And much to the horror of many, back in July, groups of beach-goers were pictured sitting directly under East Devon’s crumbling cliffs, despite an enormous sign warning them of the potential dangers.

The photograph was taken near Sandy Bay as many people across the county raced to the coast in order to take advantage of the heatwave.

The image which shows the beach-goers located right next to a yellow sign which reads: “DANGER – beware of falling rocks” has sparked upset in local residents to the area.

Following the scene, eye-witness Raymond Loades, said: “[This happened] at Sandy Bay last Wednesday (July, 21).

The caravan park is located on the cliff top (Image: Ziggy Austin at Rock Solid Coasteering)

“Having seen this every time we go there for the last five or six years I felt it was time to try and get something done as when I usually point out what the notice says, the majority of the replies are unprintable.”

Read the full story here.

Can Britain really learn to live with Omicron? This week we’ll find out

The roulette wheel is spinning, the ball already rattling towards its final destination. Boris Johnson has bet the house on his Omicron gamble and now there’s no going back. 

Gaby Hinsliff www.theguardian.com 

The bullishness of ministers insisting over the weekend that they see no case for further restrictions glosses over the fact that it may now be too late for that anyway, given an estimated one in 25 people in England already had the virus before New Year’s Eve.

Double or quits it is, then, as a country drags itself back out to work and school after the Christmas hibernation period. We’re about to find out exactly what it means to experience unprecedented levels of Covid infections, but from a strain that may be less dangerous, at least in the fully vaccinated. Once again, a virus we thought we’d got to know has abruptly shapeshifted and once again, history isn’t necessarily a reliable guide to the present. We’re all back on the seesaw, lurching between hope and fear, never knowing quite what to expect.

The novel threat this time is not death on the biblical scale forecast during the first wave – although sadly there will be too many deaths, hospitalisations and cases of long Covid disabling people for months to come – but knock-on chaos and disruption caused by the potential mass infection of key workers, leaving them unable to do their work. We’ve entered an unpredictable world of people who have heart attacks waiting for well over an hour for an ambulance, critical incidents being declared by hospitals that can’t maintain safe staffing levels and large organisations being warned to plan for up to a quarter of their people being off sick or self-isolating. Now imagine what that worst-case scenario might do to the everyday grind of supermarket deliveries, bin collections and bus timetables, let alone to policing or critical infrastructure such as the power and water industries.

Education ministers have meanwhile vowed to keep schools and nurseries open wherever possible – rightly given the profound impact we now know closures had on poorer children’s education, and on a vulnerable few who are sadly safer with their teachers than with their parents – but are simultaneously letting heads know they can send year groups home if they have to. For secondary schools in England and Wales hit by serious staff shortages, in practice that would probably mean prioritising GCSE and A-level classes for pupils who need to sit their mocks this term but switching to home schooling for other years if necessary, something already happening in some parts of the country before Christmas as Omicron hit.

Nurseries and primary schools catering for pupils too young to be vaccinated will meanwhile be flinging windows open to the January air and crossing their fingers, knowing that (at least according to the Office for National Statistics) about one in 15 children aged between two and 11 had Covid before Christmas. Since many key workers are also parents who can’t easily do their jobs if their child gets sent home sick, we’re probably about to be reminded that childcare is the fourth emergency service, without which the other three would struggle very quickly. In other words, it’s time to prepare ourselves at least for the possibility of things getting messy; of everyday life becoming harder and more volatile as Covid jams its spokes into wheels that in good times you barely even notice turning.

With luck, that upheaval could be mercifully brief. But any country that nearly ground to a halt overnight thanks to a temporary post-Brexit shortage of fuel tanker drivers and a panicky stampede for petrol should probably have learned by now not to get cocky. Over and over again this virus has reminded us of just how much happens unseen beneath the surface of a functioning society; of how complex our just-in-time modern lives with all their endlessly interconnected moving parts have become, but also how fragile, dependent on things and people we mostly take for granted until brutally reminded not to do so.

And that’s why learning to live with this or any other virus, the mantra of those who never want their liberties restricted by government diktat again, doesn’t mean quite what some hope it does. It’s not about ripping off your mask and gleefully forgetting that any of it ever happened, but about building in resilience and learning from the weaknesses exposed by Covid. Rubbing along successfully through what might hopefully be the tail end of a pandemic should mean investing not just in vaccines and antivirals but in more hospital beds and people to staff them, creating enough slack in the system to absorb seasonal Covid surges without having to throw up tent wards in NHS car parks. It’s going to mean well-honed contingency plans for critical industries, better ventilation in schools, and more imaginative answers to the question of protecting people who are shielding or clinically vulnerable than are so far forthcoming from lockdown sceptics bellowing that it’s time everyone was left to get on with their lives. But it may also take something of a shift in national attitudes.

Living successfully with Covid-19 will require not just a virus obliging enough not to mutate in more lethal ways but the maturity to self-police sometimes – as plenty did last month by voluntarily side-swerving parties or the pub so they could have Christmas with their families, and as Swedes have always quietly done in what was the unsung element of their country’s no-lockdown policy – and the resilience to live with a degree of unpredictability in life, which is infinitely easier said than done for some. Low-income families especially are likely to need help absorbing the sudden shocks and disruptions this virus is still capable of delivering, even as it hopefully burns itself out.

The silver lining to the Omicron cloud is, of course, that it could pass relatively quickly. It’s risky reading too much into data collected over the Christmas holidays when reporting was potentially patchy, but all hopes are now pinned on Britain following the same path as South Africa, where infections seemed to peak relatively quickly before falling back. A rocky few weeks, so the cabinet’s argument goes, beats months of economic and personal misery; better to rip the plaster off and get it over with. Whether that gamble was uncharacteristically shrewd or lethally reckless will become clear enough in the next few days as Omicron spreads from London to the rest of the UK, with hospitalisation rates doubling already across much of the north of England. But right now, the wretched roulette wheel is still spinning, and all most of us can do about it is hold our breath.

Parts of NHS may be overwhelmed by Covid wave, admits Boris Johnson

On 20 December the Prime Minister said the latest data will be kept under constant review “hour by hour”, and refused to rule out further measures after Christmas. 

“We will have to reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public and to protect public health, to protect the NHS,” he said. “We won’t hesitate to take that action.”

All weekend Ministers’ have been making bullish statements that Plan B was sufficient. These have been made on the basis of the fragmentary and incomplete data emerging during a prolonged holiday period accompanied by shortages of testing kits. The Prime Minister also presents the choices available as a binary one between Plan B and “closing down the economy”.

Derriford is one of the latest to declare an internal critical incident.

To have any chance of making any impact that action would have had to have been taken and implemented  before the New Year. It’s now too late, the roulette wheel is spinning. – Owl

Rowena Mason www.theguardian.com 

Parts of the NHS may be overwhelmed in the coming weeks, Boris Johnson has admitted for the first time as he insisted England can “ride out” its biggest ever Covid wave “without shutting down our country once again”.

The prime minister acknowledged the health service is under huge pressure after four more NHS trusts – all outside London – declared critical incidents amid rising staff absences and Covid patients. On Tuesday evening hospitals across Greater Manchester announced some non-urgent surgery and appointments would be suspended.

Heart attack patients calling 999 in parts of northern England were also asked to get a lift instead of waiting for an ambulance as hospitals in the region experienced more than double the growth rate in numbers of Covid patients compared with London, which was previously worst hit by the Omicron variant surge.

With frontline worker absences fuelled by a record 218,000 new confirmed UK cases of Covid on Tuesday, Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical adviser, said the NHS faced “very substantial pressure over the next couple of weeks” – though there was not yet a “surge in mortality” seen with other waves by this stage.

Johnson claimed the vaccine programme and reduced chance of hospitalisation with Omicron meant there was now a chance for the country to get through the wave without imposing new restrictions.

To reduce disruption from staff off sick or isolating with Covid, he unveiled a plan for 100,000 critical workers to get tests on every working day to detect cases quickly and prevent them spreading, although some experts raised concerns that was not enough.

Previously, Johnson has said he would bring in further restrictions if there was a risk of the NHS becoming overwhelmed. However, the prime minister accepted it may already be happening in some areas when asked for a definition of this, given many medical staff feel that situation has already been reached.

“The NHS is under huge pressure,” he told a Downing Street press conference. “I won’t provide a definition of what being overwhelmed would constitute because I think that different trusts and different places, at different moments, will feel at least temporarily overwhelmed.”

He said hospitals were “at the moment … sending out signals saying that they are feeling the pressure hugely and there will be a difficult period for our wonderful NHS for the next few weeks because of Omicron”, adding: “I just think we have to get through it as best as we possibly can.”

In a further sign of the intense strain on hospitals NHS bosses in Greater Manchester decided on Tuesday to postpone planned surgery and outpatient appointments amid a major surge in both Covid admissions and staff isolating with the virus.

In a statement the Greater Manchester Combined Authority said that the region’s 17 hospitals “have made the difficult decision to pause some non-urgent surgery and appointments due to the rising impact of Covid”. However, surgery for cancer, heart conditions, vascular problems and organ transplantation will still go ahead, it pledged.

Medics and scientists have been pressing Johnson for weeks to bring in restrictions beyond the advice for people to work from home and requirement for masks in shops and on public transport, with tougher measures already in force in Scotland and Wales. But the prime minister would find it very difficult to get support for further measures in England from Tory backbenchers, scores of whom voted against current plan B restrictions before Christmas.

Johnson did not rule out further measures to tackle Covid transmission but said the current plan was to “keep our schools and our businesses open, and we can find a way to live with this virus”.

Health leaders reacted with concern, saying Johnson had not acknowledged the depths of the NHS’s problems despite unprecedented pressure in some areas. Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said nursing staff will have “watched the prime minister’s statement in disbelief”. “One described to me today that the NHS feels more broken than she’s ever known it. This is not hysteria, this is blowing the whistle on falling standards as patient care comes under real threat,” she said.

“Vaccinations alone will not reduce infections and hospitalisations – more must be done to prioritise nursing staff for access to testing and high-quality PPE. Meanwhile, the emphasis on virtual and temporary beds shows that the government still fails to recognise the value of highly skilled nursing staff or grasp the extent of the workforce crisis.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the attempt to reassure the public that the NHS is not being overwhelmed “does not chime with the experience of staff up and down the country who are facing fast-rising hospital admissions, intense pressures on all parts of the health and care system and widespread staff absence”.

“We urge the government not to allow its optimism to lead to complacency given the rapidly changing situation we are seeing on a daily basis,” added Taylor. He welcomed the plan for daily rapid testing of key workers but said it should have been made available earlier in the pandemic.

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, urged Johnson to impose new restrictions to help relieve the pressure.

“The facts, figures and the living reality for thousands of patients and NHS staff daily demonstrate undoubtedly that the NHS is currently already overwhelmed,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA’s chair of council. “Asking the NHS to ‘just get through it’, without doing anything to help, would be to wrongly accept avoidable suffering to thousands of patients in the coming weeks.”

Johnson was flanked by Whitty and Prof Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, as he outlined the approach for England. Vallance said there were “extraordinarily high levels of infection at the moment” in the UK. Hospital pressures would depend on how Omicron had an effect on the older generation, he said.

Whitty acknowledged that “some hospitals, some areas of the country” will come under “very substantial pressure over the next couple of weeks” with high numbers of staff isolating over infections compounding the typical winter pressures.

He also spoke of being left “saddened” by the proportion of unvaccinated patients in intensive care, as he urged people to get their boosters. He said “the great majority” of those who were in intensive care and had not been jabbed were “not anti-vaxxers in the ordinary sense with some really weird ideas” but had been taken advantage of by those seeking to misinform them online.

Whitty said “misinformation” on the internet, “a lot of it deliberately placed”, about potential side effects from jabs was fuelling fears about whether Covid was important enough to warrant vaccination, as well as whether the vaccines were effective against the disease.

The figure of 218,724 confirmed cases on Tuesday was a new UK record for the pandemic, although it included some delayed data from Wales and Northern Ireland.