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Monster 50 stone Gloucester pumpkin takes first prize

Graham Barrat
Harrogate Autumn Flower Show
Graham Barrat, from Gloucester, took the prize for heaviest pumpkin

A monster pumpkin, grown in Gloucestershire, has taken first prize at a giant vegetable competition at Harrogate in North Yorkshire.

The vast 50 stone (319.8kg) specimen, grown by Graham Barrat from Gloucester, won the heaviest pumpkin class at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show. It was more than 77kg ahead of the runner up.

But according to the Guinness World Records he still has a long way to beat the heaviest pumpkin ever, which weighed 1,190.49 kg (2,624.6 lb) and was grown by the Belgian Mathias Willemijns in October 2016.

Organisers said there had been a record number of entries this year, despite the "beast from the east and blistering summer temperatures".

Harrogate Autumn Flower Show
Getty Images
Judges lift a giant pumpkin onto a trolley to be weighed during the giant vegetable competition

Gloucestershire children's services £6m overspend predicted

Olympian Jonty Evans hoping to 'walk again unaided'

Jonty Evans
Jonty Evans

Irish Olympian Jonty Evans says he's making a good recovery after his fall at the Tattersalls International Horse Trials in June.

The 46-year-old rider from near Cheltenham, suffered a "significant brain injury" when he fell from Cooley Rorkes Drift.

He was in a coma for six weeks and after regaining conciousness was transferred to a neurological unit.

He said: "I'm very lucky to be here and the horse is well, and I'm well and with a little bit of luck I'll learn to walk again properly - unaided."

Badger culls have prompted 'fall in cases' says government

The government says there has been a fall in new confirmed TB cases in Gloucestershire and Somerset: the number of cases is now at about half the level they were before culling began.

Gloucestershire and Somerset were the first two areas to be allowed to cull the animals, as pilot cases.

In the Gloucestershire cull area, TB incidence has fallen from 10.4% before culling started to 5.6% in year four of the cull, while in Somerset it has reduced from 24% to 12%, the government claims.

The statistics "demonstrate progress" in delivering its 25-year TB Strategy a statement says.

The two counties have now been re-issued with licences to allow further badger culling.

The permits have been issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

New authorisation letters, allowing areas to cull, also include parts of Wiltshire.

Badger
Thinkstock

Today’s figures showing reductions in TB cases in Somerset and Gloucestershire are evidence that our strategy for dealing with this slow moving, insidious diseases delivering results. Bovine TB remains one of the greatest animal health threats to the UK. There is no single measure that will provide an easy answer which is why we are committed to pursuing a wide range of interventions to protect the future of our dairy and beef industries and eradicate the disease within 20 years. No one wants to be culling badgers forever so the progress reported today is encouraging.

George EusticeFarming Minister

Crash victim Joe Whitestone saved four lives - but how?

Watch: Hear from Joe's family

A young man from Gloucestershire who died in a crash has saved the lives of four others by donating his organs.

Joe Whitestone, 19, had ticked the organ donation box on his driving licence application form, and crucially had a conversation with his family about his wishes.

His heart, liver and kidneys have all been used in transplants.

His family have been speaking in Organ Donor Week, hoping to encourage others to speak about their wishes.

Fathers 'have still lost a child too'

Watch: Zara Tindall reflects on the impact of miscarriages on fathers

Zara Tindall has spoken out about going through two miscarriages and how hard it is for dads to experience.

The Queen's granddaughter, who is an Olympic medal-winning equestrian, is married to ex-England rugby captain Mike Tindall.

They have two daughters, Mia and Lena.

Mrs Tindall does not hold a royal title and is not an HRH but, as a descendent of the Queen, her pregnancies were announced publicly.

New school: new skills for life

Some of the children we've spoken to about their first day at "big school" today have spoken of their anxiety about their new environment, including a fear of getting lost and being bullied.

Today heralds a huge change in the life of many 5-year-olds and 11-year-olds and many parents worry about the possible negatives.

But Prof Paul Howard-Jones from the University of Bristol says learning to adjust to change is a valuable life skill.

The author of Evolution of the Learning Brain says the anxieties can turn in to a positive experience and can help strengthen them.

Adopting to change can become a positive experience

It is important to recognise that, whilst change can evoke feelings of nervousness, it can also bring with it feelings of excitement. Secondary school presents new opportunities; the opportunity to make new friendships, the opportunity to develop independence and new life skills and the opportunity to have new educational experiences.

Sue GeogheganTransition Coordinator, The Corsham School, Wiltshire

More on the picture of secondary school places in the west region

There is evidence that a squeeze on school places in the West's most urban areas continues.

Some Bristol and Swindon schools are oversubscribed and the cities as a whole received more applications than places for new secondary pupils this year.

  • 4,000 places were offered in Bristol - but there were more than 580 extra applications from local residents - a 14.5% difference
  • Swindon's 2,584 secondary places were also over-subscribed by 84 applications
  • But Wiltshire's 5,947 places were under-subscribed by more than a thousand
  • Bath and North East Somerset figures show 2,456 state places were available for the September 2018 intake. They received more than 570 fewer applications than places this year
  • 7,410 places were available in Gloucestershire, where by contrast just 6,249 applications were received: the 1,150 less applications reflects a significant emphasis on private and selective education places in the county
  • South Gloucestershire caters for 3,025 11-year-olds this year
  • Somerset had 4,696 places for new secondary pupils
  • And in North Somerset there were just below 2,500 places available for year 7s
School corridor
BBC

The statistics: a picture of the experience in the West

school chairs
Getty Images

Government statistics show how many individuals in the West will be donning a new secondary school uniform today.

There were a total of 32,614 state-funded "big school" places in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Bristol and Somerset this year. But only 29,859 applications were received.

National secondary school pupil numbers are expected to continue rising until 2026, but the picture is very different across rural and more urban areas of our region.

The squeeze on school places in our inner cities is contrasted by a picture of schools desperately trying to attract more pupils into places, as funding is allocated by numbers.

First day at big school for thousands

Young school children
BBC

The majority of school pupils in the West return to the classroom today.

For more than 30,000 across the region, today will be their first day at big school.

The move into year seven, at age 11, is one of the biggest rites of passage in a child's life.

Some of the challenges they will face remain the same as their parents experienced. But there are new challenges as well.

We're marking this significant event in many of our audience's lives with a special focus on the experience and issues here across the day.

Man arrested over village arson attacks

Nick Smith

BBC News Online

A man has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life, following three reports of overnight attacks in Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire.

A bin in Bell Lane was set alight just after 23:00, then two vehicles and a number of wheelie bins were found to have been burned in Mowsley Road between last night and early this morning.

The blaze also affected a nearby property but no-one was injured.

A short time later, a van was set alight in Church Street.

Bell Lane
Google

Det Con Chantel Booth said she believed the attacks were linked.

“I’m particularly keen to speak to anyone who was in either Bell Lane, Mowsley Road or Church Street last night or in the early hours of this morning and who saw or heard anyone acting in a suspicious manner."

The man arrested, a 35-year-old from Gloucestershire, remains in custody.

Agriculture GCSE called for

A campaign to introduce a GCSE in Agriculture is gaining support in the west.

The Gloucestershire farmer and BBC Countryfile presenter Adam Henson is the latest to call for its introduction.

He says until more formal teaching is introduced, the profile of careers in food production will continue to fall.

Countryfile's Adam Henson says the subject should be as common as history or maths.

Summer heatwave hits Christmas tree growers

Christmas tree
BBC

Some tree growers in Gloucestershire have expressed concern that this summer's heatwave will push up the cost of real Christmas trees.

Christmas tree growers traditionally re-pot the younger plants to larger containers in April, relying on the traditional April showers to keep their containers moist.

However, this year the dry cracked soil killed off many of these saplings.

Some tree growers have lost as much as 50% of their stock.

120 new police officers being recruited

Gloucestershire Police says it is recruiting more than 100 new officers.

Applications will be open for 10 days from Monday 4 to Friday 14 September.

Anyone applying will have to take part in an online assessment on the police website.

Gloucestershire Police officer
Gloucestershire Police

Gloucestershire Police says applications from women and members of ethnic minority communities "are particularly welcome".

It is hosting a recruitment evening at the Friendship Cafe in Barton and Tredworth, Gloucester, at 19:00 BST on Thursday 30 August.

Please bear in mind this isn't just about academic achievement - we want to hear from those who can demonstrate qualities such as a strong awareness of community responsibility and the ability to make the right call under pressure."

Jon StratfordDeputy Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police