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News & Sport for week commencing Saturday: February 22


     A pair of Eurasian beavers are doing their bit to reduce flooding in a village following heavy rain. They were introduced at Spains Hall Estate in Finchingfield last March as part of a five-year project to try to stem flooding in the area downstream; but since then they have built so many dams that researchers have lost count. The beavers are the first of their species to be exploring Essex in more than 400 years. Data collected shows that at one of the dams there is at least half an Olympic-size swimming pool of water being held back. Just before Christmas when there was quite a lot of water, everything stood up well; previously, in 2012 and 2014, Finchingfield suffered flooding during heavy rain, but whether there would have been flooding without them, it is entirely impossible to say. The woodland where they are living is now extremely wet and there is much more space for the water in the woodland than there would have been.


     Local rail passengers have been able to cut back on plastic waste thanks to the installation of drinking water fountains on station platforms last year, reducing the amount of single-use plastic bottles being thrown away. Almost 275,000 bottles have been refilled using the 12 fountains set up at stations, such as Witham and Chelmsford, now so many customers are using the free fountains to fill up their water bottles.


    Twelve-year-old jockey Zak Kent, 12, from White Notley, spent most of 2019 crossing the finishing line first in a season of Shetland pony racing. He won 25 of his 27 races last season, including the prestigious Shetland Pony Grand National race at Newmarket last September. His pony Briar Smokey Joe is considered one of the finest racing Shetlands in the country; and when he won the race in Liverpool he was half a lap ahead of everyone else.


     Headteacher Trevor Lawn, of Braintree’s Alec Hunter Academy, has been crowned the best in the county at the seventh annual Essex Teaching Awards in Chelmsford; coming away with the secondary headteacher of the year prize. Several other teachers from the area, Ken Coe, Julie Roberts, Damien Lee, and Rebecca More were highly commended at the awards, which celebrate the outstanding educators and support staff working in primary, secondary, special and early years schools across Essex.


     People who are cruel to animals could face up to five years in prison under a new law which has been introduced as a Private Members Bill and backed by the Government. The proposed legislation would increase the maximum sentence for the most serious animal cruelty from six months to five years, allowing courts to be tougher on crimes such as dog fighting, cruel treatment of pets and gross neglect of farm animals.
The introduction of the Bill follows a public consultation in 2017 which found 70% of people backed tougher sentences for animal cruelty.
The RSPCA investigated more than 130,700 complaints of cruelty against animals and secured 1,678 convictions last year, and it is hoped that tougher sentencing will act as a greater deterrent against the worst examples of animal cruelty.


And now for the sport

FOOTBALL

Braintree Town's much improved second half display failed to gain them the point they deserved over the 90 minutes; Maidstone winning 1 - Nil.

Witham Town won 1 - Nil against Basildon United last Saturday, but their Tuesday evening match against Coggeshall was postponed.


RUGBY

CHELMSFORD III [3rds] were trounced by 74 points to Nil by rampant Witham, Saturday (the 8th).

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