TEMPLATE – News Desk
One of the oldest women in the UK has died aged 110, her family has said. Lilian Ward was born in 1909 and lived in Stone, Staffordshire, for 45 years. She had four children, nine grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. Mrs Ward, who was still driving at 103, died from an inoperable gall stone on 6 February. Her motto in life was “moderation in all things and not sitting about”, her family said. Mrs Ward was number 14 on the list of Britain’s oldest living people until her death. Son Mike Ward, 72, MBE, said his mother was an “amazing lady”. Originally from Kilburn, London, she met her husband John through the Catholic church and she also visited a sweet shop owned by his sister, their son said.They moved to Exeter in about 1943 where Mr Ward found work in the department store Colson’s. Latterly, they ran their own mini-department store, he said, in Gillingham, Dorset, where the children were raised.Mrs Ward, who was widowed for 53 years after the death of her husband John was “fiercely independent,” he added.When she retired, Mr Ward said, she moved to a house across the road from son Mike and they lived opposite each other for 45 years.”We had a great relationship,” he said. “Over the years she was a great traveller, she dug an allotment with her sister till she was past 80 years of age, she went to keep fit class till she was 90, and she drove till she was nearly 104.” Her funeral will be held in Stone on 2 March. Follow BBC West Midlands on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for local news updates direct to your phone.
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Gemma Howell has won bronze at the Paris Grand Slam as she aims for a 2020 Tokyo Olympic spot. The 29-year-old beat World Championship silver medallist Barbara Timo in the -70kg category bronze-medal match.Timo amassed three penalty shidos which saw Howell, competing in Paris for the first time since 2011, secure the medal and vital Olympic qualification points.
A knee injury saw GB’s Sally Conway pull out of her -70kg repechage match against Sweden’s Anna Bernholm. Only one of Howell and Conway – both in the world’s top 20 – will make the British team with only one judoka from each country able to compete in each weight category in Tokyo.The event in Paris was the first of eight Grand Prix and Grand Slam events where competitors can win Olympics qualifying points. Howell lost to favourite and current world champion Marie-Eve Gahie of France in the quarter-final but went on to beat Greece’s Elisavet Teltsidou to reach the bronze-medal match. Elsewhere, GB’s Sarah Adlington (+78kg) was defeated by the 2019 European junior champion, Lea Fontaine of France, in the second round after an opening-round bye.
Storm Ciara wrecked havoc as it swept across the Black Country this weekend.
Heavy rain and winds of up to 60mph led to fallen trees, power cuts, travel chaos and floods.
Many of the region’s outdoor visitor attractions – including the Black Country Living Museum and Dudley Zoo – closed for the day amid safety fears, while motorists and train passengers were advised to only travel if “absolutely necessary”.
Wolverhampton seemed to bear the brunt of Storm Ciara’s wrath as trees crashed to the ground across the city as a result of the severe gales.
A Bilston family had a lucky escape after one fell onto their Watton Close home. West Midlands Fire Service cordoned off the area before a team from City of Wolverhampton Council arrived to cleat the scene. It’s believed the incident led to a damaged walll and drains.
The scene in Watton Close (Image: Callum Sheldon)
The council also decided to close its parks and cemeteries due to the extreme weather – a wise decision considering a tree came down in Park Road East when it uprooted in West Park, while another blocked vehicular access to Claregate Park.
In Dudley, the pavement outside The Meadow Lark pub in Dibdale Road, Milking Bank, was partially obstructed after a tree fell down near the pedestrian crossing.
New Farm Road in Stourbridge was also temporarily blocked while Dudley Council’s highways team removed a tree from the road.
Gallery: Storm Ciara wreaks havoc across the Black Country
Across Sandwell and Walsall, hundreds of families were left without power.
Western Power Distribution said power cuts affected 211 homes in Walsall and a 83 properties in Oldbury – but both incidents have since been resolved.
However, a further 88 properties in the Caldmore area of Walsall are now experiencing a loss of power, which is estimated to last until 9.30pm.
Further afield, heavy rainfall flooded a busy road in Staffordshire.
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Footage captured by TV Taxis Cannock – which can be viewed above – shows the full impact of Storm Ciara.
Urging other motorists to take care, a spokesman for the firm said: “Beware, Stafford Road, Huntington, is completely flooded and drain covers have also lifted up.”
The storm also put extra pressure on the emergency services, with West Midlands Police being forced to ask people to think before picking up the phone.
Taking to Twitter, the force revealed it had been inundated with weather-related calls, adding: “It’s a busy day and our contact centre is already taking lots of Storm Ciara related calls.
“If it’s not a crime, please think before you call us.
“If you see any damaged power lines, keep everyone clear and call UK Power Networks on 105. If you need to report a fallen tree or highway obstruction, call your local council.”
Travel was also disrupted, as two Ryanair flights bound for Birmingham wer forced to divert to Manchester.
The flight from Dublin Airport was set to touch down at Birmingham Airport this morning – but was thrown off course due to Ciara’s severe gales.
A second flight from Madrid to Birmingham, also diverted to Manchester Airport just minutes later.
Rail passengers also faced disruption as many services have been delayed and cancelled throughout the day.
The government has told West Midlands Trains (WMT) it must spend an extra £20m improving services and reducing delays following “poor performance”. The firm saw its satisfaction levels plummet last year after cancellations and delays, including what was called a “shocking week of poor service”.Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it must rapidly improve services so people had trains they could rely on.WMT said it had already improved and had developed a “robust recovery plan”. The train operator, which also runs London NorthWestern services, apologised in November when it was revealed the number of compensation claims from passengers was 10 times higher than average.Passenger Jo Martyr said fewer carriages between Birmingham and Worcester caused overcrowding and was “anxiety-inducing”.Meanwhile, passengers in Rugeley, Staffordshire, said last summer they were regularly being ordered off trains which turned around earlier to make up for delays. Mr Shapps said the firm, which took over the franchise in December 2017, had “failed to fulfil their obligations”. “As a commuter myself I understand all too well the endless frustration caused by endless delays and cancellations,” he said.The £20m funding will be used for measures including: Offering a 3% discount on season ticket renewals and 10% reduction in off-peak fares in July and August 2020Timetable improvements in May and DecemberRecruiting more drivers and senior conductors after staff shortages Andy Street, the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands, said he was pleased the money would be invested locally, adding he would keep WMT “under strict review”. Julian Edwards, WMT managing director, who said in January more drivers were being recruited, said: “Our performance in the second half of last year was simply unacceptable and we apologise to all our customers for this.”Passengers can be assured we have developed a robust recovery plan which builds on our recent improved reliability.”The extra investment was on top of its £1bn investment commitment and would be used to benefit “all our customers and restores the reliable rail service they deserve”, he said.Follow BBC West Midlands on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for local news updates direct to your phone.