SOMERSET residents didn’t party quite as hard to welcome 2001 as they did during the new millennium, but there were still many people gathered in the streets to welcome the new year.

In Taunton, the town’s nightclubs, Sloanes and Deller’s Wharf, didn’t even bother to open because New Year’s Eve fell on a Sunday.

But hundreds gathered outside the Old Market House to watch the clock strike 12 - but there was no Christmas tree for drunken revellers to climb.

It was chopped down earlier in the ay after police feared someone could get hurt.

PSgt Mike Ashwin said: “Due to the previous problems, we discussed the matter with Taunton Deane Council and they agreed to bring it down.”

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In the town centre there was little trouble.

PSgt Ashwin added most of the crowd had been really good-natured and there had been only a few arrests and public order offences.

However, one man shimmied up the Market House drainpipe, and another climbed, and fell from, a bus stop shelter.

LVA pubs were able to open until 1am and several took the advantage of the extension, with a handful charging for tickets.

Remedies and Chicago Rock, in East Street, both stayed open until 2am.

There were no free buses home this year and the supply of taxis failed to meet the demand.

Police had advised people earlier in the night not to come into town unless they had arranged transport home.

Organisers of a New Year’s Eve beacon on Exmoor were forced to abandon attempts to light it when winds of between 60 and 100mph blew up.

Icy temperatures and heavy snowfall made conditions treacherous on the approach to the isolated Dunkery Beacon, the highest spot on Exmoor and the location chosen for the beacon.

“We got stuck even going up the track in a Land Rover and on the top the wind was so strong that we could hardly stand up,” said Nigel Hester, countryside manager for the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate.

Wellington town centre was full of revellers singing Auld Lang Syne as the clocks struck 12 on New Year’s Eve.

But despite the generally good-natured atmosphere, there were some people whose behaviour got out-of-hand.

Police back-ups were called in to deal with scuffles but no arrests were made.

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