Simcoe House on Fore Street Hill was the summer residence of General John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806) who in 1794 became the First Governor General of Upper Canada.
As commanding officer of the Queen’s Rangers regiment he fought for the British during the War of Independence. But Americans have a particular reason to be grateful to the general even though he was on the opposing side.
During the battle of Brandywine in 1777, one order from Simcoe changed the course of history, when he told his soldiers not to shoot three fleeing Americans in the back. It is said that one of those Americans was George Washington, first President of the United States.
‘Beau séjour’is the proud claim made by Budleigh Salterton Town Council on its coat of arms and it might therefore be only natural to assume that French speakers make up most of its foreign visitors. In fact the links between our area and the USA are possibly even stronger than those between Devon and Normandy when you think of incidents like General Simcoe’s order, along with the transatlantic voyages of Sir Walter Raleigh and Roger Conant, both born in East Budleigh.
It was Conant, the leader of the company of fishermen who founded the town of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1626. This striking statue of him stands overlooking Salem Common.
The distance involved means that a traditional twinning arrangement involving for example group travel would be too expensive for most. But an internet-driven scheme is a different matter and could be an effective way of making Budleigh residents more aware of the Brewster link than they have been. Geoff Beech of Exmouth’s Twinning Association has commented that it could even be described as a ‘green’ version, which may become more relevant in the not too distant future.
‘Green’ issues do indeed have a high profile in both communities. In Budleigh, the area’s biggest landowner, Clinton Devon Estates, is proud of its record in maintaining the 2,800-acre Triassic Pebblebed Heaths on the town outskirts which are designated of UK and European importance and support thriving populations of extremely rare flora and fauna. All its in-hand farming operations are undergoing organic conversion and all its woodlands are certified as sustainably managed by the Forestry Stewardship Council. In recent years it reintroduced the Brown Hare onto its East Devon Estate where it is now thriving.
Clinton Devon Estates administer the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust http://www.pebblebedheaths.org.uk/ and frequently works with the Otter Valley Association, an amenity society formed, in the words of its website at http://www.ovapedia.org.uk/ to interest residents and visitors in the history, geography, natural history and architecture of the area. The pebblebeds which surround Budleigh Salterton are currently the subject of the East Devon Pebblebed Landscape Project 2008-2012 which is investigating the archaeological and historic landscapes in this part of the county, as described at http://www.pebblebedsproject.org.uk/
Clinton Devon Estates is also funding research into the Dartford warbler - one of more than 250 species which will feature in the 2007-2011 Bird Atlas, a comprehensive study of bird distribution patterns. "We have a close affinity to the Dartford Warbler, whose natural habitat is classic lowland heath with gorse and heather, just the sort of environment we are helping to preserve by careful management of our own East Devon Pebblebed Heaths,” explains Jack Varley, estate manager of Clinton Devon Estates. “Normally, the Dartford Warbler is found much further south, but it seems to like the dense gorse offered by the heaths - as do the Curlews, Yellowhammers, Buzzards and Kestrels.” More information about Devon Clinton Estates can be found at http://www.clintondevon.com/
Brewster too is situated in a noted conservation area. The Brewster Conservation Trust recently honoured Charles Sumner, town administrator, as Conservationist of the Year for his energetic approach to defending the area’s natural heritage. OVA members will find much to interest them at http://www.brewsterconservationtrust.org/
In addition the town is in the Trust’s words “adorned with a necklace of blue jewels, the sparkling freshwater ponds that are precious habitats for fish, plants and animals.” Twenty-four of the ponds are larger than ten acres in size. Most of them are situated within the 1,900-acre Nickerson State Park. Not surprisingly this is a paradise for birdwatchers; latest ornithological records show that there are now 156 species of birds breeding on Cape Cod including the exotically-named red-bellied woodpeckers, Arcadian flycatchers, warbling vireos, Kentucky warblers and clay colored sparrows. And of course a trip to Cape Cod should include a whale watching package.
Conservation issues are also rated highly when it comes to the distinctive buildings of the two communities. Budleigh Salterton is deservedly proud of its architectural heritage, boasting many fine houses: grand Italianate buildings, cottages ornés, Victorian villas, Arts and Crafts-influenced homes… they make for a pleasing variety of properties throughout the town.
The plaque displayed on their website can be found in the Exeter Cathedral Close.
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