Friday, 31 July 2009

In store in Budleigh: Just Find

Antiques, Collectables, Interior Design and Private Plane Hire – All Under One Roof!

At the far end (away from the beach) of Budleigh’s High Street lies Just Find, which has been dealing in antiques and collectables for nearly three years. Recently acquired by Paul Elliott the services available have been expanded to include aircraft chartering and interior design.

“It’s an unlikely combination and surprising to some customers browsing in the shop, who hear phone discussions about where to land helicopters and conversations in Russian about apartment décor – for those who can understand!” admits Paul.

The explanation is that Paul has worked in aviation for many years, both in the Royal Air Force and with commercial airlines. Before moving to Budleigh he was working in Kazakhstan for the national airline, where he met and married his Russian-born wife Marina, a successful interior designer.
(Right: Multi-talented Budleigh duo Marina and Paul Elliott)

Just Find – the shop – specialises in antiques and collectables plus quality used furniture. “Cabinets are rented by various antique dealers to offer a wider range of items for sale,” explains Paul. “House clearances are undertaken in Budleigh and the surrounding area. Many homes in East Devon have been furnished – and cleared – courtesy of Just Find!”

Stamps, coins, war medals and similar collectables are always needed and of course free valuations are available.

Just Find offers a wide range of items to try to offer something for everybody. Their slogan reflects this: “Just Find, where you may just find what you are looking for.”

Typically the shop contains paintings, prints, china and porcelain, jewellery, pottery, furniture, stamps, coins, books, glassware… and many other items, changing daily. In fact a friend who fell in love with a beautiful walnut veneer cabinet in the morning but felt she had to go home and check the dimensions was disappointed to find that the item had been sold to another customer within a few hours.

For aircraft chartering all types are available, from a helicopter to take a bride and groom to the church or an airliner used to carry fans to European football matches. “Every day brings a different requirement,” says Paul. “Recent enquiries have included lifting heavy air conditioning equipment onto a building roof in Surrey, several helicopter charters taking couples for romantic meals at country restaurants, and an air taxi taking businessmen to a conference in Cologne and back.” (Right: A Hawker 800XP, just one of what Just Find Jets can offer)

Interior design services are a recent addition, following the arrival of Paul’s wife Marina from Almaty in Kazakhstan. After successfully completing many interior design projects there she is now offering her extensive knowledge and experience to British clients. Her work has been widely viewed in Kazakhstan, both on television and in various home and design magazines, and she can work with any design style. Apart from the ‘Borat’ movie most British people have little knowledge of Kazakhstan, so Paul gave a brief résumé! (Above: One of Marina's interior design projects)

“It’s a huge country, larger than Europe but with only 15 million people, rich in minerals, oil and gas, with China to the east and Russia to the north. Almaty is the largest city with around 1.25 million people, and is in the warmer south of the country. In the colder north is the capital Astana (famous for cycling sponsorship), barely half the size, but positioned politically close to Russia.”

Paul explained that Russian is the main language but that many people speak English, which is taught in all the schools.

“The people have an embarrassingly high opinion of Britain and an extensive knowledge of our culture – they even follow our daily news stories! Like Russia it has its oligarchs, particularly in Almaty, the business capital of the country and a rapidly developing city full of new designer housing, office blocks and new road developments.”

Just Find welcomes browsers so why not drop in and have a look round.

Opening times are:
Monday-Saturday from 0930 to 1715.
Sunday opening during the summer season only.

Just Find Antiques / Just Find Jets / Marina Designs
57 High Street
Budleigh Salterton
Devon, EX9 6LE

Tel: 01395 444498

Budstock in a bottle

“Brewed specially to celebrate the summer sounds by the sea for which Budstock has become legend” as the label says, this real ale has been bottled in a limited edition for Budleigh Salterton’s own rock music festival.

You can’t ignore Glastonbury when it comes to West Country rock music festivals even though Budleigh people might like to think that Budstock is the ultimate in such things. So it shouldn’t be too surprising to find that the new brew is a product of Somerset-based Glastonbury Ales The company specialises in real ale for festivals, marketing brews such as Lady of the Lake, Hedge Monkey, Golden Chalice and the punningly named Mystery Tor (surely this is worse that any of my own efforts on this blog?)

On sale at Threshers in Budleigh’s High Street, the bottles boast that they contain “real ale that really rocks.” The limited special edition 2009 was an initiative of Mike Reid, franchisee of Budleigh Threshers, and is surely a collectors’ item – worth getting an extra bottle to keep unopened.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

An onion, not the potato!

The famous Millais painting of his boyhood, the Wall in Budleigh which bears his name, the picturesque Elizabethan farmhouse in East Budleigh where he was born… all these make Budleigh Salterton proud to be associated with Devon’s hero Sir Walter Raleigh.

So it was an enthusiastic and interested audience in Budleigh’s Peter Hall which welcomed Ivan Roots, Emeritus Professor of History at Exeter University, when he gave a talk about the great man’s poetry on Wednesday 29 June 2009 as part of the town’s Festival of Music and the Arts.

(Above: The portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh in All Saints East Budleigh, a copy of the work by Frederico Zuccaro now in the National Portrait Gallery, London)

The event was a prelude to the excellent performance of Even such is Time, the cantata by local composer Nicholas Marshall, (right) based on one of Raleigh’s most famous poems.

Raleigh is a complex figure, like many of his age, and like his name, which has been spelt and pronounced in a variety of ways, as Professor Roots explained at the start of his talk. For the sake of consistency on this website, and so as not to encourage Devon County Council to re-design hundreds of road signs, I will stick with tradition. But apparently the latest trend is for his name to be spelt as Ralegh, and to be pronounced as ‘rawly.’

Sir Walter is also credited with many legends. Sitting on that Wall listening to ‘an old salt’ as depicted by Millais (left) is sadly fictional, we were told. And the story of the Queen and the Puddle, shown (below, right) on the Sir Walter Raleigh pub sign in East Budleigh, is pretty dubious as well, it seems. But Professor Roots believes that there is a “poetic truth” in the story of how Raleigh spread his cloak over a muddy patch to save the royal shoes – and it would have been his best and most expensive designer cloak.

For Raleigh was a showman, a performance artist who loved an audience, even at his show trial in 1603 and on the scaffold 15 years later. He was also an explorer, courtier, devoted father and husband, sailor, manager, chemist, MP, historian, religious enquirer and gardener, we learnt. “You name it – he was it.”

We all know about Raleigh’s horticultural experiments with the potato; but it was as a multi-layered onion that we should appreciate this most Renaissance Man, explained Professor Roots (left) in his lively and humorously presented talk. Each fascinating layer as it is peeled away gives us a new insight into the achievements of this remarkable man.

But was he a poet, wondered the professor after starting his talk with a brief and helpful biography of Raleigh. “Not a great poet,” was his view. Sir Walter’s early poems were extremely conventional, addressed to imaginary women like hundreds of other courtly compositions of the age. The later poetry is more interesting, making “quite good, subtle points.” (Below: Hayes Barton, East Budleigh, where Raleigh was born around 1552)

One work, attributed to Raleigh and addressed ‘To his Son’ was amusingly quoted by Professor Roots since its use of the word ‘wag’ had for many years caused him to think that the poet might have been writing about wives and girl friends. It was from the 18th century Dr Johnson that the professor finally learnt that ‘wag’ could mean ‘a young man’ – Raleigh’s poem consists simply of a witty riddle and its explanation:

Three things there be that prosper up apace,
And flourish while they grow asunder far;
But on a day, they meet all in a place,
And when they meet, they one another mar.

And they be these: the Wood, the Weed, the Wag:
The Wood is that that makes the gallows tree;
The Weed is that that strings the hangman's bag;
The Wag, my pretty knave, betokens thee.

Now mark, dear boy—while these assemble not,
Green springs the tree, hemp grows, the wag is wild;
But when they meet, it makes the timber rot,
It frets the halter, and it chokes the child.

The problem with identifying Sir Walter’s poems is that many were never published and the manuscripts simply disappeared. Even one of the best-known, on which Nicholas Marshall’s cantata is based, hints in its first line that it may follow on from a preceding stanza, now possibly lost, in which the subject is compared to Time:

Even such is time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust;
Who, in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
My God shall raise me up, I trust!

This poem, composed shortly before his execution, was quoted as evidence of Raleigh’s Christian beliefs; during his lifetime he had been accused of atheism.

Another well-known Raleigh poem, The Lie was quoted by Professor Roots as an example of the poet’s distaste for court life, and we were told that Raleigh’s History of the World, composed during his imprisonment in the Tower of London, was condemned by Elizabeth’s successor James I as “too saucy about kings.” Such hints of supposed anti-monarchical sentiments, along with Oliver Cromwell’s enthusiasm for the History, have made Raleigh something of a republican icon in America. (Left: Execution at the Tower of London, where Raleigh spent years of captivity following the accession of King James I. Engraving by George Cruikshank, from The Tower of London by Harrison Ainsworth, 1840)

Like Cromwell, on whom Professor Roots is an acknowledged expert, Sir Walter is a multi-faceted figure. He had many faults – greed, arrogance and ruthlessness being among them – but his industry and his vision were the positive qualities that emerged from the talk. Raleigh’s goal, to create Virginia as an English-speaking presence in the New World in order to counter Spanish influence, was achieved in spectacular fashion after his death. (Right: The statue of Sir Walter Raleigh in East Budleigh)

And for me, Raleigh’s wit on the scaffold – remarking on the executioner’s axe as “a sharp Medicine”, but “a Physician for all Diseases” – is as breathtakingly cool and admirable as that of another, more saintly, Tudor victim of a monarch’s anger some 80 years earlier: Sir Thomas More, celebrated for telling the executioner that his beard was completely innocent of any crime, and did not deserve the axe. In a final theatrical act to match any of Raleigh’s performances this former Lord Chancellor and fallen favourite of a spiteful Henry VIII is supposed to have placed his beard away from the block so that it would not be harmed.

Professor Ivan Roots is a former President of the Devon History Society and of the Cromwell Association. He has published widely in Stuart history, notably The Great Rebellion, 1642-1660 (5th edn 1996) and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (1989). His Cromwellian and Restoration Devon was published in 2004.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Private View at the Brook celebrates Paula Rego: The Ultimate Story Teller

"We interpret the world through stories... everybody makes in their own way sense of things, but if you have stories it helps." Paula Rego

Guests perused the idea at the Brook's recent private view to launch the gallery’s current exhibition ‘Paula Rego: The Ultimate Story Teller’ which runs to 10 August. Paula Rego, internationally renowned contemporary artist, is exhibiting her etchings and lithographs spanning over 20 years at the Brook in Budleigh Salterton.

Joined by acclaimed British contemporary artist, Chris Orr MBE RA, guests admired Paula Rego's skill at cleverly entwining her own experiences with those of dreams and fantasies. It's heady stuff for the art lover or just a glorious take on a fairy tale theme for some - in either case, guests enjoyed meeting Chris Orr, a distinguished artist in his own right, and the evening slipped by in celebratory fashion.

Natalie and Christine Bland, Bob and Trish Beere

Professor Chris Orr, MBE RA and Paul Smith

Neil Anderson, Stephen Perrin and Peter Yarwood

Catherine Payne, Harry Carter, Simon Hughes and Fay Carter

Simone Lewis and Stephen Atkins

Angela Yarwood, Kate Teris and Professor Jo Stockham

Exhibition runs to 10 August
Opening hours: 10.30 am - 5.00 pm; closed Sunday mornings
Tel: 01395 443003
Address: Brook Gallery Ltd
Fore Street
Budleigh Salterton Devon EX9 6NH

Saturday, 25 July 2009

A new view of Budleigh people from the Roof of the World

Just as I’d been wondering whether I am one of those people who’ve enhanced Budleigh Salterton’s supposed reputation as “a haven for the frail and elderly to while away their twilight years”, according to the author of Devon Perspectives, up pops on my screen thanks to Google this amazing photo of Everest published by the Daily Mail newspaper.
And to my delight I find that the couple behind the photo live in Budleigh!

Leo and Mandy Dickinson specialise in drama and documentary films involving adventure sports such as mountaineering, skydiving, parachuting, ballooning and underwater in many countries throughout the world.

Both husband and wife have distinguished themselves in such sports. Leo Dickinson began rock-climbing in the Lake District and North Wales whilst still at school and spent his first Alpine season in 1966 in the Dolomites, going on to a career of award-winning film-making and stills photography. He started parachuting in 1971 in preparation for a mountaineering trip to the Patagonian Ice Cap where he hoped to arrive by parachute. The trip was thwarted by the authorities so he walked instead, using the wind and his parachute to pull the sledges.

In 1978 he started skydiving again and now has over 3,000 jumps with at least 1,500 of them with cameras on his helmet recording numerous records and stunts. He has written three books about his adventures Filming the Impossible, Anything is Possible and Ballooning over Everest. Last year he made 16 base jumps off Arco, near Lake Garda in Northern Italy, and his new passion is wildlife filming where he draws on his skills of climbing and skydiving.

Mandy has worked with husband Leo on all his filming projects since 1981 and now acts as producer for all of their films. She has done most of the so called adventure sports including scuba, cave-diving and mountaineering but excelled in skydiving where she won a gold medal in1989, becoming British Champion with the rest of her team in four-way formation skydiving.

She was in the Guinness book of records for being one of 15 skydivers to jump out of the same balloon at one time, and in 1997 filmed two British sky-surfers breaking the altitude record jumping from a balloon at 24,000ft. In addition to this Mandy has acted as a skydiving stunt woman for several TV dramas and commercials. One of these was an aerial wedding where she had to wear a full length wedding dress and veil in freefall.

After watching Leo fly over Everest in 1991 and wishing she could have been in the basket, she decided to learn to fly and is now a commercial pilot, using her skills for filming purposes. In 2000 she organised the filming of Steve Lennard’s skydiving with Peregrine Falcons for the BBC series Ultimate Killers.

Mandy’s future exploits will be more in the ballooning field, where there are plenty of records to be broken. She has already achieved the British Women’s duration record for a 90,000 cubic foot balloon flying for 10½ hours from Bristol to and was one of four people who built a balloon stack of hopper single person balloons.

The couple’s company Leo Dickinson Productions was set up in 1987. Their first film was a cave diving television documentary called Wakulla for Channel Four. Since then the company has made 11 television drama and documentary productions and one climbing and falling sequence for a feature film Killing me Softly.

They normally work to produce a compete film from initial concept, through research, reconnaissance, budgeting, trip organising, filming on location and using all their own production facilities through all stages of post production to finished film. However they also take sequence material for other productions providing personnel and equipment necessary, as they have done on many occasions for the BBC.

Not surprisingly, the work has occasionally involved some memorable moments. Skydiving with eight naked women in California was certainly one of them, says Leo, and he recalls also being charged by lions in South Africa and being hit by a peregrine falcon in freefall.

Looking down on the top of Mount Everest from a hot air balloon was definitely memorable but it also counted as one of his death-defying moments. He explained how his photography at 36,000 ft nearly ended in disaster.

“It is unusual to take one of your best ever pictures, then two minutes later very nearly die. But this is exactly what happened.

We’d waited almost a month for the jet stream winds to steer us towards Everest. The summit had been 2,000 ft beneath my feet, giving me quite simply the best view on earth.”
Above: Leo Dickinson flying in a hot air balloon over Mount Everest
In an endeavour to find a faster wind he and his crew climbed to 36,000 where he composed his photograph of Everest and the Himalayan chain. Nine of the world’s highest summits were visible. Everest and Lhotse were the closest. Makalu and Manaslu were on his left with Kanchenjunga on the horizon. To his right was Cho Oyu on the Nepal/Tibet boarder and Annapurna and Dhaulagiri again in the distance. Entirely in Tibet was Shishma Pangma.

“I felt as if I could reach down and touch them with my fingers but it was the hypoxia starving my brain of oxygen at work. Suddenly I felt my pulse rate rise followed immediately by a feeling of asphyxiation. My mask was no longer delivering oxygen.

The demand valve on the tank of oxygen was covered in ice. With my legs barely able to support me I frantically tore at the ice and twisted the valve to maximum. The flow of life giving oxygen resumed and my body started to live again. I felt it had been a close thing. At 36,000ft man can not live for more than a couple of minutes without oxygen.”

Leo Dickinson’s epic journey from the Nepalese capital of Katmandu to Tibet was chronicled in a documentary Ballooning Over Everest which won the 1993 Silver Gentian Award at the Trento Mountain Film Festival in Italy.

The photo Everest From 36,000ft was originally taken in 1991, but has just been digitally remastered and is now available as a poster from Leo's website, priced £20.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Coastal views from Cape Cod

[Byron Cain, my informative and enthusiastic correspondent in Brewster, runs the excellent Brewster by the Sea Inn and Spa with his wife Donna. He is also a talented photographer. He has written the following piece about Cape Cod’s beaches, which I have illustrated with some of his photos of Paines Creek in Brewster.]

Mention Cape Cod and everyone has a different image in their mind....sunbathing, whale watching, fishing, kayaking, fresh seafood, history, galleries. All are part of the ambiance and unpretentious charm that attracts so many people to Cape Cod. But one thing that defines Cape Cod in most people's minds is our beaches.

We have lived in Brewster for almost six years now and are continually amazed and awed at how unique and different each beach is on the Cape. Thankfully the national seashore was established in 1961 to help protect many of the beautiful beaches on the Atlantic side. Many of the smaller beaches are maintained by each of the Cape Cod towns. The National Seashore contains 44,000 acres along a 40 mile section of the coastline between Chatham and Provincetown.

The Cape is actually a glacial deposit that is continually undergoing changes as winds and water move sand along the shorelines, tearing away one place and building another. You can get a good sense of how quickly things are changing by looking at the diminishing beach at the Marconi Station Site in Wellfleet, where the peninsula is only a mile wide. Much of the high cliffs has eroded since Guglielmo Marconi first built his towers there in 1901. Changing too, though not so perceptibly is the Cape Cod Bay shoreline. Great Island in Wellfleet, where whalers used to congregate, can be explored via trails and one can walk out to the tip during low tide.It's hard to believe that houses use to exist many years ago on that thin peninsula.

So, the big question that we love to ask our guests is what is your favorite beach? We have many favorites! We love our Brewster flats which is just a short walk from our inn. Paines Creek is a photographer's haven at sunset when the last rays of the day cascade beautiful colors over the bay. We also enjoy Nauset Beach and have marveled at the dedicated surfers that continue their sport in the colder months. We love Marconi for the beautiful waves and love to collect stones on Coast Guard beach. We recently enjoyed a tour in Provincetown with Art's Dunes Tour. What a hoot... we were fortunate to have the owner Rich as our tour guide who added much history about the dune shacks and marveled at the natural beauty of the dunes.

During our last trip to visit Race Point Beach we picked up a newspaper outlining all of the summer activities coordinated by the National Seashore.The list was impressive and has different activities to appeal to all age groups.One can learn about snorkeling, tour the three sister lighthouses,learn about the history, take a guided walk on Nauset Marsh or join in on a campfire. All the activities are outlined on

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Budleigh Hospital Garden Party

Budleigh Salterton Hospital’s League of Friends will be celebrating the completion of building and improvement projects totaling £262,000 when they hold their annual garden party on Saturday 1 August.

The Arcadia Jazz Band playing a wide range of compositions, from traditional to mainstream, will be one of the major attractions of the afternoon and there will be a wide range of stalls at the event, which begins at 2.30 pm.

Above: Dr David Evans, Chairman of the Budleigh Salterton Hospital League of Friends, at the Public Hall Clubs and Societies event in March 2009

From its beginnings in March 1888, when it started life as Budleigh Salterton Cottage Hospital “for the benefit of poor persons suffering from accident or non-infectious disease, who cannot be properly attended to in their own homes,” the hospital has always been enthusiastically supported as one of the town’s good causes. One of the earliest benefactors was the Reverend James Boucher, who donated £525 to the building fund to help launch the project. The nearby Boucher Way is named after him.

Originally there was accommodation for six patients – eight in an emergency – but the hospital grew steadily in size and the provision of treatment over the years. The 40th annual report of 1928 noted that a total of 144 cases had been dealt with during the previous year, with 48 operations being performed. Ten years later the hospital saw the number of beds increased to 20, divided equally between men’s and women’s wards.

Further facilities were added over the years. A day unit was opened in June 1987, and in 1995 the hospital benefited from a £400,000 improvement scheme.

Two years later Budleigh Salterton Hospital was being threatened with closure. A report by the North and East Devon Health Authority concluded that community hospitals were effective only if they had a mimimum of 35 beds and served a population of between 35,000 and 50,000. A massive protest by Budleigh residents followed, and the hospital was saved. But the casualty unit was closed in 2003. Right: Budleigh Salterton Hospital today

Recent improvements for which the Hospital’s League of Friends have raised funds include a stroke unit (£142,000); a kitchen adapted for the disabled, a seminar room and refurbishment of the Gardener’s Cottage (£27,000); the Budleigh Salterton bus (£35,000); and refurbishment of the Nuttall and Jubilee Wards to provide an isolation ward and a palliative care ward (£57,000).

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Real Art and Craft Fair coming to Budleigh

A Budleigh artist who specializes in unique kiln formed glass bowls is one of a group of like-minded local crafts people who are preparing a major exhibition of their work in the town.

Linda Barrack has been making original handcrafted contemporary fused glass pieces since 2001 and dichroic fused glass jewellery since 2003 after training at the Mid-Cornwall School of Jewellery. Most of her work is inspired by the sea and its many changing moods, but the proximity of Dartmoor often has a bearing on the work.

Linda and her fellow-artists regularly exhibit in Budleigh, Woodbury, Beer, Branscombe and Sidmouth. “We make our own unique items and prefer to sell locally rather than travel far afield,” she says. Her work is currently on display at Otterton Mill as part of the Coastline Exhibition which runs until 31 August

Included in the Budleigh fair on Saturday 8 August will be original paintings by Roger Hann, who specializes in landscapes using acrylics. His work is exhibited in art galleries and exhibitions throughout the West Country.

Felt handbags and silver jewellery will be among other items on display. In addition, locally grown olive trees and tasty home-made jams and chutneys will be for sale.

The Real Art and Craft Fair will be held in the Temple Methodist Hall in Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.

For more examples of Linda Barrack’s work see

Above: Two pieces by Linda Barrack. Left: Oyster bowl; right: The Reef

Lashings at Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club

Devon’s cricket fans will have the chance of lunching with star names from the sport when internationally renowned members of the Lashings World Cricket squad will be in Budleigh on Wednesday 29 July.

A charity lunch hosted by Lashings and including a special auction will be followed by a limited overs match starting at 2.30 pm between the Lashings team and Devon County Cricket Club at Budleigh’s Ottermouth ground. The price is £40 per ticket, or £390 for a table of ten.

The 2009 Lashings squad includes Richie Richardson, Devon Malcolm, Jason Gillespie, John Emburey, Gordon Greenidge, Graeme Hick, Henry Olonga, Saqlain Mustaq, Stuart Law and Ian Harvey.

In addition to the cricket, Devon cream teas, local ales, a bouncy castle and adventure activities organized by the Royal Marines will be among the afternoon’s attractions to make this a fun-filled family day out. Ground admission is £5 and under-16s get in free.

As well as playing cricket, the Lashings team does tireless work for charities, aiming to promote and raise money for worthwhile causes. In 2000, Lashings were the first team to travel to Montserrat after the volcano crisis, they travelled to South Africa in 2005 and gave coaching to the underprivileged in the townships and in March 2006 Lashings were instrumental in putting together the Sport Relief Red Socks team that travelled to India with coaching and guidance from Lashings World XI manager Alvin Kallicharran. Closer to home, Lashings have helped to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for all manner of charities, including the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust, Cystic Fibrosis, MENCAP and Our Forgotten Children.

The Lashings cricket team’s story began with a chance encounter. Back in 1984, Maidstone-based businessman David Folb was in the Lashings Bar and Restaurant on a Saturday night when he heard about the plight of the nearby Minstrel Wine Bar’s cricket team, who had a match scheduled the following day but had just lost their opposition. Not wanting to see them miss out on their Sunday afternoon fixture, Folb appointed himself captain and wicketkeeper, made a few calls and assembled an opposition.
Above: Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club

A motley crew of customers, friends, solicitors, bank managers and even Lashings restaurant manager John Tobin (an Irishman who had never played cricket in his life, and indeed hasn’t since!) were roped in to play and appeared the following day in the less-than-idyllic surroundings of Mote Park. It wasn’t quite a dream start for Folb’s new venture though, as the team that were to become known as Lashings fell short by a mere 294 runs! However, the experience was enough for Folb’s band of merry men to catch the bug and soon there were enough personnel to be able to put out a village team on a regular basis for several years, eventually reaching the dizzy heights of the Maidstone and District Riverside League!
Fast forward to 1995 and Folb’s business commitments had taken him to Antigua, where he had opened the Lashings Beach Café and Inn. While he was there he met West Indian captain Richie Richardson, who was about to retire from international cricket and was looking for a fun, no-pressure environment in which to play and rediscover his love for the game. Two and two were soon added together and Richie agreed to come to England and play for Folb’s local team. The news of Richardson signing for Lashings was greeted by hoots of derision by the local media, who simply couldn’t believe that such a high-profile name was coming to play for one of Kent’s smallest cricket teams – indeed, Geoff Clark of Meridian TV declared that he would eat his hat if Richardson ever turned out for Lashings! Clark’s reaction to the arrival of Richardson at the Meridian newsroom with a Lashings club cap went sadly unrecorded…!

News of Richardson’s contentment within a small team in Kent soon travelled throughout the cricketing world and soon Folb was finding interest from other high-profile names coming towards the end of their careers. This gave him an idea: to form an all-star cricket team, like a cricketing equivalent of basketball’s “Harlem Globetrotters”. Thus, the seeds were sown for the team that is now known as the Lashings World XI. Some of the early signings included Muttiah Muralitharan, Brian Lara, Shoaib Akhtar and Sir Viv Richards and soon the Lashings team were travelling the country, taking on (and usually beating!) all comers, including several of the first class counties!

In amongst it all, the team still sticks to its original credo of “fun, first and foremost” and continues to make an impact at all levels of cricket with the club’s striking “Rude Boy” logo and their unique black and gold clothing, aiming to raise the profile of the game of cricket all over the world and to help others less fortunate than ourselves through the medium of sport.

The Budleigh event is sponsored by South West Communications Group , Woodbury Park and Specsavers Opticians .

For further enquiries contact Jonathan Baumber at or 07818 458382

Another link across the Pond

Another ramble across the heaths with a friend from Shanghai, following the track to East Budleigh and the family home of Sir Walter Raleigh, the Elizabethan courtier whose pioneering expeditions led to the birth of a new English-speaking nation in America. There in the church of All Saints where Raleigh worshipped as a boy I discover to my pleasure and surprise a stained glass window commemorating Vice-Admiral George William Preedy, another Budleigh worthy about whom I knew nothing. Strangely, there is no mention of Preedy and his window on the information display in the car park outside the church.

I had read many years ago, perhaps in one of my childhood encyclopedias, of the ship that he commanded, HMS Agamemnon, and the transatlantic cable it laid in partnership with the USS steam frigate Niagara. And thinking about this, and the way in which Columbus, Raleigh, Marconi & co all led inevitably to Microsoft, Google and my own humble use of Blogspot made me keen to learn more.

Admiral Preedy is buried in East Budleigh because of course it had been the only parish church serving the area. St Peter’s church in Budleigh Salterton was completed only the year before his death. But he did actually retire to live in Budleigh, having played his part in the forging of links between Britain and the USA. So he naturally finds a place in my musings alongside Sir Walter, Roger Conant and General Simcoe, all three of them local residents who shaped the history of America.

As local historian Eric Delderfield has written in The Raleigh Country, "It is a coincidence that in the church where the first man to found a British colony in the New World once worshipped, another, who completed the union between the Old and New Worlds, should be remembered."

The early 1850s saw the completion of a vast telegraphic system using underground gutta-percha-covered wires throughout the United Kingdom under the direction of The Magnetic Company and its Engineer-in-Chief, Charles Bright, later to be knighted for his achievements. Telegraphy was further developed with the laying of cables from England to France, Ireland and Belgium.

A transatlantic cable linking the Old and the New Worlds seemed to be the obvious next step. The distance involved, the amount of material to be transported and the equipment required presented an extraordinary challenge. But Samuel Morse, the American telegraphy expert was consulted and confirmed that transatlantic messaging would be possible via such a cable. In the US, the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company, led by the American businessman Cyrus Field, was set up on 10 March 1854 with the aim of reaching a transatlantic partnership with its British equivalent: the result was The Atlantic Telegraph Company registered on 20 October, 1856.

The idea was to lay a cable from Ireland to Newfoundland. Negotiations with the British Government resulted in the supply of HMS Agamemnon as a cable-layer, with HMS Leopard and HMS Cyclops to assist, while on the American side the cable-layer was USS Niagara, assisted by USS Susquhanna. A 91-gun vessel with a crew of 850 - the first screw line of battle ship built as such - the Agamemnon had been launched only four years earlier.
Left: HMS AgamemnonIt was a gigantic project involving national prestige, accompanied by ceremonies heavy with symbolism. On 30 July 1857 the Niagara and the Agamemnon arrived in Queenstown, Ireland, and one end of the cable was brought ashore at Valentia. “Valentia Bay was studded with innumerable small craft decked with the gayest bunting,” reported one newspaper. “Small boats flitted hither and thither, their occupants cheering enthusiastically as the work successfully progressed. The cable boats were managed by the sailors of the Niagara and the Susquehanna. It was a well designed compliment, and indicative of the future fraternisation of the nations, that the shore rope was arranged to be presented at this side of the Atlantic to the representative of the Queen by the officers and men of the United States Navy, and that at the other side the British officers and sailors should make a similar presentation to the President of the great Republic.”
Above: Paying out the land end of the cable from the stern of the Niagara

The 1857 attempt ended in failure with the breaking of the cable, due apparently to a fault in the cable-laying machinery. The following year, a new attempt was made using improved equipment and it was on this expedition that Captain Preedy, as he then was, played his epic role.
Left: Machinery used for paying out the electric telegraph cable on board the Niagara and the Agamemnon.

George William Preedy was born in Worcestershire in 1817, and began his future career at the age of 11, entering the Royal Navy in November 1828. Appointed Lieutenant in June 1844 he progressed steadily through the ranks, becoming Commander in 1853 and second in command on board HMS Duke of Wellington. Then on 31 March 1858 he was appointed Captain of HMS Agamemnon. It was a post that he would hold for less than six months, but the short tenure was enough to guarantee him a place in history.

The choice of Captains Preedy and Hudson to lead the wire-laying ships Agamemnon and Niagara must have been a reflection of their immense reputations in their respective navies: they were, in the words of Cyrus Field’s brother David Dudley Field, in his speech at the 1858 Crystal Palace celebrations, “as accomplished and gallant commanders as ever trod the quarter-deck.”
Right: The coiling of the Atlantic telegraph cable on board HMS Agamemnon
In June 1858 a grand dinner took place on the eve of the fleet’s departure, with the healths of the Queen and President being drunk to great applause. Months of frustrating work with the cable-laying, accompanied by terrible sea conditions, were to follow. Captain Preedy in particular would find his leadership and skill as a mariner tested to extraordinary lengths during the voyage across the Atlantic. The weight of the coiled cable that she was carrying, along with her coal supply, almost resulted in disaster during a mid-ocean storm on 10 June 1858.

“Our ship, the Agamemnon, rolling many degrees, was labouring so heavily that she looked like breaking up,” recalled one member of the party. “The massive beams under her upper deck coil cracked and snapped with a noise resembling that of small artillery, almost drowning the hideous roar of the wind as it moaned and howled through the rigging. Those in the improvised cabins on the main deck had little sleep that night, for the upper deck planks above them were ‘working themselves free,’ as sailors say; and, beyond a doubt, they were infinitely more free than easy, for they groaned under the pressure of the coil, and availed themselves of the opportunity to let in a little light, with a good deal of water, at every roll. The sea, too, kept striking with dull heavy violence against the vessel’s bows, forcing its way through hawse holes and ill closed ports with a heavy slush; and thence, hissing and winding aft, it roused the occupants of the cabins aforesaid to a knowledge that their floors were under water, and that the flotsam and jetsam noises they heard beneath were only caused by their outfit for the voyage taking a cruise of its own in some five or six inches of dirty bilge. Such was Sunday night, and such was a fair average of all the nights throughout the week, varying only from bad to worse.”
Above: The Agamemnon, with the Atlantic cable on board, in the great storm on 20 and 21 June, 1858. Reproduced by Leslie's from the Illustrated London News, in turn reproduced from an original drawing by Henry CliffordThings were indeed to worsen, with many members of the crew severely injured, crushed by displaced cargo and coal supplies.

“The Agamemnon took to violent pitching, plunging steadily into the trough of the sea as if she meant to break her back and lay the Atlantic cable in a heap. This change in her motion strained and taxed every inch of timber near the coils to the very utmost.

The upper deck coil had strained the ship to the very utmost, yet still held on fast. But not so the coil in the main hold. This had begun to get adrift, and the top kept working and shifting over from side to side, as the ship lurched, until some forty or fifty miles were in a hopeless state of tangle, resembling nothing so much as a cargo of live eels.”

Following the storm numerous breakages in the cable delayed the operation; on one occasion a whale brushed against it, narrowly missing the ship. There was also a near collision between the Agamemnon and an American vessel.

But at last, on 5 August 1858, soon after the Agamemnon’s arrival in North America a signal was received from the Niagara that they were preparing to land, having paid out 1,030 nautical miles of cable. The British ship had accomplished her portion of the distance over 1,020 miles, making the total length of the wire submerged over 2,050 geographical miles.

It was a historic moment greeted with celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic.

One of the first transatlantic communications by the new telegraph was an exchange of greetings between Queen Victoria and President James Buchanan. The latter’s message in particular illustrates the significance of the event:

“The President cordially reciprocates the congratulations of Her Majesty the Queen on the success of the great international enterprise accomplished by the skill, science, and indomitable energy of the two countries.

It is a triumph more glorious, because far more useful to mankind than was ever won by a conqueror on the field of battle.

May the Atlantic Telegraph, under the blessing of heaven, prove to be a bond of perpetual peace and friendship between the kindred nations, and an instrument destined by Divine Providence to diffuse religion, civilisation, liberty, and law throughout the world.

In this view will not all the nations of Christendom spontaneously unite in the declaration that it shall be for ever neutral, and that its communication shall be held sacred in passing to the place of their destination, even in the midst of hostilities?”

As for Captain Preedy, his role in the success of the enterprise was widely acknowledged. The heartfelt words of Professor William Thomson, a scientist involved in the operation on the British side, were acknowledged with cheers during a speech he made during the celebrations.

“We must regard the skill, constancy, and unflinching performance of duty manifested by Captain Preedy, his officers and men, as having saved the ship and cable and all on board. I cannot pass from the Agamemnon without expressing the sense I entertain of the value of the assistance and support rendered by Captain Preedy to the engineers of the Company in some of their most difficult mechanical operations. The part taken in the actual laying of the cable by the officers and men under his command was, I believe, the most essential contribution towards the success which was achieved.”

In September 1858 Captain Preedy relinquished command of HMS Agamemnon and was appointed CB (Companion of the Bath) by Queen Victoria in recognition of his services. He was also honoured with a gold medal specially struck by the New York firm of Tiffany and Company.

A total of 732 messages were sent before the cable finally failed within months of being laid. The precise cause of the failure was never discovered. But the lessons of this initial success at transatlantic cable-laying and telegraphy were put to good use with a second attempt in 1865, when the Brunel-designed Great Eastern steamship took part in the operation, concluded the following year.

Captain Preedy went on to command four more Royal Navy ships during his distinguished career, retiring as Vice-Admiral in January 1879. At the age of 74 he is recorded as living at Park House, Knowle, on the outskirts of Budleigh Salterton, along with his wife Elizabeth, his sister Anna, his three daughters and one son, four servants and a governess.

He died on 30 May 1894. And having discovered the full story of his epic voyage across the Atlantic and the terrible hardships that he and his companions endured, I now understand why the image of Christ calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee was chosen as his memorial window in East Budleigh church.

Text and photo credit: I am most grateful to Bill Burns, of Long Island, New York for permission to reproduce material from Website at
Incidentally, for my Cape Cod readers, Mr Burns tells me that Brewster is only a few miles from another major centre of cable history - Orleans - where in 1891 a cable station was built to work the 1879 French cable:
It is now an excellent working museum with a website at

Grave reflections

News of the death this week of British World War I veteran Henry Allingham, at the great age of 112, prompted me to visit Budleigh Salterton’s town cemetery on the appropriately named Dark Lane. After all, they do say that people come to Budleigh to die and then rapidly forget why they’ve come: the result is of course that they live longer than the average in this little oasis of stress-free tranquillity. And there are certainly some great ages recorded on the cemetery tombstones.

Of course some people view this aspect of Budleigh in a negative light: “Today perhaps with some justification it is derided as a genteel backwater, a haven for the frail and elderly to while away their twilight years,” notes the author of Devon Perspectives seeing the town as a ‘Demographic Downer’ where a few years ago half the population was recorded as being over 50, with a third being over 70.

I prefer to see it as I’m sure columnist Libby Purves would: as a place of “living monuments”, where, as she wrote in yesterday’s Times newspaper, “History does not lie only in books and journalism, but around us in nursing homes and granny flats.”

Just a few minutes among the tombstones in that Dark Lane cemetery, or a browse in the archives of the excellent Fairlynch Museum, are enough to prove her right. The “genteel backwater” of Budleigh has over the centuries drawn many people here with fascinating tales to tell about their rich and varied lives.

In Budleigh’s sister-town of Brewster, on Cape Cod, they also have a cemetery, even older than ours, which is cared for properly as part of the region’s heritage.


'Brewster Gravestone Guru, restoring cemetery markers'

There are advantages to working a graveyard shift – at least when it’s in a real graveyard.

“It’s a nice place to work,” admitted stone carver Tim Dibble, “very few complaints.”

Above: With the stone repositioned on its base, Dibble takes a momentary break

Not all of Dibble’s clientele is so quiet. He’s been hired by the Brewster Cemetery Association to help restore 300 gravestones in Brewster Cemetery on Lower Road. Dibble started work two years ago and is about to wind it up, looking forward to his last 16 stones as of last week.

“I grew up here,” he reflected (his parents owned The Brewster Store). “I used to play in the cemetery as a kid. I know a lot of the people in here. I have relatives here, too. It means a lot to work here. Everything we’re doing is in accordance with industry standards. I learned from a guy who learned in Boston from the really old cemeteries.”

The work is hard. Dibble has to hoist 500-pound stones up on a pulley, shape up the foundation and reset them atop a pair of metal pins. The pins are what hold the stones upright. Some stones are cracked and require more work.

“The pins they used then were not as good as what we have these days,” Dibble explained.

“The iron ones will rust if moisture gets in and explode the marble. If they’re tilted or knocked over, I straighten them up and re-mortar them. Sometimes that involves epoxy – if they’re broken – space age technology. We strengthen the base, shim it up with bricks, set it down and level it. Then I mix up a batch of mortar, put it on and adjust the pins, set it down, put the sod back in and we’re good for another 200 to 300 years.”

And if that’s not the case, he’ll gladly provide a refund.

The stones also have to contend with trees, some looking to be nearly as old as the cemetery, which dates to the beginning of the 19th century, or perhaps before.

“There was a lot of root damage,” observed Dibble. “They get underneath and lift up and knock over the stones. It’s amazing what a tree can do.”

A huge, gnarled, copper beech sent out one root that completely encircled a stone and flipped it over. Dibble had to cut the root away to reset the stone.

Mrs. Betsey Crosby, wife of Capt. Josiah Crosby, lost her marker, which dates from Jan. 12, 1838. It cracked and fell into the grass and was totally grown over when it was rediscovered and set back upright. The discoloration from untold years beneath the turf was an obvious contrast with her husband’s gray cast stone.

“This is one of the best run cemeteries on Cape Cod,” noted Bob Williams of the cemetery association. “It has a substantial equity, enough to carry on in perpetuity. It’s a friendly cemetery. A lot of people come in and enjoy it. We think we have more sea captains per (acre) than any other cemetery.”

There is an inordinate number of captains’ gravestones in Brewster Cemetery, many without a body below as the unfortunate sailors were lost at sea. One headstone remembers Capt. John Lincoln, who died in the Bay of Honduras in 1829, age 24. Nearby lies Captain Isaac Lincoln, who died during a passage from Texas to New York in 1838.

“Tho on the Earth or on the Sea, our mortal bodies rest, Our Spirits will united be, with Christ forever blest,” reads Isaac’s marker

Old Cape Cod names fill many a plot: Cobb, Baker, Snow, Freeman, Foster, Nickerson, Knowles, Crosby, Winslow, etc. Dibble worked on the stone of Donald Doane, who sold his parents The Brewster Store. He’s carved several headstones in the cemetery himself. He showed off one with a sprig of blueberry and a setting sun cut into the granite.

The oldest stones are slate. Others are New England or Italian marble.

Charlie Baringer, of the association board, coordinated the restoration, marking the stones that needed attention with reflectors.

The association has managed the private cemetery since 1933.

“You’ve got to think we’re proud of it, because we are,” Baringer noted. “It had to be done. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s nice to see it almost finished and back to normal.”

Baringer noted with pride that all 13 board members have a plot reserved, as does Dibble.

Reprinted with permission from The Cape Codder newspaper, Orleans, Massachusetts USA;
Photo credit: Barry Donahue

My book Oundle’s War (1995, reprinted 2008), based on the recollections of the World War II generation, is available at (Tel: 01832 273523)
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