Sunday, 26 December 2010

The usual Christmas Day craziness on Budleigh beach

Well, here they are again. Crazy as lemmings, rushing into the sea on Christmas Day and then just as madly dashing out again. A beautiful morning, with a sky almost as sunny and blue as recorded in these pages this time last year at BUT THIS TIME THE BEACH WAS WHITE!

I remember muttering something about having a go last year, but now that I feel it's my duty to record this incredible scene every year I've got a good excuse to stay on dry land and not spend Boxing Day in bed with double pneumonia.

Speaking to Sarah Lowe from Budleigh and her sister Jennie from Birmingham, pictured above, I could only feel that I was the rational one. "A stupid idea," admitted Sarah when I asked them what they thought of what they were planning to do in a few minutes. "I'd rather jump out of an airplane," added Jennie.

But here they are, all these apparently foolhardy people, clearly enjoying themselves, and once you see that they've survived it looks like a brave and fun thing to do.

There's that nice Amanda Gulbrantson from Littleham whom I spoke to last year, swimming with her dog for the 21st time, and both looking as if it's the most normal thing in the world to do.

For some people it's clearly a bonding experience, like defying death together.

And now I'm even thinking that this woman in a wet suit is a bit of a cheat. That's surely not in the spirit of the Budleigh Christmas Swim.

And by the time I get to speak to Kim Roffey and her sister Kerry, both from Budleigh, I feel a bit of a wimp. Not only are they not shivering, they look extremely pleased with themselves. Yet it was the first time for both of them. And astonishingly, Kerry is terrified of water and can't swim. "It wasn't too bad," was their verdict.

Just as pleased-looking with herself was Louise McCullin who'd taken the plunge with her children Jasmine and April. My admiration was all the greater when I learnt that she'd come from Northern New South Wales in Australia where a snowflake is a bit of a rarity.

So maybe next year... It was well organised with HM Coastguard on hand, and raised money for the RNLI. I do think that the Highways people could have gritted the frozen route to the beach, given the hundreds of spectators and swimmers they knew would be heading to this great Budleigh occasion. I suspect that people felt safer in the sea than they did on the dangerously icy road.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Budleigh Salterton's white Christmas

This is our third year in Budleigh Salterton and each winter has been chillier than the last. And now this corner of East Devon has had its first truly white Christmas for years. What happened to that micro-climate they boast about here?

Exmouth Road, the main western approach to Budleigh where I live, suddenly became a quiet country lane under snow, with only the occasional tractor or 4WD vehicle breaking the silence.

There's a downside of course if you're a keen gardener. We've got used to the frosts now, unusual though they are, but hadn't counted on snow damage. Looking out of the window and wondering at all the whiteness of the garden we heard a sudden crack saw two branches of our beautiful mimosa, already about to burst into flower, collapsed under the weight of snow. So sad. Will it survive? Why didn't I see what was going to happen? Five minutes earlier and I could have saved it by shaking the snow off.

At least our mimosa didn't bring down any power lines, which is what happened when branches from the big trees lining Exmouth Road suddenly gave way resulting in cuts to electricity supply for hundreds of consumers for several hours.

Of course our problems in East Devon are nothing compared with those experienced in other parts of the UK. And across the Atlantic in Cape Cod where Budleigh Salterton's sister-town of Brewster is located, my friend Barbara-Anne Foley tells me that they're expecting a blizzard tomorrow, adding to the foot of snow that has already fallen. She works in the town of Harwich for the Council on Aging as the Director and also part time on the Emergency Management Team. "So if it snows hard they will open my building as a shelter with the generator and we will take care of any who need sheltering - even going to pick them up in an aerodynamically made vehicle for this type of weather, even hurricanes."

Meanwhile our cat thinks those fallen branches are there just for fun.

I hope you've all enjoyed a peaceful and happy Christmas Day.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Five fascinating facts about Brewster and Budleigh Salterton (3)

It's been some time since I posted at some of the random and interesting (for some people) facts about Budleigh Salterton and its sister-town across the Atlantic. So here come another five:

Home and away
Photo credit: A nice house in Brewster Massachusetts

Half of Brewster's residential property owners are part-time residents according to the Brewster Association of Part-Time Residents on their website at

Heavens above!

The pastor of Budleigh’s Evangelical Church on Station Road is the appropriately named Rev. John Heavens.

What’s in a name?

Cape Cod resident Marietta Nilson tells me: "One great thing about Brewster is that you can type it on a QWERTY keyboard entirely with your left hand!!!!"

A mystery property

This Budleigh Salterton house, Watch Hill, was used for the 1986 filming of an Agatha Christie mystery in the BBC's Miss Marple series.

According to Fairlynch Museum's excellent and informative booklet about the building, Benno Moseivitch (1890-1963), pictured above, often stayed at Fairlynch in the 1920s before he became famous as a pianist.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Delightful Christmas presents

Biscuits from Budleigh

If you've sent a Budleigh Salterton Christmas card to friends you might like to impress them even more by giving them a Budleigh-branded gift.

Delytes Delicatessen in Budleigh's High Street now has an attractive website at including an erudite explanation of the shop's name. It also stocks goodies such as biscuits, jams and chocolates attractively packaged using the iconic logo of those beautiful pine trees at Otter Head.

Delytes sell a selection of jams using the Budleigh brand

There's even a seasonal-looking hamper of locally produced food on display proudly showing off Budleigh chutney, Budleigh roasted coffee and Budleigh red wine. From a bit further afield come Ottery St Mary honey and beeswax candles, Sidmouth fudge, Buckfastleigh ginger beer, Bideford meringues, Axminster chocolates and miniature wines and even more chocolates, this time from Okehampton.

It's just as well that Devon has wonderful countryside as well as delicious food to walk off all those calories.

With best wishes for Christmas

We're still a few days from 18 December, the last date for posting Christmas cards within the UK by second class delivery. So if you've run out of your supply and want to support local good causes here in Budleigh Salterton two of the town's festivals have produced their own cards to help with their fund-raising.

The Music Festival is selling Christmas cards featuring a lovely view of Otter Head and a Christmas carol specially written for the festival by Nicholas Marshall. They come in packs of six with envelopes, and are available from the Tourist Information Centre in Fore Street at £3.99 for packs of six.

Also available from the TIC are Christmas cards in support of the Literary Festival. The picture, so they say, is by Burne-Jones and shows him listening in what they call "an alert and interested way" to the poems of William Morris. I hope it's not supposed to represent your typical literary festival-goer. It's an unusual card anyway and a good talking-point. The cards are on sale at 10 cards for £5.00.

For details of the two festivals including dates for 2011 click on and/or

Monday, 13 December 2010

Mad about Mosses

The 2011 calendar from Mountain Moss Enterprises

These pages are normally limited to what's going on in Budleigh Salterton or in our sister-town of Brewster, Massachusetts, but on this occasion I'm going to stray a bit further afield across the Atlantic.

I first got to know of Mossin' Annie - real name Annie Martin - shortly after moving to Devon. Realising that our back lawn is essentially an inches-thick carpet of moss I googled for help on the best way of getting rid of it. Short of stripping it out and re-turfing the lawn I didn't find many satisfactory answers. It seems that a combination of shade and the acid soil that you find in this part of East Devon - ideal for camellias and rhododendrons of course - is also perfect for growing moss, or bryophyta as the experts call it.

I discovered that there are in fact lots of advantages to having a moss lawn when I found the website for Annie's company Mountain Moss Enterprises, based in North Carolina, USA. Hardly any mowing, no need for watering during drought, no more polluting chemicals, perhaps even an ideal place to sit and write poetry, for as the company's slogan has it, "Mosses mirror the intricacies of your inner self."

So maybe some other Budleigh gardeners might like to explore mossy possibilities by clicking on

Here's the latest news about her growing moss empire from Annie's Christmas message which I've just received:

Mountain Moss Enterprises is pleased to announce the opening of our online Moss Shop at Bryophytes may be purchased from our nursery for all types of sustainable landscape projects – moss lawns, green roofs, living walls and moss feature gardens. In the specialty gifts section, you'll find moss-as-art creations, terraria, t-shirts and more. Make this year special by planning your activities with our 2011 Calendar - Bryophytes (Mosses) of Western North Carolina.

From close-up shots of individual bryophyte types to innovative interpretations of eco-friendly mosses in gardens, each month offers a new and dramatic image. For instance, March features thousands of Funaria hygrometrica mosses in sporophytic stage emerging from the charred wood of a fire. In contrast, April illustrates the beauty of Dicranum scoparium nestled in a moss-as-art log with Spring azaleas providing a framework. The elegance of a single Climacium americanum gamete towers like a “little tree” for August. Although a lichen, the brilliant red of Cladonia crystatella seemed appropriate for February.

Calendar is printed on high-quality card stock. Spiral-bound, 8.5x11. US holidays are indicated. All original photographs by Annie Martin. Cost: $22.50 US plus shipping.

Order your own 2011 Bryophyte Calendar now to delight in this magical world of mosses.

Wishing each of you a happy holiday.
Go Green With Moss!

Mossin' Annie.

Party time at Fairlynch Museum

(L-r) Party guests Roger Bass, Pat Lorton, Maryanne Bass and Anthea Downes

Helpers and volunteers at Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch celebrated the spirit of Christmas last Friday 10 December at a party organised by Trustees in gratitude for all the hard work that's done behind the scenes at the museum.

(L-r): Bernadette Hughes, Marie and Gordon Johnson

"The Stewards usually have a party in the summer, but we thought everyone should have a thank you," said Margaret Brett, one of the Fairlynch Trustees. "It was a great success judging by the number of people who turned up on a dark December evening. Thanks must go to our caretaker, Sylvia Merkel, for the excellent food she prepared."

The Friends of Fairlynch support and fund-raise for Fairlynch Museum. New members, at an annual subscription of £10 per member, are most welcome. Please contact Jan Harvey on 01395 444334.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Exeter Bach Society's Christmas concert

Budleigh Salterton resident Nicholas Marshall, Exeter Bach Society's Director of Music, will be the conductor at a charity concert of Christmas Music and Carols in St James's Church, Exeter.

All proceeds from the concert on Thursday 9 December at 7.30 pm will benefit Age Concern Exeter.

St James' Church, on Mount Pleasant Road, is to the north-east of Exeter city centre next to the roundabout where Mount Pleasant Road, Prince Charles Road, Stoke Hill, Union Road and Old Tiverton Road meet.

Tickets at £8 are available by phone from the Age Concern office on 01392 202092 or on the door.

For more information about Exeter Bach Society click on

Brook captures 'Pictures of the Floating World': The Japanese Print Show 2010/2011

'Lightning', by Nana Shiomi

Like the Wise Men in the Christmas story the Brook Gallery has looked east to bring a star of Japanese printmaking to Budleigh Salterton.

"The Brook announces a stunning exhibition of Japanese Prints to round off a superb year of exceptional shows and start the New Year with aplomb - The Japanese Print Show opens on 12 December and runs to 9 January 2011.

Beautifully encapsulated with the phrase, ‘Ukiyo-e,’ which means ‘pictures of the floating world,’ the 18th century school of Japanese printmaking was the forerunner to much that we recognise in printmaking today. The Brook acknowledges this significant influence on modern art, with a contemporary take on Japanese printmaking and woodcuts.

'Moon' by Nana Shiomi

Originally produced purely in black and white, these early Eastern prints were akin to postcards, depicting popular and often theatrical images for home decoration. Lines were bold, shapes emphatic and the drama we celebrate in Japanese prints today set the standard in this unique art form. Japanese prints evolved to include beautiful women, landscapes and eventually a combination of bold and subtle colours which led to an enthusiasm for ‘japonisme’ in Paris in the 1850s.

Angela Yarwood, owner of the Brook Gallery and admirer of Japanese printmaking, sees this influence in many of her celebrated printmakers and artists profiled at the Brook: ‘Imagine how very different these works were in comparison to European art of the mid 19th century. To offer a schedule of exhibitions over the years that doesn’t include the art of Japanese printmaking, would be like showcasing the work of the French and omitting Toulouse-Lautrec. Nana Shiomi, whose work we are including in our exhibition ‘The Japanese Print Show’ is one of the premier Japanese printmakers.

'Kangetsu' by Brian Williams

This exhibition, which also includes work by Brian Williams, focuses on the use of woodblock and the Ukiyo-e printmaking methods and seeks to contrast other practices being used by printmakers working in Japan today and those strongly influenced by its techniques.’

Nana’s work has been exhibited and sold around the world, with recent exhibitions including shows at the Mall Galleries, Christie’s and Bankside Gallery, London and The Tolman Collection, Shanghai; Malek National Library Museum, Tehran and the Kawagoe Gallery, Saitama Japan, among others.

Professor Chris Orr, friend, regular exhibitor and visitor to the Brook Gallery, and then Head of Printmaking at London’s Royal College of Art where Nana studied, recommends her extraordinary work with the words ‘she exemplifies the interchange of influences between all parts of the globe ... Technically her sure touch never lets her, or her audience, down. It adds significantly to the tradition of Japanese printmaking but lies with great affection in the heart of our European heritage. I commend to you the work of Nana Shiomi.’

Private View with Nana Shiomi 11 December 6.00 pm-9.00 pm by invitation only.
Please contact the gallery direct for details of a demonstration by Nana Shiomi
Exhibition 12 December to 9 January 2011
Brook Gallery, Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton, Devon, EX9 6NH
Tel 01395 443 003
Open 10.30 am to 5.00 pm, closed Sunday mornings and Mondays

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Step back in Time

Crinoline skirts and fancy waistcoats will be in evidence when ladies and gentlemen of the congregation assemble at the beautifully restored Salem Chapel in East Budleigh for its fifth Victorian Christmas service this year.

"We don't insist on men wearing top hats, and we're certainly not offering any prizes for the best outfit," says Kathy Moyle, Chairman of the Friends of Salem Chapel. "But the service has become quite a popular event and we do our best to decorate the Chapel as it might have appeared in Victorian times, so if people want to come along in period costume they'll be most welcome."

Mulled wine and mince pies will be on offer, with an optional collection being made for the Chapel.

The chapel is available for hire. For further information please contact Kathy Moyle on 01395 445236.

'A Step back in Time' takes place on Sunday 19 December at 4.00 pm.

Dr Mary Hart (1923-2010)

Dr Mary Hart welcomes Hugo Swire MP to Fairlynch Museum

Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum could not operate without the volunteer staff who play a vital role in all aspects of this much-loved institution of the town, from managing the finances to acting as stewards when the building is open to the public.

All those involved with the Museum as well as many residents of the town were sorry to learn of the death at the beginning of this year of Dr Mary Hart, aged 86.

Dr Mary Hart, who died on 12 February, 2010, was born on 25 May 1923 to Albert Ernest and Winifred Maud in Derby where her father, Albert Ernest Sawday, was a General Practitioner. Her father bought a medical practice at Hillside, Crouch End Road in North London. Dr Mary was educated at Channing School, which was evacuated to Ross on Wye during the Second World War. She was then one of a small group of female medical students who trained in London during the latter year of the war. Both within her family and her school she was encouraged and challenged to achieve what she wanted to do with her life – a philosophy passed on to her family.
As a family the Sawdays spent many holidays at Tankerton, Kent, where they became friends with the Hart family from Sittingbourne, who also regularly holidayed there. When their eldest son, Robert, also won a place at medical school in London, he went to lodge with the Sawday family.

Dr Robert and Dr Mary were married on 20 July 1946. Dr Mary sat her final exams whilst pregnant with their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who was born in May 1947. At this point Dr Robert was called up to do his National Service, which he did with the Royal Army Medical Corps. He found that he enjoyed this way of life and took a permanent commission. He was posted to Nigeria and where he was eventually joined by Dr Mary and their two small daughters, Alison having been born in October 1949. Their eldest son, Crispin, was born in Nigeria in January 1952.

On their return to the UK the doctors settled in Kent, and their youngest son, Timothy, was born in August 1953. The family lived first in Tankerton and then in Herne Bay, whilst Dr Robert worked at the Royal Army Medical College at Milbank in London. At this point Dr Mary was able to start working part time doing clinics locally.

In 1962 Dr Robert was posted to the British Military Hospital in Singapore, where he was joined by Dr Mary in 1963, once all the children were settled in boarding schools. Dr Mary was able to continue working as a civilian medical officer in the Hospital in Singapore, a very happy and fulfilling period of her career.

In 1965 Dr Robert resumed his duties at the Royal Army Medical Corps Headquarters, the family moved to the North Foreland, Broadstairs, Kent, and Dr Mary worked in a medical practice in Margate. However, in 1967 Dr Robert retired from the Royal Army Medical Corps and was appointed first Deputy Director and then Director of the Public Health Laboratory in Exeter, Devon

The family moved first to Cranford Avenue in Exmouth and then purchased Howewath in Moorlands Road, Budleigh Salterton, in the Spring of 1968, where Dr Mary lived until just before her death. This house was to become a happy gathering place over the years for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Both doctors enjoyed the large garden which over the years produced fruit, vegetables and tobacco! Much loved cats and dogs also have resting places in the garden marked with camellias.

Dr Mary worked for medical practices in Exeter, Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton, but it was the latter practice that she particularly enjoyed, working with Drs Benson, Evans and Taylor. Although she retired in 1988, she hardly ever walked down the High Street without being hailed by a former patient, something she really appreciated. She was also involved in Family Planning Clinics and advising on adoptions in various parts of Devon.

Both doctors retired in 1988 full of plans for their retirement. They had a wonderful trip to Australia that winter, staying in Western Australia with Crispin and his family, and Dr Mary’s brother Martin, and in Darwin with a cousin.

Sadly their plans were thwarted when, in 1990, Dr Robert was diagnosed with Guillaume Barry Syndrome. Having spent some months in hospital, various aids were put in place at Howewath, (including a lift that was much enjoyed by the grandchildren – but scared the dogs) so that he could return home. His recovery continued slowly under the care and watchful eye of Dr Mary, but this was brought to an abrupt end when he suffered a stroke. After another spell in hospital he again returned home to be cared for by Dr Mary until he died in 1995.

Dr Mary enjoyed her growing family of twelve grandchildren, their various spouses, and seven great-grandchildren (plus two others that she knew of but were not born until shortly after her death) and has taken great pride in all their achievements. She always took a great interest in the travels of all the family, finding out information about the various places that the visited or settled. Her brother, eldest son and three of her grandchildren currently live in Australia and one of her grandchildren and his family are in Denver, Colorado. Although not a great traveller herself, she had two wonderful trips to Chile in the late 1990s to visit her eldest daughter.

During her retirement Dr Mary developed a great interest in tracing family history and kept in contacts with Sawday descendents around the world – a wonderful legacy for her family. She enjoyed many local family history events and meetings where she was able to swap knowledge and expertise with others researching their ancestors.

This led her on to an interest in the history of the local area and she started to volunteer at Fairlynch Museum in Budleigh Salterton. She took on responsibility for organising the rota for the volunteer stewards who do such a great job enabling the museum to open during the summer months. However, at the age of 84 she decided that it was time for a younger volunteer to step into her shoes, but she still helped catalogue and sort many of the items in the museum's archives. She was involved in this until she became ill in February 2009.

During the last twelve months of her life Dr Mary suffered various bouts of illness and was eventually found to have a non-Hodgkins lymphoma that sadly did not respond to treatment. However, she bore this trial, as she had born other vicissitudes in her life with great stoicism and dignity.

Dr Mary will leave a huge gap in the life of all her family. She was a highly intelligent woman who had an endlessly enquiring mind. She could multitask for years before it became fashionable – it was a family joke that Granny could read, knit, watch television and still win at cards. She was known as the family’s fount of all knowledge – had any of the family ever appeared on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, she was the friend they would have phoned; even though she said she would be useless on pop music or soap operas, she seemed to manage to have some knowledge of those too! She was one of the original “technogrannys” quickly mastering the computer skills she needed to play online games with her grandchildren and keep up with her widespread relations on email and Skype.

I am grateful to Mrs Lizzie Hoskins for sending me the above obituary for Dr Hart.

A fake scam?

I don't intend to post news of every scam I read about, but a Budleigh Salterton friend sent me details of this Postal Scam recently, and it sounds so horrifically clever that I thought I'd pass it on!

"Can you circulate this around especially as Xmas is fast approaching - it has been confirmed by Royal Mail. The Trading Standards Office are making people aware of the following scam:

A card is posted through your door from a company called PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) suggesting that they were unable to deliver a parcel and that you need to contact them on 0906 6611911 (a Premium rate number).

DO NOT call this number, as this is a mail scam originating from Belize.

If you call the number and you start to hear a recorded message you will already have been billed £315 for the phone call.

If you do receive a card with these details, then please contact Royal Mail Fraud on 020 7239 6655.

For more information, see the Crime Stoppers website: "
However, when I clicked on that link the Crimestoppers site denied issuing any such emailed warning which had so alarmed my Budleigh friend, and me.
I'm posting the warning anyway because this scam, fake though it is, sounds so fiendishly clever.
Or are we just getting too neurotic and untrusting for our own good?

A big issue on both sides of the pond

A recently built five-bedroom detached house at Clyst Hayes Gardens, on Budleigh Salterton's Exmouth Road, priced at £865,000.
Photo image

It was a former resident of Brewster, MA who told me some time ago that the Cape Cod town and Budleigh Salterton were ideally suited as twin communities because of their equally high house prices.

As readers may know, I'm always keen to point out similarities between Budleigh and Brewster but that particular aspect is not generally seen as a positive. In fact our friends across the Atlantic expressed their concerns about it recently at a forum on 3 November which brought together Brewster estate agents, bankers and local officials and volunteers.

Making Brewster affordable for a range of workers was seen as vital by forum participants. “It’s very critical largely because the Cape cost of housing is higher, and wages are lower so service workers can’t afford to buy a place or rent a place,” said Paul Ruchinskas of the Brewster Community Preservation Committee.

The problem, just as in the UK, is especially severe for young people. “The only way of keeping any of our youth is affordable housing,” declared fellow committee member Elliot Carr, a retired banker and Brewster resident who writes frequently on the environment and economy for Cape Cod publications.

In Budleigh also concerned voices have been raised about the lack of affordable housing. The town's Design Statement published in 2004 stated that "new projects should include an adequate supply of affordable housing of the size and type which allows local first-time buyers to remain in their home town."

That's easier said than done. Town Councillor and former Mayor of the town Chris Kitson has been quoted as supporting the need for affordable housing and the desirability of keeping long-standing Budleigh families to "maintain the town's heritage." Unfortunately, he has pointed out, there is a lack of land for larger developments which would give scope for affordable housing to be included.

As the Design Statement notes, the situation has been exacerbated by the fact that Budleigh Salterton, like many attractively situated small towns, has been targeted by second-home owners. "It is recognised that buyers looking for a holiday home in Budleigh Salterton pose an intractable problem that also affects the town’s vitality and the viability of local business."

Not the most sensible of locations for a house next to a river, yet planners gave the go-ahead

For some planning authorities, the search for sites suitable for affordable housing has led them to develop land which had previously been considered sacrosanct because of its environmental value or even off-limits because of its situation in a flood plain. With Government and politicians generally keen to be seen supplying the need for affordable housing it's no surprise that more and more of our green spaces have been sacrificed to urban sprawl. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) noted in 2007 that Green Belts have shrunk in most of England’s regions since 2004, despite a pledge by the then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott that they would grow in every region.

Three years ago SW England was noted in the CPRE report as being an exception to that trend. That may no longer be the case with the publication by East Devon District Council of its Local Development Framework (LDF) consultation document, a summary of which is at One of its key proposals is that from 2006 to 2026 East Devon will see a total of 19,420 new homes being built.

Needless to say many residents are unhappy with such proposals, which they see as likely to damage the character of the region, 66% of which is classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Concerns have been raised that the existing infrastructure cannot cope with the increase in population envisaged by EDDC.

Opposition to the EDDC proposals has come from the recently formed Communities before Developers which held a well publicised protest at EDDC offices in Sidmouth on Tuesday 23 November 2010. The group's website at is well worth studying for the depth of feeling expressed by many local residents about EDDC's plans.

One can understand the pressures on the District Council. It claims to be following the example set by "all other Councils in England", in the words of the LDF summary document. It maintains that East Devon must keep pace with Exeter - "one of the fastest growing city economies in the land." It declares that new planning guidelines are needed "that are fit for purpose and satisfy the latest demands of national Government." Its proposals for the region are inspired by the vision of a new, more dynamic and more prosperous East Devon. "For each new home built we want to see at least one extra job provided," say the planners in the LDF summary document.

Such thinking is rejected by EDDC's opponents. “It makes us wonder whether the council has any regard at all for what the majority of residents love about living here," states Claire Wright, Ottery St Mary Town Councillor for West Hill, and Communities Before Developers campaigner. "We believe local people want East Devon to remain largely rural, not turned into a semi-urban district, with light industry.”

According to EDDC's plans as outlined in the summary LDF document Budleigh Salterton will not be especially threatened by what the Council's critics describe as urban sprawl - only 50 new homes are envisaged for the town, described by EDDC as a "hub rural settlement."

Yet I notice from a glance at that quite a number of Communities before Developers supporters are from Budleigh.
It could be that many Budleigh people feel sympathy for the plight of those Exmouth residents in the St John's Wood area horrified by the prospect of seeing 1,000 houses built in what they describe at as a "beautiful and priceless area."
Equally, some Budleigh residents feel that EDDC's plans are too ambitious to be launched during a recession. "During a financial crisis it also seems short-sighted to sacrifice East Devon’s outstanding heritage and swap it irrevocably for urban sprawl and uncertain job opportunities," writes Communities before Developers supporter Dr Anita Jennings.

"Very few planning applications for what on the face of it could be described as a relatively modest proposal can have provoked such a considerable amount of third party interest," admits East Devon District Council in something of an understatement about the application to replace the Longboat café and adjoining shelter, pictured above, with a modern restaurant. Opponents claim that the proposed new building would be an eyesore.

But it's pretty clear that a major factor in the rejection of East Devon District Council's plans for the region by many Budleigh Salterton residents is the Council's handling of the application for development of the Longboat café. As Dr Jennings writes, "This consultation comes at a bad time for both East Devon District Council and the public. The relationship between the two is at a low ebb. EDDC planners take little or no notice of local councils or their electorate. Countless people are outraged by EDDC’s contempt for the local voice."

Such views simply reflect those expressed in the open letter addressed to EDDC and published on 1 November 2009 on behalf of Budleigh Salterton Town Council, where the District Council, in approving the application for development of the Longboat café, is accused of "having little regard for the democratic process, for the views of the town council, and for the views of the majority of local townspeople."

But before dismissing local opposition to EDDC's plans for the development of East Devon as stemming from a storm about a seafront café one should bear in mind that this region is not alone in feeling unease about big Government's plans. Throughout Britain over the last few years local communities have been expressing anger over the way in which urban sprawl has been allowed to spoil a green and pleasant land.

Yes, cities, towns and villages have to evolve, and planners everywhere have to demonstrate their ambitious and dynamic thinking to please their political masters. But in both town and countryside the number is growing of those who mutter darkly about brown envelopes and deals being concluded on the golf course. Isn't this development thing just about money?

Below are just a few of the links to such reports in local media during the current year in England alone.

Bristol 19 August 2010
Berkshire 9 April 2010 Berkshire 2 July 2010 Cheshire 8 October 2010 Devon 1 November 2010
Hampshire 26 May 2010
Hampshire 28 May 2010 Norfolk 4 October 2010 Oxfordshire 27 January 2010
Somerset 11 February 2010 Somerset 25 May 2010
Somerset 10 June 2010
Surrey 10 April 2010
Sussex 15 March 2010
Sussex 27 July 2010
Warwickshire 6 April 2010

The EDDC summary document can be seen at

If you would like to comment, email
The deadline for expressing views to the District Council is 5.00 pm on Tuesday 30 November 2010.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Slow progress on speeding signs in Budleigh Salterton

Image credit: Brake

It's now almost 18 months since the 'Please drive slowly through the town' sign at one of the main approaches to Budleigh Salterton was demolished, ironically by a speeding driver. See

As this is Road Safety Week and as residents of Exmouth Road and West Hill have been complaining for years about speeding drivers I thought I'd ask Devon County Councillor and Budleigh resident Christine Channon for some news about a suitable replacement.

After all it was in July this year that Cllr Channon, a member of the Budleigh Salterton Traffic Group reported that she had visited the area with PC Simon Evans and that they had found two good sites for electronic interactive signs which tell speeding drivers to slow down.

One would be placed near Links Road (outbound) and the other could go near Clyst Hayes Gardens (inbound). These would be permanent fixtures and Cllr Channon hoped they would be in situ within three months.

Sadly the three months have come and gone, and some thoughtless individuals continue to drive like the clappers on a road that is winding and dangerously narrow with no pavement for pedestrians in places.

The situation was apparently discussed once again last week at Budleigh Salterton's Traffic and Parking meeting, explained Cllr Channon, who described it as "a very frustrating business."

The excuse for the delay offered by Devon County Council's Highways Department was that one of the sites was now considered unsuitable as there would be insufficient light for solar recharging of the batteries, she said. "A new site has been suggested and I have every hope that these signs will soon be in situ."

So Highways people, just go a bit faster on this one, please.

Budleigh Salterton: a quiet little place by the sea?

I spotted the above painting by Exeter-based artist Anna Mazek a few days after visiting the beach at Budleigh where the sea was still raging against the pebbles in the aftermath of a stormy November night. Waves were leaping high into the air in a series of snow-white blizzards as though about to cover the little boats that had been left on the shoreline, then retreating to leave just a few harmless inches of white foam.

Well, that's what seems to be happening in my photo.
Yet only five minutes away from there the sky was blue, the sun was shining and the High Street was calm as only Budleigh can be.

Anna Mazek's painting entitled 'Toward Budleigh' captures some of that mad energy on the beach where, as she writes, the River Exe meets with the Atlantic ocean. at Budleigh Salterton. "Here the oceanic moods are accentuated by a Jurassic coast and world heritage site."

Originally from London, Anna Mazek says that she grew up within a multi cultural society that greatly influenced her approach to art, training at Central St Martin’s

Now resident in Devon she says she gains most of her inspiration from the beautiful surroundings.

Further information about Anna Mazek and how to obtain prints of her work can be found on her website

Friday, 19 November 2010

A sparkling new co-op on the High Street

It was about this time last year that the sight of a boarded-up shopfront on the High Street got me dreaming of how a creative craftsman or woman might set up a studio and start a trend for shops in Budleigh Salterton where people could see products being made.

An exotic chocolatier might set up his or her business, I suggested, at having learnt about such a development in Budleigh's sister-town of Brewster, Massachusetts.

So it was good to meet an enthusiastic and artistic new arrival who has set up shop on Budleigh's High Street, combining a gallery of intriguing bespoke jewellery with a workshop where he can be seen creating the items.

Jason Jones, pictured above, is one of four members of what he describes as "a jewellery cooperative" which has up to now been based at Otterton Mill where designer Steve Whitford set up his handcrafted jewellery business.

Now the venture has expanded, launching Whitford Jones as a new name on the High Street last Saturday 13 November. Jewellers Ann Bruford and Zsuzsi Morrison are the other members of the quartet. Each has his or her own particular style of workmanship.

South Africa-born Jason, 39, started off as a graphic designer before moving into jewellery design 15 years ago, learning his new skills in what he calls "the school of hard knocks" rather than following a formal college course. Clearly he has no regrets about his change of direction. "Graphic design is flat," he told me. "This is exciting 3D work full of movement and dynamic challenge."

As well as undertaking bespoke commissions, Jason specialises in repairing and recycling damaged items of jewellery, enjoying the process of discussing with clients how new pieces could be created by adapting existing materials.

Jason Richard Jones, jeweller, can be contacted at Whitford Jones, 4 High Street, Budleigh Salterton, Devon EX9 6LQ Mobile: 07980234857
To contact Steve Whitford at Otterton Mill click on

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Christmas jollity to look forward to

Christmas decorations appeared weeks or even months ago and I got my first Christmas card in mid-November.

In Budleigh Salterton's Cape Cod sister-town they're gearing up for the Brewster for the Holidays event, a three-day weekend jamboree with its own website promoting a host of activities: concerts, and of course shopping: the Brewster General Store for example is open for three days from 6.30 am to 6.00 pm.

Here in Budleigh Salterton the festive season also starts on Friday 3 December with the Late Night Shopping event organised by the town's Chamber of Commerce. Santa Claus is scheduled to set out on his sleigh from the Public Hall at 6.00 pm and will make his way along the High Street. Children from St Peter's School will be singing carols around the Christmas Tree in Rolle Square and shops will be staying open until 9.00 pm.

Plenty of other entertainments are promised including Majorettes, Morris Men, Bellringing, a Singing Trio and a Carnival Float.

At Fairlynch Museum they'll have their own Christmas tree, a traditional gift made every year by Lord Clinton, the Museum's Patron. Entry to the Museum will be free from 6.00 - 8.00 pm. Mulled wine and mince pies will be served at a small cost.

Just a little further along the road Budleigh Salterton Art Club members will be selling unframed art in the entrance foyer of the Methodist Church, Budleigh Salterton The Methodist Church itself will be providing coffee and mince pies in aid of Action For Children (a National Children's Home Scheme).

If you feel like prolonging the holiday atmosphere and there's still room after all those mince pies, a short walk or drive along the River Otter will take you to Otterton Mill where you can indulge yourself the following day, Saturday 4 December between 11.00 am and 3.00 pm, with free tastings at the Christmas Fair's specialist stalls selling local festive goodies. Entry is free.

And then back to Budleigh in time for Imperial Productions' staging of Gigi in the Public Hall. 'Christmas Budleigh' is the affectionate name for the London-based company's annual long weekend spent in the South West, planned to coincide with the town's late-night Christmas shopping and general festive cheer. The musical runs for two performances only on Saturday 4 December 2010 at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm. Click on for further details.

The beauty of trees

Ponderosa Pines in the Rocky Mountains
Photo credit: Margaret Wilson

"What's the most beautiful thing in the world?" my uncle asked me.

As we waited for lunch in a hotel dining-room overlooking a London park ablaze with autumn colour, I wondered as a raw and immature 15-year-old what kind of reply he was expecting. "A naked woman?" I thought, tentatively, but of course didn't dare to suggest.

"A tree," he stated, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

I don't suppose that I displayed any reaction to his stunningly simple answer. But I've always remembered the scene, and I have to admit that trees have grown on me over the half century that has elapsed since that moment.

Michael Wilson has been, as he told us, "inspired by the beauty of trees" since the time he spent working at the University of Washington in Seattle 40 years ago. However it was also their grandeur, and the vastness of the forests that he and his wife Margaret trekked through, which were dominant themes in his talk on Monday 15 November to the Friends of Fairlynch Museum, in Budleigh Salterton.

'Trees of North America' began with a helpful slide showing us where Seattle was situated. In the background, 80 miles away, was the 14,410 ft Mount Rainier and below it the real subject of interest: the Cascade Mountains with their forests, stretching an immense distance from Canada in the north all the way down to California.

Dr Wilson explained that the great size of trees, such as the, the Sitka Spruce, Grand Fir and the Douglas Fir which often reaches up to 220 ft in height, is due to the average annual rainfall of 12 ft caused by rain laden winds from the Pacific. Among other extraordinary statistics mentioned in connection with this part of America was the age of the Giant Sequoias some of which have been reckoned to be 3,500 years old.

Then it was over to Newfoundland on the Eastern seaboard and down to Maine, where Dr Wilson explained how thousands of White Pine trees were felled over the centuries for the King's Navy.

We learnt of other varied uses to which the different timbers have been put, with Western Red Cedar being used for totem poles, dugout canoes, fencing and roof shingles. Spruce has been used in the manufacture of both violins and World War Two aircraft because of its strength and lightness, and the cellulose from Western Hemlock was used to make rayon. And there were plenty of other interesting details in the talk, such as the origin of Leylandii, the bane of many UK gardens.

Trees, he explained, were easier for him and Margaret to study rather than birds because "they don't move." On the other hand, they're less easy to photograph, being so tall. That didn't prevent him from showing some fascinating pictures, taken mostly by Margaret, including one of a sea of driftwood on the West coast, the immense trunk of a fallen Western Red Cedar, young brown bears in the wild learning how to catch salmon, logging using rivers, and the beautiful Fall colours of foliage from trees like the Scarlet Oak and the Sugar Maple on the eastern seaboard.

Dr Wilson was clearly fascinated by the lives of some of the 19th century botanists and adventurers who introduced these American trees to Europe. It was the Scottish naturalist Archibald Menzies (1754-1842) who first identified the Douglas Fir when he was ship’s surgeon and naturalist with Captain G. Vancouver during his round-the-world voyage. It was David Douglas (1798-1834) who came to the Pacific Northwest to ‘botanize’ for the Horticultural Society and who sent back specimens of this tree which were grown from seed to maturity in Scotland. He was an extraordinary character who was willing to accept extreme hardships such as he endured while exploring the forests of Oregon in search of the Sugar Pine. He came to a tragic early end, at the age of 36, when he fell into a bull pit while scrambling up a mountain in Hawaii.

The trees were the real stars of Dr Wilson's talk however. It was not difficult to understand the attraction that he feels, 40 years on, for that other world of vast green spaces, and for what he called "the joy of the American forest" standing in such stark contrast to the "horrid" aspects of an increasingly urbanised society.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

East Devon Green Party co-ordinator Sharon Pavey (third from left) with friends

Her Green Party gained only 1.5% of the East Devon constituency vote in the General Election of 6 May this year, but candidate Sharon Pavey declared that she was "over the moon" with the result, especially as the East Devon Green Party group was set up only in January 2010.

On Saturday 4 December the Greens are holding a Open Mic party to celebrate their first Christmas in East Devon and are keen for both members and non-members to attend. "This is also an opportunity for us to raise much needed funds to enable us to get Green councillors elected at the local elections next May, so we hope you can support the event," says Ms Pavey.

The Greens are hopeful of increasing their future support in East Devon following the dissension in LibDem party ranks after leader Nick Clegg's decision to join the Conervatives' David Cameron in forming a coalition government.

Ms Pavey believes that some potential Green voters in the constituency voted LibDem in an attempt to prevent Conservative MP Hugo Swire from winning a third time, but that they will by now have regretted their decision especially after the LibDem candidate resigned from his party. "Their LibDem choice Paull Robothan has ditched the party he was loyal to for 44 years, after they ditched him and went with the enemy," she wrote on her blog shortly after the election result.

Tickets for the Greens' Christmas event are £5 which includes a buffet meal with a range of veggie, vegan & non-veggie options, but guests are requested to bring their own drinks. "The mic will be open to anyone who wants to entertain us with music, song, dance, poetry and humour," they say. "We'll also be running a raffle on the night."

The celebrations start at 8.00 pm at Twyford House in Coburg Road, Sidmouth. For further details and to obtain a ticket contact Sharon Pavey on 07740973990 or email

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Coffee Morning for Budleigh Hospital

Budleigh Salterton's NHS Hospital continues to benefit from improvements helped by much community fund-raising as I wrote last year at

This year's annual fete organised by Budleigh Salterton Hospital's League of Friends raised £1836 for refurbishment of the Cowdry Ward. In the recent National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) inspections, Budleigh Salterton Hospital was judged to be ‘excellent’ for environment and cleanliness and was given an ‘excellent’ rating for the food served there.

The League of Friends is holding a coffee morning at 10.00 am on Saturday 20 November in the Peter Hall, behind St Peter's Church. There will be a white elephant stall, cakes and preserves, Christmas cards, books and raffles. Coffee and biscuits will be available.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Absurdly singular persons on stage

"I know that tartan skirt" I thought, on seeing the Salterton Drama Club's webpage about their next production at And sure enough, the name of Jenny Roberts on the cast list of Alan Ayckbourn's play Absurd Person Singular was familiar, as was that of her co-star Simon Blissett.

Not long after moving to the area I'd met this pair of what I imagined to be typical Budleigh Salterton eccentrics ready to make fools of themselves by raising money for charity on Comic Relief Day as described at

Since then I've realised that both are simply regular Drama Club members who enjoy making audiences laugh, whether on Budleigh Salterton High Street or in their Salterton Playhouse hidden down an alleyway off Station Road.

The three-act Ayckbourn comedy which made its London début in 1972 was last staged by the Salterton Drama Club ten years ago. This year's production, directed by Wendy Gomm, includes Mary Logan, Richard Gomm, David Holt and Dianne Nicholls as well as Jenny Roberts and Simon Blissett. They play three married couples whose changing fortunes we observe at a Christmas celebration in one of the couples' homes on successive Christmas Eves.

Absurd Person Singular is being staged at the Salterton Playhouse, starting with a matinée performance on Saturday 20 November at 2.30 pm and then running at 7.30 pm from Monday November 22 to Saturday November 27. Tickets at £7 are available at the Budleigh Salterton Tourist Information Centre, Fore Street. Telephone 01395 445275