Showing posts from January, 2010

Sounds of Nashville at Otterton

Otterton's historic mill just a few miles upstream from Budleigh Salterton has arranged a lively series of concerts and exhibitions for 2010. This Thursday 4 February sees American singer-songwriter Robby Hecht performing at 8.00 pm. "A truly original voice of new America with thoughtful songs blended with glorious melodies" is how he is described on the Mill's website.

Raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, Robby Hecht first began writing and performing while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, developing and pairing his soulful voice and unique finger-style guitar. After spending time living in Paris and San Francisco, including a period fronting the band AllDay Radio, he eventually returned to his home state, settling in Nashville.

A 2008 Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Winner, he has played folk/roots festivals across the country, sharing the stage with such legendary artists as Richie Havens, Greg Brown, and Patty Griffin, and garnering comparisons to early Jam…

A serenade with soap at new Budleigh Farmers Market

This banjo-player was giving a musical welcome to Budleigh Farmers' Market when I went to see how it had settled into its new location in the Rolle Mews car park.

Last Friday 29 January marked the town's first Farmers' Market of 2010, and it was fitting that the new decade should begin on an uplifting note for producers and customers, with a change of venue which seemed to be universally approved by everyone I met.

Gerald Sweetland, from Bovey's Down Farm near Colyton, couldn't have been more pleased in the new surroundings. "In the old location at the Brook Road car park we were stuck next to the public lavatories. There's no comparison," he told me.

Clive Gammon, from Tracey Mill trout farm in Honiton, was just as happy. He'd noticed lots of new customers that morning. "In the old location even many of the locals didn't know where we were," he said.

Dave Johnson, who runs Norsworthy Goats dairy products with his wife Marilyn near Credi…

Avoiding clerical errors

I enjoy noting similarities – and the occasional striking difference – between the way things are done here in Budleigh Salterton, and across the Atlantic in our sister-town of Brewster, Massachusetts.

So, knowing that the vicar of St Peter's parish church will be retiring in April this year, I was interested in an item that I came across in the November 2009 newsletter published by Brewster's First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, part of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

In Brewster, it seems, they've been looking for a new minister for some time now, and it's a quest which has involved much heart-searching.

Above: Brewster's First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church
Picture credit:

"Our survey and small group meetings showed that we are fairly open to our next parish minister being from any category of gender, race, age, class, sexual orientation, religion, or other classifications (with the exception of po…

A 7,000-mile stroll with the dogs

I spotted him this afternoon following us along the coast path as we stopped to admire the view from near Steamer Steps in Budleigh Salterton. "You look as though you're going a bit further than us," I said as he passed with his two black retrievers. And indeed he was. With that enormous rucksack he couldn't have been just taking the dogs for a walk. So in a way it was no surprise when he told us that he'd been following the coastline of Great Britain for almost a year, on foot.

And then I thought of the savagely hard winter we'd been having and saw the days-old stubble on his face, and realised that there was a bit of a story here. Indeed there was and is.

Ges Laker set out on his mammoth journey from Warsash in Hampshire on 31 January last year. His aims: to raise funds for a rather special charity, as well as to discover the coastal secrets of the UK. And I suppose also to keep fit, along with his two canine companions Phoebe and Sumo, the mother-and-son du…

A corps issue in election year

As I mentioned elsewhere winter storms have ravaged the east coast of America, including beaches at Budleigh Salterton's sister-town of Brewster on Cape Cod.

At Paines Creek Landing they've set to work to repair the damage, led by Brewster's Natural Resources Department. A group made up of the Department's staff and volunteers filled 1,500 sandbags, stacking them around the boulders to protect the landing.

I learnt that they were joined by a crew of AmeriCorps. Much appreciated no doubt: "1500 bags at 50 pounds a bag is 75,000 pounds, or a good 25 yards of sand. Makes for a long day..." as the Department's blog reflects.

Picture credit: Brewster's Department of Natural Resources blog site. See below.
And what an apt name for an organisation that prides itself on tackling jobs like this, defending America.

For Ameri…

A coastly affair

Our sister-town of Brewster on Cape Cod and Budleigh Salterton on the East Devon coast share many natural beauties common to seaside communities, with their unspoilt shorelines and their estuary landscapes, havens for wildlife. This stretch of peaceful coastline to the west of Budleigh may look like a dream beach, with that calm, incredibly blue sea lapping gently at the pebbles beneath wonderful red cliffs.

It's relatively empty, even in high summer. No wonder it's supposed to be one of the places where Diana, Princess of Wales, sought happiness during secret walks here with her lover James Hewitt.

And there's even a secluded section designated as a naturist beach where sun-worshippers can lie contentedly on the pebbles.

Diana, Princess of Wales, during a visit to Peterborough Photo credit: Chris White

But the latest news from the US eastern seaboard and Brewster's coastline reveals a less happy resemblance with Budleigh Salterton's. I read that a massive storm combine…

More green shoots, including some moss

I received a copy of a great little 12-page community newsletter the other day. It's in French of course, so I'll have to get the dictionary out.

More to the point it's got an article by that Jeremy Light with the Budleigh Salterton connection I mentioned the other day, all about the transition group that he helped to set up in his village in South-East France.

Pictured above is the Trièves region where Jeremy lives, situated high in the mountains near Grenoble. It's noted for its spectacularly beautiful scenery as well as for the variety of its wildlife, which includes many plants with medicinal properties.
Picture credit:

And by coincidence I noticed that Mossin' Annie from across the Atlantic in the US had commented on the timeliness of the above post which mentioned Transition Towns.

"We just had our first T-Town meeting in Brevard, NC, USA this week…

Devon Reds are really green

A herd of Devon Red cattle have been introduced to graze an area of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths near Budleigh Salterton. Picture courtesy of Devon Clinton Estates. For the full story, read on...

I wondered the other day whether Budleigh Salterton was beginning to follow a 'green' trend set by many environmentally-aware Devon towns who've embraced the 'transition' movement. But you could argue that our town has in fact been setting the trend for a caring approach to the natural world with its largely Budleigh-based Otter Valley Association, and - dare I say it? - its conservative outlook on matters such as beach-side development.

And of course, just a few miles inland, we've a convincing example of caring conservation in action in the shape of Devon Clinton Estates, a family-run business headed by the 23rd Baron Clinton, which is one of the major private landowners in the UK.

With interests in three business parks and residential pro…

Misterious insect on beach

A thick sea-fog was drifting in from the English Channel yesterday. This creature and I were alone on an otherwise deserted Budleigh beach.

"The robins must be getting desperate!"

[More bird stories following my posting about the golden plover on the beach, as well as the horrid story of birdcrime and cannibalism in Budleigh Salterton down on the banks of the River Otter as featured on the BBC's 'Snow Watch.'

The big freeze seems like a bad dream now that the first signs of spring are here, but the memories of weird bird behaviour during the cold spell will remain.

My Budleigh correspondent Janet Parrish sent me this one, with these two great photos of an unusual garden visitor]

Yesterday morning I looked out of the bedroom window to see something with a red breast diving into the pond. I thought, "Heavens! I have never seen a robin dive before. It is going in after the fish. This must have been a hard winter indeed!"

It emerged and sat on the heron sculpture. "That's a funny looking robin," thought I. "Better put my glasses on... and get the binoculars out."

Imagine my surprise and delight to see it was no robin, but a …

Malcolm Wells (1926-2009) - a great and inspiring citizen of Brewster

Having just posted a few green-tinged items on my blog, I came across an obituary for one of Cape Cod's most respected 'green' thinkers and artists, the architect Malcolm Wells, who died on 27 November last year. A resident of Brewster, our sister-town, perhaps he may inspire people living in Budleigh Salterton to explore some of his ideas on underground living.

With the participation of many thousands of his admirers worldwide, the website was set up with Malcolm Wells' permission, although he denied taking any part in this endeavour, other than being an amused bystander.

The following material is taken from that source, where many examples of Malcolm Wells' work can be seen at

Malcolm Wells, or 'Mac' as he was known, is arguably the father of modern earth-sheltered architecture. He has done more to promote gentle building, energy conservation, and treading lightly on this earth, than any other proponent of geotecture, terratectur…

Budleigh's 'green shoots'?

Some people have suggested that Budleigh's first ever science festival is a case of jumping on the global warming bandwagon.

But could it be simply that Budleigh is following a 'green' trend set by many of its neighbouring towns?
Picture credit: Environmental protection agency

In 2006 Totnes in Devon became the first English town to officially align itself with the 'Transition' movement.

Followers of the movement base their thinking on the concept of 'peak oil', whereby they assume that the world has reached the point in time of maximum rate of global petroleum extraction, and that we now live in a period where the rate of production has entered terminal decline. Unhappily, they point out, the world is also facing the problem of climate change caused by carbon pollution of the atmosphere.

One answer, they believe, is for communities to develop in a spirit of self-sufficiency a coordinated range of projects across all the…

The scarlet lady of Stoneborough Court

Having just seen the beautifully acted and filmed version of The Painted Veil, based on Somerset Maughan's story of an unhappily married couple of ex-pats in the1920s, I was intrigued to see a request published in the local press which evoked a real-life marital scandal of that period involving a former Budleigh resident.

According to one of her neighbours in Stoneborough Court on East Budleigh Road, Gwendoline Croysdale (1898-1985), known by her friends as Gwen, was "still tall, elegant and well dressed in her later years." As one would only expect on seeing portraits of this beautiful socialite by fashionable 1920s painters and photographers. I found myself comparing them with Naomi Watts' screen performance of the unfaithful wife in The Painted Veil, forced by her husband as a punishment for her infidelity to accompany him to a cholera-struck backwater of British colonial China.

Depending on your point of view, Gwen Croysdale, also known at various stages of her l…