Monday, 29 March 2010

Landowner's star performance on environment

Queen Elizabeth I, a portrait by the 16th century Exeter-born artist Nicholas Hilliard

Its history goes back to the period of the Tudor monarchs of England and the age of the first Queen Elizabeth, but as an organisation, with headquarters just outside Budleigh Salterton alongside the Bicton Arena equine site, it's keeping up with the most demanding of 21st century standards.

Dalditch Common, looking south to Lyme Bay
Since moving to Devon I've been impressed by the organised look of the landscape - well cared for but not too manicured. Now I read that Clinton Devon Estates, one of the South West's largest landowning companies managing 25,000 acres of Devon countryside including most of the land around Budleigh Salterton, has been told that it's among the best companies to work for in Britain and the very best nationally for its efforts to protect the environment.

A small-bordered fritillary butterfly, one of the many wildlife attractions to be spotted on the commons outside Budleigh Picture credit: Devon Clinton Estates
The company has achieved the top accolade (3* status) as part of the Best Companies Accreditation 2008 and is one of only 48 organisations to achieve this grade. The Sunday Times Top 100 Companies To Work For in the UK is based on the Best Companies research and the results for small companies were published at the beginning of March.

A special project undertaken by Clinton Devon Estates has been the improvement of the Dartford warbler's breeding habitat Picture credit: Peter Beesley
As part of this year's assessment, its staff were asked to rate their company's efforts to protect the environment. With a 92% score, Clinton Devon Estates secured top position nationally. It was also ranked third best in Britain in the category of 'Giving Something Back' as a result of working closely with local communities and providing affordable housing. The Estates let approximately 350 residential properties in East and North Devon, ranging from small cottages in village locations to larger farm and country houses in their own grounds. Many of the properties provide an essential resource for local families who would otherwise find it impossible to afford to live in the villages where they were born and brought up.

Public access is seen as important in CDE's land management strategy
John Varley, Estates Director of Clinton Devon Estates, who recently gave a talk about the future challenges that the company may face in the Lower Otter Valley at Budleigh Salterton's Annual Town Meeting, commented on the company's recent sucess: "This is a fantastic achievement - we have always been proud of our record as an ethical company with the highest standards of people management and this recognition is a marvellous boost for our team.

A sloe worm: another protected species which flourishes in the area
Picture credit: Devon Clinton Estates

"To be recognised for our efforts in protecting the environment and putting something back into society is a great accolade. Clinton Devon Estates is very proud of its heritage and places great importance on protecting and enhancing the countryside and communities here in Devon."

Devon Red cattle have been introduced by Clinton Devon Estates to graze an area of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths as part of a year-long trial into sustainable land management
Picture credit: Devon Clinton Estates

Clinton Devon Estates has 75 full and part time local employees who work in various farming and forestry enterprises including the Beer and Clinton Estates in East Devon and the Heanton Estate in North Devon. It also encompasses four business parks, residential property holdings plus a number of small businesses and a portfolio of commercial property investments across the South West.

In total 653 British companies applied to achieve "Star Status" - 307 were awarded stars, only 48 have been awarded 3* status.

Woodland management, but it's not just about timber production
Forestry Manager John Wilding has worked for Clinton Devon Estates for 10 years.
"I work in woodland management which is a very long term affair and this is a family business which thinks in the long term when it comes to stewardship of its land and assets," he says. "In UK forestry we have species which take 50 to 80 years to mature. Clinton Devon Estates have been in forestry for 400 years and understand the time scales involved, a rare thing in the modern business world."

"Clinton is also about diversity - these forests are not just for timber production but also for wildlife and public recreation. I work within a team of people who manage different facets of the business including farmland and heathland yet we all work together under the Clinton umbrella which is a great benefit in creating a diverse environment for wildlife and people."

For more information about Clinton Devon Estates click on

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Exeter Bach Society concert in April

I'm told that a forthcoming Exeter Bach Society concert of musical favourites including Handel's Zadok the Priest and Rutter's Gloria is very ususual as well as stirring.

Why unusual? "Well, it is largely accompanied by only brass and percussion," says Chris Parrish, co-chairman of the Society, who lives in Budleigh. "Almost all the music, like John Rutter's Gloria was written this way but at least one, Zadok the Priest, has been arranged for this combination."

"The whole concert is very exciting," says Chris. "If you do not know the Rutter, come to hear it. It is quite unlike his Christmas Carols!"

The Exeter Bach Society Choir will be accompanied by Farnaby Brass Percussion, with tenor John Pearce and organist Jonathan Watts. The conductor is Budleigh Salterton's Nicholas Marshall, the Society's Director of Music.

The programme, on Saturday 17 April 2010, 7.30 pm, at the Mint Church in Fore Street, Exeter, includes other works by J.S. Bach, Bruckner, Gabrielli, Purcell, Mendelssohn, Buxetehude and Nicholas Marshall himself.

Tickets: £10, unreserved, may be purchased from Exeter Visitor Information & Tickets (Tel: 01392 211080), in Dix’s Field, Exeter; Opus Classical in the Guildhall Centre (Tel: 01392 214044); members of the Exeter Bach Society; online through the Society's website at or by phoning Roger Churchward on 01392 468867. Also at the door before the performance. Wheelchair access.

Triassic lizard finds new home in Fairlynch

How a rhynchosaur would have looked in real life
Picture credit:

A re-thatched roof and properly working central heating system will create just the right conditions for a new resident of Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre.

We all know that lizards like basking in the warm sunshine, and Budleigh's links to the Triassic Period some 200 to 250 million years ago are well-known, so Fairlynch trustees felt that a model of a rhynchosaur would be an appropriate addition to the Museum's Environment Room.

In fact the new arrival should feel very much at home in Budleigh. A skeleton of one of the lizard-like creatures was found just a few miles away from us in the Sidmouth area some years ago.

Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre with its newly thatched roof

David Hone, a vertebrate palaeontologist working in Beijing on dinosaur behaviour, made that particular specimen the subject of his doctoral thesis. He describes rhynchosaurs as happy little herbivorous reptiles, noting that they are also called chisel lizards because of their bizarre ‘tusks’ at the front of the jaws.

"These look rather like giant incisors and as a result give them a bit of a rabbit-like appearance, but these things aren’t teeth," he explains. "In fact they are just modified jaw bones - the premaxilla above and dentary below - that in life would have stuck out through the flesh of the animal to form these pseudo teeth. In fact you can see marks on the bones where the skin would have stopped and the bony protrusion started."

"There is a general consensus that rhyncosaurs were basically pig-a-likes grubbing around for roots and tubers which they dug up with the strong legs and big claws and then chomped through with their tusks and grinding teeth."

There is more information at

It is thought that rhynchosaurs died out suddenly at the end of the Carnian (Middle of the Late Triassic period), perhaps as a result of the extinction of the Dicrodium flora on which they may have fed.

A new genus of rhynchosaur from the Middle Triassic of South-West England by Dr Hone and Professor Michael Benton of Bristol University was published in Palaeontology, Volume 51, Number 1, January 2008, pp.95-115.

An example of bobbin lace
Picture credit:

Other new items on display at Fairlynch include a Nottingham machine lace designer's workbook and drawings, together with examples of handmade bobbin lace compared with machine made lace.

Picture: One of Joyce Dennys' illustrations from her book Henrietta's War

The museum is celebrated for its substantial costume collection.
The current theme of 'Children' is being touched on with exhibits from Fairlynch's collection of art work, including reproductions of work by Sir John Millais and book illustrations by former Budleigh residents Joyce Dennys and Cecil Elgee.

Fairlynch Trustees hope that a new Chairman will be appointed soon to succeed Sonia Stone, who has moved away from the Budleigh area.
The new season will begin on Easter Saturday, 3 April 2010, with doors opening from 2.00 - 4.30 pm. This is probably the only Saturday opening of the season. Usual opening hours will be Sunday through to Friday, 2.00 - 4.30 pm.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

News from Barbara Hageman's Easel: Spring in the Air

Paintings by Barbara Hageman
Garden Ready Oil 9" x 12" $345.00 Sold

[A correspondent in Brewster, our sister-town on Cape Cod, writes with news of how the effects of the severe weather over there will be having an effect on her work as a painter. And naturally there's also information here on how to acquire her paintings.

Barbara DuBois Hageman trained in classical painting and drawing techniques at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, in Connecticut. In addition, she holds both Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Connecticut.

Barbara's paintings include images of the beautiful landscapes of New England's shorelines, farmland, forests, and mountains. She particularly enjoys including people, particularly children, in her works.

In addition to her on-line website, her works can be found on Cape Cod at Birdsey-on-the-Cape, in Osterville, MA, at 12 Wianno Avenue. In Connecticut, you can find her full range of works at the Left Bank Gallery Essex, in Essex, CT at 10 Main Street.

Barbara’s work has also been exhibited at: The Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, MA; The Creative Arts Center, Chatham, MA; The Lyme Art Association, Old Lyme,CT; The Lyme Academy College of Fine Art. You can comment about her current works at her online blog:

I've never been to Cape Cod, but Barbara's paintings are among the many images of the area which inspire me to go there one day.]

It might not yet be fully green where you are, but after a long winter of storms here on Cape Cod, it seems like Spring is getting a grip. The ground is workable and my cold crop vegetable seeds are now in the garden: broccoli, beets, mesclun lettuce, early onions, radishes and two types of peas. Early optimism makes me think there will be both great salad and subjects for still life paintings in the next month or two!

This winter, storms shifted some of Cape Cod's coastline. The vistas I painted last year now look quite different! Dunes were flattened. Some areas now have sheared-off cliffs where gentle sloping dunes used to allow access to the beach. In a few cases, a long walk over dunes to beach access is now a short walk to the water! Both bay and ocean encroached into some waterfront properties, making high tide much more interesting for some. Environmentally, some of the coastal inlets have been flushed thoroughly providing opportunities for more marine life. In other cases, new walkways need to be built, because beach access will be different.

Beyond The Dunes Oil on Panel 12" x 6" Sold
At Nauset Beach in Orleans, it can be a hike from the car over rolling dunes to the crashing surf beyond. This is one of the paths taken by the Cape Cod surfers who love the Atlantic rollers at Nauset and Coast Guard Beaches.

Here is one Nauset dune painting done last Spring. Next to it is the hotlink to my YouTube video which shows the difference as a result of the early 2010 storms. Click on the link to see the winter action:
Cape Cod Nauset Beach Winter Dune Shift

View of the beach plum bloom in May along Cape Cod Bay at dawn.
Oil on Canvas 16" x 20" $775.00 Available

Winter provided some other surprises too. On the Bay side of the Cape, one of my favorite spots is Crosby Landing. Last year, I painted this view of the walkway while the beach plums were in bloom in May. Then, during the summer, I created a little pochade of the same walkway. So seeing the winter view in my YouTube video is quite a contrast!

Study for Saturday By The Sea With The Kids Oil on Canvas 8" x 10"
$325.00 Available

Here's the YouTube video link showing you Crosby's wintery vista after a light snowfall.
Crosby Landing, Brewster, Cape Cod, MA after a light snowfall.

Lined Up For Spring Oil on Panel 15" x 30" Sold
The hand-blown glass bud vases were commissioned by the artist specifically for this work.

BUT winter is now behind us, although as I write this, my view to the yard is filled with Spring snowflakes! I'm turning my sights to my trademark floral window views as the garden fills with flowers from the many bulbs I planted last Fall. Daffodils are starting, crocuses are blooming at full tilt, and pansies are ready for the picking. These views are always unique because blooms show up in the garden at slightly different times every year. Then, I find a new vase or two over the winter, so every work is becomes one-of-a-kind. In the past, I've done views like this one, and next week I'll do a variation - the frame is already set for it.

By the way, I'm finishing a 36"x48" cranberry bog painting and in the next newsletter, I'll show you the result, along with a video of the process I used to create it!

Meanwhile, Ted and I are prepping many painting panels for small and affordable works that will be available both on my website and at my galleries this summer: 4x6, 6x8, and 8x10, along with 9x12 will all be available.

Is it time to acquire another work for your collection? I received an email from one of my galleries yesterday saying a client who saw a painting last Spring thinks that she wants to acquire it for this coming Father's Day. So while you should keep watching my site for what's new, there are still several gems to be had thanks to the slow economy. Happily, sales are picking up and that is a good indicator that the economy may be doing the same.

Below are two works of Nauset Beach that are still available. Each is an 8"x10" pochade, and each was done en plein air. Both represent views that existed before the winter storms shortened the walk to the water line for the painting on the left, and deepened the dune descent by Liam's Clam shack for the painting on the right. These views are now very special memories!

Morning Commute Oil on Panel
8" x 10" $345.00 Available

Clam Roll and a Coke Oil on Panel 8" x 10" $345.00 Available

Of course, don't hesitate to let me know if you have something in mind that would be a commissioned work. Commissions are collaborative partnerships and I love them! They allow you and I to create a family heirloom that is yours and yours alone.

One last piece of good news for you: I'm now uploading some images from my private collection to FineArtAmerica, where you can choose an image to convert into a framed print, a canvas-wrapped giclee, or a framed giclee. You choose from a variety of frame and matting combinations that work for your home. You order directly from the site and the work comes directly to your doorstep. Please take a look:

Barbara's print reproduction options at Fine Art America

Barbara's website is at
Barbara Hageman Fine Art 31 Omaha Road Brewster, MA 02631 USA

Text and images copyright 2009 by Barbara DuBois Hageman, all rights reserved.

Friday, 26 March 2010

East Devon Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats, often shortened to Lib Dems, are a centrist to centre-left social liberal British political party. The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party. The two parties had formed the electoral SDP-Liberal Alliance for seven years before then. The party's leader is Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems, with 63 MPs, are the third-largest party in the House of Commons, behind the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. They are relatively strong in SW England, beating Labour by winning three out of the 11 parliamentary constituencies which make up the county of Devon in the 2005 General Election.

Promoting social liberalism, the Liberal Democrats voice strong support for constitutional reform, civil liberties, and higher taxes for public services. Although the party objects to state limitations on individual rights, it does favour a welfare state that provides for the necessities and amenities of life. Lib Dems support multilateral foreign policy, opposing British participation in the War in Iraq and supporting the withdrawal of troops from the country. They are the most pro-European Union of the three main parties in the UK. The party has strong environmentalist values—favouring renewable energy and commitments to deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Since their foundation, Lib Dems have advocated electoral reform to use proportional representation, hoping to replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber.

Paull Robathan, 61, has had over 35 years' experience of working in a wide range of environments including the NHS, international business, universities and local government. Originally from Wales, he studied for an MBA at London Business School and was Visiting Fellow at Imperial College. He is a Fellow of the British Computer Society and a Chartered IT Professional. A former Leader of South Somerset District Council, he is particularly proud of his work with the Somerset Waste Partnership, a national leader in reducing waste and increasing recycling. As a District Councillor, he is Chairman of South Somerset Together, the Local Strategic Partnership recognised in February 2010 as the best in the country. He is a Board Member of Raglan Housing, one of the leading Housing Associations in the UK with many homes in the South West, and is a Governor of Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust at Musgrove Hospital, Taunton. He and his wife Margaret have two grown-up children.

The East Devon Liberal Democrats' website is at

1. What benefits from your heavy involvement in local government do you think you would bring to East Devon voters, were you to be elected as their MP?

I understand how MPs and Councillors can work together, and where they must defer to each other. Case work is a complex and sensitive aspect of our work but is made much easier by effective collaboration within the frame of data protection and personal freedom. Knowing how to interact with Council Officers, and for them to know 'where I am coming from' eases the way to resolving constituents' issues quickly. I also have many years' experience as Chairman of the Local Strategic Partnership and that has opened up many ways in which I have built strong working links with Natural England, National Trust, Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency and many others.
2. Your election agent Tim Dumper did rather well in previous General Elections when he stood as the Lib Dem candidate, beating Labour into third place in both 2005 and 2001, and was at one time listed as Parliamentary Spokesperson, East Devon. Why is he not standing as a candidate, and why did you put yourself forward on this occasion?
Tim chose not to stand some time ago, indeed we had another candidate for some time. When I discovered that East Devon was without a candidate, but had such a strong support base and a vibrant party organisation I put myself forward and was thrilled both to be selected and for Tim to come forward as my agent.
3. The Lib Dems website states that your party understands rural Britain like no other party, and makes this pledge. "We will reform farming apprenticeships to ensure there is a new generation of British farmers." How would this be done in a rural constituency like East Devon farmers?
By introducing a lower limit for farm payments of £300 through the Rural Payments Scheme – we would save up to £20million, remove the clutter in the system that leads to payment delays and reallocate funds to support farm apprenticeship schemes including a £7million hill farming apprenticeship scheme to ensure that our uplands have a strong, vibrant and youthful future. (Thanks Tim Farron). We do need to ensure that Bicton College continues to provide excellent training and education, and expand the provision.

Lib Dems boast that they understand rural Britain like no other party

4. You've come from South Somerset District Council. What impact do you feel you've made already in the East Devon constituency?
In two weeks it's difficult to judge. It is both coincidental and fortunate that SSDC and EDDC are working through a management integration designed to reduce costs in the back office to preserve front line services in a time of deep cuts in central funding. I will work with both Councils where I can.
5. One of your rivals describes the East Devon constituency as having "breathtaking scenery" and mentions that "the area is home to a large number of retired pensioners" helping "to make East Devon a comfortable, quiet resort area." I would hope that there is a bit more to the constituency than that! How do you see East Devon? How would you build on its strengths and combat its weaknesses, if any?

Some of East Devon's breathtaking scenery:
Budleigh Salterton's red cliffs to the west of the town

True, but hardly the complete picture. I have not looked at any other responses before completing this, so I am relying on your summary. Young people are a significant component of our population. I spoke to a sizeable number of them at Exmouth Community College just this week and their fears are for the planet, the cost of education, and just who has the right answers to the economic situation we find ourselves in. The constituency is home to many many small businesses, working hard to deliver high quality services in tourism, farming, light industry, retail and many others – it's my job to make sure they get access to loans, support from agencies and are recognised for what they are, the lifeblood of the local economy. Developments at Exeter and East Devon Growth Point are potentially in a different league; my experience of business start ups, innovation and technology should prove useful.
6. On the Lib Dem Voice website at I read the view that, compared with Labour and Conservative MPs' behaviour "it looks like the Lib Dem expense claims are – relatively speaking – minor." Could one ascribe this to the fact that the Liberal Democrats are, generally speaking, a more morally upright bunch than their main rivals?

You could say that, I can't possibly comment. I do know that London Lib Dems do not claim for second homes and go home at night. There is not a culture of 'we are in it for what we can get', it's more 'we are in it for what we can do to make things better'.

Lib Dems: "More morally upright than their rivals?"

7. You've joined Exmouth Online on Facebook, have kept a blog since 2004, and you have an IT background. What safeguards would a Liberal Democrat government adopt to avoid some of the recently publicised and sometimes hilarious disasters involving supposedly secure information on disk, in areas such as the NHS or defence for example?
Paul Robothan: a background in IT
Government IT projects have become the bane of people's lives. Over-complexity is a sin. Projects need to be broken down into realistic components and managed tightly. My background is partly in managing complex global IT projects on time and budget – it can be done, but the targets must be set and kept to; the more there is political interference once a project is established the worse it's likely to get.
8. "If you want things to be different, really different, choose the party that is different - the Liberal Democrats" we are told on the Party's website. How would you briefly summarise for voters the differences between your Party and the Labour and Conservative Parties?
We have developed a complete set of costed, deliverable programmes. We are happy to spell them out and discuss them – not hide in the long grass without revealing our cards in case someone steals our ideas. I want our ideas to be implemented, I will praise anyone who does, whether we are in power or not.
9. The Lib Dems make this accusation on their website: "The Conservatives cannot offer real change. They are mistrustful of international cooperation with an out-dated world view. They do not understand the need for close cooperation with allies in a globalised world. They want to pull up the drawbridge, leaving British foreign policy isolated and impotent." Would you like to explain the truth of this accusation, with some examples?
Referring to Ming Campbell and Ed Davey is the easy answer: they both have huge respect in the international community and a deep understanding of the issues. Graham Watson has been a stalwart in the European Parliament and I would listen to him any time he wanted to advise me. Personally I cannot see how a world as interconnected as ours now is can function effectively without cooperation at all levels. My work across the globe has led me to realise that there are committed, responsible leaders in every society, we must work with them.

Above: The European Parliament in Brussels. Lib Dems say that they understand the need to work with allies in a globalised world

10. Your biography makes no mention of hobbies, though I've discovered mention of your Somerset vineyard on your blog What other hobbies do you have time for in your busy life and what do you enjoy about them?
I do indeed have a small organic vineyard in Somerset; we have produced Regional Quality wine from Pinot Noir grapes, and will I hope produce a lot more. My other interests span Welsh Rugby (I was born in Cardiff and played 2nd division rugby in Wales), music (modern Folk music such as Fairport Convention and Tom Paxton, 'folk rock' such as Eagles and Storys, and classical music including Katherine Jenkins and many others). My third major interest is genealogy. I am a member of the Institute of Genealogists and have studied my family in some depth (there is another blog – – with some of the data). The reason my first name is Paull with two lls is that my great-grandmother and all her antecedents were from the West Country: Somerset, Devon and Cornwall; on the Robathan side I can trace my family back to 1549 and the Western Rebellion and beyond to the early 1400s.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Green Party in East Devon: looking forward to "a very exciting time."

The Green Party of England and Wales describes itself as one of the oldest Green political parties in the world and has been campaigning for social and environmental justice for more than 30 years.

It was founded in 1973 as 'People', became the 'Ecology Party' shortly afterwards and finally changed its name to the Green Party in 1985.

The Greens believe that it is human activity, more than anything else, which is threatening the well-being of the environment on which we depend, and that conventional politics has failed us because its values are fundamentally flawed.

Sharon Pavey in Morocco where she raised £2000 for Rainbow Trust Children's Charity in 2008

Sharon Pavey, 37, is the Green Party candidate for East Devon. Originally from North Yorkshire/County Durham she has lived in different parts of the UK, including Liverpool, Sussex, and Bristol where she met her husband Dan. Her various jobs have included working as a veterinary nurse, a library assistant, a student counsellor, and in the theatre. In 2008 she moved to the countryside outside Honiton, where Dan had grown up. They have two children: Natasha, 8, and Alexander, 4, and run a family business selling toys. Sharon's interests include fund-raising for Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity; she is also a keen communicator about 'green' issues at local and wider levels via her website at

There is now an East Devon Green Party Facebook site at

Pictured are founder-members of East Devon's Green Party

1. You joined the Green Party only in Autumn 2009. Which party had you supported previously, if any, and what made you change?

Like many people I'd followed politics in the news for most of my adult life, but never actually joined a political party. I'd voted Labour a couple of times but not in the 2005 election as I didn't feel particularly motivated to vote for anyone. Although I'd always been interested in 'green' issues, I think like most mums, having children and working has taken up most of my time over the past few years!

However, my ears started to prick up as I heard more and more about how serious the climate change crisis was becoming. The run up to the Copenhagen climate change conference saw increased coverage of environmental issues and I felt very strongly that I needed to 'do' something to ensure my children had a secure future. I decided that I could try to play a part in changing things politically.

2. This will be the first time that the Green Party has been represented in the East Devon constituency. Why now?

I think the Greens stood for East Devon back in the eighties actually, long before all the other parties started creating their own environmental polices.

I'm certainly the first Green prospective parliamentary candidate in East Devon this century though, and very proud to be part of the new East Devon Green Party.

Like many other local Green Party branches across the country, support is gaining quite a momentum lately, especially as we are expecting to see at least one Green MP in Parliament this year. It's a very exciting time.

Above: Sharon Pavey, right, with Isaac Price-Sosner of the Exeter Green Party, and Paula Black, Totnes Green County Councillor and Green Party candidate for Exeter.

3. The Lib Dems secured almost a third of the votes (30.7%) in the last General Election (2005) with an increase of 0.4%. They seem to be the main threat to the Conservative majority (46.9%) of sitting MP Hugo Swire. Given that the Lib Dems share many of the Green Party aims, aren't you in danger of reducing the 'green liberal' vote?

The Lib Dems have repeatedly shown themselves to be an ineffective opposition party in East Devon. I believe the Green Party will offer a more viable opposition.

Many political parties have now adopted Green Party policies to boost their own credentials. The Greens were talking and acting on the environment first and we are the only party who are serious about making this a fair and equal society with real commitment to the serious challenge of climate change.

4. I've looked at the Green Party policies website
It's impressively comprehensive. Do you think that there might be aspects of it which might not appeal in a largely conservative constituency like East Devon?

The Green Party Policies are impressively comprehensive. We are a serious political party with an inspirational leader in Caroline Lucas who is ahead in the polls over in Brighton, and should open the doors for the Green Party in The House of Commons.

I think there are many parts of Green Party policy which will actually mean something to all voters, irrespective of their political leanings in previous elections. We believe in providing more jobs, through investing in green industries. We will raise pensions and push for a 'living wage'. We oppose cuts to the NHS and would give free social care and support to older people. We would axe New Labour's ID card scheme and improve public transport and bring the costs of travelling on it down.

5. The Green Party, as opposed to UKIP, is probably the most internationalist of our political parties, with strong links to European equivalents. Do you have a special relationship with Green Parties e.g. in France? The Devon-Normandy twinning links would probably be worth exploiting from your point of view. What do you think?

A green 'entente cordiale' for East Devon?
I think this is a wonderful idea Michael, and although our East Devon Green Party has only been up and running since January 2010, we already have plans to 'twin' with another Green Party group in Europe. Our Green MEPs have done a fantastic job in Europe over the past few years and we can only build on that success.

Although the Greens are internationalist, we do believe that the EU should be transparent and accountable. It should respect the ability of people to make decisions about their own communities.

6. The Green Party website states: "On inspection, there is little or no threat of direct invasion of the UK by any nation. Commitment to a large standing army, a navy of large warships around our coastline, squadrons of fighter planes and a cripplingly expensive missile defence system is therefore unnecessary." Do you think that the future for Britain lies in being a middle or low-ranking power, alongside the likes of Italy and Spain, with no pretensions to a world leadership role?

Picture: The Royal Navy's HMS Somerset
"The Green Party do not want to abolish our armed forces."

The Green Party believes that the first objective of all government policy should be to provide real, sustainable human security, however this cannot be achieved through military aggression. The defence budget needs to be sufficient in order to ensure security. We do not agree with the Government's plan to spend more than £25 billion on renewing the nuclear weapon system.

As for power, it depends how you define it really. I'd like to see a powerful UN with Britain as a strong part of that. I'd like to see Britain at the forefront of securing binding global agreements against all weapons of mass destruction. I'd like to be part of a powerful and humanitarian Britain which uses its military force in conflict resolution situations and emergency relief.

7. Do you think that the Green Party's relatively pacifist stand might not go down well in this part of Devon with its strong military traditions - retired service people, strong Royal British Legion, Royal Marines base at Lympstone and so on?

I understand Devon has strong military traditions and my own family are no different from many other families with current and retired family members in the armed forces. Waiting months for my younger brother to return safely from Afghanistan made me think much more about why our forces were there in the first place.

The Green Party do not want to abolish our armed forces but we do think that the billions spent in this area are simply not necessary. Let's invest that money elsewhere.

8. Do you anticipate picking up votes from people disillusioned by the main political parties and the expenses scandal? Would the Green Party be 'whiter than white' in that respect?

Picture: Prime Minister's Question Time in the House of Commons
Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament
© Parliamentary copyright

The Green Party wants to fundamentally change the way the political system works in this country to make it a fairer, more open and more accountable system. As for who is going to vote Green in the General Election, I've already met quite a few people who are fed up with the all the other 'grey' politicians and want a change. I'm very excited to be the only female candidate in East Devon too. In fact the majority of the Green candidates in Devon are women, which is very important in this day and age where only one in five MPs are women.

9. What plans do you have for making yourself better known in the constituency? I'm following your blog, and I'm impressed by your commitment to an internet presence.

Thank you Michael. I've been writing blog articles for years now so it seems only natural to channel my thoughts on local issues into the blog.

It's a great way of letting everyone know what I'm involved in especially in a predominantly rural area, where many people are keeping connected online.

We've already been holding open meetings in the East Devon constituency and we have more meetings and street stalls planned, in Ottery St. Mary, Sidmouth and Exmouth. The local papers have picked up on our presence and I've already been invited to local events and to support local groups and issues. I think our MPs should be listening a lot more so I'm getting out and about to hear what the people of East Devon want from their prospective MP.

Unlike the other main parties, we do not have a large campaign budget so we're relying on our wonderful members and supporters to let East Devon know the Greens are here!

10. Wind farms in Devon's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty? How do you really feel about this issue?

As someone who lives in the AONB area, I feel very strongly that we need to do all we can to preserve our beautiful countryside but we also need to do all we can to preserve our amazing planet. Fossil fuels are running out and the temperature of the earth is rising due to an increase in greenhouse gases. We have to incorporate renewable energy (and energy efficiency) into all our communities.
The AONB areas may not be suitable for large scale wind farms, but we can support any efforts to invest in small scale (microgenerators) wind turbines.
I know a few of the East Devon village halls for example are looking to converting to solar or wind power to replace their use of oil and electricity and farms are being strongly encouraged to invest in renewable energy.

Time for a springclean

A message from the Otter Valley Association:

Otter Estuary - Litter Pick - Sat 27 March - 10.00am
Free parking, no dogs, but everyone else welcome.
Wellies or boots, and gloves needed.

Spellbound in Budleigh and Brewster

Brewster, our sister-town on Cape Cod, continues to surprise me. Like Budleigh Salterton it seems to be a tidy community which doesn't like too much change.

It's full of citizens who take their responsibilities seriously and contribute wholeheartedly to the common good.

I imagine that the churches are full on Sundays, and looking at the links page on this site you can see that there are certainly enough of them to satisfy most people's spiritual desires.
Above: Brewster's Northside Methodist Church

The Brewster landscape seems to be dotted with those delightful little white spires which one associates with the archetypal New England place of worship.

From Roman Catholics to Lutherans, from Baptists to those admirably progressive UUs who gather in their magnificent First Parish 18th century meeting house, almost every religious taste is catered for.

Budleigh Salterton too is a thriving community of caring and friendly people who are happy with the way things are.

As befits a town known by some as 'God's waiting room' it is similarly well provided with churches.
I love this little Baptist church in the hamlet of Knowle, to the west of the town, its classical early 19th century lines contrasting gently with its arcadian setting.

The Temple Methodist church on Fore Street, is of much later construction.

But that doesn't stop me thinking of its founder, the 18th century Dissenter and wealthy London bookseller James Lackington, who boldly faced down hostility from the local aristocrats of the Established Church of England.

Less noteworthy architecturally but worth the photograph if only because of this sign, outside the building on Station Road, is the Evangelical Church on Station Road with its appropriately named pastor.

Of course my favourite has to be East Budleigh's All Saints' Church.
It's a lovely centuries-old building where the young Walter Raleigh and his family worshipped in the early days of the English Reformation and the Tudor monarchs.

What came as a surprise to me while surfing over Brewster for the millionth time was to discover a group which, like other churchgoers, meets on Sundays - on the last Sunday of each month - but in the even more arcadian setting of Nickerson State Park. A few miles out of town, you're instructed to turn right down a dirt road with a painted sign leading to a car park. Then keep walking down the dirt road until you see... what, a church?

No, what you see is "a large green yurt," and a group of up to 75 people taking part in activities which might include a fire circle, sauna, hot tub, chanting, drumming, dancing, swimming, meditation, prayer, and discussion.

This is Cape Cod Community Daré, the word 'Daré' (pronounced ‘dar-ray’) being an African Shona term indicating a sacred gathering for healing purposes.

The group came together following a visit to Zimbabwe in 2001 by two Brewster residents, Wilderness Sarchild and Chuck Madansky. There they met Mandaza (Augustine) Kandemwa, pictured here, a Bantu shaman or medicine man. A former anti-apartheid activist, educated in the western traditions of what was then colonial-era Rhodesia, Mandaza, as the Daré website puts it, "was called by the ancestors to the old ways and taught the exceptional art and craft of being a true healer in the Shona and Ndebele traditions of Zimbabwe, initiated into the ngoma of the water spirits - the Central African tradition of healing and peacemaking."

The first Daré gathering at Brewster took place in January 2002. Interested readers can browse the website to gain a more complete picture of the group's activities, but it's clear that the first principle stresses the importance of resurrecting forces which all too often in today's busy world we have lost. As they put it, "Daré begins by calling in the spirits. Everything depends on this. The invocation allows Spirit to inform the participants. It creates a field of knowing and remembering. Daré also centers on telling dreams and receiving dreams as gifts from the ancestors to the circle. Council and dreams are channels between the world of the living and the world of the invisibles."

The Daré community is not on any list of Cape Cod churches, and at first glance it seems unsuited to the colonial setting of New England. San Francisco maybe? But then I thought of the original inhabitants of this area, of their respect for the spirits and for nature.

That thought was perhaps prompted by the recent news that two Massachusetts Indian tribes, the Mashpee Wampanoag of Cape Cod and the Aquinnah Wampanoag of Martha’s Vineyard, have claimed that the 130 wind turbines being proposed in Nantucket Sound would spoil their spiritual ritual of greeting the sunrise and disturb ancestral burial grounds. “Here is where we still arrive to greet the new day, watch for celestial observations in the night sky and follow the migration of the sun and stars in change with the season,” wrote Bettina Washington, historic preservation officer for the Aquinnah Wampanoag, in a letter to federal officials.

It sounds like the kind of scenario that one might find at Stonehenge, Glastonbury or perhaps Totnes. But Budleigh Salterton? Surely not.

Picture: Winter solstice sunrise at Stonehenge, an event sacred for our ancestors.
Photo by Tarotastic

And then, a few days ago, a revelation. It came during the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Fairlynch, the town's museum.

After some routine business details about the Museum the guest speaker, Professor Chris Tilley, told us of the excavations that he had been carrying out on pebble cairns built by our Bronze Age ancestors on the pebblebed heaths, just a few miles north of Budleigh Salterton.

Picture: Professor Chris Tilley and his team at an excavation site outside Budleigh Salterton

Elsewhere on this site is a fuller description of his work, and especially of Professor Tilley's debt to the 1930s Budleigh Salterton archaeologist George Carter.

Carter had spent time in what is now present-day Pakistan, excavating pebble burial mounds which had been constructed according to sacred Vedic rites.

His theory, ridiculed at the time, was that the pebble cairns outside Budleigh Salterton, had been built in the same way and reflected similarly ritualistic activity involving fire. And now, it seems, George Carter was thinking on exactly the right lines, in a way that brings continents and cultures closer by contemplating the thoughts of our ancestors.

For the pebble cairns hidden away in the gorse and heather were built and can be lined up, according to Professor Tilley, specifically to mark the point of sunrise on 21 December, the winter solstice venerated not just at Stonehenge but all over the world since primeval times.

Nobody has suggested the building of a wind farm on the pebblebed heaths of Woodbury Common, but any such plans in the future may well come unstuck thanks to forces beyond our understanding. For Chris Tilley and his team of excavators are convinced that this corner of East Devon is as sacred in its way as Stonehenge. "We believe," they conclude, "that the pebbles were magical stones and the pebblebed heathlands were, and are, a magical landscape."

Herbs for health

Medicinal herbs and natural healing are the subject of a talk being given on Friday 26 March 2010 to Budleigh Salterton Garden Club by Simon Miles.

Simon Miles is a herbalist and iridologist based at Budock Water in Cornwall, where he has established The Herb Garden, specialising in organically produced plants noted for their medicinal properties. He has qualified as a Master Herbalist and also has a diploma in iridology, the study of the iris of the eye to determine the genetic predispositions of a person's health.

The talk is at 2.00 pm for 2.30 pm at Budleigh Salterton Football Club, Greenway Lane. Entry is £1.00 for Garden Club members and £2.00 for non-members.