Friday, 18 June 2010

A powerful idea for a sunny garden in Brewster

The solar energy plant at the US Air Force Base at Nellis, the second largest photovoltaic power plant in North America
Picture credit:

So our sister-town of Brewster on Cape Cod seems to be moving steadily towards the green goal of self-sufficiency in energy needs with a rather special type of gardening.

Brewster's Town Administrator Charles Sumner has described as "very appropriate" the idea of a solar garden on land owned by the town which would use the power of the sun to provide electricity.

The full story is at

Shalom from East Budleigh!

I've always been intrigued by the fact that two men who played such an important role in American colonial history were both born in the same East Devon village.

Most people know a bit about Sir Walter Raleigh and if you don't you can browse and to discover my fascination with this great Elizabethan.

Roger Conant also was born in East Budleigh, just a few miles north of Budleigh Salterton, but almost half a century after Sir Walter. On this side of the Atlantic he may not be as well known as the man who is supposed to have introduced England to the potato and tobacco, but Massachusetts people know him as the founder of Salem and his statue is one of the best-known landmarks of that city.

Yet even Americans are sometimes mistaken on biographical details of this Devon-born pioneer of the first European settlements in the New World. A news item of 5 June 2005 mentioning the rededication of his famous statue implies that Roger Conant came from Dorchester, England

The situation of the statue itself, in front of the Salem Witch Museum has apparently led many visitors to assume that the likeness of Conant with his tall hat is intended to be that of a sorceress!

What about his brother, poor old Christopher Conant who barely gets a mention in the history books? I discovered that he was born in 1588 in East Budleigh, was a Freeman of the Grocers' Company and emigrated, possibly with Roger, on the ship Anne in 1623 to Plymouth, Massachusetts. But what became of him after that?

And does the name of Salem come from Jerusalem, which is what I was told when I visited East Budleigh's Salem Chapel? Or is it to do with 'Shalom', the Hebrew greeting?

Some of these questions may be answered by East Budleigh resident Hanneke Coates, who recently wrote the guide book about All Saints Church and the village which I mention at

Hanneke is writing an article about East Budleigh and its transatlantic connections and is particularly interested in the history of Massachusetts, the Conant brothers and any modern-day descendants of the family. "We do regularly get people from that part of America to East Budleigh looking for their roots," she tells me.

There has of course been a thriving Conant Family Association in the USA, its members feeling proud to be associated with one of their country's Founding Fathers. The New York Times recorded the Association's first meeting on 13 June 1901 when 200 descendants of Roger Conant gathered in the city which he had founded. It noted incidentally Roger's birthplace as being that of Sir Walter Raleigh, as well as that of Sir Francis Drake - another little error!

And I noted a photo of Douglas R. Conant who appeared at the 2005 rededication of the Roger Conant statue at

If he or any other member of the US-based Conant family would like to get in touch with Hanneke she would be most grateful. Her contact details are:

Mrs Hanneke Coates
Lemprice Farm
Budleigh Salterton
Devon EX9 7BW

Tel: 00 44 1395 567 037

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Raleigh Festival Weekend 26 and 27 June 2010

Saturday and Sunday 26 and 27 June

Saturday 26 June only

* Official Opening by Judi Spiers famous for her much-loved Radio Devon programme at

12 midday in the Village Hall East Budleigh

* Drakes School open 10.00 am-3.00 pm
Exhibition of children’s work including a potato modelling competition
Treasure Hunt for all the family Tickets £1.50.

* Concert by the Courteney Players 7.00 pm in All Saints Church.
Tickets £5.00 available from East Budleigh Shop, the Garage and at the door

Saturday 26 June and Sunday 27th June
* Village Hall 10.30 am - 5.00 pm
Refreshments: Coffees 10.30 am - 12 midday
Light lunches 12.30 - 2.00 pm – Saturday only
Cream Teas 2.30 - 4.00 pm

Raffle will be drawn at 4.00 pm

Demonstration of Scottish Dancing
Saturday 4.00-4.30pm

Playford Dancing – Sunday 4.00–4.30 pm

Stalls: Plants, Books, Cakes, Village souvenirs

* All Saints Church open all weekend for visits to see an exhibition of old and rare books, WI events books and knitting by the Square Circle Knitting Group.
* Salem Chapel open featuring an Elizabethan Exhibition
* Guided tours of East Budleigh - £1.00 donation. Leaving Village Hall at 11.00 am, 2.00 pm and 3.30 pm, visiting some of the sites connected with the Raleigh family

* Duck Race 3.00 pm starting at the Toll Bridge
Select your Duck at the Village Shop, The Garage or on the day at the village hall.
£1.00 per Duck

* Church Bell Tower open to visitors from 2.00 - 5.00 pm.
Bring your camera – there is a wonderful view from the top. £1.00
Taster sessions of bell-ringing from 5.00 - 6.00 pm for over 16s

* Community Shop open both days until 6.00pm

Sunday 27th June only

* School Grounds open

* Songs of Praise 6.30pm in All Saints Church East Budleigh
Everybody Welcome

Monday, 7 June 2010

School's paintings are blooming good

An obvious headline, but pretty usual for local media. Just in case they they haven't been featured in Budleigh newspapers I thought I would show these pictures by children from St Peter's Church of England Primary School and the Carousel Playgroup.

They were just some of the 263 entries submitted by Budleigh Salterton young people for the 'South West in Bloom' 2010 Schools Painting Competition and were on display in the Public Hall next to the town's Art Club Spring Bank Holiday exhibition on 31 May.

The theme was 'Dig it, Grow it, Cook it & Eat it.' The entries were grouped in two categories: up to 6 years and 7-11 years.

One selected picture from each group will be sent on to join others from across the region. The 'South West in Bloom' organisation will pick out some overall favourites to be shown at a presentation event held in Bath on Thursday 16 September.

Paintings from this children's painting competition will most likely be used by Viridor to produce their 2011 calendar based on the school term year.

Reuben Smith was the overall winner in the up to 6 years age group.

Anya Kilburn-Thompson gained 1st prize in the 7-11 years group

Highly commended was Tarquin Kerton-Johnson who came 2nd=

Also highly commended was Morgan Williams, 2nd=.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Music from across the pond at Otterton Mill

I thought Budleigh Salterton was the only town in East Devon which had a transatlantic link with our American cousins, but I've been looking at Otterton Mill's summer music programme. You might have seen that the village of Otterton, just a few miles upstream from Budleigh, has a long-established twinning link with Vieux, in Normandy. However from a glance at their website you might conclude that Mill owners Caroline and Simon Spiller could have a more obvious claim for this beautiful village to be twinned with a US community.

Nashville, Tennessee, is a clear contender, and it was from that centre of the country music industry otherwise known as 'Music City, USA' that acclaimed singer/songwriter Kim Richey came on 3 June to give a sell-out concert at the Mill. It was her first visit to the Mill, which has become one of the UK's leading roots music venues, hosting dozens of world class acoustic performances each year.

Most weeks, usually on Thursday nights, Otterton Mill welcomes exceptional musicians from the realms of folk, blues, jazz, country, Americana and the classics. The next concert is on Friday 2 July 2010 and features Tipitina, a Preston-based trio whose music is they say "rooted firmly in New Orleans." Tickets: £10.50.

Then the following week, on Thursday 8 July sees the return of Brooks Williams, from Boston, MA described by the Mill as one of the finest singer/songwriters on the acoustic circuit who for 23 years has been wowing audiences world-wide with his mix of blues and Gospel-inspired finger-style guitar, soulful songwriting and pearly singing. Tickets: £11.00.

A week later on Thursday 15 July a second visitor from Nashville is singer/songwriter Briana Lynn who they say "delivers emotionally-injected, rootsy songs with hints of blues, soul, folk and country." Tickets: £10.00

Another US-based performer on Thursday 12 August 2010 is Seattle country-soul sensation Rachel Harrington who is making her second visit to the Mill. Tickets: £11.50.

There are lots more lively music events at Otterton during the summer, including Budleigh Salterton-based Ian Briggs, revered not only as "quite simply one of the best blues harmonica players in the world" but also for playing with the legendary Yardbirds and Eric Clapton in the 60s. For the full line-up and to book tickets click on
The Mill music nights always feature menus of food based on top quality, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Meals are served from 6.00 pm, and the music starts at 8.00 pm. Ticket prices shown cover the music only.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Stoned in Paradise and other gardening issues

Try kicking this 'rugby ball' and you'd end up with a few broken toes

Playing with those pebbles on the beach at Budleigh Salterton during Gala Week is all very well, but back in the garden they're not such fun.

I moved to East Devon to grow ericaceous plants like this fine 'Blue Peter' rhododendron

As I've mentioned before, this little corner of woodland Budleigh Salterton where I eventually settled in retirement is called Paradise on old maps, so growing things seems a natural activity here.

This 'Hugh Koster' rhododendron is another of my favourites

But it's not all that easy. It may be called Paradise but I'm sure that when Adam was put in charge of the Garden of Eden he didn't have to cope with all the little horticultural issues that we have to deal with.

A small but growing Budleigh pebble beach in a corner of my garden. All quite legal. Budleigh Salterton beach pebbles are a different matter and can't be removed

For a start there are the pebbles. The Pebblebed Heaths sound romantic and I got quite carried away at dreaming of ancient fire-worshipping rituals being carried out by our Bronze Age ancestors just a mile or so inland from the coast. But that triassic riverbed which apparently stretched from Brittany to Birmingham thousands of years ago means that when I stick my fork in the ground nine times out of ten it hits a pebble (more like a boulder) which often turns out to be the size of a small football like the one in the picture above. So in an attempt to prepare a vegetable patch complete with soft and yielding dark tilth to grow happy carrots and lettuces I've been spending a lot of time sieving soil and creating not just pebble towers but small hills and pathways in hidden corners of the garden.

Then there's the moss, which apparently is the inevitable consequence of acidic soil and shade in Devon's damp climate. I try hard to emulate my US friend Mossin Annie in her theory that moss is best , but every so often I think that quintessentially English greensward look with stripes and no weed in sight. Needless to say, that can only be achieved by regular dosing with chemicals which will turn out to give us all horrible tumours and grandchildren with missing fingers.

Repairing badger damage to the lawn is an early morning task before the soil dries out

And even if the lawn ended up looking as green and as well tended as East Devon's golf course the badgers will soon put paid to that little fantasy. Almost every morning at present I'm out there filling in the holes and pushing back the grass/moss like an enraged parent dealing with the aftermath of an all-night teenage party.

Yet even while stamping down the turf you think how much fun it would be to see the mysterious black and white furry creatures suddenly emerging from the wood and nosing around my lawns in the moonlight snuffling and scuffling as they greedily search for worms or whatever delicacies that badgers are after. And they were there before me after all.

I won't dwell on the deer, rabbits, predatory birds, moles, slugs and snails and other woodlanders who are no friends to gardeners. Not so long ago I found a squirrel at the bottom of my wardrobe.

Yet in spite of all these little setbacks and the pints of sweat that I've lost pushing wheelbarrow loads of pebbles around the garden in this rustic corner of Budleigh Salterton, it's spectacular treasures like these crowds of acidic-soil loving azaleas that make a true vision of Paradise at this time of the year. And the wonderful blossom on the fruit trees a month ago could mean that the apples are going to be especially delicious.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

'English Music' at St Peter's Church

Songs by Purcell, Handel, Vaughan Williams, Finzi and Britten along with organ music by Parry, Ireland and Britten will feature in the St Peter's Music concert on Thursday 17 June.

Baritone Martin Shaw was trained at the Royal College of Music and became established as a soloist mostly in oratorio and for his solo song recitals. He has been much involved with cathedral music, liturgy, and with broadcasting, formerly in Exeter. He has recently retired from being Diocesan Bishop of Argyll and The Isles, and has returned to Exeter, where he is well known.

Organist and pianist Andrew Millington has been Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral since 1999. A Cambridge organ scholar, he was appointed Assistant Organist at Gloucester Cathedral, and subsequently Organist and Master of the Choristers at Guildford Cathedral. During this time he appeared at ‘The Proms’ and toured many European countries giving recitals and conducting the choirs with which he was associated.

Tickets are £12. For information on how to obtain tickets click on

The concert begins at 7.30 pm in St Peter's Church.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

All about oysters and a dish of an idea for Budleigh beach

Oysters! Wonderful to see them in their cages, fresh and full of deep sea taste that hits you as you gurgle down that mixture of brine and soft fish flesh which many people find disgusting.

I love oysters but, as with all shellfish, a dead or contaminated one can put you off eating crustaceans for life. I first got a taste for them when staying in the Vendée on the west coast of France, where you could and I hope still can buy them direct from the producers' shacks. But a 60th birthday dinner years later at one of London's most reputable restaurants turned a celebration into a digestive catastrophe when I chose oysters for the first course.

So seeing them fresh and cared for in these pictures illustrating the work done by Americorps volunteers makes me keener than ever to cross the Atlantic to Cape Cod and taste this aspect of life in Budleigh Salterton's sister-town of Brewster.

The volunteers were working for the town's Department of Natural Resources and I'm grateful to its Director Chris Miller for allowing me to reproduce these images. His report on the Americorps young people's achievement in tidying up the coastline is at
Seeing the pictures of that beautiful coastline I can't help feeling awful that it's a British firm which is responsible for the environmental devastation down in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Cape Cod town is in fact famous for its clam shacks like the one in this painting 'Clam Roll and a Coke' by Brewster artist Barbara Hageman on her website at
The charming unspoilt location makes me wonder why Budleigh Salterton doesn't have similar beachside locations where you can drop in for a spot of clam chowder, grilled mackerel, mussel broth or even a (or half a dozen) guzzled oysters. True, you can get traditional crab sandwiches at both the Steamer Steps and the Longboat Cafés, and the Longboat even has Crab Benedict on its menu - fresh crab topped with Hollandaise sauce at £8.95. But crab is not the only fish in the sea.

Last August it was reported that Budleigh resident Keith Beaney wanted to set up a weekend stand in the Lime Kiln car park at the eastern end of Budleigh beach, where he would sell griddled fresh fish sourced from local suppliers. Budleigh Salterton Town Council apparently said that the proposal raised health and safety concerns because the cooking process required a charcoal burning griddle, and some people who call themselves the East Devon District Council's Street Scene team also opposed the idea because they thought it could exacerbate the rat problem. That's odd because there are already permanently-erected barbecues like the one in the picture at the car park for public use. Admittedly one of them is a bit rusty and neglected-looking, but they have clearly been used recently.

Mr Beaney had apparently hoped to set up tables and chairs, with parasols, which I think sounds a rather fine idea. He planned to include mackerel, white bait, sea bass, crab and seafood kebabs on the menu, which would be available into the evening. And rather daringly he admitted that he was planning to apply for a licence to serve wine and cider.

Rather sadly it sounds as if the proposal has been dished, because as far as I know nothing more has been said about it in the local press.

I see however that on Friday 6 August Otterton Mill, just a few miles upstream along the River Otter from Budleigh is inviting people to A Celebration of Oysters, from 12 noon - 3.00 pm. "Join us for a belated celebration of St James' Day, the patron saint of oysters, by sampling this fine seafood delicacy (sourced locally from the Exe Estuary)," they say on their website at

"Our chefs will serve fresh oysters with delicious dressings in our courtyard, or prepared in a lunchtime special in our restaurant." To book a table in the restaurant, call 01395 567041. Or, just turn up on the day for oysters in the courtyard, weather permitting," they add.

Budleigh Salterton Art Club show 31 May 2010

Budleigh Salterton Art Club has traditionally held a one-day show in the Public Hall at the start of Gala Week. Here is a selection of members' works inspired by the local area.

Michael Ahearne, Budleigh Cliffs, oil, £65

Jenny Baker, Untitled NFS

June Chase, Receding Tide, watercolour £50

Teresa Creton, Budleigh beach, acrylic, £15

Wendy Markham, Springtime in a Devon lane, watercolour, £45

Margaret Percy, On the Green, oil, £30

Chris Stacey, Footpath at Budleigh, acrylic, £20

For more information about the Club, click on
The Budleigh Salterton Art Club Summer Exhibition in the Public Hall will run from Saturday 21 to Monday 30 August 2010, and will be open from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm. There will be a children's corner and a raffle.

June at the Brook

'Distant Hills' by Kathleen Caddick

Hot on the heels of the Brook’s highly successful Frost exhibition, the town's busiest gallery is set to give us what they call "a blockbuster of a British summer" with three major events, starting with the current show featuring works by Kathleen Caddick, Heidi Koenig and Sir Peter Blake.

"Although born in Liverpool, Kathleen spent her childhood in Buckinghamshire where the beech woods and far reaching views across the Chiltern Hills must have subconsciously implanted her love of trees," says the Gallery. "Kathleen's vision of landscape is the subject matter of her work expressing feelings of space, peace and tranquility through her use of muted colours. We have displayed work now for many years and she remains one of our most popular artists." More information is at

'Barefoot on the Grass' by Heidi Koenig

"Heidi Koenig was brought up and educated in Germany but was first introduced to printing through her grandfather who produced many woodcuts and linocuts. As a child she was fascinated with the various printing techniques and all the different tools that were used but today she works on her own prints in a very spontaneous way, using the etching plate as a drawing board, and then colouring every print by hand with many of the key details being added after they have been through the press. Her monotypes, etchings and paintings can be found in public and private collections all over the world. Click on for more information.

'I Love You' (Black) by Peter Blake

"Born in Dartford, Peter Blake graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1956. Blake's early work is dominated by two major subjects: fantastic scenes from the world of the circus and naturalistic paintings with autobiographic elements. In style and content both types of pictures paved the way for English Pop Art. The cover design for the Beatles album 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' (1967) was one of his first successes.

In 1975 Blake was one of the founding members of the 'Brotherhood of Ruralists'. His imagery changed under the influence of this group of artists which further developed the combination of sophistication and naivity, typical of Blake's style today; childhood memories, fairy tales and elves, depicted in realistic style using techniques of the old masters, became his favourite subjects. Nowhere was this made so clear than at his enormously successful retrospective exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London."

"In contrast with Kathleen’s intricate landscapes of muted colours and sepia tones, Heidi’s evocative and fluid abstracts juxtapose with Sir Peter Blake’s iconic use of popular culture, " says the Brook Gallery. "It’s an eclectic combination that spans the decade and starts the summer off in style."

Heidi Koenig, Sir Peter Blake and Kathleen Caddick: 27 May to 28 June 2010
The Gallery is open 10.30am to 5.00pm, closed Sunday mornings
Brook Gallery, Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton, Devon, EX9 6NH
Call 01395 443 003 or email

Stoned again in Gala Week

Pictured above: The opening of the Budleigh Salterton Gala Week and fete by Pippa Quelch of BBC Radio Devon, showing the 2010 Gala Queen, King and one of the Princesses

If the 2010 pebble-building competition proved anything it was that the organisers are level-headed people who've learnt not to trust the Met Office and not to panic faced with the vagaries of the English climate.

Two days before the event the weather forecast was absolutely dire, with graphics showing a very black-looking cloud and two equally black-looking raindrops on the Met Office website forecast for the Budleigh Salterton area.

And Gala Week started on Saturday with highly unpredictable showers and drizzle dampening the brief spells of sunshine.

Umbrellas and anoraks were much in evidence as fete-goers dodged the showers. My heart went out to the Lions Club people who'd planned this fun family event for Bank Holiday Monday. What on earth would they do?

I searched the Lions' website at for an urgent warning bulletin that pebble-building had been postponed or even abandoned this year. But no, there was no hint of change to the official programme; maybe that's just because Budleigh webmasters might be a bit on the sleepy side I thought uncharitably.

But yesterday morning brought blue skies and a pleasantly mild breeze, perfect for a day at the beach. There were even a couple of hardy swimmers in the sea when we arrived, though I noted that not many of the pebble-builders were in beachwear.

The competition's two categories of 'tallest' creation and 'best construction and design' demand qualities of coordination and imagination in the pebble-builders.

I could just feel the high drama in this scene as the pebble tower inched skywards with the clock steadily ticking away.

"Oh no! It's a bit bent!" they realise. The deadline for the competition's end is approaching and are they going to have time to straighten it, or is it just going to be a 'Leaning Tower of Pisa'?

But it was time to move on if I was going to see anything like the full range of pebblepower on the beach. Two 15-year-olds, Merrick Gigg from Exmouth and his friend Henry Wood from Budleigh had taken an hour and half to create this fine octopus choosing different-coloured pebbles. Budleigh's Mayor Tom Wright, wearing his chain of office, watched as the boys kept the creature alive with bucketfuls of sea-water.

Tracy Shiel from Budleigh with her sons Jake and Ben were proud of their lighthouse with its bright colours. All over the beach now I noticed much sloshing with sea-water as the deadline approached. Contestants were desperate to show off to the judges the different hues in their pebble-paintings.

I thought at first that this creature was a blacklegged quinquapus but the Steele family who'd made it told me it was just a 'children's fish.' "It's very ambitious," I commented. "Yes, two hours of hard slog," they told me, "and we've only just met the deadline."

The Church family, based partly in Budleigh and partly in Derbyshire, had made this mermaid. I overheard a suggestion that Mayor Wright made for its improvement but as this is a family-friendly site I won't repeat it. He did concede that she was a "modest mermaid."

Sue Chapman and her family had pebble-painted this picture of a fisherman in a boat. Budleigh resident Sue's been appointed as press officer for the town's Art Club , so I promised that I would be visiting their Spring Bank Holiday exhibition in the Public Hall.

I also found a strange square-headed fish, though from this angle it looks perfectly normal with its diamond-shaped head, so maybe that was a clever and deliberate design trick.

Another fish had been artfully created with a 3D effect, and I do like its red eye.

This is Geraldine the giraffe, who won first prize in the 'Best construction and design' category for the Bond family. Her head with that subtle touch of green eyebrows is on the left of the photo. They must have worked hard to collect all those sandy-coloured pebbles.

And this turned out to be the tallest pebble-tower in the 2010 competition, coming in at 40¼ inches - nobody mentioned how many millimetres I'm pleased to say - and winning a prize for the Everest family team of 14-year-old Darren together with Lee and Megan. You can see the judges take this event very seriously indeed, using that spirit level.

And so do the contestants. This close-up of the winning pebble-tower shows that its construction is as intricate as any medieval cathedral. Every year, as Mayor Wright remarked in his speech at the awards ceremony, the competition gets more and more difficult to judge. But I'm sure that with its great family atmosphere both pebblers and visitors will always find it to be a highlight of Gala Week.