Thursday, 28 October 2010

Friends of Fairlynch talk, 18 October, 2010

The African elephant leaves former natural history gallery at RAMM through window
Photo credit: © 2010 Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter

With reports of renovation costs at Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum having spiralled to a forecasted £24m we were naturally keen to learn how what has been described "an exquisite jewel box of a building" will appear to visitors when it re-opens in just over a year's time.

Having the builders in is not something you normally welcome, and Fairlynch trustees have had to cope with their own building renovation issues recently. But a roof re-thatch and updating of the heating system in Budleigh Salterton's museum were simple household chores compared with the major works that have been taking place on Exeter's Queen Street for the last five years as described by Nena Beric, Development Project Officer at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum since 2005.

The RAMM management's refurbishment plans in their original application of 2002 were rejected by the Heritage Lottery Fund as too ambitious, but a reduced scheme was accepted two years later. Since December 2007 the museum has been closed to the public, but staff have continued to be employed on outreach programmes including school visits, as well as conservation tasks.

Ms Beric explained that RAMM had developed in an ad hoc way over the years and that the aim of the current refurbishment programme had been "to reveal the clarity and intention of the original building." The museum is Grade II listed, and keeping its "architectural distinction" while updating the building was one of the planners' principal intentions. "We've been very bold in our colour choices," said Ms Beric, emphasising the need to keep RAMM's "quirkiness."

A key aim of the plan had been to complement the museum's location next to Exeter's Roman wall, and an attractive stone courtyard will now be visible and accessible to the public.

By contrast, unattractive features within the building such as previously visible service pipes will now be hidden. With a newly commissioned mechanical and electrical system now completed, the museum will have, in Ms Beric's words, a low environmental impact and be economical to run, requiring little maintenance.

Re-locating the museum's collection of 1.5m objects in sites all over the city was a major task which involved all RAMM's staff, Ms Beric told us. The special care needed to deal with its special residents such as Gerald the Giraffe, the elephant and the rhino was illustrated with her film showing items being moved out of the building with only millimetres to spare.

Considerable delays have been caused by unexpected finds during the work, such as the discovery that a wall had no foundation and would have to be rebuilt, and the investigation of Saxon timbers on the site also needed to be properly carried out.

But there's no doubt that Ms Beric and her colleagues at RAMM are confident that it will all have been worthwhile. Galleries specially designed for visitors' comfort have been built allowing new exhibitions, including one focusing on Devon and the Exeter area.

New display areas and more air-conditioned spaces will allow 8,000 objects to be viewed by visitors, one third more than were previously displayed. A new entrance will allow access from Northernhay and Rougemont Gardens, and there will naturally be new and improved café, shop and toilet facilities, as well as a learning suite for use by school parties.

The Friends of Fairlynch are grateful to Nena Beric for her time in preparing her well-received talk on 18 October.

Click on to see more pictures of the RAMM renovations.

For information about Fairlynch Museum click on or telephone 01395 442666

Fairlynch will be open on Friday 3 December, and again from Monday 27 - Friday 31 December, 2010. The museum is scheduled to open on Sunday 10 April for the 2011 season until the end of October.

Monday, 25 October 2010

From horses to heroes

The RAF's Hurricane, a vital weapon of 87 and 213 Fighter Squadrons based at Exeter Airfield during the Battle of Britain

When I heard that a local sculptor whose favourite subject is horses was going to create a Battle of Britain memorial statue I imagined that designing a variation of a Pegasus figure would be the obvious aim.

For the last 20 years local sculptor Frances Margaret has been creating original equine pieces like those shown below. Many have ended up in the homes of horse lovers worldwide, including celebrities like Olympic rider Mary King and opera legend Luciano Pavarotti.

Growing up on the family farm in Otterton left her with a lifelong passion for horses, and it was during an art class in Exmouth led by the ceramicist Brian Adams that her talent for sculpture came to light. "He helped to show me the technicalities of modelling in clay," she recalls. "It was during one of his pottery painting classes that I (because I couldn't paint!) saw a lump of clay and started making a horse out of it."

Frances Margaret acknowledges the enormous debt she owes to her tutor, a pottery designer for some of the best known names in British ceramics including Denby Pottery, Hornsea Pottery and Honiton Pottery. Brian Adams is also a renowned art historian who has specialised in Bovey Pottery, helping with the Bovey Pottery Museum and making a replica of the old kilns and pottery works in Bovey Tracey.

"Brian took an interest in what I was doing, because without photographs or any preparation I found I could make a pretty reasonable figure of a horse - he was brilliant and let me have a free reign so to speak.

"He showed me how to make a mould, cast and fire my horse which was a pretty traumatic process because it involved cutting up my beautiful new friend! However, we went through the operation, came out with a perfect cast and fired horse which he then showed me how to glaze. He still has a copy of that horse today."

From those classes she then took herself off to the Devon County show where she won first prize in the Craft Section - she got her first commission and progressed from there.

Later she began to develop her artistic talent thanks to a meeting with the Italian master sculptor Marco Zeno. "I spent a day sculpting with Marco in his Tuscan studio, we have all become firm friends and Marco has since been over to our house in England where he was the guest tutor on a sculpture course that I organised."

Her work, in bronze or bronze resin has been shown widely at events including the Society of Equestrian Artists’ annual exhibition at Christie’s and the Horse of the Year Show.

A forthcoming exhibition of Frances Margaret's sculptures at Budleigh Salterton's Brook Gallery, will reveal an exciting new project linked to the Battle of Britain 70th anniversary celebrations in which she is involved.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 the Air Ministry requisitioned Exeter's airfield and July 1940 saw the new base renamed as RAF Exeter soon after 87 and 213 Fighter Squadrons had moved in. The role of the two squadrons was initially to escort the Royal and Merchant Navy, but it was not long before they were playing a major role in the Battle of Britain.

A committee of the South West Airfields Heritage Trust has been formed to raise enough money to make a memorial for the Battle of Britain pilots who flew out of RAF Exeter.

Frances Margaret was invited to create a sculpture which will stand at the approach to Exeter International Airport and which will be, in the words of the Trust members, a fitting tribute to all those from many nations who served at RAF Exeter during World War Two, including those involved in D-Day and many other operations carried out at the base.

It's a new departure for the artist. Far from being anything like a winged horse, the work as conceived by Frances Margaret and the South West Airfields Heritage Trust will represent an RAF pilot who made a safe return poignantly scanning the sky for his missing comrades. The Trust members believe that the 70th Anniversary of the 'Battle of Britain' is a fitting time for the creation of such a memorial.

"I am making a maquette for them and, when they are happy with it, it will be produced in bronze resin to use at functions to raise money for the project," said Frances Margaret. She has already made a small version in bronze resin, and it is this which will be on show at an exhibition in Budleigh Salterton's Brook Gallery from 29 October to 30 November 2010.

The exhibition will be open from 10.30 am to 5.00 pm, closed on Sunday mornings.

The South West Airfields Heritage Trust is made up of like-minded enthusiasts dedicated to the preservation of airfield heritage sites in the South West of England.

The aim of the Trust is to do what it can to preserve the heritage and integrity of the World War II era with regards to the WWII airfields in the area, whilst honouring those who served on them. For more information about the Trust click on

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Looking for the X-factor in radiotherapy

Radiotherapy: a constantly evolving technology

As I've said before somewhere I don't want to go banging on about cancer. After all, I'm supposed to have had the nearest thing to a cure. But I have joined the local Prostate Cancer support group, and do tend to check with male friends to make sure they know their PSA score. So inevitably there will be the odd mention of this annoying disease on the blog, and probably of others!

On the face of it there's always good news from the front line in the battle against cancer, and it's impossible not to be optimistic about the final outcome.

That was certainly the underlying message from clinical oncologist Dr Denise Sheehan, who spoke to the Budleigh & Exmouth Group of the North & East Devon Prostate Support Association at their 12 October meeting in Tidwell Manor about her work with radiotherapy for dealing with prostate cancer.

The story of radiotherapy as a treatment for cancer has been one of steady progress since the early days following the German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen's discovery of X rays in 1895. With no way of accurately judging either the amount of radiation to kill a tumour, or the precise area to be targeted effectively so as to avoid damage to surrounding tissue, it was a very hit or miss affair.

It seems that ignorance was bliss for both patients and doctors in those early days: while the angry red patch of skin which followed a course of radiotherapy was a sign that the treatment might have worked it also hid all the possible unfortunate side-effects of the radiation.

Not until the late 1950s was a more accurate approach possible with the introduction of the linear accelerator, now used for Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), and only in the last 30 years has proper investigation of a tumour prior to radiotherapy been possible thanks to the CT scanner.

Ironically there's a bittersweet element to all this of course. How many of us have lost a friend or relative to cancer only to read, often just a few years later, of an improvement in treatment which would have made all the difference.

Similarly, as radiotherapy for the treatment of prostate cancer becomes ever more sophisticated, improvements in delivery or the amount of radiation to a tumour mean that the cancer is more likely to be eliminated for good. And the side effects suffered by patients who underwent treatment only a few years ago are now less likely to occur thanks to the advance of science. Some previously irradiated former patients listening to all this were by now wondering whether they'd received the right dose!

Funding, as always, seemed to be crucial, Dr Sheehan implied. There is, she told us, a national shortage of medical physicists, the people needed to develop scanning techniques for improved targeting as well as to devise ways of finding out if a particular patient will respond badly to a particular type of radiotherapy.

As for the immediate outlook in radiotherapy techniques Dr Sheehan said that High-dose rate brachytherapy (HDRB) was "a developing field." Inserting and then removing a source of high energy radiation directly within the tumour, using radioactive wires, means that delicate areas such as the urethra can be avoided, reducing the likelihood of side-effects like incontinence. The technique has been used in combination with external beam radiotherapy in the past, but it seems possible that HDRB on its own could be used in the future.

For a cancer patient with little medical knowledge but lots of trust in the doctors one can only feel enormous admiration for oncologists like Dr Sheehan who play such an important role in the fight against this killer disease.

For more information about the North & East Devon Prostate Support Association click on

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Bach, Purcell and Handel at Exeter Concert

"A cheerful all-baroque programme of music is just the thing for a November evening," say the people at Exeter Bach Society. And that's exactly what they're bringing us in a concert conducted by Budleigh Salterton resident and the Society's Director of Music Nicholas Marshall.

The Exeter Bach Society Choir will be accompanied by soloists from London's Guidhall School of Music and Drama and harpsichordist Jonathan Watts.

The programme, on Saturday 6 November 2010 at 7.30 pm, in St James' Church, Mount Pleasant, Exeter, includes works by J.S. Bach, Purcell and Handel.

Tickets: £12, unreserved (concessions £9) may be purchased from Exeter Phoenix Ticket Agency, Gandy Street, Exeter (Tel: 01392 667080); 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.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Stars to add sparkle to Budleigh Salterton's Gigi

"Our relationship with the lovely seaside town of Budleigh Salterton goes back a long way," says David Phipps-Davis, Director of Imperial Productions' staging of Lerner & Loewe musical Gigi. "'Christmas Budleigh' is the affectionate name for our annual long weekend spent in the South West. It's planned to coincide with local late-night Christmas shopping and general festive cheer. We join in by putting on a show in the town hall for just two performances - and are usually rewarded with good audiences."

Right: The coat of arms of Imperial College, London, where Imperial Productions originated

The remarkable story of London-based Imperial Productions apparently started following a discussion between two members of the cast in the ladies' loo on a Sunday evening in January 1979 during the Imperial College Operatic Society's production of The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein. They began to discuss a problem in the Society: many of the roles, both principal and chorus, were being filled by ex-students, rather than by current ones. They came up with the solution that "people who have left College should do the decent thing: leave, and form their own group."

So, Imperial Opera was born. In 2007 the company changed its name to Imperial Productions. "The new name better reflects the progressive style and wide-ranging repertoire that makes the group what it is today," says the company.

"Imperial Productions is still faithful to its original agenda: to present a diverse (not to say eclectic) programme of rare, unusual, overlooked or forgotten works, and encourage creative and innovative interpretations and performances. To date, productions have included the works of Mozart, Gilbert & Sullivan, Offenbach, Shostakovich, Britten, Sondheim, Coward, Porter, Weill, and Rodgers & Hammerstein. Long live the rich variety of Variety!"

Imperial Productions take over Budleigh Salterton's Public Hall to stage their shows

Talent, dedication and especially the enthusiasm of everyone in the company make its productions so successful. Nobody gets paid and company members have to meet all expenses themselves, which include travel and accommodation for their stay in Budleigh. "Due to the minimal number of rehearsals, a high level of dedication and commitment is required from all cast members," is the stern warning from its Chairman.

I know it's some way to Christmas but Imperial Productions are giving plenty of advance notice about their December show, clearly excited by being joined on this occasion by two stars from the world of professional entertainment who've been attracted by the prospect of a theatrical weekend in Budleigh Salterton.

"Gigi is a story of La Belle Époque, Paris at the turn of the last century: a world of beauty and luxury and sophisticates like Honoré and his handsome nephew, Gaston.

In this world love is a work of art and also a business arrangement. Little Gigi is being trained by her Aunt Alicia: she must learn how to allure, how to recognise the true flame at the heart of an emerald, how to choose a cigar - but Gigi doesn’t want just to be someone's mistress - even Gaston's. To his surprise Gaston discovers that Gigi is the only girl who doesn’t bore him.

Gigi is a show that bubbles like the champagne that flows through its vivid scenes. There is a tang of salty French wit, too and a lacing of all-time hits: 'Gigi', 'The Night They Invented Champagne', 'I Remember It Well' and 'Thank Heaven For Little Girls.'

A sparkling cast is led by Ursula Smith as Mamita, the role made famous by Hermione Gingold in the MGM film. Ursula, pictured above, has had a glittering career on the stage. Indeed, she is regarded as West End royalty – and not just because she played Queen Mary in Always, the fêted musical about Edward and Mrs Simpson. She played the Duchess in the 1985 production of Me and My Girl at the Adelphi Theatre. Playing opposite her was Frank Thornton (Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served?) and the leads were Robert Lindsay and Emma Thompson. After her London run, Ursula was invited to play the same role on the US tour with the American company. Before Me and My Girl, Ursula played Evangeline Harcourt in the 1980s production of Anything Goes at the Prince Edward Theatre, which starred Elaine Paige, Bernard Cribbens and John Barrowman. She also replaced Sheila Hancock as Miss Hannigan in the original London production of Annie at the Adelphi and then played the same role in the first national tour. She played Mrs Connors (one of the two mothers) for the entire original run of Charlie Girl (again at the Adelphi). The other mother was first played by Dame Anna Neagle and later by Evelyn Laye, and Ursula got to sing a duet with both! She has also worked at the Royal Court, the National Theatre, most of the major regional theatres and won an Edinburgh Festival Award. Ursula was last seen in the West End in the original cast of Dirty Dancing playing the bag-snatching Mrs Schumacher.

Director David Phipps-Davis says: “We are thrilled to have Ursula joining us in Budleigh. We first worked together in Sail Away at Sadlers Wells and have stayed in touch ever since. She has seen several of my London shows and when I mentioned I was doing Gigi she offered to play Mamita – how could I say no?” Ursula says, “I was in the original production of Alfie with John Neville and when I saw David’s production of the same play at the Barons Court Theatre I knew I would like to work with him as a director, having already worked together as actors in Sail Away. I am thrilled to be playing Mamita in Gigi. I’ve always wanted to play it ever since I saw the MGM film and to be able to visit Budleigh Salterton at the same time was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Joining Ursula as Aunt Alicia will be Viv Creegor, above,who is a well-known TV face having been the front-woman of Sky News for almost 15 years. After leaving Sky she trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles and has since worked in The Bill and in the films Stormbreaker (doing a scene with Mickey Rourke which she describes as “interesting”) and played an Irish nun in Ed Bye’s film Round Ireland with a Fridge. Coincidentally Viv has also just played an Irish nun (an evil one!) in a Grand Guignol play at Camden’s Etcetera Theatre. For Imperial Productions at the Baron’s Court Theatre, Viv has played Ruby (the older woman) in Alfie and Lady Wishfort in The Way of the World. Viv says: “It's great to be performing in Gigi - a musical that I've always loved. Aunt Alicia has some killer lines which I'm practising delivering as waspishly as possible!”

Also in the cast are lots of familiar Imperial faces, including David Phipps-Davis (who was last seen in the title role in Pickwick) in the Maurice Chevalier role of Honoré and David Swain (last seen as Jingle in Pickwick and previously as Ravenal in Show Boat) in the Louis Jourdan role of Gaston.

This semi-staged concert production will be directed by David Phipps-Davis (who previously brought to Budleigh productions of Pickwick, Showboat, The Biograph Girl, Babes in Arms and A Swell Party), with musical direction from Zoe Humphries who so successfully wielded the baton for this summer's The Boyfriend. It runs for two performances only on Saturday 4 December 2010 at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm at the Public Hall, Budleigh Salterton."

Full details are available at Tickets can be booked in advance from Budleigh Salterton Tourist Information on 01395 445275.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Every little helps prostate charity

Generous giving: volunteer Michael Downes and local organiser David Warner (right) welcome donations for the North & East Devon Prostate Support Association at Exmouth's Tesco superstore.
Photo credit: David Jannaway

I have to confess I sometimes hurry past street collectors. But since I met so unexpectedly the disease which is diagnosed annually in 35,000 men in the UK alone, the plea for volunteers to help our local North & East Devon Prostate Support Association caught my eye.

You're not actually supposed to catch the eye of passers-by as you stand there with your collection box according to the strict guidelines issued by the organisers, and you're certainly not supposed to rattle it under punters' noses in that brazenly cheery fashion adopted by some charity hawkers. But I couldn't help studying the faces of people who did stop to put money in the box as I waited outside Exmouth's Tesco superstore on Salterton Road yesterday.

And lots of people did stop. Even if it was just a few coppers, they paused on their busy way, giving me a few seconds' reflection on what had made them decide. For the young ones who I'd thought wouldn't notice me, was it a father or a grandfather who'd been diagnosed or even died from prostate cancer? Was the old lady in her 70s who silently pushed a £20 note in the slot before hurrying away still remembering the best friend or the husband that she'd lost?

I started off trying to look a bit pathetic and grateful. And yes, it seemed to work as the collection boxes got heavier and heavier. But it was also fun to find myself joking with complete strangers about this annoying disease which comes out of the blue. The hour's stint that my friend Annie and I did passed quickly and easily.

The North & East Devon Prostate Support Association is grateful to Tesco PLC for its permission to use the Exmouth superstore for its October collection day. A total of £483.26 was raised.

"We're delighted with the result of the collection and would like to thank all those who contributed," commented David Warner. "The amount raised was more than double what we collected on the last occasion three years ago and shows not only that people know more about prostate cancer as a potential killer but also that they are more aware of the treatments that are offered nowadays."

Click on for more details of the North & East Devon Prostate Support Association.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Budleigh in Bloom 2010

Budleigh Salterton yet again proudly displays its Britain in Bloom Gold Award for 2010.

Great gardeners: Pat and William Prew are two of the town's green-fingered brigade who help ensure that Budleigh looks its best

This was the second year running that the town's group of volunteers who make up Budleigh in Bloom had claimed the honour. Chairman Pat Prew collected the award at the South West in Bloom presentation in Bath last month.

A neat and colourful display at Bay Cottage on Fore Street Hill

Much hard work goes into the floral displays on which the judges' decision is based and the judging itself was a thorough affair involving a tour of the town, following a special plea from Mrs Prew to residents and shopkeepers asking that the front of their properties be kept neat and tidy and free of weeds.

The floral display along the brook on Budleigh Salterton's Fore Street is one of the town's showpieces

Having read on the Budleigh in Bloom website about the route that the judges took I feel a bit bad now that I didn't do more to tidy up my own front garden which they would have passed. Ah well, next year it'll be better.

East Budleigh also gained a Gold Award in the Britain in Bloom competition. The village is so proud of its floral displays and immaculately tended gardens that its East Budleigh in Bloom website at is given as much importance as the village site itself at the two being run as sister ventures.

A dissenter's plea for a bit of disorder: an Open Letter from an East Budleigh resident to the judges of Britain in Bloom

Not everyone is 100% committed to the idea of an immaculately tended, full-bloomed pest-free paradise in the search for Britain in Bloom's iconic status however. Next to The Old Bakery on East Budleigh's main street I spotted a defiantly Open Letter addressed to the Britain in Bloom judges from 'An East Budleigh garden-wildlife lover.'

"Please allow us a certain degree of disorder," it requested. "Weeds to seed, dead leaves to stay where they fall, heaps of branches left to decay, nettles behind the shed..."

"A garden should be far more than its appearance," the letter went on. "In particular it should be a habitat for a wide range of creatures like ground beetles, garden ants, butterflies (Vanessa Atlanta, Inchis io, Aglais urticae - and why not Pieris rapae and napi and their caterpillars). And there should be swarms of garden birds. But House sparrows for instance are in serious decline. And we haven't seen a toad or a frog in years. The hedgehogs are gone with the wind. Only the wind comes and goes. Why?

"Our beautiful gardens alarmingly become theatres without actors, concert halls without musicians! Is this really what we want? Is this really what you want?"

Well, after that little outburst I felt I could perhaps allow the odd caterpillar a nibble of my nasturtiums. And I even had second thoughts about the slug pellets. For as that great English essayist and garden-lover Francis Bacon wrote: "Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished."

Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum

For some years now passers-by have been wondering what's going on behind the screens and locked doors of an imposing Victorian building on Exeter's Queen Street, pictured above.

Well, on Monday 18 Oct 2010, all will be revealed to the Friends of Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum when they welcome Nena Beric, above, Project Co-ordinator at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. As the Development Project Officer she has been intimately involved since the start in 2005.

When Prince Albert died in 1861, one of the Secretaries for the Great Exhibition and a Devon MP, Sir Stafford Northcote, proposed a memorial to Albert should be established in Exeter. An appeal for funds was launched and a meeting the following year created the blueprint for the Devon and Exeter Albert Memorial Institution. This was to be a new building on Queen Street housing a museum and art gallery, a free public library, a school of art and a college.

"An exquisite jewel box of a building; a Venetian casket. One of the most appealing treasures in Britain," is how the RAMM has been described by the architectural heritage consultant, writer and TV presenter Dan Cruickshank.

Updating the Museum has been an ambitious project involving the creation of new exhibition spaces and display galleries, a new collections store, improved visitor services including a better café, shop and toilet facilities and general repairs to the 140-year-old building.

Ms Beric will speak about the refurbishment of Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum, due to re-open in late 2011, at The Peter Hall in Budleigh Salterton. The talk begins at 7.30 pm.

For information about Fairlynch Museum click on or telephone 01395 442666;

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A case of prevention being better than cure

Burglary: a shattering experience for the homeowner
Picture source:

"There's not too much crime in East Devon, says Nick Farrell. "But not as many people as I'd like have consulted me."

Nick has worked as our local Crime Prevention Officer for nine out of the 15 years that he's been with Devon & Cornwall Police. Before that he was with the military police and was employed to offer close protection and security for VIPs including royalty. So there's not much that his eagle eyes don't spot when it comes to offering advice on protection for the home.

"There's no need to spend a fortune on home security or turn your house into Colditz," he says. "But technology is moving on all the time, and there are plenty of worthwhile ways to update systems."

Security lighting, multi-lever locks for exterior doors and attention to items like garden gates are all routine matters on which the Crime Prevention Officer can give advice. Invite Nick to check your property and you do run the risk of becoming red-faced as he points out basic blunders like leaving items lying around in the garden which could be used by opportunistic criminals to climb over fences, or even worse, leaving keys in locks.

A chat about crime over coffee with Exmouth police officer Nick Farrell

But he's a friendly chap with a mine of fascinating information about his line of work. I didn't know, for example, that glass has its own DNA, so that the tiniest fragment on a criminal's clothing can be matched to the scene of wrongdoing. And talking of DNA, it seems that the traditional method of marking one's property with a UV pen has been superseded by a smart system of microdot marking with a DNA code, allowing recovered property to be traced back to its rightful owner after analysis. For more details see

And then there's the clever MA80 alarm system, a relatively low-cost simple motion detector device which automatically dials out a pre-set phone number if movement in the home is detected when it shouldn't be. Such gadgets are sold online at many outlets including JNE Marketing

Some of the ideas that Nick came up with are based on common sense. It's a good idea to keep photos of valuable items on your computer for insurance purposes for example, but even better to keep a copy on disk in a safe place.

Apparently not all police forces offer such a service, and cutbacks will certainly not help in the fight against burglary. "We could potentially see a reduction in police officer numbers of anything up to 40,000 in the lifetime of this coalition government," the Police Federation warned last month. And that could be bad news for relatively crime-free towns like Budleigh, where it might be felt that police jobs could be safely axed.

But crime prevention is an area where educating the householder is a worthwhile investment. "An area where most residents are security aware, with updated systems, is less likely to attract opportunistic criminals," Nick pointed out. And that makes the job of the police easier as well as reducing the inevitable costs of crime investigation.

Crime Prevention Officer Nick Farrell can be contacted at:
Devon & Cornwall Constabulary
Exmouth Police Station
North Street
Exmouth Devon
Tel: 01395 226163

Budleigh Mums

I gave Facebook a plug at and it's only right that I should mention another networking site much closer to home.

This is Budleigh Mums set up last July by Julie Burley and her husband Dave.

Dave, who hails originally from Willenhall, Staffordshire, explains: "Julie, my wife had the idea of a website where local Budleigh mums could converse, sell or swap unwanted goods, organise meets etc, so it was left to me to put something together to allow her to do this."

As the site explains, its aim is to allow local women not just from Budleigh Salterton but from surrounding areas a place to chat with other locals, see what local events of interest are taking place and generally make friends and keep in touch online.

A forthcoming event being advertised on the site is a table top sale for children's items in Knowle Village Hall on 13 November from 12.00 - 2.00 pm. Any profits from the event will be donated to St Peter's School Association (SPSA)

Budleigh Mums seems like a great idea and a welcome addition to Budleigh Salterton's growing presence on the web.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Cape Cod's Creepy Crematorium

Not the kind of place you want to find on a family walk in the woods: the Crosby crematorium in Nickerson State Park, Brewster MA

Finding follies, obelisks and strange shrines in hidden places is for me always an experience that sticks in my mind and my visit a few weeks ago to the Bronze Age excavation site at Jacob's Well just outside Budleigh was no exception. Click on to see what I mean.

The grave of John Crosby 1775-1843

So I was intrigued when Jonathan Mayo, a fellow-blogger and artist, writer and inventor from Cape Cod, pointed out that Budleigh's sister-town of Brewster also has its secret places. The one that he mentions below may not be Bronze Age, but it must have been an odd experience all the same to find it on a random wander through the woods.

This is what Jonathan found:

"Deep in the woods of Brewster lies an ancient cemetery, holding a few Crosby gravestones from the mid-1800s. We have visited the site many times over the years, never having explored the area just downhill from the gravestones.

What lies there is slightly strange, an old family crematorium. I showed these photos to a friend who happens to be a mortician in the Midwest. I asked if it was indeed what I thought.

His response, "It sure looks like one. The different doors are for moving things around and scraping out the ashes afterwards. that's hella cool and ambient."

I lol'd at the response, since apparently morticians find coolness in places most would consider creepy.

In any event, it's a bit of deep woods history from Old Cape Cod."

The Crosby gravestones that he mentions are those of a well-known Brewster family. For some interesting background on them and their Crosby Mansion, described as "one of the Cape's hidden jewels", click on

I am grateful to Jonathan Mayo for permission to reproduce both the above text and photos from his blog at

St Kilda revisited and celebrated at the Brook

Soray Stacks, by Norman Ackroyd

‘St Kilda Revisited’, an exhibition at the Brook Gallery to celebrate the release of the Box Set 2010 of etchings by Norman Ackroyd CBE RA, ties in nicely with the 80 year anniversary of the evacuation of the St Kilda community in 1930.

Coincidence or not, it’s an exhibition of work that defies the power of nature in its production. These haunting images by the master printmaker seem to capture the moment of departure, starkly and awe-inspiringly; the islands seem as if ready to be swallowed up by nature as the wind and the sea recaptures them.

St Kilda, the remotest part of the British Isles in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, is an archipelago once home to a small group of hardy Scots who lived off all that nature meagerly had to offer.

This exhibition does two things: celebrates and commemorates islands which some once called ‘home’. Says Angela Yarwood, owner of the Brook: "Norman’s work evokes an incredibly powerful resonance; it’s just as if you’re looking back for the last time, with your boat buffeted by the wind. It’s an exhibition that is extraordinary in many ways, and we’re delighted that the Brook has been chosen to be the first gallery to be able to offer this unique portfolio for sale."

Norman Ackroyd CBE RA is a mainstay at the Brook - his work is part of the backbone of the Gallery’s collection. The Box Set 2010: St Kilda Revisited, typifies one of Ackroyd’s favourite subjects, showing off his skills to their upmost. Much of his work is acid etched on copper plate; a print taken from the intricately worked plate creates atmosphere and life. It’s a skill that’s brought Norman Ackroyd celebrated status as one of the foremost British contemporary artists in the world. His continuing relationship with the Brook is evident by his acceptance to join the team and customers at the Private View on 16 October.

Born in 1938 in Leeds, Ackroyd attended the Leeds School of Art from 1956 to 1961 and subsequently the Royal College of Art to 1964. He quickly followed with many solo exhibitions, both here and abroad and the public collections in which his work is held is a roll call of the great and the good, in the UK and worldwide: the British Museum, Tate Gallery, the V&A in London; Museum of Modern Art, New York and the National Gallery, Washington DC and in Europe, the Stedelijk and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, among others.

Norman Ackroyd was elected a Royal Academician in 1991 and made Senior Fellow, Royal College of Art in 2000. The Box Set 2010: St Kilda Revisited is not just a chance to have these special works of art, but a piece of history crafted by one of Britain’s greatest artists. The exhibition also includes two of Ackroyd’s rare watercolours and a selection of work from the last 15 years - a privilege for the Brook and its customers.

Private View with Norman Ackroyd RA 6pm–8pm Saturday 16 October 2010 by invitation only. Exhibition: 16 October to 13 November 2010
Open 10.30am to 5pm, closed Sunday mornings
Brook Gallery, Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton, Devon, EX9 6NE
Call 01395 443 003 or email

Facing the music in 2011 at Budleigh Salterton

Budleigh Salterton's Music Festival website at

I've just been reminded to note Saturday 16 July as the start of the 2011 Budleigh Salterton Music Festival.

This was as a result of a message from Budleigh Town Councillor and Festival Chair Roger Bowen via Facebook.

Since my last posting about Facebook in Budleigh at there have been all kinds of horror stories about the dark and evil side of Facebook which are enough to make diehard internet refuseniks choke on their toast and marmalade.

And Sony's recently launched film about the Facebook phenomenen, The Social Network, won't make their digestion any easier.

As an unashamed facebooker who finds the network amusing to keep in touch with old acquaintances and meet new people as well as being a useful place to store stuff I'm delighted to see Roger using it and am happy to accept his invitation on Facebook to attend the Music Festival. Click on for further details of the 2011 programme.

From bats and balls to boats and birding

A flooded landscape at sunset: pretty to look at but not welcomed by farmers and some unfortunate householders

It's well known that change is something which many Budleigh residents are unwilling to accept, but when the forces of Nature are involved it's unlikely that a conservative approach will win any battles.

That seems to be the point made recently by East Devon's largest landowning business faced with the issue of flooding from the River Otter. Understandably it's a message that Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club, idyllically located on low-lying land at the river's mouth, is not especially keen to hear.

In fact the issue is something which, as a relative newcomer to Budleigh, I'd hardly dared to mention on this site. Almost as tricky as the long-contested plans for development of the Longboat Café, which I've passed over in cowardly silence.

Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club: one of the lowest-lying cricket grounds in England

But I see that the message from Clinton Devon Estates is likely to be relayed with increasing volume as the cricket field floods yet again. Last month's BBC local news item at struck me as rather gloomy as it mentioned "a managed retreat from some land" by the Estate because of "future rising water levels" caused by possible climate change. It rather sounded as if the whole of the Lower Otter Valley would be abandoned to a kind of waterworld as not only cricket pitches but sewage works, footpaths and farmland would be submerged.

The BBC had obviously been struck by CDE Estates Manager John Varley's words earlier in the year describing the history of the Lower River Otter as "a battle between man and water that has lasted for generations." During his speech on 24 April 2010 at the President's Symposium of the Devonshire Association, now published on CDE's website at Mr Varley had explained how what he called "a contested landscape" was turning into "a war zone." Since 1959, 21 floods had affected property and roads in the Lower Otter Valley and in 2009 the Estate had decided that "the time had come for a new phase of the battle to begin."

Haycock Associates, a company that specialises in preventing and dealing with the aftermath of flooding by creating natural solutions, had been invited to study the problem of the River Otter. The company, which had been called in by the National Trust following the dramatic Boscastle flood of 2004, had concluded that there was insufficient drainage and that the tidal effect exacerbated the problem.

The subject of flooding had been touched on by Mr Varley a few weeks earlier in a talk outlining how Clinton Devon Estates saw the Lower Otter Valley's future over the next 30 years. "Protecting the status quo is not the answer," we were told at the Open Meeting on 17 March organised by Budleigh Salterton Town Council. Climate change had to be accepted and there was a need to be readier to accept genetically modified crops as well as reviving the tradition of farm ponds to deal with water shortages. Eucalyptus, he said, looks like becoming an interesting crop for the Estates.

But it's the damaging consequences of flooding of low-lying land which seem to be the Estates' principal preoccupation. Bunds and drainage ditches to protect the area are one of the possible options if the Cricket Club is to stay in its current location. Alternatively, say the experts, a relocation to higher ground for the Club linked to the formation of a freshwater lake would be a viable solution, providing a resource for water dependent crops but also deep enough to support recreational pursuits like sailing

An aerial view of Brewster, Massachusetts, showing some of the freshwater ponds which play an important role in the area's natural resources

A change of landscape? Certainly, but one that would continue to be a haven for birdwatchers. And that mention of freshwater ponds makes me wonder whether the Lower Otter Valley will in due course look a little bit like the Cape Cod landscape surrounding our sister-town of Brewster, shown above.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Anne Frank concert in Budleigh Salterton

Annalies, a choral piece based on the life of Anne Frank, is the forthcoming concert in the St Peter's Music series.

It's the first-ever adaptation of the diary of Anne Frank as a full-length choral work.

Melanie Challenger, who wrote the libretto, bases it entirely on Anne's descriptions of her family's hidden confinement in an Amsterdam warehouse between 1942 and 1944, and of their subsequent removal to a concentration camp.

The part of Anne, above, is sung by a solo soprano, in this case, Amy Haworth who has sung at St Peter’s twice before. The chorus plays a highly dramatic role underlining her vivid descriptions of what is taking place.

Annalies is the largest musical piece by James Whitbourn, a versatile composer with an international reputation for choral music and music for film, television and concert hall. The work was premiered by Leonard Slatkin at London's Cadogan Hall in 2005. It uses Jewish folk tunes, chorales in the style of Bach and a wealth of melody, making the work extraordinarily beautiful to listen to and heart-rending in its poignancy.

After studying music at Oxford University, James Whitbourne began his career as a BBC producer. His compositional output has been influenced by that background and is admired for its direct connection with performers and audiences worldwide. Artists who have performed and broadcast Whitbourn's music include Katherine Jenkins, Daniel Hope, Arianna Zukerman, BBC Philharmonic and the choirs of King's College Cambridge and Westminster Abbey.

Annalies is being performed on Wednesday 6 October at 7.30 pm. Amy Haworth will be accompanied by St Peter's Church Choir and friends with a chamber ensemble conducted by Sylvia Pritchard.

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