Sunday, 26 December 2010

The usual Christmas Day craziness on Budleigh beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Budleigh Salterton's white Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Five fascinating facts about Brewster and Budleigh Salterton (3)

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

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

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

Heavens above!

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

What’s in a name?

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

A mystery property

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

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

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Delightful Christmas presents

Biscuits from Budleigh

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

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

Delytes sell a selection of jams using the Budleigh brand

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

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

With best wishes for Christmas

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

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

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

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

Monday, 13 December 2010

Mad about Mosses

The 2011 calendar from Mountain Moss Enterprises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mossin' Annie.

Party time at Fairlynch Museum

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

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

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

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

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