Showing posts from January, 2011

Another Budleigh author's fan discovered in cyberspace

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

After the excitement of finding an admirer of Budleigh Salterton writer George Mills in Florida that I last described at comes mention via a Google news alert of another literary name closely associated with our town.

And this time it's an American enthusiast from Massachusetts! Who not only knows Brewster and tells me it's a "lovely" town but has preached in that beautiful typically New England First Parish Unitarian Universalist church.

Joyce Dennys, some of whose work is in Fairlynch Museum, was an illustrator, painter, author and playwright born in India in 1893. She was also the wife of Budleigh Salterton GP Dr Tom Evans. There is a truly excellent biographical sketch of her life by London-based art gallery owner David Cohen at which is well worth a read.


A change from the usual birdwatching at Otter Head

I've occasionally had the chance to admire kitesurfers on the Exe estuary at Exmouth, and clearly it's a wonderful place to practise the sport, with Edge Watersports based on the river's edge near the station. Click on their site at to be inspired.

It must have been ten days ago on a Sunday when I took these shots on the way back from a walk from Otterton, but they're of a couple of kite surfers on the Otter estuary here in Budleigh Salterton.

A bit different from Budleigh's usual sporting activities such as croquet and cricket, aren't they?

If you recognise yourselves from the photos, let me know and I'll happily email you copies.

Thoughts out of the blue

Seeing this recently erected blue plaque outside Simcoe House, the summer residence of General John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806) on Budleigh Salterton's Fore Street Hill, reminded me of my early blogging days here and the excitement I felt on discovering that a resident of our town may well have shaped the history of the USA.

True, the story of how Simcoe saved the life of America's first President may be apocryphal but in my enthusiasm for reviving Budleigh's somewhat low-key transatlantic link with a small town on Cape Cod I was happy to accept the incident as genuine when I came across it at

Anyway, even if it's not, the story of a British soldier's sense of decency and honour in refusing to shoot an enemy in the back is a kind of reassurance that even in wartime human beings can be shown as not totally savage.

And so the legend took its place at…

New Director for Brewster Ladies' Library

American visitors from Brewster came bearing gifts

Margaret Hallett still remembers the day some years ago when she met visitors from Brewster, Massachusetts, and heard about the splendid facilities at the oddly-named Ladies' Library in our sister-town on Cape Cod.

Budleigh Salterton Library staff Angie Allen (left) and Margaret Hallett show off their little Brewster bear who still has a special shelf of his own

"Of course it's a different set-up over there, being privately-run," she told me, with just a hint of envy. She's happy enough as Librarian in Charge of the somewhat smaller equivalent in Budleigh Salterton. But every so often she looks at the little Brewster bear, pictured above, that her American visitors presented to our library on Station Road, and dreams of what they enjoy on the other side of the Pond.

Brewster Ladies' Library

Not only is the Ladies' Library much bigger than Budleigh Salterton's, but it's also considerably older, with an …

College students tackle coastal change

Dan Eynon, Head of Geography at Exmouth Community College with the team of student researchers in front of Fairlynch Museum

Interviewers and a film crew were out and about in Budleigh Salterton recently to ask local residents about how East Devon should be coping with the effects of coastal change.

Exmouth Community College is one of eight schools on the Jurassic Coast which are researching their own local stretches of coastline with a view to presenting their findings at a conference at Dorchester in March.

The students spent time at various sites in Budleigh including Fairlynch Museum, where they learnt about the town's famous Pebble Bed cliffs and the effects of coastal erosion.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) launched the £11 million Coastal Change Pathfinder fund in June 2009, inviting local authorities to bid for a portion of the money to improve community engagement in the process of planning to adapt to coastal change. There were 15 successful bi…

The Californian's return

It's some time since I first wrote on my blog about the wandering Californian Benjamin Simpson at

His vivid pen portrait of Budleigh Salterton's Dark Lane inspired me to look once again our town's most ancient road.

And here he is again at back in the UK for the funeral in Budleigh of his grandmother Mary Bryars.

I'll leave his wonderful photos of Dark Lane and St Peter's Burial Ground to speak for themselves.

Does anyone in Budleigh Salterton know Beryl & Ian?

This is the dedication printed in a re-edition of King Willow which appeared in the late 1950s - early 1960s.

It seems odd that the first virtual tour of our town that I've seen should have been made by someone from Florida rather than from Cape Cod, given Budleigh Salterton's link with Brewster. But there you are: one of the joys of travelling in cyberspace is the unexpected, where you discover undreamt-of destinations.

A bit like hitch-hiking, of which I did a lot during my student days: Athens, the Orkneys Islands, Stonehenge, Teheran... Such wonderful memories. Sometimes I'm tempted to throw away the bus pass, ditch the car and just stick my thumb out to see what would happen.

Anyway, back to reality - well, the parallel universe anyway - and the search by my literary detective friend Sam Williams from Ocala, Florida, who is still tracing the footsteps of Budleigh Salterton children's author George Mills.

As readers will know, I first became fascinated by Sam's int…

Fighting talk at the Ladies' Library

Some time ago I wrote a book about how a World War changed the lives of people in a small English town in Northamptonshire. It revived painful memories for some of those whom I interviewed, even though the passing of a whole half century had helped to heal the wounds.

How much more difficult it must have been for an American author engaged in a similar task, but faced with people affected by today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wars in which, as the author says, the public is "neither engaged in the issues of these two wars nor familiar with the troops’ experiences."

That's the challenge which Brewster people will learn about when they hear author Larry Minear in a panel discussion of his recently published book Through Veterans’ Eyes: The Iraq and Afghanistan Experience.

As Director of the Humanitarianism and War Project at Brown and then at Tufts universities, Cape Cod resident Larry Minear has worked for the past 20 years as a researcher on international and interna…

Love from Budleigh beach

It's almost a year now since I wrote about West Country artist and illustrator Laura Wall and her series of paintings entitled Love at the Seaside, the first of which was inspired by our pebble beach at Budleigh Salterton. Click on to find out more.

The series has grown and grown, inspired by coastal scenes in both Devon and Cornwall, and now she's sent me details of her latest exhibition at Duchy Square Centre for Creativity in Princetown

Called 'Love at the Seaside' of course, it runs until 28 February 2011. The centre is open from Wednesdays to Sundays, from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.

Shown above is Laura's painting 'End of the Day' which is included in the exhibition. "I was asked to put Exmouth through the window so it could be exhibited at Swordfish Gallery , in Exmouth in the new year," she writes.


Wild about free food

Robin Harford's plateful of "lovely, scrummy new wild edible plants"

With the New Year's arrival it's good to feel that Spring is on the way at last. And it's not just the snowdrops and aconites that'll tell us the garden is coming back to life. Grocery bills will be cut as the new season's fresh fruit and vegetables find their way into the shops.

However those who like their food not just fresh but free will know that Nature's larder also opens up at this time of the year.

This part of the country is a popular place for many food foragers. One of the best-known in the area is Robin Harford, based in the tiny hamlet of Northmostown between Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth. He is the publisher of the 'Free Wild Food Collection' and webmaster of EatWeeds: The Forager's Wild Food Guide to Edible Plants of Great Britain

A teacher at the Eden Project he has organised culinary events at Otterton Mill and the Dorset Food…

Storm brews over wind turbines plan

Protesters in Northamptonshire's Nene Valley, where I lived before moving to Budleigh Salterton, were successful in their campaign five years ago to defeat plans for wind turbines which would have dominated the countryside. They were supported by newly elected local MP Louise Bagshawe.

There are records of a windmill on Woodbury Common as early as 1549, as David Jannaway pointed out in his fascinating and wonderfully illustrated talk to Otter Valley Association members about the East Devon Pebblebed Heathlands on 11 January. And indeed there are about a dozen surviving windmills dotted around the county, mostly in a state of ruin.

David seemed to shudder at the possibility that clusters of the 21st century versions of windmills might somehow find their way into the local landscape. But in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in which Budleigh Salterton lies, it's unlikely that planners would ever permit the intrusion of the gigantic wind turbines which dominate many parts of t…

Searching for George Mills in a parallel universe

Retired Budleigh Salterton GP Dr David Evans
I was recently told by a Budleigh Salterton friend that by using the internet I am living in a parallel universe.

Well, his comment wasn't as personal as that. He actually said something to the effect that people who use the internet are living in a parallel universe. I think he meant to say that I am detached from reality.

I began to wonder about the whole concept of parallel universes. Being a devoted googler I clicked my way to a useful site at

And there I learnt that if indeed parallel universes do exist either my friend or I should be dispatched to the museum. For, as I read in How Stuff Works "species that are extinct in our universe have evolved and adapted in others. In other universes, we humans may have become extinct."

I certainly don't feel on the edge of extinction in spite of my brush with a life-threatening illness. In fact I fe…

A Budleigh bittern

A bittern. Photo courtesy

Another web entry from king birdspotter Mr Jaffa on his remarkable site which includes wonderful photos showing the rich variety of wildlife in the Budleigh Salterton area, especially on the Otter estuary.

This time it's about the return of what he calls the Budleigh bittern. I was going to ask for permission to reproduce his photo, but came across the equally striking photo of a bittern shown above on Sam Mugraby's terrific free site at

But do go ahead and click on for the entry on 9 January 2011 to see our local bittern. And now perhaps, next time I walk along the River Otter, I won't think that it's a curlew or even a pheasant.

Budleigh Salterton's cliffs: "like anchovy paste spread upon toast"

Looking good enough to eat: cliff erosion on the sea front at Budleigh Salterton My little piece about Cyril Shere's forthcoming talk to the Friends of Fairlynch Museum on Monday 17 January was duly posted at as I am now the Museum's press officer.

Cyril will no doubt dwell in his talk on that difference between the Triassic Coast, where Budleigh Salterton is situated, and the Jurassic Coast which makes up much of Dorset's shoreline.

It's a difference which has been staring us in the face for centuries of course. Just after I'd posted my promotional piece for the Museum I spotted via a Google news alert the mention of a 19th century versifier's view which Cyril might like to quote for his talk.

This is a certain R.H.D. Barham, son of the author of The Ingoldsby Legends, who retired to live in Dawlish and died there in 1886.

In his poem The Monk of Haldon he contrasts East …

A new post for me

Regular readers of these pages may have noticed that Fairlynch Museum keeps on cropping up.

That's because some weeks ago I accepted an invitation to become its press officer. It's what I was doing anyway, so not a decision I had to think terribly hard about. The Museum still needs a Chairman, by the way.

With a keen interest in Budleigh Salterton affairs, how could I fail to take notice of what goes on in this amazingly odd building - probably the only thatched museum in the country - with its impressively organised archives, its celebrated collections of costumes and other curiosities telling us the history of the town, and the loyalty that Fairlynch has inspired in its many volunteer helpers? This year the building - not the Museum - celebrates its bicentenary.

Anyway this blog is a sort of museum in cyberspace for Budleigh Salterton, a collection of curiosities through which visitors can pick their way deciding which are the boring and which are the fascinating bits.

Do visit …

Call for coffee morning helpers

Friends of Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum are planning a coffee morning on Saturday 2 April from 10.00 am to 12 midday.

The organisers are seeking items for sale such as plants, books and bric-à-brac to raise funds for the Museum. "We'd welcome anything of value or that might be useful. Perhaps some unwanted Christmas presents?" says Marion Johnson. There will be a cake stall and a raffle at the event.

A meeting to plan the event is being held at 10.00 am on Monday 17 January, at 9 Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton. Volunteer helpers are welcome. Please phone Marion Johnson on 01395 446723.

Stem cells in medicine: scientific, ethical and economic issues

Following the success of last year's event which saw invited experts discussing the subject of Climate Change and Global Warming the second Science Forum will be on the theme of Stem Cells in Medicine. The event on Friday 4 February 2011 in the Public Hall is being organised by the Budleigh Salterton Festival Trust.

The forum programme begins with delegate registration at 9.30 am for a 10.00 am start.

Dr Lesley Chow, from Imperial College, London, will explain the biology of different stem cell types and describes progress in using them in medicine.

Dr Christine Hauskeller, from Exeter University, will discuss the ethical, legal and social attitudes to stem cell research as they vary across the world.

After lunch Dr Tim Allsopp, from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, will describe the opportunities for the pharmaceutical industry arising from stem cell technology

A panel of speakers chaired by Prof Peter Revell will then take questions from delegates and will discuss “Stem cell resear…

Following in Sir Walter's footsteps

East Budleigh with its ancient church and its picturesque thatched houses is one of Devon's most attractive villages. Steeped in history, with its intriguing connection to America through two of its former residents - Sir Walter Raleigh and Roger Conant - it's a place that inspires.

The farmhouse of Hayes Barton, Sir Walter's birthplace, is on its own worth the trek out from Budleigh Salterton just for the view of this beautiful building pictured above in its tranquil setting, even though the house is not open to the public.

Just occasionally a private visit can be arranged, and on Wednesday 26 January 2011 it's the turn of lucky members of the Art Fund, who meet at Hayes Barton at 10.30 am for a tour of the farmhouse before being escorted on a tour of East Budleigh church, famed for its magnificent sixteenth century bench ends.

The cost of the visit, which ends at 1.00 pm is £12 per person. It's clearly a popular event as the trip is, I'm told, "grossly over…