Wednesday, 26 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.

Budleigh Salterton author and doctor's wife Joyce Dennys at the age of 93

Her literary career took off during the Second World War when her pieces from 'Henrietta' the voice from the home front were published weekly by Sketch magazine as "funny and quietly naughty gobbits of wartime life" as David Cohen puts it.

When she was in her nineties, living in Budleigh, the pieces were republished by Deutsch and then by Penguin as Henrietta’s War; news from the home front 1939-1942 (1985) and Henrietta Sees It Through; more news from the home front (1986).

It's that last title which Cape Cod blogger Sarah Clarke wrote about admiringly on 25 January at her site "A light-hearted view of the home front" indeed, is how she describes the author's portrayal of Britain's battle for survival against Nazi Germany, " but never without the sense of the strain and tears the humor is trying to combat."

And then a sentence which struck a chord with me because I'd described a similar wartime tragedy in my 1995 book Oundle's War. "Her most poignant column is one that abandons humor completely as she reports the death of the younger son of friends who have already lost their elder son."

As a resident of Joyce Dennys' town who'd written about life during World War Two I couldn't resist contacting Sarah, who lives in Rockport, Massachusetts, to give my book a plug on the other side of the Pond. It turns out that she had particularly enjoyed Dennys' connection with Budleigh Salterton. "As you know, I'm sure, Budleigh Salterton is in the dialogue of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, a play dear to my heart," she told me.

Right now Sarah is going through a phase of discovering English authors and tells me she is enjoying Fred Secombe's vicar/curate series, which I have not yet discovered. "As I was a UU minister for 10 years, I identify with his stories," she says. It turns out that she had preached at Brewster when "precandidating" for the parish of Plymouth, Massachusetts, where she was a minister for three years, and saw a lot of Cape Cod.

My world is getting smaller by the minute.

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.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

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 among the other curiosities that I've come across since living in Budleigh Salterton.

Since then I see that it's been given even greater credence by Wikipedia

But back to blue plaques. Exmouth and Sidmouth are full of them, all looking more or less identical in shape and size.

Exmouth's have been erected by the Exmouth Society: this one marks the last remaining thatched cottage in the town centre.

Situated on North Street it stands in sad contrast to the
architectural blot of the town's police station,a few hundred yards further up.

The Royal Glen Hotel, Sidmouth, dates originally from around 1700, but was rebuilt in the early 19th century in Regency style with Gothic features such as the casement windows

Sidmouth's blue plaques adorn some very grand and striking buildings, thanks to the Sid Vale Association.

Here is the Royal Glen Hotel's, marking the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Kent and their daughter, the future Queen Victoria. I'm sure she would not have been amused by the text's mangled grammar.

And what about Budleigh Salterton? It certainly has some interesting houses where notable residents settled, and in some cases it's the Otter Valley Association which has taken the initiative in marking the building with a blue plaque. But as for uniformity, forget it. Budleigh's done its own thing, in its own individualistic way.

Here's the Otter Valley Association plaque on Umbrella Cottage off Fore Street Hill, the home of Dr H.J. Carter (1813-95), Fellow of the Royal Society, a British army physician and authority on sponges.

And it was the Otter Valley Association which marked the Raleigh Wall down near the beach, where Sir John Millais is supposed to have painted 'The Boyhood of Raleigh.' Not oval, not round, but rectangular this time. 

But on with my plaque survey... Opposite the Raleigh Wall is The Octagon, where Sir John Millais stayed. A round plaque this time, but no indication of who was responsible.

Nor do we know who provided the sign on Cliff House, where Thomas Adolphus Trollope (1810-1892) lived with his wife Frances Eleanor until his death. And I think she deserves a bit more of a mention, being an author in her own right.

It does look as if it might have been part of a job lot ordered by either the Exmouth Society or the Sid Vale Association.

They were certainly trying to economise by noting the fact on the same plaque that another Budleigh worthy, Dr Thomas Brushfield lived opposite. Or perhaps they were aware that not everyone would be able to understand the Latin inscription on that rather splendid stone slab underneath.

But surely Dr Brushfield's eye-catching house, The Cliff, on Cliff Road, with its Alpine appendages complete with stained glass windows deserves its own blue plaque with a reminder of what he achieved as a highly respected local historian.

And finally my tour of Budleigh's places historic places - commemorated with stone, plastic, or metal - ends near 16, High Street, where an informative round plaque - metal on a wooden base - tells us about the Osgood family and the well-restored little building which is apparently the oldest surviving in the street.

There are of course other buildings in Budleigh Salterton which deserve to be marked: Park House, the home of Vice-Admiral Preedy which you can see at , now a residential home.

There's the Temple Methodist church which replaced the original chapel built by the bookseller John Lackington as I mentioned at

And Greyfriars, the home of the children's author George Mills, who will be familiar to those who have followed the quest for him, starting with

And the Northview Road home of the archaeologist George Carter (1886-1974) whose achievements I wrote about at

And what about the house in Dark Lane which was the home of the actor Reg Varney (1916-2008), star of the television comedy show On the Buses?

I've yet to find the house in Budleigh where the poet Meg Peacocke was born in 1930; the home of the artist Joyce Dennys (1893-1991) and that of her niece the children's book author Jean Blathwayt who settled here in 1953; the prolific author Ronald F. Delderfield, (1912-1972); the book illustrator Cecil Elgee; the author George Gissing, (1857-1903); the novel-writing clergyman Headon Hill also known as Francis Edward Grainger (1857-1927) who lived on Marine Parade; Ethel Larcombe (1879-1965) the champion tennis and badminton player; and the film actress Belinda Lee (1935-1961). The answers to where they lived are probably in the excellent local history files at Fairlynch Museum.

I'm sure there are others who are worthy of memory. Our town has attracted some interesting characters over the years. But if it's clearly a complex business to decide who should be commemorated, it's perhaps even more difficult, at least in Budleigh, to decide how.

"It is a bit of a free for all, even in London, and probably not a good thing in the long run," I was told by Jane Biro, Blue Plaques Coordinator at English Heritage, which limits its efforts to mark buildings associated with the famous to the capital.

"We did run a pilot scheme aiming to branch our activities out nationally but it was withdrawn not only due to lack of resources but also because we ended up treading on the toes of other schemes. It’s a tricky one!" she admitted.

The Royal Overseas League, responsible for the Simcoe House blue plaque, put much thought into the issue. Their Ewan MacLeod pointed out that in spite of English Heritage's efforts at coordination heritage plaques in London come in 28 assorted versions. "Most are with white lettering on blue, but there are examples also with yellow, brown, olive and green background. Most are circular, but some are square and one rectangular."

"Many towns and cities now promote 'Heritage Trails' as a tourist attraction and so I suppose there is some merit in having a common design easily spotted by those 'taking the walk'," he told me. "Otherwise it seems to me that the variety is itself of interest and, as things stand, would provide a collector with a lifetime of pleasant activity and study."

So maybe on that basis, Budleigh's apparently chaotic system of plaques is more enjoyable for visitors than that of its more disciplined neighbours in Exmouth and Sidmouth.

Monday, 24 January 2011

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 interesting history. In 1852, when Brewster was flourishing with the wealth of homecoming sea captains and the vigour of many small businesses, the Brewster Ladies' Library came into being.

Two young women, Sarah Augusto Mayo and Mary Louise Cobb, engaged in the ambitious project of interesting their friends in the town's need for a library. They were so successful that twelve founding ladies established a subscription library in the home of Captain Mayo, at the site of the home now at 1772 Main Street, Brewster. It opened to the public on January 29, 1853. Men were allowed to borrow books, but they had to pay more than the ladies. That rule was dropped in time.

Many people wonder why, in these gender neutral days, the name of Brewster Ladies' Library is still used. As can be seen, the name evolved from the founding group - 12 Brewster ladies. In the 1970s an objection was raised to the name because of the possibility of misinterpretation - that men were not allowed. However, in an overwhelming vote at the annual library meeting, the decision was made to go with history and keep the name. In 1999, "Your Community Library" was added to the name to avoid confusion.
To find out more about Brewster Ladies' Library click on
And now, as Cape Codder journalist Rich Eldred explains, the Ladies' Library has a new Director.
New library director happy to return to Bay state

Kathy Cockcroft is a native of Massachusetts but her last library job was in Texas
Photo credit: Brewster Ladies' Library

As the age of e-books and tablet computers dawns is there still a place for the old fashioned library?

Kathy Cockcroft hopes so. She is the brand new director of Brewster Ladies’ Library. Her first official day was last Tuesday when she met and greeted citizens of her new town over cookies and coffee.

Her last job was in Rowlett, Texas, just outside of Dallas, where she spent the last two years, but Cockcroft is a native of Brockton and is glad to be back in her home state. She attended UMass Amherst and got her library degree at Simmons College in Boston.

Rowlett was a bigger town, with a population of 55,000.

“I enjoyed it very much,” Cockcroft said. “My previous job was in Connecticut but my husband got a job offer in Texas so we decided to move, but I missed my home and family and I’m very glad to be back to New England.”

She spent nine years as director of Canton Public Library just west of Hartford. Canton is a town about the size of Brewster.

“I truly loved that position,” she said. “I’ve always had a love of the Cape too. I just love this side of the Cape. The library is beautiful. The community involvement is great. The number of volunteers (200) is amazing when you have that kind of support. That means the residents are enjoying and like the library.”

Brewster Ladies’ Library is privately run and Cockcroft reports to an 11-member board.

She’s just arrived so she won’t have any big plans for the library right away.
“I want to get to know the community,” she said. “I can certainly tell it’s well used. The current five year plan goes to 2012.”

So she has a few years to look ahead.

Cockcroft isn’t concerned computer tablets and such will render libraries archaic. She has seen the rise of audio books, videos and computers.

“A library is a community center. It’s a gathering place to exchange ideas and have social relationships,” she noted. “It’s your community and it’s a resource for people. This isn’t original with me but a library is a cornerstone of Democracy because we are providing everybody access to everything. I think that is a critical role libraries play.”

Cockcroft is prepared for the era of the digital book.

“Keeping up with technology is one of the most critical things,” she conceded. “Some people will hold onto the book and if they want videos or books for the IPad they’ll find that libraries have them or we can order it or provide it.”

She’s still shopping for a house.

“I’d like to buy a home in Brewster. I’ve never had the luxury of living in the town I’m working in,” she noted.

“I’m just really happy to be here. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and working with the community,” Cockcroft said. “You will see me out here on the floor not sitting in my office.”

By Rich Eldred
Reprinted with permission from The Cape Codder newspaper

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 bids, of which the Dorset County Council, on behalf of partners in Dorset and East Devon, received £376,500 from DEFRA on 1 December 2009

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 interest - well, an obsession really, like all meaningful interests - when I posted a piece about George at

And now here is Sam on his tour of Budleigh at I need to point out to him that Budleigh Hospital is nowhere near the village of Otterton of course. But he's done a pretty good job of spying on our town thanks to Google Earth.

I should have responded earlier to a request from him regarding the above dedication by George Mills which appeared in a re-edition of the ex-schoolmaster's novel King Willow, originally published in 1938.

The fact that the re-edition of King Willow took place in the late 1950s - early 1960s has inspired Sam with an exciting thought.

"Those years put that publication squarely into GM's time in Budleigh," he writes. "The updated dedication to that edition is to a young newlywed couple 'Beryl & Ian.' This sounds strange, but I've contacted a variety of 'Beryl & Ians' around the internet who were born in the late 1930s and none of the couples knew of a George Mills.

"Is it possible Beryl & Ian are still in Budleigh and their names simply don't appear on-line? Mills's dedication uses "long voyage" and "good ship" to describe their matrimonial bliss--a perfect metaphor from a man and for a young couple who all live by the sea!"

The Catholic church in Budleigh Salterton, in Clinton Terrace

A second interesting thought arising from Sam's quest comes from the fact that George Mills's funeral seems to have been conducted in Budleigh Salterton's Catholic church. Of course! Ladycross, in Seaford, Sussex, was a Catholic prep school. I should have known that, having been brought up as a Catholic myself and knowing at least two people with connections to it, including a former colleague who taught there for a time. Sadly he was there long after George Mills.

So could Budleigh Salterton's Catholic parish priest, 90-year-old Fr George Gerry, provide the answer?

Sunday, 16 January 2011

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 internal armed conflicts.

His interviews with aid workers, soldiers, and local populations in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean have resulted in the publication of more than 14 books. For more information click on

Joining Mr Minear on the panel to explore the various impacts of the wars will be a veteran from the area who has been deployed to these conflicts and Barry Donahue, staff photographer of the Cape Codder and father of a Marine Lance Corporal who completed two deployments to Afghanistan.

The discussion which is at Brewster Ladies’ Library on Tuesday 18 January 2011 from 7.00 - 8.00 pm is entitled 'The Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: Reflections by Veterans and Their Families.' It's part of a 'Beyond our Borders' programme of discussions presented by the Library, and admission is free.

A painful subject for discussion.

An appropriate time - it's ten years since the event which so many ex-servicemen blame for their mysterious Gulf War syndrome.

And a challenge for the organisers to wrap up neatly such a controversial subject in the space of an hour.

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.

"As this is where my partner is from we had a lot of fun putting in all the details like the kite surfers and the ferry unique to Exmouth." The design will be used for a greeting card series.
For more information about Laura's work click on

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 Festival. He's been featured in the Guardian and in the BBC's Good Food magazine and BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme.

Robin Harford's wild food courses for this year are listed at

Food forager Robin Harford at work

Recently he was boasting on his website about how friends were struggling to find enough stuff to fill their salad bags in their organic market garden. "After all 2010 has been the coldest winter in a hundred years!" he writes. "Not so for the hedgerow salad bags I gather, which are over brimming with lovely, scrummy new wild edible plant growth."

Last year's Wild Food Day on 25 September 2010 saw Otterton-based Chris Holland, founder of Wholeland , teaching people to discover edible plants and traditional folk remedies. The event ended with a lunchtime cook-out of gathered fruit, leaves and roots on the beach at Branscombe.

For many food foragers living off the land is an essential part of the art of survival, and few people in East Devon know more about that than the instructors at the Commando Training Centre (CTCRM) in Lympstone, the principal military training centre for Royal Marines situated a few miles to the north of Budleigh Salterton.

More than 50 years ago one of the pioneers of food foraging who settled in East Devon was instructing commandos in the art of survival in the wild.

George Murray Levick, a naval doctor and Antarctic explorer who took part in Captain Scott's ill-fated expedition of 1910-1913 to the South Pole survived six months of appalling conditions sheltering in an ice-cave. He and his five companions in the Northern Party of the Scott expedition were trapped by the Antarctic winter.

George Murray Levick (1877–1956), British Antarctic explorer, member of Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic expedition of 1910-1913, the Terra Nova Expedition, skinning a penguin on board the Terra Nova, 1910

Levick's reputation as an expert in survival in hostile environments was such that at outbreak of World War Two he was asked by the Government to instruct commandos in the art of survival. In Antarctica he had tried the experiment of living for a week on seal meat and nothing else. The notes that he now made in wartime formed the basis of a memorandum published by the Naval Intelligence Division "for the use of agents and escapees who may find themselves at large on the Continent without food."

Commander Levick's notes on edible wild plants were published by the Admiralty during World War Two

The document, entitled Living off the Land, stressed the need for a radical approach in order to survive. "Men should be impressed with the importance of forgetting old prejudices when they are faced with the necessity of eating anything they can get hold of," was the advice regarding animal foods, including rats and mice, all birds, frogs, snails, dogs and cats, grass snakes, lizards, hedgehogs, eels and horse meat.

The issue of wild vegetables is presented as "a more serious subject" because of the importance of recognising the chief edible plants as opposed to those in which "food material is enclosed in cellulose, which our digestion cannot dissolve." Detailed advice follows on the methods of preparing stinging nettles, clover, bracken fern, sow thistle, dandelion, arrowhead, mushrooms, corn, hips and haws, and - surprisingly - yew berries, described as "wholesome food" although the foliage is recognised as poisonous, and the seeds within the berries are in fact extremely toxic.

Murray Levick's contribution to the art of survival and living off the land will be one of the features of this year's exhibition at Fairlynch Museum in Budleigh Salterton The exhibition will run from Sunday 10 April until October.

For more information email

Friday, 14 January 2011

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 the British countryside. Or is it?

Could our East Devon heathland sprout wind turbines one day?

Over in Massachusetts, where our sister-town of Brewster is situated, wind turbines, along with waste-to-energy plants, sustainable biomass, solar and hydropower have for some time been an integral part of plans to make the area self-sufficient in energy requirements. The American state "has incredible clean-energy potential," as Brewster's Town Administrator Charles Sumner points out. "We need to make sure we own a piece of the global clean energy economy."

It was in such a spirit of optimism that the local authorities were hoping that the construction of two 1.8-megawatt turbines measuring 410 ft high, on town land off Freeman's Way, would go ahead smoothly and in due course provide Brewster with approximately 50% of its electricity. The Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative, which includes 18 towns on the Cape and Martha's Vineyard, would pay for the purchase and installation of the turbines, and would own and operate them for 20 years.

Many residents approve the plan. But the number of dissenting voices has suddenly grown. "In what I see as a bit of a rush to judgment, the Brewster town officials have pushed this process through without clearly informing the taxpayers what the pros and cons of such a project might be," wrote local resident Greg Norgeot in a letter of 7 December 2010 to the Cape Codder newspaper.

And with the new year has come a more concerted opposition to the turbines plan with angry protests at town meetings and a vociferous presence on websites like

"We represent a group of Brewster residents who have been educating ourselves about the many facets of wind turbines: public welfare, property values, safety and maintenance," reads a statement on the site by Brewster Citizens for Responsible Energy. "We have also been learning about how the town has been shepherding the plan, while marginalizing the people who raise concerns, and ignoring credible evidence of problems with wind power."

On Tuesday 4 January 2011 a continuous and raucous protest at a planned presentation by the Cape and Vineyard Electric Co-operative in Brewster's Baptist church persuaded the organiser to terminate the event less than nine minutes after it was to begin.

"We are in favor of 'clean' and 'renewable energy' of all kinds, as long as citizens are free from dangerous consequences, and the environment is not at risk," I was told by Mitch Relin, of Brewster Citizens for Responsible Energy. He has challenged the location of the Freeman's Way turbines, pointing out that some European countries have established two kilometres as a 'setback' - the distance between the turbines and the nearest resident.

In England, he notes, a bill intended to legislate on this matter is currently being discussed in England's House of Lords. “They seem to be looking out for their citizens," he is quoted as saying. "They seem to care about their welfare. So who is looking out for us?”

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

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 feel enlivened by what my new friend Sam Williams wrote about me last Sunday on his internet site

In the age of WikiLeaks it's good to know that the internet can be used simply and honestly just to help a decent-sounding stranger on the other side of the world.

I feel sure that Sam will be even more thrilled that after posting my contribution to his search on I tracked down George Mills' former GP, pictured above.

"He was a very sociable welcoming person," recalls Dr David Evans of his former patient, "as indeed were his sisters. They used to have quite big parties, and were well-known Budleigh characters. He was devoted to his sisters Aggie and Vi. They got on well as a nice little family, but in no way was he dependent on them."

Dr Evans remembers that George Mills and his sisters were croquet fanatics, and were also keen on bridge. "They would go to Budleigh Salterton Croquet Club under all circumstances."

He remembered that Violet was a good golfer. "Just after World War Two she was on a ship to South Africa and was invited to represent the national England golf team."

Again, I delighted to be able to publish such little details like this which at the speed of light will reach my literary detective friend in Florida. Details which, like tiny brush strokes, will help him complete his portrait of the mysterious George Mills.

I am starting to wonder what planet my Budleigh friend is living on.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

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 Devon's Triassic Coast, looking "like anchovy paste spread upon toast" with the way in which the Jurassic Coast of "neighbouring Dorset gleams white as a ghost."

Click on Wayland Wordsmith's most erudite blog about the Exe Estuary at and the equally erudite, scholarly and informative site of JSBlog for 11 January 2011 at run by Topsham-based Ray Girvan, and you'll find the relevant section of the poem.

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 the real museum at Fairlynch if you have a spare moment, or better still, join the Friends of Fairlynch and get free admission. The annual subscription is £10 per member. If you're interested please contact Jan Harvey on 01395 444334.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

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.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

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 research is a benefit for our society and its commercial exploitation of real value.”

The day ends at 5.00 pm. Complimentary coffee or tea will be available during the intervals and during the break for lunch and delegates may purchase fish and chips if they wish.

A seat at the full day forum costs £10. Tickets are available from the Tourist Information Centre in Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton. Telephone 01395 445275
For some background information on stem cells by Prof Peter Revell, click on

Prof Revell is Emeritus Professor at University College London. Formerly Professor of Histopathology at the Royal Free and University College Medical School, he is a past President of the European Society of Biomaterials. Prof Revell is a Fellow both of The Royal College of Pathologists and the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering.

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 subscribed."

The Raleigh family pew, dated 1537, in All Saints' Church

The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for works of art and plays a major part in enriching the range and quality of art in the UK. It campaigns, fundraises and gives money to museums and galleries to buy and show art, and promote its enjoyment through the Fund's events and membership scheme.

For more details about the Art Fund click on For information about the local branch contact Kate Sisum on 01392 877537 or email by 30 December.

The Art Fund members are most grateful to Katie Down for tour of Hayes Barton and to Hanneke Coates who will guide them around the church.