Thursday, 31 March 2011

Cutting hedge technology needed

If you've read my past complaints at about speeding traffic on the roads around Budleigh Salterton you'll know that Devon County Councillor Christine Channon has been hard at work persuading the powers that be to install interactive warning signs at approaches to the town.

Many local residents shared my concerns. "Walked up to Sherbrook Hill today with my children, was terrifying," was one comment on my blog post. "Look at the approach to Sidmouth with their traffic calming, this is what is needed, and it will save lives. Needs to happen now."

So I was delighted to see that two of these clever devices have appeared on West Hill and Exmouth Road. I wanted a photo of the West Hill sign - illuminated of course - and had to wait for quite some time for a speeding car like the one in the above photo to light it up. How reassuring, I thought. Were the signs actually needed after all when most drivers seemed to be so law-abiding?

But then it struck me that vehicles don't usually exceed the 30 mph limit when travelling uphill. And sure enough, further along on Exmouth Road, where there's a slight downhill run, the speed restriction was being ignored in much the same way that it always has been by a selfish minority of drivers.

It also struck me, as I admired the new interactive sign on West Hill with its cutting edge solar-powered technology, that something was missing. Where was that useful triangular warning sign telling drivers to beware of pedestrians at that point where the road is so narrow that there is no pavement? It had been exchanged for the new smart gadget.

And I then remembered the photo that I took a year or so ago showing how any warning sign at that point is likely to be hidden by foliage as the summer comes on. Perhaps the new device comes with its own hedge trimmer.

Good neighbours watch over museum

PC Simon Evans flanked by the two recently recruited Fairlynch stewards Hanneke Coates and Catrine Waller along with some of the Museum's loyal team of volunteer helpers

"It's one of Budleigh's treasures, and we're proud to support it," say Hanneke Coates and Catrine Waller. "We're looking forward to welcoming visitors and telling them something of the area's fascinating history." Local residents Hanneke and Catrine are among the newest recruits to a stewarding scheme at Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum which has been supported by Devon & Cornwall Police.

With its displays of local geology and natural history, mementos of Budleigh Salterton's railway and volumes of researched information on local events, developments and personalities, Fairlynch - the only thatched museum of its kind in the UK - is a precious repository of much of the town's heritage. The building is also one of Budleigh's best known landmarks, and celebrates its bicentenary this year.

Fairlynch is staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers. It is home to one of the finest collections of costumes dating from Georgian times through to the 1950s, although only a small part can be displayed at any one time. There is also a beautiful display of local lace.

Now thanks to a local police initiative the museum's team of stewards is being enlarged by publicising their role through the Neighbourhood Watch scheme. "We know that Budleigh Salterton people see the museum as one of the town's valuable assets," says Police Community Support Officer Chantalle Major.

"We've been more than happy to help ensure proper security at Fairlynch by encouraging residents to volunteer as stewards. The town has a strong community spirit and we've been delighted to have the opportunity of contributing to it by using the Neighbourhood Watch scheme in this unusual way."

If you would like to learn more about the Fairlynch Neighbourhood Watch steward scheme please contact Sylvia Merkel on 01395 446493. The museum opens for the new season at 2.00 pm on 10 April.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Don't be distracted!

Being burgled is never a pleasant experience, especially the violent kind. I suppose a distraction burglary is certainly less traumatic for the householder, but it's surely hurtful in its way if it leaves you feeling foolish at trusting someone who you thought was 'a decent type.'

Devon & Cornwall Police's community messaging service is an ideal way of warning people about these types who are not decent at all.

The service was highlighted by Chief Constable Stephen Otter when he spoke ten days ago on 21 March at Budleigh Salterton's annual parish meeting. If everyone in the town was part of the service, he said, you become a whole Budleigh Salterton Neighbourhood Watch.

So with that in mind, here's the latest warning I've just received via community messaging. Do pass it on.

"Several distraction burglaries have been committed in the Devon area in the last few days. In some incidents the offender claims to be from the Water Board; in others the Gas Board. These are thought to be being carried out by one male. This male is described as in his 20s, 5ft 6ins tall with short black hair. Please be suspicious of any cold callers, ask for identification and let no one into your house you do not know, however plausible, until you are certain they are legitimate. Cold callers should expect to be challenged these days.

Please phone us with any information on 08452 777 444."

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Brushing up Budleigh's image

Pictured is Mayor Tom Wright: "We're the Big Society in action in Budleigh Salterton."

Somewhere a few weeks ago I'd read that money had become available for re-painting the railings which run alongside the brook in Budleigh's Fore Street.

I'd imagined that a squad of District Council painters would be tackling the work. So it was a surprise yesterday to find myself face to goggled face with the town's mayor who'd rolled up his sleeves and was busy getting on with the job along with his fellow town councillor Chris Kitson.

The railings are the property of Devon County Council, Mayor Wright told me. They're a vital feature of the floral display along the brook, earning Budleigh its prominent position in the annual Britain in Bloom competition.

Budleigh in Bloom's members had been hoping that the railings would be given a facelift in time for the competition this summer, but were dismayed to find that because of spending cuts the County Council would not be able to spare the cash for the re-painting.

Right: Cllr Tom Wright in his usual mayoral attire

Enter County Councillor and Budleigh resident Christine Channon, who from something called her Localism Budget produced the necessary finance. Cllr Kitson and Budleigh in Bloom quickly organised a team of volunteers, and yesterday I was seeing the result.

It just goes to show that you can't accuse our councillors of whitewashing the issue.

Running for the men in her life

"Give a few bob," Bob Monkhouse asked us when appealing for funds to help beat the prostate cancer which killed him. Budleigh Salterton's Elaine Raymond, pictured above, is confident she can raise a lot more than that with the half-marathon that she's running on 1 May even though she hasn't run properly for 20 years.

"I'm finding the training quite tough, and my best so far is only six miles, but I'll get there in the end," says a determined Elaine, who lives in Knowle Road. "As long as I can finish before everyone has gone home," she adds.

The 56-year-old has had to face the reality of prostate cancer in her boss, her father and in her husband Mark, who was diagnosed with the disease just over two years ago. Now she is running in the Follett Stock Great West Run 2011 in Exeter to raise money which will be split between the Chestnut Appeal and the North & East Devon Prostate Support Association (NEDPSA).

Mark, 54, has recently completed a course of hormone therapy following brachytherapy and the couple are now anxiously awaiting the results of blood tests in the next six weeks to see if the treatment has worked. "I'm so grateful for all the medical help we've had," says Elaine."I'm surrounded by men at work. I tell them I'm running for them."

Both Elaine and her husband believe that diet is an important factor in preventing the disease. "We've taken up green tea and cut out dairy products. Hopefully the new regime will help me hit that target of 13.1 miles I'm aiming for."

For sponsorship enquiries and further enquiries Elaine can be contacted on 01395 444343 or via email at 35,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year. For information about the Chestnut Appeal please click on

Monday, 21 March 2011

Reflections on the glass

I enjoy the occasional spot of DIY - it revives memories from all those years ago of messing around in my father's workshop in Somerset - increasingly helping me to recreate that second more perfect childhood. Something to which I feel we should all be entitled in exchange for the passage of time.

We used to live in a Victorian property - it even had a datestone telling us that the house was built in 1886. It gave me childish thrills even then to make unexpected discoveries. Like original Victorian Christmas cards under the floorboards in the attic, or pulling off the plywood cladding beloved by previous owners to discover a beautiful staircase intact with spindles and oak newel posts, as well as fine panelled doors.

Then there was the glass. A quarter-inch thick panel etched with a design showing a sheaf of corn was discovered in the cellar covered in dust and cobwebs and refitted in another door that had been spoilt with that nasty bobbly frosted glass. And a hatch into the attic - the original staircase had been removed for some inexplicable reason - with a border of beautiful Victorian glass in deep red, green and blue colours which let light stream down through the house.

The putty had gone rock hard, but I enjoyed the work of painstakingly applying paint stripper to soften it and then getting the precious glass re-cut to fit in a new skylight above our front door. More nasty glass - reeded this time - was taken out of the door itself and replaced with another quarter-inch etched panel to match the age of the house, decorated with birds this time. But it had taken me 20 years of rummaging in junk shops and architectural salvage yards to find a piece of exactly the right size.

Now, having seen stained glass artist Amy McCarthy's exhibition at Otterton Mill and her website at I'm wondering about how much more exciting it might be to take advantage of the sparkling maritime light and be inspired by the colourful surroundings that we enjoy in East Devon to install a specially commissioned piece of glass in our new home.

Actually, as I write this, mid-morning, it's difficult to appreciate those colours in the swirling sea mist.

The works at Otterton Mill are all inspired by local landscapes, from Poltimore House to Sidmouth beach and incorporate found objects, etching and acid etching, and recycled glass, says Amy. "All the pieces are made using traditional stained glass leading techniques and some of them are framed in reclaimed tulip tree frames, commissioned from a local carpenter, which look lovely."

Choosing the design for something like a specially commissioned stained glass panel is not to be undertaken in a hurry, as Amy recognises. "My process works like this," she explained. "I come and see you - you can come to me, but as it's site specific it helps to see where it's going - and talk to you about what you like/don’t like and then I go away and do some sketches and if you choose one then I ask for a 20 % deposit at this point, make up the panel - with the process going up on my blog as I do it - and then you pay the balance on delivery. I insert internal strengthening steels on large panels to reinforce them and I have had numerous pieces fitted into double glazed units. I fit some windows myself, others need the help of a handy man/carpenter. I have contacts to help with this."

Commissioned work can be expensive of course. But searching for the perfect stained glass on ebay is time-consuming, and less creative than discussing ideas with an artist. "I try to keep my prices affordable," says Amy. "The two front door panels I have on my waiting list at the moment both cost between £400-£500, but they are quite big doors."

Exeter-based Amy McCarthy can be contacted on 01392 210863 or by email at

Pictured from the top are examples of Amy's work:
'Across the bay'
'Budleigh Salterton'
'Sunshine in the corn'

No run-of-the mill story

Pic: Stony Brook Gristmill in Brewster, Cape Cod
Photo by Byron Cain

My American friend Jonathan Mayo keeps me informed about all manner of things going on in the area around Budleigh Salterton's sister-town of Brewster. A few months ago he drew my attention to some photos that he'd taken for his own blog at

Otterton Mill, proud of its signature stoneground wholemeal flour. Three-hour bakery lessons are available by phoning 01395 568521. Book early because I see that tomorrow's course on 22 March 2011 is sold out

Stony Brook Gristmill, a major Cape Cod tourist attraction has been undergoing refurbishment for some time now. I've always taken a special interest in the project because the fact that both the Brewster and the Budleigh areas have their own working mills - both grinding corn as well - seems to be just another delightful similarity between the two towns. Otterton Mill, just a few miles upstream from Budleigh Salterton, is of course just a bit older!

There's an interesting explanation of how Otterton Mill works on the website at

The herring run on Stony Brook, where millions of fish be seen on their way up to spawn in Brewster's ponds

The Brook and the Rover Otter even have their own fish runs near their millstreams, though the sight of Stony Brook's herring is more spectacular than anything I've ever seen at Otterton. But perhaps I haven't been there at the right moment.

Anyway it's good to see that the Stony Brook work has made great progress and that thanks to "old-school craftsmanship" the Cape Cod mill, originally built in 1873, will last for generations to come.

I see that Otterton Mill has two milling sessions tomorrow, from 11.00 am - 12.30 pm, and from 2.00 - 3.00 pm. A full list of milling dates is available by clicking on

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Bach's B Minor Mass

It's said that Bach, pictured above, probably never heard his B Minor Mass in its entirety during his lifetime

More amazing music. It's taking place a bit further away this time, but under the baton of Budleigh Salterton's own Nicholas Marshall. As Musical Director of Exeter Bach Society he will be conducting J.S. Bach's magnificent work. So I expect there'll be plenty of people from the town in the audience, as well as on stage.

Young soloists from London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama will feature in the performance along with the Exeter Bach Society Choir and Orchestra.

Founded in 1995, Exeter Bach Society is the only choral society in Exeter devoted to the life and works of J.S. Bach. As well as giving outstanding choral concerts, the Society regularly perform Bach's Cantatas in the Cathedral as the major part of the Evening Service on selected Sundays.

The B Minor Mass is being performed in St David's Church, Queens Terrace, in Exeter city centre, at 7.30 pm on Saturday 2 April 2011. Tickets are £15 unreserved (concessions for students and people on benefits) available online from Roger Churchward (01392 468867); Opus Classical (01393 214044), WeGotTickets via ; Exeter Phoenix, Gandy Street, Exeter (01392 667080), or, if still available, at the church door.

Peter Donohoe returns

Celebrated concert pianist Peter Donohoe
Photo credit: Susie Ahlburg

It's been almost two years since I started blogging in Budleigh and one of the major musical events that I wrote about was the concert by internationally known pianist Peter Donohoe, given as part of the highly popular St Peter's Music series.

Peter Donohoe has such an impressive musical pedigree that I'm going to refer you to rather than type out all his achievements again.

It was an amazing performance and St Peter's Church is certain to be packed out, as it was in 2009.

This time he is playing:

French Suite No 5 in G major, BWV 816 J S Bach
Drei Klavierstuck Op 117 Brahms
Piano Sonata in A flat major Op 110 Beethoven
Sonata (1926) Bartok
Ballade No 3 Chopin
Polonaise Fantasie Chopin
Andante Spianato e Gran' Polonaise Brilliante Chopin

The concert is on Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 8.00 pm.

On this occasion Peter Donohoe will also give a pre-concert talk about the music in the church at 7.00 pm. This 40-minute talk is FREE.

Tickets are £15 (half-price for full-time students) For information on how to obtain tickets click on There is wheelchair access into the church.

More music in the fight against cancer

This time it's a concert which clashes unfortunately with one that I'd just written about at and now I can't decide which one to go to.

The highly popular Budleigh Salterton Male Voice Choir are supporting Cancer Research UK with a concert at the Temple Methodist Church in Budleigh's Fore Street.

On this occasion they will be performing with special guest flautist and member of a well-known East Budleigh family Jess Hill, pictured above. The granddaughter of Gerry Hill who sings in the baritone section of the Male Voice Choir, Jess started playing the flute at the age of nine and has enjoyed performing on the instrument ever since.

"I have played at weddings and also at a funeral," she tells me. "I first had the privilege of playing with the choir at the age of thirteen and have appeared with them on other occasions since. I also play the piccolo and the piano. I am taking my Grade VII flute exam at the beginning of April."

Jess is a student at Bicton College doing an apprenticeship in the care and management of animals. "They have a large number of animals there, ranging from lemurs to snakes, and I care for them all," she says.

"I would like to thank Budleigh Salterton Male Voice Choir for asking me to perform here tonight and hope you enjoy the selection of music I have chosen to play for you.”

Songs by the Male Voice Choir at the concert on Saturday 26 March include 'Music of the Night', 'I Dreamed a Dream', 'You Raise Me Up', an Al Jolson Medley of Songs and many others.

Doors open at 7.00 pm. Tickets, price £6, are available from any choir member, from Budleigh and Ottery St Mary Tourist Information Centres or at the door. For further details email or ring Graham on 01395 519688.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Villains who drive a hard bargain

Contact a reputable firm for dealing with problems like this rather than trust a cold caller is the police advice
Rogue tarmaccers have been driven away from Budleigh Salterton for the time being thanks to the Community Messaging System set up to help the public in the fight against crime.

Following a police warning that persons had been reported as offering tarmac work in the Budleigh Salterton area on 14 March the authorities were able to confirm the next day that a community messaging recipient had responded promptly, enabling police to stop-check and identify the occupants of a vehicle.

"Although no actual offences were committed in this case these people will have realised that their card is now marked and may not try their tricks here for a while," said the police. "The police officers involved were suspicious but there was not enough evidence to take direct action."
If your tarmac driveway is looking the worse for wear, beware!

"Please be aware of the risks of employing such callers," the police warn. "The standard of work and the cost will often not be what you expect. Threats and intimidation are also employed to get the customer to pay outrageous prices, especially the elderly and vulnerable."

Rogue tarmaccers continue to be a perennial problem. The authorities advise the public to have nothing to do with such people and to look out for neighbours who may be approached. All suspicious callers should be reported to the police.

Please phone the police with any information on 08452 777 444.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Concert for cancer charity

Glenorchy church, Exmouth
Photo credit:

I suspect that the story about fundraising in the fight against cancer at will be followed by a few more this year as Macmillan celebrates its centenary.

Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton's Macmillan Cancer Support group was set up in late 2010 by some energetic characters - three from Exmouth and two from Budleigh - who are now offering us the chance of hearing great classical music in a local church while contributing to a worthy cause.

The ISCA String Quartet is a Devon-based group who play regularly in charity concerts, and will be performing in Glenorchy Church on Exeter Road in Exmouth.

"This will be a wonderful evening performed by some of the best local musicians and should not be missed," say the organisers.

The programme consists of a movement from a Mozart String Quintet followed by the Brahms String Quartet Op. 51 No. 1. An interval will be followed by Dvorak's String Quintet 'The American.'

The ISCA String Quartet consists of Antony Clements (violin), Trevor Taylor (violin), Roger Hendy (viola), Catherine Warren (cello) and Richard Wood (viola).

Glenorchy Church has a strong tradition of music-making with several members belonging to the United Reformed Church Musicians Guild. From October through to April it hosts free lunchtime concerts of various sorts including piano solos, string quartets, piano and flute duets, organ recitals, and accompanied and unaccompanied vocal perfomances. For more information click on

Admission to the concert on Saturday 26 March 2011 at 7.30 pm costs £8, and includes tea/coffee and biscuits. Tickets are available from Jenny Newman at Glenorchy Church, John Fisher on 01395 274625, Kim Bloxham on 01395 273438/0797 4904208 or from The Card Shop Too, 3 High Street, Budleigh Salterton.

The latest development on Exmouth Road

'Bicton', at the west end of Clyst Hayes Gardens

Having featured some properties in Budleigh Salterton's sister-town of Brewster recently I thought it was only right to give my US readers a glimpse of our own real estate. In fact they can choose between five newly-arrived homes on the market since realtors Jackson-Stops & Staff unveiled at last Saturday's Open Day what they call "an exceptional development" in "a unique setting overlooking a County Wildlife Site."

Readers of my Exmouth Roadies blog will know that the plot I'm referring to is what used to be the garden of Clyst Hayes House, which I wrote about at

Perhaps not as grand as the original Clyst Hayes House, but the new houses are spacious enough by modern standards

Like many Budleigh residents I followed closely the progress of this development and was even moved to write a poem about it when poor old Clyst Hayes House finally bit the dust on April Fool's Day last year. Click on for some photos of the bulldozers at work.

Looking east: the four other houses which are neighbours to 'Bicton'

Well, the dust has now settled. The excellent locally-based builders CBS have been hard at work on the project over the last year, and the five houses which have replaced the grand old Edwardian property and its attractively wild garden are now ready for inspection. I thought I'd post some Open Day pictures here if only to record one more aspect of the changing face of Budleigh Salterton.

Timber decking on the north side of 'Bicton' which boasts the biggest garden in the development

I've focused on the only one which had got carpets for the Open Day, which is a house the developers have called 'Bicton' after the hamlet of the same name a few miles from Budleigh. It's not the biggest or the most expensive of the five, but it's got the biggest and the most private garden on its half-acre corner plot.

Features like the traditional style of staircase acknowledge Clyst Hayes Gardens' link with the original Edwardian house

With its five bedrooms it's being promoted as an ideal family home, and indeed the room above the garage with its unusual layout did look like a perfect child's den.

Budleigh is reckoned to be a friendly sort of town, and the developers were obviously counting on this neighbourly trait when they squeezed all five houses onto the site.

Looking north: the view over the water meadows from one of the bedrooms

The houses all share a delightful view of the countryside on the edge of Budleigh, situated as they are overlooking the lush pastures around the Lily Brook. There's a certain uniformity about the development, but plenty of attractive features like the slate roofs and the irregular windows, the lead work and the curly bargeboards which remind one of Budleigh's grander and/or quirkier houses, so many of which have been demolished.

Naturally these modern houses include environmentally-aware features such as rain water harvest systems, and the kitchen and bathrooms in 'Bicton' looked suitably luxurious.

Perhaps hidden deep in the earth and surviving the bulldozers' efforts last year are the roots and seeds of the original garden which will assert itself in years to come. That will give each home in this new Clyst Hayes Gardens the individual touch that they all need. And it would be in keeping with the rustic air of this part of the town. The new owners will also have as neighbours the deer, the badgers, the squirrels, the rabbits, the moles and all the other little creatures who are also Budleigh residents.

For further details telephone the agents Jackson-Stops & Staff at their Exeter office on 01392 214222 or click on

Sunday, 6 March 2011

A well kept secret

One of Britain's leading experts on the Bronze Age archaeological sites of East Devon will be updating local history enthusiasts on the latest theories about a mysterious water shrine only a few miles outside Exmouth.

Back in the 1920s a Budleigh Salterton amateur archaeologist called George Carter upset the archaeological establishment of his day by publishing what were considered outlandish theories about the meaning of the strange pebble cairns in the area.

Now an international team of researchers led by Professor Christopher Tilley of University College London has shown that George Carter's ideas were well ahead of his time.

There's symbolism in those stones. Professor Christopher Tilley with one of the pebbles for which the Budleigh Salterton area is famous

"Carter may well have the last laugh from his grave!" says Professor Tilley. "Eighty years later most of what we know about the prehistory of the Pebblebed heathlands is due solely to his efforts."

Christopher Tilley's talk 'Jacob's Well - the fascinating story of a Bronze Age water shrine on Woodbury Common' is on Monday 21 March, at 7.30 pm in the Peter Hall, Budleigh Salterton. Entry is £1 for Friends of Fairlynch, £2 for non-members.

The Friends of Fairlynch support and fund-raise for Fairlynch Museum. Annual membership offers unlimited free entrance to the Museum during opening hours, three newsletters annually giving information about the Museum, and a programme of winter talks at a reduced entrance price.

New members, at an annual subscription of £10 per member, are most welcome. Please contact Alexis Zane on 01395 443437.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

A French holiday in a good cause

After my first post of March at I hope that this month's blog posts are not going to be taken up mainly with the theme of cancer.

But hey, it's Macmillan's centenary year and I'm feeling a natural kinship with fellow-sufferers. And anyway many of my Budleigh readers will have exchanged pleasantries, or even fought hard bargains, with the person who pointed me in the direction of the following story.

I'm sure they'll find it as moving and as heart-warming as I did.

I knew Sheila Hyson as the stallholder in Budleigh Salterton's Thursday Flea Market who's always there in the top right corner of the Public Hall with her table of garden ornaments and horticultural curios. That's because she's the one in charge, being the boss of Hyson Fairs.

What I didn't know is that for the past 30 years she's been raising money for a charity dear to her heart.

"But now it is my turn," says her husband John.

John Hyson and Sheila's friend Tina Bowyer, who is one of the team going with him. They are leaving on 13 June and hope that the journey will take them just over two weeks

It was Sheila who told me of John's "totally insane" plan, as a 10 mph cyclist, "old, fat and slow," to embark on a 1,000-kilometre bike ride through France to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphona Research.

"Why do I want to raise money for this charity?" he asks. "Because we know how damaging this disease and its treatment can be.

"In 1974, at the age of two, my son Matthew was diagnosed with Leukaemia, and we were told that he had a less than 50% chance of survival. If he had been diagnosed 15 years earlier, he would have had no chance of survival. Now nine out of ten children with this Leukaemia survive."

"A great improvement, but there is so much more still to be done," says John. "Many of the more rare Leukaemias still have very poor survival rates and there are 28,500 people diagnosed each year with blood cancers.

Matthew was one of the lucky ones, he was kept going with radiotherapy and chemotherapy for nearly eight years, through numerous relapses, and missing a huge amount of his childhood education, until at the age of nine it was found that his youngest brother at the age of two was a suitable donor for a bone marrow transplant for Matthew.

The bone marrow transplant was a great success and the cancerous blood cells were destroyed, and the transplanted bone marrow worked well in producing good non- cancerous white blood cells.

Unfortunately the radiation used - which was a bit hit and miss then - to kill the cancerous cells fried - succinctly put by a doctor - most of Matthew's glands and he was unable to produce hormones. This meant he had to inject himself with growth hormone for quite a long time, his bone development was not good and his knee had a tumour that had to be removed and also his hips plated. The lack of testosterone meant that he was not able to have children. The radiation damaged his eyes and caused cataracts which had to be treated. He developed diabetes because his pancreas did not produce insulin. The radiation then started producing more bone tumours and skin tumours, all of which needed removal, and in some cases skin grafts. Amongst other things he had a heart attack, which may or may not have been brought on by the radiation used for the bone marrow transplant.

Through all of this Matthew has led an independent life. Following disrupted schooling he got a place at Hereford College of Art and got an HND there, and liked Hereford so much he made his life there. Finding the life of an artist not financially supportive, he went into antique dealing and also teaching children who could not go through the normal educational system. I was surprised and proud one day when in Hereford with Matthew when a passing youth said "Hallo sir, how are you?"

Things have improved immensely in the treatment of many blood cancers since Matthew’s treatment, but there is so much more to be done, and, as always, money is needed."

Well, after all that I felt that my own health problems had been about as minor as a common cold. I'm happy to do all I can to help John and Sheila with their worthy fund-raising cause.

Below is a timetable of The French Journey for anyone who feels that it might be fun to join John and his fellow-cyclists.



We intend to travel from Roscoff in Brittany via Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Perpignan and on into Spain. Traveling approximately 1,000 kilometres this summer to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research (Blood cancers).

I am asking everybody to support my ride with a gift to Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research of 1p per kilometre i.e. £10. We would like as many cyclists as possible to come along and for each of them to raise the 1p per kilometre from all their friends, with a minimum contribution to Leukaemia and Lymphoma Reasearch of £100 (10 friends at £10 each).

Much as we would like your company on some or all of our route, we are offering you no help on the way apart from our company. We are 10 mph cyclists - old, fat, and slow describes me! For the young, keen, or fit cyclists, please come along but go at your own faster speeds.

The journey can be broken up easily into parts for those who can only spare a short time:

Part One Roscoff to Nantes.

Part Two Nantes to Bordeaux.

Part Three Bordeaux to Toulouse.

Part Four Toulouse to Perpignan.

Part Five Perpignan to Port Bou and back to Perpignan.

All of these places are well served either by railways or airports.

We will be travelling unsupported, but those who want to arrange their own support vehicles will be very welcome and very popular. Anybody who wants to drive as a support vehicle only will also be very welcome.

All the money raised is for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research and all costs of the journey must be met by the individual participants.

For the totally insane it will be great fun.


Natural associations

John Hay
Photo: Grace McCandless

Reading the many appreciations in the American press of the life of Cape Cod naturalist John Hay, I was reminded of the obituary that I wrote for the British naturalist Miriam Rothschild back in January 2003, published in The Oundle Chronicle.

Somewhere, I thought, it ought to be online even after all this time, but all I could find was a tiny footnote in a Wikipedia entry "Dame Miriam Rothschild, obituary". Oundle Chronicle (The) which led me to

Clicking on that link led to a strange page listing everything from a Clearance Event at a Harborough furniture super store to an invitation to watch free movies online, with guarantee of "Huge Variety and Premium Quality 100% Legal and Safe."

Such is the anarchy of the world wide web where one's finest literary efforts can suddenly find themselves relegated to a dung heap in outer cyberspace.

Dame Miriam Rothschild with Professor Richard Dawkins during a visit to Oundle School Chapel in 2001

I met Dame Miriam on several occasions when she was helping me with research for a book I was writing. I always felt what a shame it was that she so seldom visited "that great school Oundle" - to use the words of its former pupil Arthur Marshall, only a few miles away from her home in Ashton, Northamptonshire. She would have opened the eyes of so many of its pupils even wider than usual with her flights of zoological fancy interspersed with thoughts from writers ranging from Proust to Nabokov.

One in particular - that looking down a microscope at a flea's vagina was akin to experimenting with a hallucinogenic drug - would have startled some of the teaching staff. Though in retrospect, looking back on my own reflections shared with pupils in the classroom, it was no more shocking than my theory that Flaubert's depiction of the heroine's sexual pleasure in his novel Madame Bovary seems to emphasise yet another difference between men and women.

For those who'd like to read about Dame Miriam, including my US readers who might like to know about her relationship with the film star Clark Gable and the 351st USAAF Bomb Group, I re-typed my obituary in another blog post for March 2011 at It's long, but what an amazing life. I enjoyed writing about it. Perhaps I'll send the piece off to Wikipedia to be recycled.

Miriam Rothschild's book Butterfly cooing like a Dove (1991) combined her passion for zoology with her love of literature and the arts.

Miriam Rothschild's life was largely spent in Northamptonshire rather than Devon. She did tell me about the aftermath of a bombing raid in Plymouth during World War Two, when her laboratory was completely destroyed. And it's in one of her books inspired by the natural world, Butterfly cooing like a Dove, that she writes evocatively of the view from the Marine Biological Station where she was a student.

"In those days I fancied no seascape in the world could hold a candle to Plymouth Sound, with its glittering pathway to the sun, its gorse-capped line of distant cliffs, its infinitely varied sky with bleached sails floating on the horizon, and, nearer the shore and docks, a crazy concourse of craft ranging from massive battleships down to the tiniest spluttering motorboat and tear-away skiff."

Reading about John Hay and his literary musings inspired by the beauty of Cape Cod, I wondered about whether we have any Devon-based writers inspired by this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty around Budleigh Salterton in which I'm lucky to live. I shall look out for them.

Well, after that longish preamble, here's the obituary penned by Rich Eldred. I am grateful to Robert F. Dwyer, President & Executive Director Cape Cod Museum of Natural History for providing me with the photos of John Hay.


The late naturalist John Hay - a life well lived

John Hay.
Photo courtesy of the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
“As he became more and more interested in nature, he saw himself and mankind as part of nature, not separate from it,” said Beth Finch, a conservationist and longtime friend of John Hay who died Feb. 26.

Author, naturalist, activist, visionary John Hay, formerly of Brewster, died Saturday at his home in Bremen, Maine at the age of 95.

“He was the grand old man of conservation in Brewster for a very long time,” reflected Mark Robinson of Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts. “I got to know him in the late ’90s when he and (his wife) Kristi were working on placing Dry Hill’s 50 acres under a conservation restriction. I really enjoyed that project because of them.”

Hay co-founded Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in 1954, penned 18 books, served on Brewster Conservation Commission at its inception in 1961 and pushed the purchase of hundreds of acres in his beloved Stony Brook Valley, an environment he immortalized in his first book, “The Run,” published in 1959.

“It’s a great loss,” said Richard Wheeler, a former museum trustee. “I treasured that relationship. He was a wonderful, warm, bright, funny human being. He took his work seriously but he never took himself seriously.”

“He was never run-of-the-mill anyway,” reflected longtime friend and conservationist Beth Finch. “They built a simple house and they lived a very simple life. They had a wood stove, which they frequently had to use during power outages. They were wonderful, wonderful neighbors. Dinner parties at their house were something to remember. They were the new kids when West Brewster was the artistic hot spot of the Cape. Artists and musicians lived in this ‘unfashionable’ part of Cape Cod.”

Hay was born in Ipswich in 1915 and grew up in New York City. His grandfather, John Milton Hay, was President Lincoln’s personal secretary and later served as Secretary of State under Teddy Roosevelt. Young John summered on his grandfather’s estate, “The Fells” on Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire.

“That’s where he came to love nature. He spent a lot of time on the pond in a little boat and it became a passion for him – being outdoors,” Finch said.

His father, Clarence Hay, was curator of archaeology at the Museum of Natural History in New York. John Hay graduated from Harvard and at the time was drawn to poetry so he “apprenticed” with the poet Conrad Aiken, who lived in rural West Brewster. He wrote poems and cleared wood on Cape Cod and soon purchased what turned out to be 18 acres off Red Top Road for $250, just prior to World War II.

He and his wife, the former Kristi Putnam, settled there in 1945, raised four children and would stay until 2004. Over time the property grew to well over 50 acres.

“He had a wonderful garden and Kristi raised chickens. When he first came here he thought he’d make a little money raising rhododendrons. That didn’t work out but the woods have rhododendron growing in the most unexpected and beautiful places,” Finch explained.

Hay had helped edit an Army newspaper, The Yank, during the war and afterward he worked as a freelance reviewer, poet and writer. In 1954, along with friends Ruth and Admont Clark, Kathryn Berrian, Ann Thatcher, sculptor Henry Holl and Scott Corbett came up with the concept of a natural history museum.

“My wife and another friend were at a PTA meeting and the gist of the meeting was how to keep the elementary school kids off the streets,” Admont Clark recalled. “On the way home they were talking about that and said why not start a children’s museum so they could find out about natural history?”

Initially, it was called Cape Cod Junior Museum, and was housed on the second floor of the old town hall. By 1958, the trustees had purchased 37 acres next to Paines Creek and the museum was housed in a collection of tents. Hay served as the museum president from 1955 to 1980. He brought in top people to teach and pen monographs, many of which are still in print.

“In the early days, people would come in and say, ‘Where’s the museum?’ Every time they did that he’d put his arm straight out and do a full 360. That says a lot about him. He wanted people to get out and study nature firsthand,” Wheeler said.

More than half a century later those ideals are still carried on.

“Basically everything John taught going back to the early ’60s when the museum was in a tent, and a roadside attraction, is still being taught now,” said museum director Robert Dwyer. “While we have exhibits inside the museum, the real story is outside in the surrounding area. All of that is something we’ve really followed for the 56 years we’ve been in existence.”

Hay soon followed his own advice and wrote his first and most beloved book “The Run,” chronicling the lives of herring and the people of Stony Brook Valley.

“As he became more and more interested in nature, he saw himself and mankind as part of nature, not separate from it. He spent a lot of time just walking in the woods, sitting and watching. He thought about the oneness of things,” Finch said. “He was one of the earliest people to talk about such things, let alone practice it. When he wrote ‘The Run,’ he was almost putting himself in the place of the fish.”

Other books and many awards followed.

“He was a founding member of Brewster Conservation Commission in 1961 and was the chairman through the 1960s,” Robinson said. “All of the marshes the town acquired – Quivett, Stony Brook, Namskaket – were the direct result of his working those through town meetings.”

His own property, Dry Hill, is under a conservation restriction. Other land was donated to the town and conservation trust.

“He was extremely foresighted,” noted Finch. “He encouraged the museum to buy land so they could have a place to go that was safe forever. I think he was very shy. He was more comfortable out in the woods walking somewhere than at board meetings.”

“The last time I did see him,” Robinson recalled, “it was a beautiful fall day and he had gotten a ride to Cold Storage Beach in Dennis, which he loved even though he could hardly see, and he was walking back at Route 6A and Stony Brook when I happened by and picked him up. I said, ‘John, that’s an awful long walk’ and all he said was, ‘What a brilliant day’ – it didn’t bother him.”
He and Kristi moved full time to Maine, where she died in 2007.

“He lived in that house up in Maine on a little finger of water. It was almost like a Robert Frost poem,” reflected Wheeler, who visited him there. “But that’s where his roots were. He said Cape Cod was crowded now. Cape Cod isn’t Cape Cod anymore.”

But it lives on, in the pages of “The Run” and in his other books, and it will always be there for us to visit thanks to his generosity in preserving it with his pen.

Books by John Hay

A Private History - 1947 - (Poems)
The Run - 1959
Nature's Year - 1961
A Sense of Nature - 1962
The Great Beach- 1963
The Atlantic Shore - 1966
The Sandy Shore - 1968
In Defense of Nature -1969
Spirit of Survival -1974 - (About Terns)
The Undiscovered Country - 1981
Natural Architecture - 1984 - (Poems)
The Immortal Wilderness - 1987
The Great House of Birds -1987 - (Editor)
The Bird of Light - 1991
Beginner's Faith In Things Unseen -1994
In The Company of Light - 1998
The Way to the Salt Marsh - 1998
Mind The Gap - 2004

Reprinted with permission from The Cape Codder newspaper

No I'm not an estate agent but...

With 1.10 acres this Brewster property built around 1900 is on the market for $559,000. I love the tower with its French ch√Ęteau-style turret

I see that since writing about the lovely Cape Cod house with its link to Helen Keller at the price has dropped by $70K from $649,900 to $579,000.

Some updating is required, says the realtor, while claiming the property's "huge potential." From this side of the pond it looks even more tempting now, with what our UK estate agents would describe as its "bags of character."

There are plenty more Brewster properties to drool over if you click on the link that I've just been sent at

I think I'd better start posting details of Budleigh Salterton properties, just to keep the balance right.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Macmillan Matters

Good news from Macmillan: David Warner of the Exmouth & Budleigh Salterton branch of North & East Devon Prostate Support Association with Tricia Heard, Area Chair, East Devon Macmillan Cancer Support

Well, here we are at the start of what I've been told is Prostate Awareness Month. After the experience that I described at I was beginning to wonder how aware one can be of something that isn't there.

But then a Budleigh friend who'd learnt what I'd been through just over a year ago shocked me by saying he'd soon be following in my footsteps. Except that he wasn't sure if I'd done the right thing.

I hadn't actually been aware that this month was special until we were told the news by the guest speaker at my local Prostate Support Association meeting last week. Tricia Heard is the Area Chair for East Devon Macmillan Cancer Support. In fact she told us that it's also Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, which was news for my friend Annie, who also began to wonder about how aware one can be...

But that's getting a bit too complicated. Let's stick to my prostate for the sake of my Budleigh friend, a fit-looking 70-year-old. Or rather, to its absence.

All I could really tell him is that in spite of all the annoying side-effects which I seem, unluckily, to have been suffering for what the doctors say is rather too long, I can't say that I regret the decision I made to go for surgery. Cancer's a spooky thing, and cutting out what I felt was a nasty piece of dry rot hidden away in a rather inaccessible part of the body seemed to me to be the surest way of eliminating the disease.

But of course other prostate cancer sufferers might feel like offering my Budleigh friend completely different advice.

In spite of my prostate's absence I'm certain to feel aware of it now, if only because of Macmillan. But mostly because I feel so sorry for people who have to make their own decision about the best treatment to follow when told that their blood test may indicate that a crossroads has been reached. Especially as I've been told that many doctors think that 70 is the cut-off point beyond which surgery should not be offered.

Anyway, the point of this post at the start of what is surely a special month for us men is to repeat what Tricia Heard told us. That Macmillan Cancer Support is there to offer advice, information and help of all kinds, and not just to provide nurses at the dreaded end. Which I hope will not come for many many years yet.

Macmillan Cancer Support is at
The North & East Devon Prostate Support Association is at

Murder Weekend in Budleigh Salterton

The Salterton Drama Club's spring production of 'Murder Weekend' by Bettine Manktelow is a comedy thriller directed by Mary Logan.

Livia, a romantic short story writer, and her husband Stan, arrive at a country hotel for a "Murder Mystery weekend. They are joined by Patsy and her husband Ashley, who have won the weekend in a competition and Vi and Dorothy. Each receives an anonymous "Murder Mystery" game envelope. Someone has left extra notes for Patsy and Stan exposing Livia's and Ashley's illicit affair. Next, Shelley, the chambermaid, mysteriously disappears and everyone is left to determine whether this is all part of the game. However, intrigue and suspicion deepens when one last uninvited guest arrives.

The cast on rehearsal evenings

Bettine Manktelow has been in theatrical ventures either professional of amateur all her life, starting off as a repertory actress at the age of fifteen. Her first play, which was not published, was presented in Singapore to an audience of sophisticated ex-pats. As it was a kitchen-sink drama it was greeted with hoots of laughter.
At the time Bettine did not realise she had a flare for comedy! Subsequent plays, however, even when dramatic or thrilling always managed to have interntional comical lines and/or comical characters. Her career as a playwright did not take off until the 1970s when she was directing for an amateur company in Ramsgate, Kent. By sheer luck one of her plays was taken up by a professional company in Folkestone and a director from French's was there to see it. He liked it, and it was published. This was "They Call it Murder."
Since then Bettine has written and had published twenty plays, mostly published by Samuel French but also by Jasper Publishing. She now lives in Deal and continues to write and direct a new play on an annual basis.

7th - 12th March 2011

"Murder Weekend" by Bettine Manktelow

Directed by Mary Logan

Monday 7 - Friday 11 at 7.30 pm
Saturday 12, 2.30 pm only

Tickets: £ 7.00 from the T.I.C.
Budleigh Salterton Tourist Information Centre

Livia Wagstaff - Lynn Leger
Stanley Wagstaff - Mike Brookes
Mrs Johnson - Jenny Bowden
Shelley - Rebecca Clark
Patsy McAvoy - Karen Bazeley
Ashley McAvoy - Mark Bazeley
Dorothy Padmore - Elaine Wilson
Violet Jenkins - Rosemary Williams
Wallace Wainwright - David Wilkes

Cornish voices join with Budleigh choir

Glorious sounds from Glorious Devon: the new CD from Budleigh Salterton Male Voice Choir

That concert by Budleigh Salterton Male Voice Choir which I wrote about last September at last year raised an impressive £1,350.00 for Fairlynch Museum.

"Each year we do a concert for our own funds which enables us to stage 10 to 12 concerts for various charities without charge and to maximise funds raised," explains Choir Secretary Adrian Haysom.

"This year's concert is on Saturday 5 March at 7.30 pm at Tower Street Methodist Church, Exmouth, where we will be joined by the Rame Peninsula Male Voice Choir from Cornwall."

And naturally, he feels, "It would be wonderful if Friends of Fairlynch could be there."

Sales of the Budleigh Salterton choir's latest CD are also helping to swell funds for the Devon Air Ambulance Trust. Over the years the choir has produced four or five CDs and tapes with recordings of a wide variety of songs from its extensive repertoire, ranging from rousing welsh hymns through spirituals, music from shows and other popular melodies.

For every CD sold £2.00 will go directly to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust to help in their vital work. The CD will be available for £8.00 each at all eight Devon Air Ambulance Charity Shops across the county. The shop locations are Exmouth, Exeter (Heavitree Road and Cowick St.), Plymouth, Newton Abbot, Barnstaple, Honiton and Topsham.

The CD will also be on sale at all Budleigh Salterton Male Voice Choir's future concerts as listed on the future concerts page of the website at For more details of the CD, which costs They cost £8 plus £1.99 p&p email Mike Peacock at