Showing posts from April, 2011

Not just storms in tea-cups

Mayflower II at State Pier in Plymouth. The Mayflower II is a replica of the 17th century ship Mayflower, celebrated for transporting the Pilgrims to the New World. The replica was built in Devon, England, during 1955–1956. Photo credit: Wikipedia

I've always had an idealised view of our sister-town of Brewster on Cape Cod.

Perhaps the Irish immigrant element in my own family background moved me when I thought of those early New Englanders bravely setting out across the Atlantic, leaving behind all the intolerance and prejudice of Europe to seek freedom and a fresh start in their New World communities.

So I had a cosy picture of proudly independent Brewster, a mini-state within the state of Massachusetts, with its own respected Chief of Police, its highly qualified Fire Chief, its idealistic and hardworking Town Manager, its iconic Ladies' Library with all those free concerts and exhibitions, and of course its own budget.

A community with shared common values of decency, toler…

Weekend wedding fever

St Peter's Church, venue for one of the weekend events

I know that some of my closet-royalist American readers are closely following news of the wedding on Friday 29 April between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Many Budleigh Salterton people are equally enthusiastic about the prospect of all that rejoicing at the happy event, including the extra bank holiday that the UK will enjoy. The misery guts at the Department of Business have estimated that the cost of this in loss of working days will come to around £2.9 billion, and it's true, we are in a recession. But royal weddings don't happen all that often, and some British businesses are actually hoping to do rather well out of the event. Just click on to see what I mean.

Anyway some good causes will certainly benefit. At St Peter's Church in Budleigh they've been planning a display of over 40 wedding dresses for some time to coincide with the national weekend festivitie…

Museum shows off 'the Full Monty' and much more

A century of costumes. Go and find out what they're staring at in the sky!
Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum is celebrating a pair of centenaries in 2011 with two contrasting exhibitions. To mark the occasion there is a new exhibition of costumes on the theme of '200 years of ladies living at Fairlynch.' The display shown above portrays clothes which might have been worn during the first hundred years of the house. When I took the photo questions were being asked about what the ladies were staring at. Since then the answer has been found, but I'll leave you readers to go and find out what the exhibition organisers finally decided.

The show includes the 1920s 'flapper' dress and evening wear from the 1930s seen above.

Also on display and pictured above is a 1940s 'demob' suit, one of the thousands issued to British servicemen after World War Two. Made by the Leeds-based tailors Montague Burton the complete suit, including jacket, trousers, waistco…

"A woman who knew her own mind": interview with actress Jenny Coverack on her portrayal of Kathleen Scott

With the centenary of Scott of the Antarctic's ill-fated polar expedition very much in mind, a play with close links to Fairlynch Museum's 2011 exhibition 'Survival!' is coming to Budleigh Salterton's Public Hall on Wednesday 25 May.

I spoke to Jenny Coverack, the actress who will be performing it.

If you're a BBC Radio 4 listener you may well have heard her reading the Book at Bedtime 'Flush' by Virginia Woolf in February this year. More recently she was the midwife in 'The Archers.' Other BBC productions including 'Poetry Please' and 'The Afternoon Play' have also employed her acting talents.

Actress Jenny Coverack: "passionate" about playing the character of Kathleen Scott. She is pictured here performing part of her play 'A Father for my Son' in Scott's hut at Cape Evans, on Ross Island, Antarctica

Trained at the Bristol Old Vic, Jenny Coverack has a voice familiar to millions of radio listeners. She grew up…

Easter at Salem

I always like mentioning events at East Budleigh's Salem Chapel. It's such a beautifully restored building with a wonderful atmosphere. And although the building is not named after the American city it always moves me to think of this tiny East Devon village associated so closely with the history of the United States. Sir Walter Raleigh, born just outside the village at Hayes Barton, is well known of course. But born not so long after him in East Budleigh was Roger Conant, the English dissenter and leader of a group of fisherman, who sought refuge across the Atlantic to practise his religious beliefs and founded Salem, Massachusetts.

The man who helped thousands to fill the gap

A hiking trip with BSES Expeditions
Photo credit:

My own gap year between school and university was a bit messy. Leaving school at the age of 16 to then spend six months immobilised on a hospital bed was not an ideal preparation for the next big step in education. In fact, my two-year gap, while fun in some ways, was very different from the organised fashion in which young people today decide how they're going to explore all that freedom that escape from the classroom seems to promise.

If thousands of students arrive at university feeling that they haven't wasted that gap opportunity it's largely because of the pioneering efforts of ex-Budleigh resident and Antarctic explorer Murray Levick, whose many achievements I learnt about as I helped prepare this year's exhibition at Fairlynch Museum.

It's called, appropriately enough, 'Survival!' Murray Levick's horrific Antarctic experience during Scott's 1910-13 polar expedition, the…

Discomania on Brewster beach

The Napoli with its load of containers, beached off the East Devon coast

Weird stuff often ends up on beaches.

Flotsam from the wreck of the Napoli at Branscombe, just a few miles east of Budleigh Salterton caught public attention when the UK-flagged container ship was beached off the coast in 2007 after it had split open. Scavengers from all over Britain descended on the area intent on carrying off BMW motorbikes, nappies and, shamefully, people's personal possessions which had been washed ashore.

It took two years for the wreck to be disposed of by the authorities. The floating crane and tugs were still operating on it when I took this photo at Sidmouth in 2009.

Our starfish invasion a year or so ago hit international headlines as I reported at

Alien visitors to a Brewster beach

Truly bizarre is the story reported by the Department of Natural Resources in Budleigh Salterton's sister-town of B…

Jazz at Budleigh

Well, it's April, and that's the month of the Budleigh Jazz Festival. I don't know much about jazz, so I'll just let the very smart website at speak for itself.

I'd heard of the Festival's president, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, the composer, arranger and pianist. But I didn't know that he'd been brought up in Budleigh Salterton, along with his sister the poet Meg Peacocke.

With the Festival taking place over the Easter weekend and with a line-up of top musicians it's sure to be a popular event. Craig Milverton, voted as top pianist last November in the 2010 British Jazz Awards, will be a welcome return visitor.

Tickets can be booked singly or for the whole weekend at the Tourist Information Centre on 01395 445275. For more information you can visit the website or contact 01395 446524