Saturday, 28 May 2011

New York artist Bill Jacklin at Budleigh's Brook Gallery

Bill Jacklin's Man with dog, NYC
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the strange link between Budleigh Salterton and the American town of Brewster, Massachusetts. So it somehow seems appropriate that the Brook Gallery should be featuring the work of an artist who's at home on both sides of the Atlantic.

This is what the Brook Gallery tells us about their latest exhibition:

Bill Jacklin RA, distinguished British artist and New York resident, will be showcasing his work at The Brook Gallery in Budleigh Salterton, from 22 May to 14 June 2011, in an evocative and moving exhibition, entitled ‘The Lightness of Being’.

Aptly named, the exhibition showcases Bill Jacklin’s etchings and monotypes redolent of urban life, coupled with a magical quality, both in form and production. His work appears to provide a history behind the images, which fuel the imagination and cleverly allow you to develop a story that appeals -a snapshot on urban life and an insight into another’s life. Bill Jacklin’s work appears preoccupied with the effects of light and movement and this dream-like quality has led to the worldwide celebration of his work.

Initially concerned with abstraction, his work evolved to figuration in the mid 1970s when he became absorbed with light on surfaces, moving and still. Since moving to New York in 1985, Bill Jacklin has concentrated on painting 'Urban Portraits' of 'the city' in all its guises, a city that could be in any country, at any time, but the quality of his pieces and the skill used to perfect his art is undeniable. The Brook is delighted to be hosting such an exciting exhibition and to welcome him back from such a city to the epitome of the English seaside.

The Brook continues to impress with a schedule to include a major restrospective celebrating the Brook’s permanent exhibition of Royal Academician’s work including Chris Orr, Eileen Cooper, Norman Ackroyd with the new Contemporary Collection showing works by Trevor Price, Mychael Barrett, Martin Langford, Kathleen Caddick, Sonja Rollo and Susie Perring.

Bill Jacklin RA joined the team at the Brook Gallery for the preview of his show on Saturday 21 May, which features new monotypes being exclusively shown at the Brook and at the RA Summer Exhibition 2011.

The Brook Gallery is at Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton, Devon, EX9 6NE
Tel: 01395 443 003 Email:

Open 10.30am to 5pm, closed Sunday mornings and Mondays

Friday, 27 May 2011

Budleigh's 2011 Gala Week: 28 May - 5 June

Today it's the start of Gala Week in Budleigh Salterton. I have to admit that my mind has been on other things - not just gardening - so I'd almost forgotten it. Then yesterday I get a call from East Budleigh's Kathy Moyle, always keen to promote events at the Salem Chapel, just a few miles north of Budleigh Salterton.

Pictured left, the coronation ceremony of Budleigh's 2010 Gala Week, organised by the town's Lions Club

Of course the whole range of Gala Week events is described at as well as in our local paper the Budleigh Journal at so I don't need to say much about them except that a lot of hard work has gone into providing a week of entertaining activities where everyone should find at least one event to interest them. I hope to be there with my camera tempting Budleigh people to find world wide fame by appearing on these blog pages.

The Salem Chapel's contribution to Gala Week is an exhibition on Sir Walter Raleigh, the village of old East Budleigh and smuggling. Kathy tells me that admission is free but they ask for donations on entry please. Refreshments including tea and coffee are available and the exhibition is open from 2.00-5.00 pm every day during the Week, from today until Sunday 5 June.

Looking ahead to more events at the Salem Chapel there's a table sale on Saturday 11 June from 10 am - 4.00 pm and then the next day they have their annual pet service in the Chapel at 4.00 pm.

There's plenty of information about the Salem Chapel at It's well worth a visit as one of the village of East Budleigh's ancient heritage sites, which of course include the beautiful farmhouse of Hayes Barton. The house isn't open to the public, but I see that there's now a helpful sign telling you that one of Devon's great heroes was born here.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A* for Museum's adventure day

Inspired as I am by tales of such East Devon-born adventurers as Sir Walter Raleigh I went along to the Budleigh Budding Explorers Day at Fairlynch Museum that I've already mentioned at

Entry to the Museum was free, which might have had something to do with the crowds of families who'd turned up on Saturday 7 May. But the Bicton College students had put a lot of effort into some innovative thinking to make the event attractive and interesting, from the bunting decoration to the various activities on offer.

I spoke to Jo Woods, pictured above, a mature student from West Hatch, near Taunton, who was in charge of the potato printing stall. I'd wondered a bit about the relevance of this activity to explorers, but Jo explained the link with Sir Walter Raleigh and the potatoes he's supposed to have brought back from America.

It's a small step from potato-printing to vegetable planting and Jo was also promoting 'green' thinking in food production. She is studying Environmental Education at Bicton and feels strongly about carbon footprints and the costs of food transport.

"The weather was a bit iffy, but it's gone really well," she told me. "We've been busy all day."

Tom Weare, 22, from Feniton, was in charge of the boatbuilding stall. Model boats made of cardboard of course, but there were plenty of enthusiastic kids designing various craft. He was equally pleased with the success of the day. "Loads of people have come along. It's been manic at times."

Hannah Flett, from Exeter, (on the left in the photo) and Jackie Kidd, from Woodbury Salterton, explained that sustainability had been one of the themes of the day. Navigation was their special area of interest.

Like her fellow-students Hannah was pleased with the way things had gone. "It's been a fabulous event, a really good experience with excellent feedback," she said. "We've been encouraged to come up with our own ideas."

So, a valuable experience in educational terms for the student organisers as well as lots of fun for the kids. It was the first time that Bicton College had used the Museum in this way and I'm sure it won't be the last.

For more information about Bicton College and Fairlynch Museum click on and

Thursday, 5 May 2011

More discomania

Blogs are like flotsam, drifting in cyberspace until they're caught by someone's Google net.

That piece I wrote about the strange discs being washed up on Atlantic beaches in America at was found by Harry, aka Harold Johnson, from Saco in Maine.

"Hi there," he writes. "Found your blog on a search of the Hooksett disks. Trying to see from week to week how far they've traveled. (I live in Maine, just north of New Hampshire, and often comb the local beach looking for flotsam.)"

So, a true discomaniac. But Harry's interest is seriously environmental. Like me he's a blogger, publishing at but on a specific theme. His blog is "A chronicle of human debris. Washed up, blown in, left behind."

And based on his observations, those discs may not be just an American phenomenon. "Actually, by summer, some of them that got caught in the Gulf Stream might be washing up along shores in Devon & Cornwall," he warns.

So look out for those discs on East Devon beaches. If you find just one, I'm sure Harry would love to know about it.

From badgers to Baudelaire

Nineteenth century poet Charles Baudelaire, author of a collection of poems entitled 'Les Fleurs du Mal' which scandalised many contemporary readers. As the subject of my French literature classes many years ago he inspired some of my students to start a Baudelaire Society at university. But I think they just wanted an excuse for debauchery

I was going to start this post by quoting from the French poet some lines that I remembered from 40 years ago, then decided that such an opening might be thought a little pretentious and perplexing. Especially when I checked out the English version offered by Google's translation service.

However it's not every day that you meet a retired West Country farmer-poet who engages you in a conversation about the simple pleasures of a Buddhist lifestyle. Then reveals that he's been touched by lines from 'Les Fleurs de Mal.' And all that in Budleigh Salterton Library on a morning when I'd simply popped in to look at some noticeboards.

Maybe 'poetic farmer' might be more appropriate as I imagine his gloomy elegies about the dairy industry at early morning milking time "quand le ciel p├Ęse bas et lourd comme un couvercle."

Try Google's translation if you don't understand the French, and be perplexed.

John Payne is the retired farmer I met by chance as he stood in the Library telling us about the event at Salem Chapel in East Budleigh this weekend. As I've mentioned previously, I'm happy to promote anything that goes on in that beautiful old building.

'Painting, Poetry and Prose' is what the organisers say is a "shoestring" cultural event that is above all "local" according to John. They've got a couple of regional literary celebrities from outside the Budleigh area in David Prowse - the Western Morning News Poet-in-residence - and John Greenslade - Radio Devon's contributor on agricultural affairs known as Farmer John.

But all the other artists and writers participating in the event are based only a few miles from Budleigh Salterton. They include Rosemary Smith from East Budleigh, who started writing Victorian Romantic suspense novels seven years ago and never dreamt that her work would be so popular, with seven titles in libraries worldwide.

A familiar face I spotted on the display board was watercolour artist Ken Walker who retired to live in Budleigh Salterton in 1988 and whom I'd often seen staring hard at a shopfront or house. Now I know why. Exmouth-based Arthur Cook is fascinated by World War Two as you can see from his website at and has written books with titles like Exmouth at War and The Home Guard.

Then there's Gerald Millington, the Clinton Devon Estates Archivist who has written many articles about the Lower Otter Valley.

John Payne himself retired as a dairy farmer from Exmoor and has been writing poetry for 40 years about "the sea, countryside and human relationships." He is pictured here with a copy of his verse collection Waves of Life.

So, plenty of varied local talent on display.

'Painting, Poetry and Prose' takes place on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 May at the Salem Chapel in East Budleigh from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm. Entry is free, but as always donations are welcome. Refreshments will be available.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Annoying garden parties

Well, with the smooth comes the rough. As our wonderful deciduous azaleas burst into a fiery mass, making the garden a real showpiece, along they come, keen to get a piece of the action. Blasted badgers.

It's been the same for the last two years. Strangely there was no sign of them during our first spring in Budleigh. The only damage to the lawn was caused by moles. But I'm sure they must have been around. Maybe in the neighbour's garden.

Now the moles seem to have vanished and the mysterious black and white creatures from the wood have taken their place, leaving their random traces of destruction in unexpected places. Just when you think that your beautiful lawn has been left undisturbed while you were asleep you turn the corner during your morning inspection of the garden and see the evidence of their all-night partying.

I'm told it's worms they're after, or invertebrates, of which I'm sure we've got lots.
The deer fence doesn't seem to be keeping them out. I've tried the usual old tricks - splashes of urine, even raided the spices cupboard to find some out of date paprika and cayenne pepper. It didn't seem to work.

I did read somewhere that spreading peanuts on the grass might be a substitute for the invertebrates so that's something to try.

Meanwhile all one can do is try to repair the damage while the soil is still damp by replacing and stamping down the bits of turf. And of course checking to see what pebbles have come out as a result of the creatures' burrowing, to save on lawn mower repair bills.

While I sympathise with the farmers who want to cull them, and while it's often quite shocking to see what they've been up to during the night, I have to confess that it was a thrilling moment when I saw one of the creatures at dusk one evening only 20 yards away from where I was enjoying a quiet moment in the garden. It raced down from the wood, suddenly saw me and raced back. It looked athletic, strong and healthy.

One has to admit that the creatures were there first, long before we came along with our lawnmowers, scarifiers and nasty weed and feed chemicals. It's a pity they don't seem to be able to content themselves in just the mossy areas, of which we've got lots.

Maybe one night I'll lie in wait in a secluded corner of the garden and try to get a shot of them. With my camera of course.

Family fun day for young explorers

Budding explorers will be given a great opportunity to enjoy a day of adventure, excitement and travellers’ tales as Environmental Education students from Bicton College hold a free family event on Saturday 7 May at Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum, Budleigh Salterton from 11.00 am to 3.00 pm.

The event coincides with the theme of the museum’s 2011 exhibition about Budleigh’s own intrepid polar explorer George Murray Levick, and follows earlier exhibitions at Fairlynch based on the life of East Budleigh-born Elizabethan adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh.

Fairlynch Museum's Education Officer Amanda Murrell, who is collaborating with Bicton College on the venture says that activities will include a fact-finding trail, potato planting and printing, boat making, crafts and much more.

Bicton Course Tutor Alex Turner told me that this is the first time that students from the College have been involved with Fairlynch. "The students involved are studying for a foundation degree in Environmental Education, which is like an HND, consisting of the first two years of a degree course. It which covers a lot of theory and practice of educating society - schools, young people, campaigns, interpretation - about environmental issues."

Gaining an insight into event management and learning about the importance of teamwork is a vital part of the Bicton experience.

"Every year, as part of their programme of studies, the first year students have to organise an environmental community event as part of a communities unit," explains Alex.

"For the last few years the students have done events in Otterton, and this is the first time they’ve done the project in Budleigh so it is quite good for them to be working here and making the links into this local community.

"The students are learning about how to put an event, publicity, planning, running activities, reviewing it and so on, and it forms part of an assessment. They are doing all of this themselves and and a colleague Catherine Gough and I are facilitating the process.

It's a fantastic opportunity for students to work with local people and to use their knowledge and enthusiasm to bring stories of explorers to life.”

Bicton College Environmental Education student Hannah Flett said, “We are really looking forward to working with the museum and the local community to provide a fun filled day for all ages where people can find out more about local explorers and the environment.”

For information about Bicton College click on

Fairlynch Museum has dresses to thrill

I've been so preoccupied by the life and career of Surgeon Commander Murray Levick, the subject of Fairlynch's current main exhibition, that I was in danger of neglecting other areas where volunteers at Budleigh Salterton's Museum had been hard at work with their own display areas.

That was until I suddenly dreamt up that silly headline for my post at

And then I began to think about how Fairlynch Museum began, and how one of its chief glories is its costume collection.

The Museum holds approximately 4,000 items of men's, women's and children's clothing as a result of donations made over the years. Some are rare pieces dating as far back as the early 1700s.

The collection originated as an assortment of period costumes and 'fripperies' gathered by Budleigh Salterton residents, the sisters Joy, Elizabeth and Aalish Gawne in the pre-World War Two period. It was for many years privately housed but displayed on special occasions during the 1960s.

With the development into flats of many of the town's larger houses at that time, trunks full of costumes were being unearthed in attics and making their way into jumble sales. The collection grew. Finally, with the acquisition of Fairlynch and its opening as a museum on 27 July 1967, a permanent exhibition based on this fascinating parade of centuries-old clothing and accessories could be admired by the public.

Further growth came at this time with the donation by a local resident of items which came to be known as the Pile Costume Collection, originally made and worn by members of the Pile family from Otterton. They included creations in lace as well as a chestnut corded silk jacket and skirt from the 1860s, and a wedding dress of brown silk with blue stripes. The most unusual piece in this collection is the hood of a red cloak, supposedly worn by local women who paraded on the cliffs at Ladram Bay at the time when an invasion by Napoleon was threatened. The idea was to convince any approaching French ships that redcoated soldiers were on the lookout.

Other items at Fairlynch came from Mrs Lennox, a royal nanny who disposed of various garments which would have been worn by princes and princesses of Queen Victoria's day.

The oldest piece at Fairlynch is a handmade dress from the 1740s, possibly made from Spitalfields silk.

Only a small proportion of the Fairlynch costume collection can be seen on display at any one time, but the regular exhibitions arranged by our volunteer helpers allow for a rotation of interesting items. Expert advice was sought at an early stage on caring for the collection, and costumes not on display are stored in conditions where light and humidity are strictly controlled.

Early volunteer helpers with the costume collection included experts like Freda Wills, a costume curator at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, and support from RAMM has been maintained with the most recent advice being given by conservation development officer Helena Jaeschke.

So if you're into vintage fashion and are looking for ideas pop into the Museum next time you're passing, or better still, click on find out how to join the Friends of Fairlynch and spend happy hours studying this year's impressive displays.