Friday, 21 June 2013

Beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to prostate cancer



 Every little helps: NEDPSA member Dorrie Warner and one of the many generous donors at the Tesco store on Exmouth's Salterton Road

“It’s a shame you have to beg for money,” was one lady’s comment to me in Exmouth’s Tesco foyer. Yes, standing there in my yellow tabard collecting for NEDPSA isn’t the most exciting activity I’d have chosen. But the weather was rather iffy for gardening and we had to do some shopping anyway. So the two-hour stint with my friend Annie was not especially arduous.

Yes, maybe the Government should be providing all the money that prostate support associations need. But fund-raising is only partly about raising cash; the other part is making people aware of an issue.

Chairman of the Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton branch of NEDPSA David Warner and his wife Dorrie 

In our case the issue is the potentially deadly disease that is prostate cancer. Responsible, so they say, for over 10,000 deaths annually in the UK.  Or in other words, one every hour.

I can’t quite understand why 9,000 of those deaths occur in England. Or why in the USA, with its much bigger population, the mortality rate is only just over 32,000 per annum. But it was clear that our presence struck a chord with many of the people going in and out of the store.

Occasionally someone would suddenly see us with our yellow tabards and prostate cancer literature, stop their shopping trolley without warning and fumble in a purse or a wallet. It caused an unexpected jam, to which they were oblivious. For a few seconds, maybe, we had brought back painful memories of a grandfather, father or husband who had fallen victim to the disease. 


Budleigh blogger Michael Downes and friend Annie meet another generous donor
During our two-hour stint three women told us of their husbands who had died from prostate cancer. One man was awaiting the result of his biopsy. Countless others filled our collecting boxes without telling us their stories.

Almost all thanked us for what we were doing before we acknowledged whatever they had donated.  

Members of the Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton branch of NEDPSA collected a total of £454.22. Grateful thanks to Tesco for allowing branch members to be based at the Exmouth store. I will be interviewed about prostate cancer and men’s health on Exmouth’s community radio station Bay FM on Wednesday 26 June at 12.15 pm.  For more information about NEDPSA (North and East Devon Prostate Support Association) click on  




Dreaming of Smugglers

Museum enthusiast Rob Merkel with one of Fairlynch Museum's latest attractions

For centuries smuggling was a way of life for Budleigh people. One of the best-known was the vicar of East Budleigh, the Rev. Ambrose Stapleton (c.1771-1852). He was noted for his long tenure at All Saints Church but also for the illegal brandy which he both consumed and stored in the church and in the ancient vicarage of Vicar’s Mead. 

Another celebrated smuggler familiar with the coast of East Devon was Jack Rattenbury (1778-1844), pictured left. Although he came originally from Beer, Rattenbury visited Budleigh Bay at least once when he was almost caught red-handed on 29 January 1821 by revenue officer Captain Stocker with “one hundred kegs of spirits, and a bale of tea” as Rattenbury wrote in his memoirs.


Small wonder then that Fairlynch Museum’s ‘Smugglers’ Cellar’ attracts many visitors who are happy to risk the journey down some rather tricky steps. It’s here that they can see Rattenbury’s encounter with Captain Stocker as depicted above by Devon artist Peter Goodhall. Now they can even listen to the famous smuggler himself as he tells his story. That’s thanks to the modelmaking skill of local designer Neil Rogers and the technical wizardry and voice of James Hipperson, grandson of Fairlynch enthusiast Rob Merkel. 

For many years Rob has dreamt of creating what he imagined a 19th century smugglers’ den might look like.  He is keen to locate more artefacts for the Cellar and would love to hear from anyone who might be willing to donate items: anything ranging from two-gallon wooden brandy barrels and old wine bottles to perhaps even the odd cutlass or flintlock pistol.  Given the anarchic state in remote coastal areas like East Devon where the tax-system and press gangs had not endeared the Government to the likes of poor fishermen,  smuggling in the age of Ambrose Stapleton and Jack Rattenbury was often a violent and dangerous business. It was nonetheless, feels Rob, a fascinating time.

Fairlynch – A Dementia-Friendly Museum

Fairlynch Chairman Roger Sherriff writes:
Budleigh Salterton is following in the footsteps of Torquay which was Devon’s first dementia-friendly town. 
Budleigh Medical Centre, in partnership with the well-established and highly respected independent home care provider Home Instead, are spearheading an initiative to make businesses in Budleigh dementia-aware.
With one in four of us likely to get some form of dementia and with 880 sufferers in Exmouth and Budleigh alone it is a condition that we are all going to become more aware of.  As part of this initiative Home Instead’s Mark McGlade, pictured above, is giving presentations on what dementia is, how it affects both sufferers and their carers and how members of the public and businesses can best help those dementia sufferers we come into contact with.
On 12  June Mark gave a presentation to a group of stewards and volunteers at the Museum. He gave a detailed background about the various types of dementia and how they affect individuals. Mark then went on to explain how we can identify the signs of dementia and how we can help visitors to the museum who exhibit these signs. The talk was both sobering and thought provoking and everyone went away with a far greater appreciation of the implication of the illness on everyone it affects.
In the future we hope to open the museum specifically for dementia sufferers and their carers. This will enable sufferers to enjoy reminiscing and using aspects of their long-term memory in a relaxed and comfortable environment. If you know of anybody who you feel would enjoy and benefit from such a visit then please contact either myself or Mark McGlade (01395 200600) and we will make the necessary arrangements.
For more details of Home Instead see



City of Gold


Ancient traditions of the Inka Empire will be the subject of a talk being given in Budleigh Salterton on Saturday 22 June.  Retired anthropology professor Don Juan Núñez del Prado Bejar has devoted over 30 years to studying the spiritual practices of the Q’ero Indians, an indigenous people living in a remote area of Peru.

It was Don Juan’s father, anthropologist Oscar Núñez del Prado, who brought the Q’ero to the world’s notice following a 1955 expedition to the Peruvian Andes.  The Q’ero see themselves as the last living descendants of the Inka people, believing that their ancestors fled to the mountains of Peru at the time of the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Here, explains Don Juan, they maintained the Andean philosophy which, like Buddhism, argues that everything – from solid matter to living beings – is made up of living energy.

Like the Spanish conquistadores, our own Sir Walter Raleigh, born in East Budleigh, was tempted to explore South America in search of gold and the fabled Inka chief known as El Dorado, which explains the title of Don Juan’s talk. However for many students of the great Inka civilisation its true riches lie in its spiritual beliefs. 

Perhaps if Sir Walter had discovered these during his last disastrous Orinoco expedition of 1617 history might have taken a different turn. Raleigh would have returned to England a wiser man. Inka philosophy might even have taken root at court.

Instead, as we know, the life of East Devon’s greatest Elizabethan hero came to a sad end. His son Watt was killed in a skirmish with Spanish settlers and Raleigh came back to face an ignominious trial and death on the scaffold on the orders of King James I.

The talk ‘City of Gold’ takes place in the Peter Hall, next to St Peter’s Church, Budleigh Salterton, on Saturday 22 June from 2.30 - 5.30 pm.  Admission is £5. For further details telephone 01395 443437.
















Sunny thoughts on both sides of the pond


Above: Photo courtesy of Christopher Wroten
Every so often my attention is drawn across the ocean to the affairs of Budleigh Salterton’s sister town of Brewster, on Cape Cod. Nothing official has ever been done to seal the relationship between the our two communities in spite of references to twinning on the internet and even on that Brewster road sign: some might say that maybe it’s better that way.
I’m just happy to see via Google news alerts how a small American coastal town which has so many similarities to Budleigh Salterton deals with the issues of daily life that affect us all, ranging from town finances to dog poo. Yes, the battle over whether Brewster’s Drummer Boy Park should have a special dog-walking area has raised hackles and made headlines in much the same way that the Longboat saga has done in Budleigh.

The issue of wind turbines in Brewster was another bitterly fought-over area that we in the UK would recognise, though we’ve yet to see plans for a wind farm in Lyme Bay.  More acceptable perhaps, to solve the energy crisis would be solar power. That at any rate is what our own East Devon District Councillor and Friend of Fairlynch Alan Dent believes judging by the thoughts he expressed recently on his Facebook page.

“Solar panel farms,” he writes. “Hundreds of solar panels over large areas of countryside. No noise. No pollution. Little damage and no danger to wildlife.

Are these the way for green energy?”


Perhaps Brewster’s example was something that had inspired Cllr Dent because solar power was a possible solution that Brewster people had been considering for some years as I wrote at
And now, it seems, the solar garden idea is about to grow into a solar farm according to recent reports from Cape Cod. An agreement has been signed for the construction of solar arrays which will provide all the electricity used in Brewster’s municipal buildings. The arrays include 12,518 solar panels covering 13.73 acres at one site, capable of producing 3,630,220 watts; a second site of five acres with 3,366 panels will have a 976,140-watt capacity. The electricity generated by the project in addition to one already constructed will offset all of the town’s energy requirements - plus a little more.
The announcement of these plans follows the town’s second annual ‘Brewster Goes Green’ Fair. It’s all part of the aim of making Brewster a certified Green Community. Other ‘green’ measures include the conversion of its 127 streetlights from high-pressure sodium bulbs to light emitting diodes - a measure which could save $3,000 a year - and a pay-as-you-throw trash plan to be implemented in October.