Showing posts from February, 2014

Shades of the Great War are all around us (1)

The Temple Church in Redcliffe, Bristol, founded in the mid-12th century, was bombed in November 1940 during the Bristol Blitz. More than 80 years later it still stands as a ruin 

When I was born, in 1946, the Second World War had only just finished but my childish memories of its impact are still vivid. Rationing wasn’t completely abolished for another eight years. I think I remember car parks in Bristol which seemed to have been made out of enormous bomb craters.

And some parents had vivid stories to tell: my mother seemed to have enjoyed her times in the WRNS, in safety in Scotland, while, disturbingly my father told atrocious stories of how he and his tank crew had dealt with the Japanese in Burma.Other parents, of course, never spoke of those days.
I never tired of endless WW2 films and devoured books of PoW escape stories. Though that may have been my own escapism from a succession of ghastly boarding schools.
But WW1? There’s a strange gap in my memories. No grandparents seemed t…

An archaeological high on High Peak

High Peak looking west, seen from the Coast Path between Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton

New interpretation panels at High Peak reveal the secrets of this Stone Age site near the South West Coast Path just a few miles east of Budleigh Salterton.

Following the harvesting of the tree crop on High Peak, between Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton, by Clinton Devon Estates an archaeological investigation of High Peak hill camp was carried out in September 2012 to try and discover more about how this enigmatic site has been used over past centuries.

Friend of Fairlynch and children’s author Jan Oke was one of about a dozen volunteers involved in the dig on alternate days. A member of the Devon Archaeological Society, she responded to an advertisement in its newsletter and found herself working alongside professional archaeologists in a group of half a dozen volunteers keen to gain experience of digging into thousands of years of history.

The hill camp was first occupied in the Neolithic Period b…

Maddened by the floods? Get mad about moss.

Flooded fields between Annacloy and Ballynahinch, County Down, Northern Ireland
Photo credit Ardfern
Having spent many years of my childhood on the now disastrously flooded Somerset Levels, and still full of memories of my research last year into 19th century Budleigh Salterton spongiologist Henry Carter FRS, I read with interest Simon Barnes’ article in yesterday’s Times newspaper.

‘Dredging up old ideas won’t save the Levels’ was its title. No, believes the author. What is needed is in his words “a bloody great sponge” placed upstream to soak up water and then release it slowly. “Such sponges are known as upland bogs, moors, woodlands, wetlands and species-rich grasslands.”

The picture says it all: an overwhelmed flood sign Photo credit Bob Embleton

And maybe he should have added mosslands. For in our hillside cottage here in Budleigh Salterton we’re only too aware of the spongy flood barrier that we call our lawn. It has clearly absorbed much of the rainfall that’s made so many home…

Hoping for yet another museum with a maritime link

Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre: its Local History Group meets in the picturesque 19th century building 

Not surprisingly Devon has many local history societies - I’ve counted about 60 mentioned online - and that figure doesn’t include useful aids to research like Fairlynch Museum’s Local History Group or the Otter Valley Association's wonderful Ovapedia which you can consult at

Fairlynch’s Local History Group has the privilege of meeting in one of East Devon’s historic buildings, first owned by 19th century shipowner Matthew Lee Yeates whose supposed silhouette can be seen above. 
This Exmouth and Devon General Bank document dated 1 July 1809 bears Matthew Lee Yeates' signature
That seems appropriate, given Budleigh Salterton’s coastal location. In fact Mr Yeates was really a businessman who took one risk too many.  With commercial partner William Good he launched the Exmouth and Devon General Bank on 12 October 1809, moving to …

Lace comes home to Budleigh

Georgina Beare holds the wedding bouquet made by her aunt, Budleigh Salterton lacemaker Winifred Vincent 
We’ve all heard of Honiton lace. But of course it wasn’t all made in Honiton. The term was used to describe a craft which became famous due to the ornate sprigs and complex patterns which were created separately and then sewn into the part of the lace piece known as net or grounds.
In past centuries many women in East Devon villages like Otterton and East Budleigh found that lacemaking provided an important source of income.
By 1841 at least 240 of them in Otterton were engaged in the delicate work. A Mr and Mrs Lawrence opened a lace shop in Otterton in 1823, and another later in Sidmouth. By the end of the 19th century there were 230 lacemakers in East Budleigh alone.
For many people both in Britain and in America lacemaking continues to be a fascinating hobby. A locally made piece has now found its way back across the Atlantic.
“Last year we received a donation of mainly Honiton …

People and the evolving landscape in the Lower Otter Valley

With our landscape currently being battered by unusually stormy weather the forthcoming talk should be of special interest.

Dr Sam Bridgewater, Conservation Manager of the Pebblebed Heaths, and David Daniel of the Otter Valley Association will talk about the way human settlement and economic activity interact with the underlying geology and ecology of the Lower Otter Valley, to produce the landscape we see today.
Their talks will be based on presentations they were asked to give to a group of landscape and engineering third year students from Bath University as background to a project being conducted in collaboration with Bicton College.
David Daniel is well known as a speaker on the history and geography of the Lower Otter Valley.
Dr Bridgewater has been Nature Conservation Manager for the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths (EDPH) and the River Otter Estuary since November 2012. He is responsible for the management of the 2,800 acres of heaths - which lie between Exeter and the Jurassic Coast…