Saturday, 28 February 2015

Ralegh inspired Male Voice Choir

Looking forward to seeing the Budleigh Venture Art Group’s version of Millais’ work ‘The Boyhood of Raleigh’ which I wrote about recently here I’m reminded that the painting features as the logo adopted by Budleigh Salterton’s Male Voice Choir.
So while we at Fairlynch are deep into preparing the new Sir Walter Ralegh Room we should mention that the Choir is giving a concert on Saturday 14 March in the Temple Methodist Church. 

After all, the Budleigh Salterton Male Voice Choir’s 2010 concert raised £1,350 for the Museum.   

In addition to all those male voices the concert on 14 March will feature the talented Devon-born soprano Héloïse West. She has performed in numerous large scale choral pieces including work by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Verdi and Poulenc.  

The concert is in aid of Budleigh’s Temple Methodist Church Beit Sahour Partnership. As a result of a Holy Land pilgrimage in 1999, and a desire to support a dwindling Palestinian presence, in 2000 the Church entered into a partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. 

Beit Sahour means ‘house of the shepherds’ and is the traditional place where the angel choirs announced to the shepherds the good news of Christ’s birth. It is almost unique in having a 75% Christian population. 

A museum to match Fairlynch

Matching museums: The Elijah Cobb House in Brewster MA (top photo) will be the Brewster Historical Society’s new home. Image credit Rich Eldred

Just over a year ago I wrote here about the ambitions of the Brewster Historical Society to have its own museum. 

For those readers in Budleigh Salterton and elsewhere who don’t know about the slightly strange connection with Brewster, it can be summarised as the twinning that never was. 

Back in 2001 there were people from both towns who were keen on the idea of a link, but for various reasons nothing was actually signed and sealed. I suppose the obvious reason was the traumatic event of 9/11, which understandably put Americans off the idea of flying.

When I moved to Budleigh I was struck not only by the fact that Wikipedia listed Brewster as its twin town but by the numerous similarities between their areas: coastal situation, salt marshes, working flour mills, lots of what seem to be retired people, fine old houses, golf courses, their own theatres… and so on.   

Brewster has the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, but it didn’t have its own museum similar to Budleigh’s Fairlynch. Until now!

I’ve just read that on 17 February the Brewster Historical Society completed the purchase of the Elijah Cobb House. The building looks every bit as splendid as Fairlynch. Great news. I’m delighted for Brewster.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Calling our keen gardeners

Are you... 
Bored with begonias...
Crowded out with cotoneasters…
Dividing dahlias...
Sowing seeds...
Splitting salvias...
Overflowing with fuchsias…?

Have you thought of
offering them to Fairlynch for our Grand Easter Fair on Saturday 4 April?

Do you have any gardening books we could sell?  Any vases or planters?  Or any other garden/gardening related items?  Are you over-run with bamboo that could be cut and sold as plant support?  Do you need to re-home crocus or snowdrop bulbs?   Would you plant a tray of seeds (flowers or veg), prepare a tray of cuttings, split plants etc to be ready for sale on the great day?

If you can help, please phone Chris on  
01395 488297 to arrange collection
Or email:

Also welcome are any unwanted items to stock our Tombola table

Friday, 13 February 2015

Lone inkwell finds a place at Fairlynch

Are you a teacher? Would you like to plan your lessons using real objects from a museum in a way that will stimulate, support and enrich your pupils’ learning?

Fairlynch Museum, in common with many similar institutions, has a number of Schools Loan Boxes containing objects ranging from ancient to modern which can be used by teachers. Each box is themed according to the contents, and covers subject areas such as Victorian Life, Toys of the Past, Archaeology, and Textiles. 

The latest addition to the Fairlynch’s Loan Box collection is this pretty cut glass inkwell, kindly donated to the Museum by a local resident.  Calligraphy expert and Friend of Fairlynch Irene Whalley thinks that it would have been one of a pair. “With its Gothic top and faceted shape it’s really quite elegant. A delightful piece,” she says.

To borrow one of Fairlynch Museum’s Loan Boxes you can contact the Museum on 01395 442666; email:

Fascinating and fun: the OVA-Fairlynch joint talks

The common pond skater (Gerris lacustris)
Image credit: David Spears

David Spears It was a privilege on Saturday 7 February to hear two distinguished experts who are noted for their stunning images of wildlife.

David Spears’ talk was entitled ‘Tiny Lives in Rivers and Estuaries.’  A Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society, the Royal Photographic Society and the London Zoological Society, he studied Zoology at the University of East London and Neurobiology at the Open University before pursuing a career in wildlife photography.  He filmed with David Bellamy and David Attenborough before later setting up his own production company, Science Pictures.


A century and a half ago the Budleigh-born scientist and microscopist Henry John Carter FRS, pictured above, settled in retirement at what is now Umbrella Cottage on Fore Street Hill. Part of his retirement was spent identifying creepy crawlies that he found in local drains and bogs. 

Microphotography was not available, but the drawings that he made of the tiny creatures that he observed astonished the Victorian public.


Some of Henry Carter's microscopic drawings, as reproduced in an 1869 edition of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History
Carter would have been staggered and delighted by the images that David creates, using modern high-powered electron microscopes, as seen in this photo of a tadpole. 

From award-winning photos of tiny amoeba to the smaller aquatic vertebrates, many of them found in the River Otter, his riveting talk took us through nature’s food chain with all its predators and victims.


 Daphnia pulex  Image credit: Paul Hebert

We were shown bacteria which live on decaying leaves, pond skaters which feed on daphnia, water boatmen which suck the juices out of tadpoles — even a dragonfly swallowing a fish. We learnt about blue-green algae and the difference between malarial and non-malarial mosquitos.

A diatom 
Image credit: The Natural History Museum

David’s passion for his subject came across clearly. Like Carter he had been charmed by the beauty of his subjects: he enthused about the intricate jewel-like workmanship of “pretty diatoms” and the fascinating lives of vorticella — “very interesting little chaps” which behave like jellyfish.


Vorticella attached to a spirogyra 
Image credit: Keeblur

For those members of the audience tempted to try and emulate David’s achievements he gave encouraging hints that microphotography was not beyond the reach of the average pond-dipper, occasionally mentioning equipment that he had “picked up on Ebay.”

Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) 
Image credit: Boaworm

The second speaker, Mike Langman, is equally passionate about birds. He worked for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) at their headquarters in Bedfordshire, for nine years after he left art college in 1983. His bird illustrations can be seen in nearly every RSPB reserve. His work has been published in over 50 books and regularly appears in all of the UK’s birdwatching magazines. 

Mike’s talk was a more interactive presentation than the previous speaker’s, and had an amusing touch of the showman about it: mid-way through his opening introduction his mobile rang. For quite a few seconds I was taken in as I listened to a ‘conversation’ between Mike and his Auntie Flo about a bird that she had spotted. Later during the talk he asked the audience for a volunteer to stand out in front and draw a puffin, based on descriptive details that we did our best to provide. 

Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Image credit: Dave Croker

“How well do you know your common birds?” was another test which we were faced with.  I felt I should have known better the difference between a blue tit and a coal tit. 
Still, nobody in the audience scored 100% when Mike asked us to draw the markings on a badger’s head.

Coal tit (Periparus ater)
Image credit: nottsexminer 
There were plenty of wonderful photographs of birds. Trying to spot a Mediterranean gull in a flock of black-headed gulls and a goose in a gathering of swans were further tests where some did surprising well and others did dismally.

The lessons from all this fun and games were clear: it’s all about observation when you’re trying to identify our feathered friends. And drawing, rather than photography, is the answer.  The digital camera, clever though it may be, is no substitute for binoculars, sketching and notes. 

Both David and Mike showed us early pictures of their work from the time when, as youngsters, they were experimenting with microscopy and sketchpads. Which left me feeling rather sad I didn’t spot a single young person in an audience with an average age of 60. It was Saturday morning. I wondered how many teachers had recommended these two excellent talks to the aspiring naturalists, film-makers and artists that we hope our schools will produce.