Wednesday, 8 October 2014


LYME Regis resident David Sarson originally came from Reading in Berkshire and moved to the town nine years ago, having visited his father many times and fallen in love with the seaside town. David lives with his wife Erica. They have three children and three grandchildren. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Lyme Regis and the Royal Voluntary Service.

WHAT did you do before retirement?
Before I retired I spent most of my working career in sales and marketing, but the last 10 years I was self-employed as a franchisee in computer CD Roms and, ultimately, in book sales.  

HOW did you become involved with the Rotary Club?
I became involved in the Rotary Club of Lyme Regis only 18 months ago. I was introduced to the club by an existing member.

WHAT do you enjoy about being a member?
I enjoy the comradery, we are like an extended family or a good oiled working team. I am constantly meeting different people in all walks of life and, of course, it’s very self satisfying when you meet your challenge of raising money for the many charities, both home and overseas. I am forever taken back by people’s generosity.

DO you have any upcoming Rotary events?
We have three main events in our calendar for the next four months; Christmas collections in Lyme Regis and Charmouth, together with our annual Carols Around the Christmas Tree in Lyme Regis for Children's Hospice South West; The Formidable Lyme Lunge on January 1st for Help The Heroes and other Rotary charities; and a soup and ploughman's meal at the Alexandra Hotel on February 2nd for the charity Water Survival Box.

HOW did you become involved with the Royal Voluntary Service?
I became involved with the Royal Voluntary Service’s Befriending Scheme almost a year ago, initially through  Lyme Regis Development Trust.

WHAT is your role within the service?
I act as a volunteer co-ordinator for the charity, bringing volunteers and referrals together, covering Lyme Regis and Bridport areas. It is a very rewarding job, albeit challenging.

HOW would you encourage others to volunteer?
Our volunteers not only transform the lives of older people, it can change their own lives too. A couple of hours of volunteering makes you feel great, you meet some of the most interesting people in your own neighbourhood, building friendships and enjoying each others company.

ARE you a member of any other local organisations?
I am captain of Charmouth Bowls Club and also help out at the community Lyme lunches and am a member of the University of the Third Age. I also help Erica on our allotment.

WHAT do you like about Lyme Regis?
Lyme Regis is a beautiful town and we are also lucky enough to have in my view one of the best coastlines in the South West. The people of Lyme are very friendly and we have so much to offer with regards to choice and facilities in the town.

WHAT do you think it’s missing?
I do think perhaps that more people should be involved in their own community. Lyme Regis has so much to offer.   

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
If I won the Lottery I would give a little monetary assistance to those Lyme groups who, at this present moment, are suffering through lack of funds, and then perhaps go on a short cruise if I get time!

Surely, it’s all a question of trust?

THE long love affair between Lyme Regis Development Trust and Lyme Regis Town Council seems to be over.

It was a long time coming.

The cracks in the relationship  which has delivered many benefits  to the town were more than evident at a recent meeting when trust representatives  David Gale and Peter Jeffs made a presentation to councillors.

The relationship has worn thin following two decisions made by the trust which have angered a number of councillors:  firstly, changes made to the community room in St Michael’s Business Centre, which is partly owned by the town council; secondly the decision to sell Monmouth House, a significant property in Monmouth Street providing affordable housing units which was given to the trust to manage. 

There was much talk in the town about an organisation which had worked hard at promoting affordable housing kicking tenants out onto the streets, but the trust argued that both Magna Housing and the Community Land Trust was not interested in taking on the building, the maintenance costs of which were now beyond the trust’s resources.

The bust-up over St Michael’s revolved around the trust converting the lobby area into separate interview rooms for their job club, which meant that people attending the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, had to wait for their appointment in the kitchen area.

Town councillors were miffed that, as a part owner of the building (they have an eight per cent share), they were not consulted on this matter.

And there were fears that the CAB, a much valued service in Lyme, were looking for alternative, less central accommodation, but I understand this is not the case and they are staying put.

There were some sharp exchanges between the trust representatives and councillors at a recent meeting in which Strategy and Policy chairman Mark Gage had to intervene.  Say what you like about Mark Gage - and I have - he’s always quick to ensure that his committee members are treated with respect.

The whole role of the development trust has come into question in recent weeks with my fellow columnist Chris Boothroyd  raising the relevance of its Lyme Forward arm at a recent meeting.

The relationship between the development trust and the town council has been the subject of confusion as far as the man in the street is concerned since its formation and has led to a number of “who’s running tnis town?” allegations over the years. But we should not forget what the trust has delivered, and particularly the role former chief executive Marcus Dixon played in setting up the Sure Start Centre, the organising of the Fossil Festival as a world renowned event and the establishment of The Hub youth club, to name just three.

In the final analysis, I think the development trust has been good for Lyme with a huge amount of voluntary effort going into the various projects. This newspaper has dedicated hundreds of column inches to their activities and ambitions over the years, some would say too many. 

Getting funding for such organisations has been difficult during the recession and this remains a great challenge for the developent trust, especially the funding of the community resource unit, LymeNet.

But it would seem that better communication between the town council and the trust is essential if the relationship is going to mature and continue to benefit the town.

NEWS that Lyme Regis could be losing another public house will be met with much sadness in the town - especially as it is a real locals’ boozer.

Plans are in the offing to turn the popular Nag’s Head in Silver Street into a bed and breakfast establishment with mine hosts Rob and Debbie Hamon taking much deserved retirement after many years dispensing hospitality and bonhomie across their bar.

If the planning application does go through and the property is sold, Lyme will be down to seven pubs. I think I’m right in saying that at one time the town had 13 hostelries and, in my lifetime, I have seen five  establishments close - the Dolphin in Mill Green, the London Inn in Church Street, the Victoria in Uplyme Road, the New Inn in Broad Street and the Angel in Mill Green.

With the Nag’s being slightly out of town, Rob and Debbie had to find a niche for their business - and that niche was establishing the Nag’s as the first port of call for locals, serving well-kept beers at reasonable prices, a home for the best darts players in town and regular music nights.

But they will be best remembered for the huge amount of money they have raised over the years for good causes. 

There can’t be many charities  in Lyme which have not benefited from their generous nature over the years and the total raised would run into tens of thousands of pounds.

They will be sadly missed.

PR guru and chief council critic Geoff Baker spends night with the Mayor. That’s the sort of sentence I never expected to write in this column. Fear not. It was all above board - to get a beach hut for Audrey Vivian.

Someone asked me if it was true that Geoff commandeered the duvet and Sal slept in the pillow case. Boom! Boom!

So, let’s hear what people have to say

PEOPLE are being encouraged to have their say about the Weymouth town centre Master Plan so the finished product can reflect residents’ views as much as possible.

Getting people’s opinions is clearly a good idea in view of the collapse of the £135 million Howard Holdings scheme for the Pavilion peninsula which the council liked but which more than 7,500 people signed a petition against.

The council scarcely batted an eyelid over people’s views then so, if it does now take on board public opinion for the Master Plan, people will be looking for a bit more authority attention to their views than they got with the abortive HH scheme.

Those of us with even longer memories can recall the delights – if that is the right word – of the ten-year bombsite which blighted the heart of Weymouth while the Debenhams-anchored new town centre was ground out.

The vandals playground of boarded up shops and businesses, including the hugely popular Golden Eagle pub, went on for nearly a decade and came close to destroying Weymouth as a shopping town so, whatever modern Master Plan schemes are chosen, we don’t want a repeat of that thank-you very much.

What residents will be keenly interested to know is, what’s to stop the council taking the temperature of public opinion and then just going ahead with its own template for the future?

Well the council has gone out of its way to stress the importance of people’s views so I’d suggest it has to reveal what those views are, saying which schemes, ideas, projects, plans and developments attracted the most public support.

There would then be a publicly available – and publicly accountable -- shortlist which should be debated to produce a guide for the Master Plan.

But at the end of the day the final word will still come from councillors because they will have to make the decision to approve or reject what is being suggested. That, after all, is what residents elected them for, isn’t it?

ENJOY the coastal path walk beyond Bowleaze while you can.

Winter is coming and everyone is hoping that the devastation caused by weeks of rain last year isn’t repeated.

That deluge caused numerous landslips with path sections sagging or being swept away altogether.

The result is that above Bowleaze the path still marches purposefully towards Osmington, but take a few strides off to one side on the down slops and there are giant cracks or earth slumps indicating that the next landslip might take a huge bite out of the route.

If that happens then the damage will be even worse because dangerous edges will have to be fenced off and that will force walkers even further away from the sea views they seek.

There is no suggestion yet from weathermen that we face a repeat of last winter’s storms and rain, but the alarming change in walking conditions is something to keep an eye on.

A new hazard

A DIFFERENT season and a different problem for drivers as they switch from keeping a wary eye out for wayward tourist pedestrians to keeping a wary eye out for mobility scooters.

It is the nature of Weymouth’s beast that its tourism goes in cycles and shoulder season has always seen coach loads of elderly people flock to the resort.

Sadly not all of them are as adept at getting about as they used to be so some bring a mobility scooter with them or hire one when they get to the resort.

This has seen a sharp increase in such machines around town and on the road with the inevitable increase in incidents.

Among those to surface so far was one user unable to make their mind up about when it was OK to cross a junction... so they just didn’t move at all, backing up traffic behind them.

Conversely, one user knew just when to cross a junction and crawled across it right in front of traffic accelerating towards him from a different junction.

On the pavements it is even worse. Some users just turn their mobility scooter without a thought as to what’s behind them, forcing pedestrians to leap smartly out of their way.

Everyone understands that mobility scooter users deserve every consideration. Perhaps they should help the situation by trying to show a little more awareness themselves.

IN all the years I have enjoyed the countryside I have never found myself really close to a weasel... and then one appears almost under my feet near my front gate in Weymouth!

It was quite simply astonishing because the little creature soon attracted an audience of other pedestrians as we watched it dart about along the pavement or under cars.

It seemed a bit disorientated, going first to one side of the road and then the other, and we slowly realised that it might be a baby.

It could still show an incredible turn of speed as it bustled about and, just as cars turned into the road and things could have got difficult, it chose a front garden dominated by a dense bush and slowly eased itself away out of sight.

To see such a creature in broad daylight in a residential area is a really good indication of just how much wildlife we have around us because our garden also regularly gets squirrels for visitors as well as the occasional fox, slow worms, smooth snakes, frogs and numerous birds.

I’ve never been able to afford to live in the country but I’ll take where I do live as a good second best.

This will be a fight to the finish

THE people of Axminster and district voted with their feet on Saturday afternoon when around 700 attempted to get into the Guildhall in support of efforts to stop the NHS closing all in-patients beds Axminster Hospital.

It was the biggest turn-out for a public meeting in living memory, possibly ever, with around 300 being unable to get into the hall.

Whilst there were few new arguments put forward to save the beds, there were a number of passionate speeches and it was clear that Axminster is not going to sit back and allow the future of its hospital to be jeopardised without a fight to the finish. 

No one from the NHS bothered to turn up (no surprises there then, after all it was a Saturday afternoon!), but it made little difference.  They would have been given a torrid time - and they knew that.

There will be NHS representatives at a consultative meeting on Tuesday, October 21st (5pm). They won’t be looking forward to that one, either,  and let us hope that an similar number of people will turn up for that meeting. It’s important that they appreciate the strength of feeling and witness the passionate support that the hospital generates.

This is all about the NHS wanting to treat more people in their own home rather than in hospitals, a policy supported by the Government.

That puts MP Neil Parish in a somewhat awkward position but at least he had the courtesy to attend and made it quite clear that in his mind community beds would still be needed no matter how many people were treated at home.

It has also emerged that it was a straight fight between the closure of beds in Axminster or Seaton and Seaton got the nod because they have a greater elderly population.

But those who are fighting so hard to protect Axminster Hospital believe the statistics are flawed and that the proposed expansion of Axminster and the number of elderly in the hinterland that rely on Axminster Hospital have not been taken into consideration.

There were sympathetic  noises about not wanting to get into a fight with Seaton with town, district and county councillor Andrew Moulding saying that the beds should be kept in all hospitals.  But in the end he accepted it might come down to one town against another. 

And that puts Neil Parish in another awkward corner as Seaton is also a part of his constituency, hence his comment: “We don’t want to go into battle with Seaton. We are in its together.”

But those closest to this issue are convinced that  they can come up with a genuine case for reversing the decision. They are adamant that it is not a faith accompli.

A repeat public meeting is now being lined up for Wednesday week (October 15th at 2 pm) at Kilmington Cricket pavilion. 

Good turn-outs at this and the October 21st meeting will ram home to the NHS how determined Axminster is to keep its hospital.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Serenna Davies & Alan Heeks

SERENNA Davies is a councillor and family therapist with a deep interest in wellbeing. Brought up in Weymouth, she left Dorset at 18 to train to be a nurse at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where she became a health visitor and child health specialist and later became a counsellor, Psychology of Vision Trainer and family Therapist. Alan Heeks was born in Bournemouth. He has worked in Business Management for 20 years and education and Sustainability since 1992. He has lived in Dorset since 2004 and works with ways people can live organically through workshops. The pair are working together on a one-day workshop on Personal Resilience, in Bridport next month.

SERENNA, what attracted you to come back to Dorset?
My parents live here and I love being back. I have lived in Winterbourne Steepleton for six years now and spend a lot of time in Bridport. I love going to events at the Electric Palace and the arts centre and I am also a member of the Bridport Film Society and always go to the film and literary festivals. I love the Saturday market and the many wonderful cafes and eating places.

ALAN I understand you led the creation of The Magdalen Project, an organic farm in Dorset, and you work in ways people can live organically, could you tell me more about that?
I like creating practical innovations, I saw the benefits of town kids coming to an organic farm to learn both ecology and life skills. I feel very blessed by the superb people who gathered to help make this dream an ongoing reality. When I see problems, I like to find systematic solutions. Many people are stressed and unhappy in modern life, and the principles of organic growth can really help people improve their wellbeing. I've learned to manage my own high stress levels, and learning from nature has been key to that.

ARE either of you a part of any local organisations or charities? 
SD: I work in many schools and also with The Dorset Child and Family Counselling Trust and West Dorset Family Therapy. I enjoy classical music and I am the nurse and health advisor in residency for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. I have also trained in relationship healing and emotional intelligence with the world renowned Chuck Spezzano who created Psychology of Vision International (POV) and I promote POV workshops in Dorset.
AH: I am one of the main professional advisors to Bridport Cohousing. I am also part of the Men Beyond 50 network, which links to my second book, published in 2013, “Out of the Woods: A guide to life for Men Beyond 50”.

WHAT is the scariest or most exciting thing to happen to you?
SD: I am frightened of snakes. I visited Steve Urwin's, Australia Zoo, which is a teaching Zoo, and I made myself touch a snake, but only on the third attempt! Later on in India, I came back to my Kerala hut and found a big snake basking in the sun outside. I didn't freak out but later found out it was one of the most poisonous snakes in India.
AH: Being interviewed live on BBC Radio Two with an audience of six million people for the launch of my first book, “The Natural Advantage”.

WHAT would you do if you won the lottery?
SD: I have never bought a lottery ticket, but if I did and won, I would open a centre for children, young people and families to help them cope with difficult and traumatic situations. 
AH: I would fund a major campaign across the UK to teach people life skills for resilience and local co-operation.

WHAT are you currently working on now?
We are working on a one day workshop on Personal Resilience on October 20th from 2pm to 5pm at the Chapel in the Garden, Bridport, named “Staying Happy in Changeable Times”. This event is part of the national “One World Week” and will offer people practical skills to handle life’s changes, find the gifts in the problems and raise personal resilience. We are both interested in living sustainably, eating organically, and supporting our community in whatever way we can.

Is this postponing the inevitable?

THE sorry story over funding of our local hospitals was summed up by the Mayor of Axminster, Councillor Jeremy Walden when he said: “It’s a sad state of affairs when NHS services have to be paid for by a charity.”

He was referring, of course, to the decision of the League of Friends’ offer of £100,000 a year for three years to keep the wards at Axminster Hospital open after it was rumoured that the NHS planned to close the remaining ten beds.

The question everyone is asking is: “What happens after three years?”

The NHS has refused to respond to the offer from the League of Friends but a statement is expected tomorrow (Wednesday).

The real fear, of course is that if they accept the offer, will they be postponing the inevitable” - the ultimate closure of the hospital?

The Friends have already sunk millions into Axminster Hospital over the years and whilst £300,000 will not clear them out of funds, it will be a huge dent in their resources .  

Much of their cash comes from bequests from people who have received excellent care at their local hospital. These would certainly dry up if the wards are closed.

The medical professionals in the town are concerned that once the wards are shut they will never re-open and then other facilities at the hospital will decline to a point it is no longer viable to keep it open.

The more than generous offer by the League of Friends shows how strongly the people of Axminster feel about the retention of their hospital.

Funding the wards for the next three years will at least give the doctors and the League of Friends time to investigate other funding options.

These are worrying days for Axminster with the threat to the future of the town’s excellent and well patronised library and the closure of the county council-run youth club.  

Losing our hospital is not an option that the townsfolk want to contemplate and it is to be hoped that tomorrow’s expected statement will offer some clear intentions and not be clouded by the usual NHS-speak about working with the community, etc etc.

THIS week we had been hoping to welcome our readers to Axminster Guildhall for our Showcasing Axminster exhibition. Unfortunately, we had to pull the plug on it a couple of weeks ago due to lack of support.

The idea was to showcase all aspects of life in Axminster – in the workplace, social and sporting activities and community.

We received good support from local organisations and charities but very little from the trading community which rendered the idea financially unviable.

We are sorry that we were unable to deliver on this occasion but would like to thank the staff at Axminster Guildhall who did all they could to accommodate the event.

A bin for this and a bin for that

REMEMBER when your kitchen scraps, empty tins and old newspapers were all dumped outside in a dustbin? Well those days are long gone.

Now we’ve got wheelie bins for this, boxes for that and caddies for the other… well not exactly because householders will now have to go back to school to swat up on the latest recycling changes.

These include various bin switches with new ones coming in and old ones being given a new purpose. Some are being phased out altogether.

It can be a real source of worry for some people, frightened that they’ll miss a collection date or that they’ll put some rubbish item in the wrong receptacle and, if you’ll pardon the pun, get their collection refused!

And there’s no guarantee that bin changes might not happen again as the recycling service tries to refine itself even further. So what other changes might we look forward to?

Well there could be a special wheelie bin with a slit in the top. This will enable postmen delivering junk mail to simply put it straight in the bin, saving valuable time for householders.

It will also help people avoid those painful paper cuts caused by angrily ripping open legions of envelopes marked “Urgent!” only to find you’re being offered an annual subscription to Readers’ Digest for 52 easy payments of an arm and a leg or free life insurance which turns out to cost another arm and a leg.

Then there could be a wheelie bin specifically for use just during the month of April. This will be provided so householders have somewhere to put all the leaflets posted through letterboxes by local politicians trying to get elected to the council.

Finally there could be the dayglow orange caddy with special clips to fix it to your wall or gate.

This isn’t actually for you but for the people to use who view your front garden as an ideal dumping ground for their rubbish. Not sure whether this one will catch on.

Your money is no good here

FOR all of us familiar with the use of money, watch out when you go on a London bus because cash may be refused.

Apparently one Weymouth couple tried to pay for a bus ride in the capital with money and were given short shrift by the bus driver who said only Oyster cards were valid.

They tried to argue their case but to no avail with the bus driver standing firm, so the couple decided to strike a blow for sanity and they opted to walk to where they wanted to go instead.

And the reason behind the cash refusal? It seems that people using Oyster cards can be taken on board quicker than those who pay the fare with coins.

Sounds like “a good idea” that Boris Johnson might have had a hand in!

Sweet smelling drains

WEYMOUTH and Portland gardens have just won several awards for their beautiful green and floral displays… and their drains aren’t doing too badly either!

I was recently chatting near Town Bridge when I happened to look down and see the drain near where I was stood was absolutely packed with growth.

It was easy to identify a tiny buddleia shrub growing up from the depths in search of light, but with it were a form of cultivated daisy and a number of other floral offerings.

If Weymouth’s excellent parks department is now turning its attention to beautifying our drains then it can only be a matter of time before council gardeners win an RHS award… that’s Richly Habitated Sewers of course!

Crows like food on the go

FAST food containers are posing a problem for seafront pedestrians… because they’re landing on people’s heads!

The bombardment is being carried out by crows, recognised as one of the more intelligent members of the bird world.

They have worked out that they can’t batter their way through a mussel shell but, if they fly up and drop it from height on to a hard surface, they can then fly down and enjoy the tasty food inside the shattered shell.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when one shell landed near me the other day but I kept quiet, stayed still and a crow was soon alighting and pecking hungrily at the shell’s contents.

Over the next ten to 15 minutes I saw this action repeated at least half a dozen times with varied success, shells smacking down on the Esplanade but also on the roofs of shelters, cars and on one man’s head. His baseball cap spared him from injury but it certainly startled him!

It just shows how versatile these creatures are. They’ll forage for just about anything and if leftover seafront food isn’t on the menu then a shoreline snack will do just as well.