Wednesday, 12 May 2010

What price the swingometer?

DUST from the general election battle is beginning to settle and it is interesting to note some of the lengths media went to in an effort to gauge opinions.

One pensioner approached me with this amusing tale which left him stunned while showing that not every poll can be relied on.

He had been on a computer when he came across a site which offered guidance on how people might vote.

All people browsing the site had to do was choose seven different areas such as the Economy, Immigration, Defence, the Environment or Pensions.

Each chosen area then offered a series of views on that option, the browser having to click on whichever option came closest to their personal views.

When all seven chosen areas had been completed, the browser then clicked on another point and the site spat out its suggestion of how the person might vote based on the seven answers which had been provided.

Well it turned out that the suggestion offered to the pensioner based on his replies was not much good to him in South Dorset… because it advised voting for the British National Party which didn’t even have a candidate contesting that seat.

He was also quick to point out that he wouldn’t have voted BNP even if they’d had a candidate!

What price the “Swingometer” now!

The delights of Weymouth on a not so sunny May Bank Holiday

SOME claim that the May Bank Holiday is really the beginning of the Weymouth summer tourist season, but seafront visitors clearly wished they were in warmer climes.

I’d just got rid of a car load of unwanted items at the Lodmoor tip and was coming home along the seafront when I saw one of the most miserable sights I’ve seen for a while.

Weymouth’s excellent little land train was plying its trade on the Esplanade, but on board were the survivors of an horrific experience.

Pinched white faces peered dully out of hoods pulled close to shield them from a biting wind while bodies shivered inside every stitch of clothing they could wear.

There was an utterly despairing quality about those on the train and others like them scattered along seafront benches or huddled in shelters.

Just looking at them made me shiver because they seemed beyond caring what happened to them.

Typical British Bank Holiday weather really and I’m sure the hypothermia candidates I saw didn’t want to know that Weymouth had just had its sunniest April since records began in 1894! Bet they go to a different hot spot like Grimsby next year.

Get the message!

THEY say that all the work and stress of campaigning for a general election can take years off a politician’s life, but it’s not much better for members of the public.

One man was quietly going about cutting the hedge at the front of his garden when he was practically given a heart attack.

The source of his shock was a Chelsea tractor towing an election trailer on which were mounted a pair of speakers.

Unfortunately for the man he had his back to the passing trailer and jumped with shock when its speakers blared into life right next to him.

The message broadcast urged everyone to vote for that particular political party, the man replying with a hand message of his own which was so instantly understandable that even a politician would have grasped what he meant!

See how they like it

HE just laughed and laughed and laughed. In fact he seemed about to do himself an injury.

Some people gave him a wide berth, others couldn’t help but smile along with the happy chuckler as he managed to totter to a harbourside bench near Town Bridge in Weymouth where he subsided to wipe his eyes.

He was still spluttering and laughing when a passer-by stopped and asked him if he was all right.

It emerged that he was perfectly all right, never better, but that he had suffered at the hands of roadworks for months.

Because of that he just burst out laughing when he saw all the brand new roadworks right outside the council offices on North Quay!

He said: “Does my heart good. See how they like it for a change.”

These sacred isles!

IT appears that draconian new measures have been brought in to ban toddlers from Portland’s cramped and winding streets.

Apparently there is so little room over there that some shopkeepers feel they have no alternative but to limit their customers to older children and adults.

Before any irate parent gets too hot under the collar they might like to know the source of the restriction.

It originates from a shop sign I saw which read: “No buggies. Narrow isles”!

Perhaps Portland parents could unite with fellow mums and dads on the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man to educate traders and improve their spelling!

Allaying the town’s fears

THE “unexplained death” of old soldier Bill Kenely has left a morbid cloud hanging over Lyme Regis, especially in the Staples Terrace area where the incident occurred.

Bill was a familiar figure in the town on his mobility scooter, often with his great friend George Cook’s dog in tow.

Having served in Burma and India in the Lancashire Fusiliers during the war, Bill often wore his Chindit hat and proudly displayed his war medals which the Lyme branch of the Royal British Legion re-ribboned a couple of years ago.

Staples Terrace is a quiet row of warden controlled old people’s homes with nice views over the old town and neat gardens.

An ideal place to spend the autumn of your life.

Bill enjoyed a drink and was often heard by neighbours singing late into the night. He deserved to finish his days in a different way.

Rumours are rife over what happened to Bill, some of them very gruesome, always the way in close-knit communities.

Such occurences only happen every 30 or so years in Lyme, so we are not used to hoards of police cars and policemen knocking on our doors.

The fact that the police have still not been able to establish the cause of Bill’s death does not help the matter. But no one can accuse the Dorset Constabulary of under resourcing their inquiries.

The police have been very careful in releasing information to the press so as not to cause unnecessary further concern to those who live nearby, consistently referring to the incident as an “unexplained death” rather than something more dramatic.

The Lyme Safer Neighbourhood Team, under PC Richard Winward, have also worked hard on house-to-house calls to allay the obvious concerns of local people.

The police are even taking the unprecedented step of holding a meeting at the Woodmead Halls tomorrow afternoon (Thursday) to outline the current status of their investigation to some “key” community leaders.

I am told by the police that no information other than that given to the press this week will be revealed at this meeting but they want to make sure that the town is fully aware of what is happening. There are so few deaths of this type in Dorset that I’m not sure such a meeting has been held in the county before. They are hoping that those who are invited to the meeting will spread the word after the police have explained what is happening.

It is evidence that no stone is being left unturned in the police’s efforts to assure the people of Lyme Regis that there is not a suspected murderer loose in the town.

They have stressed that there was no forced entry to Bill’s house or anything stolen but understandably some of the elderly residents in Staples Terrace are very worried.

I know of at least one person who has moved out of her bungalow whilst the investigation continues.

We are not sure whether reporters will be allowed into tomorrow’s meeting. If we are, we have been told emphatically that we will not be able to ask questions, especially the type that could inflame the situation and cause further scaremongering.

Event of the Week

EVERYONE who met Jean Fernadez was bowled over by her energy and zest for life.

As well as helping husband Dr Alexander Fernandez run his practice in Lyme for 40 years, she dedicated herself to many worthy causes, not least Action Medical Research.

Mrs Fernandez was chairman of the Lyme branch for 50 years, during which time she helped to raise many thousands of pounds for the charity.

In recent years one of the main fundraisers has been the open garden at the lovely home of Frank and Elsie McGarry in Ware Lane.

That event went ahead on Saturday with one notable absentee - Mrs Fernadez died recently, leaving a huge whole to fill on the committee. Dr Fernandez and his children were present and the event was another resounding success.

New chairman Caroline Llewellyn and her committee did Mrs Fernandez proud.

Another event not to miss this weekend: the Bluebells and Cream Tea at Ware House, home of Dorset Deputy Lieutenant Minnie Churchill and partner Simon Bird.

The event takes place on Sunday with proceeds going to the Lyme Regis Parish Church Organ Appeal.

And on that note, I am pleased to report that the book I am writing on the new church organ, “From Slovenia with Love”, is now finished and being proofed for delivery to the printers next week.

Copies at £5 should be available in the next two or three weeks.

Barbara always thinking of others

HOW typical of Barbara Austin. Whilst she was waiting to receive her MBE from the Queen at Windsor Castle last week, Lyme’s six-times mayor and champion fundrasier could not help but think that there were plenty of other people who work hard in Lyme who deserved to be honoured.

Few will aspire to the dedication and example Barbara has set over the years.

She told the Queen that Lyme was a close-knit community which worked hard for various projects and good causes.

When I spoke to her in Tesco on Saturday morning, Barbara was still disbelieving that she had been honoured in such a way.

Never was a gong more deserved.

Holidays in Lyme

HERE'S another example of bizarre references to Lyme Regis.

On the Betfair official blog site there’s an interview with Blackpool Football Club manager, Bristolian Ian Holloway, 47, one of the great characters in football.

With Blackpool in the play-offs for a place in the Premier League, the laugh-a-minute Holloway was quoted as saying: “I am a football manager. I can't see into the future. Last year I thought I was going to Cornwall on my holidays but I ended up going to Lyme Regis."

Another famous visitor to Lyme this weekend past - Take That heart-throb Gary Barlow - stayed at the Alexandra Hotel and was seen drinking around town.

VIEW PROFILE: Tim Nicholson

Giving back to his town

This week Stuart Broom talks to Douglas Beazer in the first of a two part feature. Having enjoyed his childhood in Beaminster, he vowed to give something back to the town after a 24 year career in the Army.

This week he talks about that childhood and his life as a soldier, where one of his claims to fame was being the first pupil to enter the new comprehensive school at Newtown when it was opened in January 1963.

DURING his Army career Douglas Beazer never forgot the happy family upbringing he had back in Beaminster and when he retired after a successful career, he vowed to help give something back to the town.

Doug is a distinguished and well respected member of the community having been a councillor since 1989 including a spell as chairman between 2007 and 2009.

“Beaminster gave me such a wonderful childhood, and I feel now through my work I can give something back to the community I love,” he said.

Douglas is also a member of the Royal British Legion where he was treasurer for a decade and was the parade marshall for 15 years until he retired in 2005. He is also a Freemason and has been chairman of the Beaminster Manor Lodge twice, as well as a leading light in the Bridport & District Model Railway Club which he joined in 1989. He retired last year after 25 years service with the Melplash Show.

Douglas was the second eldest of six children of Gerry and Joy, and was born at Horn Ash, near Kittwhistle, at the junction where the B3162 meets the B3165, in April 1948.

Within months the family moved to the newly completed Fairfield Estate off Tunnel Road in Beaminster.

“Mum and Dad had a difficult time bringing up six of us and could not favour one above the other, but we were very happy,” he said.

“Two things particularly stood out; Christmas, and summer holidays. We had very traditional Christmases, and up until we went to bed on Christmas Eve there was no sign of any decorations or presents. When we woke in the morning, usually about 4.30am, we opened out stockings on the end of our beds and went down stairs for breakfast. It was only after we had cleared up that dad opened the door to the sitting room which was decorated with trimmings and the tree. They were really wonderful times.”

Despite the hard times, in the summer they usually went for a caravan holiday in Cornwall.

Doug said: “Dad was a lorry driver for Perry’s and travelled all over the country. He knew several cafes and restaurants where we would stop for meals and drinks on the way.”

Although there were times when the siblings; John (the eldest), Robert, Frank, Denise and Janet, didn’t always agree, Douglas remembers they generally got on well.

He began his schooling in Beaminster Girls and Infants School in Hogshill Street where he learned to knit dishcloths, before moving on to Beaminster Boys’ School in East Street for his junior education.

He said: “The school’s classrooms and facilities were all over the place and so the town was always full of children. We did PT in the Public Hall, games at The Memorial Playing Field and school dinners were served in the Red Lion pub, with the girls in what is now the function room and the boys in the adjoining room.”

Douglas lays claim to the fact that he was the first pupil to enter the new comprehensive school, now Beaminster Technology College, when it opened in January 1963.

It was during its building that his inquisitive nature began to develop.

“I became interested in its construction and the engineering side of it, and used to visit the site when I could,” said Doug.

“In those days there was no health and safety rules so I was able to go where I wanted.”

The new facility meant the closure of Beaminster Boys’ School and the transfer of the pupils to the new one, so when the school opened Douglas was first in line having queued since 8am.

The caretaker let him in, but because of the snow that affected the winter of 1962/63 was soon closed, and when it reopened two days later, Douglas was once again first in line.

Although he was due to leave school the following summer he stayed on for an extra year to get more qualifications.

Douglas can’t really explain why he chose the army as a career except that he felt it suited his inquisitive nature and his brother John was already a soldier.

Having passed the relevant entry exams his first posting was to Arborfield near Reading. He spent three years training as a vehicle mechanic under an apprentice tradesman course, qualifying as a 2nd class starred pupil.

His first unit was the Queen’s Dragoon Guards at Warminster who were posted to Detmold in Germany where they were responsible for the servicing of Centurion and then later Chieftain Tanks. They also provided the armed escort to the civilian British Frontier Service who worked on the East/West German boundary (the Iron Curtain).

Further tours took him to Malta for three years and Cyprus, which included short detachments to many of the Mediterranean countries.

Back in the UK he was posted to Gillingham in Kent where the soldiers used a local pub called The White House. Unknown to Douglas the pub was run by his future in-laws.

Then posted to the headquarters of the NATO Allied Forces Central Europe in Holland he worked with soldiers of many different nationalities.

An artificers training course in Hampshire saw him promoted to Staff Sergeant and a posting to the Aerial Delivery section at the Joint Air Transport Establishment at Brize Norton specialising into research of aerial delivery by parachute.

In his three and a half year posting he was involved in the trials of the first airdrop from the stretched version of the Hercules aircraft.

Further postings followed including Germany with the Coldstream Guards, then onto Cyprus where he became interested in Freemasonry and was approached by a fellow military man to join. When he was posted to Northern Ireland on special duties in the early-mid he joined the Hollywood Lodge on the outskirts of Belfast.

With retirement looming Douglas was posted to Warminster in late 1985 where he decided to take a job at the REME workshops ensuring equipment was Fit For Role. This involved the inspection of aerial delivery items such as parachutes, underslung helicopter equipment and abseiling ropes in use by many varied units around the South West of England.

On leave before taking up the post he returned to Beaminster and bought a cottage in Fleet Street in which he still lives, in readiness for life as a civilian.

He retired in 1988 with the rank of WO1 ASM (Warrant Officer 1st Class, Artificer Sergeant Major).

We conclude Douglas’ story in two weeks time with life in civvy street.


BEAMINSTER PCSO Alex Bishop, 26, has been on the beat in the town for three years.

Originally from Ilminster, Alex had always dreamt of joining the police force and seized the opportunity to fill the PCSO role in Beaminster.

Along with PC Tim Poole, Alex now covers the Broadwindsor, Beaminster and Halstock voting wards.

Having settled into his role Alex moved to Beaminster with his fiancée Jade in September last year. The couple are now expecting their first child in July.

Outside of work Alex is a keen sports fan, musician and martial artist, having trained at the South West Black Belt Academy in Ilminster for a number of years.

WHAT do you like most about Beaminster?
The community spirit. It’s a lovely town. I also cover three voting wards which are some of the must beautiful areas in Dorset I think.

IS THERE anything you would like to change about the area?
I would like to see more job opportunities for younger people. A lot of them have to move out of the area to try and get better jobs and I think there are a lot of people who like where they live but are unable to stay here if they want to get a good job or progress their career.

WHAT made you join the police force?
I have always wanted to be in the police force. When I was 21 I applied to become a PC, I was rejected at that stage unfortunately but when I saw the advertisement for a PCSO I thought why not? It gives me a good insight into the job and it will be a good stepping stone.

WHERE do you see yourself in five years time?
I’m not really looking that far ahead because I’ve got a family on the way and I’d very much like to be family man. If that means that still doing this job is beneficial to the family then I’d like to still be here. I was always looking at going in and joining as a PC but I enjoy this job a lot and it is more suited to family life I think.

WHAT is the role of a PCSO for those who are still unclear?
There are a lot of people who still aren’t very clear. It does differ from force to force but the main part of it is working with a safer neighbourhood team and finding community issues that need to be addressed and concerns that people have within there community and looking to resolve it. That can be through multi agency work, working with the different local authorities, with schools, with the youth centre. Working with different agencies to try and resolve those concerns. Community engagement is a big part of that and a big part of my role.

WHAT are the biggest problems that affect the Beaminster area?
Rural crimes such as thefts of heating oil, which at the moment is of big concern. It’s a more valuable commodity now because of prices going up and the Beaminster and Marshwood Vale safer neighbourhood teams have released a scheme called “stop that oil” to try and get people aware of their security around their tanks. We are trying to make it harder for people trying to access the fuel.

WHAT are your favourite TV crime programmes?
I used to watch The Bill when I was younger but I don’t often watch a lot of police dramas. I think a lot of the reality ones are quite a good insight into the job and they can be very interesting but I don’t watch a lot of them.

WHAT would be your three-desert island discs?
That’s very difficult, I have a wide musical taste. I think One by One by the Foo Fighters, the whole album is superb. The Joshua Tree by U2, again another superb album from beginning to end. 2001 by Dr Dre, I’m a big fan of Dr Dre, his earliest stuff with NWA is really good but also again all the songs on that album are very good as well.

WHICH three dream guests would you invite to a dinner party?
I’m an Arsenal fan and I think Arsene Wenger would be my first choice because he always seems like he’s got something to say and I don’t think he’d let the conversation die out. My fiancée Jade, it wouldn’t be a dinner party without her. The last one would be Freddie Mercury. Queen are an amazing band and he was an amazing front man.

WHAT are your favourite events that go on in Beaminster?
I think that the biggest one is the Beaminster Festival, which is a fascinating festival celebrating art. The opening ceremony in the square is always enjoyable and has a very good atmosphere. Last year I went to the Eat Dorset food festival at Parnham House which I thought was very good and gave a good insight into locally produced food which I think is a very good topic in this area.

WHAT was the last book you read, film you watched and CD you listened to?
I’m currently reading a book at the moment called 'The Outside Man' which is about an American joining the IRA, which is a good insight into the IRA trying to build a bigger profile against the British and using an American to do that. The last CD I listened to was The Carter by Lil Wayne, which is a very good album. The last film I watched was Disturbia, a thriller with Shia Labeouf which was a very good film.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

VIEW PROFILE: Tim Nicholson

Exhibition to feature Tim’s lifelong work

WEST Dorset artist Tim Nicholson is in the final fortnight of his exhibition at West Bay - Retrospective 1955 – 2010. Born into a successful family of artists, Tim has successfully made a name for himself to continue the Nicholson legacy. Former curator of the Tate Gallery Richard Morphet writes about Tim in the foreword of his current exhibition saying: “Tim Nicholson’s personal sense of colour and liveliness of observation yield images of delight, imbued with the Nicholson family aesthetic.” Tim reveals to the View From how his latest exhibition was crafted over half a century.

BORN at the start of the war in 1939 to the hugely influential Nicholson family, Tim was thrust into the world of art and clearly nurtured his talents of today.

His work shines with the bold, fresh and playful ability to reduce his subjects to an essential simplicity, which is so distinctive of the Nicholson’s.

While never unconfident of his talent, since his last solo show in 1990 at the Michael Parkin Gallery in London, he has been more interested in showing in groups with his many artist friends.

This latest exhibition is a return to solo showing gathering pictures from throughout his life, in a major selling exhibition of an artist who deserves much wider recognition.

The exhibition includes around 50 works, from the very large to the very small, at least half of which have never before been shown, with prices ranging from £250 to £6,000.

Tim was raised in Cranborne where he now chooses to work as an artist.

With his father away at war his mother, EQ Nicholson, a talented fabric designer and artist herself, raised him.

Making sure that Tim was immersed in the company of artists, Tim’s family was joined by 17-year-old artist John Craxton throughout the war years.

John and EQ painted everything that was around them creating a strong sense of place which undoubtedly influenced Tim, who has continued to make this an important element of his work to this day.

When Tim’s father Kit returned from the war he went back to work as a modernist architect in London, coming home to his family for weekends.

With his father away for much of his childhood, in the war effort and then at work in London, Tim did not know much of his father when he died in a gliding accident in 1948 when Tim was only nine-years-old.

Kit’s brother, Ben Nicholson was a good friend to EQ but not especially close to his nephew.
The painter William Nicholson was Tim’s grandfather but sadly he suffered from senility in his old age and never really knew Tim.

Despite all these important figures having little contact with Tim, along with Winifed Nicholson and Christopher Wood, consciously and unconsciously they have had a lasting influence on him which is clearly evident in his paintings.

Tim went to Port Regis School in Dorset and then to Bryanston on an art scholarship.

There he spent all his time in the art room with the children of a number of other well-known artists who happened to be his classmates at the time.

They were allowed a free hand and spurred each other on, painting, drawing and experimenting.

After a false start studying Zoology and Biology at Trinity College Dublin, Tim went to the Architectural Association.

Not one to follow the herd, he found he “had far less grand taste. One likes things like cigarette cards”.

Nevertheless he practised as an architect until 1980 when a cycling accident left him very weak.

As he recovered Tim amused himself by drawing and by the time he was better he had decided he needed to be an artist.

Solo shows in London in1985 at the Charlotte Lampard Gallery and in 1990 at the Michael Parkin Gallery have been followed by group shows in London and Dorset.

Never unconfident about his own ability, he has been reluctant to part with his work in the past leaving him able to bring his latest exhibition to West Bay.

In 2008 Tim suffered a minor stroke. Throughout his recovery he received excellent support from those around him, particualrly Catherine Row, an artist and family friend who helped and encouraged him to start to paint again.

In 2009 Tim and Catherine were married. It is with Catherine’s encouragement that Tim is undertaking his retrospective exhibition at Sladers Yard.

Retrospective is a collection of Tim’s art inspired by patterns, children’s books, cards, pictures of birds and animals, using bold witty and youthful colour which is a trademark of his work.

Tim said: “I like making up rules and seeing if they work, then adjusting the rules, putting colours next to each other.”

To view Tim’s work visit or see it in person at Sladers Yard until May 16th.


JILL Lloyd has lived in West Dorset since 1962, barring a spell in Oxford during the 90s.

After more than 45 years in the NHS Jill moved to Lyme Regis in 2000 where she lived until 2006 before coming to Bridport.

Jill is now the Chairman of the Bridport Community Orchard, being one of just three still involved since the initial steering group was formed.

The orchard has now been open for over a year, has a 13 strong committee and 100 members.

May sparks a busy month for the Orchard with the launch of a new gardening club, a mudlarks weekend of pond puddling and a scything workshop.

WHAT does the community orchard offer to Bridport?
It is an open green space for the enjoyment of the public. It was planned as a heritage orchard, and so as far as possible we have planted old trees and trees that are local to the West Country. There aren’t many specifically Dorset trees but there are a lot from Devon and Cornwall.

WHAT was your involvement in establishing the orchard?
I got involved in the early days with the environment group who negotiated the land and then I was part of the steering group to plan the orchard. The brainchild and really the main person who has been the driving force behind the orchard is Kim Squirrel and her husband David. They have been the professional advisors on choosing the trees and planting the trees and they now advise us on caring for the trees. I suppose I was appointed chair largely because I’ve got more time and a lot of the other people who are heavily involved with it still have day jobs.

WHAT year was the orchard first dreamt up?
It was being thought about five-years-ago and the group came into operation in late 2008 but we were only constituted and established as a group in January 2009.

WHAT has been the highlight of the year since the orchard opened?
The highlight has been to see how many people are now visiting the orchard. We had huge attendance at the two planting days, at two apple days and at a number of other public events, some of which have involved other local community groups in the town. And of course the allotments where there are now 14 allotments and many families are involved with that.

WHAT events are you looking forward to?
We particularly hope that a lot of people are going to come and join us for the mudlarks weekend which is May 8th and 9th. We will be here from 9am to 5pm on both days puddling clay to line our pond to make it waterproof. So anybody who would like to come along, take off their shoes and socks and puddle the clay, we would be delighted to have children of all ages.

WHAT is the aim of the new gardening club?
That is to involve everybody we can in practical gardening. The club is supervised by a trained horticulturalist who also has a lot of experience of working with people who are vulnerable. It is open to absolutely anybody but we would particularly like to attract people who are older or who have some sort of disability or feel a bit isolated. Carolyn Brightwater will be there on a Thursday afternoon to supervise, organise, support and help and everybody is welcome.

HOW long have you been gardening for?
I think I have been gardening all my life. I was a child in the Second World War, when there was a big campaign to grow your own and dig for victory and its interesting how things go full circle and there is a huge interest again in people growing their own food.

WHAT is your top tip for gardeners?
Keep on top of the weeds, keep everything watered, watch out for pests and enjoy it.

WHAT is your favourite apple variety?
I’m fond of a lot of apples, the one here which is very good is Tom Putt which is an old local variety and we have got two vigorous examples of that and I am really looking forward to when they mature.

WHAT is your favourite apple product?
Well some are good for cider and not much good for anything else, some you can use for everything and we have a variety in the orchard so we should have a good supply of apples for every purpose. We haven’ t yet worked out how we are going to share the crop with the community but since we have got a few years before that happens we are working on it. For me, a plain good eating apple takes a lot of beating, just to eat fresh from the tree.

WHAT was the last book you read, film you watched and CD you listened to?
The CD I think was good old traditional jazz, the book I read was a lovely book by Penelope Lively called ‘Making it up’ and the last film was An Education which I watched in the recent From Page To Screen film festival at Bridport Arts Centre.

LYME MATTERS with Philip Evans

We were more interested in shrimps than fossils

ADMITTEDLY it was many, many years ago, but when I was a kid at school I can’t remember ever learning about fossils.

I had no idea that the road in which I lived, Anning Road, was named after Lyme’s famous fossiler, Mary Anning until I was much older.

Of course, I might not have been paying attention (I rarely was according to my old school reports), but I have checked with some of my former classmates and they can’t remember being taught anything about what we now know as the Jurassic Coast.

The only time we went down back beach was to go shrimping on Sunday afternoons with our dads.

Today, of course, the earth sciences form a much more important part of the educational curriculum.

These days the very mention of the word dinosaur sends kids into near hysterics which makes the town’s annual fossil festival a must event for local schools.

I spent some time down at the festival marquees on Friday when nearly 500 schoolchildren from around the area proved that learning can be fun.

The fact that they were being tutored in the most effective and subtle ways by some of the top brains in the world will probably have escaped them.

What amazed me was the fun that the scientists and professors clearly got from passing on their knowledge.

As well as the educational aspect, there can be no denying that what happened on the cliffs in Lyme Regis millions of years ago is now big business.

Lyme and Charmouth are at the very heart of the Jurassic Coast, attracting tens of thousands of visitors to our shores every year. It is likely to get bigger.

A whole new cottage industry has built up around fossil collecting, and this was most evident with the various collectors doing a roaring business in one of the fossil festival marquees.

Films, talks, street entertainment and dozens of fossil walks completed the weekend.

It’s always difficult to assess how many people are attracted to Lyme by such events, especially when they are held over a Bank Holiday.

Last year’s festival was held over the Whitsun Bank Holiday in glorious weather.

This year’s event was three weeks earlier and the weather was not so kind. There were less people in the town but it seemed to me the fossil festival was doing even better business.

This year the organisers made a real effort to quantify the number of visitors by placing a sticker on everyone who went into the marquee. They also produced 5,000 programmes and it seemed to me most of these had gone by Sunday morning.

The festival, of course, is part of the wide-ranging remit undertaken by the Lyme Regis Development Trust. One of LRDT’s long term strategies is to capitalise on Lyme’s natural assets and to build a 130-bed Jurassic Coast Field Studies centre in the town.

This facility, if it comes about, will create year-round opportunities for both learning and meaningful employment as well as promoting more widely the study and understanding of our natural history. As a forerunner to this idea various courses have been staged in Lyme with parties staying at the former Victoria Hotel.

Well done to all those who worked so hard in organising the festival. There were a number of frustrating hiccups behind the scenes that the punters were not aware of but that happens with any big event.

Festival director Kimberly Clarke and her team will be regrouping and looking to get an early start on next year’s event.

And another feather in Lyme’s well plumed fossiler’s hat will be the festival being appointed the launch event for the 2012 Jurassic Coast Earth Festival as part of the Olympic summer.

Lyme link to election story in Canadian press

IN last week’s Lyme Matters I wrote about bizarre references to Lyme Regis in the national press.

Here’s another one.

The town featured prominently in an article on the general election which has appeared in one of Canada’s leading publications, the National Post.

One of their journalists, John Ivison, travelled to the UK to reserach a piece on the general election and the first stop on his country-wide tour was Lyme.


Because, apparently, his mother was, Anne White, was born in the town.

This is how his story began:
“LYME REGIS, ENGLAND -- It's a warm spring afternoon amid the palm trees that overlook Lyme Bay on the Dorset coast. The Jurassic Coast stretches as far as the eye can see -- golden-topped blue lias rock that regularly crumbles into the sea, giving up its paleological treasures in the process.

“Fishing and leisure boats bob gently in Lyme harbour, protected by a 16th-century seawall, the Cobb, made famous by Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman. A generation later, millions of men lament that a rogue breaker didn't sweep her into the English Channel and thus spare them Mamma Mia.

“Lyme is a picture-postcard tourist town of 4,000 where my mother was brought up. I'm here as part of a personal odyssey to take a closer look at early 21st-century Britain on the eve of what promises to be a milestone general election. This is my first stop on a cross-country tour of the places I knew well to see how they have fared under Labour since I emigrated to Canada one year after Tony Blair became prime minister.

“I wander along the recently restored Victorian front to visit an old churchyard overlooking the sea, where my grandparents are buried. Looking across the harbour brings back memories of long, hot 1970s summers on the beach, mackerel fishing trips and early mornings helping my grand father deliver milk door to door.”

The article is accompanied by a picture postcard view of Lyme and Mr Ivison goes on to wax lyrical about the quality of life in Lyme Regis and why most people in our town are “happy with their lot”.

Oliver Letwin will certainly be hoping so tomorrow (Thursday).

Mr Iveson also made contact with local historian Ken Gollop on his visit to Lyme Regis.

  • You can read the article in full by going to the website

Event of the Week

MOST definitely the black tie awards ceremony we were invited to last week by local radio station Wessex FM.

The station is based in Dorchester and covers most of West and South Dorset but, unfortunately, the signal does not come as far Lyme.

But with papers in Bridport, Dorchester and Weymouth, we were delighted to sponsor one of the categories in their Local Heroes awards, staged at the plush Boat That Rocks restaurant in Portland.

We were invited to a splendid three-course dinner followed by the presentation of ten awards to local heroes nominated by their listeners.

I was accompanied by Jackie, Alison King, who organises all our promotional activity, and Stuart Broom, my life-long friend (and former Anning Road resident) who retired after 40 years in the aviation industry to become the general manager of our Dorset titles.

As we are all sports mad in the office, we selected the category for sportsperson or sports achievement and were delighted when Paul Blake was selected as winner.

Paul is no ordinary sportsman. A twin, he was born with no blood and was very seriously ill after birth, leaving him as a quadraplegic.

He had many battles to fight as a child and being one of six children there were times that Paul must have thought life had dealt him a very poor hand.

But there was one thing Paul could do, despite his disabilities - and that was run.

Now he is one of the most promising gold medal prospects for the 2010 Paralympics in the 800 metres, having recorded the fastest time in the world this year.

Paul was one of the most charming young men I have met, a truly inspiration figure to young people.

Coincidentally, he and his family lived in Lyme in Uplyme Road for a short period before moving to Dorchester.

His father, also Paul Blake, is an actor and appeared in the very first Star Wars film as “Greedo”. They are a lovely family.

Well done to Wessex FM for organising a sparkling evening and a very emotional occasion for the award winners.