Thursday, 23 June 2011

See you at the festival

WHEN Dave Swabrick came up with the idea of organising a garden festival to raise money for the Flamingo Pool in Axminster he could not possibly have imagined how the event would develop into one of Devon’s premier country attractions.

Dave was one of the most positive men I knew; he always had a bright idea. Not all of them worked but for him the glass was always half full, never half empty. He was a man before his time.

Sadly, Dave did not live long enough to see the garden festival, now the Axe Vale Festival, blossom into the superb event it is today, but his memory lives on through his daughter, Jackie Swarbrick Silver, who organises the trade stands at the show.

The old adage “from small acorns” has never been more appropriate. The festival was first held in 1994 and since then it has raised the unbelievable amount of £265,012, of which £166,053 has gone towards the running costs of the Flamingo Pool with £98,935 being donated to other local worthy causes over the years.

Now when David Cameron struggles to explain his “Big Society” concept he could do no better than look towards a field outside Axminster where volunteers have worked their socks off for the past 16 years to ensure that the quality of community life in Axminster remains a high priority.

The Big Society? It’s been going on for years in towns like Axminster.

This weekend sees the 17th anniversary of the Axe Vale Festival and with fine weather predicted, I am sure it will as popular as ever with thousands making their way to the show ground on the grandly named “Trafalgar Way”.

Chairman Ron Cross and his enthusiastic committee have been working for months on organising what will undoubtedly be another marvellous coming together of town and country.

With a busy programme of attractions in the main arena, including a falconry display and terrier racing, the festival offers entertainment and interest for all ages and tastes.

As well as browsing the many trade stands, the crowds will be making a beeline for the many marquees promoting food, antiques, toys and hobbies, crafts, shopping, horticulture, art and the recently introduced “Spirit of The Community”, an ecletic mix of local services and activities which helps to make Axminster such a diverse community.

The Weekender will also be there. We will be giving away our special Axe Vale Festival edition and I might even offer those of you who have a kind word to say about our newspaper a refreshing glass of Pimm’s. “I might”, I said!

I COULDN’T let this week pass without referring to Tony and Sylvia Hibberd’s departure from Colyton Post Office.

They have served Colyton with great dedication over the past 42 years, not only through their work running the local post office but also the many other community activities they have been involved in over the years. The town owes them a great debt of gratitude.

It is good news indeed that they are staying in Colyton and it is hoped that some form of post office service can be preserved.

Turning back the clock to GI days

I’VE always been a big admirer of the Royal British Legion which this year celebrates its 90th anniversary.

With our Armed Forces still actively engaged in a number of theatres of war around the globe, especially Afgahanistan and Iraq, the work of the Legion is as important today as it was in the aftermath of the two world wars.

I have never served in the Armed Forces but I am an associate member of my home town Legion branch, one way that non-service personnel can support the organisation.

It was a delight, therefore, to attend Saturday evening’s ENSA concert and dance at Axminster Guildhall organised by the Axminster branch.

It was an approproiate venue, as the Guildhall building was where the American GIs stationed in the town in the run-up to D-Day would have let their hair down.

With many in military uniform and others in 1940s style fashions, it was easy to imagine the scene in 1944 as the splendid Three Counties Swing Band went into the Glenn Miller repertoire.

Congratulations to those who worked so hard to organise such a nostalgic event, raising £1,600 for Legion funds in the process.

Change there will definitely be

THEY promised change - and change there will undoubtedly be. Our six new councillors are now embedded and the election of the various committee chairmanships and vice-chairmanships completed.

Five out of the six new faces have taken positions of responsibility, with Mark Gage leading the pack with the top job of chairing the influential Strategy and Policy Committee. Anita Williams has taken charge of the newly named Planning and Highways Committee and Chris Clipson is the new chairman of Operational Management Sub-Committee, with Terry O’Grady his deputy.
Rikey Austin has taken on the role of vice-chairman of the Tourism and Advertising Sub-Committee. With Lorna Jenkin chairing two committees, Community Development Partnership and Tourism and Advertising, and Lucy Campbell accepting the vice-cirmanship of Strategy and Policy, that leaves former mayor Michael Ellis, former policy chairman Owen Lovell, and long-serving Barbara Austin and Ann Bradbury without any specific roles.

Distrtict councillor Daryl Turner (deputy mayor) and George Symonds do not have any committee roles to ensure there are no pre-determination issues in the job of representing Lyme on West Dorset District Council.

In the past it has always been the case that new councillors would get their knees brown before taking on the role of chairing a committee.

This has particularly been the case with the appointment of chairman of the main decision-making committee - now called Strategy and Policy. This chairmanship has always gone to one of the council’s most senior and experienced members.

In fact, I can’t remember a new councillor ever getting this job within days of being elected, but that’s the fate that has fallen to Mark Gage.

You will note, however, in our 60 Seconds interview on page two, that Mark has had previous local government experience, having served as a councillor in West London for eight years. So he’s no stranger to local government.

Mark took the opportunity at his first meeting as chairman of Strategy and Policy last week to read a statement which laid out his vision for the future of the town council.

It was well prepared and presented, despite the fact that my mobile phone went off (unforgiveable) half way through possibly the most important speech Mark has made for some time.

Mark, clearly aware that there has been some animosity between the new and the old guard, recognised the great contribution that the former councillors who were not returned to office in last month’s election had made to the running of the town over the years. But he made it clear that a new dawn was rising and that he expected the new council to pull together and deliver the agenda for change the town demanded through the ballot box.

It was also a bold and brave statement in places, with a commitment given that the new council will deliver the skatepark forwhich the young people of Lyme have waited so long.

You can read Mark’s statement in full on page 12 and there are many who will be encouraged by what he has to say.

If I had to mark it, I would give Mark 8+ out of ten. Making such a statement was certainly a departure from the norm, with the mayor usually laying out the agenda for the future.
But Sally Holman will have the chance to set out her stall for the next couple of years at the ancient mayor-making ceremony in the Guildhall tomorrow (Thursday) evening.

TWO familiar old faces popped into the View From offices over the past couple of weeks just to say hello. John Curtis, whose father used to run the back shop in Staples Terrace (as we referred to it when we were kids) called in to tell me he is thinking of returning to the area after retiring from a career in catering, much of it with British Airways. He brought in a box of old Lyme pics, some of which I used last week, and many of the Curtis clan who fished off of Back Beach.

This week Paul Johnson also popped in to see me. I recently ran a story in the View on how Paul, a freelance artist, had moved to Los Angeles and was making a name for himself as an illustrator.

Paul was flying back to the States this week after visiting his mum in Kingsway. He says he misses Lyme but is settled and happy in LA with his American wife. But he hopes to return to his home town every couple of years. It was nice to see them both.


WHEN I went down to the Cobb on Sunday morning I could not help thinking that any foreign visitors to Lyme could have been forgiven for thinking they had landed on the wrong side of the channel.

For they were greeted by a line of 407 people singing “Frere Jacques” on the sea wall made famous by Meryl Streep in the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

It was, of course, the very clever idea, which stemmed from the Woodroffe School, of creating a new world record for the most people singing the classic French children’s song to promote The Hub’s attempt to win £60,000 in the Jubilee People’s Millions.

With the 407 supporters braving the rain (it poured down just as Marcus and Diana Dixon from the Development Trust and town crier Phil Street, started the singing but they kept going, frantically encouraged by Hub project leader Fran Williams.

Lyme now has a great opportunity of winning £60,000 for The Hub by phoning a special number next Tuesday. That number will not be released until 9am that day and an army of volunteers are being recruited to make sure the number is known by the widest possible audience in and around Lyme.

Everyone can phone ten times from as many different phones as they can access. I am told that to be sure of winning we need possibly as many as 10,000 calls to beat Portland Gig Club to the booty.

Come on, we can do it!

Yachts pouring into Weymouth - and it’s still more than a year to go

YACHTS are pouring in to Weymouth to entertain passers by with their antics in a cabaret apparently known as “mooring”.

An appreciative crowd gathered the other evening to watch this entertainment which began with one young man nimbly hopping across the sterns of three yachts moored together only to stumble and nearly plunge into the harbour.

He was just saved by a swift grab at a rope followed by some sort of face-saving comment about one of the craft not being tied up tightly.

The stars of the show were two middle-aged yachties who seemed to be under the impression they were mooring a car.

One steered while the other lay flat in the prow and attempted to guide him in to their berth with loud cries about “left hand down a bit” and “no, reverse and try again”.

They then used a tried and trusted driver’s method of “parking by touch” and proceeded to ram their berth, bounce off a stanchion and grating their way into their final resting place with the pleased expressions of two seasoned mariners having executed a particularly difficult task.

So much history in the buildings around us

PEOPLE walk by historic buildings every day almost without noticing them while certain historic features are missed altogether.

One such building is St Mary’s Church in Weymouth which provides a fascinating record of local history going back to its first rector in 1299.

There are also wonderful details of the origins of many local charities recorded on giant boards in the entrance way as well as marble memorials and dedications spanning umpteen wars and events.

All this and a chance to enjoy a church of real character as well should not be missed. Nor should something few people ever notice because it is way over their heads. Just take a stroll up St Mary Street and, instead of browsing shop windows, turn your eyes to the rooftops where a whole world of history awaits.

There are carved stone figures and ornate stonework, lovely tiling, dates, weird and delicately shaped window structures and a number of unusual mechanisms attached to walls whose use can only be guessed at.

Ghost tours and smugglers tours are already held in Weymouth and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before some enterprising person adds a historical guide to the rooftops of Weymouth to the town’s list of attractions.

Just in case you don’t know

JUST in case there is anyone who doesn’t know, the Olympic sailing events are coming to Weymouth and Portland.

This is a twin-edged sword because with fame comes focus. Fame boosts our local profile, attracts massive Government investment and leads to a huge programme of improvements.
But with fame comes focus and Weymouth and Portland may not like the way it is rapidly becoming viewed on breakfast tables across the world.

Take America for instance, a supporter, a friend and an important source of tourism for this country including Dorset.

But the American branch of respected news agency Reuters recently ran a feature on Weymouth and Portland… and it didn’t concentrate on soft subjects such as sailing and how beautiful the Jurassic Coast is.

Instead it looked at issues that Olympic and council bosses would rather they hadn’t talked about, specifically the roadworks chaos and how, in some people’s opinion, Weymouth risked becoming a ghost town after the Olympics.

That remains to be seen, but crystal clear beyond any doubt is that the world’s communication organisations, whether papers, television or the Internet, will have a powerful influence on just what sort of legacy Weymouth and Portland reaps.

The borough will definitely need to increase its work on image because, as has been said, “perception isn’t everything but it sure is convincing”.

Long distance skateboarders

SKATEBOARDERS love their pastime so much that many are prepared to travel distance to get to a skate park.

But it now appears that some may be willing to travel distance to avoid certain facilities. I’m told that some Weymouth skateboarders actually find it cheaper to catch a train to Dorchester and enjoy free skate park facilities there than to bother pursuing their sport in Weymouth where they are charged for facilities which they claim are expensive, restrictive and poorly maintained.

Perhaps the council should check out skateboard facilities in Weymouth because there surely must be something wrong with a scenario where a round trip to another town is more attractive than the same facilities on someone’s doorstep.


HAVING been elected to Lyme Regis Town Council in the May elections and given the chairmanship of its most influential committee soon after, Mark Gage is already setting out his plans for the future of the town. Born and bred in West London, Mark spent over 20 years working in IT and Broadcast Engineering, mainly with BBC News, travelling the country to provide technical support to journalists, sparking an interest in current affairs and a “healthy distrust” of politicians. In 2003, Mark moved to Lyme Regis with his wife Alison and their two children. He now works advising companies how to reduce their utility costs and carbon footprints. As a member of the local lifeboat crew, Mark has an interest in all things boating, as well as motorbiking.

WHAT brought you to Lyme Regis?
Alison and I were keen to get away from the breakneck pace of living in London, and to find somewhere with a better quality of life in which to bring up our children. We had visited Lyme on many occasions and had really fallen in love with it, so when we had the chance to look for somewhere, Lyme just seemed the natural choice. Although it was a big change for us, from the beginning it felt like home.

WHAT prompted you to put yourself forward as a councillor in the May elections?
My son was involved in the action group formed to save The Boys Club (The Hub), and talked me into getting involved, and it just sort of grew from there. I’m a great believer that you get the community you deserve, and that it’s not enough to just to sit around talking about how you want to see things get better - sometimes you have to put the time in. Lyme is such a wonderful place to live, but it won’t stay that way without a strong community helping to protect all that is good about it.

IN your election address you said you had previous experience as a councillor. Where was this?
I was a councillor in the London Borough of Hillingdon for eight years, specialising in Planning and Economic Development. Being a councillor in Hillingdon was very different - there were a total of 64 councillors and the ward I represented had over 10,000 people in it, almost three times the population of Lyme. Some things were similar, though, like the wide range of incomes and social backgrounds.

IN your vision for the town council, you gave a commitment to young people that you will deliver the long-awaited skatepark. How do you plan to do so?
We have a site identified and a commitment from the district council to work with us to develop a park there. The next steps must be to work with the young people to agree a design and to apply for planning permission. What is clear is that we will not be able to do it all in one go; we will have to phase its development and proceed as funding allows. The young people of the town have waited too long for this, and I don’t want to see them wait any longer now than is absolutely necessary. I hope it should be possible to see the first phase started within the next 12 months.

YOU are very involved with the lifeboat station at Lyme Regis. Do you think the lifeboat service should be financed from the public purse, as are the other emergency services in this country, or is it better off being a charitable organisation?
It’s been a true honour to be part of the crew at Lyme Regis and something I would never have dreamt possible before moving to Lyme. The RNLI is a unique organisation and one of its key strengths is that it is made up of volunteers. So the simple answer is no, it would be very difficult to continue this volunteer ethos if it became a government funded service.

IF you could wave a magic wand, what would be your biggest wish for Lyme?
I’d like to find a way for improving the opportunities for our young people. We need to drive the local economy to provide more high value jobs and to improve the availability of affordable housing for them. And if I could have a second go, it would be to reduce the number of seagulls!

IF you could invite three great seafarers to dinner, who would they be and why?
Captain Cook - it must have been fantastic mapping whole continents for the first time, Sir Francis Chichester - I remember following his progress as he became the first person to single handedly circumnavigate the globe and I’d like to find out how he managed all that time on his own, and finally, it would have to be a character from fiction, Long John Silver. He’s always suffered from a bad press, and I bet he would lighten the mood!

HOW would you like to be remembered on your epitaph?
He had an open and enquiring mind, didn’t hold grudges and smiled a lot. If you are asking what I would like on my gravestone, I would have to borrow from the late, great Spike Milligan and have “I told you I was ill”!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


This week POLLY RODIN joins View From on work experience from the Woodroffe School, Lyme Regis. Polly is 15-years-old and lives in Lyme Regis after moving here with her parents and younger brother, from Portsmouth, about five-years-ago. However, she still visits Portsmouth fairly often to see family and friends, and her brother is still a keen supporter of the Portsmouth football team. Polly is currently in year 10 at The Woodroffe School and is starting her GCSEs. Polly enjoys doing drama both in and out of school and is very interested in subjects such as history, English and art.

WHAT do you like most about school?
Apart from the fact that school is a great place to see my friends everyday, I enjoy a lot of my subjects, even more now that I am taking my GCSEs and got to choose my favourite lessons to continue with. It is also nice to know that you are doing something productive with your day, building on knowledge and effectively helping to improve my future.

WHAT do you dislike?
I can’t say I love the early mornings! It is also sometimes difficult to drag myself to school when the weather is lovely, it seems such a waste to be sitting in a classroom when you could be out in the sunshine.

IS THERE anything you would change about school if you could?
I would ban all exams. They are so stressful and time consuming, especially since I started my GCSEs. But mostly I enjoy school, and the fact that everybody is going through the same thing makes exams a little less scary.

WHAT is your favourite subject?
I particularly enjoy history and art at school. I love the creative aspects to art, and it is a way in which I can express myself. It is more of a hobby than work to me. I am interested in history because I am fascinated by people of the past, and finding out about their everyday lives, conflicts and major discoveries.

WHAT do you like about drama?
Drama has always been an interest of mine, I love watching performances and it inspires me to go and do the same. I take pleasure in stepping outside my own body and becoming a character, trying to think and act like them. It is great working alongside people towards a performance, and nothing beats the thrill of opening night. Drama has supplied me with a great deal of enjoyment over the years and has also brought me many confidence building experiences.

IF YOU could star alongside a famous actor who would it be and why?
That is tricky because there are so many actors that I admire. I would like to work alongside Reese Witherspoon, as I have never seen a film of hers that I have disliked and I really admire her as an actress, or Daniel Radcliffe. I have always loved the Harry Potter books and films. He has been so successful from such a young age, I’m sure he would be able to give me plenty of advice.

WHY did you choose to come to a newspaper for your work experience?
Journalism is something that I am considering following as a career. I enjoy English and writing and so it seemed suitable that I should look into journalism. History has also given me an interest in this area, because we often have to use old newspapers, but also write reports of our own. I really enjoy looking beyond just the facts and taking into accounts the opinions of different people.

WHERE do you see yourself in five years time?
I hope to be at university, I am still unsure of what I want to do when I am older and so I want to stay in education so that I am able to learn as much as possible, before making decisions.

WHAT would be your dream job?
I think I would enjoy being a theatre critic. It would be wonderful to go and watch performances for a living, and it also ties in with my interest in journalism.

WHAT was the last book you read, film you watched and CD you listened to?
The last book I read was 'Guantanamo Boy', a moving story based around the horrific events of Guantanamo Bay, the last film was Water for Elephants, an excellent film starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon, and the last CD was Jessie J’s new album.

WHAT would be the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?
I would like to think I would be sensible and save all the money. But I would really love to buy my family and myself a holiday home somewhere exotic, like Greece, and also go on a huge shopping spree.

IF YOU were having a party what three dream guests would you invite and why?
I honestly don’t know. There is a huge list of people who would be my dream guests, but if had to choose three it would probably be Robert Pattinson, because I love him and all his work, Emma Watson, because I really admire her, and, if it was possible to go back in time, my final guest would be Elvis, he is such an icon.

IF YOU were stranded on a desert island what three items would you want with you?
I would want food, my iPod and a giant book that contained all my favourite books.

Library fight near to victory

NEWS this week that there could be a change of heart at County Hall over the disgraceful handling of the pending closure of 20 libraries in Dorset.

It would seem that ten of those under threat, including Lyme Regis, could be saved but things still look bleak for Charmouth.

Ad Lib, the organisation set up to fight the closure of the libraries, issued a press statement on Monday afternoon stating that the county library service had had a change of heart and were recommending that Lyme Regis library should be saved from closure.

Dorset County Council also issued a press statement the following morning which was not so categoric. The county angle was that, following public consultation, a number of options were now open to county councillors to make a decision next week, to be ratified by the cabinet and full council in July.

One of these options is to retain 24 libraries, including Lyme Regis, but offering the remaining ten, including Charmouth, to local communities to own and manage with support from the county council.

Our county councillor, Colonel Geoffery Brierley, who has played a blinder on the issue, maintained all along that the Lyme library would be saved.

When the plan to close libaries was announced Lyme, after a slow start, set up an action group under the auspices of Lyme Regis Development Trust and supported by Lyme Regis Town Council.

The group has been led with great enthusiasm and industry by town councillor Lorna Jen-kin and new member Anita Williams, encouraged and advised by Wendy Davies, chairman of the Development Trust.

Anita has been particularly pro-active in generating publicity and probably secured her place on the new town council because of her work on the libary issue.

Both councillors Jenkin and Williams have welcomed the news that the Lyme library might have been reprieved but have stressed that the fight goes on until the full county council makes the final decision on July 20th.

In a bid to come up with a plan to protect library services in the town, it was announced at the recent annual meeting of the Development Trust that discussions were taking place with interested parties, including St Michael’s Church, about the library moving into a newly-created space at the back of The Hub youth club in Church Street which would also be used as a study centre.

This could then release the present library site in Silver Street for affordable housing.

The View understands that the proposal to retain the library, as announced by Ad Lib, would mean it would stay in its present location but the action group intends to contuinue its negotiations with its partners to “deliver their library vision”.

The county’s bid to save £800,000 from its budget could not have been handled in a more crass and unjust manner.

Libraries are not just for people who live in the bigger towns and any reduction in services should have been spread across all libraries and not limited to the smaller ones. Then there is the bizarre revelation that Dorset County Council pays more for its books than Poole Borough. How come?

Lorna Jenkin and Anita Williams have done a brilliant job in fighting this injustice and hopefully their efforts will be fully recognised when the county council meets in July.

Wetherspoons are NOT coming to Lyme

GREAT excitement among Lyme’s drinking fraternity last week when notices went up in Broad Street saying that the pub chain Wetherspoons was coming to the town, a rumour that regurgitates itself with monotonous regularity.

Within minutes of the notices going up Facebook was naming premises and welcoming the cut-price pub chain.

Sorry to tell you, but Wetherspoons have categorically denied that they are on the verge of opening a pub in Lyme. And they certainly will not be moving into Lloyds Bank (as the above notice displayed at the bank confirms).


SOCIAL event of the weekend was definitely Lee Caddy’s 50th birthday bash at the Golf Club on Saturday evening.

As a former player and chairman of Lyme Regis Football Club, and a keen golfer, the party, superbly organised by Lee’s girlfriend, photographer Lynnette Ravenscroft, was graced by some of the town’s most high profile sportsmen over the years, including the likes of Richard Austin, Brendon Cable, Owen Bosence, Martin Rowe and Stuart Rattenbury.

It was great to join such company in chatting over the days we played for the Seasiders and Lee demonstrated his ongoing commitment to the club by raising £600 towards the Davey Fort refurbishment.

So many American soldiers who left Weymouth for France were killed

WEYMOUTH and Portland has just held a variety of events to mark the anniversary of D-Day.

So many American soldiers who left Weymouth for France were killed in the most horrific of circumstances as they stormed ashore on the invasion beaches of Normandy.

Death seemed to be everywhere, not least for British servicemen piloting some of the landing craft.

I’m told of one man who took his craft in loaded with US soldiers only to see craft on either side of him blown apart by German shells.

So much carnage took its toll and he became almost philosophical, expecting to die any second as he piloted his craft to the beaches.

Inevitably there were many bodies in the water and the man was able grab one and take some of the dead soldier’s rations to eat because he didn’t expect to survive long enough to eat later.

Being British he offered part of the chocolate bar he had found to the US soldiers in his craft but they were horrified at his gesture and turned it down because the bar had blood on it.

The man took no offence and went on to actually survive the landings.

Mr Cool leaves them trailing in his wake

THEY came in their suits sporting clipboards and goodwill, a posse of helpers who fluttered round legendary Lord Coe as the famous athlete and Olympic boss visited Weymouth Beach.

He was visibly impressed by Weymouth and Portland’s enthusiastic approach to the 2012 Games which will see the sailing events hosted here.

Unfortunately his entourage was less impressed by the conditions they encountered as they stepped confidently from the Esplanade only to flounder in a sea of sand as they slogged bravely forward in the wake of Lord Coe as he took to the beach.

Paris salon shoes and sandals filled with sand while bright young things wilted in the cauldron of sun tan lotion and ice-cream and more than one distraught Personal Under Secretary – PUS for short – was seen to desperately pause and empty sand from her shoes.

How delightful it therefore was to see Seb dump his tie, wow everyone he met and leave the white collar minders trailing in his wake.

He got a gold medal because class is permanent but others were clearly struggling to match his ease.

Beware of the dog!

YOU could barely move along Weymouth harbourside or in Hope Square as crowds flocked to enjoy the popular Wessex Folk Festival.

Bands and soloists entertained on stages, individuals did their own impromptu performances and floating dresses, beards and sandals were displayed with gusto. Quite right too.

The whole atmosphere was relaxed, enjoyable and friendly… until the morris dancers started on Trinity Road.

Now a number of my acquaintances are into morris dancing which, in technical terms, involves stick bashing, hankie waving and a lot of prancing to make clusters of leg bells chime, all accompanied by music.

Their efforts are much appreciated by loyal supporters, but no sooner had the morris group I was watching started up than a passer-by voiced his disapproval.

He said: “Bark, bark, GROWL!” which sort of got people’s attention quite quickly.

The more the morris dancers got into their routine, the more this clearly bewildered dog took grave exception to it.

There was no danger because the dog was on a lead and, apart from the growling, was well behaved, but it was the looks on the morris dancers’ faces that got me as they took it in turn to come within range of the dog.

Their leaps seemed a little higher then and it wasn’t until the dog was led from the area that, with smiles all round, they seemed to relax a bit more. All the fun of the festival, eh!

Raising the flags

OXFORD versus Cambridge for the annual boat race along the Thames is probably one of the most famous of sporting clashes.

You can watch it on everything from your television to your mobile phone, but it was not always possible to have such technological access for a sort of instant “row by row” account of what was going on.

Nearly a century ago there was no television and modern communication in Weymouth was limited to a few crystal radio sets owned by the grander hotels.

But boat race fans could still find out what had happened very quickly… because it was all in the flags.

One look at places such as the Royal Hotel and people knew instantly what had happened. One woman advises me that the top hotels displayed flags to show which team had won and by how much based on information gleaned from the crystal sets and transferred to a flagpole so as many people as possible could know what had happened.

She said there was great excitement at the time when the flags went up and everyone found out whether it was Oxford or Cambridge who had triumphed.

Friday, 10 June 2011

A real country event

ALTHOUGH born and bred in the West Country, and having spent most of my working career in Devon, Somerset and Dorset, I never considered myself to be a “county boy” growing up.

Much of my childhood was spent on the beach at Lyme Regis and the only time we really ventured into the countryside was in early Spring when my best mate Stuart Broom and I would cycle over to Wootton Fitzpaine to pick daffodils and then sell them around the houses in the road where we grew up, spending the money on numerous games of putting in the public gardens at Lyme.

I am ashamed to say that the closest I came to a farm as a youngster was sledging down bumpy field, near Middle Mill Farm, on the outskirts of the town, where farmer Les Feltham still delivered the milk in churns. I had never heard of the word friesan let alone know what sort of cow it was. We were very much townies.

That all changed when I went to work for the Western Times Company, publishers of the Express & Echo, and later Pulman’s Weekly News. Pulman’s, in particular, was very much the farmers’ paper and the old Western Times, also concentrated greatly on agriculture.

I had no idea what a ploughing marathon was when I turned up for one of my first jobs at Colaton Raleigh back in 1965. It was a steep learning curve and for the next few years I had a crash course in farming journalism. Indeed, when I went on to edit and manage urban newspapers I greatly missed the lure of the countryside.

With the markets having closed and so many farms having had to diversify into tourism pursuits, there’s very few real country events we cover these days.

I am pleased, therefore, that the Colyton Tractor Run continues to flourish. Though not an event which goes back to the days when I first started coverng agricultural matters, it is no less a great attraction for locals and especially visitors.

My younger daughter Francesca is just starting out in the newspaper world and will be covering Colyton and district for The Weekender. Her first full-time day at work coincided with the Colyton Tractor Run so I thought, as she has lived a fairly sheltered life by the seaside, it was time she got some mud on her boots.

She’s a bit of a chip-off-the-old-block, having accompanied me on reporting assignments since the age of 15, and I’m pleased to say she loved the tractor run and was amazed how much interest was generated by 115 tractors trundling around the lanes in East Devon.
Congratulations to the organisers and long may this event prosper.

Taking no risk with public money

OVER the years Axminster Town Council have kept a very tight reign over their expenditure, despite facing heavy bills in looking after the Guildhall and more recently the Old Courthouse.

Under the watchful eye of Ray Collard, now retired from the council chamber, Axminster’s local councillors have done their best to keep the local precept to a minimum and therefore not placing additional burdens on the local council taxpayers. They exercised the principles of sound husbandry for the public good at all times.

After a great deal of soul searching and not a little argument, the town council decided this week not to proceed with a legal challenge to the planning permission for 400 homes at Cloakham Lawn.

The council listened to the public concern about the plans put forward by Axminster Carpets and noted the private challenge that is being mounted by the Save Our Parkland Group.

In the end the councillors accepted the advice by a barrister that grounds were not sufficiently strong to constitute a cast-iron case.

In other words, they decided not to risk the taxpayers contribution towards the running of Axminster. A good decision.

IN my last column I asked if anyone knew the generic name for people from Axminster after one of my reporters used the term “Axminsterians”.

No one came back with an answer, at least not one that was printable (!), but several said “Axminsterians” was definitely not acceptable.

So “residents of Axminster” it will have to be - unless you know better...