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...

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