Thursday, 8 September 2011

Real asset to the town

I’M writing this column sat inside the central pavilion of the regenerated Marine Parade shelters on Sunday morning.

It’s a glorious early autumn Lyme day and as I look out over the bay, the sun glistening on the water, there are a few sailing boats bobbing on the near horizon, one of the gigs is gliding gently by and a couple of trawlers and yachts are moored just outside the harbour.

The strains of a familiar march can be heard from the new performance area where Chard Concert Brass will be entertaining all day.

The season’s over but there are still a few visitors strolling along the prom, making the most of what’s left of the sun.

Suddenly, life seems very agreeable. Surely, this is Lyme’s most pleasant time of the year? I’m joined on the boat-shaped front desk by daughter Francesca, who is also a shelter volunteer and has been looking after this page with her ever-popular 'Summertime in Lyme' column.

Despite the fact that most of the visitors have gone home, yesterday was a record day in the central pavilion, with over 300 visitors. The role of the central pavilion is to act as an information and interpretation area with the intent of saying to visitors “this is what’s happening in Lyme, now go out and enjoy it”.

But despite all the flatscreen, touchscreen and projection high-tech gadgets, the most frequent question is “where’s the toilets?”

The main job of the volunteers (and looking at the rota behind the desk there’s about 20 of us in all) is to act as unofficial ambassadors for Lyme, pointing people in the right direction, answering their queries where possible, and then giving an assessment of people’s reaction to the new shelters and future possible uses.

All this feedback will go to a meeting of the SURF users’ group at the end of this month for the town council to shape a strategy for the future.

There is no doubt that the shelters are a huge hit with the holidaymakers, especially regular visitors to the town who had become used to seeing the former structure deteriorate over the years. “Unloved” as someone put it to me this morning.

It always amazes me how few locals you see on the seafront but I suppose we all take it for granted. Very few locals pop into the central pavilion and one or two of the more grumpy ones are a bit negative about the shelters, especially the £1.3m cost. Perhaps an afternoon’s volunteering might give them a different perspective about the potential of the shelters as a long term tourist attraction.

One regular visitor to Lyme has just walked into the pavilion, praising the design and saying he thinks it will be “award-winning architecture”. Many others have been complimentary as well.

As with all developments of this size, there are a few niggling matters that need addressing by the council but the overwhelming view of those who visit the pavilion is that the shelters are a great asset to our town.

It’s back to the old routine after a lovely summer

A SURE sign of advancing years is the alacrity of the passing months and years.

This summer has certainly flown by and it only seems yesterday that I handed over this page for Francesca’s 'Summertime in Lyme' column, which has proved as popular as ever.

For the Evans family it’s been one of the best summers ever, mainly because our eldest daughter Zoe, who is planning to move permanently to Australia, has been home for the summer months to renew her visa.

It’s encouraged us to make the most of every opportunity to have a good time as a family and started with an unexpected invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party for all of us, an unforgettable experience.

We’ve also joined in as many of the summer events as possible – jazz festival, lifeboat week and the regatta and carnival. We entered our vans and Smart cars in the carnival procession and gave away 1,000 balloons to the kids around the route, an exertion which nearly killed me!
Sadly, another memorable summer is over and Zoe will soon be returning to Oz. So it’s back to the old routine of writing the 'Lyme Matters' column and getting to grips with some of the more prickly problems.

I’m going to kick off next week with an assessment of the first six months of our new-look council following the May polls in which six new members were elected and one other major issue which is having a major impact on the quality of life in Lyme.


THIS had to be Phil Street’s leaving party at the Woodmead Halls on Friday evening.

The town is still reeling from the news that our town crier and number one ambassador is leaving Lyme shortly to take up a new job in the aviation industry in Southern France.

Lyme Regis without Phil Street? Surely not?

One tweeter said this week: “Phil Street is the glue that holds Lyme together.”

The affection in which Phil, wife Dawn and his family are held was amply demonstrated at Friday’s farewell bash attended by well over 200 people representing all walks of life in Lyme.

Phil was so much more than just a town crier. He has been one of Lyme’s most recognisable and popular characters over the years, an ever-present face at every major function held in Lyme over nearly two decades.

As well as his commitment to the ancient art of town crying, winning numerous awards along the way, Phil has also been a champion fundraiser with his great pal Mike Higgs for numerous good causes, the most high profile of which has been the spectacular Candles On The Cobb events.

Leaving Lyme is going to be a big wrench for Phil who must have found the last couple of weeks, since his announcement, extremely emotional. Friday’s party was no exception.
Whilst regretting his decision to leave Lyme, everyone in the town appreciates that he is making the right decision for his own career and his family’s future.

And as Phil told those who attended his farewell party - he’ll be back.

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