Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Can summer stop the rot?

WHAT price the empty properties which seem to be turning Weymouth’s welcome smile into a gap-toothed grin?

It’s almost impossible now to stroll the streets for any length of time without walking past someone’s faded commercial dream.

It is a bit like a jungle. All the mighty trees are shops but, when one crashes to earth, the gap it creates is swiftly papered over.

In the jungle this happens with all sorts of undergrowth madly scrambling for light but on the High Street the demise is covered by whitewash, flyposting for events or by signs advertising that the premises are available to buy or rent.

It is like a barometer for the health of a town. The more such signs you see then the louder warning bells should be ringing.

At the moment they should be deafening in Weymouth with shops going down, pubs closing and even the main post office moving to a new and smaller frontage from the traditional flagship corner site it had occupied for decades.

Some people are trying to launch a Business Improvement District, others are doing anything they can to stand out from the crowd and attract a few extra pounds, but many others are hanging on by their fingertips.

So this summer will be make or break. Get decent weather and a good season boosted by our Olympic coverage and economic wounds will heal a bit, but get yet more rain and a roadworks memory backlash and we’ll be seeing a few more signs go up.

Save the mayor’s sanity!

CAN anyone help Weymouth and Portland Mayor Margaret Leicester with the loan of a carrier pigeon?

I wouldn’t ask but she’s at the end of her tether over her dead council computer which recently switched from being her window on the world to being an electronic millstone round her neck.

She has been unable to see her emails, she can’t send any, she can’t investigate information she needs and she can’t even get on to Google.

The problem is of course that the many thousands of pounds spent on IT by the council doesn’t guarantee that anything works or, when it breaks down, that it will be swiftly repaired in an authority where staff are stretched to breaking point.

Trying to use an expensive expert to repair an expensive computer clearly isn’t an affordable answer, so we all need to rally round to support this bird appeal.

We need to act now before people passing the council offices are treated to a scream, the sound of breaking glass and the sight of a computer describing a graceful arc before splashing into the harbour.

I’m sure it can’t cost more than a few pounds to grab one of the pigeons coating all our buildings in bird poo and teach it to fly between the council offices and perhaps County Hall or Portland Town Council’s offices. And the wages would be, well, chickenfeed.

That way the borough’s leading civic figure would be able to keep her finger on the pulse of important decisions affecting Weymouth and Portland without tearing her hair out as “Program not recognised” scrolls merrily across her computer screen. Please give generously.

No women, children or animals first!

BUILDING an ark isn’t actually as hard as it’s cracked up to be.

I started mine after weathermen told me that January had just been Weymouth’s eighth month in a row with above average rainfall.

We’re all trying to keep our heads above water at the moment but I thought that was an expression coined by politicians about the economy. Apparently not... and taking one step outside my back door showed why.

All I did was go on to the lawn which promptly turned to muddy porridge under my feet.
Everywhere is so saturated that even the roads are leaking as runoff or springs force their way through the surface to trickle merrily away and provide yet another challenge for motorists by freezing to ice in occasional cold snaps.

Never mind. My ark is nearly finished and I certainly won’t be standing nobly to one side to allow the animals in two by two either. They can take their chances. I need the space for vital supplies such as a case of gin and a well-thumbed copy of Practical Boat Owner.

Still, spring officially starts tomorrow on March 1st - and then we’ve got April to look forward to. Last year was the wettest since 1880, so surely it will be a bit drier this year?
Yeah, I think you’re right. Pack an extra life raft and finish the ark. Sound advice.

Those unforgettable days of summer

MY father was a keen gardener, or at least an energetic one.

I’m not sure how much he actually enjoyed it but it was a question of necessity.

When I was a kid he would spend every Sunday, especially when the weather was fine, as did most of the men in the Anning Road in the 1950s, toiling in our 60-feet long stretch of garden at the back of the house with every nook and cranny cultivated. 

We lived off the back of his labours, as all families did in our road as food rationing came to an end. There was never any need to buy vegetables, fruit was in abundance and we even kept our own chickens, although I distinctly remember my father struggling with the slaughtering of our Sunday lunch. 

We never went hungry, a day never past without a nutritious hot meal on the table. And there were tons of treats -  fresh strawberries during the season, homemade cakes and biscuits and my mum’s speciality - nubbies (rock cakes).

I remember those Sundays like it was yesterday.  There was always a lot of laughs, the men sharing family gossip while swigging from bottles of cider in those heatwave summers. We kids would run from house to house, “Two Way Family Favourites” would blare out from the radio. There would be great excitement if someone from Lyme, a soldier serving in Cyprus or some other hot-spot, got a mention.

I still live in that house today. Apart from a few greenhouse tomatoes, we don’t grow any fruit and veg. Both gardens, front and back have long been grassed over. 

I’m no gardener, although my wife Jackie is and spends hours making that same strip of land my dad sweated over every Sunday look nice for the visitors who stay in our garden flat in the summertime.

Occasionally, I help out by cutting the lawns, keeping the garden furniture smart and religiously getting the barbecue out of the shed and making sure there’s enough gas in the bottle for the family barbecues that are invariably washed out.

Today it’s bitter cold outside but there are signs that spring is on its way. The evenings are drawing out and there are some small signs in the garden that warmer days are just around the corner. 

Soon the daffodils, my favourite flower, will be out in abundance. When we were kids we used to cycle over to Wootton, pick baskets of wild daffodils and sell bunches of them around the estate for threepence.

Sometimes I sit in my garden and dream of those carefree days 55 years ago. I can see my dad sweating away in his vest, digging potatoes, picking carrots and chasing chickens. 
There’s still the occasional whiff of roast beef but not from our house. We never eat at lunchtimes, always in the evening. 

Back in 1955 we never had lunch; it was dinner and tea. We had little but we wanted for nothing either.

Happy days -  gone but not forgotten.

Year book for 2012 will be out soon

A RECORD of life in Lyme in 2012 - an unforgettable year - will be soon be hitting the bookshops.

For the past two years we have produced a Year Book chronicling the events that have been reported in the View from Lyme Regis in what was generally considered to be one of the busiest periods in recent history.

As Francesca does most of the reporting in Lyme these days, she is busily putting the pages together and the publication will soon go on sale.

It will record all the events that made 2012 such a special year for Lyme with the Jubilee and Olympics and feature all those who made the news and were  featured in our columns.

With the Year Books for 2010 and 2011, it will form part of the modern day history of Lyme.


SOME readers have enquired why I don’t include “Event Of The Week” in every column, as used to be the case.

There’s a simple answer to that: frequently there are weeks now that I don’t attend an event in Lyme.

Since the View from series became a part of the Tindle Newspaper Group in April of last year, I have a greater management load with responsibility for producing 15 weekly newspapers across the region.

I also write quite a bit of editorial for our East Devon papers and recently the group launched a new weekly in the city of Gloucester which is edited and produced at our Lyme office. 

So a greater burden has fallen on Francesca to attend most Lyme events and edit the Lyme edition.

But I did manage to get along to Lyme Regis Pantomime Society’s production of “Dick Whittington And His Cat” last week and thoroughly enjoyed the show.

Now I’m the first to admit that panto is not everyone’s cup of tea. And as very few of our reporters relish covering such productions, particularly out in the villages where the humour is, now how shall I put this without causing offence, a little agricultural, I seem to end up doing more than my fair share. 

So by the time I got to the Marine Theatre last Thursday I was a bit pantoed out. But I always like seeing my hometown panto and the best thing about it is watching youngsters treading the boards for the first time.

At Lyme you always know you will see a professional portrayal from Tina Paveley in the principal boy role - and there’s usually one or two who also catch the eye.

This year Gemma Hatton (nee Rattenbury) was the undoubted star of the show in her dame role, showing impeccable timing and great comic delivery.

Take a bow also 17-year-old Melissa Denslow, who was making her debut in the principal girl role playing opposite Tina Paveley from whom she will have learnt much.

And well done to Kathy Smith for putting it all together in her joint role of producer/director, possibly the youngest in the area, almost always with a smile on her face!

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Caroline Paul

BORN in Dorchester in 1963, Caroline Paul was just 18 months old when her family moved to a rundown 300-year-old property, near Cerne Abbas. Nearly 50 years later, Caroline still lives there with her parents and teenage son, running it as Giants Head Caravan & Camping Park – a “rural touring park for healthy walking types.” Leaving behind a career as an independent financial advisor, Caroline began running Treasure Trails Dorset five years ago.

WHAT are treasure trails?
There are more than 55 walking, driving, cycling and bus treasure trails across Dorset. Each trail has clues that you need to find and solve to lead you around a route. They are designed to show you the best historic and picturesque sights of a location, whilst entertaining the whole family at once. The trails involve either solving a murder mystery, following a treasure hunt or carrying out a 'James Bond' style spy mission. Each answer eliminates a suspect or a location until you are left with just one - the whodunnit, the location of the hidden treasure or the code to deactivate the device. They are award-winning activities that get the whole family out and about exploring.

HOW did you get involved with them?
I first met Steve Ridd, who started Treasure Trails in Cornwall, at an air show in 2004. Steve stood out because of his lively, fun attitude. I bought a couple of trails and both were fantastic. Steve emailed me a few months later to say he was looking for someone to write trails in Dorset and would I be interested.  As my parents were getting a bit older I thought it would be a great thing for me to do, to reduce my hours as a financial adviser and work from home writing the trails while helping them with the holiday park.

HAVE you always enjoyed walks and the countryside?
I have always been a country girl and have always loved the countryside. My favourite trails are those that explore some of the lesser-known villages. I love to find out all I can about the history, local stories and any gossip from the locals.

HOW do people respond to the walks?
I do get some great feedback from Trailers. Here are a few: “Absolutely fantastic! This is the third one I have done with the kids, fabulous!” (Swanage 4 Kids Trail). “Did it with friends on a brief holiday in Weymouth and they loved it - saw things we would normally miss!” (Weymouth Town). “A lovely way of exploring different places and noticing things overlooked before.” (Bridport Town)

HAS anyone got horribly lost following your clues?
Not that I am aware of – or maybe they are still lost! After I have written the trails I always, without exception have someone else to check them. I give them the trail and I follow behind with a clipboard taking notes just in case I have written “go left” and it should be “go right”.

HOW do you find new routes or themes?
I have so many trails that I want to write. Whenever I am out I very often divert off the main road down narrow roads looking for new places to explore, you wouldn’t believe what can be hidden away. Dorset is just wonderful for all those hidden secrets. Who has lived here, who was born here and who is buried here, but I am not going to tell you any secrets, you will have to check out my trails! I also get asked by people to write new trails. Sometimes it is possible but in some cases although they live in a lovely part of Dorset there is just not quite enough to write a full trail, so I make a note and keep these for future driving trails.

WHAT is your favourite journey in the world?
My father had always wanted to go across the Rockies in Canada before he got too old (he’s 81 now) so about five years ago I arranged for him, his older(!) brother, my son and myself to go. We went over Christmas and it was fantastic. My mother decided to stay home as she could see how much work it would be looking after two pensioners who have spent nearly 80 years squabbling (like brothers do) and a teenager. I still think this was my favourite journey.

WHO living or dead would you most like to go on a walk with?
I suppose I could be really corny and say Pierce Brosnan because he could rescue me with one of his James Bond manoeuvres but that would be fibbing. It’s Pierce Brosnan because he is just gorgeous to all us middle-aged women.

WHAT would be your ideal destination after a long walk?
Back home to one of my mum’s roastie dinners – yum.

DO you Sat Nav?
Only when I have to, I am a country girl and a lot of this techy stuff goes way over my head, I have only just learnt how to turn on my son’s iPhone and that is as far as I have got with it.

WHAT is your earliest memory?
I can remember sitting in a pram or pushchair passing lots of metal railings. Apparently before I moved from Dorchester my mother used to walk with me by the Dorchester Hospital where there were lots of metal railings.

WHEN is the last time you had to say sorry?
Sorry, me? You’ve got to have done something wrong to say sorry! Only joking, probably to my son, I seem to say sorry to him every day but I really don’t know why, maybe to try and keep the peace when he is having one of his teenage tantrums.

Trails can be download from or available in booklet format from Tourist Information Centres and various retail outlets or direct from Treasure Trails Dorset.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


IN March 2011, young architectural consultant Jim Larcombe decided to go it alone and set up his own business. Despite doing so in the middle of a recession, his Lyme Regis-based company, named Jim Larcombe Architectural Consultant, has gone from strength to strength and he has just opened a new office having previously worked from home. Jim, 22, was born and bred in Lyme Regis, attending the Woodroffe School before gaining an ONC and HNC in Building Studies at Exeter College.

WHY did you decide to set up your own business?
The idea of setting up my own business has always appealed to me and, with plenty of local contacts through Lyme Regis Football Club and friends of the family, I gradually started picking up private work. People thought I was mad setting up a business in the middle of a recession but I always had plenty of support and it has certainly paid off. To date, I have taken on over 120 projects in slightly under two years. I currently have freelance help from an RIBA registered architect, a couple of architectural technicians and some office help - business is booming! 

WHAT services do you offer?
The architectural services that we offer include measured surveys, which are used primarily to help with the design stage, carrying out surveys for Land Registry plans, a full design package which can include a 3D model of the proposal along with freehand concept sketches and 2D drawings as necessary for planning applications. We will take on any size planning application anywhere in the country. We also provide a full set of Building Regulation drawings and offer a site supervision service.

WHAT job are you most proud of to date?
I have recently gained planning permission for an ultra contemporary project in Lyme Regis, in a cul-de-saq of traditional 1970s bungalows. The client knew it was not going to be a straightforward application and gave me a year to obtain planning permission but the application was turned around in just two and a half months. This has given me the encouragement to take on more ambitious projects. 

WHAT would your ideal architectural job be?
I would love to get my hands on a new housing estate and design some contemporary new builds rather than your traditional pitched roof, uninspiring new builds that are so common these days. We are so fortunate to be in an area with fantastic countryside and coastal views that  need to be maximised. 

HOW do you hope to expand your business in the future?
Within the next five years I am hoping to open another office, not far from Lyme Regis, and try to maximise the current workflow. This will not only establish the business outside of Lyme Regis but also provide more jobs for local people, which is something I am all for. 

TELL us about the Upkyme school project you’re involved in...
I have been quite fortunate to help Mrs Ethelston’s Primary School in Uplyme try to obtain planning permission for a new school. I approached a team of volunteers in May 2011 with a view to help in whatever capacity. It was early days of being self-employed and I wanted to try and integrate myself into projects going on in the local area. I was later appointed along with three other consultants to assist the school on an outline planning application, which was successful. The school had been trying to obtain permission on this site for around 25 years and to be part of a team that helped to achieve this gave me great satisfaction.

WHAT do you like about living in Lyme Regis?
I have a great passion for the town and it gives me great pleasure to have an office in Lyme and I’m fortunate to still be able to live here. I love the fact that you are no more than a 10-minute walk to the seafront, although the walk back up the hill isn't so enjoyable! 

WHAT would you add to the area if you could?
The town is crying out for low-cost housing. It is extremely hard to be able to work in the town and afford to buy a house here. I am willing to help any potential developers who would be interested in trying to provide this option to first-time buyers.  Also, having moved into my new office three weeks ago in Church Street and seeing near miss after near miss right outside my window, it would be nice to see a one-way system put in place, or traffic lights to be installed further up the road towards the London Inn. 

WHAT are your personal interests?
I’m a member of Lyme Regis Football Club and it is something that I am only too happy to help out with in whatever way possible. I have been involved with the club since I was four years old. If you haven't been up there, I strongly recommend giving it a try. I was fortunate to be able to help out when it came to building new changing facilities and I designed the extension. Granted, the building isn't the most aesthetically pleasing in the world now but it provides the additional space required. It’s something the whole club should be very proud of. 

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
Obviously I would build my own house, it’s a dream that I hope comes true one day. I would also invest in new premises for the business and attempt to create as many new jobs within the town as possible. I would make sure that the football club was financially sound and would donate money to both Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation. 

Going soft on the council - who me?

TWO people stopped me in town this week to say they thought I was going soft on the council. In fact they both went as far as to accuse me of being polite to our elected representatives.

They had noticed that an element of praise was creeping into my comments on the performance of the town council in recent weeks.

I hold my hand up to saying recently that there was very little else the council could do down at Monmouth Beach, other than to ensure the safety of those who occupy the chalets threatened by the continuing landslides and to keep people away from the creeping cliffs. 

But I can’t recall adopting a more sycophantic attitude than normal on other matters. I am often accused of being too negative in this column but I think if you look at them over a period of time the positives of life in Lyme Regis far outweigh any criticisms of the way the town is run. 

I rarely miss an opportunity of highlighting Lyme’s wonderful community spirit and those who work so hard to make it such a special place to live and work.

Someone asked me not so long ago what gave me the right to criticise those in public office. I do it not to make myself unpopular among the councillors  (which I clearly am) but because I think local democracy is in mortal danger. At county and district level, as we reported last week, it’s virtually dead with the cabinet system so predominant.

At local level I also fear for the democratic process. I am opposed to a cartel of councillors predetermining issues and voting in groups. All decisions should be made after reasoned public debate and far too much decision making is influenced by emails between councillors to which the public have no access or knowledge. It’s one of the great dangers of this digital age.

However, lively debate there certainly was in the council chamber last week when Monmouth Beach was the cause of the longest council meeting in recent times. Thankfully, I wasn’t present. Had I been, I’m not sure I would still have been there at 10:30pm when the Mayor finally adjourned the meeting, with Monmouth Beach being the only main agenda item dealt with.

And whilst I’m well and truly on my soapbox, let me make it perfectly clear that I am not opposed to the skatepark project in Lyme, a rumour being perpetuated by some councillors.

The young people of Lyme deserve such a facility; after all there is a skatepark in virtually every other town in Dorset - and they have waited far too long. It’s a pity that the skatepark will end up in a position (Charmouth Road car park) which would not have been anyone’s favoured location, but Lyme’s geographical location does throw up particular problems with regard to finding a suitable site.

My main beef is a simple one. I don’t think there has been enough focus on local fundraising in the past with over reliance on council funding.  

I think the council was over generous in saying they would give the project £25,000 for three years. They should have put in a place a proposal whereby the council match-funded whatever was raised locally up to a maximum of £25,000. 

There is now a greater focus on fundraising and with Cheryl Reynolds being drafted in to put her natural optimism, energy and commitment to good use, with others doing their bit, I have no doubt the necessary funding will be secured without further call on the public purse. I know from all the projects I have been associated with over the years, the sense of achievement is always heightened when you have raised the money yourselves. 

I spotted Cheryl in Broad Street selling tickets for Sunday’s duck race in aid of the skatepark project. I also noticed she was on her own with no other visible support. I suspect she will have sold most of the tickets, resulting in the magnificent sum of £1,200 being raised.

So let me reiterate that I support the skatepark project 100 per cent and I hope it will not be too long before the skateboarding enthusiasts of Lyme and district can demonstrate their talent in an exciting and safe environment.

ACCORDING to last week’s column, the forthcoming Lyme Folk Festival is going to be one of the longest festivals on record. I inadvertently said it would take place over the weekend April 30th to September 1st.  Of, course, I meant August 30th to September 1st.
Just put it down to senility!

OUR civic leaders were in a celebratory mood over the weekend with two birthday parties to attend.

On Saturday most councillors and town council staff were present at the secret 60th birthday party for retiring town clerk Mike Lewis. 

Mike thought he was going to the cinema when he was diverted to the Woodmead Halls where 80 or so guests were lying in wait to surprise him as he came through the door. 

Well done to his wife Vivienne and children for organising a really nice occasion.

On Sunday afternoon it was the turn of Mayor Sally Holman to celebrate her birthday, shared with the Reverend Keith Vivian, pictured above. I can reveal that Keith was marking his 86th birthday but it would be very ungallant of me to reveal the mayor’s age.

Again there was a large contingent of councillors and their partners present together with church members and Sally’s sailing friends who toasted two of our most respected citizens.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Pavilion or having your rubbish collected?

THEY’VE never had it so grim and now councillors are asking us to recognise this by showing them a bit of sympathy.

With rampant budget problems and the grim possibility we may be just seven days away from seeing them dump the Pavilion, the Guildhall and God knows what else, they are clearly at their wits end over solving the financial quagmire which is slowly swallowing the borough.

So it is perhaps not surprising that Weymouth and Portland Mayor Margaret Leicester used a recent full council meeting to ask residents to show councillors a bit of sympathy.

She’s probably asking for the impossible since politicians are not renowned for popularity, but what she said just before her “sympathy” remark deserves much more consideration.

She pointed out that the public have demanded that there be no cuts to essential services and she asked: “Do you want the Pavilion or do you want your rubbish collected?”

On the face of it the question answers itself, but have we really reached such a crossroads that this is the only way forward?

Let’s suppose the Pavilion does have to close even if a community group can take over running it.

That means the town’s vital tourists will either broadcast all over the country that the Pavilion is “under new management” or, if councillors go against this and opt for demolition, that it is already in the process of being torn down.

What any budget debate next Thursday night must bear in mind is the knock-on effect of such a scenario which is bound to affect late summer bookings, Christmas visitors and most definitely the 2014 summer season.

That considerable cost has to be considered among the pros and cons of keeping the Pavilion going because any tourist town which destroys the centre of its entertainment for visitors must be awfully sure it has no other viable choice.

Take my advice and save your Valentine money!

TODAY is Valentine’s Day and a summit meeting with my wife has produced the ideal antidote to this sickly annual event so beloved of shopkeepers across the country.

Instead of us wasting money on two vastly expensive cards we are going to put the money towards going to see a film together.

The rest of you snared in commerce’s rose-tinted web may not fare so well if half the stuff I’ve seen on offer is anything to go by.

It will be a close run thing for some lover boy whether he receives a sloppy French kiss or a punch on the nose if he gives his sweetheart a fetching crimson bra, one cup embroidered with “full cream” and the other with “semi skimmed”!

Other somewhat less than tasteful tributes to l’amour include the inevitable teddy bears and even a nice crimson pair of fluffy Wellington boots.

Advertising departments have a field day from one car maker using the big day to plug their vehicle shown with empty front seats leaning towards each other to a manufacturer displaying one of its clearly well-filled bras with the slogan: “Valentine’s Day is no time to be apart”!

One of the worst – and this is true – tried to boost business by saying that flowers wilt and chocolates melt but a cockroach is forever, so “how better to express your appreciation for that special someone than to name a Madagascar hissing cockroach after them”!

Several reasons immediately spring to mind and avoiding divorce, a slap round the face and all your clothes being cut up are just three of them.

Yet, far from hiding such insanity, some people choose to take their embarrassment public and today will be full of sickly protestations of love in the national newspapers.

Make sure you keep a bucket handy for all those dreadful efforts such as “my darling bunny wunny” and “Love you big boy from your willing slave”.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you read an entry in the same Valentine’s love display which read: “Don’t hurry home. Your dinner’s on Page 27 and I’m off to mother’s”?

So please make sure that, whatever your way of marking today’s big day, you do it your way and with feeling. The wife’s really looking forward to seeing Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Everything, all the time

EASTER must be on the way because I stumbled across a choice of chocolate eggs while I was doing the last bit of my Christmas shopping.

By the time that Good Friday arrives on March 29th I shall probably be able to make my first choice of cards for this year’s Christmas celebrations.

Personally I blame it all on climate change, the EU crisis and the fact that shopkeepers everywhere are having to try and sell just about anything at any time of year to keep their heads above water. 

That reminds me. I wonder if I can get any fireworks yet?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Police chief ‘a pretty straight guy’

THE people of Lyme Regis became the first in the county to meet Dorset’s newly-appointed Chief Constable, Debbie Simpson.

Her appointment was only confirmed last week - but she was the surprise guest at a gathering at the Woodmead Halls organised by the local Liberal Democrats to champion the cause of democracy.

She accompanied one of the main speakers, Dorset’s first Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill. 

Mrs Simpson, who lives at Ottery St Mary, chose not to sit on the top table with the panel of speakers but decided instead to sit in the audience. So should we consider her one of us?

Her appointment has been clouded by a rumpus over her 10 per cent pay rise on taking office, but she did not receive any awkward questions on this. Those present were far more interested in why the A35 was closed for most of a recent Sunday, causing great disruption in the Marshwood Vale, where traffic was diverted, after a man was found dead in Chideock.

Whilst that might have been easier to answer than questions about why her salary had been increased by three time as much as inflation, the packed audience was not wholly satisfied with her answers.

But it was a fairly innocuous introduction to the perils of public meetings.

To quote Tony Blair, Mr Underhill seemed “a pretty straight sort of guy”, but I have a feeling his is not going to be an easy job. But he did his best to explain why he had secured an extra £1 million in funding to put more Bobbies on The Beat and to recruit 250 additional Special Constables by increasing the precept for the police by a penny a day per household. 

At the same time he had inherited a budget that reflected the loss of around 50 police officers through natural waste (retirement, etc) so I still wasn’t sure whether we are getting any extra police or whether the reduction in staff was now 30 instead of 50.

No matter, he seems determined to ensure that the people of Dorset will have a greater say in the policing and he plans to return to Lyme again in the spring for a Police Commissioner’s forum.

This was essentially a political meeting with Lib Dem members of the district council (Andy Canning) and county council (Trevor Jones) both playing their part.

Virgin Care, now running the Lyme Medical Centre, and Lyme GP Dr Forbes Watson, were on hand to talk about medical matters and the audience, which included a few high profile local Tories, agreed the gathering had been a worthwhile exercise. 

Only two town councillors bothered to turn up - Chris Clipson and George Symonds.

Summer of 2013 is shaping up nicely

LAST week in this column I wrote about Geoff Baker’s idea to stage an attempt on the number of musicians playing the same guitar tune at the same time.

To snatch the record from a town in Texas the event needs to attract around 2,000 guitar players, which if achieved should provide be a huge boost to the local economy.

The event - Guitars On The Beach - will be part of the Lyme Regis Food Festival, being fronted by chef Mark Hix in September.

And this week I learnt of another late summer music attraction which could also attract many hundreds to the town.

I had a coffee with two keen folk enthusiasts from Uplyme who wish to stay in the background until their plans are firmed up but who have already laid the foundations for the first Lyme Folk Festival which will be held over the weekend of April 30th to September 1st.

I am no folk afficionado but even I know that their line-up includes some pretty big names in folk music, including fiddler Dave Swarbrick, formerly of Fairport Convention.

The main events will be held at the Marine Theatre but there will be a lot going on all over the town as well.

So with Guitars On The Beach, a new walking festival, a jazz weekend, several food festivals, the fossil festival and the ArtsFest, as well as the usual Lifeboat Week and Regatta and Carnival, the summer of 2013 might not be quite a dull as we thought.

I POPPED up to London last Thursday evening to attend the launch of an exhibition in the gallery beneath Mark Hix’s Tramshed restaurant featuring work by a number of Lyme artists.

Among the 200 who attended were several local faces, including Georgina Bedford whose unusual Oxo cube piece was on display and a number of familiar views of Lyme from a whole host of local photographers and artists.

It really did demonstrate what a strong and talented arts community there is in our town.

The exhibition was staged by the locally based Shed Photography, which promotes the works of a number of local artists through its website, run by Chelsea Davine and Ben Whittington.

The response from those at the launch was very encouraging with Mark Hix saying it will be one of the most successful to date at his gallery.

If you are in London pop over to Shoreditch (now very trendy) to see some local talent on show.

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Nicole Willett

LIFE Coach Nicole Willett grew up in Bedfordshire and lived in various parts of the country before moving to Dorset. She has lived in Eype, near Bridport, with her partner for the last four and a half years and enjoys working with stained glass and learning the saxophone. Now aged 55, Nicole began life coaching two years ago.

WHAT is life coaching?
Sometimes change is forced on us for example by a sudden loss of employment or a relationship breakdown; at other times we initiate change ourselves. Life coaching is a process that can help us understand change, make positive changes, achieve our goals and get the most from our lives now and in the future.

DOES a life coach need qualifications?
Whilst there is no current official requirement to be qualified, I decided to study for a diploma in life coaching (Dip.LC) before setting up my own business. Prior to that I worked as a probation officer in various parts of the country and for the NSPCC in Dorset. This gave me a great deal of experience of working with different people on a wide range of issues.

IS LIFE coaching psychotherapy?
No, although both work with people and attempt to help them move on, they are different.  Psychotherapists often work with people where there have been past or present events or issues that have significantly affected them; they work in depth usually for an extended period of time. Life coaches tend to work with people for much shorter periods of time and whilst significant past events can be discussed to assist finding solutions for the present, they are not dealt with in the same depth. Some people will only need a couple of sessions of life coaching, others will need longer depending on the issues or what they want to achieve.

WHY do people need a life coach?
There are many issues that people want to discuss. They include changing job or job insecurity, financial difficulties, moving home, relationships, the stresses of bringing up children or looking after elderly relatives. Sometimes people have specific goals they want to fulfill; others may know they want to make changes but not be sure exactly what they want to do or how to go about it.

WHAT do people get out of sessions with a life coach?
My approach is to help people identify their goals and the possible obstacles to achieving them. I then help them think about how to overcome these obstacles and make plans for the present and future.  I use a positive and motivational style, tailoring sessions to individual needs. Appointments for individuals take place either at my home or at premises in or near Bridport. I always offer a free first appointment to help people decide if life coaching is for them and if they want to work with me.

ARE sessions always one-to-one?
No, I also offer workshops in the Bridport area (see dates at end of interview). 

ARE there age restrictions?
There is no upper age limit but the minimum age of my clients is 18. My view is that for children and young people there are a range of specialised services that would better suit their needs.

HOW did you get into life coaching?
Several years ago I read some interesting articles about life coaching and subsequently had a number of sessions with a life coach to find out more and to discuss a possible change of career. I found it very helpful to take time out from my daily life to work on issues with someone who was objective and supportive. 

WHO has most inspired you in life?
Lots of people have inspired me in different ways during my life including family members, friends and colleagues. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader who was placed under house arrest for two decades, is someone I have found inspiring because of her determination and courage to bring about change and to fight injustice, never losing hope in the face of personal danger.

WHAT do you think of self help books?
Self help books can be very useful in encouraging us to make changes e.g. to ourselves, our health, our relationships and our environment. I have found a number of self help books thought provoking over the years. However, I think we also gain another perspective from talking to and listening to others, whether this is someone we know or a professional. I think there is a place for both.

WHAT would your motto be?
Make the most of every day and don’t be afraid to try new things!

FAVOURITE place on earth?
Lots! Often it’s being in the camper van on a quiet campsite where there’s a sea view, lovely walks and cosy pub nearby.

WHO would you most like to see again?
I was close to all my grandparents but if I have to choose one then it would be my maternal grandmother. She was always kind and loving, ready to listen and encouraging.

Nicole’s next group life coaching sessions are:
‘Creating a Vision Board’ on Tuesday, 19th March 10am-11.30am, and again on Wednesday, 24th April, 7pm-8.30pm (£6 charge). A vision board is a fun, practical way to identify future hopes and plans, using images and words.
‘Building self- confidence’ on Saturday, 20th April, 10am – 1pm (£15 charge) 
‘Exploring my goals’   on Saturday, 18th May, 10am-1pm (£15 charge)
The Saturday workshops will use a variety of techniques, in a supportive environment, to help people make changes and move forward. 
For more info contact  or 0785 7961341 or visit

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


ROSS Packman, from Raymonds Hill, near Lyme Regis, is taking on the 630-mile challenge of hiking the South West Coast Path this year in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society. He chose to support the charity after seeing the affects of the illness first hand when his late paternal grandmother suffered with dementia, and he was inspired to take on the hiking challenge by Paul Smith’s 2009 'Twitchhiker' adventure. Ross’ own adventure will be called 'Forgotten Paths'. The former Woodroffe School pupil, now 27, works as a bar manager at The Harbour Inn in Lyme Regis and is also a volunteer with The National Trust in East Devon.

HOW did you come up with the idea of Forgotten Paths?
My main inspiration was Paul Smith's 2009 Twitchhiker adventure, in which the writer hitchhiked from Newcastle to New Zealand, via Europe and the USA, on only the goodwill gestures of Twitter users. I found it incredible that our much-maligned social media nevertheless holds the power to genuinely bring together people on the global stage to assist in charitable endeavours. I hope to emulate that on a much smaller scale with Forgotten Paths, by using Facebook, Twitter and Couchsurfing to find places to stay as I hike, encouraging word-of-mouth about both my adventure, and my chosen charity.

WHY choose the Alzheimer's Society as your charity?
My late paternal grandmother was a dementia sufferer, which means I have first-hand experience of the effects of dementia on both the sufferer, and those around them. There are 800,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to one million by 2021. While it is possible to develop dementia early in life, the chances of doing so increase dramatically with age. One in 50 people between the ages of 65 and 70 have a form of dementia, compared to one in five people over the age of 80.  

WHAT are you most looking forward to about the challenge?
Large stretches of the South West Coast hold special memories for me, so I'm looking forward to revisiting favourite spots with a fresh perspective. The collaborative nature of Forgotten Paths means that I'm hoping to meet lots of new, not to mention altruistic, people. If I reach Poole unscathed, I hope the hike will have been an empowering experience. A tan would be nice too.

WHAT are you most worried about?
Angry farmers, fifty days of torrential rain, and pumas!

HAVE you been doing any training for the challenge?
I've been walking regularly since taking part in the Three Peaks challenge last year, with Chideock to Lyme along the South West Coast Path being a favourite route. I recently completed the second half of the East Devon Way, an inland route that starts in Exmouth and ends on the county border in Uplyme. On top of regular hikes, I've been swimming three hours a week and I try to get out sea-kayaking whenever the surf, weather and/or fishing are favourable!

WHAT will you be taking with you?
I need to be prepared to wild camp if Twitter fails me on the trip, so I'll be carrying the necessary camping equipment such as a tent, sleeping bag and cooking equipment. I'm currently approaching corporate sponsors for assistance, so if any companies would like to get involved, head over to

HOW did you get involved with The National Trust?
After returning to the area following redundancy, I found myself lacking in both direction and drive. With some timely encouragement last August, I decided that I should volunteer and try something new, and the National Trust's work is something I feel is of genuine worth to the country.

WHAT do you do as a volunteer ranger?
My duties involve assisting the full-time ranger team in their conservation and preservation work at a variety of National Trust properties and sites in the area. At this time of year, this typically includes a variety of land management tasks such as hedge-laying and coppicing, but with the recent flooding we've also had a lot of pathway repairs to make close to the Branscombe yard. 

WHAT are your other personal interests?
I've always been an avid reader, and it's perhaps no surprise that recently I've been consuming a lot of wilderness writing from the likes of Jon Krakauer, Roger Deakin and Robert Macfarlane. 

WHAT do you like about living in the area? 
I would say that the Jurassic Coast is surely one of the most arresting landscapes in the world. The juxtaposition of rugged coastline and the quintessentially British pastoral interior is something you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else. 

WHAT would you change about the area if you could?
While studying for my music management and marketing degree, I was heavily involved in the grassroots UK live scene. For all the politics and egotism, I still miss being immersed in that culture, and wish the area could sustain the same level of musical community.

WHERE is your ideal holiday destination and why?
I travelled up the East Coast of Australia in 2011, and would love to return to the town of Agnes Water/1770. A small, slightly bohemian community, a lot of the backpackers pass Agnes Water by, but I loved the laid-back atmosphere. It's also the most northerly surfing beach on the east coast, so the competition for breaks isn't so fierce! 

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