Volunteers lining up for rubbish job

seafront rubbish
Rubbish left on Lyme Regis seafront over the Bank Holiday weekend

THESE are testing times for Lyme Regis Town Council. They took a bit of a drubbing at the recent annual town meeting over the state of Marine Parade and other unkempt areas of the town.

This prompted an assurance by town clerk John Wright that the council would commit more resources to improve matters – let’s face it they can afford to – and they would do better in the future.

Mr Wright found himself having to apologise to councillors again at last week’s council meeting after another barrage of criticism from the public over the state of the seafront after the scorchingly hot May Bank Holiday which brought thousands flocking into the town. It must have been one of the busiest Bank Holidays ever.

What the people of Lyme find most difficult to understand is that the local authorities – West Dorset District Council are just as culpable – should be prepared for the consequences of the town being full to capacity when the weather is so glorious. And they cannot comprehend why Lyme council, with more staff than they have ever had – particularly at senior officer level – have no contingency plans in place.

For example, is there a senior officer on duty every Bank Holiday to deal with such matters? There should be. In the old borough council days Lyme used to have a recreations supervisor who had to work every weekend and Bank Holiday during the summer looking after the seafront undertakings. I know that for a fact because my father held the position for a while.

The council has recently appointed a seafront attendant. Does that person work every weekend during the season? Is it too much to ask that there is a team in place to clear our streets of rubbish when the town is packed?

This is not just a problem for Lyme Town Council. The responsibility for keeping our streets clean and our rubbish bins emptied lies with the Dorset Waste Partnership, an off-shoot of West Dorset District Council. Apparently, the street cleaners, who generally do an excellent job on the seafront and at the Cobb, were still on winter working hours. May. Winter?

I know that our two district councillors, Daryl Turner and Cheryl Reynolds, are doing their best to ensure this never happens again. There is even talk around town about the formation of a team of volunteers who will turn out at a minute’s notice to make sure the waste bins are emptied if the two councils are unable to do so. Whilst I’m all for self help, this should not be necessary but it is an indication of what little faith the public has in the council at the moment.

Lyme Regis Town Council can afford the additional resources promised by the town clerk to ensure matters improve quickly. But another matter of concern for many is that the council will in future take over the running of all public toilets in the town, as well as the Tourist Information Centre, when West Dorset District Council amalgamates with Dorset County Council to form the new unitary authority for Dorset.

As the town council already knows, running public toilets is an expensive nightmare. It’s not so long ago a visitor to the town wrote to the View From Lyme Regis describing the toilets in Lyme as “the worst in Europe”. We don’t want to be running headlines like that again.

Volunteering is nothing new to village life

AS mentioned in the story above, there’s talk of a setting up a group of volunteers to carry out some of the tasks that it seems Lyme Regis Town Council are incapable of doing.

But this is nothing new in village life – as Uplyme parishioners demonstrated so clearly last Sunday when a couple dozen of them spent the morning clearing weeds from the roads and picking up litter.

They weren’t doing it because they were upset by the parish council not being able to do it. Parish budgets just do not allow for such luxuries as a lengthsman – so if it needs doing, the residents roll up their sleeves and do it with a number of parish councillors helping out. It happens in many villages throughout the area.

It reminds me of my days as mayor when the town council had very little money. I remember going down to the Monmouth Beach car park one Good Friday morning at around 6am to see Stan Williams on his hands and knees painting the white lines in the Monmouth Beach car park because we could not afford to pay the few outside staff we had to do it.

Times they-are-a-changing.

The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Michaela Ellis, pictured with her grandson Reuben

Reuben’s swift recovery

THIS is my favourite picture. It shows our mayor, Michaela Ellis, feeding her first grandson, Reuben, at the Cancer Research Big Breakfast.

Reuben looks a picture of health and you would not know that he was about to spend ten days in Southampton Hospital undergoing open heart surgery.

Before doing so, Reuben became the youngest person ever to attend the Mayor’s Civic Night and was a hit with all and sundry.

The son of Michaela and Alan’s daughter Jarvia and her partner, Chris Aylott, Reuben came through the operation with flying colours.

As a thank you to all the staff at Ocean Ward at Southampton Hospital, where Reuben was treated, the Ellis family will be organising a fundraising event shortly (details to be announced) and Michaela’s sister, Sarah Horton, is undertaking two 10k sponsored runs for the cause.

Days of high divers and donkey derbies

IT was good to see the Anning Road playing field packed with stalls and attractions for the annual May Fete, organised by the Regatta & Carnival Committee.

Back in my regatta days we used the field for a number of events, including one of the biggest fundraisers, the donkey derby, an event which I imagine has fallen foul of the health and safety police.

For the uninitiated, a donkey derby was a series of races with children riding the donkeys. I suspect today that would be deemed to be cruel to the donkeys but they did not seem to mind too much at the time.

The kids fell off at regular intervals around the course. They just got back in the saddle and carried on. We raised money by operating a tote and that might also be outlawed today.

We also staged a ladies’ football match at the playing field at a time when girls just did not play the sport. At one of these games we even managed to get the managers of Exeter City and Yeovil Town – Johnny Newman and Mike Hughes – to act as goalkeepers. They changed in my bedroom in the house next door to the field where I live.

I have memories of a big fete on the playing feld when I was a kid. I think it must have been in 1953 for the Coronation and I clearly recall seeing a high diver perform.

Many years later when I was regatta secretary I booked a high diver, Don Linberg, to appear on the beach on Regatta Day. The conversation with him was a bit like an Allan Sherman parody. It went something like this: “Have I got this right? So you climb up this huge ladder, set fire to yourself and then dive into a bucket of water? I see…” But that’s just what he did – twice.

He did a knock-about clown routine in the afternoon for the kids, from half way up the tower erected on the beach, before diving into the water. In the evening, after the torchlight procession, he climbed to the top and set himself on fire before hurtling himself into the giant bucket. He had asked us to fill it with fresh water but if my memory serves me right, John Broom, now a town councillor and the son of regatta stalwart Henry Broom, pumped it full of water from the harbour which contained all sorts of unmentionables.

Regatta chairman Ken Meech, a local policeman at the time, was a bit apprehensive to say the least.

“What if he misses,” he asked? It was a question we preferred not to answer. Tragically Mr Linberg did miss the following year and killed himself.

Looking back, those days seemed so innocent. We never gave any thought to the consequences. We just got on and did it. Today we would be labelled as “irresponsible”.

Woodmead Halls
About Philip Evans 452 Articles
Veteran journalist and newspaper manager Philip Evans has worked in the publishing industry for more than half a century. He started out as a reporter for Pulman’s Weekly News as a young man and went on to work for an international publishing company in the UK, South Africa and Australia before returning to Lyme Regis where he is still reporting on local events as he has done for more than 53 years.

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