Lyme – the must ‘go-to’ town

A MASSIVE crowd gathers on the beach and seafront to watch the Lyme Lunge, now one of the biggest events of its kind in the country

I DON’T know how you estimate accurately the size of crowds – but I do know that Lyme’s reputation as the go-to resort at all times of the year is attracting an extraordinary number of visitors to our town.

Who would have believed 12 years ago when a few brave souls went for a dip in the sea at Lyme to raise money for charity, that the event would turn into one of the biggest of its kind in the UK, bringing thousands flocking into the town at a time of year when the weather is unpredictable to say the least?

It would seem that Lyme is definitely the go-to town on New Year’s Day.

All the Christmas and New Year events attracted massive crowds, including the switching on of the Christmas lights, Carols Around The Tree, the Christmas Day Swim in Charmouth, the New Year’s Day duck race, and the big daddy of them all – the Lyme Lunge.

Of course, it’s all a part of “Lovely Lyme”. We locals may take our town for granted and moan about such trivial matters as the failure of the new lights in the public gardens (see below), but regular holidaymakers to Lyme just long for their next visit.

Of course, all the various events that bring so many into the town don’t happen without a huge amount of effort, so it’s appropriate to pay tribute to all those who work so hard to make Lyme so popular.

The Rotary Club of Lyme, at the forefront of so many fundraising events for various good causes, have got the organisation of the Lyme Lunge down to a fine art.

The number of swimmers exceeded more than 1,000 and the size of the crowd had to run into several thousands.

When I strolled down to the seafront to see the event I was amazed at how many people were streaming down Coombe Street. It was like a football crowd leaving a stadium.

Then I realised they were coming from the duck race down the River Lym organised by the Lyme Regis Christmas Lights Fund.

With Lyme’s much-admired Christmas lights now being packed away, thoughts will turn to more mundane matters.

We start the year with a new deputy mayor with the father of the council, Stan Williams, taking over from Jeff Scowen who has resigned from the council and has left the area.

Stan wasn’t actually at the council meeting when he was elected on Wednesday as he’s sunning himself of the beaches of Goa, as he alway does at this time of year.

Now well into his 80s and as active as ever, Stan has served on the council for more than 50 years, a feat that will never be repeated. I hope there will be recognition of his service when he finally decides to stand down.

With the town council increasing its precept by ten per cent, the unitary authority by four per cent and a proposed increase for policing (what police I hear you say), Lyme will be paying more this year for its local services.

The town council has not increased its precept for several years and the majority of councillors feel they have to start preparing for greater expenditure they may well face by taking on services that Dorset Council will be forced to abandon.

The whole idea of establishing a unitary authority was to save money but that seems more than ambitious at the moment with a deficit of £12million being predicted from county hall.

Few will baulk at putting more money into policing but there are many in Lyme who think the town, a relatively crime-free area, gets a poor deal from its contribution to running the Dorset Constabulary.

It is likely that Lyme will also go to the polls again this year to find a replacement for Jeff Scowen. That will be £14,000 the town has paid out in by-elections in recent times so I hope that those who put up appreciate that their first duty to the public is to attend regularly and serve the full term. In my book only serious illness and family emergencies are acceptable reasons for resignation.

Happy New Year!

Will the Red Arrows return this summer?

A NEW four-part documentary following the Red Arrows’ 11-week visit to Canada and the United States started on Channel 4 this week, showcasing the best of British in North America.

As the person who first brought the RAF’s crack aerobatic team to Lyme more than 40 years ago, I’m fascinated by all things Red Arrows.

The Arrows’ 22,000-mile journey across the Atlantic was one of the reasons why Lyme was unable to secure a visit from the most famous aerobatic team in the world last summer.

In 2018 the dates offered clashed with the Arrows’ engineering schedule so we missed out again.

So what are the chances of sleek red jets screaming in over Lyme Bay again this summer?

We have been asked to apply for a visit, and all the paperwork has been submitted, but that does not necessarily mean we will get one, such is the demand for their services. We should know in February so keep your fingers crossed.

I have been told by someone in the know that with a new team in place, the Arrows want to appear at as many new venues as possible. So as we have had them virtually free of charge for more than 40 years, perhaps we will be unlucky – but we will keep trying.

Watch this space.

Gardens light show disappoints

AFTER watching the switching on of the new lights in the Langmoor and Lister Gardens by the Mayor, Brian Larcombe MBE, back in September (pictured left), one of the doubting Thomases sidled up to me and whispered: “How long then before they muck it up?” Only he didn’t use the word “muck”.

Trying to be positive, I replied: “Oh come on, give them a chance. This is one of the best things the council has done for ages.”

I genuinely believed that. There has been little attention given to new amenities in the gardens since they were remodelled as part of the coast protection scheme and it seemed to me lighting up the walk through the gardens would be a big attraction.

After assurances were given in the council chamber that the lights would be on over the Christmas period, I told my grandchildren that grandad was going to take to see a fairy woodland when they visited at Christmas.

So on the Saturday after Christmas, we decided to take a stroll through the gardens, along with a few other dozen.

The kids were excited as the scampered down the path. How disappointing then that more than half of the lights were not working. The mayor is aware of this and is not a happy chappy.

It seems Lyme council struggles on the implementation of new ideas. My mind goes back to the provision of showers on the main beach. It was pretty farcical for a few months.

It makes you wonder how things may go with the two significant projects the council are undertaking this year – the refurbishment of the roof to the Marine Parade shelters, a major expense, and the revamping of the town council offices once the Tourist Information Centre vacates the premises.

Church Street is currently closed to traffic whilst repairs are made to the Guildhall, having been damaged yet again by a heavy vehicle.

And the outside of the Guildhall, surely Lyme’s most iconic building, is looking at little unloved – so that might also become a costly priority soon.

Woodmead Halls
About Philip Evans 598 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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