A summer like no other – or is it?

Crowds descended on Lyme Regis beach for the hottest weekend of the year

IF it wasn’t for the masks, you would think this was like any other summer in Lyme Regis. With the car parks full and the streets and promenade crowded with day-trippers and holidaymakers, some might think it’s heading for a record year.

Alas, that is probably not the case, but the doomsday predictions of Lyme Regis Town Council that their once £1.3million reserves could be down to a meagre £67,000 by the end of the financial year look like being over pessimistic.

The revised estimation now is somewhere between £200,000 and £300,000 which for most small town authorities would be a very comfortable position. This is good news for Lyme but residents should still brace themselves for a few bitter pills to swallow as the town does it best to return to normal.

There are plenty of people around and the pubs, restaurants and cafes have all made a huge effort to adhere to government social distancing rules to keep their customers and staff safe.

I don’t think anyone in business is expecting the summer of 2020 to be anywhere near a record year. Precautions they have had to make to comply with the easing of lockdown is bound to have a financial bearing on the final outcome.

Many are hoping that we may have an Indian summer to extend the season to make up for the losses during lockdown. But that’s in the lap of the gods.

At first glance no-one would believe we are still in the midst of a pandemic which is killing dozens of people every day in this country. And there can be no doubt that many fear a spike in infections and that further more stringent measures will be introduced if this happens.

Certainly the government has proved they will take immediate action in areas where the number of cases are increasing. But it does not seem to have stopped people coming to Lyme for a holiday or some recreational time.

We are so lucky to live in this part of the world where the number of cases and deaths have been the lowest in the UK. It’s many weeks now since there has been a death due to COVID-19 in Dorset. But the more people who crowd into Lyme, the more there is a chance of the contagion spreading.

Businesses in the town are clearly doing their best to open their doors and meet all the conditions laid down by the government. Some are doing reasonable business, others have already gone to the wall or are still keeping their doors locked.

Surviving through the winter months is going to be a big challenge for the traders with the hope that by next spring a vaccine may be available.

Perhaps that is our only chance of Lyme getting back to normal – and a return of the good times.

volunteer inn
West Dorset MP Chris Loder was among the patrons at The Volunteer Inn – Lyme Regis’ smallest pub – as it reopened doors for the first time since lockdown last Monday. Mr Loder (left) is pictured behind the bar with Volunteer staff, including manager Matt Puddy (far right)

MP pops in to wish the Volly well

THE last few months have been a nightmare for the smaller pubs, those intimate places where you rub shoulders and enjoy a pint or three with you best pal, stood at the bar.

I imagine that Becky O’Donell would have had many sleepless nights of late trying to work out how she could open the doors of The Volunteer in Broad Street, a real locals’ pub.

But she and her staff managed it last Monday when the Volly doors were thrown open for the first time in 20 weeks.

And there to join in the celebration in a most modest fashion was our MP Chris Loder who is a regular visitor to Lyme these days and often pops into the Volly for a chat to the locals.

There’s a bit more of a wine bar atmosphere about the Volly as numbers of drinkers and diners have had to be restricted but they have made good use of the time they have been shut.

The original wall at the back of the bar has been exposed, revealing a hidden fire place, and the old window along the back wall is now filtering more light into the bar.

They are back serving food, including their delicious Sunday roasts and I have a feeling that former landlord Joe O’Donnell would think his family have done an excellent job in retaining the Volly’s unrivalled presence in Broad Street.

May that long be the case.

Proof of Mary Anning’s world-wide reputation

IT’S so disappointing that the Mary Anning letter that went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London did not end up in its rightful home – Lyme Regis Museum.

The museum did a fantastic job in launching a crowdfunding appeal in a bid to get the letter she wrote to William Buckland, her friend and collaborator, in 1829.

The appeal raised a fantastic £21,000 in just 24 hours but sadly the letter was sold to an anonymous collector for a whopping £100,800.

But what this does is demonstrate that the fame of Mary Anning is worldwide. I suspect much of that £21,000 would have come from outside Lyme Regis, with donations from geologists and earth science lovers all over the globe.

There is no doubt the interest in Mary is at its peak. The film ‘Ammonite’ about her life, starring Kate Winslet, is due out next spring and there’s even talk of a Mary Anning opera in the offing.

And whilst it’s disappointing the letter is not winging its way to our museum, it’s very existence provides Lyme with even more profile.

A worthy tribute to the best parish clerk I’ve come across

The chairman of Charmouth Parish Council, Peter Noel, paying tribute to his clerk, Lisa Tuck, who has completed 25 years of service.

I would like to add to that tribute as I believe Lisa is the best parish clerk I have come across in a long career of covering council meetings at all levels.

I’m not very popular in the council chambers around the region. In fact, if you tried to get together all those councillors with whom I’ve crossed swords you would have to hire the Albert Hall. No, that won’t be big enough. Make it the O2.

Although I don’t attend every meeting now, I’ve always considered Charmouth Parish Council to be among the more friendly ones, through both the Mallory Hayter years and also the chairmanship of Peter Noel.

On occasions, I’ve even been offered a cup of tea before the meeting starts!

When it comes to seeking the co-operation of the clerk, Lisa Tuck stands alone. She is always polite, firm, co-operative and if she can’t answer your question she will always get back to you.

One of the reasons Charmouth Parish Council is among the most efficient in this area is down in no small measure to the efficiency of Lisa.

Local government is a difficult environment to operate in, especially these days, but I’m sure that Lisa really enjoys her job. She would have to, to stay on top of things for 25 years.

When I started reporting on Charmouth Parish Council in the late 1960s, meetings were held in a little hut in Lower Sea Lane. I always looked forward to meetings because one of the other local reporters was very pretty, a bit older than me, but I could never buck up the courage to ask her for a date.

Lisa too started in that hut and then moved to the excellent council office facilities at The Elms.

Whilst on Charmouth matters, I was very sorry to hear that Charmouth Football Club would not be entering the Perry Street League this year and I hope that does not mean the club will be disbanding completely.

I recall my brother John playing for Charmouth and I would often go to watch a game and then do a report for the Lyme Regis News.

On one occasion, I think it might have been against Norton, all 22 players were swapping punches in the centre circle. The fight was started by Graham Gay, another signing from Lyme, the smallest player on the field.

Down the years Charmouth has produced some great footballers, including Colin Bowditch who set a record never to be beaten when he scored 16 goals in the Cherries’ 32-0 win over Stockland.

Lots of Lyme boys went over to Charmouth in those days and they were always looked after well after the game, especially by committee man Tom Stamp whose hospitality was legendary before the boys travelled back over the hill. I also recall they had a great ladies’ fundraising committee.

Woodmead Halls

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