Another bumper night for Lyme Regis

Last Saturday’s firework display at Lyme was considered to be the best ever (photo by Ashley Ball)

LYME has got used to extreme traffic conditions during the summer months, especially when hosting attractions like the Red Arrows.

The number of vehicles coming into the town for such events brings Lyme to a standstill, with every possible car park space and roadside verge being occupied.

To date this has been a summer phenomenon. Not any more.

The annual fireworks and bonfire night at Lyme always attracts a decent crowd, a few thousand perhaps. But last Saturday night’s display – one of the best I have seen – attracted colossal crowds which must have been close to the level expected on Red Arrows Day.

I’ve never been much good at estimating the size of crowds. When applying for an appearance, we usually state that the RAF’s crack aerobatic team attracts 25,000 people.

Saturday night’s crowd was conservatively estimated at about 8,000 by fireworks organiser Alan Vian, but many will think it was far more than that.

Apparently, parking was a nightmare. I am told the queue of traffic trying to get into Lyme went all the way up to Yawl.

Cars were double parked in many places in town and I hate to think what the outcome might have been had the fire brigade been called out for an emergency as often happens on firework night.

My wife and I drove down to the seafront just before 5pm to prepare for the curry night we always organise in the Lister Room in aid of Cancer Research UK on this occasion.

I remember commenting on how many were already making their way to the seafront, despite the fact that the fireworks display was not scheduled to start before 6.30pm. When we got to the seafront, it was bedlam.

We had sold all 50 tickets for the curry night but we had a number turn up and ask if they could buy a ticket. We have never experienced that before.

Many I have spoken to think the crowd was at least as big as that for Red Arrows Day and I heard that one person who now lives in the town and has experience of organising large events estimated it to be about 40,000. Surely not?

The firework night has been organised by Alan and Lynn Vian for many years now, assisted by members of Lyme Regis Regatta and Carnival and a number of volunteers who act as stewards and collectors.

I understand that the collection totalled about £5,000 which will guarantee the event will take place again next year.

There were some town council staff on duty that night but if this event is to attract so many in future much consideration will have to be given to crowd control. It should not be left to Alan and Lynn to take on such a responsibility.

So why such a jump in numbers for an event which essentially was for the people of Lyme? It seems that whatever Lyme does, people from miles around want to be part of it.

This has certainly been the case with our curry night, with good support coming from Axminster and Bridport. And tickets for our next event, a Gatsby-themed Christmas Ball on December 17 sold out within days.

I am wondering whether this is all part of getting on with our lives after COVID. Clearly, the epidemic is still with us, although I understand the number of cases locally have started to drop again.

Perhaps the rise in numbers for such events is down to people being determined to get out again to enjoy themselves after the restrictions of the past two years.

The days when Lyme rolled out the barrel

IN this column a few weeks back I wrote about the loss of some of Lyme’s traditional seaside activities in these days of political correctness.

It followed the news that the popular yard of ale competition would no longer take place during Lifeboat Week following complaints about encouraging drunken behaviour.

It was a story that was followed up by virtually every national newspaper.

The story got a good response on social media, especially from Lyme-born families who bemoaned the loss of some of the fun events that used to be held during the annual Regatta and Carnival Week.

As a former secretary of the regatta committee for ten years when I was a young man, I expressed my sympathy for those who now run Lyme’s two main summer events as they have to jump through hoops to get road closures and insurance cover.

Events such as conger cuddling, the pram derby, tug-of-war on the beach and across the harbour, have disappeared and are unlikely to be revived again.

It makes you wonder what will be next to fall foul of the health and safety police. The bathtub race, perhaps?

Back in the day, we were not troubled by such administrative restraints. I’m not sure we even asked permission of the town council when we erected a huge stand-alone marquee on the top of the shelters after the Marine Theatre became unavailable.

I finished the story by referring to the flaming tar barrels in Ottery St Mary, the most dangerous event I have covered as a reporter, still going ahead.

I had no idea that rolling flaming tar barrels down Broad Street in Lyme Regis was a popular event at the beginning of the 20th century.

They were not carried, as happens in Ottery, but rolled and controlled with sticks as the barrels careered down Lyme’s steep main street.

Apparently, the spectacle was stopped when a flaming barrel rolled into the doorway of the butchers’s shop at the bottom of the town which was situated next to Van Allen’s car park.

I am told that the butchers was owned by a borough councillor, Sam Harris, and that some damage was caused to his premises, but not severely so. But it was the end of barrel rolling in Lyme.

Sam Harris was a very prominent councillor who lived in Colway Lane. When plans were drawn up for the building of social housing in Colway Mead in 1927, he pushed for a public inquiry to stop the development but lost the fight.

Apparently, the owners of posh houses in Colway Lane didn’t want to look out on the rows of council houses.

Is it Lym with a Y or Lim with an I?

IT’S an argument that has raged in Lyme for years. Is it the River Lym (spelt with a Y ) or is it the River Lim (spelt with an I)?

As it flows through the Lym Valley, many locals think it’s spelt with a Y. But the powers that be, Dorset Council and the river authority especially, always spell it Lim.

Local historian Ken Gollop says it is definitely spelt with an I and is included as such on all Ordnance Survey maps.

He told me: “I don’t mind people spelling with a Y, but I use it the right way – with an I.”

One person who has a different view is Diana Hunt, a close observer of local affairs. She’s written a charming poem about the dilemma.

Woodmead Halls

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