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Bridport – A Truly Eventful Town

Bridport – A Truly Eventful Town

St Mary’s Parkrun – 3rd Birthday Celebration

On the morning of Saturday 2 July the St Mary’s Parkrun celebrated its third birthday and I went along to help them celebrate. It was just over three years ago on 29th June 2019 that St Mary’s Parkrun was held for the first time. Since then, 3,079 participants have completed 8,722 Parkruns covering a total distance of 43,610 km, including 1,442 new Personal Bests.

Despite the rather gloomy, breezy and damp start to Saturday morning there was a really positive celebratory atmosphere amongst the runners and volunteers. Before I started the countdown to the start I led those present in a chorus of Happy Birthday which I hope raised spirits even higher before the runners set off on the 3 lap 5km course.

It is fair to say that there was a mixed field of runners present, people of all ages and levels of fitness, some pushing buggies and others either chasing or towing their dogs. As they came past me at the end of the first circuit of the three lap course, smiles were still present on faces. By the end of lap two expressions had changed to gritty determination and as runners crossed the line the grimaces disappeared and smiles returned. By running, jogging and walking all 77 starters made it to the finish.
First across the line was Matthew Adams in 18:56, followed by first timer Nick Sharpe in 19:57 and Jessame Coulson in 21:11, a new Personal Best. First females were Jessame Coulson, Laura Devine in 23:53 (another PB, well done!) and Li Watkins in 24:11. Top age gradings went to June Adams (79.47%), Li Watkins (76.91%) and Pat Richards (73.92%) – well done everyone, excellent running. Images from the July 2nd and other St Mary’s Parkruns can be viewed HERE

Amongst the 77 runners who took part on Saturday, 19 were first timers and 15 recorded new Personal Bests – no mean feat given the conditions. I wonder if it was the thought of a slice of birthday cake at the end of the run that spurred them on.

A big thank you to the 271 individuals who have volunteered some 2,151 times to make this event possible every weekend. Without you Parkrun would not happen. Saturday’s event was only made possible by the 19 volunteers dotted around the course. Volunteers are needed every week to enable this fantastic community event to continue, so please do get involved. If you would like to take part or become a supporting volunteer click HERE

I will let Jordi Hooper sum up Saturday’s Birthday Parkrun:

“For me today’s event really incapsulated everything Parkrun is about – a real community, family feel and a lot of fun. If you haven’t got involved yet, now is the perfect time. We can’t always promise cake, but the fun and friendliness is there every week! Come and join in, whether running, volunteering or both – Saturday mornings will never be the same.”

I couldn’t agree more and you never know I may even don my running shoes and take part one coming Saturday morning soon.

Bridport – St Vaast La Hougue Twinning Association

Later that Saturday morning I joined the Bridport – St Vaast Twinning Association on their stall on Bucky Doo Square. The Bridport – St Vaast Twinning Association has enjoyed over 40 years of exchange visits with ever deepening friendships on both sides. The aim of the association is:

To promote and foster friendship and understanding between the people of Bridport and the surrounding area and those of St. Vaast La Hougue and the surrounding area.
To encourage visits by individuals and groups to and from the linked towns.
The development of personal contacts and thereby so doing broaden the mutual understanding of the social, cultural, educational, recreational, civic and commercial activities of the linked towns.

St Vaast is a working fishing port in the unspoilt Nord Cotentin region of Normandy on the Cherbourg peninsula.  East facing, with a balmy climate, its two Vauban Towers now a World Heritage Site. The port also boasts an integrated 600 berth marina, and above all, very hospitable and ‘sympa’ inhabitants. And apparently the world’s best oysters.

Exchange visits take place on alternate years and this year it is the turn of Bridport to visit St Vaast. In recent times, these parties have reached some fifty twinners on both sides which is encouraging. I am told by some of the longest members of the association that on each visit they always seem to find something new about our communities and it that has been fascinating to follow the development of our two towns over the past 40 years.

On Friday 15 July, Anne and I will be joining the Bridport Twinning Association party as they set off for this year’s exchange visit. This year is a particularly special occasion because it is also the 10 yearly Blessing of the Boats, delayed from 2020 because of Covid. I am told it is a very special occasion and quite a spectacle to behold. Look out for images of the occasion in my next blog.

West Bay in the top 50 list of Sunday Times Best Beaches

On Sunday 3 July West Bay was recognised as one of the top 50 beaches in the UK by the Sunday Times.

It does not come as a surprise to anyone who knows West Bay. East Beach with its iconic orange sandstone cliffs, has to be one of the most beautiful sights in the country especially when the evening sun makes them into a golden shimmer.

A total of 791 beaches were inspected for the 2022 edition of the Great British Beach Guide. The fact that West Bay and Weymouth Beaches were the only ones picked across Dorset, and are two of only eight beaches chosen across the whole of the Southwest region, is a real accolade.

West Bay is more than a beautiful beach though, the award winning Discovery Centre and play area, a working harbour and fishing port plus some excellent places to eat make it a really special place to spend time throughout the year.

Two Bridport Town Council Meetings

The recent Full Council and Environment and Social Wellbeing meetings have been two of the most enlightening and enjoyable meetings I have attended during my time as a Parish and Town Councillor over the past 9 years.

The Full Council and E&SWB Sub Committee meetings always have a slot called the Public Forum at the beginning where the members of the public are able to address the meting about anything they wish to and it has been this slot that has been of significance recently.

Full Council – Race Equality

At the Full Council meeting we heard an address from the Dorset Race Equality Council Joe Farnand of DREC, and a local resident. They told us about the work they do and very enlightening and timely it was.

As a Council we have been aware of some racially related incidents in the town. Dorset Councillor and Town Councillor Kelvin Clayton reported that he had been contacted by the parent of a teenage child to inform him of some such incidents. Warning: I’m going to use exactly the words as told to him including language that some people may find offensive.

“The parent informed me that their child had been pushed by an elderly lady in a local supermarket whilst being told to “get out of the way you filthy brown person”; being called “n…..” by an elderly lady who they stepped out of the way for; and being asked “what are you doing here n…..?” by a young lady they passed whilst walking in the street. The parent also told me that the teenager has experienced at least one other incident, and that there are other local families who have experienced similar.”

Like Kelvin I really want to believe that such events are extremely rare. But because our communities are not very culturally diverse we have to ask whether there may be an under current of racism that isn’t being acknowledged. And this is where we are calling upon your help. We would like to hear from anyone who has experienced or witnessed racial abuse in the West Dorset area. Our aim is simply to get some idea of the extent and type of such abuse. There are two ways of contacting us, either email me at [email protected] or Kelvin at [email protected]

Environment and Social Wellbeing Committee – Birds and Herbicides

At the recent meeting of the Environment and Social Wellbeing Committee we had two very interesting and thought provoking addresses from members of the public.

The first presentation we received was from Dr Tom Brereton, the Breeding Bird Survey of Bridport and West Bay 2021. This survey is one of the most comprehensive ever carried out and the results present some depressing and really encouraging evidence. To read the survey click HERE

As a result of this presentation the E&SW Committee recommended that ‘Bridport Town Council makes a statement of intent to become a Bird Friendly Town and establishes a task and finish group to pursue this objective.’ This was agreed unanimously at the Full Council meeting a couple of weeks later and work will soon be starting to take it forward.

The second presentation was from David Smith, a Bradpole resident, who had contacted me several days earlier to raised the question of the use of herbicides on pavements and other public spaces. I invited David to come along to the E&SWB Committee meeting and share his concerns which he duly did.

The current Town Council policy on this matter, which relates to Bradpole Parish only insofar as the TC maintain some highway verge areas (not footpaths) there on behalf of Dorset Council.

‘The TC does not use pesticides or herbicides in the course of our routine work.  There remain a few unusual circumstances under which we may allow the use of herbicide, the main example being by contractors treating Japanese Knotweed, which we are required to remove where it threatens to invade land not in our ownership/control.  Where we do remove wild growth, our default position is to do this manually. With regard to verge/green area maintenance, we have adopted a selective approach to grass cutting so as to promote biodiversity.’

 In terms of Dorset Council’s approach, Town Clerk, Will Austin wrote to them on behalf of councillors in December 2020 to ask that they consider ceasing the use of glyphosate-based weedkiller, and received this response:
“The [Dorset] Council do use glyphosate, (commonly known as “Roundup”) mostly to spot
spray weeds within the sealed surface – usually tarmac. Most towns in Dorset receive 2
sprays per year.  This is largely to protect hard surfaces, such as the tarmac, kerbing,
paving and concrete, structures from deterioration which may result from weed growth, in
particular, the effects of perennial weeds which can establish and expand, and cause
cracking in surfaces and water ingress.  Without treatment of weeds, the lifespan of the
sealed surfaces could be reduced adding to the environmental damage and financial cost
of repairing and replacing them.  Dorset Council is obviously keeping a close eye on how
the glyphosate is licenced, but currently it is deemed safe for this use by the UK
government and the EU. There are currently no plans to discontinue its use. As an aside,
Local Authorities use of glyphosate is of course dwarfed by agriculture, where it is
frequently sprayed on arable fields to control unwanted weeds.”

A few days after the meeting I met up with David and we discussed how he could take this
issue forward more generally. I am pleased to inform you that he will by one of the groups represented at the Great Big Green Week’s opening extravaganza on Saturday September 27 on Millenium Green. He will be available to talk about the issue and how we can work together to reduce to an absolute minimum the use of both herbicides and pesticides. If you are interested in becoming more informed on this issue the Pesticide Action Network UK is an excellent place to start.

The juxtaposition of these two presentations was not lost on Councillors given that the use of pesticides and herbicides is one of the things that has contributed to a reduction in our wild bird population.

Chickerell Civic Day

Civic Days are an important part of the Mayoral calendar. A Civic Day is an opportunity for the host town to show itself off and Mayors to meet and share ideas, successes and on occasion problems. Chickerell’s Civic Day last Wednesday provided me with an opportunity to find out more about a town that I had previously passed by on route to Weymouth.

According to the Visit Dorset website ‘Chickerell is a large parish which despite having grown rapidly in size in the past two decades and achieving town status, the heart of the community still remains very much that of a village. The town is mostly modern build but some earlier constructions exist towards the centre, adding to the village feel. To the west of the town lies the atmospheric Fleet Lagoon, the setting for the famous book ‘Moonfleet’ by J. M. Falkner which is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Chickerell is also home to Bennett’s Water Gardens, a visitor attraction set over 8 acres. The gardens hold the National Plant Collection of Water Lilies with a Monet style Japanese Bridge, Tropical House, Woodland Walks, Museum and Cafe and is a popular wedding venue.’

We were greeted at Willowbed Hall behind the Town Council offices by Mayor Councillor John Worth and the Mayoress before boarding a coach to take us to the Community Library and garden. Both the library and garden are managed by volunteers and it is thanks to them that this valuable community asset still exists – Dorset Council in their wisdom had scheduled the closure of the library.

It was then a short walk to St Mary’s Church which dates back to Norman times where the church warden gave a really interesting talk about its history. It is a lovely little church with some stunning stained glass.

Our final port of call was to Blagdon Fruit Farm, a family run business, where we were treated to a splendid High Tea and the opportunity to pick some fruit. I came away with sufficient blackcurrants to make 6 jars of jam, of what is possibly my favourite flavour jam, the following day. If you enjoy picking your own soft fruit Blagdon Fruit Farm is well worth a visit.

Sir John Colfox Academy – Junior Awards Evening

Last Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of joining staff, students and their parents at Junior Awards Evening.

It goes without saying that an award ceremony is amongst the most treasured school occasions as it provides an opportunity for the school community to collectively reflect on the preceding year, and celebrate the achievements and successes and this was without a doubt a joyous occasion.

None of the students present knew which award they were due to receive and the expressions on their faces as their names were read out ranged from shock to joy. I had the pleasure of presenting the final two awards to the Year’s 8 and 9 students who had made the most effort during the past year.

The evening opened with a performance by the choir following which Headteacher Adam Shelley gave an introductory speech. It was then on to the presentation of the first set of awards. The cast of a recent production of Matilda then entertained the audience before the final set of awards was presented. My heartiest congratulations to all those who received an award on the night.

Finally I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Adam Shelley and the entire teaching and support staff, and of course the parents of there amazing young people for your support and collective efforts towards the development of these extremely talented young people. Your collective nurturing of them to achieve something substantial in life and above all, raising them with positive attitudes and principles is I know much appreciated by the young people – though they may not show it at times.

Greta Berlin Sculptures

The first of a number of local sculptor Greta Berlin works was installed at Riverside Gardens on Thursday morning, along with an interpretation panel. There are several more sculptures to follow, and we will be updating our sculpture trail map. The Town Council will also produce a separate leaflet on Greta’s generous gift. To find out more about Greta and her work click HERE. The images below give a taste of what will be coming soon.

Many thanks to Dave Dixon for delivering this project, and to Daryl Chambers and the Grounds Team for their support in preparing the plinths, transporting the pieces, and installing them.  A marvellous addition to our public art ‘offer’.

Any Questions?

BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions? is the flagship political panel programme that goes out live on Friday evenings at 8pm. It was first broadcast in October 1948, beginning as a fortnightly programme on the West of England Home Service and was originally intended to run for six editions only. It became a weekly programme in September 1949, broadcast live in the West Region on Friday evenings with a national repeat transmission on the Home Service up to six days later.

This pattern changed in September 1950 when the live Friday broadcast was switched to the BBC Light Programme (BBC Radio 2 from October 1967), although the discussion still came from venues in the West of England and the programme continued to be repeated later on the Home Service (BBC Radio 4 from October 1967). On 10 April 1970, the Friday broadcast moved to Radio 4, which has broadcast both the live and the recorded editions of Any Questions? ever since.

On Friday evening the most recent edition of the programme came from the Electric Palace here in Bridport. At the end of what was one of the most dramatic weeks in politics for many years it was guaranteed to be a lively affair and it certainly loved up to expectations.

Panelists Green peer Baroness Jenny Jones; Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government efficiency, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP; Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Kyle and former MP and government minister Anna Soubry had no idea what specific questions would be asked but certainly knew that certain topics were almost guaranteed to be raised.

The audience submits questions on arrival on the day of the broadcast and these are then sifted by the producer who selects ten questions across a range of subjects. Normally, four to six of them are included in the actual broadcast. One of the stringent and unchanging rules of Any Questions? is that the panel never sees the questions in advance; the panellists hear them for the first time at the same moment the audience in the hall and at home does.

You can listen to what turned out to be an extremely lively, hugely entertaining evening and the boisterous responses to panelists’ answers by a very vocal Bridport audience HERE.

Jurassic Fields 2022

Whilst the sparks were flying in the Electric Palace, Bridport’s answer to the Glastonbury Festival was getting under way at Askers Meadows. The three day music festival has become a much loved event in the Bridport calendar for many. Will Austin, our amazing Town Clerk, is a big fan of this event as his images below confirm.

OCR Powerboat Racing – West Bay

Powerboat racing took place on Saturday and Sunday off the coast of West Bay, with boats launching from the slipway. Offshore Circuit Racing (OCR) is a recognised offshore powerboat category administered by the RYA (Royal Yachting Association), Britain’s national authority for watersports.

The sport combines the seamanship of offshore powerboat racing with the multi-lap infighting of inshore circuit racing. OCR is often said to be “To the world of offshore powerboat racing what saloon car racing is to motorsport”.

Various events run from April to October throughout the UK each year and the sport is rising in popularity. The event at West Bay was Round 2 of the seven round OCR / OCJ National & Nations Championships. If you were otherwise entertained this weekend the video below shot by Helen Mahandog Taylor will give you a flavour of the event.

Bridport Business

Bridport Business is the Chamber of Trade and Commerce for the town and has around 70 members, located in both the town centre and also the surrounding area.

The group meets on the second Tuesday of every month, where members are able to informally network and discuss local commercial isssues of concern or importance. In addition to this meeting, we hold a number of events through-out the year to support the needs of the businesses within our community.

This months Chamber meeting took place at Aleksandra’s Chocolate Cafe and a very interesting meeting it was. Topics discussed included the initiative to make Bridport a Sustainable Palm Oil Community, the vulnerability of the Bridport electricity supply and the Bridport Future Investment plan. Please complete the survey here if you haven’t already:

Borough Gardens – 10th Birthday Celebration

On Wednesday afternoon Bridport’s Borough Gardens were bathed in beautiful sunshine and looked an absolute picture. Under a gazebo, a splendid selection of cakes plus hot and cold drinks were available accompanied by the gentle strain of traditional folk tunes played on mandolin and fiddle. Absolute bliss.

Ten years ago it was announced that ‘Bridport’s town centre haven, the Borough Gardens, is set for a makeover. The town council, working with Magna housing association, residents and local landscape architect Aileen Shackell, has set up a community project to improve the gardens. And an open day is planned for Wednesday June 13 so that visitors can help to plan the project’.

Coun Sarah Williams said: “We are keen to get people’s views and to involve the whole community, including visitors. Come along and fill in our questionnaire.”

Ten years on and the Borough Gardens have been transformed and are now a beautiful, tranquil haven for wildlife and people. This has not happened overnight and many many hours have been spent by the Borough Gardens volunteers (The Friends of Borough Gardens), come rain or shine, to make it the wondeerful place it is today.

The gardens have an even longer history though. There has been a garden there for many more years. The two yew trees you can see at Gundry Lane the entrance are estimated to be around 400 years old and the one further down some 500 years old. The gardens are clearly visible on a town map dated 1774.

After serving as a private garden for Wentham House (now refurbished as social housing) the area subsequently became the Municiple gardens and later the Borough Gardens for Bridport Town Council who continue to provide support, both financially and physically, in maintaining the gardens to this day.

If you enjoy gardening and would like to become a Friend of Borough Gardens or a ‘Wednesday Weeder’ simply go along on a Wednesday morning between 10.30 and 11.30 and introduce yourself.

And Finally – This Weeks Magic Tenner Focus

What about treating someone or yourself to something special from one of these three:

Home Bonheme/Yellow Gorse
Businesses working with or supplying: Sarah Gee Pottery, Washingpool Farm, Bridport Lighting, Mercato Italiano, Ash Moran Macrame, The Well Life Lab, La Rosa Handmade Sustainable Jewelry, Flora Jamieson, Aleksandra’s Chocolate Café, Beppino Gelateria, Dark Bear, and Leakers bakery amongst others.
Jenny Penney Art
Businesses working with or supplying: Soulshine, Ride, Ink & Page, Footeprints, lLvingstone Textiles, Waste Not Want Not, Bridport Arts and Crafts, The Green Yard, R J Balson & Son, Lilliputs, Electric palace, and Bridget’s Market amongst others

Battens Jewellers  
Businesses working with or supplying: M.W. Burrough, Market House, Sundorban, Beautiques, Greig & Allen, Burton Bradstock Motors, Alun Horniblows Plumber, DJR Electrics, Rolo Ridge, New Body Fitness, Nantes, Bellas, Bridport Tile & Glass, and The Woodman amongst others 

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