The theme running through this week’s Blog is our Physical, Mental and Social wellbeing. Being active and particularly participating in group activities does wonders for our overall wellbeing and it doesn’t matter whether you are actively engaged or part of an onlooking crowd or audience the positive, uplifting feelings can be really powerful. I know from my own experiences this past week that the more involved I have been the more positive I have been feeling, so I encourage everyone to get out and get involved.
Bridport Leisure Centre
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.
I am sure we all agree that looking after your physical, mental, and social wellbeing is an essential component of living a happy and fulfilling life. What better way is there to contribute to achieving that than by making use of the wonderful array of resources available at the Bridport Leisure Centre. The Centre really has an activity to suit all ages, levels of ability and fitness.
Over the years I have made use of the Fitness Suite, played badminton, short tennis and racquetball, plus on occasion taken part in instructor led class. The thing I particularly enjoy doing is taking my granddaughters swimming, great fun and a great way to boost my physical, mental and social wellbeing.
It is fair to say that Bridport Leisure Centre provides a fantastic range of recreational facilities and activities for the people of West Dorset, with the overall aim of enhancing the community’s quality of life. Fitness classes, walking netball and football, swimming lessons for hundreds of children, floodlit pitches etc. Whenever I visit the centre it is a hive of activity, adding to the health and wellbeing of the local population.
Believe it or not there are approximately 120 instructor-led sessions per week, with a wide range of activities on offer to people of all ages and abilities. The three major areas of activity for Bridport Leisure Centre continue to be the fitness suite and classes, swimming and courses and activities. To find out more about the huge range of activities available and book a session click HERE
The covid pandemic impacted significantly on the number of people using the centre but although still slightly down I am pleased to report that numbers are recovering.
The Bridport Leisure Centre we know today was constructed in 1992. It is a much valued and precious resource enjoyed by people of all ages and we are extremely fortunate to have such a fantastic resource here in our town as the following brief history outlines.
The land at the Skilling Hill Road site was gifted in 1982 to Bridport and West Dorset Sports Trust Ltd, a non-profit making charity incorporated in 1975, by the late Tony Palmer, who was head of Palmers Brewery. He went on to grant a 50-year lease to the Trust for the leisure centre buildings and land at a peppercorn rent.
It was the perfect site for expanding sport in the area because it was already home to the town’s rugby, cricket and squash clubs. In fact, its associations with sport went back to the 19th century when a cricket square was laid out on Brewery Fields.
Obtaining planning permission for the site now known as Watton Park, the Trust sold it to a developer in 1984, using the proceeds to build the original leisure centre in 1986.
Many local businesses and individuals gifted money or equipment for the buildings. The old cricket pavilion were demolished, and the cricket and rugby clubs were provided with a bar and club room in the new building.
It was in the 1980s, that campaigning began in earnest for the town to have its own heated swimming pool. For a community so close to the sea—and an often dangerous sea at that— a heated pool for public use was high on the list of local priorities. At that time the nearest public indoor pools were in Dorchester, Weymouth or Yeovil and the current local caravan site pools had yet to be built.
In 1983 three parents, Jocelyn Pardoe, Lenschen Laffin and Jenny Doy, circulated a petition to find out how many local people wanted an indoor swimming pool. The strength of local opinion was shown clearly as the petition was signed by 5,500 in just two weeks. Bridport had a population of about 8,000 at the time and it was estimated that the catchment for the pool was about 25,000 people. The petition was presented to Bridport Town Council. A small committee was formed to raise funds, lobby local councils and keep alive the enthusiasm of local residents. This small group of volunteers gradually expanded as fundraising ideas multiplied but at that stage no one could envisage the ten very busy years to come before the dream would be fulfilled.
It was decided to aim to raise £100,000 as a realistic sum to present to West Dorset District Council in the hope they would allocate the majority of the building costs. As some people in the locality felt that the group, known as BACit, may not achieve that goal, a simple record of all donations over £10 was set up with the promise that all donations would be returned if the pool was not built. It took ten years for that joint community effort to raise funds and lobby for a 25×13 metre pool with additional learner pool. The target had been to raise £100,000 pounds locally yet by the time the pool was finally built in 1994 an amazing £185,000 had been raised by the community.
The main capital came from West Dorset District Council with a further amount from The Sports Council and local residents Sue and Tony Norman, who were instrumental in a further substantial donation being made. Near the pool entrance is a foundation stone made by Karl Dixon which incorporates the BACit logo. It was provided by committee member Mary Bailey in memory of her father, George Elliott, who did much to promote swimming in the area.
Olympic medal winner Sharron Davies formally opened the pool on 4 September 1994.
In 1993 Bridport Rugby Club completed the construction of the Pavilion attached to the southeastern flank of the sports hall and handed it over to the Trust as part of the centre, reserving the right to use it for the club’s own activities.
Recent improvements include:
- A complete upgrade of the Fitness Suite with a fantastic range of new equipment.
- Replacing the old light fittings in their sports hall and squash courts with 34 highly efficient LEDs in order to reduce cost of meeting the centre’s extremely high energy demand.
Some thirty years after it was built the swimming pool is in need of some TLC. In fact it is in desperate need of essential maintenance work, including completely regrouting the tiles, all of which will cost in excess of £40,000.
It is time for this generation of Bridport residents to step up, just as their forefathers did, and lend their support to this incredibly valuable resource by purchasing tickets for the Grand Raffle. Tickets are on sale at the Leisure Centre.
In 1995, the Bridport and West Dorset Sports Trust was gifted the Hyde Real Tennis Court in Walditch by the late Joseph Gundry. The Hyde Real Tennis Court is one of only 23 in the UK.
On 13 June 1998, HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, formally opened the court, which is now owned and operated by the Hyde Real Tennis Club.
Next time you are walking past pop in and have a look at the fantastic building and watch a game which dates back to the time of Henry VIII. You will be made very welcome and may even be tempted to have a go.
Bridport Leisure Centre has something for everyone so why not go along and find that something which suits you. Don’t leave it until the New Year to do something about your physical, mental and social wellbeing.
Jubilee Bell Cast in Bridport
One of the loveliest things about Bridport is all the wonderful stories, people and achievements that happen in the town – sometimes going unnoticed and unsung. I am grateful to Lottie Welch for bringing to my attention the following wonderful story.
Nicholson Engineering based here in Bridport helped build the Covid Bell designed by Grayson Perry, which is currently on display at the Royal Academy in London.
Established in the 1980s and a limited company since 1995, Nicholson Engineering now employs a total of eleven staff operating from a large and fully equipped works. Today Nicholsons is one of the largest specialist bell hanging companies in the world and have an enviable reputation for the quality of their work.
They are a family firm absolutely committed to quality in every aspect of our business, whether for the smallest component or the largest of new rings of bells. Insistence on the use of the finest available materials and workmanship combined with careful control of overheads allows them to offer true value for money.
Tim Whitehead of Nicholson Engineering told Lottie: “Not many people in the town know about us, we don’t shout about it but there are very few firms like us in the country.
“We don’t just work locally, we work internationally, we export, we go around mainly churches, but sometimes towers and we install church bells, pull bell frames, the whole installation, we do restoration, preservation, brand new work – we do the lot.
“There are very few people in the country that can do all the work in all the materials. One of the things we do in particular, where the Covid Bell is concerned, is we tune bells. The man who tunes our bells, he is the best person in the world who knows how to tune a bell and he worked for the Whitechapel Foundry in London before it closed.”
The Whitechapel Foundry closed in 2017 and as well as two of its tuning machines coming to Bridport, Nigel Taylor, the expert tuner also came to work for Nicholson Engineering. He was the reason the company was asked to work on the Covid Bell.
Grayson Perry’s memorial Covid Bell was commissioned on behalf of The London Bell Foundry and fabricated by Factum Arte, an art conservation organisation which had worked with Nigel previously. The bell marks the pandemic as well as shedding light on the dying art of bell casting in the UK, and the campaign to reinstate the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
Tim added: “Nigel has got 40 plus years’ worth of knowledge and was approached by Factum.
“Nigel has got the scientific knowledge of designing the bell and tuning the bell, and Grayson Perry in all his expertise and skill, designed the outside. Nigel came up with the profile of the bell and left Grayson to add all his sculptures on the outside to give it a very unique look.”
The bell was originally designed to be a ton in weight, but it cracked and one about the third of the size was made instead.
“Nigel tuned in the best he could,” Tim said. “We machined it, assembled the two halves and shipped it up to the Royal Academy for its exhibition.
“So, all of that came to Bridport, but word spread in the bell world and they’ve now asked for three more bells to be cast, two of the same size and another of the original proposed size of a ton. They are in the process of being done and they are going to come down here as well. We started working with Factum and now they want to continue working with us, it’s a feather in the cap for Bridport. We don’t crow about it, we just get on and do it.”
Well, I definitely want to crow about it and highlight the wonderful people and organisations that make Bridport the talented town it is. Well done to Nigel, Tim and all at Nicholson Engineering – Bridport never fails to amaze.
National Allotments Week
National Allotments Week was celebrated in the Bridport Community Orchard with an afternoon tea party. In addition to the fantastic home made cakes and produce that was available, those gathered had a really enjoyable time bragging about their sucesses and consoling each other with this year’s less than successful crops. I enjoyed sampling the cakes, all of which included fruit and vegetables grown by the allotment holders, the courgette and orange being a favourite. Of the produce on display I was particularly impressed by the Trambolina Squash that had been grown.
An allotment plot is a complex web of plants, micro-organisms, fungi, insects and animals that not only produces food but also supports eco-system services such as pollination and offers a refuge for wildlife in urban areas. National Allotments Week theme for 2022 is Bugs, Bees and Broccoli and acknowledges the importance of gardening with nature in mind.
Bugslife say: ‘Bugs are so important to the healthy functioning of our allotments. As gardeners we tend to focus on the ‘pests’ and ignore all the great work the other bugs are doing for us, but if they were not we would miss them. Be it pollinating our fruit and veg, controlling our pests or improving our soil they are vital to healthy growing.’
An allotment is without doubt a fantastic way of enhancing your physical, mental and social wellbeing. Being outdoors, close to nature, growing and nurturing, and above all sharing experiences is thoroughly uplifting. There are occasions however, when the slugs have demolished your seedlings for example, when it can be a little demoralising, but the good far outweighs the bad every time.
Bridport Carnival Parade 2022
It was great to see the Bridport Carnival parade back after an enforced absence of two years due to the covid pandemic. The parade gathered and lined up along West Street ready to set off at 7.00pm on the dot. Anne and I had the privilege of being transported in an open topped 101 year old vintage Rover car at the head of the parade. The streets were thronged with thousands of people cheering and waving all the way to the Morrisons car park where the parade ended. All in all the parade was thoroughly uplifting occasion raising the spirits of all who took part and watched.
Following the parade, I had the pleasure of presenting certificates and prizes to the winning entries at Bucky Doo Square following which the live music and dancing in the street was enjoyed by many.
- Best overall, best local and most innovative – 1st Bridport Scout Group
- Best costumes – Sunshine Stars CC as Ghostbusters
- Class one: feature open mounted – Washingpool Farm with the Coronation Street Party
- Class three: youth entry – 1st Bridport Scout Group with scouting
- Class four: walking one to three people – Roger Muspratt as the Mad Hatter
- Class five: walking four or more people – Living Tree and Stepping Out with 10 years of cancer support
- Class six: walking, wheeled or motorised – Sunshine Stars CC as Ghostbusters
The following images provided by Mel Griffiths, Sue Hasell, Jane Pencheon and Tim Russ illustrate what a great evening it was.
Bridport Torchlight Procession and Fireworks 2022
The Torchlight Procession has been the spectacular finale to Carnival Week since 1971 and has given much pleasure over the years.
In 2019 the Bridport Carnival Committee were notified that Balfour Beatty Group/Southwest Highways were no longer prepared to close A35 Road at the Crown Roundabout and Miles Cross junction for the half hour it takes for the procession to cross the road in safety from. They have been the prime contractors since 1996 and had assured the Carnival Committee the road closure issue would never affect our Carnival.
Thanks to a petition led by Michele Holmes-Good, the support of the Town Council and West Dorset MP Chris Loder, Southwest Highways relented and the future of this wonderful event is assured.
On Sunday evening South Street was filled with thousands of people eagerly awaiting the moment when the first torch is lit on the stroke of 9.00pm. As Mayor, I had the privilege of having my torch lit first and turning round, I used my torch to light Chris Loder’s and others close by and so began the passing of the flame to the back of the huge crowd.
And then we were off on the 2 mile walk to West Bay, where upon arrival, we tossed what was left of our torches onto a small pile of pallets to burn out. No large bonfire this year due to the tinder dry vegitation.
Every so often as I walked along, I turned around to look behind me where I saw what for me is a truly amazing sight, that I never get bored of seeing, namely a river of flaming torches snaking its way along the length of South Street. The following images taken by Jane Pencheon and Tim Russ capture beautifully the story of the parade and bonfire.
As everyone arrived at West Bay they made our way onto the shingle bank, the side of East Cliff or any other vantage point to watch a fantastic firework display.
The following images taken by Neil Barnes really capture the scale of this most wonderful event in the Bridport calendar.
Morrisons – Local Charity Fundraising
Earlier in the week I joined Samantha Foot, the recently appointed Community Champion at our local Morrisons store, to lend my support to their Heroes week fundraiser in aid of Julia’s House.
Julia’s House as some of you may know is a Children’s Hospice serving Dorset and Wiltshire. It is an award-winning children’s hospice charity dedicated to bringing comfort and care to families across the two counties.
Each family it supports is unique and so is the care provided. When a family finds out that their child has a very serious medical condition, which is life-limiting or life-threatening, their world falls apart. Julia’s House exists to help these children and their families. Julia’s House is not a typical children’s hospice. It provides practical and emotional support for families caring for a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition, providing frequent and regular support in their own homes, in the community or at their hospices.
On the day I joined Samantha, a fantastic £198 was dropped into the bucket. The total would have been considerably more has people coming to the shop been carrying cash. The carrying of cash is becoming rarer by the day with people prefering to use a card, phone or even their smart watch to make transactions.
For that reason Morrisons have set up a charitable giving option at their tills. As you pass through the manned and self operated tills you can now expect to be asked if you would like to add a charitable donation to your shopping bill.
Just imagine, if everyone added just a one pound donation to their weekly shop, how much wonderful local charities like Julia’s House would benefit.
And Finally – This Weeks ‘Magic Tenner’ Focus
Another three fantastic local businesses to check out and support and in doing so support many more local businesses.
Sally Davies Art – St Michael’s Trading Est.
Businesses working with or supplying: Bridport Banners, Black White, Wow Creative Prints, Snips, Twist & Shout, Lilliputs, Boilerman, Affordable Framing – Bridport and more
Instant Redress – East Street.
Businesses working with or supplying: Davys Locker, Framptons, Balsons, Mercato Italiano, Gelateria Beppino, Selected Grapes. The Ropemakers, The Pursuit of Hoppiness, The Tiger, Chris Stubbs & Son Electrician, Alan Horniblow Plumber, Footeprints, The Ollerod and more
Chilli by the Sea – South Street.
Businesses working with or supplying: Soulshine Cafe, Bridport Lighting, Cafe Bean, Naturalife, The Bookshop, Animal house, RKL Tool and Hardware, Opal Dorset, Malabar trading, Waste Not Want Not, Bridport Music Centre, Cilla & Camila, Bellas, Home Bohome, Leakers, Livingstone Textiles, Alleyways, Aroma, The Fridge, Gemma’s Flowers, Grape Tree, Wine Merchants, Hair by David, Harvey Anderson Hair and more