Our Outing to Rosemoor

Rosemoor is the Royal Horticultural Society’s principal garden in the South West of England. It was gifted to the RHS by Lady Anne Palmer in 1988 and now extends over 65 acres including woodland areas and a lake in addition to the formal gardens. Our trip coincided with the start of the rose festival, which ensured that the multi-coloured and multi-scented flower gardens were in peak condition.

Although starting off under grey skies, our party were reassured by a promising weather forecast which fortunately turned out to be correct. The afternoon was dry with sunny intervals and not too hot, perfect weather for enjoying the garden. There was something to satisfy every gardener’s interest: some of the spring flowers still holding on; masses of colourful and fragrant roses dotted with clematis in matching colours; herbaceous beds ready to burst into flower; fruit and vegetables developing nicely; specialist planting of Mediterranean and exotic plants; and much more besides. The photographers amongst us had a ‘field day’.

Many of the group ended the trip with a visit to the top quality plant centre. Congratulations are due to our coach driver who found creative ways to stash the masses of plants we picked up. Passing motorists may have been surprised by the faces peeking out through the jungle on board. I am hoping for great things from the group of veronica longifolia (look it up) I bought.

The standards of display at Rosemoor give us something to which we can aspire although I am still wondering quite how they get so many varieties of plant to all look good at the same time. Perhaps I will need to go again.


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Finch Foundry-Cynthia’s Visit

Our Secretary Cynthia recently visited Finch Foundry and has shared her experience here.

A little gem not to be missed.

Like most NT members I get used to expecting my visits to properties to consist of grand houses, extensive grounds and gardens and priceless works of art.

Finch Foundry is completely different.  Once a thriving family run business  it produced 400 farming and mining tools every day, until in 1960 the roof collapsed and production ceased.   The building was taken over in 1994 by the National Trust, who have preserved its industrial heritage thus securing a little piece of West Country history to inform and enthrall its visitors daily.

Finch Foundry is on the main road in the village of Sticklepath, which was previously most famous for the four hour holiday-season traffic jams, prior to construction of the new A30.

You have to ‘breathe in’ as you drive through the narrowest of entrances, (the exit is fine), and for larger vehicles you may prefer parking along the road. 

Once safely parked you enter the world of this family-run business and discover details about of the Finch family and their workers lives.

The forge and carpenters’ workshops are still fully operational and, if you stay for one of the volunteers excellent hourly talks, you will be able to see the waterwheels in action, driving the tilt hammer and working the machinery just as it always did.

Exhibitions of tools, photographs, the story of ‘Old Uncle Tom Cobly’ are displayed and you might even discover the origins of ‘putting your nose to the grindstone’!

Enjoy refreshments in the small NT tea room, wander through the garden, gift shop and adjoining Quaker burial ground, or stroll into Sticklepath village for a riverside walk pub and shops.

Next time you are driving along the A30 between Devon and Cornwall make the short detour to Finch Foundry.  You won’t be disappointed

Stepping Down

At the AGM in April three familiar faces left the Committee. Seen in the photograph are Ian Heard, Coral King and Colin Watts.

Coral has been Theatre Club secretary since January 2009 and, supported by her husband Dave, has done an outstanding job in arranging many theatre trips over the last nine years for the enjoyment of members of the Theatre Club. Meanwhile, Colin has been in charge of our publicity for the last two years, and the quality of his work has ensured that our profile remains high in the Sidmouth community.

Ian has been a member of the NT Sidmouth Committee for over a decade including the last seven years as Chairman. This length of distinguished service could not be allowed to pass unacknowledged and we are delighted to say that Ian was appointed to the position of President of NT Sidmouth Centre by a unanimous vote of the AGM.

Filming at the National Trust

The centre’s April AGM was preceded with a talk by Harvey Edgington, Head of NT Filming and Locations. His role provides a single contact point with the NT for the film industry and TV programme makers, a major undertaking with his team involved often with three different crews each day somewhere in a NT property or on NT land.  Harvey explained how all this accrues benefits: through the fees paid by the programme makers; through increased visitor numbers from the venues’ exposure; and through increased income into the area both from the crews on location and additional visitors. However, all these benefits must be carefully balanced against what can be managed by his team, the gains and losses in closing venues during filming and the conservation aspects of what the programme makers want. Typically this means removing all furniture and carpets, protecting all floors and columns, blacking out interiors for controlled lighting, plus protection of tapestries and soft furnishings from lighting.

Many NT properties have been seen and many credited in high profile films. In 2016 alone this included Pride and Prejudice, The Other Boleyn Girl, Alice in Wonderland, Wolf Hall, Poldark and Game of Thrones but Harvey explained his team were increasingly involved with factual TV productions which sell across the world. This was particularly important in PR value bringing the NT locations to new audiences.

Remembering Bob Symes

In March Sidmouth Centre worked with the SVA to hold a second annual Bob Symes memorial lecture. Bob was the Centre Chairman from 2001 – 2011 and the lecture “The Wood for the Trees” was presented as a tribute by Richard Fortey his friend and colleague from the Natural History Museum (NHM). Richard recounted how his 2011 purchase of the prime beech and bluebell Grim Dyke Wood in the Chiltern Hills had taken him back to his small boy’s perspective of nature, collecting and making notes in his little leather-bound notebook.

He described to the packed audience in the Manor Pavilion how archaeological excavation has shown that in the iron age his hill top four acres would have been clear of trees and a cultivated site. However, by the Saxon period it would have been forested remaining so as part of the woodland recorded in the Doomsday Book linked to the Rotherfield Greys in 1200. Subsequently the estate passed through the Elizabethan period with the Knolles family and to the Stapletons in the 18c. His small wood along with other parcels of land being sold off from the main estate, now owned by the NT, in 1922.

Richard recounted the highlight of his year as being the carpet of Bluebells in the wood before the canopy of Beech trees opens. But, interestingly in addition his scientific approach, with leather bound notebook, has identified with help of NHM friends: an unusual combination of trees in the wood – Beech and Cherry growing together reaching over 90 feet, Yew , Holly and Wych Elm which has been tested as resistant  to Dutch Elm disease , 200 different species of beetle, 150 different moths, 300 different fungi, 9 different species of bat and a soil substrate not of Chiltern Chalk but Glacial Peebles having travelled from Wales some 10million years ago.

Richard’s talk was a well-received tribute to his colleague and friend delivered with the same humour, professional knowledge and communication skills for which Bob Symes is remembered.