How to spend a million pounds
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I write in response to Sidmouth Town Council’s request for ideas on how best to spend any Section 106 money it receives in respect of the development of the former Fortfield Hotel site.
My suggestion, for a project on which to spend the money, would be a spectacular fountain or water feature. The South West of England (west of Stourhead) is devoid of noteable fountains. A spectacular fountain would give Sidmouth identity (in the same way as the Lytham St Annes windmill or the Dulverton Lorna Doone sculpture), would be a focal point in the town, would be a colourful centrepiece for pictures on calendars and in guide books and would bring thousands of pounds of free publicity to the town.
A number of local aspects lend themselves to a fountain or water feature. Examples are as follows:-
1. Jurassic Coast fountain - This would depict the colours, contours and moods of the Jurassic coast. Sidmouth has failed to capitalise on its unique position in a World Heritage Site and many visitors to the town are not aware of its special status.
A Jurassic Coast Fountain, linked to features such as flower beds, public seats, a performing arts arena and barbecue area, would be a world-class attraction. Suitable sites would be Jacob’s Ladder beach (in place of the beach huts) or Market Square (in place of the market building) as both the beach huts and the market are now past their sell-by date.
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2. Dame Partington water feature. The story of Dame Partington (which may be fact or fiction) attempting to sweep the sea away, with a mop from her Clifton Cottage home, made her one of the most talked about women in England. The story lends itself to a unique water feature. It was made famous by the cleric and author Sydney Smith, when talking about the Reform Bill of 1831, and no-doubt, the still active Sydney Smith Association would strongly support such a feature.
3. Three cornered plot fountain. The late much loved and respected councillor, Ernie Whitton, was very fond of pointing out that many places had areas of land called The Triangle (eg The Triangle car park in Exeter) but only one place in the world had The Three Corned Plot. Despite the name plate that now exists, it is unfortunate that the area is still called the Triangle on bus timetables and maps. A fountain with three corners would help reiterate its correct name.
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4. Sea Captain fountain. Sidmouth has had a close association with the famous Elizabethan sea captains. Sir Walter Raleigh, born in East Budleigh, owned land in Sidmouth. Sir Humphrey Gilbert was Raleigh’s half brother. The family of one of Sir Francis Drake’s wives lived in Sidbury. The statute of Sir Walter Raleigh in East Budleigh is a good feature, but a much better feature would be to show the sea captains, with models of their famous ships, surrounded by water.
5. Seagull fountain. Despite having bad press, no one can cease to wonder at the beauty and sleekness of the herring-gull which has been so much of the Sidmouth landscape, but is now in serious worldwide decline. It should be remembered that herring-gulls are a long-living bird, many of whom have lived in Sidmouth for forty years, far longer than most of the residents who complain about them. A fountain with a centrepiece of herring gulls swooping down to catch mackerel would be a worthy addition to our town.
6. Dinosaur water feature. We are told that at one time dinosaurs frequented our coast line. Dinosaurs are today very ‘in’ and a water feature with smiley dinosaurs bobbing up and down would be a great hit with children, in a town which is not very child friendly and where much more is done for the elderly than for children. Such a feature could be both interesting and informative.
I hope that the town council will endeavour to obtain the moneys to which it is due, as soon as possible, and that it will use it on a notable project.