A look back at 2018 - what hit the headlines in Sidmouth?
PUBLISHED: 13:54 31 December 2018 | UPDATED: 13:54 31 December 2018
● Sidmouth said goodbye to ‘A hard act to follow’ hospital fundraiser. Sheelagh Michelmore. Sheelagh oversaw the transformation of Sidmouth Victoria Hospital through countless fundraisers after 63 years. Sheelagh has seen the community contribute £5 million to completely refurbish the hospital, and secured kit to improve life for patients and staff alike.
● Police announced plans to launch traders’ WhatsApp group as part of Shop Watch Scheme which was launched amid concern the with was a ‘soft target’. The group allows businesses to share instant messages about suspicious shoppers. The Shop Watch scheme has been praised for its success in helping to catch more shoplifters throughout the year.
● A skydiving Ottery pensioner raised more than £22,000 for a Devon cancer charity, with a series of fundraisers. Daredevil John Hounsell, then 75, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015. Earlier this year he rallied 24 people together from across the country to join him for a 15,000 feet dive in June to mark Force’s 30th anniversary.
● Calls for action over vanishing coastline were lodged by a business owner with a viewpoint over Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs. Charles Lodge played on East Beach in the 60s and revealed ‘alarming’ pictures he’d taken of the same view over the past ten years.
● Some 70 fire fighters evacuated animals after a blaze broke out at a barn in Coombelake, near Ottery. Crews arrived just before 1am to find the building, which was 50 metres by 15 metres, well alight and worked tirelessly to bring it under control.
● The town marked 100 years of women’s right to vote. Organisations and individuals looked back through the history books. Centenarian Marjorie Hodnett from Sidmouth also shared her memories of growing up during the time of the Suffragette movement.
● Sidmouth’s last night club Carinas Niteclub unexpectedly announced immediate and permanent closure. Company boss said it was ‘no longer a sustainable’ business and they had ‘insufficient real support’ in the form of spending customers.
● Heavy snow across the area caused chaos in March, but Sidmouth showed community spirit at its best. Farmers with tractors jumped to the aid of those who needed towing, whilst children (and adults) played in the snow when a number of events had to cancelled while schools and business were forced to shut.
● Joyriders stole a pair of double-decker buses and raced them down a snowy Sidmouth street before crashing outside the police station. The thieves crashed one of the buses into The Volunteer Inn, which had recently undergone a £180,00 refurbishment, before abandoning the scene. The other vehicle was left outside the police station.
● Traders issue SOS call for urgent talks to help businesses struggling with rising costs and business rates.
● Reverend Handel Bennett recalled the unforgettable call when a man offered to donate £2.3million to the Sid Vale Association (SVA). Keith Owen, adamant to give the money to the SVA, has spent £150,000 a year on supporting voluntary organisations in the Valley - helping good causes in the Sidmouth area for the future to come.
● Cliff top residents warn Sidmouth is mere metres away from disaster after a spate of cliff landside. The cliff falls left a shed precariously close to the edge prompting a money pool, organised by The Swan Inn. Bets on how long it would last are still ongoing - it was still standing strong at the beginning of December.
● An exclusive sneak peak at the designs for the town’s new Almer Bridge were revealed by the Herald. Impressions for the £750,000 bridge came from Devon County Council. It is hoped works will start after Sidmouth Folk Festival, 2019.
● Sidmouth celebrated Dom Bess making his England cricket debut in a test match against Pakistan. Dom caught out Pakistan’s Haris Sohail during day three of the Second Test match at Headingley - the catch described as ‘comic book hero stuff’. It was an especially proud moment for grandmother Maureen who followed his career from junior sides at Sidmouth.
● A pilot was forced to make an emergency landing on Jacob’s Ladder beach when the light aircraft’s engine failed. Simon Horn was kayaking nearby with his family when he spotted the stricken aircraft circling overhead and began filming. The pilot skilfully landed on the beach and people nearby ran to safety.
● A ‘deep sadness’ hit the high street when Govier’s announced it would be closing after 104 years in business. Consumer demands and changes in the china industry has resulted in owner Alan Morgenroth deciding to shut the shop and go online only. Govier’s was believed to be the fourth oldest business in the town.
● It’s was supposed to be coming home! Or so we thought. Sidmouth’s own ‘mind-reading’ llama Ollie predicted England would win the world cup, but maybe he was a few years out.
● Plans for Sidmouth to get its own fully-trained lifeguards in the summer were revealed by Sidmouth Lifeboat’s senior coxswain Guy Russell. Funding was secured for a lifeguard service every day throughout the six weeks holidays.
● A sailor did a non-stop row for 24-hours in the sea at Sidmouth. Laura Loudon-Griffiths spent a whole day and night in the water on her own in her rowing boat to raise money for Hospisecare and Parkinson’s UK.
● Boys at Sidmouth College swapped trousers for skirts to stay cool following weeks of scorching temperatures. Jake White was among a small group who deiced to wear skirts when other schools had been allowed to wear PE kit during the hot weather. The college said the boys still fell in line with their uniform policy.
● Swimmer Pepe Arti came to aid of a stray toddler knocked over by wave in Sidmouth. Pepe spotted the small girl being knocked over and submerged by a wave. When the tide began to suck her out he jumped into action and pulled the child from the water. He carried her out the sea shouted for her parents. A woman appeared, realising it was her daughter.
● Plans to create a ‘dream’ Sidmouth skate park were revealed by the town council. The authority plans to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in revamping the Manstone site, helping to meet the needs of young people in the Sid Valley.
● Sidmouth seafront fell silent during a send off for the driving force of Sidmouth Lifeboat on one last shout. Alan Philips, known affectionally as little AI, died at the beginning of July, aged 73.
Alan was an instrumental force in the setting up of the lifeboat services, as it is know today. Members of Sidmouth Lifeboat and Beer Coastguard carried their friend in a 150 strong procession from the lifeboat station to the parish church.
●‘Buttergate’ hit the national headlines after the Herald ran a story on a Sidmouth diner hitting out at a Devon waitrose store that only gave out one butter portion per toasted tea cake. The company vowed to change their policy back to two butter portions. It was one of the Herald’s best read stories of 2018 getting thousands of web hits.
● A wildflower meadow in Sidmouth was reduced to ‘a desert’ when a council worker accidently mowed it.
East Devon District Council apologised for the blunder which hit that national headline after an employee, on a sit-on mower, was tasked with cutting a pathway at The Knowle. Instead, he cut the whole nine acres. A national survey for David Attenborough’s Big Butterfly Count 2018 was supposed to take place the following day but when a conservationist turned up to the meadow, which had been brimming with all kinds of flora, butterflies, birds and insects, it was all gone.
● Questions were raised over the future of Sidmouth’s free Hopper bus. The free service normally runs from the May bank holiday until the end of September, but this year its operating costs rose steeply and it was running at a loss. The organisers ended the season a month early and said they would be reviewing the bus service’s future; they said businesses would need to sponsor it if they wanted it to continue.
● A community bid was launched to buy Sidmouth’s Drill Hall from East Devnon District Council, and turn it into a facility for young people. A not-for-profit company called Sidmouth Sunrise was set up by local woman Gillian Mitchell, who gained the support of a consultant and funding partner in Plymouth, Real Ideas Organisation.
● A family of badgers ruined several gardens in the Roseland area of Sidmouth. Residents contacted The Herald to say the animals had been digging up the grass, making large holes in the ground and even burrowing under a garage, endangering its foundations.
● Two more independent traders in Sidmouth announced that they were closing their doors because of rising costs and “unfair” business rates. Coles gift shop and The Rendezvous restaurant joined the list of businesses which could no longer afford to continue.
● The latest plans for a business park at Sidford were rejected by East Devon District Council because of the increase in HGV traffic it would generate. Nearly 1,400 people had signed a petition against the business park, but the chairman of the development management committee said the ‘detriment to highway safety’ caused by the lorries was the only objection that justified refusing permission.
● Sidmouth’s Probus club for retired businessmen announced that it would close at the end of the year, because there were not enough members to fill vital roles on its committee. The club had been running since the 1980s. President Malcolm Davies said he did not rule out reviving the club in the future if enough new members came forward.
● Nearly 4,000 people took part in a special procession during Remembrance Weekend to mark the centenary of the end of World War One. The People’s Procession was organised by the town council, chamber of commerce and British Legion and took place on November 9. There was also a large turnout for the parade on Remembrance Sunday, November 11.
●t was revealed that more than £200,000 had been spent on so-called ‘gagging orders’ for staff at East Devon District Council since 2014. Some councillors expressed concern at the amount of public money being paid out, although a council spokeswoman said the settlement agreements were ‘common practice’ in both the public and private sectors.
● A revamp of three Sid Valley play parks was announced, costing a total of £130,000. Manstone, Stowford Rise and Furzehill play areas will all benefit from new equipment. The money is mainly coming from the district council, with contributions from the Keith Owen Fund. Sidmouth Town Council is to help pay for the Manstone park upgrade.
● Tributes were paid to Sidmouth town councillor Michael Earthy, who passed away on November 5. The Independent councillor for the north ward was described by a close colleague as “an immensely warm and caring person, committed to serving the community.” He had joined the council in 2015.
● A report of a body in the river Otter at Harpford sparked a major search by the emergency services. It was spotted in the water by a lady walking her dog. After a two-hour search, the body of an 80-year-old man was recovered from the water. Police said they were not treating his death as suspicious.
● The organisers of Sidmouth FolkWeek announced that they were rebranding the event under its original name, The Sidmouth Folk Festival. The 65th festival takes place next year. The change of name was decided on because the dates always accompany the logo, meaning there is no need to describe it as a week. There is also a new logo, designed to ‘reinvigorate’ the brand.