Saturday, 17 March 2012


Up on the Admiralty square
the sergeant turns his squad about.
The virgin ‘royals’ are not aware
this morning's tide is running out.

The boats are turning on their moorings.
The squad is turning as one man.
The Lympstone boats are going nowhere.
These boys are for Afghanistan.

The boats are nudging this and that way.
They heed no snap word of command.
Some start late and some start early;
some point seaward, some to land.

The squad is turning as one man
up there on the booties’ square.
These boys are for Afghanistan.
The boats aren’t going anywhere.

Sunday, 11 March 2012


The sculptural object above, not the Co-Op matchbox, is already something of an antique. It was found some fortyfive years ago serving as a doorstop in one of the Harefield Cottages, 'The Buildings', at Lympstone and it is anyone's guess how many years it is since it was last in use.

It is one half of a mould for making the leads that were commonly used to sink mackerel lines. It is handmade from local stone and there is one hole to pour in the lead and another to let out the air and the gases. There is a tiny nick at the other end of the torpedo through which a copper wire could be passed to make fastenings. It was, no doubt, used by generations of Estuary fishermen who went 'out over' to take mackerel.

It speaks of the canny independence of the Estuary fisherman . The artisan who fashioned it did so with great care and the many, it was surely passed from neighbour to neighbour, users of it were not men to go to unnecessary expense. In addition it is a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.

Saturday, 10 March 2012


When, in 1794,William George Maton travelled along the West bank of the Estuary he was accompanied by two friends. They were a remarkable trio although probably they did not seem so. They were all men of genius who would die to be written up in the Dictionary of National Biography. Thomas Rackett, the oldest of them, he was in his fortieth year, was a clergyman distinguished as an antiquary, a naturalist and a geologist. There is the famous painting by Romney of him as a boy in a red coat represented above and now in the Dorset County Museum. Charles Hatchett, ten years younger, was the English chemist who discovered the element niobium and William Maton, all of twenty years old, was to become the Royal Family's favourite medical man.

William wrote his 'Observations' but it was Mr Rackett who was "occupied in representing the more striking beauties of the scenery by a series of masterly sketches." He particularly liked to sketch castles but he made no sketch of Powderham, at least there is not one in the book. William wrote:

"We were led to expect a noble situation for the Castle, but how great was our disappointment to find it almost in a flat, very much exposed on the side towards the Channel and with a broad marsh in front. It faces the river, but little pains have been taken to open the view to it with advantage, or to heighten the effect of those materials which nature has furnished."