At last…the sun shines. We took advantage of it with a glorious family stroll on Sidmouth beach.
Last week a couple of friends and I were looking to meet in Exeter for a catch-up and lunch. Who knew there was quite so much choice?
There is such a buzz about the city at the moment and the recently released Exeter City Council video promoting the area as the ‘it’ place to build your business, celebrates everything there is to offer.
Working our way through a hit list of places to eat, drink and chat, we picked the newly opened Las Iguanas on Queen Street. Siting food as their ‘passion’ they serve a great selection of ‘Latin comfort food’ – perfect.
The food was fresh and they had a huge selection on offer. Together with the friendly service and delicious churros (a Spanish doughnut equivalent) with melted chocolate, I can highly recommend you take a trip to Latin America right here in Exeter.
This Saturday (December 7th), is Small Business Saturday – an established annual event in the US, it has arrived in Britain and is about celebrating all that is independent on our high streets. It’s a fantastic initiative that even the Prime Minister has lent his support to.
As you’d expect, there is lots going on in Exeter. The Federation of Small Businesses has teamed up with Exeter Trails and the city council to help promote the event and will be in Cathedral Green at the tourist information tent handing out leaflets.
The Lord Mayor of Exeter and MP Ben Bradshaw will be touring independent businesses in Fore Street and Cowick Street to show their support, where there will be fun activities for all the family – as well as a festive wrapping station for anyone who is challenged in the gift wrapping area!
But it’s not just Exeter getting involved; Axminster Chamber of Commerce has also encouraged traders to get fully behind Small Business Saturday, as has Honiton and Sidmouth.
It is a great chance to explore the wide range of independent shops across Exeter and East Devon and show our support by shopping locally this Christmas.
Another business which is doing its bit for charity this year is The Exeter Dental Centre, on Castle Street. The practice has set up a collection point for Exeter Foodbank donations which it will be delivering just before Christmas. As the centre is open 7 days a week, it is even easier to drop off your non-perishable food donation while out shopping in the city centre. Pop in and say hello, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome.
Last week’s column for the Express and Echo:
It never ceases to amaze me how generous we (and I’m using the Royal ‘we’ here!) can be, when called upon. Take Children in Need last Friday, as a nation we managed to raise an incredible £31 million to help children throughout the UK.
My two boys did their part, dressing in their pyjamas for school and eating Pudsey bear biscuits all week – oh well, it’s for charity right?
I was also humbled to hear that their school, Feniton primary, would be collecting for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines during its Christmas productions this year. I can always count on head teacher Mr Butler and his staff, to lead by example for the pupils and already the kids are keen to help, in any way they can.
This last week has been humbling closer to home too, with the Pride of Exeter awards – a great initiative of the Express and Echo and Exeter City Council. The awards honoured our local heroes and I was particularly pleased to hear that double lung transplant survivor, Kirstie Tancock, was among the winners on the night. I have followed her story for some time and continue to be amazed at her courage and strength. She is an inspirational young woman who is a real fighter and an example to us all.
On a different subject, I think I might be the last person in East Devon to discover the wonder of Haldon Forest! We ventured up there on a cold but bright Sunday, to burn off some energy before a delicious roast dinner, and it’s fair to say we will definitely be returning.
Whether you just want to amble around the easy 1.5 mile Discovery Trail – perfect for all the family, with regular resting points to take in the stunning views over Exeter and Dartmoor – or if you’re more adventurous and fancy the Raptor Trail, with its steep ascents and descents, there really is something for everyone.
I was pleased to see it so busy. When we visited there were plenty of people all out in the fresh air, enjoying a fun activity with their family and friends. I think we’d timed it pretty well as we arrived after lunch, just as most people were heading home for the afternoon and it started to quiet down – but if you want a more peaceful cycle or walk you might want to plan to visit at a less busy time.
And, while I didn’t try it this time (the pull of the roast lamb awaiting us at home meant we didn’t hang about) I have it on good authority that the coffee and cake at The Ridge Café is pretty spectacular too – cycling has never been more enticing!
In case you didn’t know, last week I wrote my first column for the Express and Echo. I’m delighted to be contributing to the paper, but for those of you who may have missed it here it is…and make sure you pick it up tomorrow (Thursday) to read the next one!
This time of the year for me is the equivalent of other peoples’ ‘Spring Clean’.
Finally, Halloween (which, by the way, was bigger than ever this year!) is over and now we are hurtling towards (dare I say it?) Christmas.
Suddenly, my thoughts turn to organising my home. I like to clear out the kids’ toys before the new ones arrive, courtesy of Santa, and of course I then have to hunt around the house looking for those ‘January bargains’ – Christmas cards and decorations, bought in the sales when I thought I was being oh-so clever!
This time of year also means I have to start organising my diary with military precision, there are Christmas functions, meals with friends and plenty of children’s’ parties for me to play taxi for.
In fact, last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the exclusive launch of Rolex at Michael Spiers in Exeter. It was held at Exeter Castle and was exquisitely hosted with delicious food from Topsham caterers Posh Nosh and a wonderful firework display to end the evening.
Unfortunately, I didn’t leave with a Rolex, but the whole night was great fun and the watches and jewellery on display was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
But, my week’s antics didn’t stop there. On Saturday a dear friend of mine, Lucie-Grace, hosted a Halloween-themed party to raise money for The Eve Appeal. Sadly, she lost her mum a few years ago to gynaecological cancer, so the cause is one that is close to her heart.
Held at Payhembury Village Hall, plenty of locals donated their time and efforts to help arrange the kids’ party which featured a disco, face painting, glitter tattoos and a raffle. On the day around 100 children boogied away to Michael Jackson’s Thriller and raised £300 for The Eve Appeal.
Not content with spending nearly every evening out, I showed my support by attending an emergency planning meeting held by Feniton Parish Council on Monday. Feniton, in case you are unaware, is currently one of a few East Devon villages under siege by zealous developers – and also my home.
Unfortunately, Feniton is one of the worst affected, and recently – following a failed appeal – building for 50 new homes started and now the village faces a ‘Super Inquiry’ in January, when the Planning Inspectorate will hear a case for development in three other areas – increasing the size of Feniton by 40%.
The meeting was well attended, and more than 180 residents came to ‘have their say’. It was announced on the night that Feniton Parish Council has hired the services of a legal professional to help in the fight to prevent more mass housing – at a cost of £10,000. Remarkably, following the end of the meeting there was a queue forming for villagers to pledge money towards the cause, with £2,000 being raised on that night alone.
I don’t think there can be a stronger, or clearer, message sent to the planning inspector and the developers that Feniton will fight to save its village.
It is official, Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, Lidl and an array of other festive tv adverts have found their way onto my radar – kicking off Christmas 2013!
This is the one we’ve all been waiting for…
However, not to be outdone, this magical advert from M&S is something rather spectacular…
I defy, even the grumpiest Grinch, not to raise a smile at these heartwarming offerings!
This weekend Budleigh Salterton welcomed visitors to its inaugural Food and Drink Festival, organised by Budleigh in Business.
I’m really inspired by the local towns around our corner of Devon fighting back and encouraging people to ‘Buy Local’.
This year we’ve seen the inaugural Ottery St Mary Food and Drink Festival, and next year we can look forward to the first Honiton Sausage and Cider Festival in May.
A welcome boost to the local economy and a clear display of the fighting spirit I’ve come to love from Delightful Devon!