Hele and its History
In the 19th Century the character and growth of Hele was forged by two industrial influences. Its situation on the river Culm and the existence of a grist mill made it a natural site for participation in the development and expansion of paper making. With the onset of the railways it became a centre for the collection and distribution of livestock and goods. Most of the existing buildings resulted from the success and wealth generated by these activities.
Hele embraces three Parish Councils and two District Councils within Devon County. The Hele Conservation Society was formed in 1991 by a small group of residents who were intent on ensuring that their concerns in safeguarding all aspects affecting the hamlet were taken into account at all levels in the local authority. The Society has recently undertaken a review of its constitution, one outcome of which was to re-name the Society as simply ‘The Hele Society’ to both broaden its appeal and to better reflect its aims and activities.
The Society belongs to the following organisations:
Aims of the Hele Society
- To act as a focus for interests in Hele, including community and social activities, for the benefit of all residents.
- To care for and enhance the hamlet of Hele whilst retaining its historic character.
- To promote the natural environment of the hamlet.
- To support other local community organisations
Dawn Abrahams, wife of David our Chairman and our Social Secretary, at the Devon & Somerset Gliding Club on 10th August enjoying a surprise birthday present - a flight in a glider with instructor Roly Clarke.
Deborah Phillips and Brian Carpenter of the Devon Heritage Centre visiting the station building at Hele Crossing on 26 August with David Abrahams, Margaret Shaw and Mike Leonard. The picture is one dating from the 1930s depicting the development of the printing machines at Devon Valley Mill, which the Centre will restore for the Society. The group went on to visit the Nick’s Archive in Beacon Road. In sum, a most useful and enjoyable visit.
On 11 September our Chairman received the Society’s cheque for £180 from the Chairman of Broadclyst Parish Council, Chris Pepper, and the Council Clerk, Angie Hurren at the New Inn presentation event. The money reflected the efforts made by Jo Hall and other members of the Society at the Broadclyst Fun Day in June. The Council have made a grant of £500 towards the station building project and kindly offered stall space free at the Fun Day.
At the last bi-monthly meeting of the Society on 13 September, it was announced that Network Rail has confirmed that it will not be selling the station building after all and that a long-term lease should be possible. This good news means that work can now begin in earnest to prepare its bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for money to carry out the essential repairs to the building’s roof and for trackside protection fencing to get the project going.
The meeting also took stock of the summer’s activities such as the first opening of Hele gardens in the Musical Gardens event in June, the successful coach trip to Stourhead and the AGM in July and the various working parties in different parts of the hamlet. It is also hoped to stage a joint skittles evening at Crossways Tavern with the Bradninch Twinning Association sometime in November. The next bi-monthly meeting of the Society was set for Tuesday 15th November.
The Society has been involved in many community projects to improve Hele’s environment.We have pursued road safety issues, planning policies and Local Authority Consultation Strategy Plans.
We have helped to fund the activities of other local Bradninch organizations, including the Climate Change Group, the Duchy School, the Allotment Association and the Scouts, as well as sponsoring the programme for the Musical Gardens part of the annual Music Festival. The Society also paid for the Pin Oak tree recently planted at Townlands. We have even agreed to take on the old GPO telephone box in Hele as an information centre!
Throughout the year there is a programme of meetings, talks, visits and social events to accommodate the interests of members/residents of Hele.
The Society has been very involved in work on the natural features around Hele, in association with the Environment Agency, to develop wildlife habitats, improve water quality in the River Culm, constructed a fish pass, created a copse of native trees called Weir Spinney and made an otter meander area on the river edge. Surveys were made of the otter and water vole activity while others covered hedgerows, trees which resulted in Tree Preservation Orders and footpaths which are regularly monitored
Tree planting and the Community Orchard
We have been very busy in this area over the last 18 years with some 300 trees added to many areas of the hamlet. The start was with a single copper beech in the very centre of Hele as a statement that the residents were here and willing to care for and enhance our hamlet. Later, rare Devon black poplars were planted along the river, native crab apples along the roads, and infill to the historic avenue of London Planes. A small orchard in the centre has been restored with local varieties of apples. We have recently planted road verge daffodils and placed planters on the river bridge. Our latest project was reinstating an historic line of Lombardy Poplars along Station Road.
Our activities naturally produce green waste. So, consistent with our policies, our research discovered the Community Compost Initiative run by Devon County Council. We became an early member and the scheme has been extremely successful. We started with a few bins in the Community Orchard but have since moved to a larger site at Clyst Farm in Strathculm Road. It continues to grow, taking garden waste from Hele and the surrounding areas. We have achieved award-winning compost, a reduction of material to the local landfill and an added income for the work of our Society.
The Hele Paper Mill Archive
A number of our members have an interest in researching the history of Hele. It was evident that the Paper Mill would feature significantly. The Mill supported our initiative and the Society now holds a substantial amount of archive material some of which is lodged with the Bradninch Historical Society. This had been used as a basis for books published by Paddy Nash, a historian and founder member of the Society. A venue may be found for the display of the archives which would also provide a meeting place for the Society and for the wider community in Hele.
After a somewhat quiet Spring, the Society held its last bi-monthly meeting on Tuesday 7th June and confirmed various activities planned for the next few weeks as follows:
- A working party at Hele Centre to improve the access path on Saturday 18th June.
- A further working party to replant the containers on the bridge 0n Friday 24th June.
- Running a stall at the Broadclyst Fun Day on Saturday 25th June to provide fun for both children and their parents, to raise funds and to promote the old Station Building project. The building lies within Broadclyst parish and the Broadclyst Parish Council have kindly offered a grant of £500 towards the project together with a free pitch at the Fun Day - for both of which we are most grateful.
- A coach trip to Stourhead will take place on Saturday 9th July. Please contact Dawn Abrahams on 01392 881457 for details and tickets.
- The Society will hold its Annual General Meeting and BBQ at 7pm on Saturday 30th July at 8 Hele Square, courtesy of hosts Jo & Stuart Hall. Details will be circulated to all subscribing members but new members will be welcome.
Finally, congratulations to David & Dawn Abrahams and to Jo & Stuart Hall for successfully opening up their gardens for the Musical Gardens weekend. This is the first time that Hele gardens have been included in the event. It is hoped that, after the success this time, others in Hele may be inspired to open their gardens in support of the event next year.
David Abrahams and Rick Andrews, dressed up as ’Silent Witness’ devotees in the protective gear they used whilst removing the asbestos from the inside of the old station building. A thank you to Paul Mather for supplying the suits, masks, gloves and eye shields and to Dawn Abrahams for taking the photograph. David subsequently took the three large sealed sacks to the Pinhoe recycling facility to be safely disposed of for around £10 per sack - a far better deal than the quotes from professional companies, one of which was for no less than £3,000 for carrying out virtually the same work!
The station building steering group met on Friday the 8th January to discuss the Society’s progress towards making an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant. A usual bi-monthly meeting of the Society will have taken place on Tuesday the 19th January, which will be reported on in the next issue.
The Hele Society’s AGM & Social took place later than usual this year on Saturday 26th September at Potts Hayes Farm, hosted by Paul & Louise Younger, and was blessed with dry, if somewhat cold, weather and a good attendance. Vice Chairman David Abrahams presided and gave the Chairman’s Annual Report, highlighting the events and achievements of the past year, and the soundly-managed accounts were presented by Margaret Shaw, our Treasurer.
The officers for the ensuing year were elected: Horst Blum to remain as Chairman, Paul Younger and David Abrahams to remain as joint Vice Chairmen, Gareth Shaw to take over from Margaret as Treasurer, Dianne Hollidge to stay as Secretary and with Dawn Abrahams and Jo Hall to serve as joint Social Secretaries. Thanks were extended to David for standing in for Horst so much during the last year, to all the officers, to Margaret in particular for her service as Treasurer; to Paul Younger and Jon Hollidge for their practical assistance with the station building project, to our hosts and BBQ helpers and to Barbara Crispin, who stood down as our Planning ‘consultant’.
Funding is still being pursued for a refurbishment of the old station building at Hele Crossing and volunteers are being actively sought to provide for a sufficient pool to enable composting activities to be re-started. It is hoped that the introduction of a new recycling scheme by MDDC that charges for the collection of garden waste may assist in this endeavour. in the short term, the usual first Saturday in the month working parties will continue; the next bi-monthly meeting of the Society will be on Wednesday 18th November, hopefully at the Mill, and a pre-Christmas social event will be held on Saturday 21st November, with venue and details to follow.
A joint talk to the Bradninch History Society at its AGM on Friday 10th July was given by David Abrahams on the history of Hele and the Mill and by Rick Andrews on progress so far with the old station building and the possible plans for its future development.
(photo courtesy of Mike Roach, Cornwall Railway Society)
The old Brunel station building and signal box at Hele railway crossing was built around the middle of the 19th Century. The station was known as the Hele & Bradninch Station and the sign for the signal box hangs in the Guildhall. The signal box was removed many years ago after the closure of the station and the station building has slowly become derelict since the early 1980s.
The Hele Society has been looking for somewhere as a focus for its activities and currently holds a licence from Network Rail for the potential of the building to be assessed, to make the building and its surrounds more attractive and to have a survey carried out to establish the extent of work needed to convert it ultimately into an industrial and community heritage centre to highlight the importance of both the mill and the railway in particular.
The Mill has produced paper since the late 1700s. Prior to the advent of the railway in 1844, paper products from the Mill were taken to the port of Topsham by waggon and then conveyed to London by sea. The arrival of the railway enabled coal, raw materials and agricultural produce to be distributed more easily as well as allowing people to move more freely and encouraging employment in the immediate area. Glazed paper from the Mill was used for the catalogues of the Great Exhibition in 1851, where it won a Gold Medal for the invention, and other paper was later was later produced for the first postcards in the UK; it was also instrumental in the development of watermarks for quality writing paper.
Without intervention, Network Rail, who have no use for the building, have confirmed that it will be allowed to continue to deteriorate until such time as it has to be demolished. It will therefore remain an ever worsening eyesore and, ultimately, a piece of history will be lost forever. This ‘do nothing’ is deemed unacceptable.
Much work has therefore already been carried out by volunteers to clear the inside and outside areas of the building; doors and windows are in the process of being repaired to make the building weatherproof, flowers have been planted, the large potholes in the parking area have been filled and the old signal box area covered with ballast. The Society has committed itself to provide some of its own funds and a further £900 has been granted by Devon County Council.
The initial aim is to continue to improve both the external appearance of the building and its surrounds. Expenditure will be limited, will be sustainable on a voluntary basis and will extend to arresting the further deterioration of the building. Some essential roof repairs will be required, together with proper fencing to separate the platform from the track itself, at a cost of some £15,000. Grant funding is being sought for this work. Restricting the use of the building to summer months only should allow some historical and educational display activity and the use of the building for certain events once some inside improvements are made.
The vision of a local museum/heritage centre (promoting the history of the paper mill, the railway, the cider industry, and livestock market, etc), somewhat akin to that at Whimple, would be the ultimate goal. This would involve converting the inside of the building into display and storage space of the required standard to attract the public (tourists, railway enthusiasts, local schools) and need further funding. Furthermore, volunteers would be required to lead and administer the project, to publicise and market the facility (through the local press and promotional literature), to develop displays and rotate these on a regular basis to keep them attractive to repeat visitors and to open and run the centre. This vision of a true heritage centre may prove possible in the longer term should sufficient support in terms of funding and numbers of volunteers materialize.
Unfortunately, space precludes acknowledging individuals by name but the Steering Group would like to extend a sincere thank you to all those (they know who they are!) who have contributed to the project so far.
Hele Litter Pick took place on Friday 5th June. The photo above, kindly taken by Pete Hemington, shows some of those involved, namely (l to r) Blanche Ashworth, Rick & Vicki Andrews, David Abrahams and William Parker. Jane Parr and Dawn Abrahams were so enthusiastic that they had already started!
A similar group of members, assisted this time by Gordon & the Rev Judith Wright, replanted the flower baskets on the bridge and cleared the roadside of weeds on Tuesday 9th June.Thanks also to Jo Hall for strimming the Hele Centre area and to David A and William P for replanting the flower boxes at the Centre, at the old Station Building and at the sign by Hele Cross.
Old Station Building
In May, the Society held two very positive site meetings with representatives from Network Rail regarding the roof and trackside fencing. Due to health & safety regulations, both elements of the work would have to be carried out by contractors approved by Network Rail and under the supervision of their Asset Protection department. The total cost of the work will be between £15K - £20K.
At its June meeting, the Society agreed that a sum of £1500 could be spent on the project and it was subsequently agreed with Devon Valley Mill that the Company would assist. Dawn Hall has been looking into potential sources of grant funding and these are now being pursued to see if the project would be eligible for such funding and, if so, to what extent. The minimum level of contribution needed is likely to be around 10% and there may be various conditions attached to any grant that might be forthcoming.
Our thanks to Wayne Balsdon for supplying the scalpings to repair the car parking area, to Paul Younger for using his telehandler to move and spread them and to Stuart Hall for his glazing skills to replace some of the broken windows.
January to March 2015
An active start to 2015 saw a Society bi-monthly meeting on 21st January, hosted by Rick & Vicki Andrews, at which a paper on the future of the old station building and progress ‘on the ground’ over the past few months were reviewed. This was followed by a visit to the site by surveyor, Giles Hetherington, who is now preparing a report on the building’s condition.
A series of working parties have taken place, resulting in clearance of the verges of Strathculm Road - with particular thanks to Paul Younger for the deft use of his mechanical handler, without which the task would not have been possible - further work undertaken on the station building and the flower baskets on the river bridge have been revamped for the Spring. A big thank-you to all those who helped, especially to Blanche Ashforth for single-handedly cleaning all the road signs in the area. The photos show Vice-Chairman David Abrahams and some of the gang involved on Valentine’s Day, with particular praise and thanks to Marina Neophytou from Millway in Bradninch for all her hard work.
The Society also hosted the Guildhall Coffee Morning on Saturday 21st February, the success of which will be reported upon next time.
The next working party is planned for Saturday 14th March at the old station building. Volunteers are always welcome!
The next bi-monthly meeting of the Society will be at 7.30pm on Wednesday 18th March, the venue being, provisionally, in the Boardroom at Devon Valley’s Hele Mill.
2014 AGM & BBQ
The Society’s Annual General Meeting and Social took place on Saturday 12th July at Hele Payne Farm, kindly hosted by Roger and Sally Maynard. Given the poor weather forecast, the event was rightly held indoors but with no detriment to the function or success of the evening. Our Chairman for the past three years, David Abrahams, stood down in accordance with our Constitution and was congratulated and thanked for his contribution to the Society during the period of his tenure. Horst Blum was duly elected as the new Chairman with Paul Younger to continue as Vice Chairman. Margaret Shaw and Dianne Hollidge agreed to continue as Treasurer and Secretary respectively. Paul Mather, full of good ideas, has volunteered to take on the mantle of Social Secretary from Dawn Abrahams, who stood down after having organized our social calendar so successfully for the past few years.
The Old station Building
Volunteers have continued to improve the appearance of the building and its surrounds by doing a lot of weeding and providing two hanging baskets. We look forward to the delivery of ballast from Network Rail, which will help with both the car parking area and the piece of ground in front of the flower trough. Thanks to those helpers who continue to work so hard.
Working Parties will continue on the first Saturdays in September (6 Sep) and October (4 Oct) at the usual times of 2 - 4pm at the old Station Building.
The Litter Pick on the evening of Thursday 19th June was well-supported and, although the amount of litter was encouragingly less than on previous occasions, the exercise was still worthwhile. Again, thank you to those who took part.
Visit to RHS Rosemoor
A visit to the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens at Rosemoor took place on Saturday 28th June. Some two dozen took advantage of the coach trip and group entry fee and enjoyed a fabulous day of weather, an excellent lunch and the opportunity to see the lovely gardens. Apparently it had rained hard for much of the day back here!
80th Birthday Dinner for John Parker
On Friday 4th June the old (?!) composting team took the ever-youthful John Parker out to The New Inn at Broadclyst for a celebration birthday dinner. It was particularly good to be able to welcome back Gerald Hutchings into the fold. The food and service were splendid – a really enjoyable evening.
It is with great sadness that we must report the passing of Bob Nash, an ex-Chairman and Founder Member of the Society. Our sincere condolences go to Paddy and to Clare and John and their families. Funeral details will be sent to Society members and a fuller obituary will be published in due course.
The Old station Building
A most positive meeting of the project Steering Group with Network Rail took place on-site on Friday 6th June. Network Rail will provide more ballast for repairing the car parking area and to level the outside area within the compound. We also obtained clarification of our freedom to carry out other work on the building and its surrounds. Working Groups on the 7th and 11th June completed the flower trough. Clare Nash has produced an excellent painting of the building as it may one day look, to enable greater promotion of the project. This artist’s impression was fully sponsored by Barry Bryant, originally from Hele.
Our thanks to William Parker for strimming the Centre and Community Orchard - a most worthwhile effort, much appreciated.
Bridge Flower Baskets
A Working Party re-planted the bridge flower baskets on Thursday 12th June and cleared the weeds from over the bridge. The approach to Hele and Bradninch has been much enhanced by our work and was even complimented by some passing drivers!
A Litter Pick was organized for the evening of Thursday 19th June which will be reported in the next issue.
Visit to RHS Rosemoor
A visit to the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens at JohnParkerBDay Rosemoor took place on Saturday 28th June. A proper report will be given in the next issue.
We are delighted that Horst Blum, the General Manger of Devon Valley Mill and a Vice Chairman of the Society, has agreed to take on the mantle of Chairman. The appointment should be confirmed at the AGM.
Two congratulations to Society members to begin with: to John Parker on achieving his 80th birthday on Thursday 15th May and to Rick Andrews on becoming Chairman of the Town Council and Mayor of Bradninch on Monday 12th May. Well done to both!
The Old station Building
Good progress this month by the Old Station Building Working Party ‘team’ in getting the area cleared up and a large trough constructed for a floral display. The photo above shows Jon Hollidge, David Abrahams and William Parker at work with Sue Leach in the background, who, with husband Bob, had generously donated the sleepers.
The Society has commissioned Clare Nash to create an artist’s impression of what the building could look like in the future if the project is able to go aheadJohnParkerBDay. The picture will be fully sponsored by Mr Barry Bryant, a railway enthusiast from Kent, who used to live in the ‘old’ Hele Square.
The next meeting of the project Steering Group, with Network Rail, will take place on-site on Friday 6th June at 11am.
Visit by Sylvia Pratt
The photo below shows Mrs Sylvia Pratt with our Chairman, David Abrahams, discussing the history of the hamlet whilst looking at books written by local historian, Mrs Paddy Nash. Sylvia, was re-visiting Hele with her daughter, Genevieve Samson, last month for the first time since having lived here at No1 ‘Old’ Hele Square as a wartime evacuee during WW2! She commented that, as she was only 5 to 10 years old at the time and is now 80 years young, she would hardly have recognized Hele as it is now!
Old Station Building
The idea of utilizing the old station building as a heritage centre came from a Society member. This was raised with Network Rail, which has agreed in principle and granted the Society a licence to enable it to have access and have a proper survey conducted. A Health & Safety assessment has been carried out and the advice sought from the successful Heritage Centre at Whimple, the committee of which have been most forthcoming and helpful. Interest in collaborating on the project has been expressed by both Bradninch History Society and the Exeter O-Gauge Guild. An initial Steering Group has formed with the help of Simon Tytherleigh to undertake a Feasibility Study and, in due course, to prepare a Business Plan. It is evident, however, that the Society will not be able to progress the idea, let alone run such a venture into the future, without wider community support. If you would like to be involved in the project, then please put yourself forward by contacting David Abrahams (details above), in the first instance.
Various activities have occurred since the report in the last issue. The Guildhall Coffee Morning on Saturday 22nd February raised £112 and thanks go to all who contributed. There has also been a very worthwhile visit to the Heritage Centre at Whimple by the Station Building Steering Group on Thursday 27th February. The members of the committee there provided the Group with information on how they formed, developed the Centre and now manage the running of it. They were also most helpful and forthcoming with advice on how we might be able to do something similar. We would like to express our gratitude and appreciation for the time they devoted to us. A working group at Hele Centre on the 15th March installed a new table and seats and we were delighted to see Edwin Hannabus looking so well after his operation. Last but not least, the Society held one of its usual bi-monthly meetings on Wednesday 19th March, hosted by John & Sandra Parker, at which we were pleased to welcome our newest member, Mrs Blanche Ashforth.
In addition to the old telephone exchange and the proposed development at the Mill, the Society has supported the application to build a boarding cattery at Strathculm Lodge and has been informed of the proposed solar farm near The Merry Harriers. It has also been made aware of the MDDC Local Plan, how it will affect Bradninch and the implications depending on the choice of which motorway junction (27 or 28) is eventually selected for development.
Interference with the Water Supply
After numerous residents experienced temporary drops in mains water pressure and interruption of supply during the early evening over the past few weeks, South West Water have discovered the reason. Apparently, the fire hydrant close to the railway crossing has been used by a contractor to refill the water tank of a large road planer at the end of each day’s work. This constitutes ‘theft’ and the culprit may face legal action from the water authority. At least we shouldn’t experience the same problem again!
Compost Clearance Sale
From stock at Mulberry View, Station Road, Hele. 25kg bags only £2. For details please ring John Parker on 01392 881570.
Bob & Paddy Nash to the rescue! As David & Dawn had to postpone using their home as the venue for the Christmas party due to David's operation, Bob & Paddy kindly offered to host the party at Strathculm Court. Same date and time - 7.30pm onwards on Friday 20th December. The Society provided the drinks for members, who were asked to contribute with a savoury or sweet dish. The party was a great success and a vote of thanks was given to Bob and Paddy for stepping into the breach at short notice.
The Society hosted an enjoyable skittles evening with Bradninch Gardening Club at Crossways Tavern on Saturday 2nd November. The photo is of Martin Beed of the Gardening Club, the evening’s ‘killer’ skittles competition champion. Congratulations Martin! Our thanks go to Dawn Abrahams for organizing the event, the Gardening Club for their strong support and to all those Society members who contributed food and raffle prizes.
I reported in the last issue the good news that Bob & Paddy Nash of Strathculm Court had offered land for a new site on Strathculm Road. Unfortunately, the site proved unacceptable but our sincere thanks go to Bob & Paddy for their most generous offer.
We are now pursuing the possibility of another local site, so continue to watch this space! Sadly, Clare Nash will not now be able to take over the lead our composting enterprise - any volunteers?
The work to vacate our existing site was completed on time to meet the deadline of 16th November. Thanks again to Elliott Harvey for the use of the site these past few years and thanks also to the composting ‘team’, including John & William Parker, Edwin Hannabus and Pete Lucy for all their hard work, as well as to Margaret & Gareth Shaw for continuing to provide the most welcome refreshments to the ‘gang’.
Unfortunately, our discussions with the National Trust at Killerton about possible locations for a new compost site eventually came to nothing. In order align="center" to help clear the existing site by 16th November, more frequent working parties will go ahead on an ad hoc basis between now and then, in addition to those held on the first Saturday of each month as normal.
The good news is that Bob & Paddy Nash of Strathculm Court have offered land for a new site on Strathculm Road and have already had the idea approved in principle by both the DCC Community Composting and Environment Agency organizations. A go-ahead is now subject to the agreement of neighbours and the DCC Highways Department. This is a most generous and unexpected development. Watch this space!
In the meantime, the Society would like to record its sincere thanks to Elliott Harvey for providing the existing site for so many years at no cost. Both the members and other users of the site are most appreciative and we wish Elliott every success with his house-building project.
Local News Roundup
Unfortunately, two of our members, Vicki Andrews and Jon Hollidge have suffered back injuries recently. Both wish to express their thanks for all the ‘get well’ messages they have received and we do hope that they will both make full and speedy recoveries. We also wish David Abrahams a a similar full and speedy recovery from his operation before Christmas.
A Planning Application has been submitted to MDDC in respect of the old and largely disused building next to the telephone exchange on Strathculm Road. The design includes the construction of a second floor to the existing property to turn it into an attractive and practical home. The Town Council support the application which it is hoped will be approved, providing a welcome additional dwelling within the hamlet.
Network Rail has completed the safety fencing work needed around the old station building. The fencing is a pre-requisite before we can go ahead with having a proper survey conducted to see if the building could be converted into some sort of (possibly joint?) heritage centre. A Health & Safety briefing for Society members was undertaken by Mike Franklin of Network Rail on Monday 9th December for which Jon Hollidge had prepared a comprehensive risk assessment.
The flower baskets on the Station road bridge and the flower trough at Hele Centre were re-planted by a working party on Saturday 14th December. David Abrahams daringly retrieves an errant basket from the River Culm:
Congratulations to Dawn (and Peter!) Hall, our Secretary, on being able to look forward to a new arrival in February! Our sincere thanks go to her for acting as Secretary for the past couple of years.
Congratulations also to Sarah Abrahams on her graduation in journalism from Southampton University this summer. Sarah has already contributed to the Devon Life magazine.
Salvete: We extend a very warm welcome to John & Diane who joined the Society recently and who have moved into Strathculm Lodge. John is ex-Royal Air Force and has his own chimney sweeping business; Diane is a senior theatre nurse in Exeter. We wish them both a long and happy association with Hele. Indeed, Diane has already volunteered to take over the task of Secretary of the Society from Dawn Hall – now that’s commitment to the community!
We also extend valedictory best wishes to Bill & Jenny of 3 Jasmine Cottages as they leave Hele (October 2013) for the sunny climes of Spain. Please do keep in touch!
Paddy Nash, our local historian, has published another booklet to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the building of Strathculm House. Available from the Spar or direct, the booklet concentrates on the people who have lived in the property over the years and should prove fascinating to those who live locally.
Visit to Hestercombe Gardens
On Saturday 22nd June, the Society visited the well known gardens at Herstercombe, just North of Tiverton. Some twenty members attended and enjoyed a splendid day. Definitely a place worth visiting, if you haven’t yet been. Thanks to Dawn Abrahams for organizing the outstanding trip.
2013 AGM & Social
The Society’s AGM & BBQ Social was held on Saturday 27th July at Pottshayes Farm, courtesy of Paul & Louise Younger. Despite the rain, the occasion was a great success. The incumbent officers were re-elected. Thanks to all who attended and contributed.
Having been short-listed for one of the Community and Recycling awards by Devon County Council, it is with great pleasure that we can announce that John Parker was awarded the overall prize at an awards’ lunch in County Hall on 31st January. The picture shows John being presented with his well-deserved award – an engraved goblet - at the ceremony.
The usual bi-monthly meeting of the Society took place on Wednesday 30th January, at which various matters were discussed. These included progress on highways issues, the recent planning application for a development of three houses by the mill and our future programme of activities.
A most worthwhile working party was conducted at Hele Centre on Saturday 9th February.
Quiz Night: A thoroughly enjoyable evening took place on Wednesday 20th February in the Guildhall, when the Bradninch Gardening Club challenged the Society to a Quiz Night. Whilst the result was a close (very close!) victory for the Society (well done to those taking part!), the real congratulations must go to Martyn Beed and his Gardening Club team for their efforts in organizing and hosting such a splendid event. Particular praise must go to Roger Mortimer for the outstanding job he made of being QuestionMaster and to Diane Beed & Jenny Morby for the fabulous spread of food. Thanks to all those involved in making the evening such a success.
Coffee Morning: The Society ran the weekly Saturday morning event in the Guildhall on the 23rd February, which made a gross profit of some £168.01! A sincere thanks go to all those who helped or contributed.
Success! After two accidents in three years, our campaign for a new and proper drainage system on Strathculm Road has at last borne fruit. The project was recently completed by Devon County Council and is most welcome. We must now hope that Mid Devon District Council, which deals with road sweeping within 30mph areas, will ensure that it meets its responsibility to prevent the new drains from getting blocked, particularly with the onset of autumn, and we have asked Councillor John Berry to pursue this.
Chairman's 65th Birthday
A surprise 65th birthday party for our Chairman and popular local figure, David Abrahams, was organized by his wife and daughter on Sunday 16th September in Hele Square. Recently-retired, David arrived off the bus to be greeted by enthusiastic applause from some 40 - 50 friends and residents, having had no inkling of what had been arranged for him. The many cards and gifts included a bag of compost presented by John Parker on behalf of the Society! The party and BBQ that followed went on well into the evening – a fitting celebration for our newest Hele-born OAP!
The Chairman, David Abrahams, reiterated the Aims of the Society and summarized its work over the past twelve months which included the underpinning composting activity, a litter pick, various social events, bi-monthly meetings, talks and providing help with the Jubilee beacon. Visits were also undertaken to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, the Heritage Centre at Whimple and the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The telephone box information centre was completed and formally opened and other work was carried out within the hamlet. Representations were made to DCC and MDDC highways departments and help given to the Charwell Wetlands, including part sponsorship of the Jubilee Oak tree.
The Treasurer, Margaret Shaw, presented the healthy state of the accounts, with some £849 having been granted to other local organizations including £500 to St Disen’s Hall, £120 to the Duchy Pre-School, £100 towards the Musical Gardens event in support of the Music Festival and £40 to the Gardening Club. Thanks were also given to Devon Valley Mill for their generous sponsorship of the telephone box.
The Chairman thanked all those who had individually contributed to the Society over the course of the year as well as those who had supported the evening. Special thanks and praise were given to John Parker for his efforts on the composting side which had generated over £2700 in income, to Professor Sue Braun, one of the founders of the Society, for her donation of £50 when visiting recently from her present home in Canada, to Elliott Harvey for continuing to provide the land for the compost site and to Jane Parr, who was standing down after three years as Secretary.
The annual elections saw David re-elected as Chairman, Margaret Shaw likewise as Treasurer and Dawn Hall as the new Secretary. Paul Younger and Horst Blum were also re-elected as Vice-Chairmen. All incumbents of the different Working Groups agreed to continue to serve for the next year.
Following the AGM, the BBQ proved a great success, giving members new and old the chance to meet and enjoy the excellent hospitality.
The Society extends its best wishes to Barbara Crispin for a full and speedy recovery from her recent operation.
St Disen's Flower Festival
The litter pick and bi-monthly meeting on Wednesday 30th May were both well-supported, the latter being held at Crossways Tavern allowing those who had taken part in the litter pick to be rewarded with a well-earned drink!
The Society provided assistance with the building, running and clear-up of the successful Jubilee Beacon event and again sponsored the programme for the Musical Gardens, the proceeds of which are in aid of the annual Bradninch Music Festival.
Visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan
At the last bi-monthly meeting of the Society on Wednesday 28th March, two important charitable grants to Bradninch causes were approved in response to appeals from members. The first was to the Pre-School Playgroup (appellant – Nicky Mather) for the nett proceeds of our last Guildhall coffee morning, expected to be in the region of £125. The second grant was made to the St Disen’s Hall renovation project (appellant – Gordon Wright) for the sum of £500.
Telephone Box Information Centre
Mr Blum, the General Manager & Director of Devon Valley Mill, performed the ribbon-cutting ceremony on behalf of the Purico Group, the owners of the Mill, who generously sponsored the renovation project. Mr David Abrahams, the Chairman of the Society, gave the vote of thanks, highlighting the background to the project and thanking all those who had contributed to its completion, including Mr Stuart Hall and Mr Mark Hill, who had carried out the technical work and sign writing respectively.
As can be seen, the weather on the day was perfect, the turnout excellent and the occasion was duly celebrated with a drop of the sparkling stuff! A plaque commemorating the event is also pictured.
The box will be managed by our local historian and author, Mrs Paddy Nash, and contains useful maps, items of community interest and bus timetables, together with information about local businesses and the Society. It will be updated frequently and will be the place to look for details of forthcoming events, being complementary to this website.
Looking back to the latter part of 2011, the Society held a successful Skittles & Social Evening at Crossways Tavern on Saturday 3rd December and a number of members attended the re-opening of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter on Thursday 15th December.
More recently, and in addition to the usual composting working group on Saturday 7th January, a working party did a sterling job on Hele Centre on the Saturdays of 14th & 21st January. The footpath between Hele and Bradninch by the railway was also cleared of overgrown branches to make it passable. Thanks to those who took part.
Some of you will have seen the progress made by volunteers with renovating the telephone box, now fully re-painted and with its new signs fitted – see photo. Although already functioning as such, there is still some work to be done to complete the project, after which there will be a formal opening of the box as our local information centre. Do have a look when passing. The content will be changed regularly and currently includes information about the Society, forthcoming events, maps and bus timetables plus a selection of useful leaflets on various topics, for example, on local walks. An interim ‘thank you’ goes to those who have been involved, as well as to Devon Valley Mill for sponsoring the work and to Paddy Nash, who is looking after the content.
A most interesting and well-supported talk on the re-opening of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Queen Street, Exeter was given to Society members and a number of non-members by Mr Simon Tootell on Monday 7th November at the Crossways Tavern, Station Road, Hele. The re-opening of the museum on Thursday 15th December follows a three-year, multi-million pound redevelopment. Simon’s illustrated presentation charted the refurbishment programme and gave an insight into the exciting new exhibitions and series of events that visitors can expect. The Society plans to attend the re-opening, either as an organized visit or on an individual member basis. More details can be found on the museum’s website (www.exeter.gov.uk/RAMM) or in the Execite magazine (Issue 82 - page 3).
The Society’s thanks also go to Dr Tim and Caroline Harlow of Whitley House, Hele Cross for their open day on Saturday 12th November when members were treated to a privileged tour of the property and its remarkable gardens. Tim and Caroline have sold the house and will shortly be moving into Exeter. We thank them for their support and wish them well for their move and in their new home.
At the bi-monthly meeting of the Society on Wednesday 28th September, Nicky Mather proposed a fresh and most welcome programme of childrens’ events starting with a ‘Trick or Treat’ evening on Sunday 30th October between 4 – 6pm, details of which have been delivered to residents by letter. Future events were scheduled and are set out in the forecast below.
Since the meeting, work has progressed with the telephone box project. The inside is now complete, having been cleaned and re-painted by Rick Andrews and there is now a new information display cabinet. Thanks also go to Paddy Nash for producing a special large scale map and aerial photo of the hamlet and its surroundings and to Gordon Wright, Peter Hall, David Abrahams, John Parker and Edwin Hannabus for starting the painting of the outside of the box.
An extremely fruitful meeting between our Chairman, David Abrahams and ex-Chairman Rick Andrews with the Devon County Council Highways Neighbourhood Team Leader from Tiverton, Mr David Fergie, took place on Thursday 13th October when a number of issues were discussed. These ranged from general repair and maintenance, winter preparedness, drainage problems on Strathculm Road and signposting to footpaths and tree replacement at Hele Cross. We hope that progress will be forthcoming on all these concerns. We have also chased the provision of a sign for Hele Square through Bradninch Town Council.
The replenishment of the flower baskets on the bridge and a re-painting of the bench and table at Hele Square were carried out by Society volunteers on Saturday 15th October.
2011 AGM & Social
Saturday 30th July saw the 20th Annual General Meeting of the Society held at Crossways Tavern. The Chairman, Rick Andrews welcomed those present, in particular the Mayor of Bradninch, Councillor Jane Webber.
After the initial procedural agenda items, Gareth Shaw, the outgoing Treasurer, explained the accounts, reporting another year of sound finances based largely on our composting activities and highlighting the numerous charitable donations made. Thanks were extended to both Gareth, standing down due to his increased commitments at the University, and to Barbara Crispin for again auditing the accounts.
The Chairman then reiterated the Aims of the Society before reviewing the plethora of events, activities and achievements of the past 12 months, relating them to their respective Aims and thanking those responsible for each. Standing down after three years in accordance with the Constitution, Rick thanked everyone for their support during his tenure of office and expressed his satisfaction with the Society’s position in terms of its finances, increased membership and its relevance to both the immediate and wider parish communities – a view subsequently echoed by the Mayor, who complimented the Society on its positive and valuable contribution to the fabric of the community.
The Committee for the forthcoming year was then elected, with Jane Parr remaining as Secretary and Margaret Shaw becoming Treasurer. David Abrahams assumes the role of Chairman with Paul Younger and Horst Blum taking on that of Vice-Chairman in a joint capacity. Our thanks go to both the new incumbents for agreeing to take on their respective appointments and to those standing down for their previous work.
The meeting concluded with the lead personalities of the various Working Groups being confirmed, along with diary dates for August and September. Finally, the Society extends a warm welcome to its two newest members, Peter Harner and Helen Roden, of No 3 Hele Square.
The thanks of those present go to both Sheila Mason and her staff for the excellent and most attractive buffet and to Dawn Abrahams for her organization of the evening.
|The highlight of the past month or so was the Farm Visit to Pottshayes Farm, courtesy of Paul & Louise Younger, on Sunday 12th June.|
|With undampened spirits despite the inclement weather, the event saw a turnout of nearly 50 gather for a conducted tour of the farm, followed by a wonderful hog roast in the barn to which everybody contributed. The fascinating tour was led by Paul, who explained the history and workings of the business, as well as pointing out the site of an ancient settlement and the various environmentally friendly features incorporated into the farm’s management. A splendid idea, with a great mix of people and excellently organized, the day also raised some £215 for the local branch of the St John Ambulance and the famous Eye Hospital in Jerusalem. The photos also show toddler Blair, who stole the show by being able to sleep soundly throughout the tour whilst being joggled round the fields on his trike and Dr Tim Harlow giving a preview of his unicycle marathon taking place the following week to raise money for the new Hospiscare Day Centre in Tiverton.|
Royal Wedding Party
|The photo shows the Revd Judith Wright and Devon Valley Mill General Manager, Horst Blum, enjoying the Royal Wedding Street Party held in Hele Square on Friday 29th April. The event, organized by Nicky Mather and Katie Mazurek, proved to be a great success and lasted until late in the evening. Some 60+ residents and friends took part with everybody making their own individual contribution to the day.|
Local historian and author Paddy Nash gave her illustrated talk entitled ‘Hele from 2011 to 1066’ to an audience of some 33 Society members, guests, members of both Bradninch and Broadclyst History societies and other interested individuals at Crossways Tavern on Monday 21st March. Unusually moving counter-chronologically back through time, Paddy provided us with a well-researched, informative and fascinating insight into Hele’s history from the present day, through its heyday of the arrival of the railway and development of paper-making at the mill around 150 years ago and right back to the hamlet’s entry in the Domesday Book. Paddy afterwards answered questions and also signed copies of her new book ‘Hidden History in the Landscape’.
A very successful social evening was held at Crossways Tavern on Saturday 19th February, attended by 31 members plus children. The photo is of Terry Inwood and Dawn Hall, winner and runner-up respectively of the evening’s skittles competition, in which our new vicar, the Revd Judith Wright, claimed third place. The other photograph shows the evening’s organizer, Dawn Abrahams and her sister Gaye, visiting from Spain, together with Paul Mather during the draw, which raised £44. In addition to the skittles competition and draw, a meal-in-a-basket buffet supper was enjoyed by those taking part. A donation of £50 was made to the Radio Devon Devon Air Ambulance appeal. Our thanks to those who helped run the evening and to those who contributed so generously with draw prizes.
Visit to Hele Mill
On Saturday 13th November some 27 members and non-members of the Society were privileged to be able to visit Devon Valley Mill in Hele, courtesy of member Horst Blum the General Manager.
After a fascinating introductory talk by Horst, the group was given a conducted tour of the production facilities. With pulp imported from the Philippines, Sweden and Finland, paper is made for laminates, as well as for tea bags, coffee filters and sausage casings – all to full human food standards – before being exported to various countries including the USA, many destinations within Europe and even China.
As one of only two manufacturers of the special paper involved, it is interesting to think that, wherever you might be in the world, there is a 50:50 chance that the processed or smoked sausage you are eating will be encased in paper made just down the road in Hele!
A truly enlightening and enjoyable visit appreciated by everyone who attended. Thank you again to Horst and his colleagues for such a remarkable opportunity.
Talk by Dr Neil Rushton
A stunning and highly enjoyable illustrated presentation was given by local doctor, Dr Neil Rushton, to a Society audience at the Crossways Tavern on Monday 25th October.
The talk covered his exploits in aid of charity last year, which included mountaineering in the Himalayas – the main topic of his presentation, trekking in Scotland, a cycle journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats and a rowing expedition up the River Thames – some feats indeed!
Dr Neil raised some £11,000 for a cancer charity in memory of his late wife and the evening raised further funds to this end.
The photograph shows the Chairman presenting Dr Neil with a cheque from the Society. Dr Neil had only just returned from climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, about which he has kindly agreed to speak on another occasion, perhaps in the Spring. We look forward to welcoming him back.
2010 AGM & BBQ
A fine evening, combined with an excellent turnout of almost 40 led to a successful and enjoyable Annual General Meeting and barbecue held at The Coach House, Strathculm Road on Saturday 31st July.
The Chairman, Rick Andrews, opened the meeting by welcoming those present, in particular the Mayor of Bradninch, Councillor George Bryant, and thanking all those who had contributed to the BBQ, especially to Paul and Louise Younger who provided their splendid sausages at cost and Veyseys butchers of Cullompton who supplied their excellent burgers at a special price.
All the committee officers were re-elected and, during the proceedings, the Treasurer, Professor Gareth Shaw, reported that the Society’s finances - based to a very large extent on the composting efforts of John Parker and his team of volunteers - were in good order and that membership had increased dramatically. In his report, the Chairman commented on the recent review of the Society, the number and variety of activities held and the level of support given to other local organizations. He concluded by saying that he hoped everyone felt that the Society was relevant, active and beneficial to the community, both within the hamlet of Hele and the wider parish of Bradninch of which it was an integral part.
Exeter Historical Tour
Blessed with a beautiful summer’s evening on Wednesday 21st July, members of the Society were treated to a fascinating historical walking tour of Exeter city led by Professor Gareth Shaw of Exeter University, the Society’s Treasurer. Gareth traced the development of the city from pre-historic times, through the Roman, Saxon and medieval periods and on up, through the Georgian, to WW2 and the present day. Emphasising the influence of the four main players on the city – the church, the merchants, the Courtney family and the monarchy, Gareth brought the history to life. The tour was concluded at The Prospect Inn down by the river. A couple of hours are, of course, not enough to cover the ground, either historically or geographically, and Gareth has offered to lead a further Exeter tour in due course and even one in Plymouth, should the demand be there. The attached photograph shows some of the group in the cathedral close.
A really well-attended (no less than 39 adults and 6 children!) barbecue to welcome both new residents to the hamlet and to the Society was held on Saturday 19th June in the lovely garden of Strathculm East, the home of Paul and Nicky Mather. With plenty of excellent food and drink, and blessed with good weather, all agreed that the event went off splendidly. Thanks to Paul and Nicky for acting as hosts at short notice and to everyone who contributed to the evening.
Display at St. Disen's Church
The Society was also pleased to provide a display as part of the flower festival in St Disen’s church over the Music Festival weekend. The theme chosen was ‘Hele Square Past and Present’ and included both a beautiful arrangement of wild flowers as well as items highlighting the composting activities of the group. Thanks go to Lyn Lucey, John Parker, David Abrahams and Paddy Nash for producing such a varied, interesting and visually attractive display.
Eden Project Visit
The photograph shows the group of 26 Society members and friends who, on Saturday 8th May visited the Eden Project.
It was unanimously agreed that the Project made for a truly remarkable and inspiring experience and that the trip had been most successful and thoroughly enjoyable.
Thanks to Dawn Abrahams for doing an outstanding job of organizing the event. Various ideas for visits to other interesting places, such as Chelsea Flower Show next year, have already been put forward – watch this space!
Behind the Plaque
Many of our readers will be familiar with the thatched roof bus shelter at the top of Fore Street and the commemorative plaque to Alan Leslie Stooke-Hallett - but how many know anything about that person? We decided to do some research to try and answer that question, particularly topical as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
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