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Mayors News

Tarka Valley Railway 150th Anniversary open weekend

I was invited to attend the Tarka Valley Railway 150th Anniversary open weekend which was opened on Saturday 6th August 2022 by Cllr Andrew Saywell from Devon County Council. Following the official opening myself, Cllr Saywell (DCC) and Cllr Michael Ireland (Okehampton Town Council & Chair of Okerail) accompanied John Puddy (Chair of Freshspring Trust) on his miniature traction engine along the Tarka Trail to Bideford Station. There we were met by Cllr Jude Gubb (the Mayor of Bideford) who joined us on the return journey to Torrington Station.

The weather was beautiful for our journey and we met many people along the way who were no doubt surprised to see the unusual traffic coming towards them.

Mayors August Crier Article

Following an incredibly busy May and early June, life has returned to some semblance of normality!

In June I was very happy to accompany Councillor Jude Gunn, The Mayor of Bideford to the Ceremony of flag raising on Armed Forces Day in Victoria Park. Councillor Doug Bushby Chair of TDC and several Torridge District Councillors were also in attendance.

The second meeting of Torrington Together since the lifting of restrictions at the end of June was a great success. We heard from speakers representing Torrington in Bloom, Tarka Valley Railway, RHS Rosemoor, Torrington Silver Band, Cavaliers and many more. The evening was well attended, and as always, it was great to hear updates from various organisations across the town. We are very fortunate to have so many volunteers working hard in the community!

The Town Council along with the town was very sad to hear of the death of Dr Harry Cramp MBE. Harry was a long-serving councillor, thrice Mayor and a Freeman of the town. Many people remember him fondly as their GP, and stories of Harry abound. I was privileged to spend a morning with him earlier this year on the day before his 90th birthday, when we had a couple of hours of laughter and exchanged tales of travel

The day of Harry’s funeral saw a packed St Michael’s and all Angels church where the congregation gathered to pay their final respects and celebrate Harry’s amazing life whilst mourning his passing. A much loved and respected local legend! On the day, someone commented that the church was about the safest place to have a medical emergency, as there were so many doctors under the one roof, either Harry’s offspring, or former colleagues. Family and friends gathered in the Town Hall after the service for the ‘Wake’.

Brian Wood’s unexpected death came just a couple of days after Harry’s funeral. A loss of yet another local character! Brian was a former Mace Bearer for the Town Council as well as having worked in the town, keeping it tidy. Brian will be sorely missed within the community and our condolences go to Brian’s family and friends.

One of my Charities this year is The Devon Air Ambulance who held an Open Day at Bideford Rugby Club during one of our mini heatwaves. Luckily our Local Ice Cream van was in attendance and performed magical restorative powers to many in need. The Helicopter is a regular visitor to our skies, and only a day or so before this event, one had responded to a call by landing in Torrington Football Club Ground. Many people don’t realise that the Air Ambulance is financed solely by public donations. I would therefore encourage any donations to be made if you are able.

At the time of writing this article the community was experiencing a number of serious incidents in our normally tranquil town. A couple of thefts, anti-social behaviour and serious incidents of arson had been reported, all of which were extremely upsetting and dangerous.

The Council has limited Powers, but in response to this spate of incidents, has arranged a meeting between a number of agencies who do have influence, and include the Police, Torridge District Council, GTS and the Fire Service in an attempt to facilitate a coordinated community response. The Town Council is incredibly shocked and saddened by these events and hope that we can work together as a community to ensure that all matters are dealt with appropriately and for restoration of a sense of calm within our midst.

On a brighter note, as I write, we are in the middle of a heatwave, so please do be conscious of the dangers to vulnerable people and animals. Pavements are blisteringly hot, and paws are very susceptible to burning… Enjoy the weather, but be vigilant.

Ellie Allin – 100th Birthday celebration

I was very honoured to be asked to visit Ellie Allin at Castle House Nursing Home on Tuesday 19th July 2022 to present her with a card and flowers for her 100th birthday. I was lucky to be able to spend time speaking with Ellie about her life and to meet some of her family who were also in attendance – what a tremendous milestone – the party was in full swing when I arrived! Ellie was delighted to have received her card from the Queen which has pride of place amongst her many other cards and gifts.

Holsworthy’s Pretty Maid Ceremony

The Deputy Mayor, Cllr Keeley Allin, attended Holsworthy’s Pretty Maid Ceremony on Wednesday 6th July, she said “I’ve attended the event many times before but it was once again lovely to visit Holsworthy and see their wonderful tradition brought back after Covid. We were able to take time to explore the town and look around the shops and it was also lovely to catch up with fellow chain gang members and find out how their own years of service were going so far. I want to thank the St Peters Fair Committee to such a great day and for Holsworthy Town council for their invite and hospitality”.

Mayors July Crier Article

I am pleased to say that at this year’s Annual Business meeting, I was re-elected as your Mayor for a second year. I was very honoured by the confidence councillors showed in me, and look forward to another even busier term of office now the Covid restrictions are easing. As a number of people have remarked, with only a single year in office it is difficult to come to terms with all that is involved in the role.

The Town’s historic Bowling club had beautiful weather for its open day, and I dropped in to find a good turnout already enjoying the event. Having never set foot on a green, I was reluctant to launch myself into a new sport, so I graciously left it to the experts to amaze us with their skills!

Even in the summer months our cars are expert at gathering dust and grime, so the Fire Station Carwash was high on my go-to list. Thanks to the crews who polished up their skills on so many local cars, and I trust they raised plenty of funds for the Firefighter’s Charity.

Mayor Making is the formal Civic Ceremony which makes public the Mayoral election results. Representatives of many local organisations attend, as well as Mayors from surrounding towns. I was graced by the presence of my niece Gill who acted as my Consort for the evening, and my son Gary with his partner Becks along with my cousin David to complete my family’s representation. During the ceremony I was privileged to hand over two cheques for £750 to my Mayor’s Charity fund beneficiaries: North Devon Hospice and Tarka Valley Railway. The Mayor’s Good Citizen award was presented to Tobias Kennedy Matthews for his outstanding charitable services to the town, and The Howe Plate to a very deserving Shirley Bere for the various ways she serves our community at the Bickford Centre, the Foodbank and many other areas of community life. My Retiring Mayor’s Cadet was Jack Pledger, and I welcomed this Year’s Mayor’s cadet L/cpl Roy A special award went to Chris Allen following his retirement from Torridge District Council and his tireless work in keeping our town clean and tidy.

Two Days later, Her Majesty’s Jubilee Proclamation was read by the Town Crier outside the Town Hall. Later that same day I was proud to declare the opening of the new Commons Conservators children’s play area at the Old Bowling Green. That day was also the 10th anniversary of the Boxing Club in the Social Club which I was delighted to visit briefly.  Throughout the same day the Cavaliers showed us what they are made of yet again when they hosted their Jubilee Fun Day at the Old Bowling Green which culminated with the Piper, Stuart Gisbey, and Bugler, our own Nick Megson proclaiming the extraordinary culmination of our Queen’s Reign by heralding the lighting of the Town Beacon and another amazing Firework Display. Special thanks to the Cavaliers for organising the Beacon and fireworks as well as the whole fun day.

Saturday’s events continued with a stirring lunchtime Organ recital in St Michael’s, followed by the Torrington Roscoff Exchange Group’s petanque match followed by a lovely Cream Tea (Jam on top!) in Castle Gardens. Despite rain the spirits weren’t dampened, and the afternoon was enjoyed by all.   That evening our incomparable Silver Band’s Concert in their Hall was a resounding success, with the hall packed out. With Union Jacks waving everywhere, the Jubilee theme got us all singing along, and the band did us proud as always.

The Street Picnic on Sunday had been anticipated for ages, but the weather didn’t exactly play ball. Anticipating a wet day, the Town Hall came into its own, and was bulging at the seams with every available room pressed into service. Rob Pudner and his accomplice Chris the Magician delighted the audience who ranged from just weeks old right through to over 100!  The best Crown Competition aged 4-7 was won by Thomas, with Immy coming second.  Isabel won the 8-11 Category where the runner-up was Ellie-Mai.  The ‘Special Category’ went to the very deserving Dolcie from Castle House Care Home! Huge thanks to all at the Town Hall for helping us make the day possible and so special at such short notice.

Yet another jam-packed month of festivities to remember. After Mayfair last month the events just seemed to go on right up to Jubilee, so I must thank everyone involved in making these possible, and particularly our Council Office staff who I am sure will be looking forward to a break.

My wishes to you all

Cllr Doug Smith

Mayor of Great Torrington

Mayors June Crier Article

Well, where do I start?

The Motorbikes Rally to Land’s End came through Taddiport in the early hours, and though I heard them, I couldn’t get up quickly enough to wish them well!

I was pleased to be involved with Tarka Valley Railway when they opened their new shop and visitor centre on a lovely sunny morning as well as being involved in the start of the next phase of their project.

Torrington Water forum has been running for some time now, and I was honoured to be invited to attend a UN sponsored seminar in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was a privilege to represent our lovely town and presented to a group of local Water specialists, who were fascinated by the pilot scheme which we are running here in our town.

The May fair Committee was delighted to welcome a new group of volunteers to our April meeting, who were keen to assist us in various aspects of the day. They quickly fitted in, and we were very grateful to have their help on the day.

As we approached May Fair, I was very pleased to be joined by Cllr Keeley Allin and Jeanette Baker to judge the May Fair Window Dressing Competition within the town.  Tanya’s Studio was a worthy winner, with the Town Hall’s Knit and Natter Group coming second, Hogwash Shop third and the Bickford Centre being Highly Commended!  Well done to all shops and businesses who took part and brightened up our town centre with bright and fun window displays.

Continuing with the May Fair theme; Alan and Michelle Jenkins who run the Fun Fair kindly asked me to officially open the event.  They generously donated to both the Mayfair and Carnival Committee, as well as to my Mayor’s Charities fund, for which I extend my very grateful thanks.  I did visit the open fair, and came away clutching a big cuddly toy, but suspect the rules were eased a little in my favour??  Come to my next charity fundraiser, and the toy could be yours!

On the same evening, the May Fair rehearsal was a resounding success, and heralded the start of the festivities.

The melodic tunes played by our Silver Band brought back memories and shivers of anticipation to those crowded into the square to watch the May Queen and her entourage go through their paces.

The Crowning of the Carnival Queen, Phoebe Young  took place afterwards, and I was delighted to have my Granddaughter Mezli as my Consort to do the honours.

The much anticipated and long-awaited Mayfair dawned bright.  The two dark years seemed to fade into insignificance. As we basked in the Spring sun we were treated to superb singing, dynamic dancing, and perfect parading from the children of the Bluecoat’s School. They were all utterly amazing!

A number of local Mayors were invited and as always were bubbling with enthusiasm at our unique and amazing spectacle.  The day was a huge success, with excited crowds packing the square for the festivities.

In the evening, the Torridge Cup Football match at Vicarage Road saw Holsworthy triumph over Barnstaple in the final. Holsworthy’s Mayor, Cllr Helen Parker and her Consort Ian, were there to present the prizes and Cup and it was a great end to a very exhausting day.  My thanks go to Cllr Dave Parish and the club for their hospitality

All the runners in the “Round the Tree Race” deserved the applause they received, not only in the square at the start and finish, but right round the course. My sympathy went out to the horse in particular!

CARNIVAL was an absolute winner. The Weather couldn’t have been better, and the entrant piled in. The atmosphere in the square was electric as the parade wound its way past us.  All the comments I could hear in the crowd were so positive, and it was with a sigh of relief that we staggered off after the event knowing that we were back again with a vengeance.

On Sunday the committee counted over £2000 worth of coins kindly put in our collection buckets, so despite all the financial hardship we are all facing, Great Torrington showed their appreciation as ever!   Thank you. A massive thank you to the May Fair and Carnival Committee, the Bluecoat School and all of the local groups, and individuals who helped with arrangements and/or took part in the celebrations; and also, thank you to the community for coming together and supporting the events and showing it is very true that, “us be plaised to zee ‘ee” at May Fair!

Northam May Fair Day

The weather was very kind to us when we attended Northam Mayfair Day on Saturday 30th April 2022 along with a number of other local Mayor’s. We were entertained by numerous acts throughout the day including dinosaurs, the pipe band, steam rides on the miniature traction engine and of course the children performed the maypole dance.

Fingers crossed the sun will also shine for our Mayfair celebrations over the next few days, I look forward to seeing you there!

Cllr Doug Smith, Mayor of Great Torrington

May be an image of 13 people, people standing and outdoors

Mayors May Crier Article

I am pleased to say that the Water Forum in the Undercroft of the Town Hall was well attended, and lots of people came in to find out the latest updates about conservation and billing. Talking of the Town Hall, the Knit and Natter Group were successful in a grant application for wool towards the knitted and crocheted bunting, and I was happy to join them in their celebratory cuppa (Any excuse??) I even got roped in to trying my hand at a few stitches!

The Pub quiz in aid of the Mayor’s Charities held in the Torrington Arms was a great success, and we raised just under £300 for the mayor’s charities. A big “thank you” to Annie and her team for such a great night! During this past year my charities have been somewhat neglected – not deliberately, but by virtue of the fact that it has been very difficult to arrange events and not having to cancel them.

The ‘Arts for Carers’ event at The Plough was noisy and messy. Paint and dye flying everywhere… Infant schools look out as you might be losing out to some of these adults!

The first Silver Band Concert for a long time took place in the Howe Hall, and was a roaring success. The band didn’t put a foot wrong, and we all came away with our feet tapping. The theme for the concert was a celebration of the life of a gentleman called Eddie Burrows, who was evacuated to Great Torrington from London when he was 8 years old.  After the war ended, he returned to London but could not settle so he was allowed to come back to our town. As a young man, he married a local girl and moved away for work, but came back later in life and ended his days in the Castle Hill Nursing Home, which was back in his beloved Great Torrington again.    Eddie was a life-long supporter of the Town Band and his son travelled from Sussex to be present at the concert.   It was a privilege to meet Eddies son and chat with him.

Unfortunately, I like many others succumbed to Covid 19 half way through April, and as a result was forced to cancel many of my engagements such as council meetings, Barnstaple Mayor’s Jubilee Ball where my sister was going to join me as my consort on a rare visit from Shetland, the Golf Club’s Open Day which is always a treat to attend and Verdi’s Requiem in the Parish Church. I was very sorry to have to missed so much!

At the time of writing this article I am looking forward to our Parish Meeting on the 14th April 2022 at which time I will present my Mayor’s Report for the period 2021/22.  This report will subsequently be available on the town council’s website and sets out activities etc. of the Council over this past year. I am very much looking forward to May Fair this year and hope to see you all there. 

With very best wishes

Cllr Doug Smith, Mayor of Great Torrington