The parish council is looking for ideas for investing £100,000 from the sale of land for new housing at Walkham Meadows. Here follow some suggestions gleaned from conversation in the village, along with some opinions from The Shed, hq of the Horrabridge Times …
Buying a plot for parking, probably adjoining Weir Park, was one early thought. Maybe just a car park; maybe lock-ups; maybe a caravan and camper park. But it would need administration and access is a problem hard to overcome.
A lot of people would like to see the Leaping Salmon stay as a reasonably authentic old Devon building, with a visitors’ car park and a community role, as opposed to a housing development which would be forever private. Could the council lead a buy-out, with the help of a shares sale locally? Even at a bargain price, it would cost at least £300,000, after essential repairs. And you might not get much return. One interesting suggestion is a bunkhouse for backpackers. Low-rent stuff, literally. But maybe it would help support a cafe and bar in one corner. And maybe there is room for a flat for long-term rent too. Could the Youth Hostels Association be interested?
Somebody in the pub suggested a bonfire site and recycling centre, but you could end up with just a rubbish dump. Same goes for communal compost bins, although they would be a nice thing to try. What about a digester plant, supplying gas for bottling, running on garden clippings and dog poo?
THE FOOTBALL CLUB
Horrabridge Rangers has a proud history but is struggling to keep going. A new pavilion would help a lot. But the council is trying to get out of supporting special interest groups, because there is always another one. Question is whether the football club is a special case. A lot of people would think so.
SOMETHING FOR THE DISABLED
Councillor Eric Hemsil would like a swing for wheelchairs. Nice thought. But if nobody used it, you would still have to maintain it for years. The trouble with catering for the disabled is that sentiment often trumps sense. And arguably it is time for the authorities to do something for the able. If there are a few thousands to be found, there is an argument for helping the recreation fields trust, to assist the football club and encourage other activities on the fields.
The biggest concern about housing development is pressure on services, especially sewage and drainage. Could the council get other authorities to match-fund an investment in surveying and upgrading?
Some village veterans have wondered: Could the River Walkham provide the village with electricity again?
For about 50 years, starting in 1914, a weir by the old bridge diverted some of the river onto a water wheel which made a profit generating the convenient new rival to gas. However, there were other players already in the game, including an outfit called Christy Brothers, which built the first hydro-plant down this way at Bude in 1908. Christy Brothers took over the Horrabridge station and linked it into a network of river-driven plants, including Tavistock, Mary Tavy and Princetown, which could back each other up to keep the electricity flowing most of the time – with diesel generators on standby for when all the rivers were low.
But eventually the engine rooms were allowed to fall into disrepair and the distribution network was absorbed into bigger ones, as power companies merged and invested in centralised coal-powered stations. Now coal is disapproved of and “renewables” are subsidised.
The Environment Agency rebuilt the weir only two years ago. The Horrabridge Times asked local inventor Joe Toland to consider the possibilities.
He is involved in an effort to demonstrate that tidal power in the Severn Sea, between the West Country and Wales, could be the best “green” energy source of all, with the right combination of state-of-the-art construction techniques and turbines.
Sadly, he reckons the weir by the bridge is finished in practical terms. He is 75 and remembers how it used to be.
“It was rebuilt, maybe 50 years ago, when they landscaped what used to be meadows for cattle and sheep to make the play park and football fields,” he says. “The old cast-iron weir was 18 inches higher and so held back a lot more water. But they changed the whole profile of the river by lowering the bank and raising the meadow.
“One way and another, this weir holds back only about half of the water that the first one did.”
However, further upriver might still have potential, he says – especially with new turbine designs and a plan for evening out the flow between rainfalls.
He offered to help raise money for a feasibility study if there is any interest.
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