It must be five years now since Horrabridge Parish Council had to get used to a running commentary on its affairs, starting with this publication – originally an assignment for The Bridge magazine – and the launch of Horrabridge Noticeboard at about the same time.
Not everybody wanted either of us. Somewhere in the HPC minutes is a resolution to have nothing to do with Facebook for a start. That would be ridiculous and is now commonly ignored.
But the learning experience was sometimes a bruising one for all sides. As a viral video from Handforth, Cheshire, recently reminded us, small-scale politics is still politics, and any group of more than two people trying to act as one is bound to generate alliances, splits, bright ideas and blunders, and a fair amount of heat. In fact, it was a series of meetings with much shouting in them that got the Horrabridge Times entangled, for better or worse.
It wasn’t really a crisis but it felt like one if you were involved in it. The only way out was forward and it is a tribute to Horrabridge that HPC carried on and came through. It did so thanks to the doggedness and common sense of steady stalwarts like Eric Hemsil, who has just resigned from probably his last session in the chairperson’s chair … because it is exhausting work, trying to mediate between dog lovers and poo police, spenders and savers, cowboys and indians, bureaucracies based miles away and complaints from your neighbours, and having them all come back at you with another niggle, whatever you do.
Whatever happens at the next meeting, there will be genuine thanks for his service and we’re taking advantage of a slow news week to get ours in early. It is good that Eric will continue as a councillor.
Another one we are still interested in, but have not yet made much progress on, is the Rivers Trust revelation that emergency overspills from the sewage network into the river were routine events in 2019, here and everywhere else. It was a wet year, fair enough, but not wet enough to account for all of it. Part of the problem is housing development, adding to the volume of sewage going into the drains and raising the toxicity and rubbish content of every spill..
South West Water does a good job on the whole and is committed to trying to improve it. We should be grateful that our occasional problems are treated as real emergencies and dealt with. But it is the water company’s job to warn the planning authorities if new housing would be too much for the infrastructure and we cannot recall that happening much. Or are we missing something?
Devon CPRE, a fighting leftover from the old Campaign to Protect Rural England, has just published an updated analysis which says the county has been over-delivering new homes for the past five years – 30 percent more than required by government targets over 2015-2020, amounting to 6,332 more than necessary, even before Covid changed everything. Find more details, and join the campaign, at www.cpredevon.org.uk
Fascinating factoid of the week was the revelation, after an outbreak of moorland fires, that extreme cold is as bad as extreme heat for making vegetation vulnerable to a spark. Not news to old country hands, apparently, and it should have come as no surprise here in The Shed, where we have spent much of the past year in Alaska, with some of the countless reality tv shows generated by generous support from the Alaskan development board and miraculous developments in drone photography.
The late Jinks Fitzsimmons loved them too, when he was confined to his front room chair, and we could see why. They are all about working hard in all weathers, being inventive with the tools to hand, hunting for the pot, exchanging favours with neighbours, and teaching the kids the same eternally useful skills – like it was round here not that long ago. Of course, the downside is that the labour is relentless and everything can sometimes go horribly wrong in an instant.
But the construction and engineering work that goes on in, for example, Alaska The Last Frontier, starring the impossibly brilliant Kilcher family and their collection of old diggers, tractors, chainsaws and welding torches, far from any health and safety inspector, is astonishing and inspiring. Plenty of timber round here and we are not far off a ban on burning it as logs. How about a fast track planning permission for off-grid survivalists using local materials instead of concrete?
The programmes are mainly made by the Discovery channel and we’ve been getting them free through its D-Max offshoot, although now we want a subscription. By the way, for the benefit of The Shed’s generation, aerials and satellite dishes are now more or less redundant. Broadband round here is good enough to get it all through your router, including live BBC and ITV.