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Tuesday 25 August 2015

When David Meets That Big Guy...

My regular blog-readers might remember an article I posted back in January about our “moving to Devon anniversary”, and my concerns about the local hotel, Highbullen (link via Tripadvisor) expanding into something completely inappropriate for this little village. I had a lot of feedback, especially from those of you who have visited me (and the village) and who enjoy my Devon Diary Blog

Well, the saga continues! 
(and apologies for this post being a long one - I have a lot to say! I suggest make a cup of tea or coffee, or fetch a glass of wine and sit back & read...)

Here’s a resume of that article… (link to full article below)

Highbullen is being redeveloped… Ninety-four timeshare lodges are to be built. James Hemming, the hotel's manager, according to a local newspaper, hopes that Highbullen will become ‘one of Devon's premier leisure destinations’.
The overall guest accommodation capacity is set to increase by 700%. What impact will this have on our narrow, unlit roads? What sort of impact will hundreds of people coming to use this enormous enterprise have on our tiny, quiet, rural, village? What will they do with themselves? …. drive out to the lovely beaches or explore Exmoor or the old Pannier markets at Barnstaple and South Molton? Note drive. There is no public transport in our village. There is the Tarka Line train, but the nearest stations are a good couple of miles away.
 It is difficult enough using the lanes in and out of Chittlehamholt as it is – most trips you have to reverse many yards because of oncoming traffic… and that is meeting just the occasional solitary car ... although no one will be able to reverse anyway if two tractors and an oil-delivery lorry completely gum everything up.”

The heart of Chittlehamholt
So what has changed these eight months later? Not a lot. The ninety-four lodges have been dropped to fifty-eight…. Ah, but there’s now also the prospect of an additional sixteen bedrooms being added to the hotel, so that’s still an expansion of seventy-four.

Keep in mind two important facts here:

One: there are less than ninety houses in the entire village.
Two: There are five lanes leading up to the Chittlehamholt Ridge and they look like this:

A couple are a bit wider in places, but not by much. There are very few passing bays, all the lanes are very steep with blind bends. If you meet a tractor or similar large vehicle – too bad if you are not very good at reversing, but don't worry - you are about to get a very quick lesson and a lot of practice!
Concerned about your car being scratched by the brambles in the hedges? 
If so, don’t come to Chittlehamholt.

Highbullen has stated that it intends to pay for some of the existing passing places on one of the approach lanes (the main one from South Molton, known as Newlands Hill) to be lengthened and a few new ones to be put in. That sounds reasonable doesn’t it?

Um, no, not when you look closer.
There’s not really any room to lengthen or add. Highbullen actually published in their planning application (which appeared on the North Devon Council website) that they had permission to remove the hedging and banks, and install these extra passing places from a farmer who owns some of the land alongside Newlands Hill. At a recent village public meeting (more about that in a minute) it emerged that this farmer has not given permission – and in fact has outright refused it! 

And if one (let’s say ‘over-enthusiastic speculation’) can sneak its way in to a very important document, how many others are lurking under the stones of Highbullen’s planning proposals like gobble-everything-up monsters, I wonder?

is Highbullen telling porky-pies?
I’ll leave you to decide.
I suppose to be fair about this I had better add that not everyone in the village, and immediate surrounding area, are against Highbullen’s proposals. (Though the 'fors' are very much in the minority - at a recent vote, four out of seventy-two).

Highbullen is a business, it needs to survive as a business. Management claims the expansion will lead to more employment, bring business to the area, and new life to the village.

So will it?

Initially, there might be business for local builders, but only temporarily, and there’s no guarantee they will be local. Ongoing, I suppose there will be food suppliers, maintenance needs and such, and as these will be holiday lodges (self-catering timeshare accommodation) people will want grocery supplies. Tesco/Sainsbury delivery vans one suspects. More traffic.
What about waiting staff and cleaners? We are a very small village. Most of the present employment at HB are students (a few are from the village) but this is temporary employment, not long-term, well-paid careers. And if you look carefully at the Highbullen wording it implies “employment for local residents within a seven mile radius”. 
Ah, not villagers then, but people living in the nearest town, South Molton, seven miles away. 

More traffic for these narrow roads that lead to Chittlehamholt...
going towards the Exeter Inn Pub
from the direction of Highbullen

just past the pub
Now turn around and go in the other direction....

This is probably the widest part of our Main Road
because its the entrance to the Village Hall and Community Shop
but you can clearly see where the grass verge has been cut back..
Highbullen's entrance gate is a little further on
behind the photographer (me)....

.... further on down here 
Can anyone answer this question? If HB intend to bring work for local people, how come they have developed an entire wing as staff accommodation? We are not stupid… These proposed jobs are designated for cheap temporary immigrant labour, not local people who expect decent wages!

And before anyone starts writing a strongly-worded “not in my back yard” type accusation let me put one thing straight here:

I am fond of Highbullen. Daughter Kathy and I stayed there when we were on Escape To The Country (BBC TV show which found us our home here in Chittlehamholt.) Husband Ron and I stayed there for the first two nights when we moved in. It is a lovely old country house hotel, full of character in superb grounds. The new owner (timeshare developer Frank Chapman) apparently bought it for his daughter  Susie Gowenlock  who, it is said, remembers splendid holidays at Highbullen in its heyday of being the place for celebs to relax in privacy and to play golf. Legend has it that Sir Laurence Olivier used to pretend to be a member of staff and serve drinks behind the bar. 
It seems Ms Gowenlock is so very fond of her memories that she’s quite happy to have its old-style country-house charm entirely destroyed by the addition of these timeshare holiday lodges being built on parts of the golf course and surrounding grounds. For the peace and quiet of its rural ambience to be distorted, and for the night skies around Highbullen and that end of the village  (there is no street lighting in Chittlehamholt)  to be lit up like a Christmas tree.

Night Over Highbullen
three views from one of the Chittlehamholt approach roads
photos by A. Villager

Incidentally most of us in the village have stated, over and over, that we are proud of Highbullen – it is as much a part of Chittlehamholt as our community shop, village hall, the Exeter Inn pub, and the village church… but we don’t want to stop being proud of it. Highbullen is a superb rural, peaceful – almost unique – Country House Hotel. Why is Frank Chapman wanting to destroy such a potential asset? Restore it to its former glory, market it with insight and imagination as a luxury, idyllic, private, rural retreat to those with money (and celeb status) who seek privacy, peace and quiet and somewhere to relax knowing they’ll get it. Chittlehamholt as a village,  if asked nicely I think, wouldn’t mob Johnny Depp or Tom Cruise or… well you get the point. 
(OK, I can't personally guarantee the Johnny Depp bit....)

Here's a quote to support my suggestion: " 1963 it [Highbullen] was bought by Hugh and Pam Neil who turned it in to a foodie destination that attracted some top names such as Delia Smith, who became a regular visitor in the seventies."

I wonder if I ought to contact Ms Smith to discover whether she's happy about Highbullen becoming a timeshare monster?

According to one newspaper when Mr Chapman bought the hotel he said :
' "It  [Highbullen] has obviously gone through a bad period ... and we'd like to restore it to its former glory. That will take some time because it's rundown but it's in such a beautiful spot and has so much potential."
Mr Chapman, who introduced the concept of Timeshares to the UK in 1976, said one of his main aims is to bring back locals, which in turn will help turn the hotel's fortunes around.
"There's a good local membership who've been very patient. We need to bring them back in and bring confidence in the hotel back to the community. There won't be false promises here," he said. '

Not doing a very  good job with building the confidence level is he? 

So why do I care about all this? The hotel is on the opposite side of the village to where I live, something like two miles away, but since I’ve moved here I have come to love Chittlehamholt and have made many new, very lovely friends. I have grown to appreciate the star-studded un-light-polluted night sky; the fresh, clean air and the slower pace of life. The only noise at night is the wind and the owls. Except for the nightmare of having to negotiate the traffic-jammed lanes if this enterprise goes ahead, Highbullen won’t affect me. So why am I writing all this?

Why? Because I dislike these rich millionaire businessmen who have absolutely no care or concern for anything or anyone outside their own profit-balance pockets. Because these sort of people trample all over the rest of us who do care.

I am writing this because I want to have my say. Highbullen is trying to bully this village and its residents. Saying things like: (not exact quotes just the gist…)

If it wasn’t for us the village would die.” … er no, HB was bankrupt before Mr Chapman bought it, and the village was doing quite nicely, thank you.

If this doesn’t succeed Highbullen will fail as a business and Frank Chapman will re-sell; probably to an oligarch who will fly in with his helicopter.” At least that solves the issue of the traffic in the lanes! I doubt one little oligarch’s private helicopter would be any more intrusive than the air-ambulance which flies over our back garden most days, or even the giant Chinook helicopters that regularly make a (very low altitude) appearance.

The Village has been blackmailed several times with words like: "Frank Chapman's put a lot of money into this venture, it'll be your fault if it fails."
As one villager eloquently put it at the last public meeting: "Why should Chittlehamholt bear the brunt of Frank Chapman's bad business errors of judgement?" If he's messed up by buying the wrong hotel in the wrong location for his timeshare dreams, that's not our problem is it?

The manager, James Hemming, referring to the issue of farmers not giving permission for the expansion of passing places on Newlands Hill (see above): “That got put into the draft planning application by mistake, it should have been deleted.” … If permission hadn’t been granted, why was it included in a draft in the first place?

Mr Hemming, has whinged (several times) that opportunity to talk about the initial plans were offered but: “no one came to talk to me.” He is quite right no one did (well, I think two residents who live adjacent to Highbullen did.) Why didn’t we? Because his offer was made at the very first public meeting – before any plans had been published.

I didn’t take the offer up (neither did anyone else, for presumably the same reason) because I had absolutely no idea what was being proposed! How can you discuss something when you don’t know what it is you are discussing? 
By the time the plans did come out there were several public meetings arranged - so why the need for private ones? When the villagers had their say about these plans at one of these meetings they voted four in favour and seventy-two against.

Isn't that sufficient feedback  for you Mr Hemming? Of course if you really want seventy-two of us coming to your office for a 'chat'...what, shall we say allow an hour each? Let's assume your working day is 9 a.m-5pm... Now my maths isn't wonderful, but I make that seventy-two people coming to see you would take up nine of your working days. 
 As in the story of The Monkey's Paw Mr H....

And this one really gets me angry: “There are a group of agitators in the village trying to stir up trouble.” No, there is a group of concerned villagers who are trying to stop a millionaire businessman who doesn’t live here, from turning our rural village into a lavish timeshare New Town. There is a big difference Mr Hemming! A very big difference – please stop insulting us in this manner! (I guess this article makes me one of the condemned agitators?)

There are several more such quotes, but you get the idea.
This last one, though from Mr Hemming really did take the biscuit for arrogance and outright patronisation: There’s no point in fighting us, we’ll go to appeal and you won’t stand a chance of defeating it.
 Maybe not – but we’ll bloomin’ well at least try mate!

One way we can do so is bring in a professional consultant.
They cost money.

How is a small village with less than ninety houses going to raise the money to get someone like this to help us? We probably can’t... which is what these pompous property developers like Mr Chapman bank on, of course.
 Again, though we are going to try!

We have the consultant, we already have half his fee pledged. We need the other half.
I’m not asking for money, but if you would like to help fling a few stones at Goliath, and would like to help keep a little bit of Devon as it should be kept, then even £1 would help us.

Email me and I’ll send details.

For reward, if you ever visit Chittlehamholt I’ll try my best to treat you to a coffee in the Coffee Corner of the Village Shop. Or a pint of cider in the pub … 
or (maybe) a G & T in one of Highbullen’s luxury bars? (I can't guarantee a Laurence Olivier look-alike barman though, darling!)... (nor Johnny Depp.)

Celeb notebook - not sure who the guy in the hat is.
He signed my notebook though.
(and yes he is as good looking in reality as he is on film)
You are more than welcome to leave a comment below – even if you disagree with any (or all) of the above (although rudeness will be removed).

Thanks for being interested enough to read this far!
Everything above is my PERSONAL opinion.

stroll through Chittlehamholt with GOOGLE street view (and see just how narrow our main street is!)

related articles : 
previous article HERE to read it in full)
North Devon Journal (includes a photo of what the timeshare lodges might look like)
Company information Frank W. Chapman 

Thursday 20 August 2015

MY WAY! A Song for Indie writers

(with apologies to Mr Sinatra! )

or a woman of course! LOL 

here's the tune if you wish to sing along
(it sort of fits, you might have to lah lah lah a bit) 

And now, the end is near;
And so I face that final edit.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, for which I must take credit. 

Rejects, I've had a few;
But then again, too many here to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each chaptered course;
Each careful step along the writing pathway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate rejection up and spat it out.
I chose the font, and wrote the prose...
And did it way!

I wrote, I laughed and cried.
I had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as fears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
Oh no, oh no not me,
I wrote it... my way!

For what is a book, what has it got?
If not mainstream, then it has not
To be set aside and be forgot!
Don’t lose the words … you have a choice
Find and use your indie voice. 

And write it your way! 

Previous article by me
Click Here ... The Start of Piracy in the Caribbean 

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Women who bucked tradition...

... Nellie Bly and Calamity Jane
By Dan Jorgensen
Calamity Jane 1890's
While they led intensely different lives, the parallel paths followed by Nellie Bly and Calamity Jane provide interesting perspectives on how women tackled previously untested roles to open doors and pave the way for generations of women who followed.

Nellie Circa 1890
In my novel And The Wind Whispered, Nellie Bly, perhaps the greatest investigative reporter who ever lived, arrives in 1894 Hot Springs in the southern Black Hills ready to “be a tourist” in a region being touted as “The new Baden, Baden.  A genteel land of relaxation, spas and breathtaking scenery.”  While that description was justified, it’s remarkable that less than 100 miles away, Calamity Jane was holding court as “Queen of Deadwood,” one of the Old West’s wildest and “least accommodating” communities.

The intersection of this newfound “tourist respectability” with the ongoing “Wild West” owes something to both of these remarkable women, whose lives paralleled but rarely intersected as each was establishing herself in historical lore.

Born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, “Nellie” built her reputation as the most renowned undercover and daredevil reporter of her time.  Her impact on what had been considered the domain of men lasts until this day. She was a dynamo in a small frame.  Her slight build, short-cropped hair and thin waist made her appear fragile, but it masked a stubbornness and will of iron that made her a formidable force.

Nellie 1894
Nellie took her pen name to protect her identity, particularly since she was going into so many dangerous situations where the discovery of who she really was could lead to injury or death.  She reported on terrible working conditions from factories to the burlesque stage, posed as an insane woman to unmask the horrors of infamous Blackwell’s Island Sanatorium, and traveled alone around the world to beat a mythical record from Jules Verne’s famous book. 

To avoid discovery, cover her tracks and protect her sources, she would write on tiny pieces of paper and conceal them inside special pockets sewn inside her underwear.  To defend herself and make quick getaways, she became an accomplished marksman and horseback rider.  She memorized conversations and transcribed them at night in her hotel room, sending coded reports to her editors via the telegraph wire. Generations of investigative reporters have emulated her style, including Truman Capote, who used it for his interviews while writing In Cold Blood

Traveling alone, Nellie reported from far-reaching sites, including parts of the Wild West previously not visited by “respectable” women; towns like Deadwood.  “A free American girl … can travel anywhere and do anything,” she wrote.  And women everywhere, especially younger women and girls, believed her completely and came by the droves to permanently change those communities.

She simultaneously brought new excitement to journalism and shed light on sexist ideologies permeating Society.  Nellie Bly became a household synonym for journalistic excellence. So, when she left journalism to marry, Arthur Brisbane, the managing editor of The New York World, lamented:  “Reporting has suffered a great loss.  Nellie Bly’s the best reporter in the world.  Not the best female reporter, simply the best.”

While Nellie was writing her way to fame, Calamity Jane – born Martha Jane Canary – was creating her own larger than life persona as a rough-riding, hard-drinking, hard-smoking, “champion swearer of the Black Hills,” working as a muleskinner, bullwhacker, and scout for the Army. Her title of “champion swearer” was not just assigned – she actually won it in a competition.

Calamity Jane 1890's
By 1894 she was so notorious that two Black Hills Creeks and a Peak had been named in her honor.  (Fortunately, Calamity Peak did not lend itself to good carving, so Mount Calamity never came to be). 

Calamity came to the Black Hills as a scout for a wagon train that included Wild Bill Hickok, and by the time they reached Deadwood they were nearly inseparable until his murder. Dressed in leather with a powerful voice and “nasty saloon habits,” she quickly took center stage, even in that rough and ready boomtown.   

But Calamity Jane was an enigma. Fearless, mean and nasty when the need arose, she also was held in highest regard for her kindness and gentle care of the poor or injured. She literally gave her last dime to help the needy, and during the 1878 smallpox epidemic spent weeks nursing the sick and dying – without fear or compensation. 

Opponents said she was “just another harlot, no different from 90 percent of the other Deadwood prostitutes – only uglier and meaner” – but she could exude remarkable charm and beauty when she chose to bathe and “get fixed up.”

Martha Jane became Calamity beginning at age 12 after her parents’ death. While doing men’s jobs dressed as a man, she also found prostitution to be a lucrative trade. Being both charming and a fierce fighter when threatened, she told some men that while sex was on the table, “You’re courting calamity if you mess with me.”  Thus, perhaps, the genesis for her nickname. 

She rode as a scout at age 23, traveled to the gold fields at age 25, and personally helped foster her own reputation by writing a widely shared autobiography. She also encouraged dime novelists to write sordid tales of her wild sex affairs with some of the most notorious desperados of the day. 

By 1895, when Nellie was leaving the limelight to run her husband’s business, Calamity was expanding her fame. She joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and toured America. Wherever she performed, she also sold copies of her greatly exaggerated autobiography, further spreading her story. 

But her hard living caught up with her and she died at age 51, exactly 27 years to the day that Wild Bill was shot to death in a Deadwood saloon.  Whether loved or despised, she always drew a crowd, and a mile-long procession followed her hearse to Deadwood’s Boot Hill – where she lies buried side-by-side with Wild Bill.
Wild Bill 1896
Meanwhile, after a 20-year sojourn, Nellie returned to journalism and, true to form, became the first female war correspondent, covering World War I and achieving more reporting fame.  Exposed to the ravages of war, she developed lung problems and died of pneumonia in 1922 at age 57.  She is buried in New York City, and despite her popularity, only three people came to her funeral. 


"And The Wind Whispered," is also at Bygone Era Books' site:

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Medieval. American Colonial. Ancient Egyptian. History... Oh my!

My Tuesday Talk Guest : S. Copperstone

I’ve been fascinated with all these things in the title for many years and have incorporated these loves and intrigues into some of my books—unpublished, published and soon-to-be-published. Speaking of soon-to-be-published… “Bittersweet Tavern” will be available to the world on August 6, 2015 from Bygone Era Books, Ltd. 

“Bittersweet Tavern” is a cute little story centered around two opposing characters (feisty Jerusha and broody, yet suspicious, Daniel) who found themselves thrown into the middle of a turbulent time in history. The story all began with two characters; an idea sparked by the old ’70s song, “Brandy,” by Looking Glass - I think it may have been their only song; a long-ago trip to Maine, and a short brainstorming session with an online friend or two, many years ago.

 The atmosphere of southeastern Maine, the scenery and the scents, have been in the back of my mind for years. I wanted to incorporate that feel into a story. After some research, I discovered more than a few interesting historical events in that area. One that captured my full attention was the burning of Falmouth  (now called Portland, Maine) in October 1775. I had found my background to throw my two favorite characters in the middle of. Jerusha Lovejoy Frost and Daniel Stanton (named for ancestors in my genealogy), had found a home, many many years later, into a book to come alive in.

"The novel expertly and vividly brings to life 
the ordinary street details of Colonial America,"

 Read the  full Historical Novel Society
Daniel and Jerusha lived in a small town and no doubt ran into each other frequently during their childhood. Daniel, who had mysteriously arrived as a young boy, alone on the docks of Falmouth Neck, had always secretly wanted to find his birth parents and had a deep longing for a more exciting life. Jerusha grew up in the hospitality world of tavern and inn life while working for her parents. Years later, the two would find more excitement than either bargained for.

I hope readers will enjoy Daniel and Jerusha’s story, albeit a vignette, of their lives, as much as I enjoyed writing it. I have book two outlined and I believe Daniel would like to tell more of his life during the years after he left Falmouth Neck for a life at sea. Both Jerusha and Daniel wish to tell their stories after the burning of Falmouth incident. When I find more time, I’ll work on writing their stories.

I would love for the story to become a movie, as I’ve gone back and forth between the story being written in novel and screenplay forms and I believe a movie of Daniel and Jerusha would be icing on the cake, as they say. So, if anyone is up to the challenge, ;-).

—S. Copperstone

S. Copperstone is the pen name for someone who wishes to remain somewhat anonymous. She enjoys writing about unusual subjects and has a ongoing web serial about centaurs in the American Old West, “Two Bits,” available on  

 She’ll write more chapters when she has the chance, so be sure to check back.

She has another unusual story, a fantasy with a touch of Ancient Egypt in a dystopian world, “The High King’s Embalmer,” available on Amazon and is in the process of being available in print form (when she has the time):

 She has a charming, yet turbulent saga (not published yet) of a knight and his family and adventures and misadventures during the late 1200s to mid-1300s which she hopes to find a home for in the near future, also.

S. Copperstone can be found wandering all over the internet especially on:

• Twitter: @SCopperstone

Helen} S.Copperstone's article was received a couple of weeks ago. While preparing it for publication I paused at the reference to 'Falmouth'. Which Falmouth? Where? I wondered, which prompted me to recall an altercation I'd had with a US author over the term 'Civil War'. What Civil War? The US or the English one? This in turn prompted me to write an article on this very subject - when marketing your book world wide - be specific about the location!
You can read it here 

PREVIOUS ARTICLE by HELEN:  Recycled Article: Wonder of Rome, my contribution for a Blog Hop.... King Arthur (so what has he got to do with Rome? Read the article and find out! )

Sunday 2 August 2015

Another look at King Arthur

Recycling the blog
another look at some old posts

Who was King Arthur? Click here

The Wonder of Rome - my contribution to a Blog Hop:
what has King Arthur to do with Rome?
click here