South Devon Branch reports: 2020-21

Plan of the front of Exeter Cathedral

In September 2019 fifteen lucky members of the Branch visited the Port of Teignmouth. For our first talk of the season John Allan, DA’s president, gave us an excellent summary – with many fascinating diversions – of the building of Exeter Cathedral. In December, Prof. Malcolm Hart gave us a thought-provoking talk about the long geological history of Torbay. January’s AGM featured the second of Colin Turner’s enjoyable photographic quizzes, this year on Devon’s castles and abbeys. After three years of sterling work, Lee Martin stepped down from our committee and Valerie Haslam kindly volunteered to fill the vacancy.

Our planned events programme came to an abrupt halt in February after Sue Viccars‘ hugely enjoyable and honest talk entitled “Confessions of a Guidebook Writer” in which she told us some of the secrets of her job. We took a while to adjust to the new no-meetings regime, but the committee met several times and we sent five newsletters to our members. We also took the opportunity afforded by the covid hiatus to bring forward the start date of our annual events programmes from May to January.

We started 2021 with our on-line AGM and quiz in January. After being (willingly) co-opted onto the committee just after last year’s AGM, Valerie Haslam was unanimously voted on as a new committee member at this meeting. With the standard business completed, we enjoyed the third annual quiz devised by our Treasurer, the ever innovative Colin Turner. This year’s quiz managed to combine simplicity and complexity. It required no more than a pen and paper and a quarter of an hour of thinking, followed by a somewhat riotous marking session which really tested Zoom’s capabilities with over a dozen people all trying to talk at once! It was great fun and we wish to thank Colin once again for coming up with the idea.

In February 2021 we had a virtual guided tour of Newton Abbot’s new town museum, led by its curator Felicity Cole. The museum is in the former St Leonard’s Church in Wolborough Street, now refurbished and renamed as “Newton’s Place”, a new community space for the town. It opened – for a short while at least – last year and when the world returns to normal we will be holding our meetings there, in the spectacular St Leonard Room with its huge internal window that looks out over the museum floor.

New Year Sunrise (c) by Gary Holpin

Back in the virtual world for now, in March we had an illustrated talk about the South West Coastal Path by Gary Holpin, a professional photographer from Honiton. Then, in April we learned about the natural history of butterflies and moths in a talk, with a Devon focus, given by Barry Henwood, who is a national expert on moths and their larvae and is the Devon county Recorder for moths. And in an additional talk in June, Devon CPRE provided us with many interesting details and figures about the real housing need in the county.

As for the future – well, it’s too soon to say. But we hope that later in the summer we might be able to offer our postponed walk along Templer’s Granite Tramway from the quarries at Haytor down to Bovey Tracey, to celebrate what will now be the 201st anniversary of its opening.

I’m really looking forward to being able to serve tea and biscuits and enjoy the chat at our meetings again before too long!

Annie Maltby, Secretary