Notice

2014 - Grant award £50

Sidmouth, in East Devon, England, is an historic Regency town lying in an area of outstanding beauty, surrounded by red cliffs from the Triassic Period and the green hills of grade A agriculture land.  The picturesque Sid river is surrounded by land in private ownership; meadows belonging to the Sid Vale Association (the oldest community organization in Britain), National Trust land and Council parkland. It meets the sea via a narrow passage.  Here the beach is formed of shingle.  However the long stretch of coastline changes for about six hours per day into red sandy beaches revealed in low tide. Strong easterly storms shift the shingle constantly creating different scenes from Sidmouth’s promenade.  However, in one location along the Millenium Walk towards Jacob’s Ladder a small eco-system started to emerge.

Sidmouth in Bloom (SIB) noticed the sea beet and horned poppies growing in the shingle, but also knew that weeds were regularly eradicated from the beach by the East Devon District Council (EDDC) Streetscene Beach Managers. SIB requested a meeting with the EDDC in 2012 and after a few months were granted permission to take over the care of what was to become ‘Oceanscene’, the beach garden.

Never before had anything like this been done.  SIB started by training some Friends of SIB to help clear out the domestic weeds such as dock, dandelion and plantain, and to protect the emerging native shingle plants.  A very small notice (A4) laminated sheet was erected on a post to inform people about the plants.  In a few months the Department for the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AOND), and the Plant Heritage Group (PH) started to take an interest.

Last autumn SIB were given a boat that was no longer suitable for the Sidmouth Infant’s School. The EDDC stored it in their depot until SIB could position it on the beach.

This January/February heavy storms brought a lot of debris onto the main beaches.  SIB decided to call on the town to help clear the beach of timber and whole trees. Out of this was formed the ‘Sidcombers’ who now volunteer to clean the beach fortnightly. It was this group that help find the timber to complete the landscaping of ‘Oceanscene’.  A large ship’s rope was found, as well as timber to make a derelict pier and to anchor the boat.  SIB then asked Sidmouth Trawlers, a fishing company, if they would donate some disused cray pots to complete the scene. This they gladly did. EDDC helped install the boat in March.

On Friday 22nd March, SIB Chairman Lynette Talbot and Treasurer Peter Endersby, the EDDC Manager Mark Pollard, The Sidmouth Civic Arboretum Chairman, Diana East, Dr John and Dr Jean Twibell of the East Devon Plant Heritage Group, guests from the Vision Group for Sidmouth and Friends and Committee members of SIB and some Sidcombers turned up to the Opening of ‘Oceanscene’ by Anne Swithinbank, a noted local horticulturist.

A new professional information board is now standing, telling the readers about the endemic coastal plants and their heritage to the foods we now eat. Anne planted some sea kale, and sea carrot and scattered seeds around the site.

What were once a few poppies seen hiding in the shingles have now lead Sidmouth to become guardians of a special site that is now being cared and talked about by not just SIB but all community and environmental volunteer groups in Sidmouth.

 

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