Magdalen Road at night

Magdalen Road at night
December 2010

Thursday, 14 December 2017

By-election for city council seat, 13th December 2017

The results of the by-election for the Exeter City Council ward of St Leonard's and Newtown on 13th December 2017.
Matthew Vizard Labour: 1,044, 54.6%
Lucille Baker Conservatives: 512, 26.8%
Vanessa Newcombe Lib Dems: 179, 9.4%
Tom Milburn Green Party: 137, 7.2%
Alison Sheridan UKIP: 40, 2.1%

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Magdalen Road Christmas Fair 2017

Magdalen Road was closed for the afternoon of Saturday 2nd December 2017 for the annual Christmas Fair.  Join me for a walk after dark, from St Leonards Road to Denmark Road and back again

The children's roundabout

Balloons on sale

Japanese food

The Bran Tub with seasonal food

Tents in the middle of the road

Amber necklaces and other good things

No home in St Leonard's is complete without a hand-made cushion

A bright red glow from the aprons of the staff at Bon Gout

Don't forget to look up at the lights

Buttons and other sewing things, ribbons and all

The Meat59 gazebo outside the restaurant

And an artistic arrival

There were stalls for charity

... and musicians

Coloured gazebos added a glow to the fair

A small Christmas tree

Stalls outside the shops
Stalls outside the flats

Time to add a light to your home?

And fresh local fruit

The Mount Radford was busy

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Coal in St Leonard’s

Strange as it may seem to young people, houses with central heating are a relatively recent phenomenon.  I grew up in a house built in the 1950s; even at such a recent date, outside the back door was a coal-shed integrated into the house, and every so often a lorry loaded with sacks of coal would arrive to deliver fuel for the open fires and anthracite for the kitchen range.  One pair of grandparents, in an older house, had a coal-cellar, reached by a flight of steps from the garden.  The other grandparents, in a more modest property, had a coal-bunker outside the back door.   By the time I left home, central heating and electric fires had replaced the dependence on coal; the coal-cellar and coal-shed had become store-rooms, the bunker had been taken away in pieces.  

Scattered around St Leonard’s there are, I am sure, similar reminders of the use of coal in our homes.  Some people still buy coal, but few need deliveries measured in hundredweights as the earlier generations did.  So the storage spaces have disappeared or found alternative uses, laundry rooms, a place for garden tools, and so on.  Such reminders of the past are on private land, we are not aware of the changes in other people’s homes.  

Of course, house chimneys are a permanent reminder of an age of open fires, and I wrote about them in an earlier issue.  But at ground level, there is one kind of public and visible reminder of how we used to use and store coal.  And that is the coal-hole cover.  If a house boasted a coal-cellar then it needed a way of filling that cellar.  The family could access their fuel from inside, but they did not want dusty tradesmen traipsing through the front door to deliver a dirty, coal-encrusted sack.  The solution was a chute, large enough for the fuel, but small enough to prevent intruders entering the property.  And the chute needed a cover, usually a heavy cast-iron circular cover, set into the pavement outside the property or into the garden paving around the house.  

There are still a few coal-hole covers in pavements to be found in the neighbourhood.  Many will have been lost over the years as houses are altered and pavements resurfaced.  I have only found a handful, in Colleton Crescent and Matford Lane, or between us and the city centre, in Southernhay.  If you are passing, take a look at the attractive designs on these utilitarian pieces of ironwork. 
Circular coal-hole cover in Matford Lane

Friends in the older parts of the neighbourhood tell me that there were examples outside their front doors, in shallow front gardens; but those front gardens are now parking spaces for cars, and the pieces of ironwork have been thrown away – though one at least has been retained for decoration and is visible in Wonford Road.   

Rectangular and circular covers in Colleton Crescent
Bloggers in London and Cheltenham (and elsewhere) have recorded the coal-hole covers in their cities, with pictures. 

Are there any other surviving coal-hole covers locally?  This is an open-ended article; I would be delighted to get further information about this topic.

Friday, 16 June 2017

2017 general election results for Exeter

Elected: Labour candidate Ben Bradshaw, 34,336 votes, with 62% of the votes of a 71.7% turnout, with a majority of 16,117
Conservative James Taghdissian polled 18,219
Liberal Democrat Vanessa Newcombe polled 1,562
Green Joe Levy polled 1,027
Independent Jonathan West polled 212
Independent Jonathan Bishop polled 67

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Purple flowers in May in St Leonard's

After the yellows and whites of the flowers around St Leonard’s in March and April, May brings out two shrubs noted for the display of purple flowers.  The colours of lilac and wisteria are abundant this month – bringing delight to passers-by, and to the bees starting to seek nectar in these warmer months.
Neither plant is native to this country, but they were introduced at different times.  The lilac came first, with records of it being grown in Britain in the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth.  It wasn’t widely known – Shakespeare doesn’t mention it, despite the bard’s extensive knowledge of plants and flowers.  It is related to the olive, and the similarity is evident if you compare the wood of the two trees.  Like the olive, the lilac is native to the eastern Mediterranean, and it was travellers to modern-day Turkey who brought the first plants to western Europe.  (Just imagine the challenge of bringing a plant back from there by sailing ship, horse-drawn vehicle and horseback!).  There are lilacs all over the neighbourhood, in numerous shades from white through to very deep purple, many derived from the breeding programme of an energetic French nurseryman of the 19th century.  White lilacs – in Victorian flower language – symbolise innocence.  Brides from just after the second world war found white lilac a convenient and inexpensive flower for their bouquets at a time when the flower trade was recovering.
Lilac’s botanical name is Syringa, and that name comes from Greek mythology.  There was a beautiful nymph named Syringa.  Pan, the god of the forests and fields, was taken by her beauty and chased Syringa through the forest.  She was so frightened by Pan's affections, that Syringa escaped by turning herself into an aromatic bush.  Pan couldn’t find her, but found the hollow stems of the bush suitable for making himself pan-pipes. 
Lilac flowers can be used in cookery, to make jellies and syrups, or even dipped in batter and deep fried.  They will have fewer calories than a deep-fried chocolate bar, but I haven’t encountered a fast-food outlet selling them.
Wisterias came to our gardens in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Most writers say that the plant was named after a German botanist, Caspar Wistar, despite the difference in spelling.  A minority of books call the plant wistaria in consequence.  The first wisterias came from North America, and then the great plant hunters of the nineteenth century collected examples of the same family from Japan and China.  So the plants that we see around us come from both hemispheres, though the oriental shrubs are more common.  Over the last two centuries of cultivation, we have come to welcome the shrub as a beautiful climber for arches, balconies, or to run along walls and fences.  The wisteria tunnel in Pinces Gardens, in St Thomas, has been a feature for nearly 150 years.  Unlike the plants in Flanders and Swann’s song, Misalliance, wisterias may twine clockwise or anticlockwise.  The plant can get so heavy that it damages its supporting structure – and if it climbs a tree, can strangle that!
Although a wisteria comes from the family of beans, and the plant produces pods, it is not advisable to try to eat any part of the plant.  So enjoy the sight of these splendid shrubs, and allow the bees their harvest from the flowers.
Published in the Neighbourhood News, May-June 2017