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Mayor’s Blog – Covid, Cycles & Community –

Covid, Cycles, Community and Water Voles

It was Anne, my wife, who tested positive with Covid first and then a couple of days later it was my turn. We were very aware that numbers of cases, both nationally and locally, were rising significantly since the lifting of restrictions and as a consequence we were remaining cautious when mixing with people, wearing masks, washing hands, sanitising etc but still we succumbed. Nine days on and we are still testing positive.

As far as having Covid is concerned we are extremely grateful that it is the Omicron variant we have managed to catch and not one of the earlier more aggressive ones. That combined with being fully jabbed has meant that we have not suffered greatly. For me it has been like having a heavy cold combined with a permanently fuzzy head and feeling tired most of the time, particularly for the first few days.

As we have all been made all too aware over the past two years, it is at times like there that we see the best of our fellow human beings. Whilst we have been isolating we have been supported by friends and neighbours who have been doing some shopping and generally keeping an eye on us. It is good to know that when you are at a low ebb or indisposed there are friends and neighbours there to help.

Tour Of Britain – stage 7 to start in West Bay

I am delighted that West Bay has been chosen to host this part of the Tour.  Our wonderful scenery and beaches, historic harbour area, sumptuous food and drink offering, the fascination of our Jurassic heritage, and a warm welcome await the riders and spectators alike.  As well as the excitement of the race and all that West Bay has to offer, visitors coming to the event will be just a short walk from Bridport town centre where they can enjoy a host of fabulous independent shops and restaurants, and the country’s best street market by far.

The choice of West Bay as the starting point for Stage 7 is a great boost to Bridport’s annual events calendar as we emerge from two years when we have necessarily been unable to make the best of our reputation as ‘Dorset’s Eventful Town’.  The race will follow hot on the heels of the quirky and joyous Hat Festival on 3 Sept, so why not turn your visit into a longer stay – I promise you won’t regret it!

A man called Simon

I was saddened to hear of the passing of a man I only knew as Simon. Many of you will know exactly who I am referring too, Simon was a homeless man who always wore camouflage clothing and a leather hat, his rucksack of possessions on his back. He has been a presence in the town for several years and I know he will be missed by many.

I got to know Simon slightly through my involvement with the Bridport Community Orchard where he spent a great deal of time and sadly was where he passed away. A very private person, Simon was a man of few words who I always found to be extremely civil and well spoken. As to the circumstances that led to him becoming homeless and sleeping where he could I have no knowledge.

My fondest memory of Simon is encouraging him to join in one of the monthly Sunday morning work sessions in the orchard. Reluctant at first, he agreed and got stuck in borrowing compost from the bins to the allotments and trees. He had clearly enjoyed himself that morning, I never saw him smile more, but sadly it turned out to be a one off.

Community Support

The passing of Simon alone in the Community Orchard contrasts greatly with the support Anne and I have received from friends, neighbours and family over the past week or so. Across Bridport and indeed across Europe there has been an amazing outpouring of support for the plight of people in Ukraine, millions of pounds have been donated and multiple lorry loads of donated aid delivered and yet right here in the heart of our community a man passed away alone. Whether he felt loved and respected or an outcast who knows.

I know that Simon was supported by the Cupboard Love Food Bank at St Mary’s, the Garden Glut stall at St Swithun’s, and other voluntary support groups and on occasion Bridport Citizens Advice. What support is there in Bridport for those less fortunate? There are a significant number of voluntary organisations in the town that can provide help and support. But is it enough? How easy is it to access? And what more can and should we as a community be doing?

I don’t have an easy or simple answer to these and many similar questions. Personal circumstances differ greatly. Redundancy, eviction, physical infirmity, family break up and mental wellbeing are some of the triggers which can put people in a position that, through no fault of their own, means they are struggling. Combine that with the energy price hike which kicked in on 1 April plus the ever increasing general cost of living, more and more people are going to find themselves struggling to make ends meet.

The only thing I would ask is that as a community we continue to offer the hand of support and friendship to all. The way in which we came together during lockdown was inspiring.

Ratty Returns

Anyone who has read The Wind in the Willows will be familiar with Ratty, the affable little character who alongside Mole, Toad and Badger embark on a series of adventures.

Ratty was in fact a water vole. Water voles used to be found in nearly every waterway in England, Scotland and Wales but are now thought to have been lost in up to 90% of these sites. Threats include habitat loss and fragmentation from unsympathetic riverside management, predation by non-native American mink and pollution. As a result water voles are now fully protected under section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

I was contacted this week by local resident, Nicola Dennis, who sent me some beautiful photographs she had taken of water voles on the River Asker. This is great news, it means that the river is clean enough to support them and that the critically low population stands a chance of increasing.

In order to enable the water voles to quietly get on with their lives, it is important that they are disturbed as little as possible particularly at this time of year when the breeding season gets under way. A water vole has to eat the equivalent of 80% of its own bodyweight each day which means it is kept very busy just to survive. If disturbed feeding and breeding become challenging.

With that in mind it would be extremely helpful if dog walkers could keep their dogs out of the river along the Askers meadow section in order to enable these lovely creatures to live in peace.

From Street to Sea 3

A reminder that on Sunday 15 May the third ‘From Street to Sea’ – Bridport’s mass litter pick will take place. Print off the poster below and stick on your fridge to remind you. Better still use the poster to recruit as many people as possible and make this a really significant event.

And Finally.

Have you registered your team for the Mayors Charity Quiz yet?

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