Look! It’s our five smuggling suspects – but which one is the culprit?
Come and question them all from midday to 4pm on Saturday 20th September and help reveal the villain!
August was a very busy month for us here at Babbacombe Cliff Railway. Although the Cliff Railway was built in1926 it has been owned and run by a specially set up Community Interest Company (CIC) for the past five years. The Company is made up of a Board of voluntary Directors who in turn employ just 6 members of staff to ensure that the 100,000 people who travel on the Cliff Railway each year do so safely and happily.
In August there were two special events to mark the first five years of CIC ownership. The first was an evening Reception held at the Bay Trecarn Hotel to thank all the many volunteers, local businesses and groups who have helped make the railway the success it now is. The Trecarn Hotel is the latest local business to link up with the Cliff Railway and is now holding regular fundraising events and supporting operations wherever possible. In fact, Hotel Manager, Steve King, has just joined the Board of Directors of the Railway. Steve said “I am delighted to be so involved with Babbacombe Cliff Railway, both personally and on behalf of the hotel. It’s an amazing local attraction and I believe it’s vital that it is looked after and treasured for future generations. To be part of a group so dedicated to ensuring that happens is very inspiring and I’m looking forward to getting more involved.”
Board Chairman, John Ayres, said “We are absolutely thrilled that Steve has joined the Board. We are lucky enough to have a great bunch of people both on the Board and as volunteers. The mix of skills and experience within the group is what makes the Cliff Railway the success it is. We take the business of running Babbacombe Cliff Railway very seriously but we also get along very well and respect each other’s opinions. Between us I believe we are doing a great job of taking care of the Cliff Railway and running it in a way that ensures it will continue to prosper for many years to come.” He added “It was wonderful to have our special fifth anniversary Reception as it gave us an opportunity to show everyone who has contributed how important they all are to the Cliff Railway”.
In fact, John was so keen to ensure that he thanked everyone that, instead of the usual speeches one would expect at such an occasion, he read a poem that he had written specially for the event and which can be read in full below.
After an evening of merry-making, a family party day took place down on Oddicombe Beach in the form of the first ever Babbacombe Ukulele Festival with performances by ukulele bands from Babbacombe, Hatherleigh, Torbay, Marldon and Newton Abbot. On the Saturday morning, a large marquee was put up on the promenade and for over four hours live music was enjoyed by lots of people on a day of spectacular sunshine. John said “One of the reasons for having a marquee was so that there would be shelter if the weather was bad. In the end it was used as much-needed shade as we were treated to a glorious sunny day. The whole event was a huge success and I’m very much hoping it was the first of many ukulele festivals to come so watch this space.”
As well as the Board and staff we have lots of volunteers who help run the Visitor Centre down on Oddicombe Beach. The Visitor Centre opened in April 2012. It’s free to look around and has proved extremely popular with locals and holidaymakers alike. Badly damaged in the storms this February, it was redecorated, re-stocked and open in time for Easter. We are always keen to hear from anyone who may like to volunteer in the Visitor Centre even for just a few hours a week. So, if you are interested in being part of the future of Babbacombe Cliff Railway e-mail use our Contact Page or pop into the Visitor Centre and see Sarah Foley, who co-ordinates all the volunteers.
Babbacombe Cliff Railway is open every day from 9.30am and our next special event is a mystery to solve as part of the Agatha Christie Festival. On Saturday 20 September we will take you back to the 1920s and ask you to help solve the “Flight of the Babbacombe Smuggler”. With suspects to question and live music from High Society the fun starts at midday and is totally free to take part although usual Cliff Railway travel charges apply.
In 2003 the cliff railway was in a dire state
With closure seeming it’s only fate
Then it was Arthur Christian
Who started us on a mission
To ensure that our piece of engineering history
Would be preserved for this and future generations to see
So protection, promotion and preservation
Became our motto and motivation
The Friends were set up in 2005
To organise events to make the railway thrive
It was in need of a £500,000 expenditure
To ensure it had a satisfactory future
The funds from the sale of St Marychurch Town Hall were donated
So over the next two winters the railway was completely renovated
The contract finished the railway looking pristine
But to sell it to an operator the Council were keen
And by a somewhat peculiar twist
We were the only people on the list
Interviews were held very officially
And the Community Interest Company was a reality
Negotiations continued at a pace
And in December 2006 a lease was in place
A long delay followed a full investigation
As to whether the Council had the right to lease the operation
So in 2008 a new Railway Order was presented to Parliament
And in February 2009 the Transport Minister gave it his assent
Finally on August 1 2009 with a low key ceremony
The Cliff Railway became owned by the Community
Record takings over the next two months provided stability
And gave us funds to do the jobs that were necessary
February 2010 with our own crew and a change of livery
We begin to realise our responsibility
Our first full season and suddenly it got really serious
It was a very steep learning curve for all of us
A Heritage Lottery Grant allowed us to achieve an ambition
To establish a Visitor Centre in which to mount an historical exhibition
A place where our merchandise could be displayed
And where long standing relations with the public can be made
So five years on, a good time for everyone to assess
Whether the transfer of ownership has been a success
But there is no way we could have existed
Without the way all of you have assisted
Us with advice, support, and donations
All this was way beyond our expectation
Tonight is firstly to celebrate the birthday
Of the date we took over the railway
But more importantly to record and demonstrate
To you all that your help and advice we really appreciate
There’s Richard Hutchings of Kitsons who looked after our interest
Ensuring that the deal we got was the best
Brewers and ICI responded to our request so readily
Providing the paint to return the railway to the original livery
In later years we’ve also had support from Waitrose, Datel and Sainsbury’s
All allowing us to use the donations as we please
For any business financial advice is a must
And in Barretts our accountants we really trust
Unlike other businesses we have the Friends as a back up facility
Who are always ready to protect us from insolvency
Problems with the Council arise occasionally
But Peter Addis has always dealt with my moans so patiently
On our growing number of volunteers we depend
They turn out in all weathers and spend
Their free time in the Visitor Centre or station
For their work we receive many a commendation
Our season ticket holders are our mainstay
For many travel with us every day
They go to the beach for a tan and or a dip in the sea
And we do our best to maintain their loyalty
Our employees are second to none
They are all determined to see the job well done
The guys who open the doors every day
Welcome the passengers and send them on their way
Do this in a caring and very efficient fashion
Because for this railway they have developed a real passion
Melanie and Sarah who deal with all the administration
Answer all our paperwork efficiently with no hesitation
Suppliers and correspondents can be assured
That nothing we receive gets ignored
The Directors who volunteered to take responsibility
For the railway have defined the strategy
At frequent meetings the impact of ideas and statistics we discuss
And eventually decide what is best for us
Mary Popham records the minutes accurately
So that there is a record for all to see.
Nicky and Phil have introduced us to Agatha Christie
And Jo ensures we are dressed appropriately
Jim Gill’s films put all the visitors in a great frame of mind
So that they will by merchandise of any kind.
I hope I’ve mentioned everyone in this list
But I sincerely apologise to anyone I’ve missed
We’ve been very lucky as you can see
With the amount of assistance and from all corners of the community
To you all we send our thanks and appreciation for it is true
That we couldn’t have managed anything without you
I believe that for the railway the future is extremely bright
And I look forward that together we can prove me right.
It’s early April, 1927. It’s just before 6pm and approaching dusk.
On Oddicombe Beach, gallant Customs Officer Percy Wallett is chasing a suspected smuggler towards the Cliff Railway bottom station. The smuggler has too much of a head start, however, and reaches the station well ahead of Percy. To Percy’s dismay, the Cliff Railway carriage jolts into motion before he can apprehend the shadowy figure.
Undeterred, Percy quickly calls to the policeman he had previously posted at the top station and tells him to arrest the passenger when the carriage arrives. The PC braces himself by the gates as the carriage glides to a stop. The doors are swung open to reveal ….. five people!
Please lend your detecting skills to Percy. Question the five travellers to dig out clues and work out which one is the Babbacombe Smuggler.
Enjoy a ride on the Cliff Railway down to Oddicombe Beach on Saturday 20th September between noon and 4pm to meet the suspects. Have fun putting the clues together and listening to wonderful live music from High Society Jazz Band. There will be a grand reveal and arrest at 3.45pm when you can see if you are right. No prizes, but great fun for all the family.
The event is free to take part but usual Cliff Railway ticket prices still apply.
We are pleased to confirm that today saw the start of trading from food vans on Oddicombe Beach. These are currently replacing the service previously provided by the Café which unfortunately fell victim of the storms earlier this year. The vans will be providing a number of items including Burgers, Hot Dogs, Breakfast Baps, Ice Creams etc.