February Parish Council

The strange and bewildering story of the BBC and Withiel’s treasured signpost was set out at the February meeting of Withiel Parish Council, where it was explained that hopes had been raised, then dashed, that the historic but deteriorating fingerpost would be refurbished at no cost to the Parish.

Councils in Cornwall had been contacted by the makers of a new BBC2 series called ‘The Repair Shop’ who were looking for interesting items of sentimental value which could be repaired by their team of experts. They particularly specified community items such as statues, weather vanes, sundials or carvings that might have special meaning to the community.

The beautiful cast iron signpost in Withiel has been causing concern for some years as its condition continues to deteriorate. It is rusting badly and the fingers have been replaced by inappropriate aluminium arms, one of which is drooping alarmingly. Cornwall Council, which is responsible for maintenance of the sign, prefers to spend its money elsewhere.

Responding to the invitation, Parish Clerk Robin Turner proposed to the programme makers, Ricochet Productions, that the suffering signpost would be an appropriate subject for The Repair Shop. The programme’s Associate Producer Ben King responded with unbridled enthusiasm. Merv Davey, the Grand Bard of Cornwall, who lives opposite the signpost and has made an exhaustive study of historic signposts in the area, was prepared to be fully involved in the making of the programme. Emails and phone calls flew back and forth. A filming schedule was proposed. Parish Council Chairman Janet Shearer, County Councillor Chris Batters and several County Council officers were involved in getting the required filming permissions, and a film team was sent to Withiel to interview Merv Davey and procure evocative footage of the beautiful village and its sorry signpost. With them came one of the programme’s repair experts, master craftsman Don Barker, who was expected to take away the top half of the signpost to begin repairs at the programme’s workshops in Chichester.

But after the filming had taken place, the idea was suddenly dropped. Assistant Producer Ben King wrote to the Parish Clerk saying the item had hit “a momentous bump in the road” and that while he personally loved the item, they would not be proceeding because of a “mixture of factors”. Furthermore, those involved would not be able to get further information from him as he was emigrating to Australia the following week. Councillor Shearer told the Parish Council that it seemed that the cost of the refurbishment had been beyond the means of the producers. Mr King had said in his final communication that if the programme was recommissioned by the BBC, it would probably be with “a larger pool of resources” and the Withiel signpost item might be resurrected.

Signposts apart, the February meeting noted the banking of a VAT refund of £182.86 and a Local Maintenance Partnership grant of £292. Councillor Cubitt reported progress on the Neighbourhood Development Plan, where responses had been received from statutory bodies and we could now move to the next stage – a meeting of the Steering Group was arranged for the following week. The Council noted the Cornwall Association of Local Councils position on the Local Government Boundary Commission report, which is due out in May. The Council also discussed a letter complaining of increased traffic through Ruthernbridge from vehicles carrying cyclists to the mountain biking track at Grogley and will monitor the situation.

The next meeting is on Wednesday March 1st at 7:15pm; all are welcome.