Problematic politics

The St Loyes Ward has a funny position in Exeter. It is part of the Exeter City Council area. However, in 2010 the Parliamentary Constituency boundaries were redrawn, and St Loyes was moved from Exeter to East Devon.

I saw something of the campaigning in the 2017 General Election, and found that many residents did not know which Constituency they lived in. Would they have voted differently as a result? Would they engage their actual MP differently now if they knew who he was and that he was in a different party?

The Boundary Commission has recently been conducting a review of Constituency boundaries. One proposal was that St Loyes be moved back into the Exeter constituency, and many people supported this. However, in September the Boundary Commission recommended that we stay where we are in East Devon. So here we are, with the prospect of another General Election looking increasingly likely.

But that’s not all! In 2016, Exeter City Council redrew the Ward boundaries, so the Ward and Constituency boundaries no longer line up either. Nor do they line up with the Devon County Council Wonford & St Loyes Division boundary.

The Ordnance Survey has a great site where you can look at the various boundaries – Here are the City Ward and Constituency boundaries.



NEW!! Resources for schools and communities

I’ve just uploaded two sets of ideas for place-based activities in schools and communities. Head on over to the Resources page for these and for more links to other resources around the website.

It would be great if any of these suggested activities could be used to connect the people with the place and with each other: young and old; residents, businesses and public sector organisations. It would be equally great if some engaging public art was created. And last, but by no means least, it would be great if everyone involved had a lot of fun!

The ideas relate to different types of art, eg visual, conceptual, writing, digital, environment. Many of the ideas were dreamed up with school students in mind. They can all be adapted to fit different age groups.

How well do you know St Loyes?

The Office for National Statistics had the original and best “How well do you know your area” quiz – see Alan Smith’s talk at TEDxExeter – but it is no longer available online.

Have a go at this InYourArea quiz instead.

Then if you would like to find out more about St Loyes, here are some useful links:

The old ways

There are several old routes through Digby. What are now Quarry Lane and Digby Drive both appear on the 1801 drawing for the first edition Ordnance Survey map of Exeter, and are probably much older.

The route of Quarry Lane still exists, from the bottom of East Wonford Hill, past the Heavitree Stone quarries, and east along the Sidmouth Road.

The other old way zigzagged from Salter’s Road to Clyst Road. Woodwater Lane, Digby Drive, the footpath to Baxter Close, and Clyst Halt Avenue to Old Rydon Close still follow the route, although much of it has been erased by Exe Vale Retail Park, the railway, and fields around Sandy Park.

Bypass Camp

The area from Rydon Park to Toby Carvery used to be occupied by a military camp. It is recorded on Luftwaffe aerial photographs of 1st July 1940. It is possible that this is ‘Bypass Camp’ which was the base for the 4th United States Army Quartermaster Company and 704th Ordnance Company of the 4th Infantry Division by 1944. The name is probably related to its location alongside Rydon Lane, which was built in 1935. There was also a Bypass Airfield on what is now St Peter’s School.

What on earth is the Kyrangle?

Thank you for asking! When I named the “Star Spangled Kyrangle”, I thought it was common knowledge, as it is marked on Google Maps. But it managed to bemuse some local residents who hadn’t heard the name before.

It’s the area of green next to Clyst Heath School, west of the railway line. In times past, the area used to be a quarry and source of red sand. I wonder whether ‘Kyrangle’ is a corruption of ‘quarry’.

Here is what the area looks like on the old OS map from 1873-88 compared with today.

Warwick Road wilderness

Following the “Minecraft my home” meet-up, my local councillor Peter Holland made the following request:

What I am hoping to do is show the Planning Committee what will be ‘lost’ if a footpath is constructed along the back of the proposed DCH/Cygnet housing development. It is only a very small strip of land which borders the gardens of the odd numbers from 41 [Warwick Road]. At present the path alongside the garden boundaries is locked outside of school hours.

The land at the rear of the gardens is currently a copse of established hazel trees, some of which are rooted in what appears to be a dilapidated Devon hedge. It is a refuge for wildlife, attracting a wide variety of birds including, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long Tail Tits, Coal Tits, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Wren, Starling, Robin, Blackbird, Blackcap, House Sparrow, and Woodpigeon. Sparrow hawk are also occasionally seen in the local area. A number of bird species are currently using the trees and bushes for nest sites. Birds can be seen throughout most of the day foraging in the leaf litter or in the branches of the trees. During the summer months, bats are regularly found in our garden, which suggests that they may be roosting very close to the current vegetation. Bats have been witnessed flying in the gardens and the adjacent land this year from the 24 April.

It is noted that an ‘ecology zone’ is proposed within the north-east area of the housing development, but it seems illogical to destroy an established wildlife area by paving it with tarmac only to establish a new ‘ecology zone’ elsewhere. It was also noted that the environmental survey performed described a very limited array of birdlife. Quite clearly the area behind the gardens has a high level of biodiversity beyond that which was originally surveyed.

If the copse were to become a public path with access 24 hours a day, there is a security and vandalism risk to properties and boundary fence and the risk of noise from rowdy members of the public which would impact residents’ privacy. If street lighting were to be installed along the footpath, there is obvious risk of light pollution through residents’ windows.

What I would be grateful for is a Minecraft showing what the copse could look like.

Peter and I paid a site visit on Friday 22nd June, and we were joined by Mark from Exeter City Futures. I had just enough time to put together a Minecraft wilderness before the Planning  Committee meeting on the Monday.

A narrow dirt path winds through mossy stones, tall trees and saplings, creepers, ferns, grasses, fungi, and a few flowers, and eventually gets lost in the undergrowth. My version of Minecraft is a bit limited in terms of bird species, so I had to be content with releasing bats, cats, and rabbits, and a few spider webs.

It’s a small example of how Minecraft can be used to imagine our place, to the extent of forming part of an official planning meeting! Here are some real life photos, Minecraft screenshots before and after, and a video walk-through.

It’s Minecraft, but is it art?

Here are two works of art that I have installed in the St Loyes Minecraft world. What others would you like to see? Maybe Anthony Gormley’s “Angel of the North” on a high point in Ludwell Valley Park? Or “A Line Made by Walking” by Richard Long? Or you could make your own.

The Tate’s purchase in 1972 of “Equivalent VIII” by Carl Andre triggered one of the most famous public debates in Britain about contemporary art. You may also know “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, and his description of the Vogon Constructor Fleet: “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.” It seemed like a fun idea to combine the two above Middlemoor roundabout!

Carl Andre / H2G2 crossover

Minecraft lends itself to reproducing more geometric art, like that of Piet Mondrian. It’s just slightly unfortunate that the Tesco car park isn’t aligned exactly N-S and E-W but on a diagonal!

Subversion in Minecraft

Previously, I’ve written about how people in St Loyes are subverting the ‘normal’ design for the car, and making desire paths. Now, in Minecraft, I’m rolling out the red carpet for these champions of life, liberty and the pursuit of walking!

Mark from Exeter City Futures is joining in too, with a small example from the bottom of Quarry Lane. How many desire paths do you take (or can you spot) on your journeys around St Loyes?

Imagine a Community Hub

St Loyes is a mishmash of council housing, mobile homes, old and new suburbs, industrial estate, retail park, M5 J30 services and part of Ludwell Valley Park.

There is no community centre, post office, or anything obvious that connects people and provides heart. There are a few cafés for workers on Sowton, but there aren’t really any eateries or watering holes for locals. Most are for shoppers, or for people passing through on business or holiday. There’s nowhere I’d really like to meet up with a friend for a nice cup of tea, or go for a meal, or have a relaxing pint on a summer evening.

The schools provide some space for meeting, and rent out their halls to groups, but it’s not quite the same as having a dedicated space like at Newcourt. In some parts of St Loyes, there aren’t even any noticeboards for advertising events and activities.

It would be nice to have a place that brings people together and could be used as an art space too. Where might such a community hub be located?

There is a patch of derelict land almost slap bang in the middle of the ward near Middlemoor that might be an option. I had a go at dreaming and creating a possible building in the St Loyes Minecraft world. Not terribly successfully, it has to be said. Minecraft can help you imagine all these things and ask what if? questions. Maybe someone could do a better job.

The site is also problematic because it used to be a petrol station and the land needs a lot of work to make it safe. It looks green on Google Maps because it’s overgrown concrete reverting to nature! So maybe there are other possibilities. Let it be, and let it rewild itself, as a pocket of biodiversity? Or perhaps put up a gazebo and bunting, drag in some armchairs for the day, and hold a random picnic? Any other ideas?