057 We pay tribute to Sophie Courtiour, resident of Rodney Stoke.

057 We pay tribute to Sophie Courtiour, resident of Rodney Stoke.

An amazing woman and a massive participant in our community life. Mother, Willow Sculptor, Instructor, House Builder, Church Bell Captain, Horse Expert, and devoted lover of everything to do with Nature.

Sophie will be missed by her family who we are thinking about at this time, but friends will miss her too, as she touched so many hearts.

To remember Sophie (and with permission from her family) we have reconstructed the podcast recorded with Tiggi and Sophie chatting in February 2020. 

She died on the 8th of June this year 2023.

We have used some of Sophie’s favourite pieces of music and poetry, (selected by herself for her funeral) and fascinating stories about willow growing around the Somerset levels and its part in our community history.  The extraordinary connection of willow to nature, including a living shrine to a passing cat. Sophie survived one of our coldest winters living in a tent with her three young children while she physically built a safe dream ‘Eco home’ for them all.

We will miss the wicker horse standing proudly outside Sophie’s home in Rodney Stoke, but I like to think it gallops alongside her indomitable spirit as they canter on together over the moors of Somerset and beyond.

056 Blindness Is Never Dark

056 Blindness Is Never Dark

As Patron of the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind). Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was a passionate advocate for the rights of blind and partially sighted people.

With that in mind we are delighted to re broadcast the podcast we made with Ella Caulfield two years ago. A young lady who became totally blind at the age of just 15.

Her Majesty was also a keen member of the WI. Ella, with her guide dog Rio at her side, joined me recently and told her story of going blind to our local Rodney Stoke and Draycott WI.

A poignant story of loss, courage and enlightenment, supported by the legacy of education led by our greatly missed compassionate Monarch.


055 Rodney Stoke and Draycott WI

055 Rodney Stoke and Draycott WI

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Alison Quill, who was President of the branch from 2019, until her death in April 2022.

Tiggi talks to Natalyia Wills, a member of the local WI since 2015.  She is on a mission to bust the myth that the WI is not only ‘Jam and Jerusalem’.

Since 1915 when the first WI was formed in Wales, many resolutions from them have been made directly to Government. They have been influencing on so many important matters since,  including social housing, HIV and Aids awareness, and Care Not Custody for Women. Back in the 1970s they were even campaigning on environmental issues.

During  the two world wars, the WI organisation started to empower women in rural areas to support the war effort. The organisation went from strength to strength.

Currently the WI has a membership of 220,000. Still the largest and arguably the most powerful women’s group in the UK



054 Perch Hill Vineyard Near Draycott

054 Perch Hill Vineyard Near Draycott

Having faced a life changing diagnosis and a need to re navigate her life, two and a half years ago, Alison Ironside and her Mother moved from Cornwall to Draycott.  They wanted to join a community and ideally buy some land. Bingo! A vineyard came up for sale nearby called PERCH HILL. Boasting a south facing plot on the Mendip hillside, and unbroken views across the Somerset levels to Glastonbury.

With a new horticultural degree under her belt and a giant leap of faith, Alison bought her piece of heaven.  As a confessed novice on wines and wine making Alison could not wait to start her new life journey as a bio friendly and carbon neutral grape grower of both exotic and quaffable wines on a minimal scale.  And to employ local labour.

Within a short time Covid-19 struck and it seemed Alison’s dream might turn out to be a nightmare instead.  Listen to this extraordinary story of a woman’s passion to succeed against all the odds.

“If you can read, you can learn!”   A sound message bequeathed to Alison by her late and dearly missed Dad.

053 Draycott’s Jubilee Celebration

053 Draycott’s Jubilee Celebration

I had a real scoop this month.  For our Draycott Diaries Jubilee Special, I chat with internationally acclaimed choral conductor, composer and organist Barry Rose OBE.

As resident organist and Master of the Choir at St Paul’s Cathedral in London from 1974, Barry participated in many royal services. These included the 1977 Silver Jubilee and the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

Barry’s glittering career started with no qualifications whatsoever, just a love for pipe organ music – practising regularly on a harmonium and the local cinema’s Wurlitzer-type organ to learn his craft. This eventually allowed him to get away from working in an insurance office (much to his Father’s disappointment). A lucky meeting got him an audition for the Royal Academy of Music, and determination and talent did the rest.

We learn that conducting a famous Cathedral choir has its hazards – including flying lampshades. More importantly, how was he allowed to turn his back on the Queen?



052 Draycott And The Strawberry Line

052 Draycott And The Strawberry Line

The romance of an historic steam train, puffing along through the gorgeous Somerset countryside. Children waving as passengers disembark at Draycott Station. Watched from the windows of the Railway Inn opposite.  This was the Cheddar Valley Line, later re-named The Strawberry Line due to its delicious cargo of rich, red, ripe and juicy strawberries heading for the dainty plates of royalty and top restaurants. From late Victorian period to the early 60’s as transport needs were ever changing.

As Tiggi chats to local journalist and train enthusiast Harry Mottram, we learn about this iconic section of railway line, sadly stopped on its tracks in the mid 60’s, impacting on the local community.  Espionage or a need for modernity?  Only time will tell.

 Where the tracks once lay and with some tunnels still standing firm, the environment may yet re invent itself as a pathway for nature. Both Tiggi and Harry hope this is the case.

(Strawberry Line Photos courtesy Harry Mottram)

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