December 20, 2014
Christmas message issued by Burnham and Highbridge's Mayor

Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge's Mayor, Cllr Martin Cox, has issued his annual Christmas message to residents.

In it, he looks back at a busy year of events across the two towns and wishes residents a happy holiday period.

He says: "Christmas is a time for family and I'm personally looking forward to spending some quality time relaxing with my wife Arlene and my family.

Christmas can also be a difficult time for people. It can be a painful and sad time for many families, particularly for people who have suffered bereavement over the past year. I would encourage people to rally around these families, friends and neighbours and provide them with the help and support that they need.

This is the second year for Arlene and I to be Mayor and Mayoress. We are enjoying it even more than our first year, being well versed in the various routines.

Seeing at close hand all the community activities, the groups of volunteers helping others, the festivities organised for us all, has taught me to love our coastal town, as every activity contributes to the social fabric of our society, making this a better place to live and bonding us all together.

The invitations I receive are varied and can be anything from opening a shop, celebrating a 100th Birthday party or welcoming royalty!

Over the past year, Burnham residents Ian Jefferies and Les Barber set up a 'Project Coach' to encourage coaches into our town for longer than just a quick stopover. They met coaches to tell them where they can find good food and value for money and later Burnham-On-Sea received the coveted flag for 'Coach Friendly Status.' As a result hundreds more coaches have visited us, resulting in extra income for businesses.

In March I opened a new swimming pool at Burnham-On-Sea Holiday Village. I found it very welcoming to know that Haven has the confidence in our local tourism industry to invest £2million pounds in a lovely new swimming pool complex.

In May I took a card and flowers to Burnhan resident Winifred Morse for her 100th Birthday. She had received a lovely card from the Queen and I am told the Queen actually signs each card herself! Gladys was an amazingly sprightly lady. She said: "My secret for a long life is eating plain healthy food, keeping active and having lots of good friends around me. I also do a lot of jigsaws to keep my mind active."

In the spring Arlene and I enjoyed good company and good food at a dinner organised by the Fritzlar Twinning Society. I learnt that the town of Fritzlar in Germany was twinned with Burnham-On-Sea 25 years ago on 25th June 1989.

Mayor's are elected every April and usually serve for one year. Each Mayor will hold a 'Mayor's Sunday' or 'Civic Service' and invite all the other Mayor's in Somerset to the occasion. As there are 16 Mayor's in Somerset that end's up with a lot of invitations. Whilst we are all together we call ourselves 'The Chain Gang!' I have two deputy Mayors to help me and one of them Cllr. Dennis Davey covered a July invitation at The Baptist Hall for 'Tea at Three!' He also covers many other invitations together with my other deputy Cllr. Mike Mansfield.

Our lovely coastal town of Burnham-On-Sea is just a little town but there is lots and lots of history here! What make's a place like this interesting, is knowledge of it's history and then we can fully appreciate the town we have today.

On Monday 9th June my wife and I were at The Marine Recue Centre on the seafront, together with other dignitaries and members of BARB Search & Rescue to welcome Prince Edward. He did an informal walkabout, meeting local people who had come to see him. He was welcomed by Mark Newman, the BARB Chairman, other BARB members, following which Cllr. Neville Jones asked the Prince to unveil a new information plaque on the sea wall, all about Royal visits to our town.

I was also proud to be invited to the launch of the 'Capture Burnham' project and a new Heritage trail. These had been established by John Strickland's history group with the aid of a lottery grant. John has put the history of our area onto this web site, but there are still many gaps in our knowledge. By inviting people to add information and pictures, we will gradually build up a comprehensive library that we can all read and enjoy. For the Heritage Trail there is a map of historical buildings in the town centre and a route to follow. Outside each one is a 'Quick Response' square and those with a smart phone can point the phone at this square & bring up a web page all about that particular building.

In September my wife and I held our Annual Civic Service at St. Andrew's Church. During this service, two couples interested in sports where presented with a Civic Award for their charitable work.

Firstly, international athletes, Sarah & Mark Cox-Conklin who run Burnham's Swim & Sports Academy. They saved our town swimming pool from being sold off for development and at great expense brought this old facility up to modern standards. They added a fitness centre and various outdoor activities. The pool is now the hub for other activities such as runs, sprints, semi-marathons and is now an enormous asset to Burnham on Sea.

Secondly, Sue & Tony Merrett who transformed an old warehouse in Highbridge into the nerve centre of a remarkable gymnastic enterprise 'The Monarchs Acrobatic Gymnastics Club.' This club has now expanded and has every facility for over 100 youngsters who not only train at the club, but from there, set off to many parts of Europe where they win many medals and awards! The great success of this Club is due to the enthusiasm and personal sacrifice of this husband and wife team Tony and Sue, over the last 15 years.

The Queen has a Lord-Lieutenant in each county as her representative and they assist and escort any Royal visits. The Lord-Lieutenant of Somerset is Lady Gass DVCO. On 29th November this year I was with the welcoming group when she called to Burnham's BARB Search & Rescue headquarters. In recognition of BARB's outstanding flood relief work across Somerset over the past two winters and for operating two rescue hovercrafts. She presented them with 'The Queens Award for Voluntary Service 2014.' This is a much-coveted national honour for outstanding achievements by groups of volunteers who help others.

Christmas is a time for sharing and for caring for each other. It's a time for reaching out the hand of friendship and reconciliation. I want to wish all the citizens of Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

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