If you visit The Grange, opposite the village green and pond, and go to the Art Gallery and Museum on the first floor, you’ll find one or two helpers there looking after things on behalf of the Rottingdean Preservation Society.
For the past two years, Rob has been the Committee member responsible for training and co-ordinating not only these stewards but also the gardeners and key holders; a team of 80 volunteers who are essential for the smooth running of The Grange.
Born in Newport on the Isle of Wight, Rob settled in Saltdean with his wife and three young children in 1975 after moving from Southampton to take up the post of headteacher at Uplands School in Brighton, a new secondary school for children with learning and behavioural difficulties. He retired after 20 years, having established this new school as a model for children not able to cope with mainstream education.
As an enthusiastic advocate of Rottingdean and a keen raconteur Rob has become increasingly involved in sharing his enthusiasm for the village, in his friendly and easy going way, with as many people as possible. He was recently interviewed by BBC Sussex on his favourite subject for their early morning breakfast show, and on numerous occasions he has been asked to provide historical tours for visitors.Two of his walks: one around the village itself, and one to Beacon Hill and the surrounding countryside have been included in the ‘KIpling Festival’ and have now been taken up by the South Downs National Park to be published as part of their series of leaflets on walks and cycle rides.
Since retiring, Rob has continued, and developed, his interest in painting and writing. He considers himself very fortunate to have a local art gallery at The Grange where he can exhibit his own work. Since 2005 he has held 6 exhibitions there: mainly of landscape paintings; in acrylics, watercolours and oils, capturing the colours and hues of the many places which he has travelled to, as well as those closer to home.
Much of Rob’ s writing, like many of his paintings, is based on his travels. His interest started when he researched and traced his family back to the 1880s; discovered that he had relations living in America; and travelled there with his wife to meet them. His novel ‘Ocean of Grass’ is based on the intriguing story of his ancestor William Bridge, a miller, who seized the opportunity to move from the Isle of Wight to the prairies in the mid-west of America at a time when wheat was starting to be produced there in vast quantities. Seeing a better future for his wife and three young children William led them on a long and tortuous journey by covered wagon across the States to the desolate and isolated plains of South Dakota. The novel, a blend of fact and fiction, is especially a tribute to the stoic heroism and courage of the wives of the pioneers.
Rob has also travelled to Australia, Canada and Europe. Having recently returned from Alaska, he is busy writing about that trip, whilst preparing to go on a camping holiday to Wales with his children and grandchildren. Since ‘Ocean of Grass’ he has written a large number of short stories and several non-fiction books. He is a member of the Saltdean Scribblers, a dynamic creative writing group; and of a book reading group, The 2006 Group. He also finds time to fulfil his role as Elder and Church Secretary at St Martins United Reformed Church in Saltdean.
Rob is keen to hear from anybody who would like to join his team of volunteers.
If you would like to find out more about being a volunteer helper contact the Rottingdean Preservation Society
Or visit the Art Gallery upstairs at the Grange and leave a note in the tray on the steward’s desk.
Rob’s book ‘Ocean of Grass’ has been published on Kindle and is available as a download from Amazon: Ocean of Grass
Further information can be found at: www.oceanofgrass.com
For information on Saltdean Scribblers contact Rob at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find out more about the leaflets on walks and cycle rides published by the South Downs National Park at: www.southdowns.gov.uk
Article written by Denise Whittington