Dick's decorative toytown winds up the neighbours

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The Independent Online
DICK DREW'S efforts to liven up a picture-postcard village by plastering his cottage walls with colourful cuddly toys is causing outrage in the sedate seaside community of Shaldon, near Teignmouth, in Devon.

Angry parish councillors have appealed, so far in vain, to Teignbridge district and Devon county councils to order Mr Drew to clean up his Edwardian brick house overlooking the village green. Mr Drew, 69, a widower from Ealing, west London, is equally determined that his collection of 500 Barbie dolls, pandas, penguins and sea-shore debris (including a pair of old walking boots) will stay.

Shaldon is proud of a cosmopolitan reputation that sets it apart from most West Country villages. It is known as Little Birmingham because so many of its inhabitants have retired there from the Midlands.

The standards of Black Country suburbia are proudly maintained: Spanish wrought-iron balconies, medieval front doors, hacienda storm shutters bolted to the walls and moulded concrete flower tubs.

Mr Drew's soggy outdoor museum is regarded as an affront to years of painstaking gentrification. Earlier this year, village leaders diverted 'Britain in Bloom' judges away from his crucified teddy bears in case it affected their chances. Since then, attempts to sabotage his collection have been made after dark.

'I came here five years ago and thought 'Cor, what a nice little place to retire',' Mr Drew says. 'I went straight down to the estate agents and done a deal.

'I used to go round the charity shops and bought a lot of teddy bears, the reason being I thought I was helping the charities. Then, of course, I got lots and lots and didn't know what to do with 'em, so I thought I'd hang 'em on the walls outside. Well, I thought it'd brighten the place up really.

'Then I started getting these letters from the parish council to remove them and, to be quite honest, I didn't. Next there was 50 dolls disappeared and chucked in the river. I also had handbags out there with flowers in 'em and they went at the same time.'

The next hijack victims were two enormous donkeys strung up under the eaves. Mr Drew composed a severely-worded notice board and stuck it up for the visitors' camcorders. It features a blood-soaked knife and says: 'Bring back my donkeys you Teignmouth men - or mice - or start looking over your shoulder when you are in Shaldon.'

He thought it went rather well with another notice, prominently displayed in his window, inviting local councillors to do something about unemployment 'instead of walking round the village finding faults and writing letters to me complaining about my house'.

David Postlethwaite, Birmingham-born parish councillor and a seafront guesthouse keeper, is not amused. 'We all thought it was a joke to start with but obviously it's not,' he said.

'Offensive's the only word I can think of about it. We were worried because this year we were in the 'Britain in Bloom' finals so obviously we did try to route the judges away from it in case we lost points.

'We tried a number of things to stop him, including the public health. He'd got some dangerous stuff up there, beer glasses in the roof, and we thought they'd fall down and hit someone.'

Mr Drew claims to have an influential ally in Sir Jimmy Savile, the television personality who runs a charity caravan for deprived children at Shaldon.

'He came round to look at it,' Mr Drew said, 'and I asked him 'What do you think, Jimmy?' He said 'Brilliant'. I said 'Some of the locals here don't like it' and he said, 'Tell 'em to piss off'. And that's just what I'm doing.'

(Photograph omitted)