An illuminating insight into Exmouth's winter wonderland - with roots across the Atlantic
PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 December 2017
Devoncourt Resort's Christmas illuminations are always a must-see attraction at this time of year and manager Andrew Stoneman has been telling The Journal about the roots of lights and what goes into putting them on.
Some say that Christmas decorations are being more Americanised in this country year by year, and that may be true.
However, there is one Exmouth hotel that can claim that its history for making a spectacle out of this time of year definitely has its roots in the United States.
For the last 30 years, staff at Devoncourt Resort, in Douglas Avenue, have led the way with the town’s festive illuminations.
People come from far and wide to see the hotel’s illuminated gardens, which seem to get brighter year in, year out.
But what some people don’t know is that the figurines which illuminate the hotel gardens were not created this side of the Atlantic.
“The owner has another property in the United States and each time he was in America he brought back some figurines,” said resort manager Andrew Stoneman.
“They have been added to each year, and each year we put them out they have been given a different set-up.
“In the main we have always had the two nativity scenes - It’s always bigger and better than the previous year.”
The American nature of the figurines also renders them useless to thieves who take a liking to them.
Andrew said: “The only time we have ever lost any of the figurines was when we had people take five of them - which ended up at the recycling centre.
“We commandeered them back; because they are on an American voltage they are not of any use to anyone.”
Creating a winter wonderland at Devoncourt is no easy task and, according to Andrew, it takes five weeks to put the finishing touches to the display.
“Many people look in the middle of October and ask, ‘Why are you putting Christmas lights up now?’. It’s because it takes that long,” added Andrew.
The 35-day operation is handled by the hotel’s gardener, Phil Cowan, with the help of Adam Zrolko and porter Jason Harris.
Andrew added: “To start, we usually put up the internal decorations, which is then followed by putting the Christmas figurines on the balconies.
“Then the figurines on the lawn follow, which have to be well-secured given the weather climate in the South West.
“Then we put on the lights in the bushes. Lights also go in the trees in the garden, as well as some other figurines.”
This is also a star which sits proudly on top of a disused flag pole in the main garden and new for this year are laser lights which help illuminated the trees.
The displays are also a way to raise funds for the volunteers of Exmouth’s RNLI – a cause Devoncourt likes to support due to its close proximity to the seafront.
There is a collection bucket in the reception for those who want to donate while visiting.
Andrew, who grew up in the Littleham area of Exmouth and has been manager at Devoncourt since 2002, sees the switching on of the Christmas illuminations as a launching pad for the festive season. He said it usually inspires staff to begin decorating their own homes ahead of the festive season.
Andrew added: “It’s the start of Christmas – it certainly is for me.
“The whole hotel is proud of Christmas – from the reception team to the housekeeping team, we all love this time of year.
“When the lights go up, everyone gets that little Christmas tingle.
“It seems to be a tradition for some of the local people that for up to a week or two weeks before Christmas this is where they meet to exchange gifts and catch up with families.”