Riviera People – Sue Pudduck

Posted by: on Apr 3, 2020 | No Comments

Riviera People – Sue Pudduck

Commonwealth Games medallist in fencing, sailing instructor and watersports specialist, Sue Pudduck is now a trustee for Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust.

I’m meeting Sue at her home high above the river at Kingswear. It’s a beautiful day and I stroll up the steps, admiring her pretty terrace, garden and the spectacular views across the water to Britannia Royal Naval College. Sue tells me that she and her husband Pete added the conservatory we are sitting in not too long after purchasing the house in 2005. Well, the view they’ve opened up is absolutely amazing and I’m pretty sure that if I lived here I’d never go out!

But Sue hasn’t always lived in Devon. She went to school in Glasgow, and confesses that the reason she originally took up fencing at the age of eight was because it got you out of homework. She took to the sport straight away though. She tells me, “I’m left-handed and this tends to give you an advantage, at least initially – any youngster who gets some early success is usually keen and I loved it.”

Sue soon started competing in junior competitions, first for West Scotland then in the Scotland team, fencing in an annual match against England, Wales and Northern Ireland. She started winning and was regularly sent to monthly training sessions in London for hopeful under-16s, travelling both ways on the bus. She then continued competing whilst at college in Edinburgh. Sue tells me that ‘Auld Reekie’ is something of a fencing hotspot.

In 1970 she was selected for the Commonwealth Games, that year being held in Edinburgh. Sue recalls, “I was a bit disappointed I wasn’t going somewhere exotic to compete, but on the other hand, I did have the home crowd with me.” She became a double medallist, taking a bronze medal in the individual Women’s Foil competition and a silver medal in the Women’s Foil Team, proving her one of the Commonwealth’s finest fencing champions.

After college, Sue went to teach PE in London, mainly so that she could continue fencing. The next Commonwealth Games in New Zealand didn’t have fencing on offer so she travelled to Canada to compete in a special Commonwealth Fencing Championship in 1974. Here she secured bronze in both her individual and team matches. Over the years, she also became a six-time Scottish National champion.

Eventually, despite her continuing success, Sue faced a dilemma. She still loved fencing but wanted to spread her wings telling me, “I felt that I was missing out – I couldn’t do anything else while keeping up such a tough training regime.”   She took up a post in Further Education at Somerset College and after taking a Mountain Leadership course, started taking students on weekend trips as well as expeditions to Spain and Italy. She says, “The students matured so much on the trips – it was quite an inspiration – kids have fewer chances nowadays as the risks are often considered too great.”     

She stayed at Somerset College for 20 years, loving the outdoors life. “I still had to do all the management stuff and even got quite into it – but I always preferred working outdoors with the students.”  In Somerset, Sue also took up sailing. She quickly became an instructor, regularly sailing and teaching skills on weekend courses. It was on such a trip that Sue met her husband Pete in 1978.

After 20 years at Somerset College, Sue made a few interesting moves, the first of which brought her and Pete to Devon. She worked at South Devon College as Head of Department specialising in catering, sport, leisure and tourism. On moving to Plymouth University, she devised a new health and fitness degree course so that Foundation Students could use it to convert to a full degree. Then came the opportunity to join the Mountbatten Watersports Centre as CEO. Sue thought it would be her perfect job, being involved with kayaking, sailing and even caving on Dartmoor. However the real world intruded. She soon found that being CEO, whilst a fabulous job, did not offer many opportunities to be hands-on with the activities.

Sue retired in 2007 and moved to her current home in Kingswear in the same year. She had the vision to see past the fairly ordinary 1930s bungalow to the stunning river outlook it has now become in spite of the “oh no!” reservations (now totally dispelled) of husband Pete.

Retirement didn’t slow Sue down very much. She volunteered for a number of years at Dart Harbour Board, setting up a new Young Champions Scheme, and leaving after a total of nine years. She joined Dartmouth and District Indoor Pool Trust as a trustee and subsequently became Chair. Now she has become a trustee of Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust, serving on their PR & Fundraising Committee.

I’m interested to know why a Kingswear resident has chosen to reach out and support Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust (TCCT). Sue explains that Berry Head National Nature Reserve, which is managed by the Trust, has always been a favourite place to visit, particularly on Sundays. She tells me, “TCCT’s objectives match the things that interest me – safeguarding the environment and wildlife, and creating access for local people.” She believes that young people are much more aware nowadays of the importance of protecting our green spaces. The Trust’s key sites at Occombe Farm, Cockington Country Park, Berry Head and the coastal footpaths plus many other beautiful spots, make up 76% of Torbay’s public open spaces.

Sue explains, “Lots of people don’t realise that Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust is an independent charity that keeps hundreds of the Bay’s favourite walks open and safe as well as running lots of fun events like Occombe Festival.”  Sue has recently been helping drive TCCT membership, which allows local residents to support the charity’s work as well as making them eligible to purchase a heavily discounted Benefits Card, which includes free car parking at popular Trust sites.

In keeping with her love of the environment, Sue is also a member of Devon Countryside Access Forum and Waterhead Creek Preservation Society (a tiny green space which is hugely valuable to Kingswear residents).

A keen gardener, together with Pete, she grows flowers and a range of vegetables in their cliffside garden at Kingswear. They both love countryside walks, enjoy eating out, particularly at Kingswear’s Steam Packet and Dartmouth’s Rockfish, and are members of Dartmouth’s highly active U3A, participating in the Ancient Civilisations Group.

Having been a longtime member of Kingswear Historians, a local group that has sourced lots of fascinating archive material, Sue describes herself as ‘an anarchist’ having breezed in and reinstated monthly talks, which had not been running for some time. Now that’s the kind of anarchist you need!  So despite not fencing any longer, it seems that Sue Pudduck is still clearly capable of scoring a direct hit – this time to the benefit of all.

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