FRIENDS of the late John Fowles have leapt to the defence of the Lyme Regis author after he was branded an ‘arrogant old windbag’.

A former Lyme resident said she was shocked to discover a footpath had been created in his memory alongside Cobb Road.

Val Hennessy, who lived with her family in Cobb Road for 10 years, wrote a letter to the News following a visit to the town recently.

Mrs Hennessy, now living in Whitstable, returned to scatter her late husband’s ashes and said she was delighted to see the new Langmoor Gardens, which were remodelled during the seafront stabilisation works.

As part of the scheme, a John Fowles Walk was established in 2007 following his death in 2005, close to Belmont House where Mr Fowles lived.

In her letter, Mrs Hennessy said: “I was shocked and irritated to see the new John Fowles Walk.

“Is this the same cantankerous and snobbish John Fowles who sneered about local residents in his 1970 journal, observing: ‘They really are the dullest and most abominably retarded community one can imagine’ and who noted in his 1990 journal that ‘the poverty of this town, of provincial England is a shock, like something from the Gulag Archipelago?’”

She added: “Lyme is a little heaven and Fowles was an arrogant old windbag. Perhaps the walk should be re-christened the Pompous Penpusher’s Parade?”

Mr Fowles’ friends have defended him and called the comments shabby and pointless.

Liz-Anne Bawden took over from the author as curator of Lyme Regis Museum and worked alongside him as he continued to volunteer at the museum.

Mrs Bawden said: “I think that’s very mean-spirited and a pointless sort of thing to say on her part.

“I think it’s shabby and sad and not a fair estimate of John. No one’s perfect, but John was very well known and liked in the town and I think the town is quite proud of it.”

Friend and former town mayor Barbara Austin said: “Despite what she said, he was a very nice man if you got to know him properly.

“I found him quite a gentleman and he was extremely interested in Lyme Regis and all the history of Lyme Regis.

“I think it’s sad when he’s not here to stand up for himself and there’s no comeback to what has been said.”

The footpath was opened in January 2007 by Mr Fowles’ widow Sarah.