Nigel McCowen-Smith is the current Chair of our charity, he has been a friend of the club for many years, since his father Dan Smith was involved in the early days some 30 plus years ago. Nigel is the owner/manager of Wellesley Residential Home, Newport.


Valerie Hanover B E M has worked with people with a learning Disability since 1964 devoting both her career and spare time to supporting their needs. Val is an ambassador for sport and advocacy and has received various awards for her work. On retiring to the west country in 2014 Val began volunteering with us, supporting the day to day running of the Charity, serving on the management committee and is now also a Trustee.


Grace Elliott has been involved with the club from the onset, her son has down syndrome and she wanted him to have a safe place for him to meet up with his friends and socialise, that was over 30 years ago and she and her son have been active members since. Grace, former proprietor of Elliotts Butchers in Bishops Tawton is also a committee member and Trustee of the Charity.

Kevin & Jenny

Kevin and Jenny Birch have been involved with the club since its start up in 1986, they have supported the work diligently all this time and are now Trustees. Kevin is currently employed as caretaker of Pilton College, our Friday night club venue and Jenny a retired Nurse from NNDH Caroline Thorpe ward, where she has cared for many of our members as children and is passionate about their well-being and health.


David Wright has been a trustee and treasurer of The Abbey Gateway club since 2005. He has lived in North Devon since 1981 and is married to his wife, Pat, a retired teacher and they have three children and five grandchildren. He began his own business in 1985 and retired in 2005. Since then he has been the chair of governors at a local primary school, a trustee of The Bridge Trust in Barnstaple and is currently a trustee of the Friends of Bishops Tawton Church. He is a keen traveller, walker and occasional cyclist, loves the cinema and Asian food


Originally from Northern Ireland, I was brought up in Bolton Lancashire. I went to Hereford to train as a primary school teacher specialising in music. After some years in primary I took up a post in a residential special school for girls with special needs. I spent a year at Edgbaston University Birmingham doing a special diploma in the teaching of children with special needs. I then became the deputy head of a new special school for multi handicapped children in Telford. I moved to Devon in 1973 and taught infants in Bideford, followed by many years teaching at what was then Lampard Vachell special school where I taught many of our Abbey Gateway members . I spent the final 16 years of my teaching career as head teacher of Bishops Tawton Primary School in North Devon.
I have been retired now for many years and enjoy my garden, my dog, and being a member of a local camera club. I am an active member of Holy Trinity Church which welcomes club members. My friend’s son Graham offered my services as the secretary of the club which I enjoyed for a few years. I have remained as a trustee and continue to support the club as one of the official photographers for events. I have great admiration for adults who run this amazing club.