THE CAMPSITE

I have ordered all the infrastructure necessary to have Wifi over the whole of the campsite area (including the big field which is used in the summer for 28 days). This is due to be erected in January. Vodaphone was then going to install the necessary equipment (to be operational from January) to allow for any campers who wish to stay for a 28 day break during the winter. Now that Dorset has just been put into Tier 4 relating to the worsening Covid situation Vodafone will have to be put on hold unfortunately.

THE FARM

Our first three calves were born over the holiday period. (1, 2), all without any problems. It is hoped that the other two will be also born without complications too in the next week or so. The second test for TB is fixed for 19th January when it is hoped that all the animals will prove to be clear. Then I should be able to send last year’s calves to Sedgemoor market, and have the bull back in with the herd to produce calves for 2021. If the cows do not pass then I shall still be in ‘lockdown’ and will have to have another TB test in 2 month’s time. It is all very frustrating!

The four pigs were brought from their muddy patch in the field back into the shed. This took some persuasion with George encouraging them to follow the trough with pig nuts through the orchard and yard (3, 4) until they reached their destination in the large shed. (5) As they were very good escapologists it was necessary to put large hurdles and big bales of straw around their new pen. (6) Within a few days they soon looked clean and respectable, (7) little realising that their days were numbered!

I was very pleased with my Christmas geese this year as most of them grew to become big birds. (8) This was the first year that I have employed a mobile goose processor to do the job on the farm. One of the outbuildings was cleared especially for the purpose. (9) Some of the weightiest birds, after dressing, were too heavy for me to take from the kitchen to the cold storage unit and I had to enlist help. I may have even make a profit from my goose business for 2020!! Two customers sent me photos of their Christmas lunch. (10, 11) I should have asked all my customers, when they picked up their geese, if they would mind taking a photo of their bird, but forgot to do so. Since Christmas when I have contacted people their response has usually been “ We were so busy eating the goose that we forgot to get the camera out!

RESEEDING THE MEADOW

In an earlier newsletter this year I wrote about the survey that was done to ascertain what species were growing in the meadow and which ones could be introduced.

In October Tom Sneath, a local farmer and conservation contractor, came to prepare the area by doing a double cut of grass with his Ryetec Cut and Collect machine. (12) The cut grass had to be moved straight away (biomass) so that the rotting material didn’t boost soil fertility and also the cut grass didn’t get in the way of the seed which was just about to be scattered. The Ryetec was set as low as possible to remove as much grass as possible. (13) This grass had to be disposed of in the corner of the field. (14) It was not suitable for fodder as there would be an element of soil in it.

Once the grass had been cut twice, a week apart. to contend with an oft-experienced autumn flush of grass growth Tom scarified the ground with a heavy set of grass harrows, an old but very effective piece of kit. (15) The idea is to create around 50% bare earth to give the new seeds plenty of opportunity to make contact with the soil. (16) The combination of Ryetec and harrows made for excellent ground preparation, with minimal ‘trash’ (messy, scratched up clumps of grass) and also the work was well timed literally just before the autumn rains really begin.

All that remained was to scatter the seed which was done by a combination of drilling and strewing by hand. Contractor Gerard Russell from well-respected Dorset company Heritage Seeds arrived with his Steinbeck seed drill (17). The hopper was filled with wildflower seed from species-rich hay meadows on Westhay Farm at nearby Stoneharrow, 3 miles away as the bee flies. (18)

As happens in the wild the seed wasn’t buried but simply dropped on to the surface of the ground by setting the drill nice and high. (19, 20) All that remains was to over-sow the Crabbs Bluntshay hand harvested seed (21) by hand bulking it up with sand to help spread it far and wide. A small proportion of the seed may have sprouted before Christmas, conditions having been generally mind, but we have high hopes for bountiful germination in 2021 to colour the meadow and bring in the pollinators. A cold snap or two over winter will help ‘vernalise’ the weed or break its dormancy in readiness for spring, especially the seed of the ‘meadow maker’ Yellow Rattle, suppressor of coarse grasses and big favourite of the bumble bees.

VINTAGE TEA AT JAMES HARGREAVES HALL IN MORCOMBELAKE

This quintessentially English event was started in 2014 by local residents. (22) It is held on the second Sunday of the month from 2.15 to 4.30. People are encouraged to come along and enjoy a slice of home made cake with tea or coffee. (23, 24, 25) Sandwiches are also on offer for those who want something a bit more substantial. All the crockery used is vintage (26) and to make for a fun and relaxed atmosphere they always have live musical accompaniment. (27) Normally the Tea is on a drop in basis but in the short term with Covid restriction, bookings have to be made through jmitra@jmitra.co.uk.

James Hargreaves Hall has an interesting history. (28) It was built in 1863 as a chapel by James Hargreaves who was the local minister. There is a memorial plaque inside the building which states “In affectionate and thankful remembrance of the Reverend James Hargreaves and of his work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope, in promoting the spiritual and temporal good of this village and the surrounding district. He died in the midst of his work, aged sixty-nine years, having been for thirty-nine years the minister of this chapel, and a living example of the trusts he taught. He being dead yet speaketh” There are still grave stones in the little churchyard, but it is not known whether it is consecrated anymore. (29)

By 1997 the congregation was in decline and they moved their worship to St Gabriel’s Church, just down the road. The Chapel was also in need of urgent repair. In 1999 the local community was given the chance to buy the Chapel and hall for £15,000. This money was raised by the West Dorset District Council, Dorset County Council and the local Char Valley Parish Council and the generosity of the local community. In early 2004 the community finally took ownership of both the Chapel and Hall. Since then many local clubs and groups meet in the hall on a weekly basis. There has been an over 70s luncheon club. It is also available for private hire. The committee produce a monthly newsletter to let the community know what is scheduled for the coming month. More recently a fully fitted kitchen and disabled toilet has been installed and there are plans to improve disabled access.

CHRISTMAS EVENTS

THE JESSE TREE

I attended a very different kind of Christmas service in the run up to the festive period at Whitchurch. An undecorated tree awaited us as we took our ‘socially distanced’ pews in the church. Revd. Virginia Luckett, our new Team Rector, conducted the service, along with Ros Woodbridge. She explained that the ‘Jesse Tree’ was going to help us to look back and reflect on a year that has been like no other we have experienced in recent times. Also the Jesse Tree was a way of preparing for Advent by journeying through the stories on Jesus’s family tree for example on each day of Advent read a Bible story about someone on Jesus’s family tree and hang an ornament symbolising the story of the Jesse Tree. As the tree is decorated it can be seen how God prepared for Jesus to be born through many generations. Each member of the congregation was given the opportunity to hang a decorated bauble on the tree. (30) We were all so encouraged to make our own ‘Jesse’ tree at home using a physical, tangible activity like drawing or writing which could be the first steps to getting difficult circumstances into some sort of perspective. So it was hoped that we would all get out our felt tips during the festive period!

Eddie, as usual, played the organ beautifully during the service, even though we were not allowed to sing the carols. (31) The Nativity Scene was on display along with beautiful flower decorations. (32)

BEREHAYES WEEKLY MARKET

There was a special Christmas market at the beginning of December with many stalls in attendance including Betsy with her honey, (33) The Pilsdon Community with its many Christmas items, (34) Jo’s mulled wine and Charlie’s vegetables and meat, (35) and the local playgroup on a flying visit. (36)

NEW HOUSE, BROADOAK

Over the second weekend of December New House Farm created a Covid-safe pop up Christmas crafts and produce ‘shop’ in its old barn complete with distancing, hard-sanitising, masks, visitor registration and plenty of ventilation in its high ivy-clad beams. (37)

Long candle-lit trestle tables were laden with ceramics from the New House Pottery (38) and turned wooden plates, carved spoons and basketry from Jon and Martin Hazell, (39, 40) produced in their Made In The Vale workshop using local wood including willows grown on the farm.

Other guest makers added decorations, including pottery designs by Miles Bell’s daughter Sophie and small painted icons by Michelle Hazell, as well as popular produce from Mary Durling’s smallholding Little Oak Farm, and organic ‘Graceline’ skincare hand-made in Charmouth. (41, 42)

The sale also raised £300 for the Bridport Refugee Support Campaign through its Christmas card, contributions by the stallholders and the sale of colourful Wallace-Sewell braids generously donated by the textiles designer Harriet Wallace-Jones.

RAINBOW OVER BLUNTSHAY

My neighbour took this lovely photo of a rainbow with the ‘crock of gold’ landing in my garden. I hope that this is a good omen for 2021!! (43)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

June Mitra, Clare Mahaddie, Charlie Blackwell, Nick Gray, The Lambert family, Revd. Virginia Luckett, Ros Woodbridge, Ines Cavill, Tom Sneath and Evelyne O’Hare.