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CAMPSITE

As you know we are still in lockdown until 12 April, and I shall be opening the campsite on that day. There is much work to be done in getting the campsite ready for the great day. Huge potholes have been created on the drive caused by all the rain that we have had in the last month or so. (1, 2) Remedial work for this is imminent as I am expecting a contractor to arrive in the next week or so to fill in the pot holes and to resurface the hard standings and drive.

FARM

We had ‘fun and games’ last Saturday night. At about 9 pm we heard cows blaring in the yard and immediately knew that some animals has escaped from the covered yard. I rushed out and closed the farm gate onto the road hoping that none of them had made it that far! My niece Eleanor, who lives next door, was quickly on the scene using a tractor for search lights to see where the escapees were. We discovered that they had somehow got the covered yard gate completely off its hinges and then rushed past the silage bales into the paddock next to the river.

Eleanor eventually got most of them back into their rightful abode whilst I was frantically waving my arms around at the ones that were still in the right place, hoping that they wouldn’t escape as well. But that wasn’t the end of it – several animals came around the other side of the bales on a very narrow path right next to the River Char en route back to the covered yard. (3) Any one of them could have easily fallen in the river! In fact this small paddock has only fencing around the river fit for sheep and geese so all the escapees could have easily jumped this and found themselves on the way to Charmouth or dead!

The next morning I went out to count all the animals, especially the calves, and luckily they were all there. What a relief! In the paddock they had done a wonderful job of poaching the soil (making big holes in it), (4) and knocking down fences. (5) The gate was too heavy for us to lift back into place so we tied it up with baler string. (6) The animals seemed quite unperturbed by their adventures the night before! (7)

All young apple trees need to be protected from sheep. Unfortunately in the case of this one, the wire guard had came away from its stake and has been severely damaged. (8) It may not recover but we put it all back together and now hope for the best. (9, 10)

FAST FOOD AT THE FIVE BELLS INN

(11, 12) In line with what has been allowed during lockdown Pat and Stacey at the Five Bells have been cooking up a delicious menu each Saturday night for residents of Whitchurch and beyond. This is a typical menu offered. (13) and here is Pat Hawkins just about to toss a battered cod into the deep fryer. (14) Customers start collecting their food at about 5.30 pm and are spaced out at 10 minute intervals because of social distancing. As one customer leaves the pool room (15) another one is ready to enter. Tracey is there ready to hand over the scrumptious meal. (16) On one occasion there were goodies that were just reaching their sell by date on sale. The money collected for this went for the MIND Association. (17) The most meals they have so far cooked on a Saturday night for locals have been 45.

Last Saturday the Five Bells invited a guest chef George Marsh, (18) who lives locally, to cook. He chose Beef Bourguinon with Cheddar and Horseradish Mash and Wilted Greens. Forty people booked and enjoyed this delicious meal which cost £12.00. His son Alfie, thirteen, was his right hand man in the kitchen. (19) The profit from the event was £334.80. This figure was split equally between the NHS and MIND.

It seems that George has been interested in food since a teenager, his first meal being garlic sandwiches made for his mother’s friends – which were not appreciated!! His first experience in another kitchen was at the Three Horseshoes, Powerstock, washing dishes aged 11, so that he could treat himself to brands like Reebok and Nike.

Initially after watching chefs working long hours, split shifts and weekends he could not understand why anyone would want to do this type of job. But after 2 years something clicked and he fell in love with the idea of being a chef. George gained an advanced GNVQ and NVQ in hospitality and catering at Weymouth College. The course involved two days cooking at college and four days split shifts at the Three Horseshoes.

Later he gained a lot of experience, both good and bad, working in different pubs, wine bars, restaurants and hotels in Dorset and Somerset. He said that it taught him how to treat people, to get the best from them and to realise that you don’t have to scream and shout at people to get results!

George explained that when you start work in a kitchen you are regarded as a commis chef and its up to the individual how quickly you progress from that to the next role of chef de partie. This term means a chef who is in charge of a particular area of production. In larger kitchens each chief de partie might has several cooks or assistants.
The next step is obviously becoming a Head Chef. George became Head Chef, aged 20 at the Fox Inn. Corscombe. Wonderful progress! This shows George cooking his first Japanese meal at the Fox. (20)

In 2002 George became the second youngest chef to win the coveted Taste of the West Cup. (21) There were 20 pubs in five counties who entered their chefs in this prestigious competition and George beat them all. What an achievement at only 22 years old.

At a later stage he worked at the Michelin Starred Castle Hotel in Taunton, Somerset which was going to be his stepping stone to London. However, on working in London he realised that it wasn’t the environment he wanted to be in so he returned to Dorset where he has happily worked ever since.

In 2020 George starting working for the Electric Pub Company with a more challenging role Their next project will be a seafood based restaurant at the Bridport Arts Centre where he will be working as Head Chef. They hope to open as soon the easing of lockdown permits them. The menu will be constantly changing using local suppliers such as Portland Shellfish, Bagnell Farm, Crewkerne and Framptons in Bridport to name but a few.

When asked whether he would like to open his own restaurant, he said that he had wanted to since the age of 16, but with a young family and his wife running her own business being Head Chef at a busy Bridport Hotel was enough, and he wanted to be able to have a good work/life balance.

Alfie, his son aged 13, has decided he wants to become a chef too. During lockdown George has been able to spend more time with him and each evening they cook together. Alfie’s most recent purchase is the Larousse Gastronomique Cookery Encyclopedia! (22) What a tome!

JURASSIC COAST TRUST – VIRTUAL WINTER WATCH

Under normal circumstances we would have all gathered somewhere along the Jurassic Coast and travelled though time studying the geology, enjoying the scenery and catching up with friends.

Instead we had a second zoom meeting organised by Caroline Pearce (Partnership and Engagement Manager). (23) This was a training session with other Jurassic Coast Ambassadors and it gave us the chance to get together and listen to some great speakers. This included staff and volunteers from museums, and visitor centres as well as the JCT”s volunteer Ambassadors.

The first speaker was Chris Woodward, (24) who told us about recent geological discoveries at the far western end of the Jurassic Coast, in and around Exmouth

Next Mike Green from Beer, (25) spoke about a new circular walk being created in East Devon.

During the interval Jenny Moon from Lympstone (26) read us her short story about Ammonites.

The third speaker was Vincent Sheppard who lead us through a ‘virtual’ field trip to Burton Bradstock.

Next Roger Trend from Sidmouth spoke about the geology of Lanzarote and how it compares to that of the Jurassic Coast. I found this particularly interesting as I have always been fascinated by volcanoes.

Lastly Sam Scriven from the Jurassic Coast Trust (27) spoke about the organisation’s latest geological and fossil projects.

A very enjoyable morning at my computer!

THE CLOCK FACE ON THE TOWER TO HAVE MAJOR REPAIRS

If anyone had popped into Whitchurch churchyard during one particular day last summer they would have been surprised to see the clock face being slowly lowered from it usual position high up on the 600 year old tower eventually landing on the ground. This descent was carefully guided by two men abseiling down the ropes attached to the top of the tower and the clock face. I unfortunately missed it. (28, 29, 30, 31, 32)

It is necessary for the church to have a major survey every five years for a quinquennial report. During the most recent one it was discovered that the clock face needed major repairs including re-gilding. These repairs have proved to be very problematic, with Covid complicating the situation even further. At present it is unknown when we shall see the clock face back on the tower again.

The actual clock mechanism is located in the bell ringing chamber (where the bell ropes are) in the tower. (33) The clock is built in an open wrought iron frame and this simple layout is known as a ‘birdcage’ movement turret clock. The mechanism, which dates from 1690, is believed to have been built by Ralph Cloud, a clockmaker from Beaminster, It was possibly installed in the tower in the same year. The clock strikes the hours on the tenor bell, the largest bell in the current ring of eight bells. (34)

The clock was repaired in the 18th century and there is brass plate to authenticate this, The clock face could have been added at this time. Prior to that local people would have just relied on the hourly chimes to know what time it was. It seems that a Mr Thomas Farnham, a watch and clockmaker of Bridport, was responsible for repairs to the Whitchurch clock between 1824 and 1847. Since that time little was done until the 1970’s when local engineer, Robert Knight converted the mechanism to electric powered winding and striking in 1978. (35) Up to that point someone had to climb the 60 steps to the ringing chamber every day to wind the clock. In the conversion to electrical winding Robert Knight used a diverse collection of components including ultra-low geared motors, switches from a milking machine and the free-wheel mechanism from a bicycle. It certainly was a bespoke machine!

Another interesting snippet that cropped up during my research is that the clock was mentioned in Parliament in 1917 as were the church clocks of Symondsbury and Chideock. All three vicars refused to put their clocks forward an hour in defiance of the Summer Time Act. As the Home Office had no powers to control church clocks the three vicars had their way! One wonders how much confusion this caused in West Dorset generally, especially on market days.

The church bells have not been rung since the first lockdown, and we have certainly missed their lovely sound on Tuesday practise nights and Sunday mornings calling us to church. Let us hope that this situation will change in the next few months when we can hear their dulcet tones again across the vale.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Grateful thanks to: Helen Doble, Richard Colby, George Marsh, Guy Kerr, Ros Woodbridge and Pat and Stacey from the Five Bells Inn.

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