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Sorry, nothing to report because of Covid.


Winter work includes fencing, which is never ending on this farm. If I organised fencing a hedge every winter for the next 5 years the job still wouldn’t be complete. In this orchard the sheep have done a good job at eating a lot of the hedge, which would collapse in a few years if left in its present state. (1) Fence posts in recent years have been treated with something stronger to make them last longer. Previously they seem to rot in no time. Obviously the stakes go in first with strainers to give the fence added strength. (2) The pig netting is then stretched along with a certain amount of tension and then stapled into place. (3) Lastly one strand of barbed wire is stapled along the top. (4) This new fence should last for a good ten years at least. I hope to plant small hazel saplings along this hedge shortly to fill in the gaps.

This water trough in the silage feeder (5) sprang a dreadful leak so had to be replaced. It had been sitting there since about 2005. Fortunately Brights from Salway Ash took it away for free and replaced it with a brand new one. (6, 7, 8) Hopefully this one will last a bit longer than 15 years.

The rams have just been put in with the sheep so lambing should start happening in 152 days. (9)

The very good news is that I had 6 lovely calves all born naturally within 3 weeks of each other and all my animals have passed their second TB test. So I am now out of lockdown after 6 months. What a relief! I can now send on my 5 yearling calves to market shortly. The bull arrived in my covered yard last Saturday so I look forward to more calves in just over 9 months time. (10)


Over the years I can always remember slates sliding down the roofs of the farmyard buildings and eventually landing on the ground. (11) I expect they were originally placed on the battens of the roofs at least 150 years ago. Family legend has it that the farmhouse was burnt down in about 1870. (12) Originally it was probably a very old thatched Dorset Long House: and no doubt the thatch caught fire and the building was destroyed in no time. Sliding slates on the house was always dealt with some urgency for fear of decapitating a visitor! When the cottage (to the left of the photo) was completely renovated in the 1980s all the old slates were stripped off and replaced with new ones. We kept all the old ones for recycling.

I have found a very good roofer who is doing his best to fill in the gaps. The slates were falling off the roof next to the covered yard and this job became urgent because I didn’t want an animal injured from falling slates during the winter. (13) When I pulled all the thick ivy off this wall (in photo 11) it escalated the avalanche of slates, which was followed by heavy rain getting to the electrics inside the building – which tripped the system! So that was another very urgent repair to be done. (14) One of the nails that was extracted with a slate had rusted away to about a third of its original length. (15) A lot of the battens are not in a very good state either!

It has been very interesting researching the slates that I have at Bluntshay. They are Countess slates and measure 10” x 20”. (16) They were mined at the Cwt-y-Bugail slate quarry, which is east of Blaenau Ffestiniog in Wales. This was opened in 1840 and is currently the highest industrial site in the UK. During WW2 many of Britain’s most valuable paintings were secretly stored in its caverns for safe-keeping. These slates are a blue/grey colour and have a distinctive texture which makes them highly sought after, and are also popular as an architectural material. One slate can be bought for between £3 – £5.

Welsh slate is the world’s leading supplier of high-quality slate for a peerless range of exterior and interior design applications. Uniquely 500 million years old, the material is widely recognised as the finest natural slate in the world. Slate is formed under low-grade metamorphic conditions ie. under relatively low temperature and pressure. The original material was a fine clay, sometimes with sand or volcanic dust, usually in the form of a sedimentary rock (mudstone or shale). About 400 millions years ago these rocks were uplifted and folded to form slates. Slate splits easily into thin sheets because of the alignment, or foliation, of tiny mica crystals in the rock. There is a special machine which drills the holes ready for the nails. (17*) and the following photo shows some of the tools used by roofers who work with slates. (18*)

Slate is one of the strongest standard natural stone flooring materials. It has an inherent durability that makes it resistant to cracks, scratches and chips. Slate has a life span measured in centuries and includes a 100 year guarantee.


This zoom conference was an extremely stimulating and enjoyable event and was attended by about 75 business partners and associates. It was organised by Guy Kerr, the Programme Manager – Engagement and Partnerships, for the Jurassic Coast Trust. (19 – 23)

Topics discussed ranged over the many aspects which had affected tourism during the unprecedented year of 2020 – and the road to recovery. The year had been a sharp learning curve with many challenges for all and lessons had been learnt. Digital meetings have obviously been the norm in any planning and organisation of what will be happening in the tourism industry in the immediate future. Lockdown has even accelerated planning and schedules in most cases.

Zoom meetings have kept me in touch with the various organisations which I am involved in. The West Dorset Family History and Bridport History Groups have been having zoom meetings with speakers for many months which has kept us all in contact with people whom we haven’t seen in person for nearly a year. The Char Valley Parish Council, of whom I am a councillor, has conducted its business digitally from the beginning of lockdown. There are many working groups within the council which cover all aspects of parish business. This system has made it a more dynamic organisation, especially when we can sit at home for meetings and not have to travel all over the local area to village halls in the dead of winter!


This has become my local stores (since lockdown) even though I have to drive through tortuous lanes to reach it. (24) It is a lot easier to go to Chideock, not pay a parking fee, not wait in a long queue, and have a Post Office that has the same hours as the shop. (25) There is also a small car park adjacent to the shop.

The Spar shop in Chideock has been open for nearly 40 years and was run by Robyn and Evelyn Symes for about 25 years before Mike Moles, a Scotsman, took it over 13 years ago. (26) The shop is open from 7 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday and 8 am to 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday. There are shorter hours during the winter period on Sundays, this being 8 am to 2 pm. Mike has two full-time members of staff and 2 part-time. (27)

Generally about half of Mike’s trade is local with tremendous support from workmen from the surrounding area. Passing trade is particularly high in the spring and summer season, due to the shop’s position on the A35.

In the autumn and winter the shop serves approximately 200 customers daily which rises to 400 in the spring and summer. Through the Post Office they will serve an additional 200 customers a day in the autumn and winter (due to the Christmas uplift) dropping to 100 in the spring and summer. (28, 29, 30)

Chideock Stores has gained some more trade since the closure of both the Post Offices at Charmouth and Morcombelake in recent years. The people from the villages to the west affected by this do not mind travelling to Chideock to buy their stamps and also do a little shopping. It seems that since the Covid restrictions some local people, like myself, have preferred to shop locally at Chideock rather than go to Bridport (and possibly be exposed to more people?).

It is a very well stocked shop with ample storage in the back, (31) and a real asset to the village of Chideock. I usually make a bee line for the cheese and chutney rolls when I visit and often ring in advance so that the shop can save me my daily newspaper before it sells out. Excellent service!

Electric car facilities have just been ‘plumbed in’ on one side of the car park and is now in operation. (32)

Picture Credit

** LBS Natural Slate, Clay & Stone Specialists


Michael Moles, Guy Kerr, and Charles Blackwell,

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