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CAMPSITE

September was a lot busier than usual on the campsite, but I only took one photo.  (1)  This lovely couple (in their late 70s and mid 80s) had stayed earlier in the season and decided to come back on the campsite for nearly the whole of September.  They have also booked to come and stay in June 2022.  They were very good company and we always had plenty to chat about.  They live in Lancashire at the moment but Polly had spent quite a lot of her life in and around Dorset.  She has two sons living in the Bridport area, and a daughter in Frome, Somerset.  I quite missed them when they went back “up north”.

The Thompsetts, who have stayed on the site many times, came for a “late season break” in their  little 1970 Portafold caravan (2, 3) and besides enjoying the local Dorset countryside they also took photos of the dawn (4) and sunset (5)  at Bluntshay

FARM

We made some extra silage in September because there was so much grass in some of the fields. (6)  Eleanor put some hens’ eggs in an incubator  and 9 lovely little chicks were hatched out on 3rd August. They are now big enough to go out into a big run with an electric fence.  (To keep the fox out and the chicks in. ) But so far they have not ventured far and spend most of their time in the hen house.  They are a mixture of Speckled Sussex and Exchequer Leghorn. (7)

The turkeys arrived recently and are of the bronze variety.  (8)  They appear to be very well behaved so far with no fighting, so long may it continue.  These broad breasted bronze turkeys can be immense birds measuring up to four feet in length with a six-foot wing span.  A fully grown male will weigh in at about 38 lbs with hens reaching at least 22 lbs.  The name bronze refers to its plumage which bears an iridescent bronze-like sheen.

It seems that the turkeys I had always associated with the Americas originated from crosses between the domestic turkeys brought by European colonists to the Americas and the eastern wild turkeys found upon their arrival.  In the early 1900s a broader breasted bronze turkey was introduced from England into Canada, and then into b  the north western United States. So whereas in the distant past most English families had goose for Christmas, [remember the goose in Dickens’ Scrooge] nowadays turkey is the norm – taking after, I presume, the USA trend.  But my family on my mother’s side  always had goose until very recent times!

THE GARDEN

This year I think I had the tallest sunflowers ever.  (9, 10)  The dahlias made a pretty good show too and I have been adding new ones over the years.  (11, 12)  Soon I will not have enough space to store dahlia tubers, over winter in boxes, in a spare room.  Some of the tubers grow so much in one season that they have to be split. 

As usual I have been selling flowers to a local farm shop during the summer, autumn and into winter, and at the height of the season I was cutting  gladioli, dahlias, montbrecia and gypsophelia.  (13)

Usually I have plenty of grapes to give away to the tourists who  are still on the campsite in September, but this year half of the grapes weren’t ripe through lack of sun.  (14)

I had an abundance of tomatoes after a friend gave me twelve plants.  They took so long to ripen, (again through lack of sunlight) that I tried to hurry the process along by cutting off all the leaves and new shoots.  This did help a little.  (15)

RIDE AND STRIDE – TEAM WHITCHURCH

For the last seven or eight years (except last year because of Covid) keen cyclists and walkers (and sometimes tractor drivers and horse riders)  have participated in the Ride and Stride event all over Dorset.  It was originally the idea of Dorset Historic Churches Trust.  Our Parish’s take on it is to create organised group activities and invite participants to join, and the community to make donations to support the group effort.

This front page of a 2105 Golden Cap Team Magazine illustrates the churches in the area. (16)

This year the event encompassed walkers, cyclists, tractor drivers and a runner.   (17) The event started at 10 am.  Thirteen striders (walkers)  (18) started at St Candida and Holy Cross Church in Whitchurch and walked 10 miles in the Marshwood Vale and the National Trust Golden Cap Estate visiting 3 three churches, being St Gabriels at Morcombelake, the ruins at St Gabriels, the church at Catherston Leweston and the church at Whitchurch.  The runner followed the walkers’ route but at a much faster pace!

Five cyclists started at St Giles RC church in Chideock (19) and followed a third-four mile hilly route through the Golden Cap Churches Team area visiting 17 churches in all. At St Mary;s church in the Pilsdon Community the cyclists observed several moments of silence in contemplation of the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy and the recent events in Afghanistan.

Ten tractor drivers rallied with their vintage Massey Fergusons, Fords and David Browns for a thirty-mile route including Broadoak, Salway Ash, Seatown and Charmouth.  All of the groups returned to Whitchurch church at the end of the day for a sumptuous tea at 4 pm. (20)  Unfortunately one of the cyclists had a puncture which made the “pedlars” an hour late for tea!

 Through this great community effort of Team Whitchurch and its sponsors a figure of at least £1,100 was raised.  All this money goes to the Dorset Historic Churches Trust which returns half to one nominated church and uses the rest to fund its generous grants for churches throughout the county.

NEW VENTURES AT COPPET HILL, PURCOMBE FARM, WHITCHURCH CANONICORUM

Farmers nowadays are encouraged to move away from intensive farming to extensive farming whereby a business begins to be more sustainable both economically and financially. 

With intensive farming in order to create enough fodder (grass and maize silage) for the animals to live on during the winter, fields will have manure from the cows – a natural fertilizer – spread on them to increase the yield.  Maize growing is particularly “hard on the soil” as the crop doesn’t “put anything back” into the soil. and as it is taken off in the autumn often in inclement weather.  The harvesting equipment “churns” up and can  compact the soil and takes the mud onto the country lanes.  There is always a danger that in heavy rain there is run off from the fields from the artificial fertilizer and slurry thus causing pollution in the water courses.

So the farmers at Purcombe Farm, my neighbours, decided to sell their cows, review their farming systems  and venture into a much more regenerative way of farming.  Farmers are encouraged to apply for a Countryside Stewardship through DEFRA. As I have basically always farmed conservationally and have encouraged wildflowers, wildlife and the like I have applied for a small Countryside Stewardship as there isn’t a lot more than I can do on my acreage in this vein.

Purcombe Farm is now converting some of their fields to wild flower meadows, and to grow sunflowers and investigate hemp production for building materials. (21)  In fact this year they planted 250,00 sunflower seeds in one field and devised a mile-long maze pathway  which summer visitors  have “sauntered through”. (22, 23)  They have also  created 6 miles of nature trails on the farm for visitors to wander on and 8 ponds to visit.  Next year there will be more ponds when the slurry pits (from Purcombe’s days of dairy farming) will have this change of use.  Some of the land will be let out as grass keep to local farmers for grazing their animals on.  They will also introduce the traditional Norfolk four course rotation of wheat, barley, beans and grass to improve the soil structure and fertility

A pop-up campsite has been introduced.  It has 8 pitches for tents which are 50 metres apart.  (24)  Dogs and music are not allowed on the site and vehicles are parked elsewhere.  Each pitch is equipped with a fire pit, picnic bench, stand pipe and compost loo.  Campers were encouraged to go pond dipping,  owl prowling and joining a moth club.  The campers have the most amazing views over most of the Marshwood Vale from this vantage point.

Another diversification for the business is glamping in this beautiful area of West Dorset.  There is a luxury 6 m Lotus Belle tent nestled in a beautiful private meadow with a woodfired Nordic hot tub.  There are also off-grid landpods for the adventurous camper. (25, 26) Both have their own earth closets (27, 28) which are emptied daily.

I shall watch with interest to see what other exciting developments happen over the other side of my hedge!

ABBA AT THE SHAVE CROSS PUB

The Shave Cross Inn, the 13th century pub, just up the road from Bluntshay, is now a dynamic hub of activity.  (29)  This has all happened since Tom Littledyke and Georgia took over the pub in March 2020.  (30)

Recently there  was a spectacular ABBA evening and the whole place was “heaving”.  Over 250 people attended and there was a real party mood.  “Party goers” dressed for the occasion with extravagant 1970s apparel. (31, 32, 33, 34) and the atmosphere was electric.  Pizzas were on offer excellently cooked by Oscar and Emma, (35, 36, 37, 38, 39).

The ABBA group arrived at about 9.15 having driven for 10 hours from Kent,  After getting all the sound equipment tuned up they appeared in typical ABBA costume, except that the male members were in ordinary clothes – which I found disappointing. (40).  Nevertheless the group gave a terrific rendering of some of the old favourites from ABBA’s heyday.

As is to be expected the individuals in the group, called ABBA Re-Bjorn, bore a striking resemblance to the Swedish originals.  Their website said that “ABBA Re-Bjorn is made up of extremely talented and professional singers and musicians who together make the most authentic sounding tribute to one of the greatest and best loved bands of all time”.  They are all full-time professional singers and musicians and have performed all over the UK and Europe, in front of Royalty,  at high profile celebrations, at festivals, weddings and many other events and occasions.

Definitely an exciting night to remember!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Tom and Georgia from the Shave Cross pub, Betsy West, Margaret Trafford, Ros Woodbridge, George Streatfeild, Angie Thompsett, Caroline and Eleanor Lambert.

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