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I spent 26 days in Canada during February and March having a wonderful time with friends and relatives. The thing that prompted my visit was an invitation to a friend’s wedding in Winnipeg, Manitoba. But I thought that having not been to Canada since the 1980s I would catch up with people in British Columbia and Alberta as well. This newsletter will be a mix of what has happened in West Dorset and snippets from my Canadian trip.


It was good having campers braving the winter weather and staying during the February half term holiday (1). The children helped with feeding Daisy (2) who will live on her own until all the animals go out to grass in a month or so. One caravanner had forgotten his steering gear and we had to help him push his unit into position (3) Just before Easter there was the usual maintenance (4) and some levelling had to be done to flatten the ruts caused by excessive rain on the grassed areas (5).

Delivery vans come loaded with tourist leaflets for Dorset and Devon to fill up my racks in the cabin (6) At Easter we had several returners to the camp site and this one enjoyed cooking tea on the fire pit (7). In Canada I only had time to visit one camp site which was in Alberta. Major refurbishment of their “cabin” was taking place (8) and I noted that all the hookup sites had a fire pit (9). Here I came across rather a strange notice for campers (10).


I stayed on two farms during my trip, visited another one and learnt all about growing mushrooms. I will only write about two of them in this newsletter. In Alberta my friends ran a beef and grain farm of 2,200 acres with an additional 200 acres for pasture and hay. The grain was kept in the silos (11) They kept horses, Belgians and Quarters. The Belgians were used for pulling sleighs and giving wagon rides (12) March is the month when all the cows had calves (13) and we had great fun chasing the calves (14) on a quad bike (15) in order to tag them, and if we came across a male calf it had to be castrated (16) otherwise it would develop into a dangerous bull. Some of the cows were kept out in the field with the bull (17)

Whilst staying in Kamloops, British Columbia my hosts and I visited a very brave friend who had just built a brand new dairy unit and farm house ( 2 years ago) (18). He had a herd of Holstein cows (19) and even had them resting on water beds to stop their legs getting sore. (20). There was an automatic sewerage cleaning mechanism operating down the middle of the unit (21). A biomass system with wood pellets heated all of the water for the dairy farm and house (22)


One of our customers, a local shop, asked whether we did honey with comb in it. This meant taking a comb out of the super (part of the hive) (23), cutting it into pieces (24), placing it into lb honey jars (25) and then filling the jars up with clear honey until the jar weighed 454g 1 lb (26). As can be seen here there is a lot more work involved in this than just filling a jar with clear honey so it can be sold at a premium price.


One of my friends is an expert at floral decorations. She has been involved with this art since she was a teenager. She has won many prizes over the years including cups at Dahlia shows, the Melplash Show in Bridport, the Devon County Show at Exeter, the Dorchester Show, the Yeovil Show and our local show at Whitchurch. Originally flower arranging was done with wire and pinholders (often chicken wire) which is a far cry from using oasis in the modern day, which makes the art so much easier. In the early days she arranged silk flowers for weddings but over the past few years she has been arranging flower for local churches on the altar and pedestals. (27, 28, 29). At Christmas there is more flexibility with the materials used to add more colour and glitter so natural and artificial flowers are used as well as Christmas decorations (30)


Alisha has been riding since her birthday in September. She has progressed to a trot and canter and has now been out on several “hacks” – definitions – a country ride on horseback, to ride across country for pleasure. The weather has got to be good for a hack to take place, and several times they have had to be cancelled because of high wind, rain etc. (31, 32)


After winning the Upton Oil Cup as mentioned in an earlier newsletter they also won First Prize for their Entertainment – Eleanor (The Chairman) with the cup (33), The Best Actor – Luke (34), The Best Harvest Supper Food – Alan with the certificate (35) and waiter and waitresses Lyndsey, Luke and Poppy. (36). Sometime later the club put on the entertainment again with a quiz at Salway Ash hall as a fund raiser. Shauna and Eleanor were on the welcome desk (37) and a great time was had by all at the quiz. (38).

Dorset YFC is part of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs. It was established in 1921 and heads a nationwide body of 662 YFCs throughout England and Wales dedicated to supporting young people with an interest in agriculture and the countryside. The Dorset YFC has 10 clubs with 300 members (10 to 26 years) It opens the door to a world of opportunity where you can meet new people, learn skills, help the community, travel abroad and compete in many competitions. Another key attribute of YFC is that the members of clubs are the ones who run them, which means that clubs only do those things that they feel are fun and important. Over the years the YFC has proved to be a very effective marriage bureau.


Canada is a relatively “young” country. Farmers were encouraged to emigrate to Canada to better themselves and Mr Poole did just that in 1910 when he left Thorncombe, near Chard to seek his fortune in Canada. His fiancee was prepared to wait for him until he had set up a homestead for them in Alberta. A Canadian Government scheme gave farmers a quarter section (160 acres) of land to start a farm. WW1 interrupted this ambition and it wasn’t until 1920 that Mr Poole returned to Thorncombe to marry his fiancee of 10 years and take her back to the “new” farmstead. We were able to see one of the original farm houses which Mr Poole had built (39) and how the property looks today (40). Mr Poole was the grandfather of the friend I stayed with in Torrington, near Calgary.


Every year we attend a market at Mapperton House in April and September. It is mainly a plant sale but other stalls are encouraged to come and sell their wares as well. We are always placed in the old stables, which last Sunday was the warmest place to be on a very cold and windy day. (41, 42)

The original manor house dated from the 11th century and was entered in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Malpereton. A Robert Morgan built the present Tudor House in the 1540s. It was largely rebuilt in the 1660s with the addition of the hall and west front as well as the dovecote and stable blocks (43). It is, at present, owned by the Earl and Countess of Sandwich. Mapperton House was transformed into the farmhouse of heroine Bathsheba Everdene for the adaptation of the recent film Far from the Madding Crowd. The house has been voted the Nation’s Finest Manor House by Country Life magazine.

The church is medieval in origin but was remodelled in 1704. The font is Norman. (44) It is a Grade One listed building.

In the stable some lath and plaster was exposed on the wall. (45) The methods and materials used in the construction of this in walls and ceilings hardly changed from the Tudor period until after WW1. Wooden laths of hand split hard wood (oak or chestnut) were used in the best quality work. Softwoods such as fir or hazel provided a cheaper alternative in later years..The laths were nailed to the underside of the ceiling or to wooden frames attached to the walls leaving a gap of about 3/8 inch (10 mm) between each lath. The joints were typically staggered in vertical bays of little over one metre (3′ 3”) to prevent long cracks appearing as the plaster dried out. (46) A coat of lime putty and sand or earth mortars, often mixed with horse hair for binding, was applied and pushed through the lath to form nibs or keys. This coat was typically 5-15 mm (1/4” – 5/8”) thick. The nibs acted as a mechanical key which helped the mortar to adhere to the lath.

Also in the stable were wooden pegs which were used for horses’ tack or harness, bridles etc relating to coach horses and riding horses. (47)


Thank you to the people who helped me with research for this newsletter: Ken Bishop, Eleanor Lambert, Malcolm Castle and Susanna Grant-Brooks.

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