CAMPSITE

I had a very busy August Bank holiday weekend, perhaps the best one yet: but the end of July and August were rather disappointing with the number of bookings down. I guess that I have too much competition in the area as new campsites seem to be popping up all over the place in the last few years.

I continued to do the animal safaris for the younger children as in previous years. (1) One small child was quite overwhelmed by how big the cows were, and promptly drew a picture for me as soon as she got back to her tent. (2)

I have had many campers returning to the site this summer. The children are always keen to help me out, and also fit in a lot of sight seeing during their stay. (3)

There was even music in the air on a warm summer’s night with a small family group being serenaded by a ukulele player. (4)

Alisha has made some long standing friends over the years who have been returning to the campsite on frequent occasions. (5, 6) They are all growing up far too fast!

A group of scouts came from Oxfordshire for a week’s stay along with their leaders. One of the first things they did was “community service” which involved them cutting down thistles in the plot by the river with secateurs and shears. (7, 8) Stinging nettles and thistles were the only plants growing in this area at this time of drought.

They had a purpose built marquee for catering purposes (9) and everyone slept in tents. The scouts were kept busy the whole time they were here. They certainly saw a lot of West Dorset and did hiking the South West Coat Path, swimming in the sea, catching mackerel on a fishing trip, (35) tunnelling, climbing, archery, planning and cooking a three-course meal on a budget, crazy golf, camp games and abseiling off Portland Bill.

One evening they had a campfire (11) and singing, to which I was invited. On another occasion the scouts built a Fiji oven. This was done by digging a hole in the ground and then lining it with large pebbles. (12) Next the stones were heated up with a fire. (13) Two pork shoulder joints wrapped in foil were then placed on the hot stones and the pit filled again with earth. They returned after 7 hours and uncovered perfectly cooked succulent pulled pork! (14) Cooking in this way is one of the simplest and most ancient cooking structures. Many are still found in the Pacific area. I attended a Māori hāngi during my working holiday in New Zealand many moons ago.

On their last morning on the campsite everyone dressed in their scout’s uniform and had a special ceremony for taking down their flag (15) before their departure.

FARM

There seems to have been a lot of huge lorries carrying many tons of straw bales on to the road in West Dorset in the last month. Time was spent today moving bales into my covered yard. A bed of straw was forked over the ground. (16) This made so much dust it caused spots on the lens and didn’t do my asthma much good either. The matbro tractor managed to bring up 4 large rectangular bales each time from another yard, (17) and then positioned them in the barn. The “grab” mechanism then had to be carefully retrieved and used again to gently push the bales in a bit further. (18)

This is a far cry from the 1930s when fodder was pitched by fork onto a rick from a wagon, (19) and small rectangular bales were man handled to an elevator from a trailer and then man handled again into position on the rick. (20)

After rather a shortage of grass for the geese early on there is now an abundance. I usually fence off areas so that they do not tread and spoil too much grass. They were obviously feeling disgruntled about this and broke down the fence to get to greener pastures. (21) During the summer I usually have plenty of volunteers to help get the geese into their house every night. (22)

MY ENTRIES AT THE BLACKDOWN FLOWER SHOW ON 31 AUGUST

I have been entering exhibits in this show for a very long time now. Once upon a time I entered flowers, vegetables and photos but over the last few years I have only managed photos. The show has been going for 61 years. ( 23)

I entered in every class in the photography section, thinking that I might get the odd first prize and have a chance to win the cup! Class 49 Colour print – Historic building. (24) I got a second prize for this with the judge’s comment “Good composition and human interest. Good light too.”

Class 50 Colour print – 100. (25) No prize, but comment “A working picture which would be improved by a ‘tidy up’ – get rid of coat hangers!”

Class 51 Colour print – Friendship. (26) No prize, but comment “Domestic friendship. A real bond well caught.”

Class 52 Colour print – By the sea. (27) No prize, but comment “If you crop the foreground it would pull the picture forward.”

Class 53 Colour print – All creatures great and small. (28) Second prize with comment “Great and small indeed – in their own environment (and a catch light in the eye).”

Class 54 Colour print – Leaves. (29) No prize, but the comment “You have caught the penalty of too many leaves! Well seen.”

Class 55 Colour print – Weather (30) No prize, but comment “The sun on snow would make all the difference.”

Class 56 Colour print – Open class (31) Third prize with comment “A well seen picture. Perhaps crop a little of the hedge to draw attention to the 3 workmen.”

I was rather disappointed but it was good of the judge to comment on every photo entered whether it won a prize or not. In the past this has not been the case! Perhaps I might win the cup next year if I follow all the advice given!

WHITCHURCH FLOWER AND DOG SHOW

The weather was brilliant for this event and people flocked to attend. (32, 33) We had our usual stall and had a good day selling our wares. (34) Ferrets were one of the many attractions. (35) Punters placed bets to see which ferret would appear first at the end of the race pipes. (36) It would seem that ferrets have been domesticated for about 2500 years and are related to the weasel and polecat. They have a lifespan of 7 to 10 years.

They are still used for hunting rabbits in some parts of the world, but increasingly they are kept only as pets.

It was encouraging to see quite a lot of handicrafts exhibited at the show proving that these crafts are still being practised. (37) As always the photography section had many entries. (38) Many other stalls were in attendance, (39) including one by the Char Valley Parish Council. (40) This was their first appearance at the show where they were distributing the latest edition of the Char Chat, the Council’s newsletter.

I had a quick look into the produce tent which was full of beautiful flowers and well shaped vegetables. (41) The show made over £2,000 after expenses. The charities which will receive donations from this figure are to be announced at the AGM in October.

A LA RONDE

The Bettiscombe Ladies Group visited this very unusual building near Exmouth, Devon early in July. (42) It is thought that John Lowder, a gentleman architect (1781-1829) designed the house for two single ladies who were cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter. Jane and Mary embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe in 1784 as was general for young people from wealthy families in those days. The cousins got on so well that they decided to build a house on 15 acres of land which they bought near Exmouth in 1795. The view from La Ronde is remarkably unchanged despite 20th century suburbs. (43)

The house, which was completed in 1796, was built with 16 sides, consisting of twenty rooms, with windows on each side to allow maximum sunlight in at all times of the day. The house’s design is supposedly based on the Basilica of San Vitale which the cousins visited during their Grand Tour. Much of the internal decoration was produced by Jane and Mary whose handicraft skills were excellent. The house also contained many of the objets d’art, especially shells, which the cousins brought from back from their European Tour.

The Shell Gallery and Staircase are the most spectacular feature at A la Ronde. “A Gothic fantasy” of painted vaults and pointed arches which are encrusted with bands of shells on the walls. Many other features include quillwork, mirrors, and pieces of quartz. Nowadays visitors could only glimpse at this from afar as the area had been cordoned off. (44) The Shell Gallery has suffered damage from both decay and early restoration. It will be several years before gentle repair of the entire ensemble can be completed by the National Trust. The house was designated as a world heritage site in December 1949.

The terms of Mary Parminster’s will specified that the property could only be inherited by “unmarried kinswomen”. This condition held firm until 1886 when the house was transferred to the Reverend Oswald Reichel, a brother of one of the former occupants. Reichel, the sole male owner in over two hundred years, was responsible for substantial structural changes including the installation of a bathroom and central heating and the construction of upstairs bedrooms, a heavy pulley dumb waiter, and speaking tubes, the replacement of the original thatch with roof tiles and the addition of an external walkway. Reichel also installed a water tower and laundry room. (45) The white structure encompassed a “copper” to boil water, and to the left there is a wringer. In the past the former was found in every farmhouse for heating the water on Mondays which was generally “wash day”. When we moved into Bluntshay farmhouse the copper was ceremoniously thrown out onto the scrap heap!

I was in my element looking around the house finding items from both the Parminter’s and Victorian eras – many of which I have stored away in case I ever start a museum! Amongst these were the bathroom items (46) and the sewing machine. (47) Other memorabilia from those bygone days included quill pens and inkwells, and equipment for leisurely afternoon teas. (48, 49)

The Monkey Puzzle tree, a little way away from the house, serves as a reminder of the longevity of the place. (50) It is said that the Monkey Puzzle tree can live for one thousand years, and will grow up to 50 metres tall. The bark is fire resistant and the species rubbed shoulders with the dinosaurs.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thank you to all the people who have helped me with this newsletter: Chris Harrison, Maureen Toop, Debbie Hull and Caroline House.