Share Button


On Boxing Day night I had a brave soul who slept in his car on the campsite – with a heater I presume. (1) He had driven from Warminster in Wiltshire especially to attend the West Bay Wallow 2016 which started at 12 noon on Boxing Day. The event is a charity fancy dress swim in the safety of the marina (outer harbour) at West Bay, near Bridport. (2 & 3) It is run by the Bridport Round Table and participants can support their own individual charity. There are usually over 100 people taking part with an estimated crowd of over 3000 people looking on. There are prizes for the best fancy dress and this year Funky Seal Wetsuits offered some of their designer wetsuits as prizes. The event was started in 2004 when 10 entrants (most of whom were press ganged into it) participated. Over the years entrants have raised thousands of pounds for Schools, Clubs, St Johns, Air Ambulance, Weldmar Hospice, CLIC Sargent and many other worthy causes.

Two more brave souls arrived yesterday (4) and hope to do some walking along the Jurassic Coast during their stay. Icicles were melting from their awning by the time I took the photo.


At the beginning of December I sent 6 animals to the Sedgemore market. We usually have to load them at some ungodly hour in the early morning, but this time they had to be collected in the afternoon before and spend the night in accommodation at the market place. (5 & 6) Everyone except Daisy made a good price. As Daisy had such a traumatic beginning to her life (rejected by her mother from the outset) she never did catch up with the others and was always small for her age. Prior to the animals’ departure it was necessary to dehorn one of the young animals He had knocked one horn and it bled so the vet had to remove both of them. Firstly he injected anaesthetic near the horn (7) and then used some strong wire to remove the it. (8 & 9) We have not had an animal with horns on the farm for a very long time so this case must have been a “throw back/recessive gene” occurrence.

The seven cows and six calves that remained on the farm were left out in the fields and had to be supplementary fed with silage bales. (10) As soon as the animals smelt the silage they rushed over and we had to be quick to take the plastic and netting off (11 & 12) and then roll the feeder over the top of the bale. (13). The six calves born this summer just looked on bemused. (14) When the cows did come into covered yard for the rest of the winter we had to clean out the gutters (15) and bed down their sleeping area with straw. (16) Silage bales are piled up nearby ready for their winter feed. (17) A bull Escott Harold arrived on the farm for a 6 week stay on 4th December. (18) It is probably one of the biggest ones we ever had. We have to give it water in a separate tank as it can’t get its head through the bars into the normal tank.


Every animal on a farm has to have a passport. (19) When an animal is born it is necessary to notify the British Cattle Movement Service with its ear tag number, sex, breed and date of birth. A passport will be then sent and has to be kept in a safe place. The farmer’s bar code sticker has to be placed on the passport and the farmer has to sign it with the date. When sending on an animal to market the passport has to have to date of leaving the farm along with the farmer’s signature. When a bull arrives for a 6-7 week period a passport comes with it. The farmer has to put their bar code sticker on this passport and sign it.


This occurred in November on the last Sunday before the season of Advent when local children gathered at Whitchurch church to make Christmas puddings. Ros Woodbridge organised the event with the help of parents and friends, and the children had a great time and worked in small groups to pile all the ingredients into the bowls and give them a good stir (20, 21, 22 & 23). When the process was completed the mixture was put into suitable containers to steam ready for Christmas Day (24). The children were also encouraged to colour in Christmas puddings (25) and play in the Children’s Corner (26) It is a tradition to make a wish as you stir and also to stir from an East to West direction in honour of the three wise men who visited baby Jesus. I can remember as a child finding good luck tokens, such as sixpences, whilst eating my Christmas pudding. Nowadays it seems that sterlised silver coins are placed under each serving on Christmas Day to avoid emergency dentist visits and such like. The Christmas Pudding was introduced from Germany in 1714 by King George I. Ros has written a book called “The Wooden Spoon” which is all about the happenings on a Stir Up Sunday. (27) The church was beautifully decorated with poppies from the recent Remembrance Day service. (28)


Christmas events have been going on for weeks. At the Bettiscombe Open Group we made Christmas decorations with the help of templates. (29) We had a market stall at the Manor Yard, Symondsbury again this year. There were lots of interesting stalls as usual (30 & 31) and the weather was mild. I was still selling my chrysanthemum into December. (32) New House Farm, Broadoak held a Festive Craft Day with their pottery and woodcraft workshops open . The Broadoak Choir entertained us with carols, (33) and home made pizza was made to order and cooked on the spot. (34 & 35). An attractive early 1900s 4-wheeled, horse drawn wagon stood in a barn doorway decorated for Christmas. (36) On Christmas Eve I attended a Carol Service at Blackdown Church where an Advent candle was lit under the font (37) before we sang carols. Later mince pies were handed out (38) and delicious mulled wine ( alcoholic and non-alcoholic) was served (39)


Last autumn three parish councillors, including myself, visited Monkton Wyld Holiday Park to discuss the building of a new shower block. (40) I had previously visited the site with 6th formers from Colfox School, Bridport when I was a Leisure and Tourism Tutor and remembered being told by Simon Kewley that his father in law (who had first bought the farm) had a very interesting history. After the second visit to Monkton Wyld I spent several months delving into Michael Axman’s life with the help of both Joanna and Simon.

Michael was born in 1925 in Poland on the Ukrainian border at a place called Lvov. His father was the town policeman. In his youth he could remember on one occasion Russian Calvary riding through the village. It took them 10 days for all the riders to pass and was meant to intimidate. Shortly afterwards Russia invaded the Ukraine. It was during WW2 that Michael’s family moved eastwards. On one occasion he and a school friend were walking through the village when a German Staff car stopped and its occupants chatted to the two teenagers. Michael’s friend got into the car and was never seen again.

At this point Michael decided it was best to leave and headed westwards. He initially clung to the under carriage of a goods train to escape. He was good at languages and managed very well at communicating as he travelled. In Yugoslavia he became a guerrilla sniper. He had a high regards for Tito, their leader. He also travelled through Hungary and later drifted into Bulgaria. He joined the Polish Brigade attached to the Americans at Salerno, Italy and fought at the Battle of Monte Cassino. It seems that Poles fought on both sides during this battle. From Italy he boarded a ship and thought that he was going to America but arrived in the UK and was initially put in a camp in Norfolk. Most of Michael’s family survived the war with two siblings staying in Poland and one sister (Nettie) escaping to Buffalo, USA. She used to send food parcels to England in huge Kellogg cereal boxes along with American dollar notes.

Once in England Michael tried his hand at various jobs during the early days – working on a North Sea fishing trawler, as a coal miner and at a steel works. He was then offered a job near Southampton milking cows (of which he had no experience). It was here that he met Marjorie, a Land Army girl, and they later married in Wootton Fitzpaine. Marjorie’s father was, at the time, living in Wootton so Michael and his wife moved nearby to a cottage in Fishpond. Here he became a farm worker for Mr Charlie Raymond, but he and his wife also kept turkeys, ducks, hens and pigs to generate more money. He even kept bee hives on nearby Lamberts Castle. By 1954 they had saved up enough money to buy a farm in Beulah, West Wales and travelled from West Dorset to Wales on a tractor and trailer loaded up with a plough and an armchair, in which Mrs Axman sat with her cat. They also took a few hens with them. This was in the days before any bridges were built to link England to Wales so it took just over a week to do the journey. They stayed in barns and such like en route every night.

Joanna, their only child was born during their time in Wales. (41) Michael fitted in really well with the Welsh locals but his wife found it hard to make the transition. In 1959 they heard that Monkton Wyld Farm (close to where they had lived before in Dorset) was up for sale so Michael travelled to Axminster to the auction and put in the highest bid (£6,000). (42) He bought 120 acres along with the farm house, and some outbuildings. The whole village in Wales came to see them off when they started their journey back to West Dorset. (43, 44) They hired a goods train which took them, their cows and other animals, and farm machinery from Wales through to Axminster where a cattle haulier called Fred Marchant took the cows over to Monkton Wyld. The cows had been milked early in the morning in Wales, and then late at night after they had arrived at the farm.

Michael was ahead if his time with some aspects of farming. He was the first person in England and Wales to make silage, and one of the earliest dairy farmers to install an “18 inch step up” milking parlour which mean that the person milking the cows was on the same level as the udders – this made it a lot easier to put the milking machine units on and off the cows. They also kept a bull on the farm. (45)

Again Michael and Marjorie worked incredibly hard to make the farm a success with Marjorie helping with much of the work, including milking and running a bed and breakfast business. (46) They eventually retired to a nearby cottage. Michael died in 1989 aged 63 and Marjorie passed away in 2010 aged 89. Their daughter Joanna had married Simon Kewly and they continued with the farm eventually developing the camping and caravan site after several tourists said that it was a good place to camp. In 1990/91 a shower block was built at a cost of £25,000. (47) along with 40 units of space for tents and caravans. The demand for hookups was growing so these were installed shortly afterwards. The site covers 25 acres of land. (48, 49 & 50)

The campsite has grown like “Topsy” and today a brand new shower block costing considerably more than £25,000 is to built. At the start of the new season in Spring 2017 they will be providing employment for 10 people plus gardeners, office staff, cleaners and a groundsman. The Camping Park now has 150 pitches.

Monkton Wyld Farm is truly a success story which started from small beginnings in 1959 and has grow into a very successful tourist destination. Michael was meant to board a ship to England and not the USA and has a left a wonderful legacy of his and Marjorie’s hard work for his family and West Dorset to appreciate for posterity. (51)


Thank you to all the people who helped me with the research for this newsletter: Joanna and Simon Kewley, Simon Ford, Ros Woodbridge, John West, Blackdown Church and Helen Doble

Share Button