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Bookings have been coming in for 2019 for some weeks now. One person, who will be bringing 2 separate large groups to the campsite in August, has recently done a ‘recci’ on 4 locals sites, and mine was the one chosen! Looking at the campsite and surrounding area in January with the garden appearing forlorn (1, 2, 3) is not the best time of year to visit. Even though the cabin steps had primer, undercoat and gloss two years ago (4) it all needs to be painted again along with gates, walls and the like. (5, 6, 7) I am still waiting for a fine dry day to get all this decorating started. It does need to be finished before Easter.


The calves, born in such traumatic circumstances in late autumn 2018, are all growing well and its amazing how big some of them are now. (8) The youngest calf has already had one of its ear tags ripped out – leaving rather a hole. (9) The ear tag cannot be reused so a new one will have to be purchased. (10) This is an ongoing problem. One of the rams (with blue raddle attached to his body) is spending some weeks with a few of the ewes. They should all have a nice blue mark on their backs by now. (11) A new chain harrow arrived last week, much to my husband’s excitement. (A new toy!) (12, 13) The chain harrow will first be used on the campsite to drag out dead grass and bare some soil, after which a mixture of rye grass and white clover will be sown to rejuvenate the grass and thicken up the sward. After that we hope to do most of the fields in a similar manner. This will take place in April and May when the soil has warmed up.


On Saturday 19th January the Five Bells Inn hosted a tractor run in aid of its annual fireworks display. (14) Tractors, drivers and spectators gathered at The Bells for an early bacon butty from 10 am. (15, 16) The tractors varied in age from the early 1940s to the modern day. (17, 18) The oldest tractor (19) was a Fordson Major from the mid 1940s. The newest one was a 2016 Case. Paul White (20) and Richard Legg organised the event. At 11 am 15 tractors left the pub in convoy (21) and rumbled their way through the lanes passing Shave Cross, Pilsdon Pen, Birdsmoorgate, Marshwood, Hawkchurch, Tilworth and Fishponds before returning to Whitchurch for a well earned barbeque lunch at just after 1 pm, taking just over 2 hours to complete the 22 mile journey. The weather was kind, a little chilly, but dry and the sun did show itself occasionally. Each entrant paid £10 for the experience of this tractor trundle and £176 was raised from the event which included the refreshments.


This business (22) was situated on the A35 en route from the Charmouth Bypass, through to Bridport. It is very close to the Jurassic Coast and from the premises can be seen Golden Cap (the highest cliff on the South Coast) and the sea. (23).

Martin Legg took over the post office in 1980. (24) Gill was helping Martin part time by the end of the 1980s. She already had a lot of experience having owned and run the Symondsbury Post Office for five years. Romance blossomed and they were married in September 1993. (25) Martin and Gill purchased the property from the landlord in 1995. They soon restored the décor and quickly turnover increased and the future looked bright.

In the early days when Martin ran the business on his own. trade in the summer was boosted considerably by the campsites in the area. In addition to the public the sites were used by parties of scouts, guides or schools, and they would pre-order provisions for their stay. However over the years trade diminished and by the end of the 1990s the groups stopped coming to the campsites. Another factor was the arrival of Safeway (now Morrisons) which opened in Bridport. Their business dropped by 20% on that day. Also the opening of Tesco in Axminster affected their business. So they had to diversify. By 1993 Gill began doing a lot of the bakery items in the shop – sausage rolls, quiches, steak and kidney pies, sponges and a whole host of other goodies. This was a great hit with the local people.

In the mid 1990s there was a threat of Post Office closures, so Martin went back to running the business on his own, while Gill diversified. She had to give up her baking which upset a lot of her customers. She started working at Denhay Farms with a 6 am start when she worked full time. Later she worked three days a week. This continued for 19 years until Gill retired in 2015. From that time until recently they again worked together at the Post Office. (26)

During the 38 years and 8 months that Martin was involved in the Post Office there were other diversifications: From 1988 to 1996 he did window cleaning but sold the round for health reasons. In 2001 Martin trained to become a masseur and following qualification he gained a client base of over 250 people. His training covered remedial, therapeutic and sports massages, and later trained in Indian head massage. Martin and Gill also did wedding photography and offered a complete service from photos to albums from 1999 to 2009. They ran a dry cleaning and laundry service for a time.

By 2006 Morcombelake had lost several important social facilities being the closure of Frodsham Motors and the Ship Inn. Since then Felicity’s Farm shop and the Art Wave company have taken their place.

Gill and Martin decided to semi-retire in November 2018 and the last day of business was on the 24th and the last customer to be served was Nigel Carter (27)

Martin and Gill are continuing to deliver newspapers, milk and bread to existing customers in their familiar white van. (28). A farewell party has already been held by villagers for them at the village hall in Morcombelake. (29) It will be the end of a 38 year career for Martin, but I expect they will both find plenty of other things to do in their semi-retirement. It is hoped that another local business in Morcombelake will take over the Post Office business in the very near future.


On 18th January we were treated to a wonderful night’s entertainment with local talent. (30) This was the brainchild of local Broadoak Choir choirherd, Chris Reynolds. (31) The all important barman was Eric who did a sterling job all evening. (32) Master of Ceremonies, George, (33) dressed in appropriate attire, kept the evening flowing smoothly. There was an amazing array of talent with music from (34) John and Anthony playing keyboard and saxophone, with Chris on guitar and singing from Alex, (35) Kerren, (36) and Matthew with his children. (37)

Amanda gave us readings from ‘The Lady of Shallot’ and ‘The Knight whose Armour didn’t squeak’ with sound effects from Sebastian and Bea Kingston (38) along with Georgina and Sue, dressed in suitable rustic garb, who did an amusing rendition of “There is a hole in my bucket, dear Eliza, dear Eliza.”(39, 40) Delicious canapes were served at regular intervals during the entertainment and were made by members of the committee, who must have slaved over a hot stove for hours as there was so much food. (41) The penultimate act was a reading of Stanley Holloway’s of ‘Albert and the Lion’ by local retired primary school teacher Gordon Shaw. (42) The finale was from a small section of the Broadoak Choir who sang rousing songs to complete the wonderful event. (43)

The proceeds from the event (£350) will be spent on new window curtains in Broadoak Hall. The fabric has been bought and the sewing has already started. (44)


I visited a friend recently whose Lurcher, Pepper, had produced 7 puppies on Christmas Day – 2 females and 5 males. (45) Pepper is 8 years old and this is her second litter. The puppies are five weeks old today and are nearly weaned. Each puppy has been spoken for (46, 47) and will go to their new home when the puppies are 7 to 8 weeks old. There is a gestation period of 63 days. While not a pure breed, it is generally a cross between a sighthound and a working dog breed.. It is fabled that in the 14th, 15th and early 16th centuries the English and Scottish governments banned commoners from owning sight hounds, such as Irish wolfhounds, Scottish deerhounds and greyhounds. It is thought that lurchers may have been bred to avoid legal complications during this time. Generally the aim of the cross is to produce a sighthound with more intelligence, a canny animal suitable for poaching rabbits, hares and game birds, thus creating a combination of speed and intelligence.


Several times a year there will be traffic accidents on the A35, either at Chideock or Morcombelake. An accident will mean that the police will immediately close the road. The vehicles that are caught up in this chaos will use their Sat Navs to find a way home and are automatically sent through the Marshwood Vale, which is full of narrow lanes. A lot of these drivers are holidaymakers who have probably never driven down these tortuous routes before. As these lanes were originally made for horse drawn vehicles and people walking on foot there is only the occasional wide place for 2 vehicles to pass. Locals know where these places are and wait in one of them if they see an approaching vehicle, or even go up into a gateway to create enough space.

As can be imagined it doesn’t take long for the Marshwood Vale to become completely grid locked. Sometimes locals have to act as traffic policemen to alleviate the situation. I myself have got out of my car and directed about six cars up a side lane to allow on-going traffic to get through on the ‘main’ lane. In some cases a field gate has to be opened and cars allowed into a hay field to alleviate the siutation. There are numerous entry points into the Vale, with some people also using the Symondsbury route to find their way home.

This topic has been heatedly discussed at numerous parish council meetings over many years to find a way to stop this chaos in the lanes.

Recently the Upper Marshwood Vale Parish Council decided to do something about it. A public meeting was called at the end of November 2018. (48) The Whitchurch village hall was packed with people who have been affected by past instances of ‘Marshwood Vale gridlocks’. (49) Sara Hudston, editor of the UMVPC magazine, chaired the meeting, (50) and was instrumental in gathering personnel together to speak at the event. This included Martyn Underhill, the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner (51) who was the main contributor. Other people who spoke were Inspector Matt Butler from Dorset Police’s traffic section (52) and Craig Baker, area manager for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service. (53) A very speedy police keyboard operator was able to capture every word of the proceedings on her laptop. (54)

Ideas put forward during the evening covered ‘a drone’ being sent immediately to the site of the accident, reducing the time taken to gather police evidence at the scene. People standing at each entry point into the Vale with diversion signs was another possibility and there was a call for volunteers to help with this aspect. It was also suggested that detour signs be put up in Bridport and at Hunters Lodge (just off the Axminster bypass), or even at Honiton, so that traffic could be diverted via Chard, Crewkerne, Broadwindsor and Beaminster.

There have been two follow-up meetings since the initial one in November; a small gathering in the Clock at Chideock and a well-attended meeting at the Five Bells Inn. Lots of ideas were put forward including diversions to avoid the Marshwood Vale. Chris Noon has agreed to take over the coordinator role of the working party and many more meetings are planned to solve this problem of ‘Marshwood Vale Gridlock’.


Thank you to all the people who have helped me with this newsletter: Pat Hawkins, Sara Hudston, Paul White, Gill and Martin Legg, Malcolm Castle, Sue Smiley, George and Amanda Streatfeild.

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