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The first long weekend in May was quite busy. A big group which included people from South Africa and Zimbabwe invited me for one of their evening meals which involved a Potjie pot in which a beautiful thick stew (potjiekos) was cooked. (1) This consisted of beef, coke cola, red wine, onions, tomatoes and fresh herbs. Once it was ready to eat (after 2 ½ hours cooking) they toasted rolls on a fire pit to make the delicious meal complete served with salad and sour cream. (2, 3) The group brought with them a portable kitchen (4) and a South African brown camouflage canvas tent. (4) (you don’t see many of them around) Instead of bringing a gazebo to relax under it seems that the latest thing is a white ‘sail’ which would be a lot quicker to put up.(6)

The potjiekos dates back to the 1830s when the Voortrekkers (Afrikaans and Dutch for pioneers) were pastrolists from the frontiers of the Cape Colony who migrated eastward to establish an independent Boer republic in the hinterland of South Africa. As they travelled they they shot wild game and it was added to the pot. The large bones were included to thicken the stew. Each day when the wagons stopped, the pot was placed over a fire to simmer. New bones replaced old and fresh meat replaced meat eaten. Game included venison, guinea fowl, warthog, bushpig, rabbit and hare. The Voortrekkers were descendants from the Dutch East India Company’s original settlers at the Cape.

Lots of cyclists continue to come to the site. They must love tackling all the steep hills in the Marshwood Vale (7)

The late May long weekend predicted lots of rain with thunder and lightning. Fortunately it skirted around this part of West Dorset and we had only a little rain, and thunder and lightning in the distance. The predictions did not put people off as I had a full campsite. I did my first conducted walk around the farm today and had to take shears to cut nettles and brambles across the bridge and into one of the fields. Children espied a tyre (8) which each one had 5 swings on, while the adults looked on. (9) En route we saw some cows and the children enjoyed feeding them with grass. (10) We had later had wonderful views from the highest point on the farm. (11) Some of the children helped me with watering in the greenhouses. (12)



In the last month there has been a lot of digging holes and laying pipes. The most complicated was the one in the front garden. First of all the square slabs in the wall had to be cut out one by one. (13) A big hole had already been dug the previous week and covered with galvanise sheets. (14) Railway sleepers were loaded on top of this to make a ramp. (15)

The digger then demolished a Veronica shrub that was in the way. (16) Then a trench across what was the flower garden had to be dug so that the digger could sit astride this to do the rest of the work. (17) Then the digger deftly reversed up over the ramp and into the garden with just inches to spare on each side. (18, 19) Once inside the digger had to remove 8 inches of chippings and the plastic membrane underneath before digging out the trench for a new pipe. (20, 21). After the job was finished the soil in the garden was 6 inches deeper but the chippings looked perfect. (22) On the other side of the wall is the inevitable spare soil and stones to be disposed of at some stage, and a large hole in the wall. (23)


I recently attended a breakfast business meeting at the new Ivy House restaurant (24) in connection with the Bridport Chamber and Trade and the Bridport Tourism Association. It was a new experience for me arriving at a meeting at 7.30 am which included a full English breakfast! (25, 26) Charlie Groves, (27) the managing director, gave us a very interesting talk about the history of Groves Nursery and how the Ivy House restaurant came about. His great great great grandfather Charles William Groves (28) who was a thatcher, miller and bible seller and also sold seeds. He started the business in 1866 in Piddletrenthide at a place called Ivy House. (29) Over the years the firm moved the business to Dorchester and Fordington, Bridport and Axminster, with each successful generation taking a leading role: great great grandfather Charles William Groves and great grandfather Charles William Groves. (30) Charlie’s grandfather Charles William Groves (31) brought the business to its present location in 1960.

Plans for a Bridport Bypass were mooted in the 1980s and fortunately it was rerouted so that Groves Nursery was not cut in half after Charlie’s father, Clive Watt Groves, (32) campaigned to change the original route. Being so close to the A35 it brings in a lot of business because of its enviable position.

Charlie (Charles Winston) grew up on site, went to Leeds university and worked in the garden industry before joining the family firm in the early 2000s. He then did a degree in garden centre management. His sister Becky, (33) also joined the firm after obtaining an ecology degree at Bangor university. She runs Little Groves at Beaminster.

The original cafe at Groves opened in 1994 but it was felt that something much larger was needed with the growing garden centre business and the space available on site. The contract was given to Frys the Builders and work was started in 2016. It was hoped to open in January 2018 but this was delayed. So the ribbon was finally cut on 15th May with the current owner of the Ivy House in Piddletrenthide doing the honours. (34) After the sumptuous meal we were treated to a tour of the brand new kitchen where fresh food is made on a daily basis. (35, 36). The restaurant has 160 seats inside and a further 100 ‘al fesco’ outside. (


Recently the Chideock Discussion Club visited this farm as part of their social programme. (37) About thirty people attended and we were divided into two groups. I went with the first group in the trailer to travel around the farm. (38) En route we saw buffalo calves, (39) buffalo beef animals, suckler herd (40) and the dairy herd. Originally 22 beef animals were brought in from Romania and the herd has now grown to just under 300. The most recent purchase was dairy cows from Italy. The total herd for this part of the business number some 25 cows. We were shown the milking units, which were obviously very similar to what is still being used on some ordinary dairy farms. (41) Plans are afoot to introduce a robotic milking system in the near future.

The second part of the visit covered the farm shop (42) where Buffalicious ice cream was on sale, (43, 44) There was also raw buffalo milk available and plenty of meat on the shelves. (45, 46) A very new project which is just about to be launched is making Mozzarella cheese. The building has been converted into a cheese processing place and all the necessary equipment has been purchased. (47) To round the evening off we were treated to buffalo burgers and hotdogs, (48, 49) and had delicious ice cream for dessert.

The buffalo business was started by the Corpe family about 18 years ago. The water buffalo originated in South Asia, Southeast Asia and China. Italy also has an indigenous breed which can be traced back to prehistory. In the wild the buffalo spend much of their day submerged in muddy water in tropical and subtropical forests.. Their wide-splayed hoofed feet prevent them from sinking too deeply in the mud and allow them to move about in wetlands and swamps. They have a life expectancy of 15 years in the wild and up to 25 years in domesticity. Cows wean their cows within a year and at three years old they are mature enough to produce their own calf.

The taste of buffalo meat is very similar to beef but it is considered a healthier alternative because it contains less fat and cholesterol, and more protein than beef.


Earlier this year an email was received from a member of Banstead (Surrey) Royal British Legion regarding Frank Wiscombe who was born in Whitchurch in 1880 but left in 1896 and eventually lived in Banstead. He was killed on the battlefield on 8.5.18 in France. He is commemorated on the Banstead war memorial and the local Banstead RBL had contacted the villages of all the fallen who were not born in that part of Surrey. At the time of the laying of the wreath (50) at Whitchurch, the church bell at Banstead was tolled 100 times in memory of Frank Wiscombe. The Rev Jane Skinner conducted the service (51) and Elizabeth Carter played the Reveille and the Last Post , (52) and a standard bearer, Jon Hunt, was in attendance. (53) I volunteered to compile two display boards on the life and war record of Frank Wiscombe which were on display in the church. (54) (left to right) Secretary of the Lyme Regis British Legion, Chris James, the Rev Jane Skinner and President of the LR BL Philip Evans.


Thank you to all the people who have helped me with this newsletter: Toby Skerritt, Jon Corpe, Elspeth Fimpel, Charlie Groves, the South African group, Nigel Carter and James Crouch.

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