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After closing the big field to campers at the end of August the fence had to re-erected so that we could move the cattle into the field (1). A member of the Veteran Vespa Club came to stay on the campsite. He was attending one of the Club’s rallies which this time chose the Jurassic Devon/Dorset coast for a weekend of riding. (2) The organisers research runs that take in lots of smaller roads with view points and stops for tea at places of interest. The weekend schedule included a run down the B3157 to Portland with stops at the Jailhouse Cafe at HM Prison The Verne, Abbotsbury, and Chesil beach. On the Sunday visits included Mangerton Mill and Lyme Regis. Getting 40 old scooters safely around a route together is obviously quite challenging in today’s busy world. There’s a tradition amongst Vespa riders of doing long distances on what are essentially Italian shopping bikes. My camper had travelled from Borth in mid Wales to Crabbs Bluntshay, a distance of about 200 miles on a 1961 VNB3 which is a 125 cc 3 gear Vespa with a top speed of 47 mph!! (3) He regretted not having time to explore more of the area, especially Pilsdon Pen and hopes to come back to my campsite for a proper holiday sometime.

Other campers brought their dogs Axle and JJ and gave them an escape proof “garden” during their stay (4). The couple were keen bird watchers and visited the Radipole Nature Reserve at Weymouth and sent me some of their shots – an egret (5), a curlew (6) and a godwit (7). One camper who has visited my campsite many times sent me this lovely sunrise photo (8).


Five 3-week old calves arrived from market recently (9) and had to be trained to use this drinker. They have been christened Blue Jeans, Bluebell, Doris, Daisy and Jacob. The annual collection of silage bale plastic and netting came around again which meant that the bags had to be transported from the small yard to the bigger yard by Matbro tractor to load them onto the huge collection lorry. (10) We started off with three bags, but after one burst we had to split its contents into two other bags. Not a very pleasant job! Brushwood from the oak branches which we had cut down on the campsite in August was made into “faggots” ready for kindling for next year’s campers. (11) In the distant past “faggots” would be piled high quite close to the farmhouse into a “neckie mow” (a stack of “faggots”) for use in the ingle nook fireplaces. Our three vintage tractors have recently been restored by Malcolm, my husband, and were lined up in all their glory. From left to right – Massey Ferguson 135 (1967), International B275 (1960) and Fordson Major E1A (1954) (12). The Massey Ferguson was bought new by my father. The International and Fordson Major are owned by Malcolm.


At the recent Mapperton Charity Specialist Plant Fair I spent any profit I made at my market stall on five new plants for the campsite. (13) These were two Asters (although we used to call them Michaelmas Daisies) – pink and light blue, a blue and white Agapanthus, a lilac Thalictrum and a Penniestum Karley Rose grass. I had a stray runner bean plant (14) which I put with the sweet peas, which is flowering too late for any beans, but I have had an abundant supply of them from the main line for my runner bean chutney. (15) I also planted peas very late (16) and realise that I shall not reap a good harvest from them. The tomatoes got out of control this year but I should have plenty of fruit to make green tomato chutney this autumn. (17)


In order to get fitter in readiness for a geology course I start in October I was hoping to do a walk with the local ramblers group every Wednesday. So far I have only managed two! This one was very local which meant I should be home by mid afternoon to do lots of chores – and it promised to have a slow pace. I met up with 5 other ramblers at Charmouth. It turned out to be a very strenuous walk, but the views were amazing. We traversed up onto Stonebarrow seeing Catherston Manor in the distance (18) and then a close up view of the ruined church at St Gabriels (19).

Golden Cap (the highest cliff on the South Coast) loomed up in the distance (20). We then started the steep ascent (21) (which seemed like a one in four climb). The descent into Seatown was more gradual (22), (23) thank goodness. We passed by some very recent erosion of the cliff (24). After travelling through the little seaside hamlet of Seatown we walked through a maize crop (25), a ploughed field (26) and stubble turnips (27) before we reached our final destination which was the George Pub at Chideock. I was really ready to sit down at this point! Here we had a well deserved rest, long drink and lunch. It took me several days to recover from this experience.


Canadian cousins arrived in Bridport recently who wanted to meet Huxter relatives. Our common ancestors were Thomas and Elizabeth Huxter who had 18 children between 1849 and 1872. We visited Symondsbury churchyard to see the headstone of our great great grandparents. (28). Descendants from four of the 18 children met up for a delicious meal at the George, Chideock. (29). We later had a photo shoot in the garden for each branch of descendants – Thomas [5th child] (30 & 31), John [11th] (32 & 33), Bessie [16th] (34 & 35) and Henry [18th] (36 & 37). In the evening we visited descendants from Charles [6th] (38 & 39). It was a fantastic family history weekend and I could have filled up an itinerary for another two days to show them other Huxter places, but they were leaving the next morning!


The Char Valley Parish Council is in the process of restoring all of the 21 finger posts in the area. (40)

Legislation was enacted in England in 1697 which enabled magistrates to place “direction posts at cross-highways” The Highways Act 1766 and Turnpike Roads Act 1773 made use of finger posts on turnpike roads compulsory. The Motor Car Act 1903 passed road sign responsibilities to the relevant highway authority within Great Britain and Ireland, although no specifications were set. Guidance was given in a 1921 circular that road direction signs should have 2 ½ or 3 inch high (64 or 76 mm) upper case lettering on a white background and white supporting poles. It was also recommended that the name of the highway authority be included somewhere in the design. Mandatory standards were passed for Great Britain in 1933 which required poles to be painted with black and white bands and lettering to be of a different typeface.

Signposts were removed across much of the United Kingdom during World War II, lest enemy forces use them for navigation, and replaced in the late 1940s. Road signing was reviewed again in 1964 whereby local authorities were encouraged to remove and replace traditional finger posts with new designs. At this point the use of ¼ and ½ mile distances were discontinued. Some counties appear to have been more zealous than others in eradicating the old type of signpost. Reacting to concern about the loss of historical finger posts from the rural landscape, an advisory leaflet was issued by the Department for Transport and English Heritage in June 2005 which stated that “All surviving traditional finger post direction signs should be retained in-situ and maintained on a regular basis. They should be repainted every five years in traditional black and white livery”

Budget cuts at County Council level have meant that maintenance of finger posts is now a Parish responsibility even though the post remains the property of the County and not the Parish. A finger post sub committee was formed (41) to tackle the problem and organise the project. The plan is to work on 3 finger posts a year. The repair process is slow and expensive, involving specialist restorers, skilled craftspeople and volunteers and members of Portland’s Young Offenders Institute. A post’s usefulness as a way marker and its state of decrepitude determine its position on the “to do” list. The full restoration of a four fingered post can cost up to £800. Of course some of the signs have to be taken down completely to be repaired, which may confuse people and cause them to be “lost in the Vale”

Fortunately, so far, we have received a grant and several donations to get the project underway. Some posts have lost all their finger posts (42), have been hit by a hedge cutter (43), are rotting around the edges (44 & 45) or just generally look “very tired” (46). Offers of practical help have been received from several people in the parish and Chris Hawkins is currently working on the post with four fingers just along the road from Whitchurch Village Hall (47 & 48). In some cases an insert of mild steel (49) has to be made to go on top of the pole where it has rusted away. Most of the original roundels (the circular part that fits on top of the pole and finger posts) have been stolen in the past. It is hoped that with a more secure fitting this will not happen with the new ones. (50) The roundel was made by Bridport Foundry.

Specific materials have to be used in the restoration The wood has to be oak and needs to have 4 coats of paint with a Zinsser Bullseye 321 primer, then 4 coats of Sadalin wood shield top coat. The pole is cast iron and painted in black gloss. The letters have to be cast aluminium and painted with etched primer with a matt black finish. The roundel is made of cast iron and the letters are done with synthetic black paint, whilst the rest is of white enamel.

One person in Wootton has “adopted” a finger post and been looking after if for a number of years. It is hoped that other people will follow suit. It is very important to continue with this restoration as finger posts are very useful to both locals and tourists alike, and a vital part of our rural heritage.


Thank you to all the people who helped me with the research for this newsletter:Bet Howe, Jon Hill, Alisha Lambert, Angie Thompsett, Jo Lambert, Carolyn Peck, Chris Hawkins, Jennifer Prest and Martin Stocker.

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