I apologise for being so late in publishing this. I have had a busy camping season but had to do everything left handed from 10th August after I broke my right wrist in a fall.

CAMPSITE

It was with trepidation that I approached 4th July 2020 being the day that campsites were allowed to open. I wasn’t even sure whether I should be opening at all. I decided to start slowly by only having units with their own facilities for the first week. Fortunately the first couple on site (and returners) knew a brilliant local cleaning team who came during that time and spring cleaned the cabin and shower unit down at the side of the house. This then made me feel quite positive about the summer.

During that week there was tidying up of meadow area with moving a plough and a silage feeder off the main field. (1, 2) Also the outside of the cabin was washed. (3) I invested in four portable toilets to alleviate any queues outside the cabin during the height of the season. (4) The more expensive toilet tent seemed to be the most susceptible to the high winds we experienced during the summer. (5) One camper flatly refused to use any of them for fear of this happening to her. By the end of the summer season it was obvious that this extra facility had hardly been used by the campers, so it was an expensive ‘experiment’ that wasn’t at all successful!

A little way into the season it was discovered that the cabin roof was in dire need of repair. Charlie came to my rescue. (6) The initial jobs were cleaning off the existing PVC roof covering and removing any loose sections and then checking the condition of the existing boards to see if they were suitable for overlaying. In the space of 6 hours, Bitumen primer was applied around the edges and through the middle and allowed to dry. This was followed by supplying and fitting ‘Chesterfelt – Debotec Laser Gold SBS Polyester Mineral felt’ which was torched onto the existing roof using a Propane gas torch to heat the bitumen on the rolls to achieve a fully bonded adhesion to the deck below. (7, 8) This new roof should now last another 20 years at least! (9)

The campers were many and varied with a high percentage of returners. One of the most interesting units was a converted horse box for a young couple with a small baby and dog, (10) who did a tour of the poultry on the farm. (11)

Alisha gave a tractor ride around the meadow to a relative (12) and we later drove in convoy up to Heron’s Mead (my furthest field) for campers to give apples to the cows. (13)

A camper returned for a second year with his Landrover Discovery but with an even bigger accommodation attachment this time. (14) Several campervan owners felt the need to secure their vehicles with extra ropes because of very high winds. (15) I am still amazed how such tall people fit into such small pup tents. (16)

THE FARM

The pigs, born 28th May, (Oxford Sandy and Black Large breeds) were due to arrive at the end of July but much preparation was needed before that date. Fence posts had to be put in, (17) pig netting stretched across, (18) staples hammered in, (19) the pig hut installed, (20) and the electric fence attached. (21) The pigs arrived (22) and settled in, but in no time had their grass patch reduced to mud. (23)

Other than their usual diet of pig nuts, oats and water they have enjoyed apples, pears and fig and walnut branches cut off from large trees in the garden.

Twenty five 3-week old goslings arrived in July having travelled all the way from Tiverton. (24, 25) A week later a friend who was going to buy five of the birds at a later date came to inspect them with his two sons. (26)

Alisha and George made a very good job of cleaning out the covered yard and tipping the manure into the trailer. (27, 28, 29)

THE GARDEN

This year I moved the dahlias so that campers walked past them to come to the farm house door. People have been very complimentary about them. I have sold quite a lot of them to campers. I only wish I had thought of putting the dahlias in that position before as flower sales would have been boosted by 100%. (30) New gladioli bulbs in the front garden produced glorious blooms, mainly for the local farm shop. (31) The sunflowers seemed to grow even higher than other years, and tall enthusiastic campers had to help me cut them. (32) Fruit around the garden has been in abundance and it was a case of ‘pick your own’ black currants (33) and grapes, and ‘help yourself to figs’. (34)

SHAVE CROSS INN AND DRIVE IN MOVIES

The Shave Cross Inn, which is just up the road from Bluntshay, is 700 years old this year, (according to local legend), (35, 36) and has the oldest skittling alley in the whole of Dorset. (37a)

Tom Littledyke and Georgia Wellman took over the pub in January this year. In July they introduced drive in movie nights. Tom had always had a passion for movies and whilst living in the USA for 4 years he came across them in Los Angeles and thought that they were fantastic. The pub car park is big enough to accommodate 10 cars for the event which leaves space for other customers’ vehicles who are visiting just to eat and drink. (37b)

In August a cousin and I saw ‘Some Like it Hot’ with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. (38, 39) In September we watched Casino Royale with Judi Dench and Daniel Craig. (40) The last time I had been to a drive in movie was when I first emigrated to Australia many moons ago. It did feel quite strange repeating the experience again after all these years.

37b

Tom is putting on the Shave Cross Inn Spook Fest in October. The weekend movies will be relocated to the skittle alley and will be shown every Friday and Saturday at 6 pm and 8 pm. This includes Ghostbusters on 17th October and The Exorcist on 23rd. During the Halloween weekend there will be pumpkin carving, fancy dress competitions for both adults and children, a live band and the bar open until 10pm.

An added exciting feature will be a medium who will walk on the ‘battered flag stone floors’ of Shave Cross Inn to share the stories and souls of this 14th century pub.

I have booked to have two meals at the pub with two different sets of friends to celebrate my birthday next week.

ANDREW CAREY – LIVING THE DREAM AT WESTHAY, STANTON ST GABRIEL

Andrew recently joined the Char Valley Parish Council and is the representative for the parish of Stanton St Gabriel. He has very kindly agreed to write about his very interesting life since moving to Westhay on Stonebarrow Hill. (41)

ANDREW CAREY – LIVING THE DREAM AT WESTHAY, STANTON ST GABRIEL
41

“I moved to Westhay Farm in the summer of 1987 having been lucky enough to be able to buy the leasehold from the National Trust at an auction in Morcombelake. There were really only two of us bidding, which amazed me. My first memory was of looking over the fence at the mass of rosebay willowherb, meadowsweet and hemp agrimony in the side garden. It was thick with butterflies and the sweet smell of high summer. Larks sang and swallows dived. I was going to be living the dream.
Taking on the very dilapidated building was quite a project and I would have been at a loss without the help of George Eliot, the Warden on the Golden Cap Estate. In those days it was just him and an assistant, but he managed to call in every fortnight or so. Today there are seven or eight people covering the estate.

An early job was re-roofing the house because the existing one was rotten. We got it tied on two days before the great gale which brought down so many trees in the south of England. I say ‘we’ but I mean Nick Mudford from Chideock who worked lovingly on the house for many months. We also brought in electricity and telephone, which meant laying two underground cables from the top of Stonebarrow. The mortgage on the electricity cable was bigger than the mortgage on the house. I’d like to have kept the gas lights, but it was impractical with four young children and no possibility in those days of being effectively off-grid.

Living the dream has been a complicated business. Getting the children to school at first Charmouth, when it was run by the wonderful John Broadhurst, and then Woodroffe was often a challenge. In those days the track was even rougher than it is now and the sea fret could stop the best motor from starting – never mind our 2CV. The door famously fell off it one day driving down the track, and a window fell out of it on another occasion.

The arrival of Telecom Gold (a very early form of email) meant I was able to publish my first newsletter from here in 1991 (it was hot-metal printed first in Axminster and then in Bridport). With the arrival of first the fax machine and then the internet, I was able to do much more publishing. By 2000 I was sending out over two million mailshots round the world each year, around 5% of which got returned to Charmouth Post Office (because the postman wouldn’t deliver to Westhay Farm – and still doesn’t).

When I joined Triarchy Press in 2006 it was based at the station in Axminster and we were there for about 10 years, before moving back to The Court in Charmouth. But my best days, editing or gardening or taking honey or walking or homeschooling the grandchildren during lockdown have always been spent at home on Stonebarrow looking up to Golden Cap and out to sea.

A joy for me has been to have published the book Designing Regenerative Cultures in 2016. It underpins some of the thinking of Extinction Rebellion and offers real hope for a better future for our planet in the face of climate change and the ecological crisis. But a matching sorrow has been the deterioration we have witnessed in the last five years. Globally, it is clear that we have missed the chance we had to try to turn the tide. Now we have to hear the daily litany of species lost, treasured landscapes and forests destroyed, coral reefs bleached and irreversible global warming. And closer to home we no longer hear the cuckoo or the skylark, no longer are visited by hedgehogs and maybugs, no longer meet toads and frogs in the garden (and the house)… the list of losses goes on.

So living the dream also means losing the dream and in my latest career as a Green Party parish councillor I can hope to do nothing substantial to reverse the inexorable decline. So there is huge joy and gratitude and intense sorrow at what we are leaving to future generations. “

Now a little history about Westhay. The original Westhay farmhouse was built in the early 1500s. (42) The building was badly damaged during the Civil War but was restored during the 17th century. It is thought that the house next door (43) (where Andrew has lived since 1987) was probably built as farm buildings at about the same time as the restoration of the farm house. Unfortunately the National Trust demolished the old farm house in 1965.

Originally there was a cart track of about one mile to travel from Westhay to Charmouth. After buying much of the parish of Stanton St Garbiel the National Trust closed that track so the alternative route to Charmouth is now 2 miles. The width of the ‘new road’ is as wide as a Landrover by late summer, and a bit wider in the winter.

The beach is very close to Westhay. (44, 45) Andrew tells me that his grandchildren can walk there in only 7 minutes.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Andrew Carey, Clare Bishop, Tom Littledyke, Alisha Lambert and Charles Blackwell