CAMPSITE

The Bottings came back to Bluntshay for a few days so that they could place chicken wire near the bottom of the newly erected deer fence on their proposed apple orchard plot. (1) This was to keep out the rabbits.  (2, 3)  It needs 2 people to unroll the chicken wire.  It was then a case of clipping it to the deer fence, (4) and then stapling it into the ground so the rabbits can’t burrow underneath it. (5) They hope to plant the apple trees when the ground dries up.

A windswept camper arrived for part of the half-term holiday with her son in the VW van.  She had travelled in high winds from Kent, via Poole to visit relatives, to reach Crabbs Bluntshay.  (6)  Her dogs wore colourful coats and were very friendly.

FARM AND GARDEN

The five  Dorset sheep we have on the farm have been kept in the large polytunnel during lambing. (7)  Unfortunately the last lamb was unable to suckle its mother after it was born (8)  however hard we tried.  So  it had to be bottle fed, (9)  but after a day or so it did eventually go back to its mother for sustenance.

The Ferguson tractor was brought out of its shed from retirement, (10) after all, I have to pay insurance on it whether it works on the farm or not.  We made a trip up the road to the top field and collected a load of very well rotted manure.  (11)  This was put on the L shaped raised garden before planting gladioli. (12)  Hopefully the flowers will grow to about 4 or 5 feet high with such a good start!

A mass of brambles and ivy (13) was hacked down to expose  2 cider press screws (can’t imagine how they got there) and a rotting battery hen cage which my grandfather must have made in the 1950s.  (14)  The wooden board on one side of the metal greenhouse had to be renewed for the second time and was later painted. (15)  Gateposts are rotting all over the place and are having to be replaced. (16)  So the maintenance goes on and on.

SEDGEMOOR MARKET, NR BRIDGWATER, SOMERSET

In early December last year I sent my 5 young stock to market. (17)  They were just over a year old.  Most farmers would keep their animals for at least another year or two before selling them, but as I have a small herd, I try to sell some animals at this time every year, because in theory it is when   the prices are better.  As they were so young none of my animals would be going to an abattoir.

Before leaving the farm the young stock would need to be TB tested.  This is called a pre-movement test.  Then there is a time limit in which they have to go.  An entry form has to be completed, (18) which is given to the haulier when he comes to collect the animals at about 6 am.

We drove up to the market later that morning hoping to see my animals sold and with a view to my buying one or two Aberdeen Angus cows.  I was given a buyer’s number for that purpose. (19)  In the catalogue of suckler  cows, bulls and calves my name did not appear so I had obviously registered my animals after the booklet had gone to print. (20)

It seems that there were at least a dozen auctioneers selling  on that day in numerous selling rings but we only visited one. (21, 22). There was no mistaking which animal(s|) was/were being sold as the information was displayed on a board telling the lot number, the breed, the age of the animal and its owner. (23)   I have so much admiration for the auctioneers and their staff on these occasions – every second counts and in a flash all the information is relayed by computer to the main desk outside.  (24)  There really wasn’t a lot of Aberdeen Angus cows to choose from that day so I came  home empty handed.  A  herd of Pedigree Hereford animals had travelled up from Cornwall that morning as the whole herd was being dispersed that day by auction.

It wasn’t that long ago when there were quite a few fairly local markets, our nearest ones being Axminster just over the Devon border, Sturminster Newton in North Dorset, and Taunton and Yeovil in South Somerset.  But they have all gone now and a brand new one called the Sedgemoor Auction Centre at North Petherton was built in 2008.  This is supposed to be central for the South West of England: Taunton (9 miles) Exeter (40 miles) Bristol (50 miles) Cardiff (80 miles) and Yeovil (15 miles).  One can get there quickly if you are close to a motorway, but as Dorset doesn’t have one it took us over an hour to get to the market.

ENCORE THEATRE CLUB PRESENTS ‘SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL’

I must admit I knew very little about the play ‘School for Scandal’ and probably would not have attended the production except that I was ‘accosted’  outside the Bridport Arts Centre by a cousin and her husband who happened to be the parents of the ‘star of the show’ Rachel Harrison. (25)  They were trying to ensure a full house every night.  I was very glad that I had bumped into them, but it was important that I read the directors’ notes to understand what it was all about. (26, 27)

School for Scandal was written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and first performed in 1777.  The notes said that it was the most well-known restoration comedy of its time.  It seems that public stage performances had been banned for 18 years by the Puritan regime (up to 1660).  Once the theatres were re-opened it signalled a renaissance of English drama.  Sexually explicit language was encouraged by King Charles II personally and by the rakish style of his court.

The dramatists, according to their respective inclinations, mocked at the restraints held by the society of that time.  They said anything they liked and intended to glory in it and shock those who did not like it.  It was during this era that the first celebrity actors appeared and the introduction of the first professional actresses and  female playwrights. **

The directors of the present production had taken Sheridan’s script, edited and condensed it, and brought it into 21st century Chelsea in  London.  The play encapsulated the genre’s special skill of poking fun at upper class society, and the vanity and frivolities that come with excessive wealth.  So we saw the wealthy millennial heirs and rich businessmen wile away their time by playing  outrageous tricks on each other in a place where money and status meant everything.  What a brilliant performance.  (28, 29, 30, 31, 32)

Bridport has a long history of putting on ‘amateur’ productions from the Bridport Operatic and Dramatic Society which eventually split into a separate Operatic section and  Drama section.  From the Drama section there emerged a group called the Bridport Theatre Company.  In 1996 the group ‘transmogrified’ into Encore, which was largely led by the same core individuals as the former company and has thus remained ever since.  The dedicated aim of Encore is to produce vibrant, challenging and entertaining drama for a wide range of Bridport audiences.  Long may they continue!

Encore productions over the last few years include: Much Ado, Nicholas Nickleby, Oh What A Lovely War, and Blithe Spirit.

MY NEW NEIGHBOURS

My previous neighbours, the Huxters, had lived at Little Bluntshay Farm, since 1925.  Monty, the eldest son was born there in 1927 and lived there all his life, passing away at 87 quite recently.  The house had become rather derelict by that time, so it has been a great relief to find that the new owners were keen to preserve and restore the house back to its former glory, and to clear the garden of its Leylandi trees which had cast a shadow on the house for many years.  (33) Evelyne and Simon, her partner, have their hands full in getting Little Bluntshay ship shape once more.

A central wall running through the middle of house (made of lathe and plaster) (34) probably dates back to the 14th or 15th century.    The posts and the beams have been stripped back to the original oak and treated.  The same structure can be seen going up the stairs. (35)  An original bread oven has been encased in modern brickwork. (36)  The front wall is very thick and built of stone with inset window seats. (37) and probably dates from the 18th century  A very old hand pump for drawing water (possibly from the River Char) has been preserved in the house (38) and an ancient well was discovered at the top of the garden. (39) 

In the farmyard stands an imposing barn.  Up until the 1940s and 1950s  it  had been used as a stable and cowstall,  (40)  An inner wall, of much higher quality than the rest of the building, had stood the test of time, with very old timber cladding. (41)

Evelyne has quite a menagerie at Little Bluntshay: 3 horses – Drizzle (20), Apollo (15) and Atlas (8), and 2 llamas – Eva (20) and Lady (28).  (42) The llamas were brought in for company for Atlas when he was weaned (from Drizzle)  They are clipped every 2 years and the wool goes to be spun.  When it is dry enough the horses are ridden on bridleways, namely through nearby Purcombe, and over the hill to North Chideock and Symondsbury.

To add to the livestock there are mixed varieties of hens and bantams (43) and Appleyard ducks. (44)  The youngest of the two deer hound dogs,  Hilda, (5 months old) eventually posed for a photo, (45) and I met one of the cats on the way out. 

I discovered that Evelyne had lead quite a fascinating life.  She first came to Dorset after her father, who was in the army,`was posted back to England.  From this point she began riding and generally became obsessed with animals, and discovered the beaches of West Dorset.  She trained and became an architect and helped her then husband with his architectural work, but at the same time got involving with agriculture by helping local farmers with relief milking, calving, lambing and looking after beef animals.

In the early 1970s the couple decided to take a year off and attempted to cycle from Australia to England.  All went well through Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand et al until they got to India.  It was just too complicated to go any further west on a tandem through countries that were politically unsettled.  So they flew from India to Turkey and continued by cycle until they got back to England.  On this mammoth trip they were making documentaries for Radio 4 and writing articles for “The Life Cycle” publication for the Friends of the Rainforest campaign.  Within a year of returning to England she became a mother to Rollo.

I did this trip the other way around on a bus with 29 other travellers, but by the time we left Kashmir (the area that India and Pakistan could never agree about) the Indo-Pakistan war had broken out and followed us across northern India, and by the time we reached Nepal all the borders were closed and we were stranded in the capital Katmandu.

In the late 1980s Evelyne suffered damage to her knee and was treated by a local chiropractor who did an amazing job to heal it.  From this experience Evelyne felt inspired to become a chiropractor herself so studied and gained a Science degree, followed by a 5 year course to gain a Masters degree in the subject along with numerous other associated qualifications. (46)

Evelyne practises at the West Dorset Chiropractic Centre in Bridport and writes a regular column in The Diary.

CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT EMERGENCY

It is hoped that lots of readers will attend this inspiring seminar at Whitchurch Hall in March. (47)

 

**  Wikipedia

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Robert Venner of Sedgemoor Market, Emma Bachelor, John Haycock, Harry and Marilyn Harrison, David and Daniel Botting, Eleanor Lambert, Evelyne O’Hare and Lorri Depreli.