CAMPSITE

This is the last time for a while that I shall be writing about actual campers as I have been asked to close the campsite as of tonight.

I have recently had a few interesting people who have stayed on the campsite, including someone who had driven from Kent in one go on her own in very bad weather to have a stopover on her way to Cornwall. (1)  A couple who arrived very recently had driven from Surrey to here for the sole purpose of  picking up a carpet in Weymouth.  (2)  They did a bit of sightseeing during their short stay at Bluntshay.   The couple who arrived today, hoping to stay for a few days, will have to leave tomorrow because of the new regulations. 

THE FARM

In order to increase my small herd I travelled over to Tetton Farm, run by the House family, (3) at Kingston St Mary near Taunton, Somerset to look at some 2  year old pedigree Aberdeen Angus heifers. (4)  The owners allowed us to go into the pen to have a closer look and to chose the two that we would like to buy.  (5)  Before returning to Bluntshay we were invited into the farm house for a cup of tea.  During this time I spotted a TV screen which showed all the animals, in turn, in the barn that were due to calf.  A brilliant way to check on the herd at any time of the day to see if a calving was imminent. (6) 

Tetton Farm is on the southern slopes of the Quantock Hills and 200-800 ft above sea level.  The tenancy of 120 acres was taken up by Mrs. House’s father in 1964 and was passed on to her on his  death.  The farm expanded with more tenanted/bought  land.  Altogether they now farm 1100 acres.  It was originally a dairy farm, but has since 1976  changed to arable and breeding suckler cows.  In 1980 they bought 3 pedigree Aberdeen Angus cows and calves and built up the herd to all pedigree which now has 100 breeding cows and 200 followers.  The calves are weaned at 7-8 months old and are then fed on solely grass for natural growth.  All calves are pedigree registered and dna tested.  The bulls are sold to dairy farms for breeding at 14-24 months.  The heifers are sold as bulling/in calf.  The Houses have a link to a pedigree breeding farm in France and have exported  animals there on several occasions.

There was a delay of about a week until the heifers were delivered to Bluntshay (7) as they had to be TB tested before they left Tetton Farm.

More recently we travelled up to Shaftesbury (Dorset) to look at some 4-5 month old Aberdeen Angus male calves.  They were delivered a few days later by the calves’ owner and went straight to meet their new companions.  (8)   The owner, who had been an engineer and had had a university education, had given up his career to go back to his roots and help run the family calf business.  Since the calves’ arrival I have had reason to call the vet for them as they all had a touch of pneumonia and needed injections. Their diet is coarse mix, silage and wheat straw.  (9)  They have grown quite a lot since their arrival. 

Then the bull moved in for a 3 month stay and couldn’t wait to meet  (10) his new lady friends.  In fact the bull and one of the cows had this kind of ritual with continual head butting which went on for what seemed like ages.  (11)  He has been quite active since his arrival!!

Eleanor is now living in the cottage next door and has decided to go into poultry rearing in a small way.  An old hen house was pulled out of the stinging nettles and major repairs were started last weekend.  (12, 13)

HEDGE LAYING BY VOLUNTEERS FROM THE DORSET WILDLIFE TRUST

The day did not start well as someone had a flat tyre on arrival. (14)  This was quickly fixed by Nick Gray the West Dorset Conservation Officer.   The volunteers trooped down to the bottom yard and got organised with all the tools they needed for the job.  (15)   The hedge was actually planted in 2000  (16) and was part of a Stewardship Scheme which we signed up to for 10 years.  (17, 18) It was planted with all native species and it is amazing how much it has grown in 18 years.

The fence had to be taken down (19) before work could commence and then it was a case of cutting out the ‘rubbish’ (brambles etc) so that what was left was suitable for ‘cutting and plushing’ to do the hedging properly.  A bonfire was quickly started to make sure that the area was always clean and tidy.  (20)  Several young trees that were straight and well shaped were singled out to be left to grow older in the hedge.  Then the real work could begin. 

Saplings and slightly bigger wood were cut half way through near the base and bent over to a horizontal position.  (21, 22, 23)  The finished result was a very neat (nearly) stock proof hedge which would spout up and give new vigour to the bank. (24)  Some of the volunteers actually made their own crooks (to pin down the vertical  pieces (saplings) and mallets to help them with the tasks in hand. (25)  Some ‘whips’ had been brought along in case there were gaps in the hedge, but it was found that they were not needed. (26)

Within in  a few months the hedge had really ‘greened up’. (27)

FIONA GRAHAM-FLYNN, CALLIGRAPHER AND ILLUMINATOR

(28)  Several months ago I went along to one of Fiona’s taster classes. (29) (30)  She runs them from time to time and they usually lasts for 3-4 hours.  During these classes the person attending can get a good understanding of calligraphy.  From there they can decide whether they would like to join one of her classes and come for a term.

Fiona’s (31) classes are run from her studio in Bridport.  They are project based and run for 10 weeks, 2 or 3 times a year, with a maximum of 5 people.  She also teaches one to one classes.

At the beginning of a 10 week course Fiona starts her students with double pencils which give the student an understanding of how to form the letters, as they work through the alphabet.  They start with Lower case letters, before attempting the Capitals.  This hand is written with slant angle of 30 degrees to the paper. (32) The students work from this script sheet which is called Roundhand 10th century. 

The students then progress to using felt tip pens, and finally to ink using a steel William Mitchell nib and reservoir.  (33, 34)  Black calligraphy ink is used, there are many on the market but Fiona prefers the Chinese Black ink the best.  Fiona had also put out a selection of nibs and other equipment that she uses for her calligraphy.  (35)

2019 marked the 40th year that Fiona had been working as a Calligrapher and Illuminator.  Calligraphy means ‘beautiful writing’.  She writes in 6 different scripts and has completed many different commissions through the years, namely for churches, books of remembrance, poems, weddings, various Council certificates and diplomas, and family trees to name but a few.  This shows a sample of her extensive skills. (36, 37) Within this frame is an enlarged copy of  a passage in Latin dating 1460.  It is illuminated with gold leaf and has a typical cursive gothic script of that time.  Fiona has the original vellum copy which is very small with tiny lettering.

Fiona is also a very keen family historian and I was amazed that she had done 44 generations of her various family links going back many, many generations which (38) includes  French and Viking lines  As she has a great number of landed gentry and VIPs in her ancestry she has managed to get back as far as 725, Toulouse, France on one side (39) and 699,  Haspengau-Chrotund, (in present day Belgium) on the other.  (40)  Fiona started this mammoth task about 30 years ago and has been helped  by relatives from Scotland over that time.

ST WITE’S WELL, STANTON ST GABRIEL

There is a strong local tradition which maintains that St Wite was a Saxon holy hermitess which was martyred by Danish pirates during a ninth century raid on neighbouring Charmouth.  Reference to this story has been found in Coker’s ‘Survey of Dorsetshire’ (1732) which relates that she lived in prayer and contemplation upon Chardown Hill, in the parish of Stanton St Gabriel which faces Hardown Hill in the village of Morcombelake.  Her status as a hermitess also has credence because hermitages were invariably situated close a fresh water supply.

 It is also thought that because of her close proximity to Golden Cap (the highest cliff on the South coast) she may have acted as coastguard and ‘lighthouse keeper’ as it is thought the Golden Cap must have been a beacon for passing ships.  Further ‘proof’ may be found in the ancient carvings of a ship and axe which are reputed to be the of Viking and have Saxon origins.  Finally it was only 50 years later that kings Alfred built his St Wite’s church. 

It is thought that perhaps the relics of the saint may have been housed in a temporary wooden chapel until the completion of Alfred’s stone church.  This king took a deep personal interest in those who had died for the Faith at the hands of the Danes, and in all probability was instrumental in making sure that St Wite had a church built in her name.  Her shrine (41) in the church at Whitchurch Canonicorum has been a place of pilgrimage for well over 1000 years.  A statue of St Wite was carved by a local man and erected,  in the 1990s, in the church wall. (42)

During the 1970s the National Trust transformed the spring  (which over the centuries had become a large puddle) into a purpose built well, enclosed within a sturdy fence.  (43)  A sign was erected to tell of the importance of the water source. (44)  The water is believed to have curative properties for eye complaints.  Pilgrims to the well often take bottles of the water home with them if they have sore eyes.  (45)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Fiona Graham-Flynn and The House Family, Tetton Farm,