CAMPSITE

The site was busier than usual for September, but the weather was good for a lot of the month.  I opened up the area in front of the farm buildings, called Plot, next to the River Char and 3 families stayed there overnight at the beginning of September. They included people from the DWLT and AONB and a professional poet and storyteller. (1)  Nick decided that he wanted to do some ‘wild camping’ elsewhere amongst the stinging nettles!  (2)

BIBI AND ALEX, THE BRILLIANT CAMPSITE CLEANERS FROM SLOVAKIA

I did intend to write a section on Bibi and Alex this month.  (3)  After checking the notes on their exciting life to date and the fantastic cleaning they do, I have decided to devote a large section to them in next month’s newsletter to do them justice!

THE FARM

We continued to do some more tidying up in the meadow and dragged a very old horse box out of the ground.  (4)  It was necessary to put extra weight in the form of an old tractor wheel in the link box  (5) to give the tractor enough “whellie” to pull it into the main field.  I thought I might put a photo of it on “Gum Tree” to see if anyone would like to buy it!

A low hay bale trailer had the same treatment but with a much stronger tractor.  (6)  A Canadian friend had sent me a photo of the self same trailer, but in its prime in the 1970s. (7)

The pigs continue to do well out of the apples (8, 9).  Kit planned to take some of these apples to Monkton Wylde the next morning to make into apple juice.  He has since kindly given me some bottles of it in exchange for getting free apples.  (10) The pigs also enjoyed some more branches from the walnut tree. (11)

RESEEDING THE MEADOW – SECOND STAGE – GATHERING SEEDS

In June this year Nick Gray from the Dorset Wildlife Trust visited to survey which species were growing in the meadow next to the campsite.  As the field is already fairly species rich it has been designated a Site of Nature Conservation Interest.  But the list of ‘Dorset Notables’ could be longer and they could be more abundant! 

This project is called the Landscape Enhancement Initiative and is funded by the National Grid and co-ordinated by Dorset AONB and DWLT.

As well as sowing more seeds the DWLT volunteers will also be growing on plug plants from seed harvested on Bluntshay including Common Cat’s-Ear (12) and Oxeye Daisy, shown here both in flower and having gone to seed. (13)  The seed is easily hand-harvested so anyone can grow-on their own invaluable wild flowers!  The plug plants with healthy root systems will be planted out into the meadow next year when the conditions are right. 

Lots of the flowers had not set seed by the time we cut the grass for hay so Nick came to help fence off an area that would remain uncut. (14)  Although this was primarily to let the flowers set seed for hand harvesting, the uncut ‘margin’ also acted as a valuable refugia for invertebrates like grasshoppers and crickets.

These insects survive year-to-year by laying their eggs just below ground before the grass is cut, but providing an uncut refuge for them enables more egg-laying and a longer-lived feast for predators like songbirds and small mammals.  Another flower setting seed in the uncut areas was Bird’s-foot trefoil (15) also known as Crow’s-toes (or less complimentarily Grandmother’s toenails!  We also collected seeds of grandly titled Corky-fruited water dropwort (16) (very popular with small beetles).  We also encountered a rare pure white version of Common Knapweed. (17)

The next stage will be cutting the grass in the meadow, as short as possible, in the autumn.

COUNTRYMEN’S CLUB AT RYLANDS FARM, BOYSHILL, HOLNEST NEAR SHERBORNE

This club was started 8 years ago and was the idea of Julie Plumley.  (18)   It provides a service to men who have worked in farming or horticulture or in any other countryside and outdoor environments: or men who have simply enjoyed being outdoors as part of the leisure interests.  Countrymen UK Groups around the country deal with a diverse  range of men with many different health conditions, including anxiety, stroke, Parkinsons, dementia, depression, respiratory and lung conditions, isolation and loneliness, bipolar disorder, injuries, heart disease, PTSD, arthritis, pain and cancer.

One of the aims of the Club was meeting the challenges of older men by providing access to green care in indoor spaces.  The Countrymen’s Club is funded by the lottery both at Rylands and to accelerate growth of it across the UK

When I took Malcolm on his first visit to Rylands Farm we were taken to see the animals which included cows, (19), sheep, (20) donkeys  (21) and  pigs, (22)  He had a personal meeting with the resident bull.  (23)  We also saw the barns with workshops for country crafts and the social area. (24, 25)  Outside was a large shed with all the tools that members needed to help with the farming jobs around the place.  (26)

Soon Malcolm was being transported to the farm once a week which was extended to twice a week.  This was sadly cut short in March when the visits had to cease because of lockdown. 

When the situation eased somewhat The Club invited members to a cream tea (27) and farm walk on selected dates from August to October.  Members’ wives and carers were also invited along.  A maximum of 2 couples on the farm were allowed at any one time.  This was my second visit so I took the opportunity to take some more photos and met a pony, (28) rabbits (29) and a bantam who was having a ‘bad hair day’. (30)  Malcolm was given a motorised vehicle to ‘hop around on’.  (31)

Future Roots has been running for 14 years along side the Countrymen’s Club.  This has provided stability and direction to thousands of young people and families.  The dedication, qualified and experienced mentors offer a unique combination of animal assisted therapy, character building programmes, academic qualification and a wide range of learning opportunities.  This resilience model leads to positive outcomes at times when young people are most in need.

Both associations run a Facebook account which produces regular newsletters.  We have contributed to their web page.  This has included photos of Malcolm hauling hay bales in the 1970s,  (32) and a line up of the tractors we have at Bluntshay. (33)

If you would like more information about the club, please have a look at the web page (www.countrymenuk.org), have a look at the FB page (CountrymenUK Dorset) or ring the office on either a Tuesday or Thursday (01963 210789).   Countrymen UK is a registered charity.

BEREHAYES MINI FARMERS’ MARKET AT WHITCHURCH

During lockdown  Berehayes Holiday Cottages were obviously very quiet. (34, 35, 36)  Kevin and Hayley decided to start delivering bread from the local bakery (Moores on the A35 in Morcombelake) to those who were isolating.  This grew in popularity and they ended up delivering 40 loaves twice a week, plus 160 hot cross buns on Good Friday.  They did the deliveries on their electric bikes.  Kevin became known as ‘Krusty Kev’!  This was all in exchange for items for the local food bank Cupboard Love.  Then they found their neighbours were offering to come and pick up their bread from Berehayes as they wanted a purpose and a walk.  This made a lovely way to have a socially distanced chat as many people hadn’t seen anyone else all week.

Then one day on their daily bike ride they started chatting to a local fisherman who was struggling to sell his catch since restaurants were shut, so the Clausners invited him along on bread pick up day to see if he could sell to their neighbours.  This arrangement was very successful!  (37, 38) Then a local farmer, Charlie from Copsegate Farm, (just up the road from Bluntshay) (39, 40, 41) asked to come along with his meat and vegetables which was also a  very successful move.

The market is still operating every Friday from 12 noon and have attracted other local firms who produce ceramics, cards, honey, jam, ginger beer, kefir, eggs and plants and whatever else turns up from time to time.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Kevin and Hayley Clausner, Nick Gray, Bibi and Alex the Cleaners,  Jan Millward from Rylands Farm and Kit Vaughan.