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THE CAMPSITE

In September a very interesting camper arrived on foot in the middle of the night. After getting off the train at Yeovil, and travelling south Zach then walked over 30 kilometres from Crewkerne, Somerset travelling over hills, through bogs and across rivers. He arrived at the Shave Cross Pub when it was nearly dark. Unfortunately his head light was dying and because he didn’t have a high vis vest to put on he decided to do the last kilometre over the fields to Crabbs Bluntshay Farm. Unfortunately the marker for my place had been placed below the River Char instead of above it by Google Maps. He trudged through several maize fields and after 45 minutes realised that he was lost. He then rang me and I told him I would leave the lights on in the cabin porch, outside the farm house back door and in the farm yard for him to have some kind of beacon to travel towards.

When I went out the next morning to check he had camped in the big field (which had been closed to campers since 31 August). Fortunately no cattle were in the field at the time! Some campers on the main site helped him move his tent into the main area and gave him some sandals and a high vis vest. He recovered from his adventure from Crewkerne to Bluntshay after two days and then moved on to the Five Bells Pub in Whitchurch. The publican Pat Hawkins replenished his food supply and then he was given a lift to Charmouth. In his email to me later he said it took him 6 days to get to Exeter and “to cause more havoc”.

It seems that the main reason for his trek was to meet martial artists along the way. Zach met six en route, four of whom trained him. He filmed his activities and hopes to create an internet series on the topic. He always travelled with a staff (1) which he called Ram-Rend (because sheep tend to annoy him). He said that it was his “weapon” of choice when travelling, the only problem being was that when he had it sheathed (because he was from London he kept it in a bag to avoid arrest) everyone thought he was a fisherman and kept asking him if he’d caught anything!

THE FARM

The sheep had to be scanned recently to check that they were all pregnant (2) Straight afterwards the sheep were “dagged out” (shearing around the rear end). (3) Adam is a West Country Champion Shearer and “whizzed” through the job in no time. Within a few days of his work at Bluntshay he was off to New Zealand to do more shearing there for six weeks. As November would be the start of New Zealand’s shearing season there would be a lot more work for Adam there than in Dorset at the present time. Meg, his faithful companion, is a fully trained expert sheep dog. (4)

The hired bull (Lillymount Ericas Sydney) arrived on 1st November and will stay for 6 weeks. (5) The annual TT test for tuberculosis came around again this month and the lads went off with Malcolm and the tractor to round them up (6) Once in the yard (7) the animals behaved dreadfully. All the animals needed to go through the crush. A crush is a walk in steel frame with an adjustable yoke to secure by the neck animals that need to be examined.(8) We were all exhausted by the end of it, even though I was only taking the measurements and stopping the calves from jumping into the feeding area! When the animals came back into the yard three days later to be checked they were a lot calmer and all passed the test, thank goodness.

Once a year the plastic and netting from the silage bales have to be collected from the farm because it is illegal to burn them. During the winter this material is put into two separate large bags as it is taken off the bales (9). The bags had to be taken down to the new bottom yard (the big lorry couldn’t get into the top yard as the gateway was not wide enough). The Matbro tractor then had to lift each bag into the lorry (10) which took its load to somewhere in North Dorset. (11)

VEGETATION MANAGEMENT

During October a Vegetation Management team contracted by the National Grid visited Bluntshay (12) to ensure that hedges, which are situated under the mains power line, are cut back to a clearance level of 8 -10 metres below the line. This hedge work is done every one to two years, depending on the type of vegetation. Ash and willow grow particularly fast and would have to be cut more often than other species. The job is done in September or October when the land is fairly dry and has to be outside the nesting season. When the hedges are cut (13) the height of the flail has to be limited for safety reason to avoid induced voltages jumping from the line to the tractor. The flail boom had an extra long reach of eight metres. The hedge was cut in several stages, along the side, then obliquely and finally along the top.

The sag in the middle of the line span is up to two metres in the summer. (14) Each span in this area of Dorset is 400 metres long and 400,000 volts flow through the line. It is the main line from Broadclyst, near Exeter, Devon to Chickerell, near Weymouth. Substations feed off this main line. The main line gets surveyed from end to end every 2 years on foot. Helicopters scan for defects on the line with infra red cameras and lasers. There are 22,000 spans in England and Wales and 6,000 miles of towers and cable.

At tea time (a peak time) there is extra “draw”on the line and this will increase the sag. This has to be taken into account when the hedges are cut for clearance!

BRIDPORT FARMERS’ MARKET BEST IN THE COUNTY FOR THE SECOND YEAR RUNNING

Three markets organised by the Dorset Farmers’ Markets made it to the finals of this year’s Dorset Magazine Food and Farming Awards, those being Dorchester South Street, Sherborne and Bridport. Bridport became the eventual winner of the Best Farmers’ Market of Year. Representatives from producers who attend these markets enjoyed a fabulous meal at the recent awards ceremony held at Lulworth Castle. Chip de Greef from Bothen Hill Produce, Market Manager at Bridport, said that he was very pleased that Bridport had again won this prestigious award. Bridport Farmers Market regularly has over 20 producers (including us – Dorset Honey and Cider) which has been running for nearly 15 years offering delicious local food and drink to loyal regular customers and visitors to the town alike. (15)

Dorset Farmers’ Markets organises 7 monthly markets around the County, all run on a voluntary basis by the producers. Our Dorset Honey and Cider stall was at the very first Bridport Farmers’ Market.

HALLOWEEN

The children made good use of two of my pumpkins in the run up to Halloween with much carving and scooping out! (16) The end result was quite impressive, (17, 18) and when they were lit on 31st October – very spooky (19)

LOCAL EVENTS

The Harvest Festival and Supper were held recently at Whitchurch church with a Bring and Share a Plate lunch (20). As usual the church was beautifully decorated with flowers and pumpkins on the Jacobean pulpit steps, (21) flowers and fruit on the Saxon font (22) and flowers in the window above the Medieval Shrine table (23)

BAKE IT BETTER EVENT

In October Pauline, the local champion tea maker, held a Bake It Better event for the Great Ormond Street Hospital (24) When I arrived I was expecting to see lots of people with flour up to their elbows making scones, but that had already been done before I arrived! Nevertheless Pauline found a scone mixture (which she had prepared earlier) and demonstrated her culinary skills (25, 26). She then placed the scones on a Bacoglide sheet and cooked them for 10 minutes in a hot oven on the top shelf. (27) It seems that they are best eaten the same day! (28) The Bacoglide was an interesting aspect of the cooking process. It can be washed and reused time after time. It replaces greasing a baking tin, or lining the tin with greased proofed paper.

CONEYS CASTLE

This is an ancient hill fort situated near the hamlet of Fishpond and can be reached from the B3165, being the Crewkerne to Lyme Regis road. (29, 30)

It was built and occupied over 500 years before Christ, during the Iron Age, by the Durotrige tribe for protection against the Dunnonii, a Devonshire tribe – which gave their name to Devon. This area was frontier country. The Durotriges had their main base at Maiden Castle, near the present area of Dorchester. It is a double enclosure hill fort. (31) The earth banks that still remain would have been topped by a protective wooden palisade enclosing a small “village” (32) The occupants were finally overwhelmed by the Romans led by their General Vespasian and his 2nd Legion in c AD 43. At some stage a road was constructed which passed right through the hill fort, possibly during the Saxon period. This lane (Long Lane) starts off from the B3165 and travels down to the edge of the village of Wootton Fitzpaine where it links up with the C road that goes from Wootton Fitzpaine to Whitchurch Canonicorum.

It is a scheduled ancient monument owned and maintained by The National Trust.(33) It was bought in 1975 with a legacy left to the NT by Mrs K O Pass. Coneys Castle has a wide range of habitats. There is a wide variety of wild plants and flowers as well as a diversity of birds including the Common Buzzard and Yellowhammer. Foxes, deer and badgers are also in residence. Flowers that can be seen are Spotted Orchid, Red Campion, Foxglove, Honeysuckle and Bluebells. (34) The derivation of Coneys is uncertain, it could refer to an area full of rabbits, as Coney’s Castle, along with Pilsdon Penn about 5 miles away were both sites of warrens used for rearing rabbits for eating. Another theory is that Coney’s might derive from the Anglo-Saxon Cyning, a King and relates to events regarding a battle against the Danes near Charmouth as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle between AD 831-835.

A stone axe-hammer was found in 1952 by Mr S Batten of Northay Farm when he was harrowing a field on the liassic clays in the Marshwood Vale. (35) The find-spot was only half a mile east of Coney’s Castle which is on greensand and the axe-hammer is thought to date from the Early Bronze Age.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thank you to the people who helped me with research for this newsletter: Caroline Lambert, Pauline Bale, Hilary Joyce, Jo Yeatman, Debby Snook, Zach Stapleton, The National Trust, The Wootton 2000 Group and The Fountains Vegetation Management Team.

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