CAMPSITE

I have had a new light fitted by the cabin door. This will automatically come on when it gets dark, and turn itself off when it gets light (1). Some of the grass has been “carved up” on the campsite because of the wet weather so we have had to do some repair work with turf to make it look more presentable (2). I shall have to continue to put weed killer on the drive and hard standings to keep ahead of the weeds. The carpenter has been putting up more substantial boards (3) and doing preparatory work to replace the fire door in the cabin (4,5,6). The tulips are already out in a planter by the cabin (7)

FARM

A local group came on a Daffodil Walk (8) on a beautifully sunny day through the orchards (9). The snowdrops in the orchards were beautiful this year. (10) My husband from the spring of 1993 began transplanting snowdrops along the river bank from the road bridge to the other bridge at the end of the orchards and in other areas around the farm. En route the group stopped and looked at several historical features including the sheepwash (11), the retting pond (12) and the site of an old mill (13).

The sheepwash was fed by a water system which meandered around the nearby orchard and was controlled by a number of hatches to keep the water back until it was needed in the sheepwash. By throwing the sheep in the water it washed the wool and lifted the “nap” (the grease on the body) so that the animals were easier to shear. The retting pond was dug out in the 1700s with an impervious base in order to store water to soak the flax and hemp grown in the area to soften the fibres before processing. (My ancestor lived at Bluntshay in 1800 and was claiming a Government grant to grow flax at that time). I found the site of the old mill (most probably associated with the flax and hemp industry) on an early 1800s map. The stream running next to it had been dug out to a depth of 6 feet in order to create a leet of water to run an undershot wheel where there is now a small bridge (14).

Our first batch of lambing produced a quintuplet. (15) The chance of this happening is one million to one. We are always happy for people on the site to come and look at the lambs (16, 17). Sheep need to be given a mineral lick to provide them with essential trace elements and minerals (18). Sheep obviously have to be moved from field to field on a regular basis to make sure that they have enough to eat. This involved putting electric fence around the fields (19). The 2 sets of wire are “spun out” from the back of the quad bike to make the process a lot easier. (20) Everyone in the family is involved (21). The sheep are encouraged to move to the “new” field with the aid of a bag of “cake pellets” being rattled, with the quad bike bringing up the rear (22)

Local farmers (whose land has the River Char flowing through it) were invited by the Dorset Wildlife Trust to a meeting at the local Shave Cross pub. This was to discuss making the most of their soil and the nutrients that are put on, and thereby minimizing the loss of nutrients to the River Char. After a PowerPoint presentation we were taken to a neighbour’s field to dig a hole (23) to look at the moisture, structure, texture, colour, smell and soil fauna (how many worms could be found in a cubic foot of soil). Unfortunately no worms could be found and I wondered whether they had all migrated to my field next door to escape the plough.

GARDEN

The cottage garden at the back of the house has been dug over and spread with goose manure and sawdust (which acted as bedding) (24). As usual convulvulus (bind weed) and cooch grass had to be meticulously dug out otherwise an 1/8 inch root of either will spread through the garden again.

LOCAL EVENTS

Recently a curry night was held at the local village hall in aid of Care for Casualties, and Help for Heroes. (25). The first course was Bombay Mix, Onion Bhajis, Cucumber Raita, Popadoms, Mango Chutney and Sweet Chilli Sauce with Naan Bread. (26). The main course was Turkey Tikki Masala, Pork Madras, Vegetable Curry, Bombay Potatoes and Cardamom Rice (27). For pudding there was Vanilla Ice Cream with Pistachios and Mango Coulis. An auction was held after the meal with such things as an iced cake and a bird table for sale. (28)

This year marked the 23rd anniversary of Henry Smith’s Ball at Freshwater, Burton Bradstock. (29) Henry had a double transplant (heart and kidney) twenty three years ago and has celebrated its success every year since inviting other people with transplants from all over the country, in addition to inviting as many local people who could be accommodated in the ballroom. Music was played during the whole 6 hours with dance tunes ranging from old time, the 1960s and more recent tunes.

LOCAL HISTORY

Pilsdon Pen hill is only a short distance from Bluntshay, and is the highest hill in Dorset (30). From the top on a clear day you can see all the way to the sea at Lyme Bay. To the left of this the hamlet of Birdsmoorgate can be seen on the skyline (31). A local woman Martha Brown who lived there murdered her husband, in 1856, with an axe head after she found out he was having a relationship with the woman over the road (and she was pregnant). Martha was the last woman to be hanged at Dorchester with Thomas Hardy, aged 16, (the Dorset Author and Poet) looking on. It is said that he based his book “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” on Martha’s story.

Purcombe Farm House, (32) which nestles in the valley below Pilsdon Pen, dates back to 1450. The present owner has had extensive archaeological research done on the building and a painting, of St Clement dated 1502, was discovered under plaster on one of the walls (33). This painting is a rare survival. The farmhouse is a remarkable and rare example of a medieval farm house which shows clear evidence of having been originally open from end to end without a second floor.

Attached to my farm house is the farm cottage. (34, 35) The house (presumably originally a Dorset long house) was destroyed by fire in about 1870 so the owner rebuilt it as two dwellings putting the dividing wall on top of the flagstones that had been there for hundreds of years. The dairyman for the farm lived in the farm house and a carter (a man collecting and delivering goods by horse and cart) lived in the cottage. All that survived in the farm house after the fire was the bread oven, and flagstones. The cottage had been empty from the early 1930s and was in a state of dereliction until the whole of the inside of the building was gutted and refurbished for me to live in on my return from London. The cottage is now a holiday let.

In my role as Ancient Monuments Liaison Officer for the Parish Council I have volunteered to do a small exhibition about the WW1 fallen servicemen on the Whitchurch war memorial (36). I naively expected to find all of them living locally in the 1911 census which would have given me a good start on the project, but this was definitely not the case. After looking on various websites, wading through all the Bridport News newspapers from 1914-1918 and putting an article in the local parish magazine I still have two servicemen I cannot track down. An article should be coming out in the Bridport News and in the Greenwood Tree magazine soon, making a plea for any information and photos.