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CAMPSITE

We have been busy getting ready for Easter which is fast approaching. Repairs to the hardstandings have to be done on a regular basis (1) and the cabin has being painted inside (2) and out (3). New signs have been printed out. (4) In February we had a nine metre twin axle Hobby Prestige caravan on the site. (5) We have a second yard just down the road from the site where long caravans can turn around and get in very easily to a hard standing. It is possible to reach Crabbs Bluntshay without relying on a Sat Nav device which often sends drivers on a very roundabout route. There is no need to drive down miles of lanes. If the Marshwood Vale is approached from any of the following, narrow lanes can be avoided.

A303 – A356 – Crewkerne – B3165 – Marshwood – turn left at the church and continue down into the Vale avoiding all roads left and right until you reach the pub Shave Cross on a T junction. Turn right here and we are just under 1/2 mile down this road being at the first farm house on the left.

M5 – Junction 28 – A373 – Honiton – A35 – Hunters Lodge pub (just off the Axminster Bypass) turn left on to the Crewkerne Road – B3165 – Marshwood – turn righ at the church

A35 from Dorchester – Bridport – Go straight through the town – over a small bridge at the bottom, immediately turn right at a small roundabout and continue out into the country – B3162 – at a 4 cross roads turn left into the Marshwood Vale when the signs point to Shave Cross and Broadoak.

Please do not take the A35 down to Morcombelake and turn off on the Ryall Road, or the Whitchurch Roads.

FARM

We have had three calves born recently but this one is by far the prettiest (6). Ginger, (7) Pepper and Chops continue to grow and are good at escaping out of their pen, into the yard, down the road and into the new yard! Chain harrowing has to be done at this time of year to pull out the dead grass and to aerate the soil around the crown of the grass plants. (8) Our chain harrow is rather ancient but just about does the job. The field has then got to be rolled (9) to flatten out any uneveness and hoofprints. The trees and bushes around the second orchard were overhanging onto the apple trees so the contractor had to use a long armed chain saw to reach the high branches (10)

BEEKEEPING

Hive floors have been made to replace ones that have deteriorated (11,12). A boiler has been devised for sterilizing and cleaning the honeycomb frames [on the right of the photo] (13). On the left is a wax steamer to render down the wax for reuse (14)

WATER WORKS

For several weeks Wessex Water was laying new pipes from the Shave Cross Pub along in the Broadoak direction, which meant that anyone living on Bluntshay Lane had to take the long way around through Whitchurch to get to Bridport. We also had our water cut off for a day in the process (15). Then within 2 weeks of the first job finishing they were digging a big hole in the Shave Cross area (16) to lay more pipes and our road was cut off again (17). The job has now been completed thank goodness.

GARDEN

Tidying up continues with potting up some of the shrubs because there is no space in the garden to plant them out. Roses and clematis have been pruned. By the end of March the buddleia shrubs will be cut back to the last shoot, and the pampas grass will be chopped off to ground level. The chrysant plants have come through the winter well in the green house (18) and the Pieris (19) and Euphorbia (20) are showing colour now that Spring is nearly here.

LOCAL EVENTS

One of my relatives with her dance group got into the semi finals of Dorset’s Got Talent at the Freshwater Beach Holiday Park at Burton Bradstock at the end of February. (21,22) The judges (23) had a difficult job deciding who was going on to the next level. Votes could be bought for £1 each and then placed in the relevant buckets at the end of the contest (24) Most of the proceeds from this event went to the Weldmar Hospicecare Trust. Recently there was a quiz at Bettiscombe Hall. (25) The 7 rounds consisted of Pot Luck, Geography, Food and Drink, TV and Film, Sport, Art and Books and In the News. Our team came joint 2nd although I knew very little about Sport and TV.

STOKE MILL FARM’S GOURMET GOATS

This enterprise was started in 1998 with a herd of Boer goats (which originated in South Africa). (26,27) By 2006 there were 160 goats. Anthea Bay, a very industrious farmer, wanted to explore the potential of a meat market in West Dorset. (28) Boer goats were relatively new to the UK and the meat was not well known. Once the herd was established butchers shops, restaurants and farm shops were approached for marketing opportunities. Several factors have expanded the interest in goat meat during the last few years. One of the main reasons has been the increase of overseas holidays where people experience various local dishes. Goat meat is believed to make up 80% of the total meat consumed in the world. It is 50-65% lower in fat than similary prepared beef, but has considerable protein content. The meat was butchered and Vacuum Packed at the abattoir. (29) The deliveries were in Styrofoam boxes with chill packs or freezer bags. Anthea sold most of her herd to an interested buyer in 2013 but still has some goats to look after as a hobby.

MELPLASH SHOW HEDGELAYING COMPETITION

Although this happened at the same time as the ploughing match which I reported on last year, there hasn’t been space for this very interesting event until now. Hedgerows define the uniqueness of the West Dorset countryside. They are a living fence which can be finished at different heights to keep in liivestock and are essential for wildlife habitat. It is thought that the skill dates back to Roman times. As well as marking field boundaries they provide shelter and firewood. In the Marshwood Vale many of the hedges date back to Saxon times. Ditches were dug to mark the boundary (and drain away the water) and then hedges grew on the banks of earth thrown up. In later years men who laid hedges were paid to leave an oak tree every chain. This can be seen in the Marshwood Vale, as all oak trees are protected. In this part of Dorset after the brambles etc are cleared out, (30) the prefered method is as follows: pleachers (cut stems) are laid flat to alternate sides of the hedge centre line to form a wide (3 to 4 ft) finished structure, and are secured by twisting ends of each pleacher under the proceeding one (31,32,33) Crooks (hazel sticks) are only used for securing at the start and to finish off. (34). The finished height is approximately 2 ft on top of a 3 ft bank (35). The oldest hedgelayers to take part were Malcolm Dowling (73) and Clive Bethell (60) in the Open Pairs class (36). The youngest person taking part (in the Novice class) was Isobel Minshall aged 13 (see photo 30). The most unlikely people participated – a solicitor and a shopkeeper [Novice Pairs class] (see photo 33). The cups were on display all day (37) and Mike Symonds won first prize for his Vintage Hydraulic Ploughing (38)

SEVENTEENTH CENTURY HISTORY

I have been involved with the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society for some time. In November 2014 we had a brilliant speaker whose subject was Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs – the lives of our C17 ancestors. She has also published a book with this title.

Dr Janet Few, along with her husband, gave us a presentation with a difference – as her alter ego Mistress Agnes, living in the seventeenth century at Torrington 1646. Janet dressed our Programme Secretary in the style of the times. Female underwear was the shift, normally made from linen with drawstrings at the neck and wrists. A bum-roll was then put on to enhance the hips (In those days it was desirable for women to be plump!!) This was covered by a heavy petticoat made of pure wool. On top of this an apron was worn. The final garment to be put on was a laced bodice. Puritans preferred their women to have the lacing tighter, from which the saying “straight-laced women” began. Female attire was completed with a linen collar worn around the neck. A married woman covered her hair with a coif as a sign of her status. A single woman would wear her hair long and loose from whence came the saying “letting your hair down”. Knickers and bras had not been invented at that time, and it was surprising what human urine was used for in those days!! (39)

LOCAL CUSTOMS

A Dorset custom is to take the first initial of the father’ s christian name and to call all his children by names beginning with that letter. One example of this is that the father’s name was Joseph, and the children’s names are Julian, Judith, Jacky and Jeannette. Joseph’s children have not taken on the tradition with their offspring.

Another custom which may not necessarily be from Dorset is that the first daughter must get married before any younger sisters are permitted to wed.

SUPERSTITIONS

My mother would never allow finger and toe nails to be cut on a Friday or Sunday.

My grandfather would never do any haymaking whatsoever on a Sunday even if the weather on that day was brilliant – much to the consternation of his sons who worked for him. At the beginning of WW2 his four sons, Jack, Douglas, Robert and Arnold had to turn a field of drying grass by hand with hay rakes on a Sunday so that it would be ready to haul the next day. This was because my grandfather refused to let his sons use the horses with a mechanical turner. The hay was duly loaded onto wagons pulled by horses the next day, being a Monday, and put in the dry in a barn. From the following Tuesday it rained for a week!!

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