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As it was fairly quiet on the campsite in October we started on some maintenance.  The most urgent was repair to the cabin steps (1) which had one step blocked up with bricks to keep it safe, and the top one with a notice saying “Please do not use this step”.  I discovered a budding carpenter in Oscar and away we went to Travis Perkins in Bridport and bought the wood for this JOB and for building a new set of steps at the back of the cabin.  (2)  I was quite flabbergasted at the price!  In no time the dilapidated steps were dismantled and the new ones put in place. (3, 4, 5)  Undercoat was applied the next day.  (6)


The cows were brought down from the top field (Heron’s Mead) to eat off the grass opposite the campsite (Meadow). (7)  As the autumn has been so mild they should be able to stay for over a month here, as long as they don’t poach the ground, (tread it too much to break up the surface).  The longer they stay out in the field the less silage I have to feed them with during the winter.

Besides the two rams which permanently live in the new orchard there are now only 2 lambs left on the farm (8) as the rest have been sold at market – though they did not make a very good price.

The pigs are growing at an alarming rate.  (9) Two of them will be kept for breeding which will start after Christmas.


The dahlias lasted until 2nd November when we had our first frost.  The Azalea by the back door bloomed for second time this year (10)  and the  Salvia Microphylla “hot lips” was still showing an array of flowers all the way through October.  (11)


I wrote about these lovely birds nearly a year ago.  A lot has happened since then.  One of Raymond’s wives, Gwendoline, flew into a wall and committed suicide.  Another wife, Myfanwy, made a nest in the orchard on the other side of the River Char.  When she wasn’t seen for a few days Evelyne eventually found a pile of feathers and signs of a nest.  So a fox had eaten Myfanwy and her entire family.  Since then the third wife, Julie was found sitting on eggs on hay bales (12) in the barn.  They hatched on the Friday of August Bank Holiday this year.  They were  all quickly put into a coop and run for safety.  (13)  The gestation period for peacocks is 28 days.  They have grown quite a lot since then and I was finally able to photograph then on top of some hay.  (14)

Also in August Evelyne acquired four more peacocks, one male one called Captain, and three females.  Two of them being Indian blues called Sharon and Tracy, and a beautiful white one called Bianca.  I had seen nothing of Evelyne’s peacocks until very recently when this last group visited my farmyard.  Somehow they all got split up and Captain (15) started calling for Bianca, who did a grand tour of the garden. (16)  For 2 nights Bianca roosted in our apple tree alone but eventually found her way home.  I was not allowed to feed her otherwise she may have decided to stay at Crabbs Bluntshay for good!


The Knifeman, David Turner comes to the Five Bells Inn on a regular basis to sharpen all sorts of tools.  (17, 18, 19, 20)

As ironmongers, who used to do this type of work, are few and far between nowadays, it is a godsend to find this type of service available on your doorstep in 2021.  When he arrives at the Five Bells there is usually quite a pile of tools that have been left there overnight for him to do his “magic” on as well as people queuing with their kitchen or garden equipment.  He is there for less than an hour and all the work will have been completed.

His work covers things like sharpening or straight edged chefs’ knives, serrated knives, scissors, scrapers, mandolins, pizza wheels, parsley choppers, robo blades and cleavers.  He also re-serrates certain knives which are very worn, and re-tips the bent or snapped tips of knives as well as levelling of uneven blades and chipped blades.

With tools he sharpens axes, secateurs, spades, edging and gardening tools, chisels and cutters, shears and rotary mower blades.

With regard to domestic blades the firm is able to help in most domestic situations and can arrange a postal service.

Dave was a chef in the Royal Navy for 19 years and then spent a year as head chef at a local pub after which he took over an established knife sharpening business in 2006.  He had two months training on the job and has expanded his business over the years and now has a customer base of 250 plus.


Last January I volunteered to survey all the grit bins in our local parish, but needed the help of two other councillors in the outlying districts to assist me with this (Monkton Wyld, Fishpond, Wootton Fitzpaine and Stanton St Gabriel).  In the survey we had to ascertain where they were located, how much grit was in them, and whether the bin was in good condition.  It was amazing how long this task took to complete.  We did have a list from the Local Council as to where they were situated, with grid references, but found some of them were not even  on the list!

There appeared to be two types.  The older ones were grey and had a front opening,  (21) whereas the newer ones were yellow with a top lid. (22)  There are 33 grit bins in the parish.

We had to do the survey all over again in October to see how many bins needed filling.  This information had to be sent to the Local Council by the end of that month, so they could replenish them ready for the winter’s ice and snow.  A third of the bins were not full.  It must be said that it was very difficult to find some of them the second time around because they had become completely grown over with brambles and stinging nettles during the summer and I needed shears to get to the lids.  I had some rather odd looks from passing car drivers whilst doing this!

Our Unitary Local Authority has been supplying grit to the bins (free of charge) to rural areas in Dorset for about thirty years.  They are typically placed on roads that are not gritted by gritting lorries.  Any member of the public can use the grit during icy times on a public road or path but not on their private premises.  Typically a spade or shovel is used to spread a thin layer of grit onto the road surface, covering any snow or ice.

Grit is actually rock salt and it is used on our roads because it lowers the freezing temperature of water.  Rock salt is used to prevent ice from forming in the first place, but it can also be used to melt snow and ice which is already on the ground.  Once the temperature falls below -5 degrees C  the rock salt will stop serving its purpose on the roads.  Stone grit is only usually used on hard packed snow and ice.  In conditions where snow has already settled, stone grit can be mixed with salt to provide traction and help break up frozen surfaces.

Five new ones have just been purchased to replace the old ones which have broken bases, hinges, corners or lids.  They should be installed before Christmas by the Lengthsman.


Last September the Bridport History Society arranged a visit  to this historical property.  Thirteen people attended (but two of them didn’t make the photo call!).  We arrived at 1.45 pm ready for the group photo in front of the Old Stable Block. (24)  As we left the car park we were greeted by Percy the tortoise, (25)  who seemed to move remarkably fast around his enclosure.  No-one seemed to know his age but he belonged to the grandson of the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, the owners of Mapperton House.  At 2 pm we had an hour to wander around the gardens before our guided tour at 3 pm.

The outside of Mapperton  House is usually very striking but on the day we were visiting someone was working on a cherry picker cleaning out the drains and downpipes of the building.  At least it was lowered to be as unobtrusive as possible by the time we arrived.  (26, 27)

In the immediate area next to the house there were other impressive buildings which included The Old Stable Block,  (28) The Coach House Cafe (29) and All Saints Church (believed to have 12th century origins).  (30)

To reach the 15 acres of garden one has to cross the croquet lawn immediately next to the buildings, (31)  before descending through the formal topiary area and thence on to the wild garden. Some of the people in the group, who were a lot more energetic than I was, walked around the Spring Garden, Arboretum and on the Woodland Walk, part of the Wild Garden laid out  in the 1950s.  I managed to see the Italianate gardens, (32, 33, 34) which were planted by Mrs Edith Labouchere in memory of her late husband, a Dutch banker in 1920.  She bought Mapperton in 1919 and lived there until her death in 1955.

Being September there was still plenty of colour with numerous shrubs in the gardens. (35)  I then made my way towards the Orangery (36, 37, 38) and had some relief from the sun.

In no time it was 3 pm and we met our guide at the main door and he gave us a very informative tour around the house.

Mapperton Manor had been owned since the 11th century by only four families (Brett, Morgan, Brodrepp and Compton) until 1919.  They were all linked by the female line.  It was bought in 1955 by Victor Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke.  When he died in 1995 it was passed to his son the current owner, the 11th Earl of Sandwich.

Robert Morgan built the original sandstone Tudor manor house in 1540.  It was largely rebuilt in the 1660s by Richard Brodnepp with the addition of the hall and west front as well as the dovecote and stable blocks.  In 2006 the house was voted the “Nation’s Finest Manor House” by country Life magazine.  The gardens were named Historic Houses Garden of the Year in 2020, sponsored by Christies.

At 4 pm we feasted on a cream tea with a beverage, and as it was such a sunny day we all sat in the outside dining area. (39)  The restaurant/cafe, housed in the The Coach House, has recently been refurbished.  (40, 41)

Several years ago the Earl and Countess’ son Luke and his wife Julie gradually took over the running of Mapperton’s operations which also includes 25 homes, farmlands and shops.  Julie is keen on sharing the beautiful surrounding with her Instagram followers giving them sneak peeks of the estates and its surrounding grounds year-round.

The manor house has been used on several occasions for film locations: 1996 Emma, 1997 The History of Tom Jones and 2015 Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd.


Personnel at Mapperton House, Hilary Joyce, Stacey Molyneux, Sally Beadles, Thea Martin, Oscar McCarthy, Emily Clark, Evelyne O’Hare and David Turner.

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