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THE CAMPSITE

Prior to the Easter weekend there were lots of last minute things to do. The water had to be switched on again in the cabin (1) and the showers tested (2). It also had to be spring cleaned (3). The fire door at the back of the cabin was made waterproof and the painting was completed. (4) The garden gate also had a lick of paint (5). Lots of people used the site over the Easter weekend and enjoyed the sunny weather, until today, Easter Sunday, when it has rained all day. We have had a lot of cyclists over the last few months (6).

FARM

Our second batch of lambing is nearly finished. For one reason or another we have several orphan lambs this time which need to be “bottle fed”. (7) This involves mixing up a special milk for them (8) which is then put in this special feeder with teats for the lambs to suck from. Some lambs need to be encouraged to do this. (9).

In the past I have tried to save old varieties of apple trees by cutting shoots (scions) from the old trees and then grafting them onto root stocks. sealing them together with thin black tape to ensure that the two surfaces grow together. The new trees were then planted in the garden so that I could keep an eye on them for a couple of years. Then they were planted out in the orchard with ample protection around them to keep away sheep and deer. (10) These trees now need pruning which should be done before the end of February each year (11, 12) After my father died we discovered newly grafted trees on his bee site. Unfortunately they weren’t labelled so after planting them out in the orchard we had to wait until they fruited and then find someone to identify the apples before we knew what varieties they were. (13)

I have enough old machinery, and memorabilia around the farm and in the house to start up a museum. Although this seems a tall order I do have a mini museum in the old dairy house which has a churn (14), in churn cooler (15), a corrugated milk cooler whereby hot milk was cooled by cold water on the inside of the corrugations (16) a milk strainer into which the fresh milk was poured (17) and a milking machine bucket with units (18) which was powered by an electrical vacuum pump. All this equipment was used until 1978 when my parents gave up dairy farming and then kept a few beef animals instead.

The River Char rises on Lewesdon Hill (next to Pilsdon – the highest hill in Dorset) and meanders through the Marshwood Vale until it reaches Charmouth. The river is constantly evolving with small islands (19), some with trees (20) forming from strong currents cutting away at the bank during heavy rainfall. There are also banks slumping into the river (21) and fence posts and wire left dangling (22). There is an ancient watering place on the bank of one of our fields where the water is shallow and wide which would have enabled cattle to access water easily for hundreds of years. (23) Near the orchard the geology of the river bank can easily be seen. The river bottom is of large slabs of blue lias stone and above that is alluvial silt and clay. Above that is chirt which is a red flint. (24)

Pigs are quite rare in the Marshwood Vale but there is a small holder just up the road from Bluntshay who has been keeping Gloucester Old Spot pigs since he moved in 10 years ago. (25) For a short while they used the weaners to turn over the soil which then became the vegetable garden. The pigs are kept for 5 months before sending on to be slaughtered. Some of the meat is sold for pork with the rest being processed into sausages and bacon for their B & B business. They would then be “pigless” for a month’s rest and then start the process all over again, originally buying the weaners from some distance away. Latterly though they have been bought very locally thus saving food miles. As well as sausages and bacon salamis, chorizo, pancetta, guancale, air dried ham, black pudding are made. They discovered that the porch at the back of the farmhouse is nicely aligned to catch the prevailing south westerlies that “air dry” to perfection. (26, 27).

 

GARDEN

My garden is always late with most of my seeds not going in until the latter part of April. The garden had already been dug over with manure, but then we rotavate it (28) and then ridge it to make the soil even finer (29)

HONEY AND CIDER

We process honey all year round so that we have plenty for the markets and campers. This means taking frames from the supers (which are stored in the honey house). They are then put in a melter so that the honey and wax will melt after cutting both from the frames (30) and then removing the wires (31). Once the process has finished the wax will rise to the top and the honey will be taken off and put into a bottling tank for bottling.

Cider is on tap all year and besides what we sell at the markets and to campers we get people visit us to buy cider having read about us on websites (32, 33).

 

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

After 21 years of trying to secure affordable housing for Whitchurch, building work finally started last autumn (34). This land on Wakeleys Farm had been offered for the scheme by a local farmer whose uncle (who was always very involved in the village) had died in 2004 There has been considerable opposition to the plan, the objectors mostly being recent purchasers of properly in the village who lived near the two sites. The first site of 6 houses is off Bluntshay Lane, near the end of the road that comes out at the local pub The Five Bells. The second site of three houses on Higher Street is just down the road from the pub. (35). I volunteered to be chief photographer for the Parish Council and go along at regular intervals to take photos of the progressing work (36, 37, 38) . I have had to wear a hard hat and a florescent coat every time I go on site to take “snaps”. Roofing is being done at the moment on the Bluntshay Lane site (39). Voting for the most popular name for the sites has now been completed. The builders expect to have the work finished by September this year.

MODERN TECHNOLOGY

Several solar panels areas have popped up on the edge of the Marshwood Vale and over the border into Devon. They are quite a controversial topic and do need planning permission. In some cases the farmer rents out the land to the person who paid for the installation of the panels and who has the income from the electricity generated from them. They are situated high enough off the ground for sheep to be able to nibble the grass underneath so the land is kept in food production. There is no need for the ground to be harrowed in the spring, but rolling it is done. (40, 41)

This site is 25 acres. The green boxes (42) are inverter buildings with switch gear. On this site there are 20,000 panels which generates 4.8 megawatts of electricity. The panels are expected to last for 25 years. Trees had to be planted around the site for screening purposes.

There are several wind turbines in West Dorset, two being at local primary schools and another on a farm. (43)

LOCAL HISTORY

In the early 1600s Archdeacon Hellyar rode his horse down Bluntshay Lane presumably on the way to the Shrine of St Wita at Whitchurch Canoniocrum, and decided to buy Little Bluntshay, our neighbouring farm on the other side of the river. He happened to look across the road and espied a good 6 acre field (Court Orchard) in the middle of Crabbs Bluntshay (44) which he also bought. (45). This is how the farm house looked in 1900. We found his will in the Somerset Record Office in which he left instructions for the rent from Little Bluntshay (including the field over the road) was to pay for the upkeep of the almshouses in East Coker near Yeovil. This continued until the mid 1950s when the tenant at the time bought Little Bluntshay Farm. During WW2 some foundation stones were found in Court Orchard during ploughing which proved that Archdeacon Hellyar built a house in this field. There also used to be a dew pond which had an impermeable base to allow animals to drink the water that gathered there. There is still a pub in East Coker called the Hellyar Arms.

 

A LOCAL EVENT

There was a table top sale at Bettiscombe Village Hall at the end of March. We were one of thirteen stalls that attended. A fancy Easter egg made of papier mache filled with treats was on display (46). Other stalls included work by a photographic artist, a huge selection of cakes and interesting knitted items (47, 48, 49) The attendance by the public was very disappointing despite excellent advertising for weeks in advance. Proceeds from the event went to the village hall and church.

EASTER

On Palm Sunday, 13th April there was a procession from the Five Bells pub to the church with two donkeys led by Michael and Betsy West. (50) The local churches were beautifully decorated for this religious festival (51) and the bluebells at Coneys Castle in Fishpond were a picture to behold (52). Coneys Castle is an Iron Age Fort and was constructed by a local tribe some 2500 years ago.

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