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CAMPSITE

The early May bank holiday weekend was quite busy and the site looked so much better having had the hardstandings and drive resurfaced.  (1)  I lent campers, without facilities, my portable toilets as they weren’t allowed to use the cabin at that time.  (2)  The end of May bank holiday was really ‘manic’ with the whole site full up, spilling out into the extended area next to the garden.  It felt like an August Bank Holiday weekend!

At least one person used the new kitchen facilities at the back of the garage. (3).  But I did expect more people in this area. 

A charming couple (4) arrived with their converted removal van, (5) for a 28 day stay, which had been well adapted for comfortable living. (6, 7, 8) 

Oscar and Emily recalled that they had struggled to maintain straight minds working full time jobs and found themselves weighed down by their reliance on society so they decided to build their own little offgrid dream.  It took them about three years to find the ideal place to live.  They came across the Luton van in Kent, christened the vehicle Bluebell and moved in, installing 200 w of solar power with a 12 v electric system.  They have a wood burner, big water tank, gas cooking appliances and a fridge to make their perfect home.

Distant Chedd relatives (Bob and Dawn) from Wiltshire stayed for a few days and we caught up with family tree matters dating back several generations. (9)  My great grandmother Chedd may have been Bob’s 5th cousin once removed!

Some tourist leaflets finally arrived but none of them were for Dorset! (10)  It seems that they are very difficult to find as none have been printed for 2021 yet. Everyone has been waiting for news on the total easing of lockdown restrictions!  The local Tourist Information Centre has offered me some of last year’s leaflets to help out with my displays.

FARM

POND IN STOODLEYS CLOSE FIELD

We have always understood that this pond was once quarried for cob clay. (11)  On an old map I found several small farm buildings and a small cottage in the field next to Stoodleys Close.  Also just a few fields across from  my farm there was a building called Birds Cottage on Stoke Mill Lane.  People were last recorded living in this house in the 1881 census. All of these would have been made of cob. It is assumed that during the various agricultural depressions that occurred over the last two centuries, the thatched roofs of all these cob buildings were not kept in good order so that the cob clay quickly disintegrated and disappeared.

The Dorset Wild Life Trust was keen to open up the pond, to allow more light in and encourage a wider range of wildlife.  (12)  It was amazing how much wood (13) and  brushwood (14) (for kindling) was produced and how much bigger the pond area seemed afterwards.  Little heaps of  sticks and the like were left around the water’s edge (called habitat piles) especially for the wildlife.  (15)

When all this work was completed, Tom erected a sturdy fence around the pond so that cattle would not fall in.  (16)

BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER CHAR

This bridge was in quite bad repair.  (17)  We built it ourselves 20 years ago.  We had replace the two middle planks some years ago (as it was unsafe to walk on the originals) but the outer ones were completely rotten.  (18)  Stephen Lee’s lads got to work, even standing in the river to drill screws in to make it safe. (19, 20) In no time we had a new bridge.  (21)  The metal structure of the bridge was made from recycled electric pylon parts which had been dismantled when Western Distribution replaced the old one with a much bigger one sometime ago.

COWS AND PREGNANCY

A few weeks ago it was necessary to have the bull TB tested so that he could return to his owner.  We thought we would have the cows tested to make sure that they were all pregnant.  (22) Unfortunately this proved to be a negative experience so the bull stayed put and the cows have been enjoying tasty cow cake to bring back their condition.  Children from the campsite have been keen to help with this task.  (23, 24)  We had stopped giving the cattle a mineral lick for fear of them picking up TB from wildlife which may also be feeding from the tub, but have had to reinstate it.  The cattle found it especially scrumptious and are devouring one tub a week.  The vet also had to do various procedures to help the cows get pregnant.  I have just had the bill for this and hope that the great expense will be covered by having big healthy calves in just over 9 months time!

ELECTRICS

I had the electrics in the farm yard cut off several years ago as the wiring was dangerous and would easily catch fire.  In the past, to get the electric power from the house into the farm buildings, the cables were put overhead.  This proved problematic with farm implements getting bigger and higher and inevitably demolishing the overhead cables.

So it was decided to put the cables underground, but firstly the main box was positioned in the cider cellar.  The cables then had to be routed through thick walls via the old dairy (25, 26) to get to the first trench. (27)  The cables alone for this job cost over £1,000.  So trenches were dug to the old farm buildings (28) and also over to the new barn near the road. (29)  When the footings for this barn were dug out a few years ago we came across thousands of bellemites (an extinct type of squid) which had lain undisturbed for 135 million years.

Once the cables were laid a sky light and sockets were put inside the new barn, then outside lights around my old farm buildings installed, as well as the main box and sockets inside one building.  The best route possible for routing the cables meant clambering over all sorts of farming relics in the old cow stall. (30, 31)

This electric work should stand us in good stead now for another 30 years at least and be of a benefit for my predecessors after I have popped my clogs!

GARDEN

I have spent a fortune on new plants over the last 3 months, mainly for enhancing the look of the campsite and areas close by.  (32)

We gave my numerous potted chrysanthemums a makeover.  The plants were taken out of the pots that they had been living in for years (33) (which had got infested with cooch grass and convolvulus) and we replanted them with fresh compost and bone meal.  (34, 35)  I shall now expect brilliant flowers from October onwards. (36)

There is always an abundance of hazel saplings sprouting up in pots all over the place.    Earlier in the year we planted them in the nearest orchard hedge which had got rather thin due to sheep nibbling.  (37, 38, 39)

WORKING WITH OXEN AND COB CLAY WALLING

Eamonn, a very interesting Irish man from Kilmaine, County Mayo stayed for 5 days recently.  He was in this area to attend a course on cob wall building just over the border in Uplyme.  The company who organised the course was Edwards Cob Building, who, with 15 years experience, have delivered natural building workshops to people from around the world.  This has enabled some of them to have the skills to build their own affordable, sustainable and beautiful homes from earth.  

This company also specialises in repairing old earth buildings, including cob houses, clay-lump, rammed earth and wattle and daub.  They also work with the next generation with cob building workshops in schools, and run tandoor oven courses too.

Eamonn explained the mix for the cob was one part clay, 3 parts sandy gravel and one part straw.  All the ingredients are mixed together and then water is added until it is  nice and sticky. You can then start to build the wall.  Bigger stones can be also used in the wall.  Lime mortar is used for “cement”.  The foundation under the wall is stone.  The following are three photos of his efforts during the course.  (40, 41, 42)

This method of making cob walls has been around for 10,000 years and it’s resurgence in the last 20 years shows that people are realising its an incredibly cheap and green way of building.  Cob is the ultimate in low carbon construction – you use the earth on your site to build your home or building.  Nothing beats it in terms of sustainability and once built they are warm, healthy and incredibly beautiful.

Eamonn  has 30 acres of land in County Mayo along with 5 acres of woodland.  I was very interested to find out that he works with oxen on his farm.  In fact he gave me the following photos to show the range of work that the animals do.  (43) shows an oxen pulling a cart of husks to be taken to a compost heap, (44)  shows potato planting with a 100 year old Harrison and Macgregor (Scottish) machine, (45) shows an oxen pulling drill harrows breaking up the clods ready for planting carrots and other root vegetables.  The animal is wearing a 3 pad collar which is especially for oxen and was designed in Germany in 1920.  Prior to this oxen, would have worn wooden yokes.  (46) shows wood collection.

Prior to Brexit Eamonn visited England about 3 to 4 times a year to buy vintage horse drawn machinery.  Now he has to buy it on line and then come over here once a year to pick up his purchases.  He arrived with a large trailer to take his booty home.

DORSET ARTS WEEK  23RD MAY TO 4TH JUNE

dorset arts week logo

DAW started nearly 30 years ago.  2021 would be the fourteenth time that it has been held.  Usually it would occur every two years but with Covid last year it didn’t happen in 2020.

The last two or three arts weeks including 2021 have represented 300 venues, many featuring two or more artists.  Including the group event, this means that around 700 artists and makers have had their work represented.  This makes Dorset Art Weeks reputedly the largest Open Studio event in the country.  More of the history of the event later.

There were plenty of venues to see in West Dorset and I chose to visit one in Broadoak and another at Whitchurch.

MOSAICS SQUARED

This is run by two enthusiastic young ladies, Posy and Zoe,  (48) at Atrim Gore Farm, Broadoak and is housed in what was a stall for milking cows (when the farm made its living from dairy production)  (49)  It was the brainchild of Posy and 2021 was the first year of exhibiting their unique artwork.

Firstly the ceramic tiles which are to be used in the design, are broken into pieces.   (50)  Customers can  choose from the numerous colours and designs of the tiles, as anything is possible. As one would design a jigsaw, it is possible to mix and match  the tiles to construct a remarkable mural for the client’s home.  Posy’s creations encompass a brilliant array of subject matters, from skyscapes to coral reefs, mountains to jungles – each piece delivering an exclusive aesthetic masterpiece.

Several consultations are then necessary between Mosaics Squared and the client to decide on the design and where it is to be placed.  There were several examples of their work around the exhibition. (51, 52)  Probably the most spectacular design was this one. (53)

LEAFWORK – BOOKBINDING

This exhibition was based in the middle of Whitchurch in a purpose built studio. (54)    Inside the building it was like an Aladdin ‘s Cave, with all the equipment necessary for this type of work and numerous examples of it.  (55, 56, 57)  One particular piece of bookart was a brilliant display of all the train tickets, along with photos of train stations and landmarks from her journeys to London to teach her craft over a period of several years.  It was such a clever idea and so effective. (58) 

During Dorset Art Weeks Nesta conducted a series  of “bite-sized” bookbinding sessions via Zoom, and was open on most days for people to drop into her studio and browse.

Prior to lockdown Nesta continued her classes by zoom sending her students the relevant stationery to participate in the lesson each week.

The craft of bookbinding probably originated in India where religious sutras were copied on to palm leaves (cut in two, lengthwise) with a metal stylus. The leaf was then dried and rubbed with ink which would form a stain in the wound. The finished leaves were given numbers, and two long twines were threaded through each end through wooden boards, making a palm-leaf book. When the book was closed, the excess twine would be wrapped around the boards to protect the manuscript leaves.

Buddhist monks took the idea through Afghanistan to China in the first century BC. I found bookbinding a very interesting subject to research. Bookbinding is a specialised trade that relies on basic operations of measuring, cutting and gluing. A finished book depends on a minimum of about two dozen operations to complete, but sometimes more than double that according to the specific style and materials.

DAW was started by a small group of artists and makers, principally by the renowned designer and furniture maker John Makepeace, printmaker and polymath Hugh Dunford-Wood and Joanna Moorland, Arts Officer for Dorset County Council, plus other notable people in the arts world.

DAW was started because it was felt that as Dorset is short of arts venues, the group conceived the event to make their work accessible to the public in the places it was made.  More often than not this was in the context of Dorset’s amazing rural and coastal environments.  The reason it has grown holds true to that idea.  It has proved the public enjoy meeting artists and seeing the methods and references to their work at first hand.  The first DAW ran with 15-20 studios.  As mentioned earlier the most recent ones have represented some 300 venues!

People may wonder why DAW is not held every year.  The answer is that many artists wouldn’t have sufficient new work to show.  DAW benefits from many, many repeat visitors from across the UK and some form Europe.  It is important, therefore, that they have something fresh on offer each time around.  It is also the case that the level or organisation required to manage the event is huge, running it annually would be a killer!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Nesta Davies, Posy and Zoe from Mosaics Squared,  Eamonn Mcdonagh,  Kate Edwards of Edwards Cob Building, Stephen Lee, Oscar and Emily, and Sheila Taylor, Jem Main, Creative Director Dorset Visual Arts and Megan Dunford DAW Producer.

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