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We had a really sunny Easter. It seems that it was the best one for 70 years! This was very good for the campsite, as there were lots of people staying for the whole weekend or just over night. The clothes line was used for the first time this year. (1) A Hungarian family (from Cambridge) arrived rather late one evening having got slightly lost in West Dorset. (2) They were travelling with lightweight American tents, weighing 3lb and 5 lb respectively. A little 2018 Swift BaseCamp caravan also pitched for the weekend. (3) The owners were rather disappointed that, in the caravan’s short life, it had just spent 9 weeks with the dealers in Plymouth, and was due to do a return visit to them again soon. During the times the caravan has been in good working order it has done several trips to Wales, Derwent Water and two visits to Dorset. The tiling in the kitchen area, which was done in a bit of a rush, is not quite finished, but an improvement on before. (4, 5, 6) PAT testing came around again when all electric leads, extension leads and the like (that may be used for or by campers) had to have their annual check up. (7)


There are lots of lambs about the farm at the moment, some indoors being hand fed, (8) and others out in the field with their mothers. (9) My last Christmas goose was delivered to Long Bredy en route to Ely for a post Easter meal. (10) As it is too difficult to pour diesel directly into the Fordson Major tractor’s (1954) fuel tank we had to buy a mini pump so that the battery (11) would drive the fuel from the bucket (12, 13) through a plastic tube to the tank. (14) Simple but very effective.


We finally hired a rotavator to do the main garden, as our two ancient machines had finally given up the ghost. (15) On moving the chrysanthemums, which had over wintered in the polytunnel, we discovered that a rabbit had set up home. By the time I had got my camera to photograph the trespasser it had disappeared down its deep hole underground. (16) As my sunflowers are now just poking their heads above the soil (17) and will need planting out in a few weeks, something will have to be done about moving this pest.


At the beginning of April John Cupitt, an experienced pylon worker of 35 years, visited the farm and asked about access to the pylon on the farm. It was his job to install the safety ropes on the pylons in his Quality Assurance role, prior to the painting gangs working on them. He provided me with brilliant photos from the top of the structure showing 4 views of the Marshwood Vale. (18, 19, 20, 21) I later bumped into 4 men who were staying in the cottage next door and discovered that they were part of a painting gang working on the nearby pylons, but had not got as far as mine. Nevertheless they were quite happy to write lots of notes for me about what the job entails along with some background knowledge.

After about a week I could hear conversations floating through the air from the direction of my pylon and knew that the painters were on the job at last. The painters from OCS Fountains (sub-contracted by the National Grid) had parked their van in a nearby field (22) with a suitable health and safety warning about their presence. (23) As I got closer I could see three men dangling from the pylon. (24) The base of the pylon was cordoned off and one painter called to me not to get any closer for fear of “flying paint”. The strong ropes had been attached to the entire length of the pylon by John Cupitt, in advance a few weeks before, were now being used by the painters whilst being ‘strapped into’ a harness. The gang had left Nottingham at 4 that morning to start the job.

The first process on this type of pylon maintenance is to remove the green ‘moss’ etc, (with a chemical solution) that has accumulated since the last paint job. It seems that pylons near cities and towns have very little ‘green growth’ because of pollution. The ones in country areas are just the opposite. This job can be done in any weather. The old flaky paint also has to be scraped off and any rust removed. The National Grid will check these processes before the painting of the yellow undercoat takes place.

The painting (which has to be done in fine weather) is usually done on a 20-30 year cycle. They were only painting the body of the pylon this time as the power was still on. The towers carry a voltage 400,000 kw. There were small red flags on the arms near the body to advise the painters the extent of their brush work (3 metres from the power). It seems that if it is a little bit windy, and there is some ‘sway’, the men can feel minor electric shocks!

Four cans of paint are taken each time they ‘go up’. Their paint brushes are called strikers with long handles and pigs hair for spreading the paint. (25) The painters worked long hours, and obviously get paid ‘by the pylon’. They seemed to work quite fast, but had to do a good job. A gang of 3-4 men should be able to paint one coat on the body of the pylon in a day. Every job is inspected by the National Grid, and if the work is not up to scratch they have to do it again for free! (26, 27, 28, 29, 30) It takes 4 years to train to be a pylon painter and is not a job for the faint hearted! The pylons on this line are 100 feet high. (31) Once the yellow undercoat is dry the thicker grey top coat is applied. I have walked past this pylon dozens of times in the past but had never noticed that its unique number was 134. (32)


In March the West Dorset Group of the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society was treated to a memorable afternoon of entertainment at Loders Hall, near Bridport. (33) The poster depicts housing that was erected in Skilling, Bridport for returning WW1 servicemen.

Tinkers Cuss is a seven piece band who play in the Bridport area. (34) They have been together for about 12 years and play a wide range of music from Folk, 60s and 70s hits, and modern indie-roots music. Some of the group worked on a show to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice. They wanted to pay tribute to those who gave their lives and to refer to the horrendous conditions of the warfare, but they also wanted to cover what life was like for a small town like Bridport. In addition to this they wanted to look at more positive things – examples of how humanity shone through during the war and efforts to make the world a better place.

David Powell (35) wrote a song especially for the show called ‘Light to the Darkness. Bill Cain (36) contributed two of his own songs which included ‘Gas attack’ which honoured his grandfather who was gassed in the war. The band has continued to add to the personal stories – The Chideock Egg Ladies, and a relative of Barry Bates (centre in photo 34) who was killed in 1917 on the Western Front. They have interwoven poems from the war with songs sung by soldiers at the time, and songs written in the last 20 years which reflect the abiding interest in WW1. The other important people involved with the production was Chloe and Dave Lee, (37), Dominic Faulkner, (38) Debra Bates, (39) John Dobinson, (40) and sound engineer Andy Howard (41)

The event was well attended, (42) and was rounded off with a delicious tea. (43)


Pilsdon is a hamlet in West Dorset with a population of 50. It is believed that a church has been on this site (44) since the 14th century. The present church, St Marys, is a Grade I listed building. It was renovated in 1830, restored in 1875 and again in recent years after a fire. The present church retains quite a lot of the Mediaeval features, and benefits from underfloor heating. In June 1983 the church was declared redundant and in the following year was leased by the Diocese of Salisbury to the Pilsdon Community who were living at the Manor House next door. The building is used several times a day for prayer and worship led by Members of the Pilsdon Community, who are mostly Anglican. Visitors, wayfarers (expected or unexpected) are welcomed from all over the world. Because Pilsdon is not a parish church it enjoys freedoms that other churches do not – no church wardens and no Parochial Church Council. It has no formal links with any of the other churches in the area and like monastic communities of old, is able to offer alternative forms of worship.

St Marys has services every Sunday at 6.30 pm to which anyone is invited to attend. I had friends who used to help run the Community so I often visited in the past. I recently attended the Easter service and found the church beautifully decorated with the biggest Holy Tomb I have ever seen inside a church. (45) This had a stunning stained glass window as a backdrop, (46) dating from 1934. There is a dedication in the lower panes of glass to a serviceman called Jenks, who was killed in Palestine in 1917 (WW1). His grandparents were instrumental in installing this special stained glass window in his memory. The whole congregation at the evening service was invited over to the Pilsdon Manor House for supper, as is the usual custom.

The Manor of Pilsdon forms an ancient landholding as it was mentioned in the Domesday Survey. The Manor House that we see today (47) is a Grade II building and dates from the beginning of the 17th century and was owned by the Wyndham family at that time. During the 18th century it was purchased by the Jansons. Later on in the 19th century, it changed ownership several times – Lady Damer, Rev Gregory and then the Bower family who came in 1864. This was followed by Henry Jenks who purchased it in 1918. It became an Anglican religious community of prayer, hospitality and work in 1958 after the Rev Percy Smith bought it. Today the same ethos prevails. The Community has an open door to those who need refuge at a particular point in their lives.

In delving into the history of Pilsdon in general ** it was interesting to note that Robert Hussey (1772-1851) had the tenancy of Pilsdon Manor Farm by 1823. By 1851 he was a farmer of 677 acres and employed 27 labourers. He married twice and he and his wives had 5 children between them. Robert was also a church warden at St Marys for many years. His brother John Hussey (who was farming at Bluntshay in 1800) had 13 children. John was my g.g.g.g. grandfather. Two generations down from this, my ancestors were agricultural labourers (in 1851) and worked for local farmers. Large families did not help the economic situation in rural communities.

** ‘History of Pilsdon Manor – Peter Bushnell, 1999

As usual I have run out of space, but did hope to include apple tree grafting and oak tree planting in April’s edition. I must make sure that there is space for this vital information in the next issue.


Thank you to all the people who have helped me with this newsletter: Barry and Debra Bates, Rev David Deegan, (current warden of the Pilsdon Community) Trevor Griffiths, (Guest at the Community), John Cuppit and the Fountains Group, and Phil and Debs Jessiman

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