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There was frenzied activity to get the cabin ready for Easter. After a spring clean and some painting in the kitchen area (1) the information board had to be repapered around the edges (2) (This shows campers exactly where they are in Dorset when they arrive). All the Devon and Dorset tourist leaflets arrived and had to be put into the racks. (3) Liquid soap containers needed to be filled up. (4) There was continuing maintenance on shower units (5) and preparation for more painting in the next week or so. (6) The owners of the Teardrop Retro caravan (2010) visited again. (7) It is amazing what such a “small” caravan can accommodate – shower, toilet, extensive lighting, hot and cold water (which can be run off gas or electric) and twin and single berth sleeping quarters. The owners have had it for 7 years and have done 5000 miles in it. Yet another couple used my campsite to try out their 1991 campervan (a Talbot Highwayman) for the first time. (8) Their pet name for the unit was Tallulah!


The old bird table (9) was replaced with a state of the art “bird station”. (10) The wildlife friendly areas continue in the same area as last year, which means that I don’t have to cut down the stinging nettles and other weeds. (11) We spent hours watering the pots on Good Friday, only for it to rain the same night. (12) With extra help from the children we managed to repot several shrubs into bigger containers. (13, 14 & 15)

I do not boast a pristine garden as I have violets, (16) Cuckoo Flower (17) and Lords and Ladies (Cuckoo Pint) (18) in all the wrong places. Besides bluebells all over the place I also have pinkbells (19) and red tinted cowslips which have cross-pollinated with polyanthus. (20) The orchard walk path has been mown in readiness for walkers, especially with dogs. (21)

The Belgian Blue calves which have been on the farm since they were weaned from their mothers continue to grow at an alarming rate. (22) Over the Easter period I have taken several groups of campers on a tour to see all the animals we have on the farm, being the suckler cows, calves (23) and the sheep and lambs in the field. (24 & 25) Blue numbering denotes one lamb born to the mother, whereas red denotes a twin.


Simeon Symonds (born 1835) came to Whitchurch, from Symondsbury, sometime in the mid to late 1800s as a farmer. Over the following decades, his son John Dicker (b 1871) (26) farmed at Griddleshay, and his son, Percy (b 1904) (27) farmed at Butt, in Ryall. Simeon (b 1931) (Percy’s son) (28) worked with his father at Butt until 1968 when the farm was sold. Simeon had already started an agricultural contracting business at this time, working on the many small farms in the Marshwood Vale and beyond. “Simmy” as he was affectionately known took his youngest son Michael into the business in 1974. By 1995 Michael’s son Mark (29) had joined the family firm. Mark is the fifth generation of the Symonds family to be a grave digger.

In the distant past the sexton (a man employed to look after the church and churchyard) used to do all the grave digging by spade, pick axe and shovel. But for a long time now the job has been taken over by contractors – whose numbers have declined in recent years. This means that the Symonds family is kept very busy digging graves in West Dorset and East Devon, sometimes having to do three in one day. Of course nowadays a mini digger is used for the purpose of moving all the soil. (30) The digger is easily transported to the graveyard on a trailer. On the day of my interview Michael (31) had to dig a grave at the Lyme Regis cemetery. A “flag” is put in position, and then the shape of the grave is cut out by spade. (32) The turf is then scooped off, (33) and put into a tidy pile. Mike then put teeth onto the scoop in order to start the digging. (34) Then it was a case of scooping out the soil and making a pile of it by the side of the grave space. (35)

Eventually a depth of six feet had been dug, (36) with a huge pile of mainly clay soil piled up. (37) The last thing to be done on that day was to cover the hole to make sure no one fell in it. (38) On the day of the funeral Mike would have to arrive at least an hour in advance to check that the grave is still intact. Clay is notorious for slippage. A heavy green cloth (a grave mat) is put over the soil that has been dug out. (39) Twigs and/or red, gold or brown leaves, or cut grass are put at the bottom of the grave because ‘no one wants to look at the cold hard earth’ at a burial. Planks are positioned along the edge of the hole to ensure a firm footing for the pallbearers. Four rolls of artificial turf are gently lowered over the sides of the grave. Lastly two wooden beams are laid across the grave on which the coffin will rest.

Lyme Regis cemetery was an interesting one to visit. There was a headstone with a specially designed shelf where a bottle of whiskey and a glass were placed. (40) It was obvious that the deceased enjoyed his tipple. The most striking memorial was a large kerbed grave in memory of the sinking of the HMS Formidable by a torpedo on 1st January 1915 with the loss of 34 officers and 511 seamen. (41)

At the beginning of 2016 I was involved with helping a friend to plan her funeral and organise her headstone. Little did we know that the arrangements would be put into operation within 6 months. Her beautiful headstone is in Whitchurch churchyard. (42)

In 2000 I was made aware of the fact that Whitchurch churchyard was getting full, and it was important for me to be buried sometime in the future next to my parents and sister. (43) As I had spare cash in those days I organised a reserved burial plot behind the family graves. This involved the Salisbury Diocese, a solicitor, and the local Parochial Church Council. This facility is no longer available. I am now very glad I spent the money on this, as I may live to be 100! On a brighter note I attended church today being Easter Sunday. The whole church was beautifully decorated, especially the altar, (44) and the Easter garden was delightful. (45)


Recently I became a tourist for a day when I visited this very new visitor attraction in East Devon. (46 & 47) It was opened on 26 March 2016. Seaton Jurassic tells the story of the Jurassic Coast, and the landscape, geology, and geomorphology around Seaton. This area has fabulous natural assets on its doorstep. Seaton is the gateway to the Jurassic Coast – for the wilderness of Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliffs Natural Nature Reserve (a unique landslide complex within the World Heritage Site). In the opposite direction, the chalk cliffs of Beer are a spectacular landmark, being part of the three key geological periods for which the World Heritage Site is famous (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous)

I paid my £8 and immediately became a time traveller with a “virtual” young Victorian explorer on her journey through time and pre-historic worlds in her steampunk time ship covering 200 million years. (48) One of the first things I saw on my “tour” was the Seaton Orrery (49) which showed how the Earth spins on its axis around the Sun, and the moon orbits the Earth. (50) Next I happened upon the familiar geological blocks (51) (Some of my current geological course is actually sinking in!) At the beginning of the tour I was given an “Access All Eras” passport. This was used along the way to answer questions and then the book was stamped at the Discovery Points (52). There were lots of interesting snippets of information en route, one being how we have all descended from apes! (53) I came across this workshop full of tools (54) which reminded me of my childhood when my father had something similar in what is now the cider cellar. Another pearl of wisdom was about the time and tide. (55) I decided not to dress up as my “favourite sea creature” for a selfie in the giant rock pool. In no time I was in the “fun garden” where more hands on experiences were to be found. (56 & 57) The final part of the visit was exploring the tranquil and relaxed wildlife garden with its bug hotels, birdbaths and perfect pollinators creating a haven for wildlife. (58) The last Discovery Point was perhaps the most surprising! (59)


Thank you to the people who have helped me with the research for this newsletter: Carol Lee, Carolyn Peck, Mike Symonds, Mark Symonds, Hilary Joyce and Alisha Lambert.

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