Share Button


The interesting Dutch couple who stayed before Christmas kindly sent me some of the photos they took during their stay at Bluntshay: a guided walk with Pilsdon pen in the background, (1) Lyme Regis at dusk, (2) a view from Lyme Regis to Charmouth, (3) the beach at Seatown (4) and West Bay. (5) The mysterious fossil (6) that they found still has not been identified.

Carpet World from Bridport (7) came last week and laid lino in the kitchen area of the cabin. (8, 9, 10, 11, 12) It was obviously a highly skilled job. Then we had fun and games moving furniture back into the kitchen. (13, 14, 15, 16)


The National Farmers’ Union was formed in 1908 to represent the interest of farmers in England and Wales. At that time farming was going through the longest and deepest depression in its history, as imports of cheap grain and frozen meat had flooded in from abroad. From those modest and difficult beginnings, the NFU has grown to become one of the most effective and respected trade associations in Britain. In 1910 an insurance scheme was introduced by the NFU at cost price. This expanded over the last century and now the NFU is one of the country’s leading insurers. The strength of the NFU is in its numbers, currently in excess of 55,000 members so they are heard when it counts – locally, nationally and internationally.

On a local level Paul Bennett (17) began as the NFU West Dorset Group Secretary at Beaminster (18) in 1985. Since that time there have been tremendous changes affecting all aspects of life and farming in West Dorset. In October 1987 and again in 1990 there were devastating storms. On the first occasion Michael Fish made the now infamous statement that there was not going to be a hurricane! Farmers had building roofs blown away and structures damaged. The NFU was able to locally settle claims quickly and without hassle for the individuals concerned. This really showed the value of a local insurer and emphasised the importance of meeting farmers on site when there were disasters and to help start the process of recovery.

In 1996 the news of a “link” between the cattle disease, BSE, and the human disease, CJD, shocked the nation. Beef prices plummeted, exports were banned and massive measures were introduced through the food chain to save the industry and re-establish consumer confidence. For a time there was a question of whether the beef industry had any future! The NFU immediately realised the significance of the situation and engaged with its farmers and the Government. Local meetings were held and there were masses of telephone calls between farmers and the office and daily bulletins were faxed or posted to farmers. By these means the NFU kept the farmers up to date with the crisis and gave them help to survive it.

The third dramatic event to show how closely associated the NFU is with West Dorset Farmers was the 2001 Foot and Mouth Outbreak. Although West Dorset did not have an outbreak the local farmers were most hit by livestock movement restrictions and loss of market, rather than by the slaughter of infected or dangerous contact animals. As a result West Dorset farmers had to bear the loss and hardship that resulted. The compensation was only paid if herds were slaughtered. This time meetings were banned, for fear of spreading the disease, so once again faxes and phone calls became a life line.

Paul retired from the NFU in 2015 and he was given a “farewell” party with all local members invited. (19, 20) He has since that time said he had a wonderful 30 years with the West Dorset NFU. He witnessed not only the survival of farming in the area but for many its thriving and rebirth. He stated that West Dorset farmers are so resilient and resourceful, and while the number of dairy farms is much reduced, new technology and increased size of units and better management have saved many. Diversification has also played its part with expanding tourism, and organic and other specialist lines.

Jenny Greenwood took over Paul’s role as West Dorset Group Secretary on Paul’s retirement. (21) She does a stirling job in helping me with filling in forms and sorting out my farm insurances. On a recent visit to Bluntshay a slight reduction was even made in the annual figure I have to pay to the NFU each year. (22)


Slates have been falling off the roofs of my buildings for some years. (23) We have now worked out the best way to replace them with recycled slates. (25, 25) There is still a lot more to replace on the farm buildings down in the yard. In the garden I am trying to get as many plants out of pots into the garden, because after few years they get pot bound and stems decrease in size and are not good for selling as cut flowers. (26, 27)


Theresa Weller is the owner of a large collection of period, vintage and retro clothes. (28) All the pieces are original and have been gathered together over the years along with hats, gloves, shoes and accessories to become a fairly comprehensive catalogue of social history. For many years small sections of the collection have been travelling around Dorset, and have frequently been shown in Bridport – in the form of a “catwalk” show to raise money for various charities. (29) Theresa has a dedicated team of 12 young men and women who model the clothes and 3 ladies who help with the “dressing” etc. (30, 31, 32)

The Bridport Town Hall was the venue for the show, (33) and the period covered was from the early 1900s to the 1950s. (34) shows dresses from 1910 suitable for a walk in the park, and along the promenade. (35) depicts the wedding scene of a relative of the lady on the left. The couple (Reg Davis and Edith Preece) had only been married for 13 days when Reg had to return to his training camp before being posted overseas. As the days/weeks went by Reg’s mother became more and more distraught at the lack of news. Everyday she would go down into the town of Swanage to search through the published lists, and carry a photo of Reg in case someone might recognise him. (36) Unfortunately he died in action so his family never saw him again.

In this photo, (37) it shows beautiful examples of the ‘bias cut’ and the influence of Hollywood in the 1930s. At the beginning of WW2 the ‘petticoat dress’ was fashionable. (38) The photo also shows a ‘posh’ case for a gas mask. This tailored suit (39) dating from the 1940s, in soft browns with a burgeoning stripe came with confetti in the turn ups. Perhaps the suit was only worn once for the owner’s wedding and then spent the rest of its life in the back of the wardrobe! (40) from post WW2 shows a simple ‘house’ dress when women were encouraged to take on the Domestic Goddess role again, after helping with the war effort. The child is dressed in pyjamas with an alarm clock design. Lastly Andy (41) modelled a dress uniform of the Royal Hussars from the 1950s, which belonged to his father.


From 1999 to November 2017 the S&DFHS had had its Head Office in various buildings in Sherborne, the last one on The Parade. The new premises are now at Broadway House, Peter Street, in Yeovil. (42) On 6th January there was an official open day to show everyone the new premises (43) This building is a lot smaller than the previous one but much cosier and warmer. The local history book section (44) is easy to negotiate, and during the day I found my book “Dorset’s Western Vale” on the shelves, and signed it for the Society. The book is now out of print. (45)

The computer suite is well equipped (46) and a microfilm microfiche reader is available. (47) Book and CD sales play an important role within the Society and John Brooking does an excellent job as book seller. (48) There are separate rooms for both Dorset (49) and Somerset research. (50) The first Executive Members’ meeting to be held at the centre occurred last Friday with nearly a ‘full house’ of Executives and Officers. I must say that it was a lot quicker to drive to Yeovil from Bluntshay mostly by main roads, that it used to be cutting across country down B roads to get to Sherborne.


Thank you to all the people who have helped me with this newsletter: Ted Udall, Jane Butland, Theresa Weller, Sheila Meaney, Paul Bennett, Jenny Greenwood, Jolien and Keith.

Share Button