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Painting has started at last, although we won’t be finished before Easter unfortunately. The front steps (1) of the cabin now look brilliant but make the door and the front walls appear quite scruffy. The walls of the kitchen had a coat of “powdered clay” (2, 3) as did one wall in the wash basin area. (4) Reassembling everything in the kitchen took a while but the finished effect looked clean and fresh especially with the new work top protectors. (5) Some more work has to be done on the worktop by the sink, and I am hoping to put up wall tiles eventually around that area.


Finally the fields were dry enough for us to use the brand new chain harrow, (6) and roller. (7) Just on completion of chain harrowing the first field one of the tyres exploded. This was probably an original tyre and 65 years old. It was quite a job putting on a new one (8) – at great expense. Alisha is now old enough to drive a tractor on the farm and she took this atmospheric image of the tractor and roller she drove recently in the dark. (9)

During the time the farm was under a Countryside Stewardship Scheme I did much grafting of apple tree scions onto rootstocks to save old varieties and introduce a few new ones to our orchards. Once the new grafts had spent 2 years in the garden establishing themselves they were then planted out into the orchards inside a sturdy fence to stop sheep and deer nibbling at them. These grafts have been neglected of late and it was a major operation to cut down the brambles etc before we could get to this tree for pruning. (10, 11, 12) There will be more about the grafting of scions in my next newsletter.


My daffodils and narcissi are much better this year than last, although some of the daffodils still came up blind. (13, 14) As I am only growing flowers now it has been necessary to clear parts of the garden to make space for shrubs. I was amazed how many dahlia tubers were to be found in such a small area, (15) and how much the sweet rocket had spread in a year. (16) Fortunately there were plenty of takers for both plants at last Sunday’s Free Exchange Cafe at Whitchurch church. (17, 18) Digging over the rose patch I seemed to unearth yards of this irritating convulvulous root, which spreads like wild fire, even if an 1/8 inch gets away. (659)


This beautiful service was conducted by Rev Virginia Luckett and Ros Woodbridge. There was singing with actions and a story illustrating the love mothers have for their children. The 12 children who attended made special cards for the occasion, which were orginally designed by Clare Colby, a local artist. (20) These cards and bouquets of flowers were presented to members of the congregation. (21) The children, and 14 adults who took part, enjoyed a Simnel cake kindly made by Alison Hawkins.


Recently this club celebrated its 75th anniversary at the George Albert Hotel, near Dorchester. The club was one of many set up in 1943 around Dorset by the Ministry of War Agriculture (Agricultural Development and Advisory Service) to encourage farmers to grow more crops to feed the country during WW2. The two men responsible for this idea were Ralph Wightman and Bernard Hart. The Chideock Club was formed around the Chideock area (near Bridport) and the first secretary was Harold Huxter from Doghouse Farm. He remained secretary for 25 years. During the 1950s and early 1960s the Melplash and Loders clubs were amalgamated into Chideock, but there are no members from that area now.

The present club holds meetings during the winter months at Bettiscombe Parish Hall where various speakers come to give talks on many different subjects. Three competition are held during the year, these being grassland in the late spring, maize in early September and cookery in early December. There are cups and shields for all the compeitions. As well as the aforementioned the club has visits to farms and factories covering a wide variety of subjects. Present membership is between 140-150. This consists of mainly farmers or retired farmers, but with some other non farming people who live in the area, which now covers East Devon, South Somerset, but mainly West Dorset. The committee is always on the lookout for new members, especially younger ones, to carry on the club. Henry Smith can be reached on 01308 868313 or

The present Chairman is Kevin Goodfellow (22) who has been in post since last October. Henry Smith (23) is in his 30th year as Secretary. Ann Studley has been the Social Secretary (24) for 21 years and Ken Mansbridge (25) has been doing a sterling job as Treasurer for 16 years.

Ken gave a very interesting speech on the price of commodities 75 years ago, which included

Petrol 1.75p a litre
Postage 3/4p
Road tax £4.5
1 pint of milk 1 1/2 p
7 lb potatoes 3p
1 pint beer 3 1/2 p
Jaguar Car £385
A cow £70
Cow’s milk yield per annum 3500 – 4000 litres
Labour 50p a day

Ken’s interest in farming started when he was 9 in 1947 (26) when his family first stayed at Norchard Farm, Stanton St Gabriel, (27) in a caravan (28). This farm was being run by Walter Lumbard. (29) His sister Ruth (30) operated the bed and breakfast side of the enterprise. Ken can remember all the names of the farmers in the area from those days who had on average 15 to 20 cows each. They took their churns of milk up the winding lanes to Chideock Hill for collection and caught up with the local gossip each morning. All miking was done by hand. It is sad to note that the only working farm left in Stanton now is Upcot. The rest of the farm houses are private residences.

Ken, a city boy, was inspired by these early visits to West Dorset to become a farmer – first by joining a Young Farmers’ Club at school, which was followed by an NCA course at Hampshire Farm Institute. Later he did an NDA course at the Royal Agriculture College whilst working weekends and holidays on 200 acre mixed farms. He came to Furland Farm, Crewkerne in 1963 as an assistant to Mr R Gale and then managed these farms of 500 acres for four years after Mr Gale’s death. In 1967 Ken met his future wife, Fay, at the Ilminster Young Farmers’ Club who also came from a city. Fay gained an NCA in dairying at Cannington Farm Institute. They married at Badgendon church near Cirencester on 21 September 1968 (31)

In 1974 the Mansbridges gained the tenancy of Marsh Farm, Wootton Fitzpaine, which was 52 acres. They started with one cow, five sows and £1000 of their own money. Since then they have bought a further 83 acres and also rent 35 acres giving the total farmed to 170 acres today. What a success story!


The Char Valley Parish Council, of which I am a councillor, has been producing this magazine for about 30 years. (32) After completing a Parish Plan in the late 1980s it was decided to produce a newsletter which would keep parishioners better informed about areas of interest. Elizabeth Fortescue, (33) who was Parish Clerk at that time, helped to launch the publication. There appears to be about 560 households in the whole parish which includes, Whitchurch Canonicorum, Wootton Fitzpaine, Fishpond, Monkton Wyld, Stanton St Gabriel, Ryall and Morcombelake. I took over distribution of it about 5 years ago. 600 copies are collected from Creeds the Printers and then several of us have to congregate somewhere to sort out which ones are going to be hand delivered, and which ones are going to be posted etc. (34)

A few parishioners want their copies emailed to them, but generally this is not the popular choice of distribution. In the past there was a system with address labels for the envelopes but this fell by the wayside several years ago. As we had more than usual to post this time our Parish Clerk has volunteered to set up a new labelling system for distributing any future editions. We adopted ‘time and motion systems’ to speed it all up – placing all the Country Code leaflets inside the Char Chats, stuffing the publications into envelopes and then placing them in piles of 10. Next we addressed all the envelopes to be posted. The penultimate task was to seal all the envelopes up in one go, and then get strips of stamps to finish the process. Let us hope that every parishioner will find the Char Chat an interesting read this week!


I feel it appropriate to write about this most engaging couple who have been such an integral part the local community for over 30 years. Our family had been visiting the Charmouth Practice for many years and it was like of breath of fresh air when the Beckers first arrived. Martin and Sue met whilst working at the Northampton General Hospital. In 1984 a friend encouraged the Beckers to contact Dr Hugh Beach who was looking for an in assistant in his practice in Charmouth. (35, 36) By 1985 Martin had to take over the day to day running of the surgery as Dr Beach suddenly became unwell and sadly died shortly after. Initially Martin had to be ‘caretaker’ while the powers that be searched for a more experienced practitioner. Eventually after adverts and two rounds of interviews he was formally awarded the practice in 1986 on the strength of the impressive changes he had already initiated including screening programmes and repeat prescribing systems.

In 1986 the Beckers moved into Littlehurst. (37) This is a Georgian, Grade 2 listed building and is recorded in the local archives as a former convalescence home opened in 1857 with none other than Florence Nightingal in attendance! These new premises offered patients a toilet for the first time and had its own car park. (38)

Sue joined Martin in the practice as a partner in 1988 and in the following year their first son, Matt was born, being the eldest of their 4 sons. The practice grew and flourished from that time. In 1995 they had a successful Nutritional Therapy clinic which showed a reduction in prescribing costs. Martin performed Minor Surgery and was a Chair of the Board of the Lyme Community Care Unit. The practice acquired a nurse’s room and later trained Felicity Perkin as their Nurse Practioner and Nurses’s prescriber who was joined by Debra Peters. About 10 years ago Felcity left to start up her farm shop in Morcombelake, so Sally Faulkner joined the complete the current excellent Nursing Team.

Sue finished her Nutritional Medicine training in 2008 and embarked on a Human Givens training which together has led to the establishment of her Good Mood and Food Clinic.

April Boyle, the trained Practice Manager at Littlehurst has an impressive array of resoussrces and skills. She was instrumental in negotiating all the many reorganisations, computerisations and local collaborations since her arrival. Other dedicated staff include Biddy Shannon, Sue Crannaford, Caroline Day and Jill Gale. Not one of the staff wanted to have their photo taken and hid in the outer office. (39) The waiting room is always welcoming and child friendly with plenty of reading material. (40)

About four years ago the Beckers (41) decided to cut back on their workload in readiness for their future retirement so Dr Alex Warner came as a locum, but has now joined the staff permanently. Dr Olivia Gill-Carey more recently has taken over some of Dr Sue’s clinics.

In 2017 the Dorset Evening Echo published the results of the national annual Patient Satisfaction Survey and the Beckers discovered that they were listed as No 1 in Dorset. In 2018 their ranking was 38th out of over 7400 practices in England. This is testment to great teamwork from the whole staff. The Beckers feel that they will be leaving the practice in excellent hands and great shape to continue on in whatever guise that may be.

Dr Sue is also very involved with her home village of Wootton Fitzpaine and regularly organises events through Artsreach in the village hall. (42)


Thank you to all the people who have helped me with this newsletter: Ros and Alan Woodbridge, Elizabeth Fortescue, Dr Sue Beckers, Caroline Lambert, Alisha Lambert, Henry Smith, Ann Studley, Ken Mansbridge, Adrian Goodfellow and Annette Marks.

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