Share Button


I have had a few hardy campers arrive at the site since the main season was over. One of these was a lady with a Newfoundland dog. (1) It was called Poli after a wine. She said she called all her dogs after wines. Poli was 11 years old. As can be expected the breed originated in Canada. They were originally bred and used as working dogs for fishermen in Newfoundland. They are known for their giant size, intelligence, tremendous strength, calm disposition and loyalty. Newfoundland dogs excel at water rescue/lifesaving because of their muscular build, thick double (waterproof) coat, webbed feet, and innate swimming abilities. Males can weigh up to 80 kg, whereas females can be 65 kg. You may notice that there are sweet peas on Poli’s collar, these being the last of the season, cut at the end of October.


I have had a very traumatic time on the farm during the last month, with all the cows calving. (2) They all produced big calves which caused problems during the calving process. In one case a cow had a prolapse and had to be stitched up. Another needed a caesarean operation, which was fascinating to watch but meant that the calf was born dead. Fortunately the cow recovered. On two occasions vets had to come and pull the calves out, both of which were big healthy animals. Unfortunately another cow had problems with its back legs after calving and was not able to rear its calf. (3) This particular calf was given a surrogate mother (the one that had a caesarean, No 64) and both were put into a pen separately from the other animals, so that they would bond. (4, 5)

The vet was called on numerous occasions during this period, (6) and this one and one of his colleagues took an hour and 40 minutes to calve the last cow, which had to be sedated. Once it was born the calf had to be encouraged to suckle. (7) During the bonding process No 64 was given cow cake to encourage her milk flow. Once the cow and calf were put back in with the other animals, she still expected her cow cake. In fact, she is waiting for me as soon as I come into the yard every morning. Obviously the other cows are rather miffed by this and so now I have to separate her from the others to give her her treat. (8, 9)


When I ordered these dahlias they were all supposed to be the small pom pom variety, but whether the labeling of the packets was incorrect or the company was trying to get rid of old stock, I ended up with large maroon dahlias. (10) These were far too big to sell to the local farm shop so I took a form to the last Exchange Cafe at Whitchurch church recently and got a list of people who would like free tubers when they are dug up in a week or so. I did send photos of this dahlia to a dealer for him to identify the variety, but he has never replied to my enquiry.

The early history of dahlias is lost to the mists of time, as they were cultivated by the Aztecs in Mexico and Central America, prior to the Spanish Conquest. The Aztecs used parts of the dahlia for food and medicines, but most of this information cannot be verified, as it was destroyed.


Personnel at the LSI allowed me to house my exhibition in the Court Yard of this newly refurbished building. I had help bringing in the boards and bricks (to prop up the boards) the night before the event. The small tables were also delivered at this time. Nesta helped with assembling the exhibition, but we decided that the tables needed to be covered with brown paper which matched the décor of the room. So we had to get into the building an hour before it opened the next day, and quickly made the adjustments. (11, 12) It was interesting taking photos from the floor above to get a different angle. (13, 14, 15, 16, 17)


The Char Valley Parish Council decided that its contribution to Armistice Day and the end of the 100th anniversary year of WW1 would be to repaint the lettering on the War Memorial. (18, 19) by a professional sign writer/letter cutter and artist, namely Zoe Cull. Councillor Richard Colby organised the work and recalled that his father, local artist Horace Colby, had last painted the lettering over 40 years ago. There were 21 servicemen listed, 17 from WW1 and 4 from WW2. Many local towns and villages have purchased ‘a silent soldier’ (20) to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, but our parish council decided against this.


Recently I attended a very interesting talk given by Professor Jim Rose at the Charmouth Heritage Centre, Charmouth. (21) The PowerPoint presentation was entitled Charmouth during the Ice Age. (22) Charmouth wasn’t actually covered with Ice during the Ice Age. The ice only extended roughly to where the Bristol Channel is today. So the area discussed had tundra conditions at that time. During the presentation the effects of soil formation, land uplift, rivers, slope movements, permafrost and animal and plant remains were discussed. I couldn’t even begin to explain the processes that went on during that period. Nevertheless the Centre was packed with attendees, who were enthralled by these pearls of wisdom. (23)

Volunteers at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre recently received the highest award that a voluntary group can receive in the UK, being The Queen’s Award. (24, 25) The Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell, presented the Award to the volunteers. The Centre has over 60 volunteers and welcome around 100,00 visitors each year. (26) Donations to the Centre help generate funds, along with events and purchases from the shop. (27)


(28) A barn dance was held recently at the Whitchurch Village Hall. This was the idea of George Smith, who plays in the Band. (He can trace his ancestors back at least 250 years in the village). This was to raise funds for the Friends of St Candida (Whitchurch Church) and to generally have a wonderful night out! It was the first barn dance in the hall for a very long time and was organised by Briony. I didn’t arrive until 8.30 by which time I had missed the first half but was just in time for a sumptuous buffet. (29, 30) The hall was packed with dancers from far and wide. (31, 32, 33) Chris and John were in charge of the bar, which was kept pretty busy during the evening. (34) The raffle had lots of good prizes (35) and the lucky numbers were drawn in the interval. (36)

Wyld Band were the musicians for the evening. (37, 38) This group has developed from being one accordionist playing for the Wyld Band about 10 years ago, to a band in its own right of up to 10 musicians today. Ruth Jenkins has been the driver for organising the band for barn dances and other events since its inception. Ruth was the caller for the first half of the dance. I stayed to watch the first two dances of the second half. The caller was Vince O’Farrel, (39) who did a sterling job organising dancers, some with 2 left feet, so that by the third attempt he had a roomful of people swirling around the dance floor as if they had been doing it for years! The first dance was called La Chapelloise (a French dance) (40, 41). The second one was the Oxo Reel (42, 43) which took a few rounds to get into its stride.

The event made over £400 for the Friends of St Candida, and a great time was had by all.

Today barn dancing provides the same function that it did hundreds of year ago. It provides a group, family or community with the opportunity to socialise and celebrate. The origins appear to date back to courtly dances held by the wealthy land owning gentry. In the early 1800s in England and Scotland farm workers went to barns to imitate the ball room dancing of their landlords, and it all developed from there.


This building probably goes back to the 1600s, but the pub dates from 1745 and has retained many of its classic features and was awarded Best Pub Garden of the Year for 2017 by CAMRA. (44, 45) My Tuesday Lunch Club recently visited this pub for a delicious meal (46) which included homemade sweets (puddings). (47) The garden at these premises was impressive (48), with a children’s play area (49) and a minibeast mansion. (50)

Isaac Gulliver, (1745-1822) (51**) who had close associations with the Spyway Inn, was considered one of the greatest and most notorious smugglers in the west of England. Gulliver and his gang ran fifteen luggers to transport gin, silk, lace and tea from the Continent to Poole. They came to control the coast from Lymington on the Solent in Hampshire through Dorset to Torbay in Devon. He became a very wealthy man and built many grand houses. A 1788 report from the Custom House, Poole, to His Majesty’s Commissioners of Customs in London mentioned “In the year 1782 Gulliver took the benefit of his Majesty’s proclamation for pardoning such offences”. Gulliver became a respected citizen gentlemen and banker. He died on Friday 13th September 1822 leaving an estate of £60,000 with property across Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset.

**by Olbigsoul, Wikipedia.


Thank you to all the people who have helped me with this newsletter: Spyway Inn publican, Carolyn Peck, Richard Colby, Jim Rose, Geoff Townsend, Ruth Jenkins, Vince O’Farrell and Briony Blair.

Share Button