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A professional photographer stayed in August and took some brilliantly atmospheric shots around the campsite and at local beauty spots.(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

The son of someone I used to attend the Young Farmers’ Club with returned to the site on August Bank Holiday with his family in a motorbike and sidecar. (6, 7) This created a lot of interest amongst campers with several children wanting to sit inside the sidecar. This was fitted out with all home comforts including a sound and DVD system for their daughter. The bike is a Yamaha fj 1200, 125 hp 1989 model. He bought it so that it was powerful enough to have a sidecar unit attached to it. The sidecar is late 1940s. The bike and sidecar did 3700 miles during the summer of 2017.

During the summer a couple in a camper van returned to the site for the start of an exciting nomadic journey around the country. They had vacated their rented accommodation and were looking forward to living in their van for an indefinite period. Unfortunately during the third day of their stay at Crabbs Bluntshay they had a head on collison with a car in the lanes and their van had to be towed to a garage in Dorchester and the couple had to find accommodation in a hotel. I still have their drying rack, hookup lead and cleaning material in my garage in the hopes that they will come back and fetch it all sometime and continue their dream holiday. But alas I haven’t heard from them. How sad that their adventure was so short lived.


One lot of animals were brought in for the winter over the weekend. They had to be “tolled” (Dorset word for enticing an animal or bird) into the yard with a bucket of cow cake, (8, 9) and then rushed into the covered yard (10) which will be their winter home. Extra gates had to be tied up to deter the animals from jumping out into the yard. (11) There is a young hired Simmental bull running with the herd at the moment. (12) His official name is Ryall Hannibal and he is 14 months old. He is the most attractive bull I have ever seen with long eye lashes and wavy hair on its forehead. An old trailer which is in the process of being refurbished had to be moved out of the smaller yard. (13) As it is now wider than when trailer was put into the yard, it was debatable whether it would go out the through narrow road gateway (which has very old stone gate posts). (14, 15) Fortunately after the fourth attempt and a flexible hedge on the other side of the road it made its way onto the lane down to its new home.

The turkeys arrived a few weeks ago and are behaving themselves at present. There has been no noticeable bullying with bleeding necks yet. (16)

Apples are in abundance this year. (17) I have been trying to give them away to anyone who will take them. Unfortunately everyone with an orchard also has thousands of them.


My husband entered his second ploughing match and my Canadian cousin and I went along to have a look and meet some of the other supporters. (18) We then went on to Seatown to the prize winning Anchor Inn for a meal, where you can get your National Trust parking ticket refunded if you spend over a certain amount at the pub. As the weather was good we sat outside overlooking the beach. (19) Later we took a stroll along the beach with the three rescue greyhounds Rocket, Chester and Rosie. (20, 21) They were brought over from Ireland and have settled well into Dorset.

A lot has been written about greyhounds and make for very interesting reading. Some of the oldest known depictions of greyhound-like dogs were found in Turkey in temple drawings from 6,000 BC. They were the first breed of dog named in western literature, namely, in The Odyssey, written by Homer in 800 BC. Admired for the their incredible sight (they can see for distances up to 1000 metres) and unsurpassed agility and speed, greyhounds were highly thought of as capable hunting companions. It was the aesthetic beauty of these dogs that saw them compared to the likes of the Roman God Apollo, and it was their inner beauty that saw them by the hearths, and by the sides of their human companions for hundreds of years. For centuries to come, greyhounds would be associated with nobility and royalty.


This new venture was recently opened at Marshwood Manor, Bettiscombe, in the Marshwood Vale. (22, 23) The owner who rents out 6 holiday cottages, and has over 1,000 guests a year, initially had the idea of opening a shop just for her guests but later decided to expand it so that local people could use the facility. The actual building is converted from stables (24, 25). Inside there is food, gifts, homewares, outdoor supplies, luxury goods and essentials (including crossword puzzles and Sudoku books). (26, 27, 28, 29, 30) In sourcing the gift and souvenir section the work of seven local artisans can be found which includes ceramics and pottery. At the beginning of October MM Stores held a Macmillan coffee morning, when £127.00 was raised. At the moment there are facilities to have coffee (and a chat) at the store, and it is hoped that besides tea and coffee there will be toasted sandwiches available in the summer. The newly refurbished accommodation has appropriate names such as The Tack Rooms, The Grain Store and The Hay Loft (31, 32, 33, 34)


It seems that the whole country was affected by Hurricane Ophelia. By mid morning on 16th October the light seemed to be fading just as if it was nightfall. (35) I felt it was very spooky and wondered whether Krakatoa had erupted again after over 100 years in Indonesia spreading its dust around the world. From a high point from Ryall, near Whitchurch, the Marshwood Vale was covered with an ochre coloured mist. At Crabbs Bluntshay a red sun was pointed out to me (36) which quickly disappeared behind the clouds. Cars in the district were covered with a fine dust. The media then explained that Hurricane Ophelia had whipped up sand from the Sahara, carried it out into the Atlantic and up to Britain. En route is started wildfires on the Iberian Peninsular. Ophelia has been the sixth major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic season.


It is difficult to know where to start. The Bagwells, from farming stock, came from Wiltshire in the 1700s, thence to Weymouth and eventually to the Marshwood Vale. His mother’s family, the Lumbards, also farmers, came from the Hawkchurch, Devon area and can also be traced back to the 1700s.

Les has been farming at Luccombe Farm, near Netherbury since 1952. He bought his first tractor, an Alice Chalmers, in 1952 and then a Massey Ferguson in 1960. (37, 38) The second tractor lasted for 25 years. He first started farming with his mother until he married Joan Strawbridge in 1959. (39) Sadly Joan died in 2015. Since then his daughter Della has been farming with Les. Originally Luccombe was a dairy farm starting off with 4 cows, and ending up with 35, which was the maximum that the farm could carry. Firstly they milked the cows by hand, with a Tilley lamp, and then by generator, until 1966 when the National Grid brought electricity to the West Dorset countryside. The milk was despatched to the milk factory by ten gallon churns up to a milk stand at the end of the 9/10 mile farm track to North Bowood Farm, a short distance from the B3162 road. In 1980 all that changed and milk tankers were introduced. The large milk tankers were too big to get to Luccombe so Les had to transport his 100 gallons in a smaller one to the next farm for it to be collected. Unfortunately the big tanker arrived at 7,30 am which mean that Les had to start milking at 4 am. After coping with this very early morning milking experience for a year Les gave up milking cows and started keeping beef and sheep. (40)

Luccombe Farm is a Grade II listed building which also includes the railings at the front of the farm house, and part of the water system in the garden. (41) Luccombe means “enclosed valley” or “courting valley”, combe meaning valley in these parts of the West Country.

Les was born at Filcombe Farm, on the border between Morcombelake and Chideock, near Golden Cap, the highest cliff on the south coast. The whole family (his parents, one brother and three sisters) later moved up to Pilsdon Barn Farm, Pilsdon. Les went to Marshwood School until he was eleven and then onto Thorncombe until he was thirteen. He left school at this point and went to work for his father. It was 1941 and Britain was at war. After three years he left to join the Dorset CC to work on the roads (for 12/6 a day!)

After the war was over one of his uncles, Robert Lumbard, came over from Canada to see his relatives in West Dorset. Robert had emigrated from West Dorset to Canada in 1929 at the age of 16 – less than a year after being godfather to Les. This photo shows Robert with his older sister in 1920. (42) Robert’s exciting stories of his life so far filled Les with the wanderlust and in 1949 he set off for Canada from Southampton on the RMS Aquitania. (43) His sisters Dorothy and Edna travelled to Southampton to wave him goodbye. (44) The six day voyage was the biggest adventure that Les had had so far. He disembarked at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then took a 1000 mile train journey to Peterborough, Ontario to meet up with his uncle Robert. He arrived on the Wednesday and started working as a farmhand on the following Monday. (45) His boss said if Les stayed working for him for a year he would give him a $50 bonus. This is what Les did before setting off on a Greyhound coach from Toronto, through Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis and Fargo and to Montana before returning the Canada. In Canada he travelled to Fort Macleod, Alberta, the oldest fort in Canada, where the Mounties are based. That journey was 2,000 miles. He met up with one of his father’s brothers at this point, Tom Bagwell. Les worked for 8 months on his uncle’s farm. He can remember cutting the corn with a binder drawn by two horses. He would start at six in the morning and work till dark, “stitching up the sheaves” (putting into stooks).

During his stay in Canada Les’ father died suddenly from Polio. The whole family at Pilsdon Barn had been in contact with the person who brought it back from abroad. Everyone in the family was touched by it, but unfortunately it killed Mr Bagwell. He was only 50. As the Bagwells had been tenants Les’ mother Lily was given 12 months’ notice to get out. Les had no alternative but to return to West Dorset to help his mother, She had lost her husband, her home, and when there was a farm sale everything on the farm was sold. In 1952 Luccombe came up for rent and the Bagwells moved in and have been there ever since. Les may be the longest serving tenant farmer in Britain!.

Les and Joan visited Canada in 1989, forty years after his first trip and visited people and places from the past. (46, 47, 48) His uncle Robert Lumbard later visited West Dorset many times with various grand daughters. Bob and his wife Beatrice celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1985. (49)

Les has been a judge at the Melplash Show’s Hedging competition for many years. (50)

Besides farming, a constant in Les’ life has been skittles, He started young, in his early teens, winning a calf in a wartime competition. He is locally known as “The Skittle King” or “The Legend” for miles around. He has belonged to the Bridport League, Seavington Hunt League and the Crewkerne Farmers League and has won dozens of cups over the years. (51, 52). He is still playing skittles at the ripe old age of 89 and is probably the oldest skittler in Dorset and possibly the West Country.

Here is Les in action at the Royal Oak pub, Drimpton. (53, 54) His skittling team included Lester Eveleigh, Matthews Curtis, Mike Frampton, Dan Frampton, Richard Frampton and Wayne Lawrence. (55) The highest scorer of the night was Les (of course!) with 48. The person “sticking up” was Nicola Johnson whose grandparents live in the Marshwood Vale. (56) The Royal Oak is the base for the Crewkerne Farmers’ League and the relatively new landlord is John Donoghue. (57)


Thank you to all the people who have helped me with this newsletter: Les Bagwell, Della Ward, Heather Love, Caroline Lambert, Romla Ryan, Belinda Bailey, Vicki Haines, Julie Folkes and Andy (motorbike)

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