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CAMPSITE

During this month we had a group of sixteen 15 year old students from an East Devon school camping for one night as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. This involved them walking with all their camping and cooking gear for seven miles from a pub in Somerset to Crabbs Bluntshay. They had to organise erecting their tents and did all their own cooking. (1, 2) Several leaders were in attendance. They all left quite early the next morning with paint on their faces ready to walk the 7 miles back to the Somerset pub. (3)

FARM

We have been cutting the sides of hedges “hard back” in order to do some new fencing later on. In one field we reclaimed quite a lot of land that the mower and the hedge trimmer had not reached for sometime. (4) It is the farmer’s duty to cut all the roadside hedges every year, (5) but it is the local council’s job to do the verges. (6) In some cases the farmers have done their own verges to keep the roads safe, especially for cyclists. (7) Silage bales always generate a lot of plastic netting (8) and wrapping (9) and this has to be bagged up and eventually collected by a recycling firm once a year.

GARDEN

The garden is still full of autumnal colours. The Sumac shrub pops up everywhere as it is spread by animal droppings and by new shoots from rhizomes. The Sumac was used as a treatment for half a dozen ailments in medieval medicine. (10) The Yucca is native to arid parts of North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean. In the Midwest US they are know as “ghosts in the graveyard” because the cluster of pale flowers on a thin stalk appear as floating apparitions in rural graveyards. Pampas grass continues to give colour right into the winter. (11) In late winter it has to be cut right back, or some people will burn it, but it still bounces back once the warmer weather comes. In New Zealand and Hawaii is it banned because it is considered too invasive. This plant, (12) which started off in a pot, appears to be quite invasive. The only reason I grow it is because it was my grandmother Creed’s favourite plant when she lived at Bluntshay but she died at a young age in the flu epidemic in 1919 – so it remains in her memory. I have been waiting for a very long time for the walnut tree I planted when I returned from London to fruit. This year it has finally produced 10 walnuts!** Although my sunflowers are over the birds love pecking at the seeds. (13) (one can be seen the in centre of the photo intently having his breakfast). One morning as I let my geese out I saw dozens of beautiful cobwebs shimmering in the sunlight. (14) As usual I have had lots of grapes this year and have been giving them away to caravanners and friends. (15)

THE MELPLASH AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY’S PLOUGHING MATCH

This was started as a result of a wager between two farmers in 1847 at Melplash, near Bridport. Ploughing matches began in the early 1800s as part of the celebrations at the end of an exhausting harvesting. They were followed by a social event for both the landowners and farm workers. The competition was a chance for the ploughmen to boast that they were the best and landowners to compete against each other. The original matches were with horse and plough, but in the 1940s (precipitated by WW2) tractor ploughing was introduced. Forty tractors took part, (16) the oldest one being a 1948 Ford. (17) Ploughing is a highly skilled art. The judges are looking for 1) The Crown (18) which is a small furrow which should be cut on the first run, 2) Firmness – this will be tested by the judge standing on the furrow, 3) relationship to the other furrows – each furrow should be of equal width and depth, 4) All furrows should be straight, (19) 5) the ends of rows should be uniform (20) and the lowering and raising of the plough should not have caused any untidy sections, and 6) the final furrow should be level with the original crown. It was truly a very interesting experience in the heart of West Dorset.

 

PLANNING MEETINGS FOR THE PARISH COUNCIL

Part of my role on the Parish Council is to go out on Planning Meetings to look at applications for new buildings. At least two of us need to go on the visit and over the last few years we have seen a glamping project which involved Tunnel Pods, proposed sites for a covered yard, solar panels and a swimming pool. (21, 22, 23, 24) Afterwards we have to have a meeting to agree what is going to be written on the forms which are sent to the Planning Department in Dorchester. (25)

THE BRIDPORT HAT FESTIVAL

This was a completely new idea which was started 5 years ago by Roger Snook (of T Snook Hatters and Outfitters) (26) who thought it was about time that people started wearing hats again. It was a roaring success from the very beginning. The whole of a long weekend at the beginning of September is taken over by “hat mania” with hatters and milliners trade stalls (27) and competitions, hat hurling, cocktails and fascinators, Fun Hat competitions – best ladies, gents, girls and boys, (28, 29, 30, 31) most elegantly hatted couple, best hatted market trader and the best hatted dog, a hatty dance and a Mad Hatters Luncheon Party. At lunch time on the Saturday every hatted person gathers around Bucky Doo Square in the centre of Bridport for a Mass Hatted Photo, which is something to behold! Roger Snook says that people are definitely wearing hats more since the first HatFest and he now gets hat orders from all over the world. A visit to his shop in Bridport is definitely a must (32, 33, 34) Roger instigated the first HatFest in England, now there are another 6 towns in the country following suit.

A GATE WITH A HISTORY

An initialled gate made by Edward Thomas Huxter at Whitchurch Canonicorum in the 1870s has been rediscovered and restored, and been given a much deserved pride of place once more in the centre of the village at the Old Post Office. (35)

Edward, one of 18 children, (36) was a blacksmith who trained in the Marshwood Vale before moving to Penge in South East London to set up his own business. He continued as a blacksmith there until his death in 1921.

His granddaughter Audrey, born in Sydenham, South East London, volunteered as a land girl during WW2 and was posted to Beaminster. She was sent to Birdshay Farm in Whitchurch during a very cold winter to help the farmer lift mangolds. His brother Peter turned up and in the months that followed Peter and Audrey became an item. They were married in 1950 and have lived in West Dorset ever since. (37)

It is a very interesting path that brought Audrey down from London after tragically losing both her parents at a young age to land up beginning her family life with Peter a few yards from where her grandfather had left a piece of his work. This is a special bit of history for Audrey, Peter, their 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren, linking the past and the present through a gate. The Huxters in West Dorset date back to Samuel Huxter who married at the old church in Stanton St Gabriel (on the outskirts of the parish of Whitchurch) in 1750. There are dozens of his descendants still living in the area (including me).

A FEW LOCAL SAYING OR WORDS IN DIALECT

poke in round – drop in for a social visit
bum bye – later on/tonight
mar maarning – tomorrow morning
‘ee be bad – he is ill
oi be all cockeyed – I am confused
yer we bee – here we are
ows zat you ant – how is it that you didn’t
she be four foot and a tiddy (potato) – she is very short
they don’t shut it – they don’t get on

**This has just been given to me as a local saying which must date back to before Equal Rights and Animal Rights

A woman, a donkey and a walnut tree
The more you beat ’em the better they be

One can only assume that the beating of a walnut tree would make it more resilient to bad conditions and thus produce better walnuts! I must say that I have not beaten my walnut tree!

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