Tag: Dorset

Bridport Vintage Market is under threat

Bridport Vintage market has become a fun place to meet friends, hunt for a quirky object, have a bite to eat, generally soak up a fairly laid-back and bohemian yet still working class and gritty atmosphere.

Locals love it as a place to meet mates, visitors love it because they’ll meet locals.

More importantly, the St Michael’s Trading Estate, now Bridport’s Art and Vintage Quarter is not  just artists and vintage sellers…
It’s home to many businesses…

Fossils and forts: Dorset’s Golden Coast secrets

If you’re lucky enough to live near Bridport, you live on Dorset’s Golden Coast. You may not know this, indeed most people I speak to don’t seem to realise. Having said that, it’s a name that stands to reason when you stand near our coastline with its tall cliffs hiding dinosaur bones and other secrets.

It’s not all coastline though. The countryside is also hiding a few secrets in its soil. Bronze age forts turned Napoleonic watch towers… who would have thought I’d ever write about that?

If you fancy a few more details you can read my blog post on the Bull Hotel website:

Dorset’s Golden Coast

Les Ateliers Ouverts de Bridport, Dorset Occidental

English version

Bridport et sa région du Dorset Occidental est un petit coin qui inspire les artistes, un peu comme la Normandie et ses ciels changeants avait inspiré les Impressionistes. Depuis 1999 les ateliers de Bridport s’ouvrent au public pour le ‘Bridport Open Studios’ et chaque année le nombre grandit. En 2011, c’est 100 artistes dans 58 lieux d’exposition qui ont offert à un public grandissant leurs oeuvres d’art au mois de Mai.

Les artistes sont variés, certains sont déjà cotés, d’autres débutent. Les prix sont en conséquence très différents suivant les artistes et les supports. Il y a bien sur des peintres, mais également de la sculpture, céramique, mobilier, photographie, textiles, illustrations, chapeaux, bijouterie ou gravure sur bois.

Même si tous les artistes ne représentent pas directement la Côte Jurassique dans leur art, les collines rondes ou les vallées cachées qui nous entourent, ils sont tous inspirés par l’atmosphère particulière et variée du Dorset Occidental. Au milieu d’une campagne agricole où bio est plutôt la norme, de monts d’où les vues sont un patchwork aux couleurs qui changent avec les saisons, d’une côte unique recélant des fossiles préhistoriques, on trouve une ville pleine de contrastes: Bridport.

Les temps ont changé pour ce port qui fournissait des cordes dans le monde entier, y compris aux bourreaux de Londres. La longue usine où les cordes étaient tressées à été adoptée par des artistes qui ont fait revivre cet espace industriel. Dans des petits villages proches mais presque perdus, d’autres artistes et artisans ont redonné vie à des écuries ou autres bâtiments agricoles, d’autres travaillent simplement de leur maison ou cottage.

C’est peut être cet éclectisme artistique et géographique qui fait que Bridport Open Studios attire maintenant des collectionneurs d’oeuvre d’art non seulement de la région mais également du Sud-Est de l’Angleterre.

La communauté d’artistes de Bridport m’ont demandé d’être leur ‘directeur d’évènement’ pour Les Ateliers Ouverts de Bridport de 2012.

Pour plus de détails sur les artistes qui ont exposé en 2011:

BridportOpenStudios

Artiste Andrew Leppard, copyright Nathalie Roberts

Bridport Open Studios 2011

Bridport Open Studios’ 2011 launch

Bridport and West Dorset Open Studios is becoming quite a busy affair if the launch at the Bull Hotel yesterday was anything to go by. It was a really pleasant evening filled with artists and art lovers. All the local artists who take part in the Bridport Open Studios submitted three 6×9″ artwork which was displayed along the long walls of the Ball Room with prices almost as eclectic as the art on show.

Affordable art
Having said that there was nothing above £90 so it was all affordable, even from more established artists like Kit Glaisyer or John Boyd. Many artists were there which was great for buyers who could have a chat with them and for artists who could tempt the art lover to come and see larger work in their studio in the coming week.

How did Bridport Open Studios start?
I had a chat with Caroline Ireland who started Bridport Open Studios in 1999. Back then, she knew there were a fair few artists working locally but there was a lack of outlets for showing their work and coordination was needed to reach out to the public. A few posters around the town, some meetings, a lot of hard work and the annual event was born. It gets bigger every year attracting more and more artists and art lovers.

This year, the team who organise the Bridport and West Dorset Open Studios was headed by fellow artist Philomena Harmsworth who directed the 10 day long event. With 58 venues, some with several artists, the usual August Bank Holiday weekend was getting too short if you wanted to see all the local artists studios (or even half!).

 7 year old art lover invests in an original watercolour
My favourite part of the evening, apart from chatting with several artists and friends, was to see seven year old Sarah proudly hand her £2 pocket money to buy an original work of art from Sheila Edmunds. Sheila is part of ‘Spectrum’ a collective of talented amateur artists who will show their work in the Friends Meeting House in South Street on Saturday 21st. As for little Sarah, she was very happy with her watercolour of a dog that she tells me she will hang in her room.

Bridport and West Dorset Open Studios, 21-30 May 2011.
Brochure with participating artists’ addresses available from Bridport Arts and Crafts, tourist information centre and many shops around Bridport or online:

Sarah buys a watercolour at the Bridport Open Studios

Fungi foray frolic in West Dorset

A fungal foray with John Wright is not mushroom hunting as I know it. Childhood memories of my mother’s picnics and my father whistling to keep hunters away are miles from a day at the Kingcombe Centre in West Dorset.

There are similarities of course. Baskets, knifes, eyes to the ground, a reassuring smell of decay when the nose gets closer to the undergrowth and that warm feeling of joy when a mushroom is found. Or a toadstool.

The point of taking part in a foray with Mr Mushroom himself is to learn. There were a few newbies like me and a few reoffenders who clearly thought it was worth re-foraging with Mr Wright. The world of fungi is a vast underground world where the initiated want to learn more and the foodies don’t want to go home empty handed.

Our foray was at the Kingcombe Centre in West Dorset, part of a Nature Reserve where the fields have never seen fertiliser, where the preservation of our local ecosystem is not a fashion. A very special place not just for the lucky visitors but also for the underworld. The 75 different types of fungi we found in about four hours should prove my point. Only one do I uncompromisingly know, a very exciting one at that, a chanterelle.

Our first lucky find in the hedge outside Kingcombe Centre was tall, thick stemmed, white with a greenish cap. It brought a big smile to John’s face as he dug it from the ground, bag at the base and all. He proudly showed the group and introduced us to the one mushroom you should avoid at all costs: The Death Cap. Need I say more. Not as pretty as its red and white cousin that fairies are keen on but more dangerous.

Of the remaining 73, I had come across a few but could sadly name none fully. English name or latin name. A beautifully fat boletus find was quite exciting. Being red though, it was totally the wrong colour for supper but perfect for a photo opportunity. John obliged by holding it up against the cloudless blue sky.

I still don’t know the difference between a toadstool and a mushroom. I might be the proud owner of a signed copy of the River Cottage Handbook No. 1 (John commented that he was honoured to sign his ‘Mushrooms’ book for a Française, cheeky charmer) but to me, they’re still all Champignons. All 4,000 species that you can find in Britain.

I learnt lots of interesting facts about fungi. For a start, they are the reproductive organ of a world that lives underground. From there, inevitable sexual innuendoes follow. How about the nipples on the magic ones that can take you to seventh heaven or leave you sorely disappointed and a carefully pronounced volva at the base of the hard stem of the Amanita phalloides. I’ll leave it at that, not my forte, I was brought up by a Catholic mother who was master picnic organiser but stayed away from such language. John on the the hand was far more masterful with his words, let alone knowledge, and had us giggling throughout the day.

A few titbits I gathered were of far greater interest. The reason mushrooms are often found at the edge of a wood or near a car park is not, as I thought, because mushrooms need a bit of sunshine to warm their caps but because the organism that lives under the ground is suddenly worried that the environment it is thriving in is running out. Time to reproduce and out come the fruits for spores -babies in the making- to be scattered, and for animals to pick, munch or nibble.

Of far more interest for my stomach is that the mushrooms my family still hunt for, once the first rains have blessed the sunny South of France and its pine and oak forests, can be found in this country. The Saffron Milkcap. For once, the clue is in the Latin name: Lactarius deliciosus. I found one years ago, somewhere in the South West and John confirmed you can find them in this country. I wasn’t dreaming after all.

Should I tell you where? If a delicious mushroom is to be found, should its location be shared? Well, here is one thing the French and the English have in common. My Dorset farmer friend and his father don’t share their secrets for Field Mushrooms hotspots with each other. My family don’t divulge their pine forest autumn picnic locations to all and sundry.

It looks like I will be spending the next few years hunting in pine and oak woods of Dorset to leave my children our own little mushroom secrets. I’ll be thanking John for renewing my love of the forest undergrowth, his little book in my basket, keeping away from beautiful white tall mushrooms with a volva.

John Wright shows off the Death Cap:

John Wright's Death Cap

Photogenic Boletus:

Beautiful boletus

Kingcombe Centre courses:

http://www.kingcombe.org/courses/intro.aspx

Basket beauties in Bridport

When tutor Andy asked what type of basket we’d like to make, I can’t say I’d given it much thought before I started the willow weaving course. A last minute booking for a workshop in Highway Farm B&B in Bridport meant I had just turned up in my cotton shirt; and clearly an empty head. Thankfully owner Pauline took pity on me and lent me a fleece.

I racked my sleepy brain for inspiration and a little light came on when I saw a beautiful platter Andy had made. A woman in period costume was picking flowers and putting them softly in a lovely flat basket. The romantic image from a period film seen years ago came flashing back. I knew what I wanted to do.

It quickly transpired that everybody else was doing a properly woven basket and I wasn’t. Virgo Vicki was making a waste paper basket (as a Virgo would), Experienced Ellie was weaving a blackberry beauty, Friendly Florence was longing for a log carrier, Mum Mel was going to fashion hearts for her daughter’s wedding and Chatty Charlie kept changing her mind.

They started weaving a round base in a circular ‘under-and-over’ then added a dozen stiff spokes at regular intervals for the sides. Friendly Florence put the contraption on her head and took a model pose. She wouldn’t have been out of place at Bridport’s Hat Festival. She may have found it a bit inconvenient to circulate around the market with 2 metres long twigs around her head but it was a good giggle around the barn.

Who would have thought basket weaving could be dangerous though? There I was concentrating on my over-under-over-under-ouch-oops, sorry! I had poked Chatty Charlie in the eye. Thankfully, she was able to finish her basket, the only one with a prison-window-with-bars type handles under the rim; rather than the large over the rim number that you rest on your arm; or the two small handles for heavy loads. Once you start looking into willow baskets, you wouldn’t believe the possible permutations.

And once we started weaving our willow baskets, there was no stopping us either. Except I was getting hungry. Pauline had told us to come and have lunch around one-ish and we were getting closer to two-ish. The soup and homemade bread went down a treat among chatter and laughs. Big house down the road being sold, content and all, Hat Festival update, Andy’s moving malarchy and Pauline’s new blog stories. Pauline, if you read this, you did promise a recipe for your pudding…

As for my fancy flower friend (I refuse to call it a trug, ugly name), I am over the moon with the result. I took home a basket like I’ve never seen before and have been looking at twigs from my hedge trimming this weekend in a new light: under-over-under-over.

What shall I make next? Well… since you ask. Pauline does a weekend workshop for hazel garden furniture. I’m on the waiting list hoping someone will change their mind.

Update: Experienced Ellie made a horse’s head the next day, have a look here.

The inn down the lane

From nouvelle cuisine to a country pub down a tarmac lane so remote, it has grass growing on it. The sun is shining so we decide to drive around West Dorset lanes just for the sake of the views and find the Three Horseshoes Inn just around lunch time.

Pub with rooms. The menu is more gastro than old boys’ local and they’ve run out of Bath chaps and Hooke Farm trout. No matter, I fancy a Blue Vinney ploughman and the husband goes for battered cod with triple cooked chips. Yep, good ol’ fish and chips for lunch. Takes all sorts.

We can hear children as we sit down on the terrace with wide green views. You’d think they are just behind the wall, a perfect demonstration of how sound works in amphitheatre. A few minutes later, the school below starts work again for the afternoon so the only sounds left are the birds, the wind in the parasols and a distant dog listening to himself. Otherwise you’d wonder whether there’s much life around.

When my square wooden platter arrives I pull a face. There’s a heap of thin and pretty greenery on the edge and I am wondering how to eat this without half of it ending up on the floor. It looks like young sweet pea shoots and tastes delicious. Brain figures that fingers are de rigueur. If the man in the nice restaurant in France (many years back) thought it was OK for me to eat with my fingers because chefs don’t like plates coming back with food, then why not?

Apart from the juicy shoots, there was a large chunk of blue veined Dorset delight, some very light and airy home made bread and two chutneys. The first was classically vinegary with soft fruits -no crunchy out of a jar sharp stuff here-  the other more of a compote that has not reached mushy state so the soft bits of fruits have a gentle texture. This one would have probably complimented a Farmhouse Cheddar better, Blue Vinney being a bit stronger it overtook the palate (ok, killed the fruits if you prefer).

The husband enjoyed his triple cooked chips and battered cod. The cod portion was large enough and the batter was a bit on the heavy side but the chips were deemed delicious. There is a price to pay for triple cooked chips at lunchtime and I can hear the husband snoozing. You can’t beat a Ploughman in a country pub. And as country pubs go, this one sure has the location, a great terrace with half a dozen tables, the pretty church next door and new owners.

Our terrace neighbours said: “Very pretty but I wouldn’t want to live here; silly little roads”. Fair enough, this is a place you come to because you like being remote. No marquee, no sea views, just an inn and a village. The Jurassic Coast may be down the lane, it may as well be abroad. That’s why I liked the place.

Ploughman: £7

Battered cod + triple cooked chips: £11

Three Horseshoes Inn, Powerstock

Oil tankers off Unesco World Heritage Coast: Erika disaster waiting to happen?

The French Appeal Courts have ruled that oil company Total is guilty but not responsible for the oil spillage that wrecked the Coast of Western France in 1999. Why? Because the boat owners are responsible, not the oil company.

The Erika disaster happened eleven years ago and Total will probably go to the High Court. Total’s press release points out they’ve spent millions on cleaning the coast. I just remember the images of birds and seaside covered in black goo. Other similar disasters have happened since.

I really don’t care who is responsible. What I do care about is not only the beautiful coast on my doorstep but the rest of the seas and coasts.

I’ve always found it odd that there seems to be tankers on the horizon along the Jurassic Coast going nowhere in particular. This is a coast of international interest, Unesco listed, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, partly owned by the National Trust. Does that count for nothing?

I’m sure the boat owners would say that these boats are perfectly safe which by boat standards they may well be. I don’t want to get into the reasons why they are there. Waiting for oil prices to go up?

The point is, if they are going from A to B fine, I still buy petrol for my car. If they are transporting a substance that is known to be harmful to the surroundings they travel in, then surely they should not be allowed to spend any more time than they have to. Trawlers have already been banned in parts of the bay. If it is acceptable to prevent local people to earn a living for the good of the wider community, then surely the same can be applied to companies whose activities put an area at high risk of losing a large part of its livelihood. Not to mention the rare wildlife or the ecological implications.

According to an article in the Western Morning News (11/03/2010) the government is aware of the situation but there are no statutory restrictions on the number of ships that can be in an area at any one time. Again, I don’t care which government is in power, this is an international matter. But one that needs to be dealt with.

In the meanwhile, let’s hope nothing happens. Let’s hope indeed that 2012 don’t have a new Olympic event due to Sailing being cancelled: “Coast Cleaning”.