Tag: West Dorset

Rampisham mast coming down

A few months back I went to see one of the last BBC Worldwide masts being taken down on Rampisham Downs. They were used them for 70 years until digital came along and the massive metal monsters became redundant.

A little video of the last days of the Rampisham Masts.

Fat Rascals for a Beaminster Tweet-up

Do people tweet in Beaminster? Oh yes… they even have tweet-ups. The first West Dorset tweet-up was in December 2010. Where? @matkiwi’s Wild Garlic. Almost two years and half a dozen tweet-ups later, the latest WD twitter gathering was @cafeannday.

@tim_harrap a self proclaimed chatter box and keen tweeter (aka @BritishCheese) helped witty writer and blogger of note @maddiegrigg organise a ‘leaving do’ to celebrate her Big Fat Greek Gap Year. She may be leaving West Dorset’s rural underbelly for a while but of course she’ll only be 140 characters away in the twittersphere.

Meanwhile, face to face in Beaminster they discussed travel plans helped by a few Fat Rascals.

Fat Rascals at Cafe Ann Day Beaminster with Tim and Maddie, WD tweetup
Fat Rascals -kindly offered by @cafeannday- and tweeters @tim_harrap and @maddie_grigg.

A few minutes later, a few more faces arrived.

WD tweetup at Cafe Ann Day Beaminster, September 2012
WD tweetup at Cafe Ann Day Beaminster, September 2012

Beaminster resident @Willoqueau and her other half -sitting next to Tim- didn’t have far to come. Bridport’s @tamsinchan and @DorsetScouser (aka @DorsetbyNight) came along for the first time.

@jurrassiccoastin and @missseapeaches at WD tweetup September 2012
@jurrassiccoastin and @missseapeaches at WD tweetup September 2012

@jurassiccoastin and @missseapeaches popped in on their way to Dartmoor; by which time I clearly had serious phone shake (was it two coffees I had?), @dorset_flickr will be happy I missed her in the shot.

@marion_taylor deserted Dorset for Somerset for the day. Unforgivable. @markthegarlic threatened to drive past with his tractor ‘Im working all weekend sorry’. We didn’t spot him. Too busy eating Fat Rascals.

@theredbladder did not make it as he has a ‘firm and unshakable belief that after Melplash one is in danger of dropping off the edge’. Understandable. Some Dorset things don’t change.

Others do; like live tweeting on air from Beaminster. @zsk was working in Dorchester on her Big Dorset Brunch so she just brought the tweet-up to her BBC Radio Solent show via @tim_harrap and his phone who shared his Twitter thoughts with her listeners. Possibly in 1.40 minutes.

And talking about Beaminster, some people have a shop counter, scissors or knives between them and a social cuppa (what do you mean better things to do?) … but tweet they do: @greendrawers, @eatdorset (pop in at Green Drawers to meet them both) @dorsetretail (he’s at Cilla and Camilla) and @marketingWestUK, @mellymop123, @helendorset not forgetting @matkiwi, all otherwise engaged.

A few usual tweeter-upers sent their apologies @MrCliveC, @Sophia_Moseley, @Loumat33, @realwestdorset, @watershedpr and were missed. A few more tweeters hope to make it next time @Laura_Dron, @JParsons87, @FernhillHotel, @beaminstergirl. Have I forgotten anyone? No doubt you’ll tweet me if I have…

Why do I like tweet-ups? It’s the new people I meet, the random conversations we have, the information we share, catching up with their news and hearing their views in proper long sentences. It’s putting a real face to the avatar. There is no replacing looking people in the eye even if we have weird, wonderful, witty (ahem wishing in my case) and sometimes serious social network conversations…

See you at the next tweet-up?

ps. Joining @maddiegrigg in Greece was tempting but Bridport seems more likely. We’ll let you know.

Weymouth and West Dorset, oh so quiet Olympics?

I took friends and family to Weymouth on Saturday 28 July to see the Battle of the Winds final extravagganza of aerialists, the 2012 torches wade into the sea, the pyrotechnics and generally start enjoying Olympic atmosphere. I mmm’ed and rrrr’ed it would be a bit too crowded, but hey it’s a once in a lifetime, so off we went. 

There was plenty there, but not quite what I expected. An empty Monkey Jump Park & Ride welcomed us mid afternoon. A brand new double decker took all seven of us into town on the shiny new bypass that we are being warned not to use. Many more empty buses were waiting to Ride elusive Parked punters back to their cars.  We strolled along the spacious promenade to the Bayside Festival where our Somerset friends learned about the Jurassic Coast wonders. My kids loved being taught a few tricks by the ExtremeSports team, great guys under the tatooes and dreadlocks.  At 6.30 pm Bayside eating area had all of ten tourists having tea listening to the Acoustic Stage. At 7pm the long expected queue to get into the enclosed “Weymouth and Portland Live Site” was painfully tiny…

Great news as a visitor, plenty of space, unexpected free entry to Bayside; not such great news when talking to the locals who have invested money and worked hard for months. Why the big signs in surroundings counties of how busy it may get? Put them up when it does get busy, not before. These are the days of mobile phones, twitter, facebook, information is fast. Does St Tropez warn tourists in Lyon? NON. They let them all come, get stuck, take their money and let them queue. Tourists do come back, every year and it’s still a nightmare to get to St Trop.

Squibbers lit the Weymouth beach on 28 July 2012
Squibbers lit the Weymouth beach on 28 July 2012

I got cross with dorsetforyou. Stop caring people off I said on twitter.

“@natamagat Just informing people about changes and road closures. We want to encourage people to come down, but plan their journey 1st” they replied.

Well, West Dorset looks awfully quiet. The dreadful recent events due to floods and landslides are still fresh on people’s mind but it does not mean the whole area should be avoided. Local businesses that rely on Summer visitors need help, not scaremongering tactics.

Tell everybody how easy it is to get here (I’m told there’s even a High-Speed train from Weymouth to Bristol but it’s not advertised, go figure), that there’s lots to do in Weymouth, that Bridport has a fantastic Festival of Culture in August, that Beaminster has lots of great shops and brilliant restaurants all year round with perfect presents to take back home despite the Tunnel being closed.

Hello world, this is the year to visit West Dorset, it’s quiet and if you fancy art, culture, food (of course) oh and the small matter of Olympic sailing along our beautiful Jurassic Coast, well there are plenty of events that locals have been organising for weeks. It’s not too late to book a few days in West Dorset…

Photography on this post from Saturday 28 July in Weymouth.


Eolus God of the Wind under a moonlit sky in Weymouth
Eolus God of the Wind under a moonlit sky in Weymouth
Doldrum ready to intercept the winds from the Sailing Olympics
Doldrum ready to intercept the winds from the Sailing Olympics
The Battle for the Wind in Weymouth
The Battle for the Wind in Weymouth
Performing on Weymouth and Portland Live Site, 28 July 2012
Performing on Weymouth and Portland Live Site, 28 July 2012
Devon Wind machine was a cracker
Devon Wind machine was a cracker
One more full Wind Bag for Dorset
One more full Wind Bag for Dorset
robot likes the look of Event Security at Weymouth Bayside Festival
robot likes the look of Event Security at Weymouth Bayside Festiva
2012 torches into the sea for Weymouth Battle of the Winds Olympic celebrations
2012 torches into the sea for Weymouth Battle of the Winds Olympic celebrations

What is apple wassailing all about

Last year I came across a drawing by Kate Lynch that really caught my eye, ‘Musicians at the Wassail’ when writing an article on a Sladers Yard exhibition for the Bull Hotel. It had a feel of black magic, maybe because it’s in charcoal and rather dark but I loved it for its moodiness.

I don’t mind admitting that I had never heard of Wassail so Mr Google was called upon. There was some explanation on this twelfth night of Christmas ritual, all rather fascinating for a French person. Apple wassailing sounded particularly interesting.

It seemed to be all about blessing apple trees with cider and warding off evil spirits with as much racket as possible -including guns- in the apple orchards of the South West. The most interesting site I could find was dark dorset. I particularly like his comment that ‘this custom was especially important during a time when part of a labourer’s wages was paid in apple cider‘. Well we’d all make sure we did anything possible to ensure a good crop then, wouldn’t we?

However bizarre or wonderful pagan rituals appear, there always seems to be an explanation based on Mother Nature, as is the case with Apple Wassailing. I contacted Jill Lloyd of Bridport Community Orchard who finally had the answer to my question. Why oh why so much racket? Surely you want the birds to hang around?

Oh yes, that’s why bread dipped in cider is flung in the apple trees’ branches. Oh the lucky sparrows whose orchards are being blessed. As for the noise, it’s all to do with apple loving little bugs -codling moths- who hide behind the bark in the winter, ready to leap up the trunk and into the apples later in the year.

Shoooo little nasty things, we want our apples for our cider… Bang. Bang. Bang. And (hopefully) away they go.

It is then time for a good old glass of gold nectar around the fire whilst catching up with friends on a cold winter night and watching Morris Dancers, safe in the knowledge that everything humanely possible has been done to ensure a good crop the following autumn.

As orchards have dwindled in West Dorset so has of course apple wassailing. Thankfully not all is lost. The good people at the Bridport Community Orchard have not only turned a field in the town centre into an orchard, they are also reviving this age old West Country tradition. This Sunday 15 January 2012 at 3pm, Bridport Community Orchard. Do you have a tambourine or drums I can borrow?

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

Reducing food miles around Bridport with Open Farm Sunday 2011

Many of us like to know where our food comes from these days. In West Dorset, we are particularly lucky to have a wealth of amazing produce and Open Farm Sunday is a great opportunity to discover behind the scenes of a couple of our local farms and really see where our meat, dairy products and vegetables come from.

Open Farm Sundays started in 2006 with 300 farmers sharing their knowledge and love of the countryside and every year tens of thousands of people enjoy asking questions, sampling produce or buying direct from the farmers.

My family went to visit Denhay and Washingpool Farms last year. I must admit that my husband and children were not totally convinced when I suggested it but they did enjoy it, much to their surprise.

Denhay Farm, run by the Streitfield family in Broadoak are famous for their Farmhouse Cheddar. We hopped on a trailer, hay bales for benches, tractor taking us up through the large farm to the dairy whilst George explained the importance of edges, how and why they have changed over the years and talked a bit about organic agriculture.

In the dairy, we discovered 21st century milking from a balcony. It’s quite a sight and was interesting for the children to see the first part of the milk journey to their glass. We might live in West Dorset and have friends who are farmers, it’s always interesting to see a farm on that scale.

Amanda Streitfield then did a talk on how their award-winning Farmhouse Cheddar is made and showed us the huge cylinders being matured into pure taste. We stocked up on cheese and bacon whilst drinking a welcome cuppa and went on to Washingpool Farm.

Locally, we all know Washingpool Farm shop in North Allington, a few minutes outside of Bridport so it was really interesting to walk through the market garden behind the shop and see where these fruits and vegetables are grown; food miles, what food miles?

For Open Farm Sunday 2011 Washingpool Farm also have sheep shearing and a photography competition. Click!

Denhay Farmhouse cheddar maturing

Open Farm Sunday website

Denhay farm website       Washingpool Farm website

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:


Artiste Andrew Leppard, copyright Nathalie Roberts

Bridport Open Studios 2011