A breath of fresh air in Dorset

There’s a break in the humidity and a communal sigh of relief. It was getting pretty hot out there. And in here.

The morning dew saturates the grass now, with summer days, wedding days and salad days preparing to bow out to make way for wood smoke, muddy puddles and autumn evenings.

Down in the town, this year’s Melplash Show is old news.  A busy, beautiful day, with plenty to do and see and lots of old friends to meet.

And as the Bank Holiday weekend enters its final day, villagers take their produce and exhibits up to the hall for the annual flower show. A time to mingle, a time to gaze in amazement at the things people create behind closed doors and garden gates.

It’s a time to be thankful that we live in such a lovely part of the world. Dorset: beauty on earth.

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As I walked out one summer’s morning


It’s August now, and that classic, autumnal feel to the fields before breakfast  – what I call a Melplash Show Morning – is already with us.

The fields this year have been glorious in all their states of undress, with wheat standing to attention and barley blowing in the wind.  The morning sun rests for a while in the branches of a pine tree before the long day ahead. In the evening, the sun rewards us with wonderful skies above the rooftops.

Up on the football field, moles are having a field day. The molehills look like mountains when you get down on the ground and see them from eye level. One miscreant scurries past me, blind and baffled, in a shallow ravine it made earlier. Luckily, the dog doesn’t see it. The mole looks more like a wind-up, fluffy toy than a real, live animal.

I start to sing in rather too deep a voice ‘I am a Mole and I Live in a Hole’ and then realise a stranger has just come up the path.

‘Morning,’ I say, putting on rather more of a Wescountry accent than I should. With any luck, they will think I am a local ‘character’. They just nod at me, with a knowing look on their face.

I look round to make sure there is no-one about when I snigger after finally seeing the joke in a long-standing road sign outside my neighbour’s house.

Humps for 300yds

I bet he wishes he could.

Down on the coast, there are sprats and mackerel a-plenty. The sea is alive with fish. First the sprats come in and, where they go, the mackerel closely follow. A sprat to catch a mackerel.

Back in the village in the early evening, the Jehovah’s Witnesses wander round en masse trying to preach to the unconverted. They tend to arrive mob-handed in this village. I have no idea why. It’s as if we are some outpost in the Wild West, the clock chiming thirteen as the tumbleweed moves in slow motion up the street, past the attractive recycling bins that have no place to call home.

As I see their smiling faces, golden locks and clutched copies of The Watchtower in their hands, I wonder to myself about their success rate. Probably not as high as the mackerel fishermen.

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A Dorset village after Brexit

Three weeks after Brexit and the village is burning with heat.

There is little sign of the hatred reported in other parts of the country, but there is anecdotal evidence that the whole shebang has caused rifts in families and between friends and also among Little Englanders sniping at foreigners just trying to earn a living .

At least two people in the village have suffered extreme stress attacks, including me. After three months that no family should ever have to endure, the referendum result tipped me over the edge. I ended up in hospital, hence the lack of new material on A Dorset Year’s home page for the last four weeks.

Today, the village lanes smell of summer holidays as the children break up from school. In a world in which lorries can be used as weapons to such devastating effect, a caring politician can be snuffed out just for being caring and Turkey teeters on the brink of yet another disaster in that part of the world, it is a joy to be living in the back of beyond, far from the madding crowd in Dorset’s green and beautiful hinterland, where the only things to complain about are potholes in the road and lamp posts that are out of keeping.

Back on Referendum Day, the village bunting was still damp and in situ, strewn across golden sandstone cottage and house fronts, after celebrations for the Queen’s 90th.

‘Let’s keep it up for the football,’ said someone, as England battled it out with other European nations on the soccer pitches of France.

‘No, let’s keep it up for the Referendum,’ said another.

And then the first poster appeared, rather shyly, in a window on the high street.


Not long after, it was met with a triple reposte across the road.


Among the good natured banter on the street, in the village shop and in the pub, there has been discord on social media. And now none of us can quite believe that we’re actually out of Europe, even those who voted for it.

But there’s no turning back. It is what it is.

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A Dorset village celebrates the Queen’s birthday

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The bunting’s gone soggy and there is silence in the streets.

Just a few days ago, the village was alive with energy, as the Queen of England’s 90th birthday proved the perfect excuse for a communal party.

It didn’t matter that it rained on the parade. The show just went on.

A village hall bursting like a fat sausage as residents descended for a big breakfast; afternoon teas in the graveyard; decorated carts for the ‘pram’ race tearing around the one-way system; a packed church for a service giving thanks for such a wonderful community; a street party where all the food was donated and three bands performed on a stage provided for free by a local contractor.

At times like these, this village rocks.

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June is busting out all over

After the heatwave came the rain. But it won’t be here long, the weather forecasters say. We could be in for a flaming June.

Flaming June by Sir Frederic Leighton 1895.

The farmers are busy in the fields, silaging. Great big tractors, their trailers laden high with cut grass, have been rumbling through the lanes, swaying like great beasts advancing across the countryside.

Hills echo with the distant humming of farm machinery. Headlamps light up the darkness as farm labourers work through the night.

The bluebells and wild garlic are almost over now, their place taken by towering nettles and cow parsley, which was always called gypsy lace in my Somerset family. There are solitary violets peeking up through verges, making a brave but useless attempt to be seen by passers-by.

Crisp packets, a single gardening glove and a child’s hot water bottle are among the detritus littering the edges of the roadside.

I’ve been out and about with my mobile phone over the past few weeks, playing with the camera and experimenting with Instagram. The results are nowhere near as good as Nathalie’s pictures, but they do tell a story.

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Dorset memories

It’s been fun working with Maddie on ‘A Dorset Year’ and at times a bit unexpected. One day she wants to talk about naughty 4x4s, next it’s a Day at the Races when I managed (quite by chance) to catch her and Mr Grigg winning. I was only interested in the typically English array of food around their car and ‘some English people’ standing high up to get a better view of the horses. It just happened to be my friends.

Recently she asked me for pictures of bluebells. I love flowers, so that was easy. And then off she went and talked about our local referendum. And democracy. And I love that about Maddie. You never know what you’ll get. But it will always be upbeat, whatever life throws at her. And now, she has kindly asked that I add links to my new photography microsites where, if you like my images, you can buy them directly from one of the best printers you will find The PrintSpace. They use beautiful art paper, from thick matt watercolour to glossy metallic ones. So here goes, have a little look, if you feel inclined !

Monochrome Landscapes of West Dorset :


West Dorset Memories :


And of course, flowers “Fleurs de Nathalie” (not just bluebells!) :


And for now, as Maddie would say, just about, au revoir !

Danger: men at work

There’s drain clearing going on in the village.

It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.

There are cones and ‘men at work’ signs everywhere. And tsk, tsk, a big, bearded bloke in a liveried truck is using his mobile phone for texting as he drives up the road, his knees doing the steering.

A disembodied backside leans down into a manhole; a workman’s bottom you could park your bike in.

Cars are going this way and that, dodging the orange and white cones laid out like chicanes.

A traffic light stands, incongruous, at the bottom of the street, its red light saying quite firmly: ‘No’.

It’s a lot of traffic management activity for a small place. And far too much excitement for me. I retreat from walking in the fields and the bluebell woods, away from the singing birds and the sunshine and into the spare bedroom to get on with some work.