As regular readers of this blog will know once a year the descendants of Granddad Badger hire the Puncknowle Manor Estate in the Bride Valley, West Dorset for a week’s holiday and a chance to catch up on all the family news. It might sound like hell to some families but I think to a man (and woman) the descendants (and partners) of Granddad Badger look forward to the annual pilgrimage to the country. This year there were even some Badgers there (despite the threat of a Badger cull), Uncle John and Auntie Margaret flew in from Sydney, Australia for the 2012 Badger Moot.
This is the ninth annual moot and I think it gets bigger very year (we, personally have added two new members) and this year there were 20 adults and 7 (and a half) children, which I believe was a record turnout. Unfortunately not everyone can make it for the the full week (work commitments can get in the way) and I was not exempt from this issue. Work, as regular readers know, is very busy at the moment and the weekend of the Badger Moot coincided with one of the busiest weekends of the season, and my presence was required in quite a fraught weekend. However with Lucinda still recovering from her appendectomy and our entire support team (i.e. the family) down in Dorset it was not an option for her to stay at home and for us to arrive as a family on the Monday. Therefore, I took the Friday off and drove the 125 miles or so to Puncknowle.
The holiday officially starts Friday afternoon as we can get into the house from around 3pm so the remainder of the afternoon and evening tends to get eaten up by arriving, unpacking and preparing the evening meal (Thanks Uncle Bill and Auntie Sally) rather than visiting any of the usual haunts and it is an opportunity to catch up on family news. It is also an opportunity for the cousins to explore the house and set up their dens for the week. Éowyn has always enjoyed playing with her older cousins and gets excited whenever she gets an opportunity to play with them and her little sister is no different. So a week of having them ‘on tap’ was a week of bliss for both of our daughters. And in fairness to the older cousins they are brilliant with both Éowyn and Amélie even if though there is quite a large age gap they involve them in their games and have a huge amount of patience with them.
So just as everyone arrived and begun to settle in I had to wake early on Saturday morning and drive the return 125 miles or so straight to work to put in a full shift. While I was having a difficult work weekend the remainder of the Badger Clan begun the week of fun. Saturday morning saw them disperse to various places in the vicinity including the traditional Saturday morning jaunt to Bridport Market to see what bargains lay to be discovered. Unfortunately for Lucinda Éowyn decided that she didn’t what to really be there and since there was no pushchair seat for her then she was going to play merry hell. So far from a pleasant mooch around a Dorset street market it became a battle of wills with a four-year old, which I think Éowyn won.
Saturday night saw the first of two fancy dress nights: an Hawaiian theme. Everyone dressed up a number with genuine Hawaiian shirts bought in Hawaii. Unfortunately I could not wear mine as I was busy working 125 miles away, well I suppose I could have but it wouldn’t have been the same. I also missed Uncle John and Auntie Margaret’s Thai Green curry and the traditional quiz night. This year saw the older generation versus the young generation with age and experience taking the honours. Due to my ability to absorb trivia I am usually banned from competing in the quiz night and thus have become the family quizmaster putting my general knowledge to good use, although this year may have been different.
Sunday morning saw a very traditional English pastime, indeed during the Middle Ages it was law that every man over the age of 14 should spend 2 hours a weekend supervised by the local clergy doing exactly what had been arranged by Lucy for the Badger Moot 2012. She had arranged for a morning of archery lessons for the family at the Manor and I was probably more disappointed to miss this than the Hawaiian and quiz evening. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed it with John and Lucy being the most adept with Lucinda admitting to being one of the worst. Maybe next time.
Monday afternoon I arrived back in Puncknowle for the rest of the week. We spent the afternoon round the house before heading to Weymouth for this year’s ghost walk. In 2009 we took a ghost walk around Dorchester with our guide Alistair dressed in full Victorian regalia. We enjoyed the way he told the stories, in fact he toned the stories down that night when he realised that he was scaring the kids a little too much, so we booked him again this year for a trip around Weymouth harbour (not Melcombe Regis – we don’t want any misunderstanding on that matter). He met us at the Boot pub dressed as 16th century pirate and took us for a hike around the sights of the old harbour. This year the kids were not as scared and Finley challenged him on many aspects of his stories. Indeed Éowyn joined in the banter, when began to tell us of a submarine shipwreck in the harbour and the ghostly noises heard by divers exploring the wreck. ‘I know what noises they heard,’ she said, ‘Woo-oo‘ she continued without waiting for an invitation to reply. We had been concerned that she may get a little scared by the stories and were prepared to leave if it came to it but Éowyn loves her stories and that is exactly how she saw the trip and the anecdote above just illustrates how much she enjoyed it.
Tuesday was my first full day there and so we headed to probably our favourite place in the area: Lyme Regis. It is a beautiful town on the edge of Dorest with a little sandy beach at the edge of the main pebbly beach. We bought the girls buckets and spades and after a couple of lessons off Granddad we happily making sandcastles. As you can see from the photos below it was not exactly pleasant, it was dry which was a bonus, but a little on the cold side so the coats and wellies stayed on. Tuesday was also our day to cook so we left mid-afternoon to head back to prepare the Mexican themed meal, O.K. Fajitas and Chilli, for the 20 adults and 7 children.
The next day was Halloween and our second fancy dress party of the week. Everyone put so much effort into the night and their costumes that I have decided that it deserves an update all of its own. So please click here to read about the day and more importantly look at the many photos of the night.
That left one day of our holiday. 2012 was the year that London hosted the Olympic and Paralympic games but London wasn’t the only venue to host events. Weymouth harbour hosted the off-shore sailing competitions and to take advantage of the expected influx of visitors Sealife built a tower and observation pod at Festival pier to carry up to 69 people 174 feet (53 metres) above Weymouth bay for fantastic views of the area. The great thing about this attraction for the Bagnall family is that the tower is operated by Sealife, which in turn is owned by the Merlin Entertainments Group which means that we could use our Merlin pass for free entry. The view from the top is spectacular and we were lucky that it was a bright and clear day and we could see miles of coastline and many of the landmarks of the area.
After lunch we headed to Weymouth’s sandy beach for more sandcastle building and splashing in the sea. Before we headed for the Manor house and packing up to leave we asked the girls if they wanted a ride on a donkey. Éowyn was initially up for it but when we got there it was Amélie that was the most excited and Éowyn changed her mind. So it was Amélie that took a trip down the beach on a donkey and indeed when the ride was over she got all upset thinking that daddy’s three pound meant that she could keep the donkey. ‘My donkey!‘ she screamed as we dragged her from the beach and back to the car. Cruel parents.
And so our annual trip to Dorset ended with a late night journey back home so that I could return to work on the Friday morning. It is quote often said that you need a holiday to get over a holiday, in many ways it didn’t feel like I got a holiday but nevertheless it was great to spend some time with Lucinda and girls, even if it was a bit of a rush.
Please feel free to click here for the Halloween write up and the photos.
Peace and Love