With a somewhat predictable opening, I apologise for the late delivery of the write up of the 2016 Badger Moot. For those of you that are new to the concept of the Badger Moot, each October half-term the greater Badger Clan (descendants of Grandpa Badger – Lucinda’s Granddad) gather in Dorset for a week’s holiday. This has been an annual event since 2004, with the exception of last year due to obvious reasons, making this the 12th moot (13th if you include Uncle Bill’s 70th birthday celebrations) and the 11th (12th) at Berwick Manor. Berwick Manor is a large house set on the Puncknowle Manor estate in the Bride Valley, West Dorset just north of Burton Bradstock. As this is the twelfth time we have stayed here we know it very well, it feels like a home from home and it is large enough to accommodate the ever-growing clan of Badgers (and indeed there were Badgers this year in the shape of Uncle John and Auntie Margaret who had flown over from Sydney to take part in this year’s Badger Moot).
As usual we can pick the keys up for the manor on the Friday afternoon, however it was not only the last day of term for Éowyn and Amélie, they both had after school clubs that they wanted to attend and Friday evening was Amélie’s weekly Rainbow meeting and their Halloween party (a week early for there would be no meeting during half-term), so we made the decision not to leave for Puncknowle until the evening. I still thought it prudent to take the day off work, to pack and get the car packed and sorted, so with the knowledge that we were going to miss Uncle Bill and Auntie Sally’s traditional Friday night curry we took to the roads a little after 7pm.
The post rush hour roads were relatively clear and we had a good run down to the Bride Valley arriving around 10pm. This gave us enough time to say hello, unpack and have a quick drink before turning in for the night.
Saturday morning in Bridport is market day. It has become a tradition to spend the first morning of our holiday wandering aimlessly around the market looking for bargains. It has also become a tradition that I give the children £10 to spend on whatever they want while they are on holiday, in the knowledge that when it is gone, it is gone and they can ask for nothing else. Bridport has probably one of the best toy shops in the area, in the form of Toymaster. Toymaster shops are a group of over 250 independently owned shops that collectively purchase under the Toymaster buying group and although independent can use the Toymaster brand to promote their business. The Bridport Toymaster is fantastic and the Baguettes excitedly run from one aisle to another working out the best way to spend their tenners.
They spent probably the best part of an hour trying to get as many toys, or as big a toy, as they possibly could with Ezra probably doing the best coming away with Ramsey (one of the T. Rex’s from Disney’s A Good Dinosaur) to go with his favourite toy of 2016: Butch (the leader of the T. Rex’s from the film). Ramsey was on special offer – half price – and so he had enough to purchase a light sword (not a sabre – although it was somewhat reminiscent of Kylo Ren’s lightsabre from The Force Awakens – complete with cross-bar). His only disappointment was the fact that the light sword (or light saver as he calls it) was green and not red. As I have explained my son has a penchant for the dark side – he wants to see those crystals bleed!
We left Bridport with the Baguettes’ booty, some trainers for Éowyn (her feet have grown one and a half sizes since August, and now all her shoes are hurting her!) and a nugget of information. One of the stalls at the market was selling fossils (this is the Jurassic coast after all) and the Baguettes showed a real interest in the Ammonites. So as we were browsing I started a conversation with the owner who asked if we were going to go fossil hunting. I replied that since they were showing an interest we would when we visited Lyme Regis later on in the week. He then pointed us in the direction of Charmouth explaining that the visitor centre has lots for the kids to do and will happily give you information on the best place to look for fossils along that stretch of coast. We thanked him and made a note that we would indeed visit Charmouth later on in the week.
After lunch we headed to another traditional haunt: Hive Beach. Framed by the dramatic limestone cliffs Hive Beach has a real majesty from where you can appreciate the power of the sea. Indeed, we donned wellies to head across the pebbles to the sea to play chicken with the waves. The first few minutes are always very tentative as the kids run as soon as they see a wave breaking but then they get bolder and bolder and that is when you know that someone is going to get wet. This year it was Éowyn and she just say alone on the pebble sulking and muttering that she wanted to go home while the others continues to play. Eventually we ceded and headed back to warmth to prepare ourselves for the evening meal and the week’s fancy dress night.
It is also traditional that one of the evenings we would all realise that we are still kids at heart and dress up and everyone from Uncle John (at 80) to Ezra (at 3) put on costumes for the evening. This year’s theme was ‘Stereotype’s from around the world’ and there was plenty of opportunity to be a little bit racist! So there were lederhosen (Germany), stripy t-shirts and baguettes (France), prison outfits (Australia) and kilts (Scotland) to name but four. The Bagnalls decided to use costumes we already owned and go as Hawaiians replete with Leis, Hawaiian shirts, Coconut boobie-shades (bikini top for those of you that don’t know) and grass skirts. Ezra didn’t want to join in the family theme, however and decided that he wanted to be a dragon. Could he get away with being Welsh? He is only 3 we let him off!
Sunday, we had nothing planned so we decided to take the man from the market’s suggestion and head to Charmouth. Despite visiting Dorset over a dozen times neither Lucinda or I believe that we had ever visited Charmouth, therefore it was an adventure for us all. Lauren and Maddie, the Baguettes cousins, asked if they could come too so the S-Max was turned into seven seat mode and off we set. Charmouth, as its name suggests, is a village in West Dorset at the mouth of the river Char. Overlooking Lyme bay and framed by steep hills and cliffs it lies about a mile to the East of its bigger and better known neighbour: Lyme Regis. Like Lyme Regis it is sited on the Jurassic coast and again like its neighbour its cliffs are a constant source of fossils as the sea erodes them revealing new fins almost daily. Charmouth is famous for the quality of the marine creatures fossilised in its vicinity, it is also the only place in the world where remains of the terrestrial herbivorous armoured ornithischian dinosaur Scelidosaurus have been discovered.
We parked up and walked down to the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre. Situated up a wooden staircase with a view of Golden Cap (the highest cliff on the south coast of England) the Heritage Coast Centre is replete with Jurassic related activities and books, souvenirs and toys to buy. It also has a wealth of information about the area, help on how to look for your own fossils and an impressive display of local fossils found by professionals and amateurs alike. We entered the Centre and it was relatively full, this, we found out later, was because the tide was high and so there was little of the beach on which to go fossil hunting. Nevertheless one of the activities was to polish your own fossil. The local volunteers had procured a box of ammonites from a local quarry, not great quality but good for the exercise that they had in mind.
For £1.50 you could choose your own fossil to polish and keep. All the Baguettes (and Lauren and Maddie) wanted a go so we got in line and paid our money. After choosing your fossil the work started. It need to be sanded flat ready for waxing. Starting with a course block of sandpaper and graduating to a finer sandpaper roughly 10 minutes of elbow grease was enough to smooth the fossil ready for the volunteers to wax. The Baguettes were very pleased with their efforts (and indeed Éowyn has since taken it to school for show and tell). This spurred them to want to find their own fossils. So after lunch we hired a (rusty) rock hammer and goggles from the local fossil shop and headed to the beach. Despite our best efforts we did not find much. Maddie found a good Ammonite fossil; Éowyn, one that wasn’t and Daddy potentially some sea vegetation imprint (or just a case of pareidolia), nothing that was going to set the world of palaeontology alight.
Charmouth was a good opportunity for Éowyn to practise using the camera that Nanny Fran bought her for her birthday. You can see some of her efforts below and many more on the Flickr page, indeed she has her own page, here. She definitely has an eye for it and it is interesting to see the world from her angle, it is just a shame that it imprinted the time and date on the photos she took (why do you even need that on a digital camera?). That has now been removed for future snaps.
As it was Sunday we, as a family, had decided that it would be nice to have a Sunday lunch and all chip in to help cook it. Now, Berwick Manor is equipped with an Aga and more modern electric oven but to feed 25 both would need to be called into action. It was thus decided that the two chickens, parsnips and Yorkshire puddings would be cooked in the electric oven with the legs of lamb and roast potatoes in the Aga. All good, until we realised that the electric oven wasn’t getting up to temperature and after 20 mins in the oven the chickens we still tepid. What to do? We needed a method of cooking them so we decided to employ the barbecue. Where there is a will (or a hungry Bagnall) there is a way. The barbecue was lit and the chickens (then parsnips, and then the Yorkshire puddings) were all duly cooked and we all sat down to Sunday lunch, albeit a little later than planned.
Monday was the only really inclement day; it was warm but it was raining. Nevertheless it did not stop the Bagnalls from leaving the house any going on an adventure. We decided that we would head into the county town of Dorset: Dorchester. With the interest in all things prehistoric growing in the bosoms of our children we headed to the ultimate (in the area) destination: The Dinosaur Museum. The museum is the only museum in the country that is solely devoted to all things dinosaur. It has a combination of fossils, life-size reconstructions and lots of hands-on attractions for kids of all ages to enjoy. It was probably a little smaller than I expected and this coupled with the fact that the weather was inclement and it was half-term combined for quite a cramped feel. However, the kids loved it (so did the grown-ups) and Lucinda realised that she has a lot to learn about pre-historic life in order to help answer the myriad of questions coming from the Baguettes.
Along with all the models, fossils and hand-on experiences during half-term the museum was running the great dinosaur hunt. Dotted around the museum were eight different clues each with a letter. Collect the clues and the letters, and they will spell a word. Find the letters, fill out your form and hand it to the staff for a prize. The Baguettes duly did (with a little help from Mommy and Daddy) and they were awarded with a special Dinosaur hunter’s medal. Something they all show proud in wearing.
We left the museum and headed into the shopping area while it was only drizzling. While wandering around we had one of those moments that demonstrate how small the world really is as we bumped into Amélie’s best friend (and her family). Living only a few streets away in Staines upon Thames they, too, had decided to go to Dorset for the half-term. Even stranger they were staying in Charmouth where we had been the day before. Our little gathering had to split up as the rain increased in intensity and we headed back to the car and Berwick Manor.
Another annual tradition that we initiated in 2013 was a visit to my Auntie Margaret (actually my first cousin once removed) and Uncle Ray’s. They moved to the isle of Portland from West Bromwich to retire near to the sea and as we are only down the road it seems rude not to visit. The girls enjoy visiting their honorary Grandparents and Auntie Margaret always has something for them to enjoy.
The journey to Portland takes us along one of my favourite roads in England (the B3157 – the Jurassic Coast Road) and it doesn’t take too long to get there from Puncknowle. With the knowledge that Tuesday was our turn to cook for the family we decided to head to Portland early as we would have to leave early to prepare the meal. This was probably good for Auntie Margaret as she is still recovering from open heart surgery that she had over the Summer.
Auntie Margaret had bought them some activity books to do to keep them entertained. That was until Auntie Pauline, Auntie Margaret’s younger sister turned up, then she became the entertainment. Auntie Margaret had also been kind enough to buy the girls fans to replace the ones that they had stolen when they were on holiday in Italy. The Baguettes keep Aunties Margaret and Pauline and Uncle Ray entertained (teaching them how to Pop See Koo! – don’t click on the link otherwise you will be singing it for days. You have been warned!) and I think Auntie Margaret, especially, was completely worn out by the time we left.
This is a becoming an epic and as you can guess from the title I have decided to split this up into two write-up for it has only covered half of the holiday thus far. You will have to wait until my fingers can type the second part to discover what else we did down in Dorset.
Peace and Love