Usually, the gap between part one and part two of holiday write-ups is not that big as I recall the events of the previous week or so, but as is rapidly becoming the norm this year, the gap between these write ups has widened remarkably. Therefore, if you have completely forgotten what we did in part one (I know I have!), or indeed where we were as that write-up ended, please click here and read part one (as I had to before writing the following).
If you are still here then I will safely assume that you have read part one and you are fully up to speed with the 2017 Badger Moot as it stood on Monday evening.
Since, we have visited this area of Dorset nigh on every year for the past decade and a half, we are fairly familiar with the locale and we find ourselves gravitating to the same haunts year on year. This is not necessarily out of laziness, but merely because we like those places, however, in an attempt to overcome the inertial pull of our favourite coastal towns we decided to do a little research and look for a new place to take the Baguettes.
Forde Abbey sits on the borders of Dorset, Devon and Somerset and was this year’s novel destination. A former Cistercian monastery it is officially in Dorset, with a Somerset address and is home to Abbey Ford Devon cattle. Fortunately, there are plenty of brown signs to guide the way as the sat-nav decided to get itself a little confused as we approached the area.
The monastery dates from the 12th century and became one of the richest and most learned institutions in England, however that came to an end with the dissolution of the monasteries and the last abbot, Abbot Chard, surrendered the monastery peacefully in 1539. Over the next 100 years a succession of absentee landlords plundered the building for stone until it was purchased by Edmund Prideaux, who was largely responsible for transforming it into a private home. The house has been in the Roper family since 1905 and they are responsible for turning it into the tourist attraction it is today.
Forde Abbey was certainly getting into the Halloween spirit. As we entered into the grounds there was a pile of pumpkins and you were encouraged to pick one, the Baguettes did not need to be asked twice. Why would anyone want to pick a pumpkin and carry it around a former monastery, I hear you cry. To roll it down the lawn, I cry back. There were no prizes it was purely for the fun of rolling a pumpkin down a slightly sloping terrace of lawns. This could be repeated ad infinitum, as long as you run down the lawn to retrieve your pumpkin and bring it back to the start line to throw it again. This was more fun, and gave more satisfaction than it sounded or had any right to yield, even Nanny was shouting words of encouragement to the Baguettes, and of course Daddy had to have a go.
That wasn’t the only Halloween fun that Forde Abbey had laid on. There were a number of Halloween installations that were dotted around the grounds and in addition there were a number of bird boxes with Halloween stamps to collect. Needless to say the Baguettes thoroughly enjoyed exploring the grounds looking for the scary installations and stamping their map with the Halloween stamps.
We were fortunate that the rain kept off as we spent hours walking around the thirty acres of gardens, however we did not avoid getting wet. Installed in 2005 to commemorate 100 years of ownership, the Roper family installed the Centenary fountain. Located in the Mermaid pond the Centenary Fountain is Forde Abbey’s claim to fame, for it is the highest powered fountain in England. Topping out at 49 metres (160 feet), it is certainly impressive. However, with a strong breeze the fountain wasn’t exactly vertical and blew across the pond and towards the Abbey, exactly where we were standing to watch. So, if you ever visit Forde Abbey and stand to watch the highest powered fountain in England, take a note of where you are standing and the direction of the wind.
After visiting a new attraction, the following day we revisited one of our old haunts, and indeed our favourite place in this part of the world: Lyme Regis. Again, Nanny joined us for a walk along the Cobb, a paddle in the sea and nose around the shops.
We have visited Lyme Regis many times and each time that we have visited Lucinda has looked in a number of galleries for a painting of Lyme to hang on our wall. Her favourite artist of the area is Lucy Young, who paints a number of scenes of Lyme Regis and especially Lyme Bay and the beach, but she had never seen one that was quite right. Well, not ‘quite right’ enough to part with her hard-earned cash. However, on this visit, we entered the gallery and saw exactly the right painting. There was just one problem with it: it was a little on the pricey side. We talked about it in the gallery but Lucinda wasn’t quite in the right frame of mind to part with her money. We spoke to the assistant and told her of our dilemma. She said she understood and suggested that she would reserve it for us but if we didn’t return by the end of the day then she would cancel the reservation and put it back on sale the following day.
Happy, but still undecided, we left the gallery and headed for lunch. After lunch we spent some time on the beach, making sand sculptures and paddling in the sea. While we were sitting on the sand, Lucinda talked herself it paying for the painting, and headed off to the gallery. We followed shortly afterwards and bumped into her sans painting and looking upset.
There had been a bit of a mix up at the gallery. The lady that we had arranged the reservation had gone on lunch shortly after we left the gallery. She had handed over to her colleague telling her of our conversation and gave her a description of us. While the first assistant was on lunch another couple, looking similar, to us came in and bought the painting. The second assistant had thought it was us and had even said to them that I bet they were glad that they had reserved it! When Lucinda walked in she spoke to the original assistant who was mortified about the mix up. Lucinda was obviously upset, but there was no one to get angry with, it was just a genuine mistake and sheer bad luck.
The assistant then rescued the day. She said that they were good friends with the artist and would ask if the artist would commission another painting an exact copy of the one that Lucinda had fallen in love with. The assistant was true to her word and after a conversation with the artist, she agreed to paint the same scene for the original cost (far cheaper than a commission) but better than that she would paint our family on the beach. Admittedly, we will be small stick-like figures, but it will be us and we have provided photos so that she knows what we all look like. To add to the specialness (is that a word?) of the painting we asked if she could also place Lucinda’s mum and dad and their dog, Harvey, in the painting as our trips to Lyme Regis were always with Nanny and Granddad and to her credit she agreed.
We have been told that the painting will be ready by mid-December, so it will be a very special Christmas present. We will keep you up to date with developments.
After such an emotional day we needed a more relaxed day. So, the following day we used the remainder of our Abbotsbury passport ticket. We headed to Abbotsbury Children’s farm in the morning. Highlights, included a horse ride, searching for the ghouls and holding guinea pigs (even though we have our own guinea pigs at home). After our one and only Dorset Cream Tea of the holiday we headed back to Pumcknowle to get changed for our second annual trip to the Subtropical Garden’s Fright Night.
When we visited the gardens last year we realised that most people take it very seriously and we stood out like sore thumbs dressed in civvies. We did not make the same mistake two years running. Two skeletons, two witches and a corpse bride stepped out of Bertie Beast and the Bagnalls had arrived. Unfortunately, none of the other members of the greater Badger clan wanted to join us, so we bravely entered the Enchanted gardens alone.
The first attraction we came across as we entered the gardens was the bug and beastie tent. As per last year this was the place to go if you want to get up close to stick insects, tarantulas, lizards and snakes. The tent was packed with eager children either waiting to get their face painted, have a temporary tattoo or just sitting patiently for the talk about the beasties in the cages to begin and then following the talk, their chance to hold them.
The speaker was very knowledgeable about the creatures he had in his care, including tarantulas, scorpions and snakes. He also persuaded a number of parent ‘volunteers’ up on stage to hold a bird-eating spider. When I say ‘volunteers’ he asked the children to nominate parents who didn’t like spiders. In fairness, to the adults that stepped forward, they were obviously very nervous around spiders and the sight of a spider that was over 20cm across was mildly terrifying even for people who didn’t suffer from arachnophobia. Indeed, it was far too much for the mum that had been volunteered, she could not even bring herself to touch the spider while it was on the wrangler’s hand. The father on the other hand, who seemed as arachnophobic as the mother that had been volunteered, bravely closed his eyes and let the spider walk across his hands while the wrangler told him of how powerful its venom was and how painful it would be if it bit him. A fine piece of theatre.
He then encouraged six adults on stage to demonstrate how a scorpion captures, disables and eats its prey. Very amusing, but also very disturbing and I am very glad that there are no giant scorpions that would consider me prey.
The third set of volunteers were called on stage to hold a 4 metre Burmese python. The python was only 5 years old and will probably eventually grow to 7 metres. Nevertheless it was impressive creature at only 4 metres, and it took 6 adults to hold it.
Then it was the children’s turn. He asked for a boy and a girl to come up on stage to hold a much smaller constrictor. The first girl to hold her hand aloft was Amélie! Our brave little girl was soon making her way to the stage. She was not at all scared and bravely held the serpent. Éowyn and Ezra were not interested in joining their sister.
We exited the tent, crossed the grass just in time for more entertainment. Fire acrobats stood in a fenced off area, juggling and hula hooping with flaming equipment. It was very impressive, even though there were a number of times that it didn’t quite go to plan. However, there were no serious injuries and some lame moments were not enough to spoil the entertainment.
We then followed the path around the gardens, delighting in the illuminated vegetation and the various locals dressed in Halloween costumes, including witches handing out sweets, very Hansel and Gretel. As per last year the final 100 yards or so of the path was a gauntlet of Halloween style japes with people jumping out, people rattling bushes and dropping Halloween related items from the trees. Last year, Ezra buried his head in my shoulder as I carried him through the ‘scary path’, as he called it. This year, as we approached he said that he wasn’t brave and didn’t want to go through there. We tried to cajole him, but to no avail, so I led him the long way around avoiding the ‘scary path’ while Lucinda and the girls ran the gauntlet.
While Ezra and I were waiting, we could hear the screams of people as the various shocks were meted out, including some that we were certain belonged to our female relatives. Lucinda said that all the way around the path Éowyn was saying this is scary, I don’t like it, and why did you bring us here. Lucinda replied saying that they didn’t have to come if they didn’t want to. Éowyn replied, ‘We have to come, mommy, it is tradition.‘
The next morning, was the usual packing, cleaning and making sure that we had left anything in the house before heading back home. We must be getting used to this by now, as we were ready to leave the house in double-quick time.
Rather than making a beeline for Staines Upon Thames we decided to eek out the holiday a little longer and spend the morning and early afternoon in Weymouth. After a quick lunch and a stroll around the shops we headed to the beach and spent as much time as we could on the sand before the call of the traffic meant that we needed to leave so that we could avoid M25 rush hour.
So, another successful Badger Moot under our belts and a good time had by all. I once again apologise for the fact that it has been nearly a month since we returned from Dorset before you received the full picture of this year’s trip and I would normally say head over to Flickr to see the photos, however, they have been there since the beginning of November, so unless you haven’t been there yet, you are not missing anything.
Christmas is nearly upon us and there is a lot of Bagnall news to bring you, so stay tuned and I will endeavour to bring it to you in due course.
Peace and Love