Welcome to 2017 and the first post of the new year. This is my traditional Janus-like post where I look back upon the year just gone and the one that lies before us.
If you are reading this, I trust that you have read Part One, if not please click here first. If you have, welcome to the second half of the Badger Moot 2016. The first instalment retold the Bagnall’s experience of the Badger Moot until our evening meal on the Tuesday evening. This is the remaining story of our time down in deepest darkest Dorset.
We decided that our Wednesday trip would see the Bagnalls head to one of our favourite haunts along the South Coast: Lyme Regis. We have been to Lyme Regis many times and although it is a relatively small town it never ceases to delight us. Halfway between Dorchester and Exeter, Lyme Regis, overlooking Lyme Bay sits on the Dorset-Devon border and is part of the world famous Jurassic Coast, famous the world over for its fossils. For the first time this week we took Nanny with us and so the six of us headed down the A35. It is always surprising how busy Lyme Regis is but we found somewhere to park and walked into the town. It was lunchtime so we headed to one of our favourite little café’s and had a quick homemade sandwich (finger fingers and mayonnaise for me – just to make you all feel jealous). Then we took a stroll around the town.
Famous for fossils means that Lyme Regis has a plethora of fossil shops. With the Baguettes new found interest in the palaeontological it was welcome attraction, especially considering it had a life-size replica Tyrannosaurus Rex skull in the window. Time spent in the fossil shop gave Nanny and Mommy time to have a look around a couple of other shops.
I had to nearly physically drag them out of the shop (it was a good job they had already spent their pocket money for this trip otherwise I think we would have been in there for hours while they tried to work out what prehistoric paraphernalia they wanted to purchase) when Nanny and Mommy arrived. It was the lure of an ice-cream – what do you mean it is the end of October, we are on holiday by the seaside and we are English, therefore we can definitely have an ice cream, regardless of the weather – that finally convinced them to leave.
We said goodbye to Lyme Regis, but not for the last time this year – more on that later – and headed back to Berwick Manor. The Wednesday evening meal was also a celebration of all the ‘big’ birthdays that the greater Badger clan have celebrated during 2016. I won’t embarrass anyone by naming and shaming, suffice to say that the total of these ”big’ birthdays was 415 and that was the number in candles – not 415 candles I hasten to add, that would be a serious fire risk, just a ‘4’ a ‘1’ and a ‘5’ candle respectively – that adorned the joint birthday cake that was the evening’s desert (along with jelly and ice cream and selection of other sweets).
Party hats were worn and party poppers fired and after the meal it was time for PieFace. If you are unaware of the game a mechanical arm will plant a cream (squirty cream) ‘pie’ in your face after a ‘random’ number of turns of the handle. You roll a die to see how many turns of the handle you have to perform. The larger the number on the dice, the more turns of the handle and thus the more chance that you will be ‘pied’. That is the theory anyway. The Baguettes were in bed and so missed out on the fun, but everyone else, except (strangely) the youngest members of the greater Badger clan (Baguettes notwithstanding, being asleep is a good excuse) took part delighting in the misfortune of others.
As you may recall we paid Auntie Margaret and Uncle Ray a visit on Tuesday. We mentioned that we drove through Abbotsbury and along the coast road and Auntie Margaret mentioned that the Enchanted Illuminations at the Subtropical Gardens were well worth a visit. Without a plan for Thursday we decided that could be somewhere to take the Baguettes. Therefore on the return journey from Auntie Margaret’s we stopped in to the Subtropical Gardens to inquire. It is always difficult to tell from leaflets but it looked promising and with a discount for online bookings and with the temptation of the passport ticket which gives you entrance to the other tourist attractions of Abbotsbury (The Swannery and the Children’s Farm) we headed home to book up via the internet.
Thursday was thus planned: Swannery then the Children’s farm, back home for tea before taking Uncle Michael, Auntie Cristina and cousins Lauren and Maddie to Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens for the Halloween Enchanted Illuminations.
The only managed colony of nesting mute swans in the world has its origins in the Benedictine monastery of Abbotsbury. The monks farmed the swans for the tables of the local barons until the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII when the land (and the swannery) were bought by Sir Guy Strangways and it remains under the stewardship of his descendants today.
Abbotsbury Swannery is the probably the idea of a nightmare for Lucinda. Over 650 swans, or, as Lucinda refers to them, mean peaking beasts that can break your arm (and according to the warden who had spent 36 years at the Swannery it has happened at the Swannery – once! Once in 36 years! Nevertheless it did happen). So, it was very brave of her to visit the swannery bay at the Western edge of the Fleet, the lagoon that was formed when Chesil beach formed (and geeky stat: It is the largest lagoon in Europe).
We arrived just before feeding time so we headed towards the feeding area, only being mildly distracted by the pedal go-karts along the way. The Baguettes were very brave and entered the feeding area with Daddy to feed the swans. Mute swans are big birds – indeed one of the largest flying birds in the world and must look even bigger to the Baguettes, Ezra especially. However, they were all very brave and took turns throwing the feed into the Fleet for the birds. Seeing the bravery in her offspring gave Lucinda the impetus to come into the feeding area and join us feeding the waterfowl.
Both Éowyn and Amélie had lots of questions for the warden, including tricky ones like: ‘Why are they called ‘mute’ swans?‘ (No real answer as they do make sounds – they are just not renown for a call like Trumpeter or Whooper Swans). ‘How do you tell the difference between male and female swans?‘ (The males tend to be a bit bigger but a large female and a small male would be about the same size; but the key is the ‘knob’ – the ‘pea’ – on top of the bill is bigger in males than females).
After a quick tour of the maze, another go on the pedal go-karts and a quick tour of the play area we stayed at the Swannery for lunch. Conscious that we were running out of day, we walked up the lane towards the Children’s Farm. Again, the Children’s Farm sits within the grounds of the original Benedictine Monastery that was dissolved in 1539. Indeed, the Tithe Barn that sits in the centre of the Children’s farm was built by the monks in 1390. The farm has all the usual suspects and was decorated with a Halloween theme for the half-term. We could have spent many hours around the farm. but with the excitement at the Swannery and with half an eye on the evening’s plans we didn’t spend that long at the farm. It was long enough, however, for Éowyn and Amélie to have a pony ride each and for Ezra to be completely freaked out by some of the Halloween decorations, especially the full sized skeleton. I think it was the false eyes that had been placed in the skull that freaked him out the most.
So we returned to the car and headed back to Berwick Manor to grab something quick to eat. Reading the literature regarding the Halloween Enchanted Illuminations leaflet from the Subtropical Gardens it seemed to encourage dressing up in appropriate Halloween costumes. Ezra didn’t need too much encouragement to dig out his dragon costume for the second time that week. Unfortunately, we hadn’t brought any Halloween costumes for the girls and it really wasn’t the weather to wear Hawaiian costumes. That was when Maddie and Ella came to the rescue. Using eyeliner they made Amélie into a cat (at her request) and Éowyn into a spider queen replete with cobwebs and spiders across her face. You can see the results in the photos below and now, at least, they had made a bit of an effort to go to the evening with a form of costume.
When we got to the Gardens we realised that we were severely underdressed. Most people had gone to some serious effort to come to the Garden in full regalia, we will not make the same mistake next year! Thankfully the make up was a little nod to a costume, although Éowyn was rocking the festival chick look with wellies, leggings, skirt and hoodie rather than a Halloween costume. With our pre-booked tickets we bypassed the queues and passed through into the fun. There were plenty of things to do throughout the gardens. The first stop was the ‘bug tent’ where you get up close to stick insects, tarantulas, lizards and snakes. The tent was quite packed with eager children wanting to hold the creepy crawlies, Éowyn and Ezra were the exception, they were not interested in holding any of the animals (although Ezra did like the lizards), Amélie however was first in the queue to hold a stick insect. This then gave Auntie Cristina the courage to hold the stick insect too.
Next to the bug tent was the disco tent. This held more interest for Éowyn and her older cousins Lauren and Maddie. While the girls (Amélie joined them too) danced to the tunes, the adults (and Ezra) queued up for the ghost train that was the next attraction in the gardens. The queue was enormous and it probably took thirty minutes to reach the front despite the fact that the ride itself only lasted 30 seconds.
There was no way we were going to let Ezra go on the ghost train, especially since he is freaked out by masks and he had been completely freaked out by the skeleton (with eyeballs) earlier in the day. However, both girls were trying to be brave and saying that they would go on the ride. It was decided that Amélie would go on with Mommy while Éowyn would go on with Daddy. Lucinda and Amélie bravely took the first carriage and Éowyn and I sat in the one behind (only one carriage went into the ghost train at a time).
However, as Amélie and Mommy’s carriage edged closer to the entrance to the ghost train, Amélie lost her nerve and left the carriage to stand with Uncle Michael and her place was taken by Maddie. This unnerved Éowyn but some reassuring words from Daddy and she was fine and then Mommy and Maddie’s carriage disappeared through the doors to the ghost train. Unfortunately my hard work in reassuring Éowyn was destroyed by the sound of screaming from Mommy and Maddie as the doors to the ghost train closed. There was no time now for Éowyn to get out of the carriage and the carriage lurched forward she became really scared so i told her to close her eyes and hold Daddy and she would be fine.
The usual dummies dressed as vampires and zombies were there with false cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, while at the same time you were being disoriented by the twists and turns in the rail track and the flashing lights (fortunately we do not suffer from photosensitive epilepsy). Bravely Éowyn opened her eyes only for the real scares to happen and there were two people in there who jumped out on you as the carriage wheeled around the track. The choice of costume of one of the ‘actors’ was perhaps a little insensitive considering the contemporary media reports but I suppose they had already ordered their ‘Killer Clown’ costume before the furore of the proliferation of such reports this year.
Understandably Éowyn was a little shocked as she got off the train, but when she realised that it freaked Mommy and Maddie out and that Lauren had hidden in the carriage as she went round with Auntie Cristina then she felt a little better about herself and it was soon forgotten as we continued to explore the gardens. After the excitement it was quite nice to amble around the gardens illuminated by a spectrum of coloured lamps. There were various characters dressed up standing in specific areas to add to the atmosphere: witches giving out sweets (shades of Hansel and Gretel?), Zombies and Skeletal Queens to name a few. As we walked out onto a grassy knoll (no J.F.K. here) there were a couple of ‘fire acrobats’. Their show was very impressive with fire juggling, fire eating, fire breathing and general pyrotechnic pranks.
We continued around the park enjoying the walk and the illuminated vegetation until the final stretch before the exit. 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 (on ropes so there was no actual danger of being hurt – apart from coronary related issues). I carried Ezra through the Halloween run and for the most part he nestled his head in my shoulder, hugging me tight with his eyes closed. However, he still seemed to enjoy it and wasn’t traumatized as we exited the Gardens.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Halloween evening and will definitely be going back next year, this time with a costume to feel a fully paid up member of the evening and I think we have convinced other members of the greater Badger clan that it was worth the money and a good night out.
That was our last evening for the Badger Moot 2016 and Friday morning we headed home. However, we decided to head in the wrong direction for a quick visit to Lyme Regis to say another good-bye to our favourite place and have a spot of lunch before heading back to Staines Upon Thames.
Normally I would end the Badger Moot write up there, but I thought you may appreciate the following. The journey back was a slog. It took over 4 hours (nearly twice the time it took to get there) to get back. Indeed, it took 2.5 hours to get to the bottom of the M3. Now usually we would be nearly home and Ezra must have an innate timing in his being because it was at this point he asked whether we were nearly home. I looked at the Satnav and it was displaying an ETA of an additional 2 hours, so I told Ezra that it would be another 2 hours. ‘You’re kidding me! Right?‘ was his reply. It was a good job that I was in stationary traffic. I have no clue whether he understood either what he said or how long two hours are but it did make us laugh.
I think I have bored you enough so your reward is another crop of photos from the holiday. There are plenty more on the Flickr pages so please feel free to pop by there if the 33 below has whetted your appetite.
Peace and Love
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