The Badger Moot 2014 – Part Two: The Hollywood Party

For those of you that have landed here without reading the first half of the 2014 moot please click here.

We returned back to Berwick Manor late afternoon as the sun went down.  The kitchen was out of bounds as Adam and Lucy and Steve and Zoe prepared not only the evening meal but the decorations necessary for the Hollywood Party so we herded the kids in the TV room to keep them out of the way.

Ezra was so tired after his earlier excursions that we put him to bed before dinner and therefore he didn’t join in with the fancy dress but everyone else took the evening to heart including little Letty (a papoose from Dances with Wolves).  You would think that with a subject as wide as Hollywood that there would be a variety of different costumes and indeed there was but great minds seldom differ and we did have a couple of duplicates: John and Steve both came as chimney sweeps à la Bert from Mary Poppins, and Lucinda and Lucy both came as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.

As usual Adam and Lucy and Steve and Zoe worked hard to decorate the kitchen to help everyone get in the spirit of the party.  There was a red carpet down the hall to the kitchen, a Hollywood style Walk of Fame and a gold curtain to stand against for the paparazzi photos.  There were even three mini Oscars that were awarded to the best male costume, best female costume and best child costume as voted via secret ballot.  Lauren won the Oscar for the best child costume as Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, replete with a hand-crafted spell book with every spell from the series;  Zoe won the best female costume with her Mary Poppins outfit and I won the best male costume as Animal (from The Muppets).  I felt a little bit of a cheat as mine was completely bought with no extra effort required, however I was very pleased with the outfit and was delighted with the win.  You can see everyone’s photos below so feel free to make your own decision and whether you would agree with the Badger clan voting.

Tuesday was the Bagnall turn to cook, therefore we did not venture too far from Berwick Manor.  We drove to the nearby town of Abbotsbury to have a mooch but primarily to buy a Christmas decoration that we had seen the previous day when we drove through on the way to Portland.  A very simple idea, but it caught our eye, an enterprising local had made snowmen from three different sized cross-sections of logs.  It will sit nicely in our porch for the yuletide, greeting our Christmas visitors.  I promise to take a photo when it is in situ and post it on here but in the meantime here is a photo of Amélie choosing it.

We also took the opportunity to go for a cream tea.  We had passed the Eggcup tearoom on the Jurassic Coast road many times over the last decade but had never gone it for a scone but this year we rectified that omission.  Situated in Swyre directly off the Jurassic Coast road about halfway between Abbostbury and Berwick Manor it seemed rude to past it by.  The scones were big and delicious the only disappointment being that there was no view of the sea (they are situated on the wrong side of the road for that).  We bought the girls a slice of Victoria sponge to go with their drinks but for some reason neither of them like it, therefore Daddy had a Victoria sponge chaser to go with his fruit scone and jam!  I would quite happily recommend a pit stop there if you are on the B3157.

A year does not go past without a trip to Lyme Regis and so it was this year.  Lyme Regis is probably one of our favourite places in the world and if we are in the area we will visit.  So although Wednesday morning saw the first downpour of the week the inclement weather did not stop the Bagnalls from going to the seaside.  Our faith was repaid for although it rained heavily during the journey as we arrived the rain stopped and even if the clouds sat on the surrounding hills and it wasn’t until the afternoon that the sun came out we still headed straight to the beach to build sandcastles and collect seaweed for decoration.

The good thing about the weather being a overcast is that you pretty much get the beach to yourself.  The day before, a number of the family went to Lyme Regis but because the weather was so good everyone in the area had the same idea and so the car parks were full.  Indeed some of the family had to find an alternative, as there was simply no where for them to park.

We did not have any such problem and managed to park exactly where we went wanted.  After a couple of hours building sandcastles and paddling (in wellies) in the sea we headed for lunch.  A little café near the beach is a particular favourite and being creatures of habit we found ourselves there.  Their lunchtime special caught both Lucinda’s and my eye:  fish finger sandwiches.  As we sat waiting for our lunch, Éowyn mooched around the shell and fossil shop next door.  The girls profited well from their visit to Portland, not only did Auntie Margaret buy both girls colouring books and pens and made them cupcakes she also gave them some money to spend on ice-creams.  Éowyn is a little savvy when it comes to money and knows that Daddy will buy her ice-cream so she asked if she could buy some shells.  I tried to dissuade her by saying that there were lots of other shops if she would like to compare prices.  She thought about this and decided that as long as she could return to this shop if she didn’t see anything else then she would want to return.  An agreement was reached.

We took our usual wander around Lyme Regis and it was little Ezra who spent his money first.  Éowyn and Amélie spent their money from Daddy on their first day of the holiday.  Ezra didn’t.  He didn’t seem interested in anything on that first day and to be honest, when you are trying to help a 6 year old and a 4 year old choose their toys it was too tiring (especially after a disturbed night’s sleep) to try and encourage him to choose something.  Perhaps he was just binding his time for as we passed a shop in Lyme Regis there were some knitted dinosaurs and he grabbed one.  So we picked the three types of dinosaur that they had:  A green tyrannosaurus rex, a blue stegosaurus and a red triceratops and asks him to choose.  The red triceratops came out as favourite (my favourite dinosaur was the triceratops when I was a boy, too!).  So Ezra had now spent his money it spurred the girls to spend the money off Auntie Margaret.  The other shops did not have anything of interest so we popped back to the first shop and they bought their shells, to go with their mermaids before heading back to bass.

Thursday morning saw the Bagnalls visit another sandy beach and another one of our favourite haunts in the shape of Weymouth.  With the weather warming up after the rain of the previous day (and heading for the warmest Halloween on record – in the UK) it seemed a shame not to spend the last full day of our holiday on the beach.  Weymouth is one of the largest towns in Dorset and is a popular tourist venue in no small part due to its beach, low tide and warm(ish) sea.  So we parked the car and headed directly to the beach and that was where we stayed for most of the day.  Fish and chips on the beach added to the idiosyncratic Britishness of the day, especially when you consider that it was the end of October and we were wearing coats and wellies.

The last day of the moot coincided with Halloween and what a Halloween – the thermometer in my car registered 23°C on the drive home and as mentioned above it was indeed the hottest UK Halloween on record.  We had to vacate the house and conscious about trying to miss the rush hour traffic around home we decided that a quick pit stop at Hive Beach and another drive along the Jurassic Coast road would be the last of our Dorset views for 2o14.  Hive Beach had a disturbing, if somewhat fascinating sight: the decomposing body of a baby dolphin.  It looked like it had been dead a while and had lost its head but Éowyn and I were fascinated – Lucinda and Amélie on the other hand were disgusted.  There are photos on my Flickr pages here, if you are at all interested.

We made it back late afternoon in time to answer the door to all the trick or treaters.  But you will have to wait until the next write up to see the photo of our Pumpkin carving.

Peace and Love


PS The photos below are of our family movie night party (feel free to judge the costumes yourself and see if you agree with the family).  If you want to see more general photos of the holiday please see: Badger Moot 2014 – Part One.

Badger Moot 2013 – The Tenth Anniversary

A trilogy of November updates end with today’s update: the 10th Annual Badger Moot.  In 2004 Nick and Bonita Badger (Lucinda’s cousins from Australia) were preparing to leave the UK to return to their homeland and decided that it would be nice for the entire UK family to spend a long weekend together in deepest darkest Dorset.  Nestled in the Bride valley village of Puncknowle, Berwick Manor fitted the bill as a reasonably priced house that could accommodate the family.  The Badger clan enjoyed it so much that it has since become an annual event (changing from a long weekend to the full week) and Berwick Manor has served the family well over that last decade.

Unfortunately this year Berwick Manor had already been booked (which was slightly disappointing it has to be said) and so an alternative was needed to keep the tradition alive.  The Old Rectory at Symondsbury ably filled the bill.  Eight miles further down the A35, Symondsbury at the foot of Colmer’s Hill lies a mile or so to the west of Bridport.  This eleven bedroom home is reputed to be one of the largest rectories in England and to be honest I could quite believe it for the three floors, eleven bedrooms and nine bathrooms that we hired is not the entire house for the owner lives in a separate wing.

Initially built in 1730 (although expanded in 1814) the Old Rectory is a grade II* country house and as such retains much of its original décor, with a large dining room, a library that contains a 6 foot pool table and upright piano, a breakfast room, fully equipped kitchen and a drawing room replete with a grand piano.  It many ways it was far grander than Berwick Manor and the extra bedrooms and en-suites certainly helped make everyone feel more comfortable.  However it lacked some of the charm or perhaps more accurately the familial atmosphere of Berwick Manor.  Now whether this is due to familiarity, we know Berwick Manor inside out, or the lack of focal point.  In Berwick Manor this is most definitely the kitchen and there is always someone in the kitchen whether preparing food, reading the paper or having a cup of tea, at the Old Rectory one could be completely unaware that there was anyone else in the house.

It is difficult to say which one was it better, they are different, however the Old Rectory feels more part of a community with a pub a thirty second walk away and Bridport a 30 minute stroll away.  Those points coupled with the extra bedroom tips the balance, in my opinion, to the Old Rectory but not in any detrimental way to Berwick Manor and have no strong opinion as to whether it should become the new venue for the Badger Moot.  We will have to see what the majority decision is.

As usual the Badger Moot began Friday afternoon, with a number clan members arriving for the official handover time of 1600.  This would usually include the Bagnall sub-clan; however that was before half-term and a child of school-attending age.  Although we could have written Éowyn a sick note and taken her out of school for the day, it seemed a shame to ruin her perfect attendance for the want of a couple of hours.  In addition, the school was marked down in its Ofsted report on attendance and somehow it didn’t feel right to take her out for such a trivial reason.  Indeed our decision bore fruit with Éowyn receiving a certificate for perfect attendance.

So with the car loaded we picked Éowyn up from school and drove the 130 or so miles to Symondsbury.  We arrived in unfamiliar territory in the dark, the landmark of Colmer’s Hill hidden in the Cimmerian blanket of night and drove right past the entrance to the Old Rectory.  In fairness, even in the day it is quite easy to drive past.  Fortunately there was enough of a mobile phone signal for the family to guide us in and so the moot began.

The first evening meal of the week was prepared by Uncle Bill and Auntie Sally, a variety of curries and Indian side dishes and they delayed dishing up until our arrival.  We had just enough time to unpack the car before tucking in.

The bedroom that we had been allocated was impressive.  It was at least 7 metres by 6 metres with an en-suite shower room.  It contained a four-poster bed and two single beds for the girls.  Ezra’s travel cot easily fitted at the foot of our bed and there was still room for 5 tables, a large wardrobe and two settees.  To say it was adequate would be a gross understatement.

I think most of the family were happy with their rooms too, and the elder cousins were happy because they got to share an attic room and a bathroom which was seconded as the obligatory Spa for the week.

A disturbed night (a template for the week) followed so the Bagnalls were the first awake on Saturday morning.  We were therefore washed, dressed and breakfasted bright and early ready for the traditional visit to Bridport’s Saturday market.  Very few bargains were to be had, although Éowyn and Amélie treated themselves to a small toy each and Lucinda bought herself a hat.

Saturday afternoon we decided to visit another of our traditional haunts, Hive Beach just east of Burton Bradstock.  Sea spray hit you as you stepped out of the car in the car park and as you headed to the shore you couldn’t fail to be impressed by the power of nature.  The sea was incredibly dramatic with waves heralding the advent of what was to become known as St Jude’s storm (a weather event that some countries would consider a squall which hit Sunday into Monday).  Wrapped up with coats and wellies the girls headed to the edge of the sea, playing chicken with the waves.  Confidence was high as they turned and fled each incoming breaker, but the sea is a cruel mistress and before you knew it we had three (Éowyn, Amélie and their cousin Lauren) wet children!  Time to go home.  Saturday night was hearty casseroles courtesy of the Swindell arm of the clan and the first fancy dress night of the holiday:  Wigs and Hats.

The highlight of the evening though was to be found in the garden.  Uncle John and Auntie Margaret (over from Australia) were the only named Badgers at the moot this year (although there were three ex-Badgers) but (potentially fleeing the badger cull in nearby Somerset) we were graced by the visit of a real badger in the grounds of the Old Rectory.  It is quite rare to see them for us townies and so we all took delight in gazing through the window at our nocturnal visitor.

The Ilchester Arms, the only pub in the village, has a reputation for a mean Sunday lunch.  At only a 30 second walk away it seemed rude not to head there for a family meal.  Since there was 27 of us we had pre-booked months in advance and took over the majority of the restaurant area of the pub.  Nevertheless the meals came out relatively together and it was without doubt the finest Sunday lunch I have had in many a month.  (This is nothing to do with the fact that I am usually at work and Sunday lunch is usually a packed lunch or a takeaway, rapidly eaten between phonecalls and problems).

After lunch was the traditional post-lunch slump so we were glad that before we had headed down the road to the pub we had actually ventured out of the village.  The weather was still in its threatening phase but dry nevertheless.  We therefore decided to take the girls down to West Bay.  Primarily for them to play in West Bay Play Area and for us to have a mooch around the West Bay car boot sale.  The car boot sale was very disappointing, just a handful of stores but the girls thoroughly enjoyed the play area.  Éowyn made a little friend named Tia and played nicely with her until we dragged her away to have a look at the sea.  Like Hive Beach the day before the low pressure heading our way was travelling across the Atlantic churning up the sea culminating in dramatic waves crashing against the shore.  This time there were no heroics and no damp children to take home.

Sunday night was the second of three fancy dress nights planned for the week, ‘A onesie/ pyjama party’.  As I don’t own either I decided to go for a onesie, quite a nice one, from Next.  I didn’t realise how popular onesies are.  There are a plethora of designs (most bought for the party were amusing) and indeed Lucinda had difficulty buying one for her as most were sold out in her size!  After wearing one for the evening I can see the attraction, especially if you live in a cold house, they are extremely warm.  A little too warm for me!

With the media hype surrounding St Jude’s storm we were half expecting total destruction when we woke on Monday morning.  Yes, there were individual tragedies around the country but the effects in Dorset consisting mainly of a lot of leaves and small branches in the road.  Therefore we decided that we would take advantage of a bonus day and again head for another of our usual haunts:  Lyme Regis.

Lucinda and I are big fans of Lyme Regis and with its sandy beach it is an excellent place for the girls to play and make sandcastles.  So after a tour of the town and a quick toasted teacake we headed to the beach.  As we wandered down the front, watching the waves break over the Cobb we randomly picked a spot on the sandy part of the beach for the girls to play. Then one of those quirk of fates occurred, sitting not 20 feet in front of us on the beach was Tia and her family, the little girl that Éowyn had played with at West Bay Play Area the day before.  Éowyn, Amélie and Tia played together on the beach very nicely, however Tia had sea interface error and as she was due to go to the cinema later that afternoon her mum had to run off and buy a new set of clothes.  She wasn’t the only one in the shop either, it seemed to be a very common occurrence, bonus time for the children’s clothing department!

Tuesday saw a departure from our usual haunts and instead we headed to Portland (Dorset not Oregon) to visit my mom’s cousin Margaret and her husband Ray.  My mom and Auntie Margaret were close when Auntie Margaret still lived in West Bromwich and growing up we saw a lot of Auntie Margaret but it wasn’t until my Nan’s funeral the previous Thursday that I had seen them this century.  It seemed to be a shame to be so close to them and not pop over to introduce them to the latest members of the Bagnall family.

We had a fantastic day on Portland.  Éowyn and Amélie made themselves at home at Margaret and Ray’s and were on their best behaviour entertaining us all.  Before the rain swept in we paid a visit to Fancy’s Farm, which if you ever find yourself on Portland you should visit.  It is a community farm and is free to enter (although donations are welcome) and kids (and big kids alike) will enjoy feeding the animals.  Éowyn was a little nervous of the animals and was shamed into feeding some of them by her little sister.  Amélie showed no fear at all, even when feeding Harvey the shire horse that dwarfs me and whose head alone was bigger than she was.  Amélie also held a guinea pig which Éowyn reluctantly held afterwards, just to show that she wasn’t scared.  We returned just before dark, in time for the evening meal and the third, and main fancy dress night of the week.  The theme this year was 70’s and 80’s.

As you can see from the photos, once again everyone took the theme to heart.  Again it was the brainchild of Adam and Lucy and Zoe and Steve.  The evening meal was suitably fitting to the era with Cordon Bleu Chicken, Spam Fritters, Potato Croquets and Spaghetti Hoops for main course and Viennetta, Arctic Roll and Black Forest Gateau for desert all to a 70’s and 80’s soundtrack.  For some reason I felt very comfortable in my flowery shirt and bell-bottom jeans.  Once again the family owe a big thank you to the organisers, it was great fun.

Wednesday saw the Bagnalls chilling out at the house.  This was in part to the fact that neither Lucinda or I had had a full night’s sleep all week and in part due to the excitement of the girls by having their cousins on tap all week and journeys across the Dorset landscape.  Also it was our turn to cook the evening meal.

The house was hired from Friday 25th October to Friday 1st November but Friday 1st November was the day that we completed on our new home (see the following update) and so we had decided that we were going to leave on Thursday night after the evening meal.  Therefore we didn’t want waste the day.  Earlier in the week a number of the family had headed to Cerne Abbas to solve a treasure trail.  Everyone said how much they enjoyed it and so we thought that it would be a fitting end to the week.  Plus I have always wanted to see the Cerne Abbas giant so what better excuse?

The treasure trails are great fun, you have to eliminate suspects in a fictional murder but following the trail and solving clues.  The trail took us all over Cerne Abbas culminating at the Giant viewpoint.  It was great fun and we got to see far more of Cerne Abbas then one would normally of a day trip to a town.  There are a large number of these treasure trails as you can see from the website and I would heartily recommend them.

So ten Badger Moots have come and gone and new members have been added to the clan (myself and our three children included) let us hope that this is a traditional that continues for at least another ten years.

Peace and Love


PS: Sorry for the longest write up in this site’s history, to recompense you for the lack of photos in recent updates here are 33!

The Badger Moot 2012 – Part Two: Halloween

So welcome to part two of my first two part update.  If you have missed part one please click here.

For the first time in nine years the Badger Moot occured over Halloween.  Every year we do a little something for the kids for Halloween, usually involving a piñata in a suitably Halloweeny form, this year, however, we went one step further and had our second fancy dress night of the week.

The Manor house is spooky enough and we quite often try to freak each other out with tales of unexplained noises or movements out of the corner of your eye.  It definitely has a history and I am sure it could tell many a tale.  Adam, Lucy, Steve and Zöe had volunteered to organise the party and food and dress the house with Halloween decorations.  To allow them time to get everything ready we all headed out of the house and into the Dorset countryside.

We headed first to Bridport to collect a few minor items to add to our costumes and then we were going to head further down the coast.  However the October weather had other ideas and the heavens opened.  It wasn’t the fact that it was raining, it wasn’t the fact that it begun hailing, it was the fact that it was hitting you horizontally.  So we took shelter in the car and since there appeared to be no break in the clouds we just took a drive down the coast road towards Abbotsbury to watch the power of the sea crashing into the shore from the safety and dry of the car.  That killed a little bit of time but eventually we had to head back to the manor to dry off and get ready for the evening.

Banned from the kitchen and lounge we headed to our room to don our costumes.  Éowyn and Amélie both had a choice of two costumes, a witch outfit and a ghost costume.  Éowyn wanted to be a witch (well a witch princess to be precise) but Amélie refused to dress up.  ‘No witchy thank-you.‘  So we asked her if she wanted to be a ghost. ‘No ghosty, thank-you.‘  So she was the only one who was not in costume for the evening, however she did take a shine to Finley’s axe and spend most of the evening dragging it around – which is slightly worrying.

Once suitably attired we headed to the television room to wait for the grand unveiling of the party.  It did not disappoint.  A lot of effort had gone into the decoration but the pièce de résistance was the skull and plastic limb bones surrounding a baking tray of ribs and sausages.  Yes the main meal was presented to look like a corpse but it sure did taste good.  The decorations and cannibalistic gastronomy was enhanced by the spooky Halloween sound effects playing on an iPod.

Once the meal was finished it was time for the annual piñata and the delights that it held inside.  The children, as always, were very good in taking turns to bash hell out of the cardboard and papier-mâiché Frankenstein (‘s monster to be specific.  Victor Frankenstein was the name of the scientist, Adam was the name of the monster – but you all knew that, right?).  As always it took a while until it finally yielded the sweets inside which were then placed in a big pile to share evenly between them all.

It was a great night and fun was had by all and thus I decided to make this a two part update to do justice to the effort that everyone put into their costumes and the sterling work that Adam, Lucy, Steve and Zöe put in to spookify the Manor house and hopefully the photos below give you a little bit of the flavour of the evening.

Peace and Love