As regular readers of this blog will testify, October half-term is the usual time that the Bagnalls join the greater Badger clan for the annual Badger Moot. Descendants of Lucinda’s maternal grandfather, Grandpa Badger, flock – if, indeed, Badgers flock? – to the Dorset coast for a week of fun and frolics. This is the 13th moot and the 12th at our usual destination of Berwick Manor. For those of you that don’t know, Berwick Manor is a large manor house set on the Puncknowle Manor estate in the Bride Valley, West Dorset just north of Burton Bradstock. As this is the 13th time we have stayed here (12 moots and once for Uncle Bill’s birthday) we know it very well; it feels like home from home and it is large enough to accommodate the ever-growing clan of Badgers, we peaked at 28 Badgerettes this year. Read more
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