Forthcoming events ..... Amanda's Diary
If you have any news of forthcoming events etc. you can send them to amanda
Amanda Streatfeild
An archive of magazine items can be found here

this year's magazine items below, the previous years are now archived . go to the link above

regular week by week events ( post covid ) will be:

Young farmers, Tuesdays, 7.30 : Broadoak choir Wednesdays, 7.30 :


Good morning all

Friday 2nd July at 4.15 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council Planning Committee – St. Peter’s Eype   Agenda on

Tuesday 13th July at 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – St. Peter’s Eype.   The information is on the Symondsbury Parish Council website   Public are most welcome to attend both meetings.

Sunday 18th at 6.30 p.m.  -  Holy Communion - St. Paul’s Broadoak.  A wonderful service, particularly on a summer’s evening.

  • Sadly we have had to cancel the Broadoak party on 10th July.  It would have been outside, but if the weather was inclement, indoors would not have been possible.  Please do look out for the next date which we will fix soon. 
  • Plans are moving forward for Fibre for Broadoak.  I will shortly circulate an update from Tris Button and Lynden Norman who are working on our behalf.


Farmer George’s Diary

Well at least it was not as wet as last June – but still wet enough to make farming even tougher than usual.  I am very relieved not to be trying to feed cows as well as save high quality forage for the coming winter.
Maize growing has been a huge challenge.  The early sown crops which went into good seedbeds, became waterlogged and rotted and the later sown crops were sown into good seedbeds but late so will struggle to catch up their growth.  Maize should be ‘knee high by the for fourth July’.  Well, that is not going to happen this year on most of the crops unfortunately.

Meanwhile our field of sunflowers avoided the pigeons and is growing well.  We have mowed two butterflies into them so that in August when they are in flower, we can advertise the opportunity to saunter in the sunflowers followed by teas and ice-creams.  We will also offer pick-your-own sunflowers as well.
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A couple of weeks ago we repaired a section of the track through the farm – when we closed it to do the work, it was interesting to see who uses our road as a short cut!  There is public road at either end, but the middle bit is actually a bridleway, not public road.   We shall be doing the second half later this month if all goes to plan.

Wildlife is never far from our thinking at the moment, so it was lovely to drive up the hill and see a cloud (well almost) of butterflies rising out of the grass which is normally grazed at this time of year. Future management will be interesting to balance production against butterflies.

Some warm sunny weather will be a great fillip to more than the butterflies – let’s hope for it.



Good evening all

Tuesday 8th June at 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – St. Peter’s Eype.   At last the PC will be meeting in person by the kind invitation of the Chapel Wardens.   The information is on the Symodnsbury Parish Council website   Due to the increased amount of planning applications, including Vearse Farm, there will be separate Planning Committee meetings which will also appear on the website and noticeboards.   The public are most welcome to attend both meetings.

Sunday 20th June at 6.30 p.m.  - Celtic Worship.   St. Paul’s Broadoak.

Sunday 27th June at 2.00 p.m.ArtsReach Dorset Little Beerland, Ryall.
 ‘Oh Mary’ A swashbuckling tale of transportation, love, escape, tragedy and redemption.
Cornish actor Bec Applebee, well known for her work with internationally acclaimed companies:
'Kneehigh',' Wild Work's and 'Dalla,'
now presents a one-woman, open-air physical theatre show based on the incredible life story of Mary Bryant; Cornish highway woman, convict, mother and maritime adventurer. for details


Sunday 27th June at 3.00 p.m. – Higher Moorbath Cottage, Broadoak –
the Hollands’ wonderful fundraising tea and walk for MND.
Please call Jane and Jerry for more information about the walk: 01308 425717

Please do let me know if there are forthcoming events you would like publicised.  

Farmer George’s Diary

I’ve been so wrapped up in our own issues that I have totally ignored the rainfall chart – not that we forgot the rain in May!  We had 149mm compared to 8mm in 2020.  Two interesting things:

  • June is usually much wetter than May
  • The rolling average annual rainfall peaked in January 2020 at 45 inches, since then it has been steadily falling to our ‘normal’ average of 32 inches.  However, May created a jump to 37 inches – what a difference one month can make.

Monthly rainfall

Last month I said a warm showery spell would help.  What a wish!  The thing about the rain was not just the volume but the cold.  The maize that had been drilled came up a rather insipid yellow rather than vibrant green that it should be: it hates cold and wet but thank goodness for the last week of fine weather which has turned things around. 

Denhay Farms Ltd is still farming the land, so making silage (now completed), emptying the slurry lagoon and drilling the rest of the maize.  They will be selling the grass silage and the maize later in the year.  This could be the right year to do that as forage is going to be in short supply thanks to poor growth.

Meanwhile, we have sown a field of sunflowers to create a ‘sunflower maze’ later in the year.  Like the maize, it does not like cold and wet but germination seems mostly good much to the delight of the pigeons.  This is going to be a colourful summer for us all.



Good morning all

I am afraid that for technical reasons, this did not go out yesterday, so sadly you missed the opportunity to have a last view from the comfort of your own home of the doings of the Parish Council.  Thanks to Philip Colfox for his year as Chair and it is now over to Steve Ralph and I shall do my best to support him as Vice Chair.

Tuesday 4th May  at 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – this will probably be our last by meeting by Zoom.  It is our Annual General Meeting, so there will be hotly contested elections for Chair, Vice-Chair and also new systems instituted for planning committees and managing the Vearse Farm development. Minutes and information are always on our website:


Sunday 16th May at 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Holy Communion

I don’t think there is anything else to mention at the moment, but as information comes in, I will send an update.   One thing for our locals to note in your diary now, is the Broadoak Hall Summer Party – Saturday 10th July.  This will be a fun-packed afternoon of children’s sports and games and cakes and tea, followed by a barbecue and bar, music and whatever else we feel like doing!  We will be celebrating the repairs to the Hall that have been enabled by the Symondsbury Parish Council and Walbridge Trust and the joy of being able to meet up again with our neighbours.  

Advanced notice ... 'Oh Mary' by Bec Appleby

Don't miss the outdoor Artsreach event on Sunday 27th June at 2 o’clock
at Little Beerland in Ryall

click on this artsreach logo to see the details

arts reach


Farmer George’s Diary

It is very quiet at Denhay with no cows and the attendant feeding.  The tractor team is still employed until the end of July and they have already been making grass silage and will plant the maize fields and of course there is all the remaining slurry to spread..  There is much work to do but we expect the transfer of the land to Amanda and I to be at the end of July also.

Some of the grass fields may not get grazed this year which will be very interesting from a wildlife point of view.  The cuckoo flowers are amazing in some fields and the woods are a blue and white sheen from bluebells and ransoms.  Do come and walk through our woods to see them if you have the chance.

We had the grand total of 11mm rain in April – and that fell right at the end of the month.  Coupled with such a cold spring, it is a mild relief that we are not trying to get milk from grass.  I took advantage of the rain to sow some wild flower and grass seeds as well as the strip approaching the Denhay office.  A warm showery spell would now be ideal for that and all the crops.



Good morning

At last one or two things to put in the diary:

Saturday 3rd April at 7.00 p.m. - St. John’s Symondsbury – Easter Eve Service outside the church with singing!   This service usually happens at Broadoak, but will be in the churchyard at Symondsbury.   Do please join us; there have been spectacular lightings of the new fire from which the Pascal Candles are lit!

Monday 12th April at 6.00 p.m. – Broadoak Hall.  The committee will be meeting to discuss plans for the coming months and to assess what work needs to be done in the Hall.  There will be much decorating and cleaning to be done, particularly in the kitchen which has a new ceiling and lighting.  If anyone would like to be involved, when we are safe to do so, please let me know.

Tuesday 13th April at 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – we will be meeting by Zoom again this month.   Please contact the clerk Marilyn if you would like to attend virtually:  and the login is on our website may be the last time when you will have opportunity to sneak a look at what goes on in the parish without having to leave the comfort of your own home.  Do please spare a few minutes.

Thursday 22nd April – Saturday 24th April – From Page to Screen Do sign up for a Festival Pass to a range of wonderful films this season – even if we can’t get together yet.   All these events will need as much support as possible this year.   It is your chance to see ‘Ammonite’ too.

Please do let me know if there are forthcoming events you would like publicised.  

Best wishes, Amanda

Farmer George’s Diary

There was a temptation not to write anything this month.  The pain for us all is huge especially as we are in the middle of selling the cows.   It is already very quiet around the farm and that sense of emptiness will only grow.  I think we are in the equivalent of the hour before dawn – the darkest hour.   Things will get better, but it will take time.

Meanwhile there is work to be done.  This year we will be growing the maize crops as before and harvesting grass for silage.  The latter will start in about 4 weeks’ time.  Spring and longer days wait for no man.    The signs of new life are everywhere; my dog brought back a freshly laid pheasant egg to me two days ago and a pair of magpies are chancing their arms by nesting in the yew tree right outside our office window!  Perhaps of more excitement was that son-in-law Matt filmed a polecat on his camera-trap – how unusual is that?

Quite how things will unfold at Denhay is still uncertain but in a month’s time I hope to be able to tell you more.  What I can say is, contrary to one rumour, the land is not being sold and we are staying here.


It is with a heavy heart that I write an update on life at Denhay.....

Despite the best endeavours of all involved, the farming operations over the last five years have consistently lost significant money. This is despite the fact that over that period we have farmed better than we have ever done.

In the period since 2015, performance has improved on all fronts, not least milk yield which has increased by 1,600 litres (21%) on average over all herds.   However, we have incurred substantial losses, and it is not sustainable to continue to do so. Given the weak outlook for milk price, the withdrawal of Basic Payment Scheme over the coming years, the fact that we are spread out with nearly 20 miles from one end to the other, coupled with increasing environmental pressures, there is no apparent and clear sustainable future for dairy farming at Denhay.  We should not forget those that will be seeking new employment and we will do all we can to support them.
Having gone clear of TB, the herds will all be dispersed by early April and the Hood and Streatfeild families will each be responsible for farming their own land. Denhay Farms as a bacon curing business will remain in operation as an ongoing business.  The detail of what we plan to do will unfold over the coming months as you read my diary.
Best wishes


Good morning all

Happy St David’s Day;  to those wearing a leek or daffodil today, hope you enjoyed Saturday!   Not many diary entries again this month, but I am sure that dates will start to appear soon.

A couple of requests: 

  • as a trustee of the wonderful Pilsdon Community, I am possibly looking for a volunteer Treasurer, so if anyone might be interested, please contact me. 

  • and with things opening up before too long, Dorset ArtsReach, the organisation which brings live entertainment of incredibly high standard to the local community and village halls, will be getting its programme together.  Georgina Burnham, who runs the Broadoak events, would love a couple of volunteers to help her with planning and running those activities; we will probably only have a couple a year, but someone to help get the hall ready, put up posters, etc., would be much appreciated.


George enters his last month as Dorset’s High Sheriff and has produced a booklet highlighting the work of some of Dorset’s charities.  Please let us know if you would like a copy or download it from his website:  With thanks to Martin Clunes, a Deputy Lieutenant of Dorset, for his support.


Tuesday 9th March 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – we will be meeting by Zoom again this month.   Please contact the clerk Marilyn if you would like to attend virtually:  and the login is on our website  We will be looking at the Dorset Local Plan revision, and it is important to be part of the long-term planning of development in the county.  It is also an opportunity to put in for local grants:  Broadoak Hall has been awarded £2,250 and Bridport Leisure Centre £5,000.  Thanks also to the Walbridge Trust for their grant towards the Village Hall roof repairs.

Farmer George’s Diary March 2021

Sunday 28th February and it seems more like the end of March- not a cloud in the sky, the birds are singing and the snowdrops and wild daffodils are in full bloom; it must be spring.

Exactly a year ago I wrote about this new virus Covid 19!  Interestingly I listed what we knew and what I thought would be the effect on us and I wasn’t too far off the mark.  Specifically it did help tourism in the southwest and it did help our supermarket sales.  However, it has continued to put huge pressure on the price of milk; less coffee drunk to and from work has had a dramatic impact on the demand for milk.

I am really pleased to report that after many years, all our cows passed the second TB test last week.  It is  a huge relief; being shut up with TB places a great deal of stress and cost on everyone.  Meanwhile, despite my claims about spring approaching, the cows are still very happily in their sheds eating lots of last year’s well made grass and maize silage. It will be a while before they get to grazing the grass as we need the ground to ‘pitch’ out and warm up.
Whilst February was wet, at this time of year it doesn’t take long for the ground to dry and then field work can start.   I went to Middlemarsh last week and driving up over the chalk top, I could see tractors rolling the grassland and ploughing ready for spring corn.  It will be a while before we are able to do that in the Vale. At least we can keep the slurry pits under control.

Matt Kingston keeps a record of the bird species he sees each year; he is up to over 50 already this year which seems a huge number.  The greatest excitement for us all is regular sightings of the barn owl; let’s hope he finds a mate and uses the carefully constructed nesting box.   If this weather continues, we will have more to do and write about.



Good morning all

Happy Candlemas – light a candle for someone, or just for yourself; traditionally celebrating Jesus being presented at the Temple, but also heralding spring and life giving warmth (though probably not today!).

Tuesday 8th February 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – we will be meeting by Zoom again this month.   Please contact the clerk Marilyn if you would like to attend virtually:  and the login in on our website  We will be looking at the Dorset Local Plan revision.  Please remember for those in the parish that this is the chance for you to join a PC meeting at any time and just watch, maybe only for a few minutes, to see what goes on.  We are delighted to welcome a new councillor, Paul Hartmann, who has huge planning experience and will be able to support our comments on applications, which will include Vearse Farm.  Broadoak Hall will also be making an application to the Parish Council for funding to repair the kitchen ceiling in the village hall, which has now fallen in.   We have asked for quotes and hope that we can get funding to repair it soon.

Wednesday 17th February5.30 p.m. A live service broadcast from Salisbury Cathedral at the start of Lent.    Visit  if you would like the link.

Best wishes


Farmer George’s Diary February 2021

rain fall

We seem to be going back up the average rainfall chart with a very wet January! It does not appear to be just one year, but a trend – as shown by the black line. If this is what global warming means for us we should all be considering the effect on our businesses. I suspect we do not really know the answer, but it doesn’t look good right now for those of us dairy farming in the Marshwood Vale.

However, the cows are all safely kept indoors for now and do not make any attempt at getting out. You know when spring is coming because the slightest rattle of a gate will bring them bellowing to be let out. Not now!

I am pleased to say the milk is coming up and our price has a little as well. That has nothing to do with the market which remains dire. We lost our Waitrose supply arrangement; they cut back on their milk requirement because they lost the Ocado business so their sales were dramatically reduced. Being far away from any distribution centre, we lost out. However, after a herculean effort by all the farm staff in achieving the necessary standards, half the Denhay milk is going to M&S. It is not that they are any harder than those of Waitrose, they are different. When you read about those farmers that supply supermarkets having a much higher price than those to fresh milk sales, please remember that price comes at a huge cost; they are very demanding over building design, animal welfare and the use of antibiotic and chemicals. I am not saying that it is a bad thing, far from it, in many areas it is excellent, but it does add a great deal to the cost of producing a litre of milk.

The whole farming landscape is changing. The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a thing of the past and we have 6 years of transition to a time when there will be no subsidies without a benefit to the tax payer in return. The new system is called Environmental Land Management or ELM. We will be paid for providing ‘Public Good’ such as wildlife meadows or new wetlands. This requires a whole new mind-set for farmers – since the 1947 agriculture act we have been exhorted to ‘feed the nation- never again will Britain be held to ransom for food as it was in WW2.’ Now food security is not seen so much as a priority and we must also care for the environment, landscape and wildlife. I would add since Covid 19 as well – care for the nation’s mental health and welfare.

Clearly food production will remain at the heart of what we do as farmers but we will have to rethink how we farm with our support coming from a different perspective. I suspect there will be increasing emphasis on planting up corners, leaving hedges to grow and considering if some of our less productive land can be farmed differently. For example the grassland on Denhay hill which is grazed by youngstock in the summer is entering a scheme this year called ‘low input grassland’ in other words reduced fertilizer and sprays. DEFRA have yet to give us the full details of the future support, but clearly this is a discussion to be continued as we learn more.

Farmer George


Good morning all

I have failed in my New Year Resolution to get the Broadoak Diary out promptly, so Happy New Year on 2nd January.

A little catch up on December – we had three lovely services in Broadoak and Symondsbury 23rd, 24th and 25th December and the interpretation of the Christmas Story in Symondsbury has been a true community effort – it will be there for a couple more days I think if you have the chance to visit.

Tuesday 12th January 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – we will be meeting by Zoom again this month.   Please contact the clerk Marilyn if you would like to attend virtually:  and the login in on our website  We will be looking at the Climate Change policy of Dorset Council.

Sunday 31st January 11.00 a.m. St Paul’s Broadoak – Benefice Eucharist.  We appreciate that most people will not feel able to attend church services, but for those who would like to, all precautions will have been taken to protect us all.  Services may have to revert to purely online, so please check

Best wishes


Farmer George’s Diary allied to the musings of a High Sheriff – January 2021

I have to admit my son, William, was right! In mid-December he said we would leave the EU with a deal – and he was spot on thank goodness. For agriculture and the food industry, including fishing, it would have been horrendous and caused real hardship on top of all else right now. Before thinking about farming, I would like to pay tribute to the Police, Fire and Rescue and Dorset Council; they have all been very risk averse over Covid. For me that has meant I have not had as much interaction with them as I would have liked, but more importantly, I think it is a key reason why Dorset is in Tier3.

Like many, I will not mourn the end of 2020 for the impact on society, mental health and the disastrous effect on many businesses. As High Sheriff, it has not exactly been as I expected. However, being 9 months through my year in office, I feel that I have probably done more good and had a better impact on some key areas of our community than if things had been more normal. Yes, I have missed all the smart functions, invitations and events but I have met some amazing people doing fantastic things for their community or charity. I will not go into any more detail, but if you would like to see what I have been up to, do go to Amanda and I have thoroughly enjoyed it; things would not have been half as effective without Amanda’s ideas, suggestions and support.

Monthly rainfall in inches

My role has not stopped me keeping tabs on what is happening on the farm – or from recording the rain. A year ago we were suffering from a really wet winter; surely we could not have the same again? It’s starting to look like it with 149mm rain from September to the yearend compared to 143mm last year. The slightly drier summer means our rolling average has dropped from 40 inches to 36 inches a year.

Back in the cow sheds ….. I am pleased to say the cows are milking well. However TB has been a constant battle this year. We have had both the usual skin tests (which are not 100% accurate) and the gamma interferon test (which picks out false positives). It has meant we have lost a lot of cows in the process but our most recent test was all clear. This does not mean we are TB free – we need another clear test in February – let’s pray it is also clear. Losing cows is always painful for us all but also hits the milk production; the new heifers joining the herds are milking well so things are on the up at last.

As in every year, we have had sheep grazing all our grass fields in the autumn; they do a fantastic job pulling out all the old tough stems and allowing new growth to flourish. This year they have had the benefit of grazing the maize stubbles which have had amazing grass growth from the midseason inter-row drilling. As I constantly say – it is a really successful way of holding the soil, helping the structure and providing cover to wildlife.

Talking of wildlife, son-in-law Matt is totally hooked on watching ‘his’ Barn Owl. He built a nesting box in the barn at Purcombe and a Barn Owl has taken residence. It would be fantastic to have a breeding pair – let’s hope!

  barn owl  

Matt is much better at identifying birds than the rest of us; he is up to 77 different species seen on Denhay this year (some advantages of Covid). It is wonderful to have such a variety.

As we move into January, the nights will be getting shorter, the grass will start to grow and before long we will be thinking of turning the cows out. Spring is not very far away – roll on.

A very Happy New Year to everyone.

Farmer George

Dec 9th Good morning all

We have set up the hills around Bethlehem and look forward to stocking them with sheep and shepherds.  Let us know if you would like your offerings collected, but please do take them down if you would like too.  The church should be open from 10.00 until 4.00.   George will be going down on Friday to suspend the star and angel (ladder needed).

To confirm that we are having a Eucharist on 23rd December in Broadoak at 6.30 p.m., and if anyone would like to do a little decorating for that, it would be good, but probably not preparing the usual wonderful display we have.  There will be the short family service in Symondsbury on Christmas morning at 9.30, and Midnight Mass will be in Symondsbury on Christmas Eve at 11.00 p.m.

Best wishes



November 2020 Good morning all

Another rather gloomy diary I am afraid.  However, I would like to include a poem by a local superstar poet (Chris Reynolds) which rather summed up our local choir’s attempts to just do a little singing around September time.   I think it’s brilliant!  We did take the opportunity last night to record some carols before we were all shut down again, and these will be available for listening and viewing as part of a ‘virtual’ Carol Service next month; I hope you will take the chance to sing along at home. There will be news then of how we are going to try to make the best of a bad thing, but this month it will just be the online service. 

My friends, we can now get together

to wield the willow,

or boot the leather,

safely, we can leave the house

take down our guns to shoot at Grouse


If so inclined we can get wed,

( or buried if we find we're dead )

can share the air at school or work

( where surely never virii lurk!)


We can explore the local pub

( or restaurant,) in search of grub

or watch a film or play ( en-masked ,

and distanced suitably, as asked )


Our chums can run, and jump and play

cycle in packs, and kick up hay

or hit each other in a ring

but as to choirs, here's the thing .. 

it's far too dangerous to sing!


But Hark! As I laid down my pen

I heard they’d changed the rules again !

The danger, with this type of sars is

Owning antique Chinese vases? (*)

Nigel thinks ( he could be right )

They’ll change again ‘ere Wednesday night!


(* an awful pun on the dangers of ming-ling )


Tuesday 10th November 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – we will be meeting by Zoom again this month.   Please contact the clerk Marilyn if you would like to attend virtually:  and the login in on our website

Best wishes


Farmer George’s Diary November 2020

October was really mild but turned out to be the wettest month since January.   Despite the wet we were able to complete all the autumn work scheduled and in places even more.
The main project was the maize harvest; most was done in September but we had to stop for two weeks to allow the later drilled crops to mature.  Then of course it rained and we started to worry.  Luckily a dry spell came just in time and we completed the job with little damage to soil structure or mess on the roads. 

We were also able to get winter wheat drilled and both Italian ryegrass and perennial sown.  The latter is much slower growing and more sensitive: there is a huge risk if sown late that it will be either flooded out or frozen.  In the event with the mild weather there is a wonderful green tinge on all the fields as they are coming up well. 

The wheat is also looking good; in fact it may be too advanced (well grown) but we can sort that by grazing with sheep over the winter.  A crop that is too advanced will be much more susceptible to diseases such as mildew.  Grazing by sheep also helps by encouraging the plant to tiller out (develop more side shoots).  This will result in more ears of corn in the final crop.

Not quite all the cattle are indoors yet; we have a few groups of heifers pulling out the tough grass on the grazing fields.  This will mean that in the spring there are only fresh new leaves for the dairy cows to graze.  It is always a fine balance because if we leave them out too long and the weather turns really wet they will do a lot of damage to the soil.

On that point, I was reminded of my childhood when driving around Blackdown Hill where I saw a herd of cattle grazing kale behind an electric fence.  Every dairy used to do that; the cows would trudge out after milking each morning through udder deep mud making deep ruts.  The last time we did that I grew a huge crop at Lower Denhay that was nearly 6 foot high.  When the cows came in from trying to eat the thick storks (there cannot have been any milk I it!), you would see Ted Higgins in yellow sou’wester dive into the crop, slasher in hand to move the electric fence for the next day.  Thank goodness that no longer happens.  Our cows are happily eating well made silage in their comfortable sheds.

I cannot finish without a mention of the pandemic; farm life has to go on but our guys are being really careful to keep their distance from others; it is not far away.  The cows will always need to be feed, mucked out and milked twice a day, seven days a week come what may.


Good afternoon all

There are beginning to be a few cultural activities in the area, so do look them up for example in the Marshwood Vale and ECV Parish Magazine.  Good news that Bridport Literary Festival is going ahead in a slightly reduced format.

Monday 12th October 6.00 p.m. Broadoak Village Hall AGM – we hope to hold this properly in the Village Hall.  

Tuesday 13th October 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – we will be meeting by Zoom again this month.   Please contact the clerk Marilyn if you would like to attend virtually:  and website   This is just a great opportunity for you come along and see what happens at a PC meeting, from the comfort of your own home.   You can just ‘pop in’ for a few minutes and leave when you want, but this will be a unique opportunity which may not be available for much longer – hopefully we will be meeting properly before too long.

Sunday 18th October  6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – our Harvest Festival.  No singing I am afraid, but we will have a joyous celebration of harvest in some way or other.   It would be great if you could let us know if you’d like to come, so we can set out covid-secure seating.

Sunday 25th October 11.00 a.m. St. John the Baptist, Symondsbury – Benefice Eucharist, with the Loders Choir giving us some live music from a very safe distance.  It was appreciated last Sunday for the Harvest Festival.

Best wishes


Farmer George’s Diary October 2020

I know I keep going on about it, but the inter-row sowing of Italian ryegrass into the maize has really worked this year.  I was driving around Dorset yesterday (as a High Sheriff does!) and looking at all the bare maize stubbles.  Then I come home and our stubbles are a green and welcoming part of the landscape.

The world is rather topsy turvey right now; my friend in Norfolk has had 93mm in 72 hours this week, and we have had a total of 33.5mm for the whole of September and most of that was this week.  In fact the rain is needed to get the autumn reseeds and early drilled wheat growing.  Looking at the forecast I fear that someone might now forget to turn the taps off!

Our maize harvest has gone really well so far; working in the dry has been so much better – no ruts in the fields, no mud on the roads and trailers being filled properly.  I appreciate the chaos at times on the road and can only apologise; we do our best with radios in the cabs so that drivers know where they are to avoid meeting in the narrow sections.  We also try to work a one way system so that trailers don’t meet head on.  We also try to work with our neighbours – this doesn’t always happen – sorry!   I also understand that working late upsets people; if the weather is good, we need to make the most of it and it is only a very few nights a year.  There is also an argument that it is safer by night because we can see car lights coming and there is less traffic.  However I apologise to the residents on Denhay corner where a trailer tipped over late one evening.

The dry autumn has meant that we have drilled most of our wheat already.  This is quite early and may give us problems later; too much leaf growth encourages plant diseases.  A good graze by sheep will control that!  However we have had to stop maize harvest because the last drilled crops are not fit – they need another 2 weeks to ripen. Once they are off, we will be able to complete the wheat drilling.  Looking at the long range forecast we might get a dry interlude in about 2 weeks – ever the optimist!

As feared, our TB tests produced quite a number of reactors – all of which have now been culled.  Apart for the economic cost to us, the dairymen find it an emotionally painful time with cows they have cared for leaving them in the prime of life.   Even the skin test did not come back clear so we wait for another 60 days to test again.

I mentioned walkers last month; a dry September has seen even more enjoying our beautiful landscape.  How easy to keep a good social distance on top of Denhay Hill.

I look forward to celebrating Harvest Festival with you in Broadoak on 18th October; it will be Covid safe and different.   In these stressful times it is easy to forget just how lucky we are to live in West Dorset with our landscape, wildlife and farming; this is a chance to remind ourselves.

George (if anyone is interested)


Good morning all

Tuesday 8th September 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – we will be meeting by Zoom again this month.   Please contact the clerk Marilyn if you would like to attend virtually:  and website

Saturday 12th September – Ride and Stride raising money for our Historic Churches.   Sadly still no volunteers for Broadoak or Symondsbury but the wonderful Pelham and Janet Allen at Eype are rising to the challenge for St. Peter’s.  They are going to try doing the Dorset Historic Churches Trust (DHCT) “Ride & Stride” this year on or about 12th September, visiting about 11 churches they hope, on their bikes. is the general website.

Sunday 20th September  6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – it will be Celtic Worship this month – a service with time for some music (canned I am afraid!) and some quiet.

Sunday 27th September 11.00 a.m. St. John the Baptist, Symondsbury – Eucharist, followed by, at 12.00, the Annual Parochial Church Meeting.   Do feel free to come to this at 12.00 if you are in the parish, as it is your chance to air any views on services, finance, etc.

Best wishes


Farmer George’s Diary

What a funny old year!  No Melplash Show, although there were some great online competitions.   For me it meant that August passed as a non-month.  Normally I am frantic preparing for Discover Farming – and it just didn’t happen.  The upside is my other duties kept me out of trouble.

The farm is gearing up for the autumn work.   We are making yet another cut of silage; the rain we had a couple of weeks ago was perfect for stimulating growth, especially the clover which was just amazing.   Clover, being a nitrogen fixer and high in protein, is a great part of the diet.  Its disadvantage is that it can be very hard to make into a good and palatable silage when wet; this time of year should be fairly straightforward – it is the spring when things often go wrong and you make a clamp of butyric silage (smells awful and the cows will not eat it!).  In addition to that, the bees love it!

I am pleased to say that most of our slurry lagoons are empty; this puts us into a good position for the winter.  Now that we have taken a cut of grass, the plan is to empty the last slurry onto the grass stubble.

The cows are milking well but are mostly eating silage – grass and whole crop (wheat).  TB remains a huge problem for us, having been ‘locked down’ for over three years.  Last week we did what is called a gamma interferon test; this is very sensitive and will find every cow with TB in the herd.  Sadly it will also make a few false positives, meaning some cows will go slaughter even though they haven’t got TB.  Once this is done, we hope that the next skin test will then come back clear – we can only hope.

We had one field of very early maize and so harvested it last week.  It was still rather green, but it allowed the team to make sure the forager was ready for the main harvest when it comes.  Our thinking is that we will start in earnest in about 10 days’ time.  Many of the maize crops have been under sown with grass, so hopefully they will not require any work after harvest.  The other fields will need to be worked and sown with grass to provide winter protection of the soil.  Therefore an early cut is a real bonus; every day after 1st October increases the risk of crop failure and therefore soil erosion.

One of the good things about the easing of lockdown is that we have seen many more walkers than normal; how nice that they are able to enjoy what we often take for granted – the views, the wildlife and the tranquillity.  We did have some gates let open earlier but recently all has been well – brilliant.  To those of you that walk the farm, thank you

We are coming up to the time of year when we celebrate Harvest Festival.  This year we are not allowed to sing in church or meet in large numbers in the village hall, which will present a challenge.  I propose that we will have a service of poems and readings instead of singing but will need to get help from everyone – Broadoak’s service will be on 18th October and Amanda will let you know how we will celebrate it this year.



August 2020

Good afternoon all

Useful addresses:

  • the wonderful Bridport Food Festival list of food outlets which is still being updated: It lists all those participating in Mr. Sunak’s restaurant evenings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.


  • The Shave Cross Inn is open at times now – email for details of their drive in movies.   Meals being served are Fish & Chips on Thursday, pizza on Friday and burgers on Saturday.  This coming week the programme is:

                    6th August – Rear Window, 7th August, The Princess Bride and 8th August Finding Neverland.  Pre-booking only and they start at 8.00.  Let me know if you need more information.


Tuesday 11th August 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – we have been meeting monthly by Zoom – please contact the clerk Marilyn if you would like to attend virtually:  and website  We tend not to meet in August unless there are important planning issues to cover.   I don’t think we will have a meeting this month, but do check the website if you are interested.

Sunday 16th August 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – we are at last having a service again, and it will be BCP (Book of Common Prayer) traditional Holy Communion.   We have had some great offers to tidy up inside and out on Thursday 13th August, but if you would like to join in, probably from around 5.00 p.m., do contact George.

Saturday 12th September – Ride and Stride raising money for our Historic Churches.   No-one has done this for about six years for Broadoak or Symondsbury so it would be great if someone would like to take part or organise the local effort. do let George know if you are interested.

Farmer George’s Diary
I have attached it this month as it has a rather nice picture which may not go through the ether another way.   Let me know if you would like the text sent.

Best wishes



We may be very dry right now, but our rolling average rainfall remains very high. This is because July is always quite a low rainfall month. For dairy farming, summer rainfall is so valuable to keep the grass growing; all winter rainfall does is fill the lagoons. That is not quite fair; we need the winter rain to fill the aquafers. It a sort of nimbyism – not on my farm!

We can really see the difference in old pasture and newly sown leys. We measure the grass growth every week and I am told it is still growing quite well which means that the cows get to graze fresh grass every day. That is because we have sown it especially for them. On the other hand, the old leys, for example on Denhay Hill, which not been reseeded for over 60 years have totally stopped growing. There, the heifers are eating the grass tight which will do the sward a lot of good by removing the poor grasses which thrive if left alone.

The good grass growth has enabled us to make a good quantity of silage for feeding in the winter. Lots of early sunshine also helped the sugar levels which results in good quality as well. It all helps the future milk production next winter.

Sadly we are nearly through our stock of maize silage; we had hoped to have enough until the next harvest in October, but last year’s poor growth and the long winter meant we ate more than planned of the 2019 crop. To offset that, we have harvested the wheat as ‘whole crop’. This means we harvest all the plant and ensile as if it was grass silage. However it has a much higher feed value because of the grain; it should be the equivalent of the maize silage.

Meanwhile the young maize crops are looking well; the early planted fields are fantastic; they are over 2 meters high and in tassel (flower) which means we should be able to harvest them very early before it turns wet! The later sown crops are catching up but will have a lower bulk – sunshine now will ensure a good grain which is the main thing for feed value.

We have had some fun with the entrance to Denhay this year. I planted a small strip of wild flowers a few years ago, but this year we extended it the full length of the field running up to the office and planted a mix of mustard, phacelia and sunflowers. There are so many bees and bumble bees – it is quite fantastic.


The other piece of wildlife joy is that we have a pair of hobbys nesting on the farm; son-in-law Matt watched them chase off a peregrine the other morning – how spectacular is that!

I have avoided both Brexit and covid-19 so far – let’s have an August holiday, keep ourselves to ourselves and return to them in September!

Let us enjoy the sunshine


July 2020

Good morning all

Useful addresses:

  • the wonderful Bridport Food Festival list of food outlets which is still being updated:
  • I understand the Shave Cross Inn is open at times know – I don’t have the information, but I think the Facebook page is: tom@foxandowl

Tuesday 14th July 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury Parish Council – we have been meeting monthly by Zoom –

please contact the clerk Marilyn if you would like to attend virtually:  and website

Farmer George’s Diary – July 2020

Who used the expression ‘flaming June’?  For two years running we have had around 80mm rain in the month which has maintained our high average fall.  It would not seem it if you dig your gardens!

However, that rain has stimulated tremendous grass growth. At the start of the month things were really drying up and we got a little concerned but all that has changed and the cows have plenty of grazing ahead of them.  Our second cut of silage has been done, slightly delayed by a combination of rain and TB testing all the cows.  When a test is fixed, there is no moving of the date and it takes everyone to do it which in our case is a whole week disrupted.

There is an annual predictable cycle to our lives; July sees the volume of milk drop as cows are ‘dried off’ for their annual 60 days holiday from being milked before calving and starting the whole journey over again.  The most important thing right now is to ensure they are in the right condition – neither too fat nor too thin.  As with humans, this is not an instant fix but takes years of management to get right.  For the final 2 or 3 weeks before they are due they go onto a strict food regime to prepare them.  Over the last 3 or 4 years this has worked well with (touch wood) very few cases of milk fever or retained cleansings (afterbirth or the placenta).  Milk fever is a lack of calcium in the blood caused by a sudden draw on it by the cow’s body as she comes into milk.  It causes cows to fall over and if not treated quickly, they will not survive.  Luckily it is easily sorted in most cases by a dose of calcium under the skin.

This is the time of year when we try to empty our slurry lagoons on to freshly silage fields.  The operation is going well this year with levels coming down.  It is vital to enter the winter with them all as low as possible in order to hold the winter’s deluge.  We try to avoid rain water joining the slurry, but it is really hard to achieve so a wet winter can be a real challenge. On the positive side, the slurry to apply really helps the grass to grow and saves us using artificial fertilizer; we can see where it is applied or missed!

Coronavirus has become a way of life for us; the routine continues with everyone maintaining as much distances as possible.  The biggest issue is getting supplies; we are doing a big refurbishment in one of our houses and have come to a halt because we are unable to get any plaster – there is a national shortage as stocks have been used up and manufacturers furloughed their staff so none was made.  Hopefully things will return to normal quickly.

I have been doing all sorts of ‘environmental’ things around the farm this spring and have become aware of two issues: ticks and rats.  It appears to be a massive rat year –I hate rats, so hygiene must be very strict over things like bird feed.  Ticks are a worry because they can cause Lyme disease.  If you or your family go for walks in the countryside, please keep a keen eye for them and be careful how you remove them; make sure you get the heads!

On that happy note: stay safe.



June 2020

Good morning

As usual, not a lot of great activity in Broadoak!  Farmer George has been busy as ever, and I have attached the diary as a PDF so you can see the pictures in glorious technicolour!  If anyone can’t open the file, let me know and I’ll send you the text.

Farmer George’s Diary – June 2020 T’is terrible dry; in May we had 8mm rain in two small bits. The graph below shows the rolling average rainfall at Denhay; we are forecast a dry June – that will really pull our average down!


We are seeing the advantage of heavy clay: the crops are looking remarkably good with early sown maize powering away and regrowth after a good first cut of grass for silage also flourishing. Even the late sown maize is coming up well; it may be dry and baked on top, but there is still a lot of moisture down under. I talked to a friend farming in Kent last night; he is really suffering on drier ground with spring sown crops not germinating. To cap it all, his latest planting of lavender was almost wiped out by frost. Every month I seem to report that the cows are still milking well – no exception in May! The early dry period allowed us the get most of the cows out to grass in good time and they grazed well with good grass recovery after each grazing. It is also great credit to the team milking them; dairy farming is all about attention to detail and dealing with the smallest things before they grow into big issues – so well done them. The great thing about this spring, which no one expected, is that the cows and heifers all went out onto dry ground; no poaching of the soil. There is much talk about soil health and the effect of compaction damaging structure. Cows walking on wet soil do as much damage as a huge tractor as their weight is spread over such a small area. In a wet spell, just after first turn out, cows waiting by the gate to be let back into their sheds will damage that ground which will not grow a thing for the rest of the year. When silage is made it takes six weeks for the fermentation to complete and stabilise; so we must wait yet before doing an analysis to see what it looks like. We are ever hopeful; when harvesting, Ben had real trouble with the forager because the grass was so sticky with natural sugars that it kept wrapping around the pickup reel rather than feeding through the knives as it should.
As far as coronavirus is concerned, we have a way of life; try to keep as far apart from each other as possible but appreciating at times that just does not work. We are having trouble getting things – spares and even oil was on long lead times because of lack of drivers (the price is still really low!). One of the benefits of this lockdown is that some of us have more time on our hands; encouraged by Amanda (Parish Councillor) I have been going around our public rights of way making sure they are open and not grown over; I have a few to go but let me know if you come across any I have missed

I read in this month’s Eggardon and Colmers View (ECV) that a small group has set up a new 'Lifelines' project. It
aims to enable anyone with land - from a garden to a farm or estate - to join commitments to managing their land in
ways that maximise biodiversity and allow wildlife safe passage in pesticidefree corridors. While much of Denhay
doesn’t fit the criteria, we do have a fair amount of the farm that does. Our hedgerows, including the ditches,
probably average about 4 meters wide and these are amazing wildlife corridors; it is one of the characteristics of the
Vale which makes it such a haven. We also have a number of wild flower strips and many fenced off corners, often
with a pond. Farms often do these things without seeking credit however Government support is changing and in
future farmers must record all areas as it is those which will attract financial support. As Ines Ford writes “Society
should recognise the huge challenges that farmers face with the vagaries of weather, markets and now government
policy. Communities need to support their local farmers as they are asked to transition from a mind-set dominated
primarily on production, to one where food must be produced with greater consideration for wildlife and the climate
emergency.” I think many farmers are doing the right thing more often than not.
In this weather, happy haymaking (something I NEVER do)
Farmer George

One of the joys of the lockdown has been the fun that my grandchildren have had in a pond on the
middle of the farm: with help from Dorset Wildlife Trust, we had cleared it out and cut the vegetation
back in February. It is a mass of insects - dragonand damsel flies amongst them,
successful nests of both ducks and moorhens and we have even seen 3 newts (which was why we had help from
DWT). It has been a real outdoor classroom for them.
This funny old year continues but while it does, you cannot stop birth, growth and production from the land;
we just have to get it safely to market

Stay safe and keep healthy in body and mind.

Amanda May 2020


I do try to limit my posts, but have a couple more things which might be of interest.  Having said that, there is so much opportunity on the internet for watching and listening that I find it quite overwhelming and end up hardly looking at anything!

Discover Farming has just launched some home-school projects on its website, and if you know of any primary school children at home at the moment, they might like to look at the brilliant section on activities – starting with sheep and lambing.   Please pass it on.

If you are interested in the mention George made of the lifelines project in the Char Valley, I understand the full details are in the Marshwood Vale magazine which is digital this month.   I give the details below:


Good day all

Another odd Broadoak Diary with I hope some useful snippets of information, particularly for those very local in Broadoak.

  • Local Support:  the Resilience group is still meeting regularly and do let us know if there is any support anyone needs in Broadoak, or the Symondsbury parish.   Please contact me if you feel the group can help you or anyone.
  • Bridport Town Council is also running an extremely efficient system of support.
  • The Eggardon and Colmers View magazine is on-line this month.  It is normally delivered to every home in the Benefice so this attachment should hopefully go to most in Broadoak.  If anyone knows someone who needs a copy printed out, please let me know:              
  • Do join the regular service that the Rev’d Chris Grasske broadcasts from Loders Vicarage every Sunday; the information is on the attached Pews News.  I will circulate this weekly to our regular church goers, but let me know if you would like it to.


This month Farmer George’s diary is a pdf file and an attachment.

Stay safe and well


May 2020


fg 1


fg 2
This funny old year continues but while it does, you cannot stop birth, growth and production from the
land; we just have to get it safely to market
Stay safe and keep healthy in body and mind.

Farmer George’s Diary –April 2020

What we really need now is a night of rain!    Bet you did not expect me to start with that; I didn’t.   A month ago one could not imagine the ground as dry as it has become by now.  We are not complaining –at last we can get muck out, fertilizer on and start working the fields including rolling those shut up for silage.   When there is so much talk on soil structure and avoiding compaction, why do we roll?  When we put muck on the fields in the winter, we always leave some ruts, moles start to have a lovely time leaving their mole hills and finally to push any stones back in (not that it is too much of an issue in the Vale).  It is really important to avoid either soil or muck getting into the grass for silage as they prevent a good fermentation and therefore reduce the quality of the feed next winter.

Our cows are still milking really well which is one saving grace; the milk price is dire and has been for several months.  I notice that there are 500 less dairy farmers than a year ago – that comes as no surprise.

Strange times indeed: how does coronavirus affect us and all farmers? Last month I listed my implications for us – these are my updated ones, some of which have yet to be proved correct.



With consumers only buying from supermarkets, which we primarily supply, we are set to benefit.  If we were supplying hospitality it would be the reverse; I have a cheese making friend who has gone down to making 4 days a week

Stress over maintaining healthy staff

The bacon factory is flat out with ‘Christmas’ sales levels but nothing on promotion (ie all on full price)

Cannot get saw dust for cow bedding as timber mills closed

Consumers are buying more basic foods rather than exotic which helps British Farmers

No market for either cull (old) cows or bull calves

IF international trade becomes restricted, could be an increased demand for British dairy products and a price increase at farm gate in the short term

Many firms with whom we work have stopped eg. those that do lawn mowing in our churchyards;  the wood haulage company

The publicity around lack of vegetable and fruit pickers may have raised the awareness and importance of food security

The collapse of international trade will result in reduced global demand for dairy products and therefore lower farm gate prices long term

No talk of Brexit!!!!

Beef market plummeted as no cattle markets and McDonalds closed (see below)

As a food producer our employees are regarded as key workers and their children are eligible to remain in school

Less availability of food by-products such as brewers grains to feed the cows

With family working from home, I have help at the weekends such as collecting sawn logs!

Fuel prices have fallen dramatically

With no walkers, ground nesting birds will not be

disturbed; we saw this in foot and mouth times

Over the last few days I have been chain sawing fallen trees as a result of this winter’s gales; these are mostly ash but not a result of dieback.  There are some beyond my skills (or size of saw) but at least I can get most of it out of the way of both cattle and tractors.

Whilst on trees, last month I said we had started to fell the ash trees planted about 20 years ago around the Denhay Dairy.  This was almost completed but has had to stop and we are left with one large pile of logs!  I have yet to hear if the replanting will go ahead but I am fearful that we shall miss this season. 

You may remember that last month we had a mistle thrush belting out its song and Amanda said they are known as the stormcock. Little did we realise what the storm was going to be.

Take care, stay safe and keep well,





I felt it might be helpful to do a brief update on the diary for March. 

The following events are postponed, we hope, rather than cancelled.    

Friday 20th March – 7.30 p.m. Bridport Literary and Scientific Institute – An evening with Sir Ken Olisa, Lord Lieutenant of Greater London (last seen on the news on Friday holding an umbrella over the head of Prince Harry – I think he does more interesting things!).  Details to follow. 

Wednesday 25th March – 2.00 and 6.00 p.m., United Church, East Street – Noye’s Fludde by Benjamin Britten.   This is a major project being produced by Symondsbury School and is involving lots of local talent and of course the children.  Tickets available from the School, so please do come along and support them.   

But since it is St. Patrick’s Day, I thought his prayer was rather appropriate:


As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Thanks to all those who turned out for the Referendum Vote for the Neighbourhood Plan in Bridport, Allington, Bothenhampton and Walditch, Bradpole and Symondsbury parish.    There was a turnout of around 17.5% and an 84% majority.  Though disappointing that more people were not able to recognise the huge amount of work people have put in, the vote was 1861 for and 280 against.

The Broadoak Box has just had its spring clean and the shelving renewed. About 30 snails were removed from their winter hibernation.  Do call in for lots of new books for exchange.  We do need to replace all the cycle support stuff, as it has either been broken on stolen!  Thanks to caretaker Lesley.

Tuesday 10th March  - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.

Sunday 15th March – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Celtic Worship

 Friday 20th March – 7.30 p.m. Bridport Literary and Scientific Institute – An evening with Sir Ken Olisa, Lord Lieutenant of Greater London (last seen on the news on Friday holding an umbrella over the head of Prince Harry – I think he does more interesting things!).  Details to follow.

 Wednesday 25th March – 2.00 and 6.00 p.m., United Church, East Street – Noye’s Fludde by Benjamin Britten.   This is a major project being produced by Symondsbury School and is involving lots of local talent and of course the children.  Tickets available from the School, so please do come along and support them. 

 Sunday 22nd March – 11.00 St. John the Baptist, Symondsbury – Benefice Eucharist with Symondsbury School

 Sunday 29th March – 11.00 a.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Benefice Eucharist – our annual service for all the churches in the benefice – please come to join us.


Farmer George’s Diary – March 2020

To start each month talking about the weather is definitely boring; however the actual weather itself is far from that – last night was just awful with over 20mm rain and really stormy with it.  One advantage is farming here is that at least our crops are not physically under water; I do feel sorry for those with lakes rather than wheat fields.

 To finish this boring subject off, please look at this graph.  It is of the 12 month rolling average rainfall.  Since 2017, we have been around the 30 inches a year; we are now rolling at 45 inches – that makes for some fairly substantial problems.


As if this was not enough, we now have the unknown of corona virus; it is much too soon to predict what the effect will be or how far it will spread but I understand that:

  • ·         It spreads very easily
  • ·         It is a virus so antibiotics and antibiotic wipes don’t work
  • ·         Because it is new, none of us has any immunity to it
  • ·         As yet there is no vaccine – the earliest one might be available is mid-summer
  • ·         Most physically fit people will be fine – it is the older and more vulnerable who are at greatest risk.
  • ·         Already travel is being restricted either by Airlines or people making their own judgement
  • ·         Oil prices have crashed globally – not yet at the pumps!

The possible implications for our business, if it does take a hold in the country, might look like the following:

  • ·         If a significant percentage of the team are off ill at any one time – you never know who will end up milking cows!!
  • ·         If schools close, employees with children will have a massive childcare problem which will rebound on the employers
  • ·         Our major inputs are mostly UK produced, so they should not be affected, but spare parts that come from China may dry up – so the unexpected may hit us quite quickly.
  • ·         Drugs and pharmaceuticals may become in short supply as many are made, or part made, in China – so treating sick animals could become an issue
  • ·         I don’t see raw materials (wheat) being affected but energy costs will come down
  • ·         World travel will become more restricted, suggesting more people will holiday within the UK perhaps helping increase UK’s food consumption
  • ·         There is a potential for the West Country tourism to benefit – holiday houses, especially isolated ones
  • ·         Will fear of meeting people lead to increased online grocery sales?  Bacon sales to Ocado are already building

Is there a conclusion for Denhay?  It may well cause real upset, difficulty and chaos, but there just might be a few benefits in terms of sales.  Perhaps the worst bit is waiting for things to happen or not.

Back in the real work of milking cows, we are still hauling a lot of slurry around to try to keep things under control.  The team are working really hard and totally committed to looking after the stock.  Ben tells me in the worst storms at Boarsbarrow, the rainwater has literally floated the calf hutches, with calves inside, across the yard.  The best that can be said is that we are holding our own, but at what cost in human and financial terms?   At least the cows continue to milk exceptionally well; every credit to all our guys for maintaining this in these conditions.

By now we should be thinking of putting on fertilizer if not actually turning animals out to grass!  No chance of that right now, but at least the grass is growing.  I expect a late turnout, resulting in more acres cut for silage as the grass grows away from the cows’ ability to eat it.

Last month I talked about Ash Die back; we have started to fell the ash trees planted about 20 years ago around the Denhay Dairy.  They have grown well and we should end up selling a good amount of timber which will pay for the replanting. 

We plan to replace the ash trees with both Hornbeam and Oak.  Talking to the Tree expert, if you wait until the disease has got a hold of the tree, the wood becomes pappy and unsellable making it financially impossible to regenerate the woodland.

When it was blowing a gale this morning, a Mistle Thrush was belting out its song; Amanda tells me it is also known as the Stormcock!







February 2020

Tuesday 11th February  - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.

Thursday 13th February – 7.00 for 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Hall – ArtsReach:  The Wit and Songs of Noel Coward.  Please book tickets with Georgina on 01308 424922. 

Saturday 15th February – 7.00 for 7.30 Broadoak Hall – Cabaret and Canapes: a night of music and gaiety by public request following last year’s huge success.   Please let me know if you can come.   Tickets £7.50 – bar and raffle and wonderful canapes.   

Sunday 16th February – 6.30 p.m. St. Paul’s Broadoak – Evensong 

Wednesday 26th February – 6.30 p.m. St. John the Baptist, Symondsbury – Eucharist with Ashing – a special Ash Wednesday service to commemorate the start of Lent. 

Thursday 27th February – just when you thought it was safe to go out, it is Referendum Time again.   This is a vitally important vote for all those in the Bridport Area Neighbourhood Plan area to approve the work that has been done over the past three years to give our community a voice in what is decided in our community.   Polling cards will be sent out, and there will be a mail shot in the post.  Please, if you are in the area, take the time to read any material, and make a decision.


Farmer George’s Diary – February 2020


I am not sure my life is any different today than 4 days ago!  Things may be rather different by the time we get to the year end. But we just don’t know! 

Therefore all my focus is on the farm and the wet!  January was about 1/3 of the rain in December which is one thing but still twice as much as in 2019.  In order to keep things under control our guys are hauling slurry all over the place; our apologies to any of you held up on the road.  Being the eternal optimist, maybe the weather is looking a little drier this week and definitely no snow. 

Meanwhile in their sheds the cows are milking exceptionally well.  When your product prices crash out of your control, the only thing to do is control costs and maximise output.  This is exactly what we are doing; thanks to a number of things coming together well last year we have some really good silage to feed the cows and this makes all the difference.  At the time of cutting the grass, the weather was good, the guys doing the work were determined to do the best they could and the (huge) investment in our forage harvester all delivered the right result. 

It is very easy and tempting, to keep one’s head down and stay on the farm, but everyday laws are constantly changing: Denhay has a number of properties, some with our employees in, others let to outside people.  From April this year there are changes to landlord requirements, so we are getting every house inspected and reviewed to make sure we are doing what we should.  Time passes very quickly and what seems only yesterday can quickly become several years.  Every house should be electric tested every five years and it is amazing how many have slipped past that time - another job to be done!  Perhaps the worst of all is that the rain has brought forward the need to rethatch a number of houses; we have 3 big projects this year and they are not cheap.

When I go out first thing in the morning, the bird song is fantastic – do they think it is spring already?  The snow drops are out which is normal but so are some daffodils and even catkins – that’s early. This prompts me to start working on the trees; those planted in the last couple of years need to be sprayed to stop grass competition especially the short lengths of hedging.  Those planted 10 years ago need their tree guards removed to allow them to expand.  I am also concerned about the amount of ash die-back in those 10 year planted areas.  If I get the time, we will cut down as much as possible to prevent them becoming a danger by crashing onto people, stock, or fences. 

Lots to do this spring to prevent me worrying about those things over which we have no control.  To those romantic amongst you, don’t forget - Happy Valentine’s Day





Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2020.

Tuesday 14th January  - 7.00 p.m. Symondsbury School.   Symondsbury Parish Council with our democratic Half Hour between 7.00 and 7.30 when everyone is most welcome to come and air their views or raise particular subjects.

Thursday 16th January – 7.30 p.m. Broadoak Hall – ArtsReach event "Revelations” with James Reynolds.  A few years ago, James' best friends Sarah and Emma asked for his sperm to start a family. This is the tale of what happened next, and what happened after that - an epic story about friendship, faith, life, death, foxes, snow buddies, and trying to do the right thing.   "Captivating... a generous, deepening hymn to friendship" Sunday Times.    ​  Please do book tickets for this amazing storytelling evening.   We do need support to keep these events coming to our local hall.   Book with Georgina on 01308 424922 Tickets £9.00.

Sunday 19th January – 11.00 a.m. St. Michael’s Powerstock – special Plough Sunday service.

Friday 31st January – Broadoak Hall – another Quiz night with a slightly unconventional bent.  Please put in your diaries!  I will confirm all the details a little nearer the time, after our Hall meeting next week.


Thursday 13th February – Broadoak Hall - ArtsReach


Saturday 15th February - Broadoak Hall – Cabaret night hits the village again.  We will be looking for ‘appropriate’ acts – do let me know if you have a talent which needs spotting.


Farmer George’s Diary – January 2020


Every month I write my diary, I look back a year ago – when we feared the worst of a Brexit crash out.  What a year it has been both on the farm and in the wider environment (politically, economically, socially, technically and environmentally).

As a dairy farm just keeping our heads above water, literally, has been a challenge.  There has been SO much rain since September:  We forget the very wet the start to 2018, but didn’t we end 2019 on a horrific note; over a longer period our average is 34 inches, so averaging 40 inches in the last year is challenging.


The effect on us is to have to haul rain contaminated slurry from Denhay to Loders and Beaminster Down where we have the capacity to store it; my apologies to those of you who have been inconvenienced by this; it is not something we like to do for several reasons not least the expense!   Back in the cow sheds ….. I am pleased to say the cows are milking better than ever before.  This reflects not just the hard work of the team looking after them but also the excellent growing season at the start of 2019 and the good weather during silage making; I have always said the success of dairying depends on 14 days in May!


As in every year, we have had sheep grazing all our grass fields in the autumn; they do a fantastic job pulling out all the old tough stems and allowing new growth to flourish. The very mild spell which we have right now encourages this growth and will hopefully set us up for an early turnout to grass and lots of milk from our own forage.  As I said last year, let’s hope for a (dry) ‘wus* from the west’ rather than a ‘beast from the east’.


We have a small family shoot at Denhay – have done for nearly 40 years.  Three years ago we stopped shooting woodcock; they are lovely little birds that migrate up to 4400 miles.  Their numbers were struggling (not from shooting) so it seemed sensible to leave them in peace.  We never saw a huge number – 2 or 3 a day.  We were all really excited on New Year’s Day when we saw 8 in all. 


Last month, I went on about the vegan movement’s effect on livestock farming.  Lots appear in the newspapers on both sides of the argument; I think it important that we should take a holistic approach supported by Minette Batters, the National Farmers Union (NFU) President, who aspires to have UK Agriculture deliver net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.  What a positive note to start the year.


A very Happy New Year to everyone.



*wus is an old west Dorset term for mild and innocuous weather!



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