Letters to the Editor February 2023


Want to reply? Read something you feel needs commenting on? Our postbag is open! Please send emails to letters@theblackmorevale.co.uk.
When writing, please include your full name and address; we will not print this, but do require it.

But first, this month’s Letter from the Editor…

Laura Editor of the BV Magazine

A quick apology to everyone looking at our website on their phone for the last few weeks. It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that we’ve been proudly titled ‘Newsweek’ since Christmas.
We’re not, I assure you, in the midst of a grand takeover bid. Rather, we have a new website, and the simple task of tracking down why we were called Newsweek when looking at it on a phone utterly escaped me.
But through grit, perseverance (and a lot of YouTube watching) I fixed it.
GO ME. high five
But that fix promptly broke the menu. In fixing the menu I broke the sections page. And then I managed (and I still don’t know how) to put the sections page all over the home page.
By this time, in a flustered frustrated panic, very very bored with my own incompetence and frankly raging at the dark and evil arts of website maintenance generally, I hit the big server switch which resets the website to the day before.
Aaannndddd … hello Newsweek. Sigh.
Anyhoo. Suffice to say I was ultimately victorious. The website works, and we are no longer Newsweek.
We’ve big things in this issue; Dorset Island Discs and Random 19 have returned with two pillars of our Dorset community. I interviewed Henry ‘Blowers’ Blofeld, who’s coming to Dorset next month. Luke Rake gave us an exclusive on the damaging rumours that have been circulated in some areas about the cancellation of apprenticeships at Kingston Maurward College. Local man Steve Tarrant has been awarded motorsports’ highest honour – an award reserved for the likes of Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart. Farmer James Cossins tells us about his horrifically stressful January, and we take a look at whether second home owners should pay additional Council Tax in Dorset.
Plenty to get your teeth into this month – go make a coffee. And don’t let the websites grind you down.


PS CONGRATULATIONS to our farming journalist Andrew Livingston and his wife Ellie on the birth of their son Charlie this week.
PPS special mention to our German-speaking daughter in law Sally who provided the correct phrasing for the lucky pig Valentine’s traditions in Germany. Who knew? Apart from flower columnist Charlotte Tombs. And all the Germans, obviously…
PPPS Thanks to fellow business owner and website-battler James for his support through the disaster-strewn Website Of Doom. His helpful advice extended to “You’re still Newsweek? It’s been a month. May as well stick with it now, just change your Facebook name”.

Letters to the Editor, Feb 23:

Re. A motorway in Dorset
Andrew Livingston’s article in the Jan issue (read it here) on the potential for a motorway in Dorset raised a number of emails:

In response to Mr Livingston’s article on the need for a motorway, perhaps he could inform us as to which ancient holloways, protected AONB’s or productive farmland he might like to plough up?
The fact that we have no motorway has actually preserved so much of our county from over-development – and the presence of one would actually detrimentally impact the very local producers he’s trying to help.
Sheila Grange, Dorchester

Is Mr Livingston seriously suggesting that Devon’s local producers are assisted by people flying along the M3 to London? The success of ANY business lies in the quality of its product and in its marketing. In fact, many a weak product has succeeded thanks to its marketing strength. If local producers need more success, they need to learn how to be better at their business, not blame it on the lack of easy access to big roads.
Jack Pleacher, Wimborne

If we must have a motorway in Dorset, Mr Livingston, let’s at least make it end at Dorchester.
I, for one, am sick and tired of Dorset being a Jurassic Coast and nothing else; three quarters of the county is a fair drive from the coast, and yet the beautiful rural majority is consistently overlooked in terms of funding and services. Bring us people, and the County’s eye may finally turn upon us.
Julie Nokes, by email

On solar panels:
Hear, hear Rupert Hardy (Rooftops vs Fields, BV Jan 23). It is astonishing that for far too long there has been a seemingly broad acceptance to the quick and easy fix of letting private landowners and developers opt for huge scale solar farms when the rooftop solution bears so much scientific evidence for success and does so little visual harm. WHY is no one in authority paying attention to this?
Karen Bowen, by email

Thank you for your illuminating article from Rupert Hardy on the solar farms vs rooftop panels debate. It has always been my instinct that fields of reflective panels are WRONG, but at a time when we must begin to generate more green energy it has been difficult for me to argue my case effectively; the horror of discovering oneself to be a NIMBY!
Your article provided such a clear case with published evidence to support my instinctive understanding. Why oh why are we NOT implementing rooftop solar as a matter of urgency?
Rita Madeley, Blandford

On the politics
It has slowly become apparent that the representative for the Labour Party in North Dorset tends to veer towards haranguing those in charge of our very broken country, while not suggesting any alternative solutions from his own party. This is, I feel, no reflection of him as a person, but rather is symptomatic of the party as a whole.
North Dorset may be a permanently blue seat, but that doesn’t mean that every constituent votes that way. We can all see, hear and feel that it’s broken. What many of us want is to hear what other parties might actually DO. The point of these columns is surely to understand a different point of view if we are tired and frustrated by the current crop of blues in charge, and to raise discussions on local and national issues?
Alan Wills, Wimborne

On the haunting of Sandford Orcas manor
(Britain’s most haunted house? BV Jan 23):
We were lucky – I think it was about 30 years ago we took our son [to Sandford Orcas manor] when he was a small boy. We cheekily knocked on the door and Sir Mervyn himself answered. Instead of getting rid of us he asked us in and gave us a personal tour, during which he told us of all the facts in the attached article.
We thanked him very much, it made our day. What a lovely man!
Barry Wraight, via Facebook

We were privileged to be given a superb guided tour of this fascinating house by Sir Mervyn Medlicott in 2019. He really brought the history to life and the group we were in was spellbound!
Joss Mullinger, via Facebook

Are you related to Roger Ridout?
I have been reading your article about Roger Ridout (The BV, November 2020) with great interest. I am not a Ridout but I am descended from the Fords of Shillingstone. I have a will left by Thomas Ford in 1805, and in it he leaves ‘the Roger Ridout house’ to his wife:
ffebruary 7? .4.1805
I give to my wife late Roger Ridouts house and Orchard and ten pounds a year for her life she might receive it herself if my son dont pay her she might go to Mr Tice of Blandford and receive it but if she marry again she is to lost it directly to James or his ffamily/
I thought Roger Ridout died in 1811 so I am now very puzzled. Could this be a house belonging to his father or another older relative who died before 1805? Thomas’ son, James, died two years later in 1807 and he left the house to his own son, James:
”and also a dwelling house with offi…? and all unto belonging called and known by said name of Ridouts during my said term therin unoccupied it being located and situate in the parish of Shillingstone or Shilling Okeford”.
I can’t find a Shilling Okeford and wonder if it is actually Okeford Fitzpaine? I can see on an 1885 map that there is a mill on the road between Shillingstone and Okeford Fitzpaine, and another one in Fiddleford, but I am wondering which house Thomas and James Ford are referring to and how did they come to own it in the first place? Were they part of the smuggling gang I wonder?
I wonder if Roger Guttridge or any of your readers could shed any light on it for me please?
Veronica Barrett, Guildford

Roger Guttridge comments:
Veronica’s puzzlement is based on the assumption (which I had also made until now) that Roger Ridout remained at Okeford Fitzpaine Mill until his death, which was indeed in 1811. But we don’t know that and my guess now is that he and his wife Mary (died 1809) must have left there at some point between 1787 and 1805, probably selling the house to the Fords. I say ‘1787’ because he is listed in the Dorchester Jail Registers that year as a ‘miller’ of Okeford Fitzpaine (and his crime as ‘smuggling’), so was presumably still there then. He was a well-known character in North Dorset so it’s no surprise that his old house was effectively named after its association with him.
I’m guessing that the stream which once powered the waterwheel here may also have marked the Okeford Fitzpaine-Shillingstone parish boundary. The property, which last time I passed still had the old millstones on show as ornaments, probably sat in both parishes, which may explain any confusion there. Shilling Okeford or Ockford is an old name for Shillingstone, making it the third of the ‘three Okefords’, the others being Okeford Fitzpaine and Child Okeford.
Roger Ridout’s father (born 1708) was William not Roger and he lived at Farringdon in the parish of Shroton. Roger the smuggler effectively introduced their surname to Okeford Fitzpaine.
Roger’s mother was a Fiddleford girl, Susannah Appowell, and in 1746, as a boy of ten, Roger inherited a leasehold house and land there from his maternal grandfather. Fiddleford Mill was where the Ridout gang stored their contraband in later years and may also have been where Roger learned his milling skills, though that is speculation on my part.
Veronica’s information about the Fords adds another piece to a Roger Ridout jigsaw that has been gradually growing since I interviewed my grandfather Jim Ridout of Fiddleford about the family legends for a school project in 1967.
Thank you, Veronica!
Roger Guttridge – rogersguttridge@gmail.com

A letter from Val Singleton is always welcome in the BV postbox:
Lovely photo of Stourhead on the last issue! I have attached a photo I took when I was living in Corton Denham of a little owl that spent the summer perched on a post that led into part of the garden. I would love you to use it!
Roll on spring! Val

Neglect of Newell house in Sherborne
Sherborne CPRE are deeply concerned at the parlous state of Newell House – a Grade 2 historic building, which stands in an exceptionally prominent position at the junction of the A30 and the Marston Road. The western side of the house is thought to date back to the 17th century, and the house was listed in 1950.

However, in recent years the fabric has been allowed to deteriorate, as the photo shows, and is now on the SAVE At Risk register. Alongside the house, there is a listed barn dated as being built in the early to mid-16th century; no access is permitted to either building. Sherborne CPRE have repeatedly raised their concerns with the conservation team at Dorset Council, but while seemingly sympathetic to our case, they seem totally unable or unwilling to do anything to reverse the decline of this important feature of the Sherborne townscape. Offers to engage with the owner have also been fruitless.
It is clear that our county representatives are either powerless or disinclined to take any positive action to preserve our precious heritage buildings. We find it disappointing that a house listed seventy-two years ago by an official government agency is then effectively abandoned by local authorities when it deteriorates. It is sadly ironic that as Sherborne House is being transformed into a remarkable asset for the Town centre, another, even older, much-loved building has been allowed to become derelict. Something must be done before it is too late; and with some 350 listed buildings in Sherborne, this needs to be a wake up call for us all. By raising further our concerns, I am confident that all residents and our Town Council will then call for urgent action from Dorset County Council.
Sir Christopher Coville
Sherborne CPRE Chairman

The image below was sent in from Mike Lloyd-Jones in Shaftesbury, who said:
‘This was tree surgery in St James’ today – not sure I’d fancy it!’


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