‘Marquees prove vibrant when visitors shelter from the rain’

September 27, 2016


SPICY KICK: Siobhan Stewart of Bridge Cider Farm at their Dorchester Show stall got visitors to try out chilli cider. They make their ciders from the pressed juice of the autumn harvest. The juice ferments slowly over the winter and spring months to enable the complicated flavours to develop, including chilli cider which was sampled by many that day.


SUPER FOOD: James Amory of the Dorchester-based Watercress Company beside a bed of watercress from the farm. Watercress can be used as a salad or vegetable and it contains four crucial vitamins, iron and the firm also claims it has higher levels of calcium than a pint of milk.


LUCKY ESCAPE: Dave checks out where the location of the car parking in relation to the show site. Ruts made vehicles earlier in the day allowed visitors leaving early to vacate the field parking area as driving off these routes made it for some unlucky motorists to get stuck in the mud bath after the deluge.


APIARY HOUSE: Mark in the beekeepers tent shows the art of making a skep – this is used as a dry home for bees, and is used in modern-day beekeeping to deal with swarms. Prior to being made from willow, they were wicker plasted with mud and then straw.


HE’S BEHIND YOU: There were a series of scarecrows that were on display on the Dorset Show as part of a competition. The one here particularly caught my attention.


BIRD LOVERS: Edward Chivers and two of his colleagues at the RSPB stall told me what work they were involved in and around Dorset, particularly projects that were ongoing at RSPB Arne on the Purbeck peninsula.


THE Dorchester Show was the wettest country event that I can ever recall when covering these of events in over a decade.

There had been a gap of two years since my last visit to Dorset’s biggest show and 2016 saw me have company this time in the shape of Dave to bounce off ideas and get find some new subjects some attention. The Saturday was a deluge and much of the day was spent taking cover in a marquee that was celebrating garden produce.

During our stays in the marquees whilst skipping between them when there was a lull in the showers, I came across a craftsman called Mark making a skep in the Dorset beekeepers tent. Mark came someone doing this skill nine and half years, thought he would try it out and has never looked back since. Regular children’s favourite Titan the Robot was not in attendance as the wet weather would have probably short-circuited him.

An effort to reach the food hall was rewarded with some wonderful purchases including organic meat, shellfish, chutney and fudge.

These are a temporary dry home for bees, and are particularly used to deal with swarms. They have been made for around 2,000 years and originally consisted with wicker plastered with mud. They evolved in a straw-based item from the Middle Ages onwards.

Skeps come in all shapes and sizes, flat-topped or domes and there are no rules about what size they should be. The word “skep” comes from the Norse word “skeppa” which means a container. The skep has no internal structure provided for the bees and the colony produces its own honeycombe that is attached to the inside of the skep.

In the garden tent I spent some speaking with Tom Amory of the Dorchester-based Watercress Company – it has notched up 21 years in business and sells baby leaf salads, watercress and wasabi through the UK, the United States and Europe. They own farms in Holland, Dorchester, the adjacent county of Hampshire, Spain and Florida.

A plant that can be served as a vegetable or a salad, watercress has been labelled by scientists as a “superfood” because it consists of essential minerals and vitamins and the high level of antioxidants in the leafs increase the ability of the cells to resist damage. The company claims that it will help those who consume it acquire higher levels of calcium – more than an average glass of milk – as well as iron and Vitamins A, C, E and K.

The health benefits of watercress has been known for decades and in the early 19th Century people in lower socio-economic classes ate bunches of watercress and it was called “poor man’s bread”.

Those I spoke to inside the food tent included Dodger’s Jams and Chutneys; Siobhan Stewart of Bridge Farm Cider near Yeovil, who I purchased some apple juice from; Dorset Shellfish and Sam’s Fudge.

With the weather not changing, many headed for the exit a bit earlier than planned but the car parking side of the site was a huge quagmire after the deluge, and after realising we made our way onto tracks made earlier in the day to get out as had we had not done that, it would have meant being pulled out by a tractor.

  • APOLOGIES to readers for the lateness of this post due to technical difficulties for a few days.

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