We’re still with Sylvia in Bridport. The first two days she took us to the more “touristy” sites, which I described in the last post, and then in our last two days with her, she took us on tours of a more personal nature. The first was a tour of a foundry business owned by her niece’s husband’s family and the second was a tour of her farm, known as Crabbs Bluntshay.
I have to admit, I really didn’t know what a foundry was. In case you don’t as well, it is a factory that produces metal castings. Metals are cast into shapes by melting them into a liquid, pouring the metal into a mold, and removing the mold material after the metal has solidified as it cools. The Bridport Foundry has been operating for over 300 years, something I found incomprehensible. It is difficult to imagine the changes that must have occurred during that time. We got a fascinating introduction to the technology and process of metal casting. We saw how they made sand casts, how the sand is reclamated after use, and how the molds are held together. On the day we visited there was no pouring done but they do work in iron, aluminum, bronze and brass.
Next up was the farm tour. You might think a farm tour would be boring but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Sylvia’s 60-acre farm is quite diverse and packed with history. Her land first became a farm in the 12th century when it was cleared of forest so crops could be grown for England’s growing population. On her property were many historical remnants including an ancient sheep wash used for hundreds of years to wash sheep prior to shearing, evidence in one of her fields of a ridge and furrow surface drainage system which was ploughed by oxen in the Middle Ages and used to define sections of land, alongside one of her orchards flows a ditch, dug to a depth of 6 feet, to provide water to run an undershot mill which was in operation 200 years ago, a clay pit from which clay was extracted to build cottages and farm buildings in the local area, and three sites dating back to the 1700s where retting ponds were constructed for the processing of flax and hemp.
Today her farm, which her family has owned and worked for nearly 100 years, is a small working farm with some livestock, an orchard, beekeeping activities, and, believe it or not, she also operates a campground on part of the land.
While travelling around with Sylvia, there were a few other observations I would like to note. If you have followed my travel writings for awhile, you know that I am always interested/obsessed with washrooms. Well, I saw a new contraption for hand washing in one of the washrooms I visited. It is called a Uni Wash Automatic Hand Wash Machine. You put your hands in the opening of the machine and once it senses they are there, soap is automatically dispensed, followed by water that runs for a set amount of time, and finally hot air blows to dry your hands. Kind of neat…..but slow. I discovered the Uni Wash in the bathrooms where we did the fossil walk. Problem was there was only one Uni Wash for the four bathroom stalls and no other sinks. It was highly impractical and a real bottleneck because of the busyness of that washroom.
Another interesting thing I saw was how one of the villages around Bridport was repurposing their old, now defunct, phone booths. They have turned them into lending libraries! You borrow a book and once read, return it. All done on the honour system.
My final comment about this part of the world has to do with the roads. Driving through the small villages in the area is a nerve wracking experience for the novice. The roads are narrow, usually with hedges on both sides. The width of the road is only enough for one car. There are however some wider spots regularly along the way. Drivers whip around these roads and come to a sudden halt when they meet a car coming in the opposite direction. What happens next is one or the other must back up to a widened area of the road. The person to back up is usually the one with the shortest distance to the widening. Thankfully traffic in these areas is not heavy, but you may have to go through this four or five times in a trip.
That’s our time with Sylvia….next stop is Cliffe.