A Personal Account of The Adderbury Morris Men’s tour of West Dorset –
May 2006, by Paul Chesterman

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It was a little over a year ago now, just before our America trip, I announced that myself and family would be leaving the Banbury area to return to live and work in our native West country. Among the many comments of ‘good wishes’ and ‘good riddance’ it was requested that I organise a tour for The Adderbury Morris Men during the following summer so this I did, and this is my account of the events of that last weekend in May.

Friday 26th May

WMMTour  Chesil Beach

By midday there were already rumblings around the Jurassic Coast, that Adderbury were on their way.  By early afternoon Colin, June and Beth Street had erected their tent at Seatown, Chideock, while Messrs Bennett and Harris were not far behind, guided by Ian’s Sat-Nav, Jane. Mike and Margaret Cherry (with dogs Toby & Fern) called into Milborne Port for some light lunch with the Chesterman family, before making their way to the B&B via Eype  (a dog friendly beach nearby).  We set off too, driving from the North of Dorset across country to Whitchurch Canonicorum in the Marshwood Vale, where we stayed at Cardsmill Farm along with Mike and Margaret.

Cardsmill Farm  WMM Tour

We made our way to The Anchor at Seatown by early evening and the arrival of David and Jo Gunby swelled the ranks even further.  The local Palmers Ales and cooked food seemed pleasing to all and it was great to catch up with you all again.

Saturday 27th May

The Chesterman family arrived at the breakfast table simultaneously with the Cherry’s, and ate of a good English breakfast, before making our way to Bridport for the first leg of the tour. I called in at Seatown, on the way, to find that Keith Norton was now present and rumours that Martin Taylor was also on his way down.  Dave Moore and Simon Pipe were also staying nearby with their respective families. The Streets had just returned from a successful fossil hunting expedition and the Gunbys from a somewhat less successful kite flying expedition.  Oh, and Nigel slipped on his arse coming down the hill, ‘cos he only had his flip-flops on'.

We arrived at Bridport Market Place to find David Moore and Simon Pipe waiting for us, so as soon as we had enough dancers we went for it.  Saturday is market day in Bridport and the square under the clock is surrounded with seating and we had a really appreciative audience.

WMM Tour  Dancing at Bridport

Onto West Bay and The George Inn. As I made my way to the car my mobile phone rang, it was Martin, he had been held up in the bank holiday traffic and was now standing in Bridport Market Place with a bloke in red dungarees holding up placards about weapons of mass destruction and listening to a 14 year old saxophone player!  Oh well, Morris time and all that, we finally all met up at The George, West Bay for a lunch break. Our first dance spot at West Bay was opposite The George at the north end of the harbour, a cold wind prevailed and afterwards it was agreed to partake of fish and chips and meet up again at 15:00 at the end of the pier.

‘Washing Day’ outside The George  WMM Tour

WMM Tour Hana, Dave & Dylan – after fish & chips

  Nigel & Ian playing WMM Tour

The ensuing time was spent walking on the beach, throwing pebbles in the sea or in Nigel and Ian’s case, throwing pebbles at each other! Surrounded by bemused fishermen, we ascended the raised area at the end of the recently completed pier.  This new pier extends further out to sea than the previous one did, facilitating the safe entry of boats into the harbour and providing a panoramic view of the Jurassic coastline.  Handkerchief dances were not considered a good idea at this location, due to the wind conditions, so we danced ‘Roast beef of old England’ and ‘Tiger feet’ pausing in between to sing a rousing chorus of ‘South Australia’ to a Yachtsman struggling to enter the harbour.

 WMM Tour

Team photo time, with the honeycomb cliffs in the background and round the harbour again for another spot, during which, we received a request, via two boatmen who had rowed across the harbour, to dance outside the Waterfront Café on the eastern side, so off we went.  After a couple of dances we repaired to the Café for a nice cup of tea, courtesy of the proprietors, and a well deserved rest. A call came in heralding the arrival in Dorset of Stephen and Verna Wass who were staying nearby in Shipton Gorge, they were to join us later that evening although sadly, we were to lose Martin who had to return to Adderbury.  We went our separate ways and were to regroup at The Shave Cross Inn for 19:30.

The Shave Cross Inn, once a busy stop-off point for Pilgrims and Monastic type people (who would get a monastic style haircut while staying) is now one of the most respected Pubs and Restaurants in the area.  Saved from extinction a few years ago by Roy and Mel Warburton, not only does it provide an excellent selection of Ales and Ciders and a restaurant with a Caribbean influence, it is a favourite stop for local and touring Morris sides and Folk Musicians.
The Wessex Morris Men, of whom Roy has been a member for many years, regularly finish up here on August bank holiday Monday and this year ‘old twelfth night’ faggot burning was held there too.  There is also a regular monthly folk club, so Scrapers, Squeezers, Blowers, Bangers and Singests were sure to be welcome, and indeed we were.

Although most of the Wessex Morris Men were on tour in the Czech Republic and not due back until Sunday evening, we were glad to welcome some of those who hadn’t gone, and taken the time to come and meet us.  Dennis, David, Glen, Howard and Di all seemed pleased to see us.  And indeed we were also pleased to welcome Stephen and Verna to the tour. A 16-pint bucket of good ale was provided courtesy of the landlord and landlady, and the dancing began.

WMM Tour

David Randall, of The Wessex Morris Men, who will no doubt recount the experience for a long time to come, joined us, in two of the dances. David spent nearly three Months in a coma following injuries in a motorcycle accident several years ago, and it is a credit to his fortitude and the support of his family and ‘The Wessex’ that he is able to dance at all. I know it meant a lot to him and it was a way of saying ‘thank you’ for making me feel so welcome after joining ‘The Wessex’ last year.

WMM Tour

So before long it was ‘Shepherds away’ and off to the skittle alley for chicken, rice and pasta with a Caribbean flavour mmmm! A big thank you to Roy and Mel for their hospitality, and what better way to say thank you than a rousing rendition of ‘The Happy Man’ from Adderbury.                    
Time to finish off the second bucket of beer, a few tunes a song and then back to camp.

Sunday 28th May

The Smiths Arms at Godmanstone was to be our first stop on Sunday.  But, not only is it the smallest Pub in England, it is now one of the driest, as it’s shut. So up the Cerne Valley to Cerne Abbas and outside the Royal Oak for our visit to the land of The Giant.

WMM Tour

We were joined again today by Dennis from ‘The Wessex’, who requested we dance ‘Roast Beef of old England’ as he had seen us do it the night before and was very impressed. We duly complied and impressed once more. Lunchtime plans deviated from the script with half the team ascending the Giant’s hill for a picnic while the rest of us repaired to The New Inn for a more conventional Sunday lunch. We were to all meet again and dance in the trendle above the Giant, but on the way up we met the rest coming down (as they were cold) so we made for the viewpoint adjacent to the road instead.

WMM Tour

This proved an excellent stand, with the Giant as a backdrop and a car park full of tourists. One leather-clad biker in particular had an unusual connection with the Giant, a full-length tattoo on his back, apparently to commemorate an event there during his teenage years. I’ll leave it to your imagination.

WMM Tour

Back to The Royal Oak for a well-earned pint, three more dances and then off to Upwey for tea and scones with Simon’s Mum, which was most welcome. While at Upwey we were directed to the wishing well, recently ‘dressed’ by local school children and located in a wonderful water featured garden, we spent about an hour here in these beautiful surroundings.

WMM Tour

Back to our various camps, some to emerge for a short while to enjoy another drink at The Anchor, all to converge again tomorrow, in the north of the county at the Sherborne Castle Country Fair.

Monday 29th May

The Sherborne Castle Country Fair has been held at Sherborne Castle on the Wingfield Digby Estate for the last 11 years.  
Although I hadn’t attended one before, I was sure it would be a fitting climax to our tour. At this event we were actually ‘guests’ of The Wessex Morris Men who had just returned from a tour of the Czech Republic in the early hours of that morning.  We were down to share the first spot with them, in front of the castle, and then roam the show and dance where we could.

As two of our number had to leave fairly early, Bagman, Jim Gailer and Squire, Pete Metcalfe graciously agreed that Adderbury share both the first and second spots with The Wessex, dancing turn about.  But before dancing commenced, a very important landmark was to be recognised and a presentation made to Wessex Foreman - Don Byfleet who had celebrated his 80th birthday the Sunday before.

WMM Tour                                             WMM Tour

The Adderbury contribution to this was another rousing rendition of ‘The Happy Man’.  We danced turn about with The Wessex, Adderbury starting with ‘Sweet Jenny Jones’ and including ‘Beaux of London City’, ‘Washing day’, ‘Roast Beef of old England’ and ‘The Buffoon’ and The Wessex dancing - anything but Adderbury. Highlight of this set was a solo jig by Don Byfleet, a performance by an 80-year-old man that I’m sure would win him a place with Morris Offspring!

Break for an hour or so and we say goodbye to Ian and Nigel, who, with the help of Jane will find their way back to North Oxfordshire (with the window open too, I imagine).  Chance to walk round the show and to mention that it is put together by unpaid volunteers and that all the proceeds go to local and especially children’s charities.

Second spot and we call Stephen in to dance, ‘Lads a bunchem’, Lollypop Man’ plus jointly with The Wessex, Shepherds Away and Bonny Green!

Much handshaking between Adderbury people and Wessex people and it was goodbye to Dorset.  I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did, I get the feeling you did, thanks again for coming.    

Paul C.

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