This is the second in a series of articles about some of the people of Cattistock. These are people we may pass in the street, or maybe in the church, the pub or the shop, but sometimes apart from passing the time of day, we often know nothing at all about them. So this is an opportunity to increase your knowledge about the people in our community.
During all their married life, John and Mary Cake had been farming in Dorset. But in 1957 they decided to purchase their own farm and, whilst looking around the county, they heard of Wallis Farm being on the market and so, partly due to Mary’s deep love of nature, John and Mary decided that this was the farm for them. Shortly afterwards they, plus their two sons Martin and Robin, moved to Cattistock and as Mary was then pregnant with Rupert it can be said that Rupert first arrived at Wallis Farm just over 61 years ago.
John is now 96 and still lives at Wallis Farm. His family can be dated back to 1720 when John Cake was farming in Dorset. The Cake family has always been in farming, has always been centred around Dorset and up until John and Mary purchasing Wallis Farm the family’s farms had always been tenant farms.
Mary, whose maiden name was Stickland, died in 2018 and her ashes were scattered above where she lived, along the hedge that is known as the Camel trail. Her family was originally from the Gasser family, who in the 17th century were forced out of Germany as part of a religious progrom at the time. Mary’s family line changed from Gasser to Young and then to Stickland, before she married John to take the Cake family name. Up until WW1 the Stickland family had built up a well-respected building trade, but at the end of the war many of the workers who had volunteered for active service never returned. This loss hit the family’s business very hard, from which it never fully recovered.
In her free time Mary loved Amateur Dramatics and as a young lady she earned some extra income by becoming a clothes model in Dorchester. She also enjoyed an active social life, as a result of which she joined the local Young Farmers’ Club, where ultimately she met John.
John and Mary started business as a dairy farm with a herd of Guernsey cows, until the milk factory in Maiden Newton closed down, meaning milk churns being collected at the end of the drive were replaced by milk trucks collecting the milk from the bulk tanks situated on every local farm. But with little support coming from the Milk Marketing Board a small farm could not afford the expense of bulk tanks. The way forward for Wallis Farm was to move to fattening calves and small breed sheep such as Jacob sheep, but the market had moved on and the farm only provided a subsistence level of income, meaning the future was very challenging.
The change of fortune for Wallis Farm came as a result of a chance conversation at the then Cattistock Camera Club’s guest evening. During a break the guest speaker became very interested in a comment by Rupert, that a large colony of Adonis Blue butterflies existed at Wallis Farm.
From that conversation during the Cattistock Camera Club meeting, over twenty years ago, the colony of Adonis Blue butterflies turned out to be one of the largest colonies in Wessex. Rupert followed this up by reading a NFU article, which stated that reserves with south facing fields in Dorset were wanted for conservation development. All this was the beginning of Environmental farming and Rupert started to become aware of the grants available to the right sort of farm and the Cake family increasingly realised that the wildlife of Wallis Farm was a significant asset.
As a result, for the twenty years since that fated beginning, the Cake family at Wallis Farm has been managing a Nature Reserve on the edge of Cattistock. Today the reserve consists of 100 acres of natural, unfertilized, grassland that is grazed by approximately 200 Wiltshire Horn sheep. These sheep are ideal for the Wallis Farm fields, being a very old and hardy English breed with a short waterproof hair coat that does not need shearing. They are not sold commercially but are on the farm solely to support the correct natural environment for the breeding cycle of birds, animals and insects.
The level of annual breeding is finely tuned to ensure the fields are not under grazed or over grazed. The sheep generally live for approximately 12 years and are kept until they start struggling and their quality of life is suffering. Natural England, operating on behalf of the EU, which funds 99% of all the grants, regularly visits the farm and they provide the detailed guidance on flock size development and the annual breeding requirements. Brexit could have cast its shadow over the Reserve, but Rupert expects UK grants to become available when the UK leaves the EU.
Rupert tours the whole farm at least once a day and over the year he can see a wide range of wildlife:
Butterflies include: Small copper, Small heath, Common blue, Speckled wood, Meadow brown, Small white, Small heath, Gatekeeper, Common blue, Adonis Blue, Brown Argus, Painted lady and Small copper, plus Red Admiral, Small Tortoishell, Marbled White, Brimstone and Orange Tip. In the past the BBC have visited Wallis Farm to film the butterflies.
In addition to the butterflies the other wildlife that has, over the years, been seen on the farm include the following:
Badgers, Brown Long-Eared Bats, Foxes, Hedgehogs, Moles, Rabbits, Pipistrelle Bats, Roe Deer, Serotine Bats, Shrews and Weasels.
Blue tits, Blackbirds, Bullfinches, Buzzards, Carrion Crows, Chaffinches, Coal tits, Collared doves, Cuckoos, Dunnocks, Goldfinches, Great spotted woodpeckers, Great tits, Greenfinches, Green woodpeckers, Hawfinches, Herring gulls, House Martins, House sparrows, Jackdaws, Kestrel, Lesser black-backed gulls, Linnets, Little owls, Long-tailed tits, Magpies, Merlins, Peregrines, Pied wagtails, Ravens, Red Kites, Robin, Rooks, Skylarks, Spotted flycatcher, Starlings, Swallows, Swifts, Tawny owls, Treecreepers, Wheatears, Woodcocks, Woodpigeons, Wrens and Yellowhammers.
And, in addition to running a Nature Reserve, Rupert has still found time to travel, including Brazil to see the Rio carnival, to India where his Grandfather recuperated during WW1, plus many visits to see a good friend in Cyprus.
But the Nature Reserve of Wallis Farm remains his main passion and is where he devotes most of his time.
Wallis Farm is a fascinating local Nature Reserve to visit and Rupert is always very willing to receive interest from anyone from the village. He can provide very informative tours of the 10/12 fields of the Reserve and is more than open to the idea of individuals or school group visits, introducing all ages to the Environmental farming that is operating on their doorstep – so why not contact Rupert on firstname.lastname@example.org and arrange a visit.
This is the article we used to start the new Who’s Who section. But after the effort put into creating the article, particularly by Eric and Mike, we do not want to lose the memories and information that visitors and the community have been enjoying.
For the moment we are therefore keeping the two articles, with one being on top the other, but this approach will not deal with a series of similar articles Work is in hand to have an attractive and efficient process for displaying and calling up whichever Who’s Who article a reader wishes to view.
We hope to show progress on this solution in the near future.
Eric and Mike Cox
If you are new to the village and see two elderly gents having a walk around the village one morning, you may well have crossed paths with two brothers, Eric and Mike Cox. Eric is aged 82 and Mike is the younger brother at a sprightly 74, but behind these basic facts there is of course a history: the recent history of the two brothers and a history of their family.
Both Eric and Mike were born in Lower Frome Vauchurch, which according to the Dorset Daily Echo of 1935 may even have been Thomas Hardy’s inspiration for the River Var in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Part of the family has been traced back to 1670, during the reign of Charles II, when the six times paternal Grandfather Erasmus Cox was married to Eleanor Russell, who came from Evershot, in the Cattistock Church in 1697. In 1744 their maternal six times Grandfather William Payne, born around 1700, was married to Mary Vincent in Sherborne.
Picking out a couple of the entries in the family tree, their Great, Great Grandfather, George Baker, was a Seaman on the fatal expedition led by Captain Sir John Franklin, who in 1845 led two ships to navigate the final section of the Northwest passage. The entire expedition, consisting of 129 men including George Baker, was lost.
Grandfather George Payne, 1863 to 1937, was the Drum Major in the Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry Regiment. Outside his service time, George was a Stonemason and one of his claims to fame was that, with his son-in-law Frank as his Apprentice, he built the Savill Hall, which remains such a key facility in our village.
Grandfather Henry Cox was born in Longburton around 1853 and was a Farm Labourer from the age of fourteen.
Eric and Mike’s Father was Frank and their Mother’s name was Ivy. Frank was born in 1904 and, like is Father, he was also a Stonemason. Frank built the bungalow that is now known as West End House in the West End of Cattistock and he helped to build the new Rectory. Frank also installed the ovens in what was the village Bakery, now known as Greystones House.
Frank was blind in one eye, due to which he could not serve in the armed forces, so during WW2 he served in the local Fire Brigade. Over time he came to meet and know some of the German and Italian Prisoners of War who were held in custody in the area that is now Meadow View. The relationship he had was positive, illustrated by the gifts that some of the POWs made for Frank, as shown in the accompanying photographs. The same POWs also made toys for the two brothers.
And so now we come to the two brothers:
Born in 1937, Eric is widowed with three children: Philip, Samantha and Sarah. He attended the old school in Maiden Newton and on leaving school took an Apprenticeship in Carpentry and Joinery. After completing his Apprentice in December 1957, Eric then joined the Royal Hampshire Regiment to complete his two years of National Service.
After completing his National Service Eric began his long and successful career in Carpentry, working locally but also on such buildings as the Salisbury Cathedral Spire and the Verne Prison at Portland.
At 82 and retired, Eric can be found in the Fox and Hounds during most lunchtimes, enjoying a pint or two of IPA (all donations gratefully accepted). His interests include being a member of the South Dorset Vintage Motor Cycle Club, as well as running his allotment in Evershot. Eric has an enviable record from showing the produce grown in his allotment at Cattistock’s annual Flower Show, where he traditionally wins the Best Vegetables Trophy, including sharing success at the 2019 Flower Show with Tim Hill.
Born in 1945, Mike has three children: Stephen, Graham and Julia.
Too young for National Service, from school Mike started with his Father’s stonemason business and from there in 1964 he joined Coopers Builders in Bridport. During the building slump he left Coopers and joined the Maintenance department of Burt Boulton & Hayward, Timber merchants in Bridport. Mike’s final move, still in the building trade, was when he then went self-employed and worked with his brother Eric.
Mike’s well known and well respected passion is his music. Entirely self taught from the age of 16, he can play the Guitar, Banjo, Fiddle and Mandelin and plays in the Last Gasp Folk Group, playing for Charity events such as the Air Ambulance, the Lifeboat Institution and the Bridport Living Tree Cancer Group.
Mike runs the Folk Club that meets every second Monday of every month in the Fox and Hounds. It is an open door evening and is great fun to attend.
Taking his love of music still further, Mike has actually made three Banjos, all of which he still owns.
In addition to his music, Mike also has interests in motorbikes having owned various bikes, including an Ariel 500, a BSA Bantam 125 and a Trials bike. A current interest is with steam railways, which takes Mike to Swanage Railway on Gala days.
This article has been just a taster of what Eric and Mike have experienced in life, but there is plenty more to share. So if you see Eric or Mike in the Fox and Hounds, or out for one of their early morning walks with Mike’s dog Susie, why not stop and have a chat with them and find out a little bit more about two people from our community.