Martin Clunes Visits Julia's House
PUBLISHED: 11:59 10 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:22 20 February 2013
Helen Stiles went along to Julia's House to meet Martin Clunes, a small but vocal pony<br/><br/>and an array of dogs for the launch of this year's Buckham Fair. Photos: Nicky Johnston.
Martin Clunes Visits Julia's House
Helen Stiles went along to Julias House to meet Martin Clunes, a small but vocal pony and an array of dogs for the launch of this years Buckham Fair. Photos: Nicky Johnston
The first thing that struck me about Julias House was the sound of fun and laughter not what you would expect to hear upon entering a hospice. We hope to create good days and fun days for the children here and great memories for their families, thats what really counts for us, says Community Fundraising Manager, Linn Hudswell, who was showing me around. The child is at the core of everything we do, but our service embraces the whole family. We do support activities for mum and dad and we have a monthly club for the brothers and sisters so they have a chance to be number one and let off some steam.
Julias House, the Dorset Childrens Hospice, was founded by a paediatric nurse Julia Perks, as Linn explains: I like to call her our local Emmeline Pankhurst, she thought it was high time that Dorset had a childrens hospice. As a nurse she was working with local children and families and realised they needed this extra care and support. Julia sadly passed away in 1997 from cancer but her friends, family and colleagues took up the cause.
Her legacy of a childrens hospice for Dorset was finally realised in 2006 in the form of a beautiful rambling house overlooking the sea at Corfe Mullen. The house was bought by a charitable trust and then we raised more money to adapt it for the childrens needs, says Linn, pointing out how unobtrusive the hoists and medical equipment is in each room. It feels more like a family home than a place of special nursing care.
Because its the Dorset childrens hospice, we went for a Jurassic Coast theme with the dcor using muted sea tones that are restful and calming, while the pebble inlaid areas are tactile and stimulating for the children. Linn explains that the main difference between an adult hospice and a childrens hospice is the length of the illness. The children that Julias House staff look after tend to be around for much longer, as they suffer from degenerative illnesses so their condition gradually deteriorates over many years.
The support Julias House offers families with a chronically ill child is the difference between coping and not coping. They are also one of only a handful of hospices that offer respite care in the home. We go out into the homes of the 100-plus families we work with across the county and give mum and dad a break, maybe to have some time with the other children or just get the weekly shop done.
As we walk into the main downstairs play area a group of children and carers are watching wide-eyed at the unusual group gathering on the back lawn. Theres Martin Clunes with a rather vocal miniature Shetland pony and half a dozen or so dogs of various shapes and sizes with their owners trying to pose for the camera while a photographer snaps away.
My reason for coming to Julias House today is to meet the Buckham Fair committee and their dogs and ponies! Buckham Fair is an annual fundraising dog and pony show, with the emphasis on the fun, held on Buckham Down each August. Spearheaded by Beaminster locals Martin and Philippa Clunes, it raises money for a rolling roster of Dorset charities. Martin, who has been a patron of Julias House for some years, had invited me along to see the work they do as this is the charity they are supporting at this years fair. He told me about his first impressions of the charity.
I get asked to put my name to a lot of charity things, but Im the type of person who likes to get a bit more involved. So I asked to come along and see what a childrens hospice was like. To be honest, like most people putting the word children and hospice in the same sentence filled me with trepidation, but when you get here any fear is immediately dispelled by the wonderful staff and the amazing kids; it makes it such a special place.
It was clear from the welcome he got from the staff and children that he is a popular visitor.Last year Buckham Fair raised 34,500 for the Dorset and Somerset Air ambulance and the committee is hoping to at least match that for Julias House this year. They are in dire straits at the moment and they desperately need our help, says Martin. With costs going up there just isnt enough money to keep the place open for as many days as they would like and they now have to close a few days a week. What we are doing with our fundraising is a drop in the ocean, but you need all those drops to keep going, so I hope we will make a difference and people will support Buckham Fair.
One of the children shyly wanders over to meet Jacob the totally bomb-proof Shetland Martin is looking after. He never puts a hoof wrong, says Martin proudly, as the little boy ruffles the tiny ponys mane. Jacob is a Buckham regular, hell be playing his part on 19 August, doing rides for the tiny children. Hell be joined by the rest of our miniature Shetland crew Jemima, Stanley and Hector; they just love all the fuss and attention they get from the kids.
Martin is also hoping to bring along his two magnificent Clydesdale heavy horses Ronnie and Bruce, soon to be TVs Ronnie and Bruce as Martin explains: Were filming a series about working with heavy horses and the lads will play a starring role. At the moment we are getting them used to being handled but I am hoping to be harrowing the fields with them in the end.
Working horses, harrowing fields... its like a scene out of a Hardy novel! This isnt all Martin has been up to; it appears this former Men Behaving Badly star has turned into a regular Gabriel Oak. Ive been playing the role of midwife to our ewes for the last few days. I never saw that one coming I have to admit, he laughs. Its my first time lambing and Ive delivered quite a few now. We have three orphans on the bottle so Ive been doing through the night feeds and we start calving on Tuesday. Chatting with his wife Philippa a little later, she admits that its turned into a bit of a farmyard situation back home. Its crazy at the moment, weve been lambing every night. Ive even been listening to The Archers to learn stuff, which Martin can tell a mile off!
Martin is obviously the very public face and draw for many of the 4,000 people who come to Buckham Fair. He is the main judge for the fun dog show and there are people coming from the USA and Australia to this years event so they can meet him. But in addition to Martin doing the PR, organising the booking of the temporary traffic lights and deciding where the ferris wheel will be sited for the fun fair, there is a hard-working committee headed up by Philippa and a small bunch of friends who make sure everything goes smoothly on the day. Rosemary Young, who runs a dog training school at Melplash, organises the Dog Show.
Last year Buckham Fair attracted over 800 dogs from around the county and country and they come in all shapes and sizes, but thats the whole idea of Buckham, its not just for pedigree dogs. Rosemary is particularly delighted that they are holding the Championship for the Best Rescue or Rehomed Dog at Buckham this year, something she says is very much in the spirit of this local event. There are eight local qualifying shows and the four winners from each show go through to the grand final, which will be judged at Buckham by Martin. Details of the local shows can be found on the Buckham Fair website.
Fellow committee member Caroline Goodwin is busy planning the Pony Show. We try to make it a fun event for the children to build their confidence and hopefully they all go home with a rosette, whether its for fancy dress or show jumping. One thing that all the committee agree on is that they want to keep the show as local as possible, as
Philippa explains: Because we are all so deeply involved in running this event, we hand-pick and choose everything with the local area in mind; we have great local food, wonderful local crafts on the stalls and its not overly commercial. We want people to have a really good day out, support the local economy and raise a good amount of money for a local charity. Even though we have grown enormously in size over the last four years, our local ethos is still at the very heart of Buckham Fair and always will be.