Come Buy, Londoner outbids shepherd for rotten old hut

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Blackmore Vale, Londoner outbids shepherd for rotten old hut
Bo Dacombe with husband Graeme

I wanted it for my wife: Sheep farmer outbid in battle for £16k shepherd’s hut

By Steve Keenan
newsdesk@blackmorevale.net

The sheep farmer who finally lost a £16k auction battle for a derelict shepherd’s hut has said he only wanted to buy it for his wife. Bo Dacombe, 71, often spent nights during lambing season in a remote, open field shelter with no bed, electricity or water. “I had so many layers on, a flask of chocolate and a deck chair to sleep in,” she said. But this April was the frostiest in the UK for 60 years as clear skies kept temperatures low overnight. So when husband Graeme, 69, read about the auction in The New Blackmore Vale he set out to buy the hut for Bo – even though Charterhouse auctioneers in Sherborne had warned it was 120 years old, with rot, worm, damp and decay. It also hadn’t been moved from a private garden on the outskirts of Shaftesbury for 50 years or more. “I jokingly said I would be happy to start with a tent,” said Bo. But Graeme, an electrician by trade, set his heart on the original shepherd’s hut with a view to restoring it as a project. The trouble was he was up against a Londoner who lives in a flat, probably has a second home for the hut, and was equally determined to buy. “I went in with the view that the £5k mark would be OK,” said Graeme. “I came in at £5k and again at £8k. It was me and the Londoner. But at £10k, the bids go up by £500. I went to £12.5k and he got it at £13k.” Telling me the story in a sunlit sheep pasture shaded by oaks at Sutton Row, near Tisbury, he recognises he maybe went a bit too far. “I have been to auctions. I am old school and like to be there. I knew there would be interest in the hut – but my head loses out to my heart on occasion. This was such an occasion. “I have a love of older things and this hut was different. It had an original felt roof, it didn’t have galvanised sides. The fact that it had just a single door and window appealed – it was a proper shepherd’s hut.” Having land and a flock of 60 purebred Shetland sheep was not high on the couple’s radar when they moved to Sutton Row 20 years ago and retired a decade later. They had country connections: Graeme’s grandfather bred cattle on a farm at Bockhampton, and Bo had lived around horses although neither had worked a farm. But walking and exploring the landscapes around Sutton Row brought them into contact with sheep farmers, and their interest grew. “Every day without fail we would walk into Tisbury, three miles each way,” said Graeme. “We met a farmer who just had sheep there to keep his grass down. We started helping him, then we spent a year learning all about them.” Their increasing interest led the couple to eventually buying 12 acres of parkland from another nearby farmer two years ago. Now the couple have 35 sheep on their own land, newly fenced into six fields, and another 23 in Tisbury. This April, they brought all the pregnant ewes onto their own land to make it easier to watch over – 11 lambs were born, the last one hanging on for three weeks. “I would go down to the shelter at silly o’clock at night,” said Bo. “I sat there listening to Radio 2 and that last ewe finally came into the pen at 2am. Her lamb was born at 10am.” So devoted have the couple become to the flock that only young rams go to slaughter, at Clarke’s butchery in Sixpenny Handley. The meat is sold to near neighbours. Any lambs sold are for breeding or grass cutting only. “We are very particular as to who takes the lambs. “We won’t take them to market and won’t sell them for meat.” The land generates some hay for feed, and the little income from meat is supplemented by Bo’s cake making. The sheep wool is worthless. In essence, the sheep, land and fencing has taken their life savings, says Graeme, and they now live largely off pensions – the money that nearly went to a shepherd’s hut was earmarked for more sheep shelters. “We are only a smallholding but the sheep keep us more than busy. The ewes and lambs are all hand reared, so we spend a lot of time sitting with them. We have been fortunate to keep safe and well during these uncertain times. A few years back, I would have said that sheep were just white things in a field that ran away. But these are affectionate, real creatures and we are doing this for the love of the animals. It’s not a hobby, it has become our life.” The couple clearly love being outdoors with the sheep, which all have names. The flock gives them purpose and they are just a few minutes’ walk from their cottage. Bo is also very pleased with her new blue hair tint and they have a bouncy young labrador. Looking back on the hut that got away, Graeme is philosophical. “We do not live in London or have a second home in Dorset! That said, we wish the anonymous London purchaser well, and hope they put the shepherd’s hut to good use. We just did not have enough money on the day.” But he hasn’t given up hope. “I am not desperate and I am not stupid – but if somebody genuinely has an older shepherd’s hut lying around in the back garden, I would be interested. But if it’s got LED, fitted units and laminated flooring, don’t bother!”

Do you have an old shepherd’s hut you no longer want? Let Graeme know via an email to newsdesk@blackmorevale.net

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