You won’t get lost in Motcombe – thanks to a dedicated bunch of village volunteers. Residents have almost completed a year long project to repair and restore four historic signposts and a mile marker.
It’s the sort of community led initiative that defines a village like Motcombe, where residents share a strong sense of pride in their place. And they’re prepared to roll their sleeves up and help.
These Dorset signs are distinctive because they have a circular panel above the fingerpost, which offers precise location information. “Dorset signs have a roundel at the top with the Ordnance Survey reference and the name of the area where the signpost is standing. The Turnpike down on the B3081 says ‘Turnpike’ and has its ordnance map reference,” explained Parish Councillor Dee Worlock.
Motcombe’s signs had fallen into disrepair because Dorset County Council no longer maintains these historic markers. “They’ve absolved responsibility so there’s only us to do it. They would just fall into disrepair and wouldn’t exist any longer. So I’ve given up my time for the good of the village. Somebody else has adopted the phone box,” explained Councillor Liam Stacey.
It’s clear that villagers are keen to take responsibility to preserve elements of Motcombe’s heritage. “We have to look after the future of the village but let’s also look after the past as well. It’s important to try and make the village look a bit smarter and retain some of the history,” said Dee. “We had our road resurfaced at the beginning of the year because it was terrible – it was a cart track. Immediately everything else looked a little shabby so we thought it was a good time to start doing something.”
Dee uncovered a pot of grant money specifically offered for the restoration of historic signposts. “It was available from the CPRE – the Council for the Protection of Rural England. I am a member and I read in a magazine that they were putting a grant out so we got onto them. It covered a lot of our costs because the Parish Council has to pay for this work.”
“We got £1,000,” said Liam. “They then asked for volunteers in the village that would like to give up some time to make the signposts.” Liam raised his hand. He said that he was happy to lead the project because he is practically minded, repairing trucks and buses for a living.
“I put my name down and it’s mainly fallen on me to do this. With had a little bit of help from the chap who makes the signs in Shillingstone. We have had new aluminium letters made. We have been unable to restore some of the old letters. One of the signs had a road traffic accident and we had to replace it completely.”
A historic milestone marker – a metal plate attached to a large stone – has also been refurbished. “That was courtesy of my brother-in-law’s children, who are great big strapping lads! It’s incredibly heavy. We picked it up and cleaned it off,” said Liam.
Motcombe’s milemarkers and signposts are much loved. They are depicted on the Motcombe Millennium Tapestry, which hangs in the Memorial Hall. The restored marker is on the roadside, near the bend before the Copplestone Inn. It announces the 3-mile distance to Shaftesbury Town Hall and the 4½-mile journey to Mere’s Market Hall.
“We think it’s because the old traders would be going to Mere or to Shaftesbury with their goods,” said Dee. “It told them how far they had to go before they reached their destination with their items for sale.”
Liam says that the restoration schedule is not quite finished. “There is still one outstanding fingerpost to do. Ironically it’s the most involved project and the biggest one, which is probably why we’ve left it to the end,” he laughed. “It’s the one out towards Sedgehill.”
It’s been a large undertaking for Liam, who has dedicated many hours of his time to the restoration works over the last year. But he says it has been worth it. “I very much enjoy doing it. It’s something to give back to the village.”