Normal Service Resuming

7 May 2013
Ben Pentreath

We are pleased to announce that normal service has resumed. No more politics, no more sadness. It was a beautiful early Summer weekend in Dorset and the blog contains nothing more than images of the garden, of houses and landscape. Which is really what we all like. I had my old boss and friend Charles Morris and his wife staying, and their friend Charlie, and Will.

We went for a walk to Abbotsbury and the coast. The grass seemed particularly vivid after months of turning shades of brown; there’s something about that moment when the trees finally break that is magical; and clouds quickly scudding over the folding hills.

I love the walk to Abbotsbury, and the moment where the land suddenly falls down to the coast and to Chesil Beach.

Like so many Estate villages, Abbotsbury is picture perfect. Nothing jars. But what I was liking most of all was the little gardens and allotments tucked about the place, ready for Summer.

We returned via Waddon House, to show Charles and Rachel the perfect proportions of the Portland stone facade.  Waddon is a fragment of a much larger house of which the central section and left wing burned shortly after it was built… I have written about it before. It is my dream house.

Back to the Parsonage in time to catch late afternoon sunshine in the garden.

On Sunday, we went to Chettle House, up towards Cranborne Chase; a beautiful, romantic, English Baroque house  in a gently decaying village where not a lot has changed since the 19th century. The house, by Thomas Archer, is strange, restless; I love its curious detailing and tall sash windows with ancient glass. The curved corners used to be at the ground floor only, and it would be so good to see the upper floors removed… a different house altogether.  To be honest, it is collapsing a bit now. How do we define that moment  when romantic decay gets too much? I think that Chettle may have just slipped over that edge. “It’s looking a little Chettled” is a phrase that might make its way into my language.

From Chettle, we made our way through villages and via the Museum at Farnham (The Museum is an excellent pub, in case you were wondering) to Rushmore Park, where a very long time ago I’d been at school. The soft expansive beauty of Cranborne Chase always takes my breath away.


Monday was bright and brilliant. I spent all day in the garden.

I put up my bean poles, and planted beans and peas, sweetcorn and lettuces, courgettes and squash.

The tulips are putting on a crazy display at last. But I suspect will soon be over.

And the auriculas are just turning, as irises and aquilegia come through. It feels like it’s been the shortest spring ever, rather like being in New York, where winter suddenly turns to summer with just a week of spring in between.

But it was, basically, a perfect weekend. Normal service has resumed.

13 comments on this post

Stumbled across your article in the Country Life – inspired by your beautiful, nostalgic Dorset pictures – aah home sweet home!


Disappointing tirade about such a small issue. If some private fan of a political party gives a visual example what they had in mind for a project, why make a stink about it? It comes across to be very small and petty-minded. After all, did you invent the original classic British period homes that your designs are based on or do you borrow designs and features from existing homes, like most architects do.

If you wanted your name attached to the pictures, you could probably have asked them to add it. If you did not want to be associated with the clip, well, if your name was not included you were not associated.

See my point?

It’s a pity to see this because I came onto your blog with the prospect of hiring you, but now lost my inspiration. In fact, if the UKIP group had considered your work as a format they probably had your name on their to-hire list. I can only assume you lost a client.


Dear Tom, hmmm, I can probably recommend you some architects…! All best, Ben

Sometimes we all need a dose of reality. I was glad in particular to read your Syria post and appreciate your willingness to write about the tough things that are happening around us everyday.


normal or abnormal as long as services continue.


The tulips are looking wonderful again this year. How many do you plant? I put in 350 this year, although I think only just over half have come up. The flooding at the end of last year isn’t their ideal growing conditions! Do you replace your tulips every year, or do you find that some will come up again? In previous gardens that I have moved into there have been a few yellow tulips that have reappeared year after year, so I am trying yellow ones to see if it will work for me.


I think your parsonage (with garden) is my dream house! Glad to see that Spring has arrived for you.

The Parsonage is certainly in a beautiful part of the country sounds like you had a good weekend. I am surprised that you have planted beans and courgetttes out so early – aren’t you worried about late frosts. The spring garden is looking good

Margaret Powlingsays:

Love Chettle from these photos … didn’t know of it, the only house we have visited in Dorset is Kingston Lacy (a favourite of mine, and love the story behind it … for this get yourself a copy of Anne Sebba’s The Exiled Collector.) Love your landscape photos, too, Dorset being a particularly beautiful county (and I say that living in Devon, which isn’t without some delightful landscapes of its own!)

Mary Andrewssays:

I loved your use of the word “restless” to describe Chettle House. Lyrical prose coupled with exquisite photography make your blog exceptional.

I agree, “normal” or “abnormal” Ben Pentreath posts are always worth reading.


Ahh,it all looks wonderfull!


Lovely — but we do enjoy your abnormal service too!


beautiful ben. i envy your little plot. it is gorgeous.

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