Why I love Dorset

26 May 2013
Ben Pentreath

I went for a spin this afternoon – in my Morris Minor, which, to be honest, has been a little under the weather for months. My friend and neighbour Mike has done a brilliant job gradually nursing the elderly car back to health. From time to time we wondered if we’d ever get there. Every time we (by which, I mean, of course, he) fixed something, something else went wrong.

There was a party in the village today – my landlord’s daughter was married yesterday and there was a fantastic celebration lunch this afternoon, in the brilliant sunshine. It was good to get over, because I’ve been feeling a bit reclusive if I’m honest. Everyone seemed to be there. ‘You’ll never believe it’, said Mike, when I said hello to him for the first time in weeks. ‘Your flippin car is fixed. She’s all working’.

So this afternoon, after my second deep long sleep of the weekend (I don’t know what this is about but it’s half past nine and I’m already lying in bed writing this blog… I don’t think I’ve slept so much in months) I set off for a quick drive… with minor trepidation. Last summer the car had gone through a phase of driving beautifully and then suddenly. . . . . . . . . . . . . dying and gliding to a complete stop without warning. Twice, conveniently, with friends in the passenger seat, and three times, weirdly, at the same roundabout in Bridport (that’s why my little Morris has never been to Bridport). Modern cars are charmless, but reliability has its merits.

But it started first time and we were off. The car took the hills without trouble. I’ve never known the engine work so beautifully. At which point, you realise entirely why a mechanical idiot like me likes playing around with an old car. I just love this car.

Coming back from Dorchester, I swung up on the back road via Hardy’s Monument. The air was bright – the views east and west along the coast incredible.  Turning back towards the Bride Valley, I drove through the westerly haze, sunshine streaming over the Valley of the Stones, whose upper reaches were carpeted with a sea of bluebells and gorse. I pulled in to a field gate and jumped out to take a photo or two.  I am never one to miss a bloggortunity.

It’s at moments like this that I realise quite how much I am in love with West Dorset, and I am guessing you might be able to see why.

If you can spy the church steeple, that’s where I live. I think you can see my copper beech tree just beyond.

You get me?

Well, it’s not just the car, or the valley, or the views – it’s my friends and neighbours, and the quiet, inevitable, rhythms of seasons that curiously I think I recognise all the more acutely since I first started writing this blog.

Today, I pottered around in the veg garden for a few hours. Everything is very behind. It’s no surprise, I guess… there was a frost on the ground this morning. Such a cold spring. As I was digging, it occurred to me that working in a vegetable garden is a good indication of how to get on with things generally. ‘I just don’t know how you do it all‘ is a phrase that I hear rather frequently these days. ‘By not sleeping’ I ruefully reply – which is perhaps why I’ve spent most of yesterday afternoon and most of this afternoon fast asleep, who knows? But actually – that’s not the reason. It’s because I think over the years I’ve become fairly good at dealing with things in small doses. That’s how you get them done.

That’s why I love working in the vegetable garden. You see results.

I weeded the paths and beans and potatoes. Then I tackled one of the beds, which was full of weeds. It turned out that half the weeds were nasturtiums, self seeded, and opium poppies, whose delicate papery grey petals are one of my favourite things in the garden. So they survived while thistles and what have you did not. I planted out my broccoli seedlings that wend their long way through to next winter. They live under those basket things, in case you’re wondering. I’m not sure why, but I’ve just found  they get brassicas off to an excellent start.

But not everything got done. And that’s my point. It’s a question of picking your task. And then realising that everything else can wait for another day.

See what I mean?

Every weekend my desk at the Old Parsonage looks a bit like this.

Hmm. Not as appealing as the garden, I admit. And let’s face it, I’m never going to get through it all. But I get through some, and that’s enough.

29 comments on this post


Hello Ben,

What a lovely blog and what a marvelous area. I am about to discover Dorset and was wondering if you could share the name of the village described so beautifully in your blog? Many thanks! Stef


I know that feeling of listening intently to the engine as SHE zooms along never knowing if something interesting will happen on the journey. I LOVE my Minor, especially driving in the centre of London as a treat and then taking her on holiday to France, where everyone makes a fuss whilst I quietly garden. Listening to the distant coos and ahhhs! Think she needs to visit more of the lovely English countryside. Thank you.


Pure joy.
I have been trying to think of a suitable name for your Morris Minor. Possibly something 1950s-ish like Donald or Kenneth? Am assuming it is male (exhaust pipe).

Lynn Teaguesays:

Wonderful! I’d buy there in a heartbeat.


Ben, thank you for sharing – I could just picture myself in your world and what a delight. Looking forward to your next view of the world.

I miss gardening! It’s been a while since the last time I pulled out a weed in our garden. Yours is beautiful. In fact, I’m a bit envious. 😀 Hopefully I can find time to finally get mine started. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pics.


‘Minor trepidation’ is a lovely phrase to describe the feeling of setting off for spin in a Morris. My first car was a Morris, of the same Almond Green hue, and a similarly laissez faire attitude to breakdowns as yours. Your delightful post just reminded me how much I miss that car!


Just wanted to say how much I love your blog. I’m actually about to open my own interiors shop (inspired by you and yours, plus the fact that I’m fast approaching 40, so it feels like now or never!!) love the blog, love the website and your effortless taste is an inspiration. xx


Ah – I know exactly where you mean, I drive past there to go life drawing sometimes at Abbotsbury Studios on a Friday.

Mary andrewssays:

You never disappoint in capturing the essence of “place”.

I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of ” blogs” to begin with – I think it sounds so ugly- but your posts and photos are a joy.

Thank you for sharing your extraordinary world.


BTW You were up early this morning! I see what you mean about no sleep.


I think I have seen your Morris before. Something about it. However I always imagined you charging around the lanes/ up and down the motorway in a Volvo V70, or whatever they are called. Pleased to hear you are able to spend so much time in the garden, it is very satisfying, although I do note your “wild area”. Just wish my kitchen table was as tidy as your desk. No emoticons sorry.

Happy to see a fellow Morris Minor out and about (so says Nelson) have you named her/him yet?


haha. Well, he had a bit of a sex change. He grew up as Timothy but is now Dorothy. xx B


So very envious, with a view like that at your feet! Can’t see how you would get any work done there! I would probably sit there for hours till it got too dark to see anything,then go back the next day, and the next, and the next…

Perfection! That posting is exactly what I was talking about when I commented on the previous post yesterday. It is raining (again…still) in the Pacific Northwest, the skies are grey and my veg patch is soaked, so I thank you for the dose of sun. Happy Monday, all the best.


Happily, unspoilt West Dorset is just next door to East Devon! Your old Morris Minor looks just like the one we travelled in on family holidays to Wales and Devon, red leather seats and no seatbelts of course. I can still hear that particular whine of the Minor engine.

simply gorgeous, and i hope that before long i’ll be able to see west dorset for myself. here’s to living “one bite at a time”.

Loved catching up with you at the BBQ at Philips & Catherine’s yesterday, we’re glad you happy with Timothy, is he a keeper? As for you photo’s and words about home just eloquent Ben as usual, you really do speak my heart about Dorset.x

Unspoilt West Dorset is so beautiful and, fortunately for me, just next door to Wiltshire.

“I’m never going to get through it all. But I get through some, and that’s enough.” I love this attitude and your style, Mr Pentreath.

beautiful lifesays:

Love Dorset. Two wonderful holiday in the past two years basing ourselves at Lyme Regis (the Alex – we loved). Perhaps we will spend more time there in the future? And not a wind farm in site. Just returned from our little weekend cottage on the Solway (Dumfries and Galloway side) to see a new small wind farm erected on the other side of the firth, which was not there last month. I’m wondering just how beneficial they are truly going to be once everything is taken into consideration. Unspoilt England. Beauty. Thank you. s

ursula falconersays:

I do hope the potatoes you planted when it was v cold and wet survived…..I have been dying to know.I planted mine a whole month later …..but we are in Glos not magical Dorset…..

Have I ever been to Dorset – no. Would I like to go to Dorset – yes, after seeing all your lovely pictures, maybe one day. Your veg garden is looking good, there is so much to do at this time of year that it’s hard to know where to start – step by step is the way, one job at a time – I think you’ve cracked it.


West Dorset looks about a month ahead of north Norfolk when it comes to gardening – it still looks like the beginning of May here, whereas your vegetable patch is a complete delight. Where do you buy those basket things?


I get the baskets from my local garden centre… I think you see them around and about…


My dream car. My dream landscape.

deb millersays:

Ahh the joys of a Morris Minor. I remember trying to stealthily leave a friend’s bus, early one morning, deep in the Somerset countryside, and having to do a quick bit of repair work on some vital part of the skeletal engine using a wooden matchstick.

Love your photos . . . . a feast for the senses. I can just imagine myself standing there feeling the warm sun on my arms, smelling the ocean and gorse and hearing the birds and insects . . . and hoping that the Moggy will start!!

Beauty as is your style…. Really glad the opium Poppies will live to bloom. Thanks and happy day!


i’ve said it before & i’ll say it again, dorset and your garden are so, so, so beautiful.
also, in my opinion, a garden isn’t a garden unless there is a bit of wild, unkempt mess.
cheers, jo

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