In the beginning and at the end

7 July 2013
Ben Pentreath

Summer arrives: full-blown, blowsy, full of heat. The year tips imperceptibly… just beyond its half way point… and suddenly—as if by magic—the countryside is filled with the sounds and smells and misty haze of high summer; and long winter nights and miserable spring chills are forgotten and abandoned and the premonition of early autumn is not yet in the air or in mind; we are embraced by the soft orange light of quiet sunsets, we glow from the heat of the long day, friends are staying, and all seems—well—pretty well with the world.

My favourite times are right at the beginning and right at the end of these days. I drove down from Wales and arrived in Dorset on Friday evening to find the garden jungular after a 10-day absence. Roses and tobacco plants were pumping their scent into the evening.  For some reason (perhaps the whole bottle of wine that somehow managed to slip down nicely in the next few hours had something to do with it?) I woke incredibly early on Saturday to find the valley and garden swathed in mist. It slowly burned off but was too beautiful to miss. I spent the whole morning deep in the veg garden, uninterrupted. Will and Maria arrived in time for a late lunch. An afternoon of deep sunshine, calling in to the end of the village fete, then home for barbecued lamb and happy times. I cannot tell you how much I love cooking and eating outside.

And the tennis. For some weird reason there’s no TV at the Old Parsonage. Perhaps not weird, I just don’t like watching it. So we headed down the valley (via a little trip, day-dreaming, to a spare, remote barn that I’d spied a few weeks ago which would make the perfect hidden world for my friend Will; I hasten to add it’s not for sale, and even if it was… well, there’s nothing wrong with day-dreaming) to my friends Chris and Caddy’s, where lunch under the apple trees was as delicious as the welcome was generous and the garden beautiful (Caddy, I’ve got SERIOUS greenhouse and fairly serious cabbage envy).

Then the tennis. I’m not much of a sports-watcher, especially not in the middle of the hottest afternoon of the year; and as regular readers of this blog will possibly realise, I’m not a particular fan of the sight of our, hmm, how shall I say, enjoying too much cream with the strawberries are we? Prime Minister managing to jump out of his seat with joy…thinking ‘maybe this will distract them all from what’s really going on’.  And, true, at Ben Pentreath towers, we are also more interested in aesthetics than national pride, and I don’t think that you’d disagree with me that in the smokin-hot stakes, Serbians win over Scots (at least on Centre Court at 4pm)…. yes, all of the above… but I’ve got to admit that I shed tears when Murray won his Wimbledon. Deserved.

Perfect summer days are made of this.


32 comments on this post

I have just discovered your blog and your charming shop via Instagram, oh how I have the desire to board a plane immediately and fly to England. Your photos are so beautiful they took my breath away.How lovely to be able to see such a beautifully natural space early in the morning in all it’s glory. The vegetable garden is so divine brings back childhood memories of time spent in England . I look forward to continuing with reading your inspiring blog.


Shared this post with my daughter, whose birthday is 7/7 and has much Britishness in her blood. Lovely to see what was happening in the UK on that day.

Philip Bewleysays:

Tim described this as an “…achingly beautiful set of images.” I have to agree, and I feel I must thank you for the inspiration. This was a real pleasure for me to see today. Thank you and warm regards,

Nelson (he of Trafalgar Blue) wants to know if you’ve named your Morris yet?

Tim Ssays:

I don’t think I have ever seen such an achingly beautiful set of images.

deby (in Canada)says:

Late to the game this week, but just have to wonder how a whole week went by and no one commented on the perfection enhancing brought by the final images of the Morris… truly the icing on bliss…
On our first trip to England in ’77 we bought a morris traveller-cream with wood trim and moss growing in the window recesses (cost £200) and to this day is the only car we have ever owned that I loved …
cheers Deby

You’re making me miss all that is the UK… beautiful, beautiful photographs.

deb millersays:

Beautiful, evocative photos . . . I can smell those lovely Dorset summer days.


Sounds like you had an ABSOLUTELY problem free Sunday! What Joy!


Oh I love a stripey rose (mantlepiece picture). Sigh…


Stunning!! I WANT to be there!


Your photos boost my optimism, they are a dreamlike depiction of the English countryside. In hard times you need nature to remind you that there is still some stability around, that life goes on despite the petty behavior and the vices of human beings. Having returned from Kardamyli in Southern Greece I am enveloped by melancholy as I had to leave this paradise of olive groves, pine trees and lazy beaches -Patric Leigh Fermor sang its praises- to come back to the city. Nature is the most effective balm to our souls.

Ben, I’ve been an Anglophile since I was kid back in the ‘50s, and your gorgeous blog has brought all those childhood fantasies of lush, vernal, fruitful England surging back. I must re-read Mary Stewart’s “The Ivy Tree” asap. Thank you for sharing your lovely photos of your English domestic landscape with us. The summer morning mist only makes it all more dream-like. And the long, low rays of early evening summer sun gleaming on the lawn behind the beautifully set dinner table…to die for! May I suggest that your next book project be a photographic record of the round of seasons at the Old Parsonage & environs?

My little garden in Verona, PA (woefully neglected this season due to preparing for an art show in the Fall) is but a pale imitation of your real thing. Congratulations on producing so much beauty for the rest of us to swoon over!


Since discovering your shop and now your blog, I look forward to the regular updates and images of our beloved West Dorset. By the way, hurricanes shades are available on Amazon; probably not as stylish as yours however.


The antidote to “Banker Style”.


Stunningly beautiful and very English!

Kevin Kornegaysays:

All quite lovely! I look forward to reading your new entries every Monday.


Your photos and garden are extra divine!! I lust after bamboo cloches, hazel hurdles and a vegetable garden. Oh and a picket gate would be good too! Are you still using your little Lumix DMC-TZ10 was it? If so I want one of those too. Thank you so much for sharing your world with us!


All so beautiful – off out to move a table and a couple of benches under the tree…

Suzy O'Briensays:

Fabulous Ben Pentreath, may I please enquire what you keep under the bamboo cloches. I have them too but mine are purely decorative at the moment. They fool people into thinking I am a serious knowledgeable gardener


Dear Suzy they’ve got cabbages under there, starting off… B

Achingly beautiful and inspirational. I have a love for old walls and paths cut into long grass, thank you for posting these photos. Oh! And many tears shed in this house when Andy won yesterday – nice way to finish the weekend.


Beautiful photography, Ben. May I ask where you got the hurricane shade for your candlestick? I have searched in the UK everywhere for over a year for one just like that. Thank you and thanks for your stunning photos.


Aaaah! Robin – I bought that hurricane shade in America, about 10 years ago, when I lived in New York. From a random ordinary hardware store. It used to be part of a pair, but I dropped one…!


Your garden is looking beautiful as usual – you certainly have a knack of capturing the essence of England in your photos.

I’m so glad I’m not the only male that cried when Andy won yesterday. Oh such a well deserved victory for all the hard work applied to a lot of natural talent. By the way, very jealous of your veg patch too, I can lend you some Pigeons to make it a little less perfect!
Everything here is a bit later, Courgettes only just getting going…… Congratulations.

We’ve just had to cancel our December trip back to the UK because our house restoration has chomped its way through too much of the wallet and your pictures, frankly, made me tearful. Tablecloths and walled gardens! Paths mown through meadowy grass! Oh! Here our country retreat offers up snakes, leeches, and tics as well as eagles, parrots and water dragons. Not so much bucolic as just plain wild, and certainly red in all teeth and all claws. Fantastically beautiful, but when I see the gentleness of your herbaceous baxons, the low hanging mist that drapes itself over everything like a benign spirit – it’s all so deeply familiar and missed, that an ache sets up. But I’m a masochist, and so I hope the pictures and poetic commentary continue.


a visual delight!

No Mosquitos??? I have some I can give you (sigh)


Lamb chops with fresh rosemary! I’ll be right over!


Oh, yes, they are. Perfect. I’m having serious vegetable garden envy all the way from Canada.

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