Dreaming of Heat…

13 April 2014
Ben Pentreath

There is honestly nothing, nothingin the world that I love more than that moment – which I think happened this weekend, down here in Dorset, when there’s a tipping point headlong in to spring and a promise of summer is around the corner.

It’s about this time of year, every year, that the cattle are put out in the fields overlooking the distant Bride Valley; I never fail to have my breath taken away by that placid calm as they graze as a golden sun sets in the west. Regular readers of the blog will know that I’ve got a bit of a thing for this moment.P1020334

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The garden is looking calm and placid too, in the first flush of growth; that optimistic time of the year when anticipation is more powerful than reality.  (Although, to be fair, I’m mainly anticipating a lot of slugs and snails after the wet mild winter).  I had a good day today, putting up bean poles and planting out veg.

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My garden is being photographed for a very glossy magazine in a couple of weeks or so. It’s as ready as it’s going to be, because I’m not down here again before the photographer arrives. I’m off to stay with my friend Gavin in Tangiers, which I will be very happy to write about on Easter Monday…

But really, something else has been going on at the moment.

It started the other day with a very nice lunch I got invited to at Robert Kime’s beautiful shop on Museum Street. “Come for lunch” said Christopher, who runs the shop… “are you free next Thursday?”. I was. I thought I was popping over for a sandwich with Christopher in a cafe. So I was rather sheepish, on arriving about 10-15 minutes late, as is normal I am afraid, to find 7 other people sitting down at a beautiful dining table with beautiful flowers eating a beautiful lunch… my empty seat in the corner.

It was a fantastic pause in a hectic week. On the way out, I thought, you know, I better buy something hadn’t I? Well… it had been a good lunch. But really, I’d already spotted something completely wonderful on my way in. A pair of painted little rush stools.

“Wow. They’d look absolutely great in my house in Italy” I said. “They’d be perfect for either side of the fire”.

This is not an entirely untrue comment… except for one small detail. The house doesn’t quite exist. Or, I suppose, more accurately, it does exist. But I haven’t visited it yet, and I don’t own it.

“REALLY?” everyone said.  “We didn’t know you had a house in Italy?!?” Well, to be fair, they would look great by the fire of a house in Italy, especially if it was my house.

So I bought them.  Breaking, once again, my golden rule – don’t buy stuff unless you know exactly where it’s going to live.

Here are the little stools in Dorset. You see what I mean?

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Well, this particular rule-breaking has been happening quite a bit just of late.  Today, a delivery turned up from a weird ebay furniture warehouse in Cornwall. What had I done? Well, after writing the Habitat blog a couple of weeks ago, I went a bit zany and bought a set of 8 Magistretti Dining Chairs that are now residing in my slightly crazy store room in Dorset. It used to be the office but things got a little mad a while back.  I think I need a new store room now.

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See what I mean? Perfect, huh? They are already beautifully faded. They used to be the red ones. Bliss. Ideal for the terrace or kitchen of the same Italian house.

It’s carrying on. The other day, Darkroom, our neighbouring store on Rugby Street, had the most beautiful Berber cushions in the window that you have ever seen. Check them out here. Ideal for the hot house. The one I really wanted got snapped up from under my nose.  But Rhonda has promised that more are on the way in shortly. Pay a visit (oh, and don’t forget to come to see us too).

Basically, I think it’s an itch. It’s somewhere under my skin, and I’m not sure where it will end. But if I carry on buying furniture like this, I’m going to need to start researching places sooner rather than later. On my bookshelf at the moment? Conran on France, Stefanidis on Patmos.  Too much.

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Oh man. To die for.  Will and I are going to Patmos this summer, with friends. Yay!

Of course, I’m going to miss Italy like mad. Val and I are plotting a short weekend at la Casa together in July.

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If I told you Valentina’s house was still free for a few weeks in August, you might want to get in touch with her immediately and snap it up…. if I were you…

It doesn’t quite get over the itch, though, does it? My sister-in-law had a great point, when she said that the best house in the sun belongs to your friends (um, thank you, Val for over a decade of perfect summer holidays)… before going on to do whatever she could to persuade me to buy a house in Greece. I think rather proving the point of her principle.

A few years ago, Will, George and I went on holiday to Sicily. Across the valley we spied this amazing house. P1020018

We went to explore, but couldn’t get close owing to an extremely ferocious dog and evidence that there were people about. But it was like a dream.P1020001


Here was the view.

P1020005Will would stand looking at it for hours, half a mile away, from our terrace, and then draw up the proposed floor plans.

P1020019We got on the case. We tracked down the owner, and then found out it was for sale. On our last day, we managed to get a tour.

P1020650 P1020588The funny thing was the plans were nothing like as cool as we’d hoped, and from the main bedroom window was a grim view to a very ugly modern house that we hadn’t ever been able to spot from the lane. We had a great little day-dream, but it wasn’t quite to be.

Where you would start looking if you were me? I hesitate to add… this is a plan for 10 years down the line, but it’s nice to have a think about isn’t it?

36 comments on this post


Not sure if the email I sent or delete, so Lloyd Baker will mean something or not

Alida Lewissays:

Hi just bumped in to your site whist attempting to discover what specifically the recycle bins cycle at the end of Guildford Place without success have to check on foot as I only live in Dombey St…….have flicked through a number of your blogs very warmed by all the nooks and crannies, also your roof garden, have you been successful in growing beans etc…..use to have one myself for 25 years until neighbour caused it to be destroyed. Now I use someone’s back garden from a scheme set up by Hugh Fearney-Whittingstall which is between here and Islington, I think they were built/created by Lloyd ? lovely buildings. Have just planted my beans but a bit limited with being able to fertilize as my means of transport is only a bike. All your artistic pictures/photos are another warming aspect to your blogs especially as I work in glass and visual images are obviously a feature. Writing all these blogs I can understand must cement to some degree your experiences, does it also drawn a value for them as well…….Alida

Can we exchange the heat/cold dynamic. You probably pay oodles for heating and we for airconditioning. It’s all a bit potty! Let’s create a climate change.


How about France? Steadier economy and health care system. Granes, and the surrounding area, a gentle drive from Carcassone, is unspoilt, un-Anglicized, and beautiful.


Hello Ben, I have followed you for some time now, but felt I just had to comment on your lastest blog. In the photo of your store room you have some lovely prints of Woodlands Crescent, Poundbury.
We bought one of those houses with a wonderful outlook over the park. We have renovated it, putting in a new kitchen with french doors opening onto the sunny garden. I am sitting on the island unit in the sunshine writing this.
I thought you may be interested in our love of Poundbury. My husband & I bought a house here over the internet in 2010,(we lived in NZ), then we moved over here 2012, did that house up, moved to Woodlands Crescent and have now bought a house designed by your friend George Saumarez-Smith. It is one of the George Terrace houses with has the wonderful green exterior. We are up-specing the house using Little Greene paints inside and much nicer tiles. It is such a lovely light sunny house.
Next time you are in Poundbury you must try the little cafe Bonjour just around the corner from Buttermarket.


Thanks Trish! So glad you’re loving Poundbury. I love those houses by George!

Ben, thanks for your kinds wishes. My hand is still slightly swollen but the infection is under control. Please do let us know when the issue of GI with your Dorset garden comes out! And, Happy Easter!


Ellen Spencersays:

All the above mentioned places are fantastic! My latest travel (last week) was to London (from Boston, MA), where among other things I visited your shop and had a lovely conversation with Bridie. Also, the woman who currently lets 17A was delightful. It was a gorgeous sunny day so I wandered around the general area with much pleasure. The Foundling Hospital Museum was fascinating. I’m very envious of your London and Dorset life!


Hello Ben!

Thank you for your sundays blogs, I so much appreciate them! Are we allowed to sent photos when leaving a comment, I would sincerely love to show you our meadows and beautiful cows around our dear week end retreat in the middle of nowhere in Belgium…


Hello Ben!

Can we leave a comment with photos, I would be happy to show you our beautiful cows around our dear countryhouse in the middle of nowhere in Belgium, just the dream spot to forget the city and people running all the time…thank you for your sunday blogs!


I’ve found Patmos a bit hit and miss but trying to book anywhere these days I wouldn’t know where to start.

Ben, how amazing, we had exactly the same ‘tipping point’ weekend here in western PA. Sun & balmy breezes, boxwood in bloom and covered with bees! The deer have already been munching on the tulips. I tried to make up for lost time, having let last winter arrive without properly cleaning up the garden. Sunday I hauled off 4 barrowsful of plant & tree debris to the wooded area down the hill. In the process, I managed to stick myself but good, right through my gloves, on a hawthorne branch buried in the debris. This morning I paid a visit to the Urgent Care Center, with a painfully red & swollen hand. Massive doses of antibiotics ensued, and I was cautioned to watch out for symptoms of spread of infection due to the proximity of the puncture to the tendon sheath of my left hand, which could be a conduit to carry the poison right up my arm. Did I mention that hawthorne tree is being evicted? As soon as I can manage it, there will be a lovely flowering dogwood where there used to be a thorn factory.

Which is the magazine that will feature your garden? I will have to order a copy online, as I don’t suppose it will be on newsstands in the U.S.? I too am looking forward to blissful pix from your annual Italian vacation/house-hunting trip. Even if you don’t find a purchase-worthy abode, think of the fun you’ll have poking about private homes!



Diane – that is a bad story! Feel better. Gardens Illustrated. But it comes out in a year from now, so don’t hold your breath!


I, too, would have bought the charming pair of stools without having the remotest idea of where I would put them. I am sure they were calling your name – you just answered the call.


I did 😉


I’m with EBG – the Umbrian country around Perugia is heaven. Harder to get to than Tuscany, which has saved it from being colonised by the SW6 and SW11 crowd, but still possible if you can cope with Ryanair.

There’s also the most perfect small hotel in the world there, but I love it so much I’ll keep the details to myself unless you invite me to stay in Dorset first.


Start looking in Perugia, Italy.


I’ve been!!!! Beautiful.

Quite green with envy!

I’ve been obsessed with Patmos since reading John Stef’s book a while back, wide striped blue and white cushions have been appearing everywhere – we’re trying Folegandros this year..aparently like an unspoilt version of Santorini? I Also vote for Greece! the swimming! there’s nothing quite like it in the world … one of my favorite islands is Skopelos in the North – Pine trees and turquoise! Heaven!

I’ve spent so many hours standing in dusty alleys peering over crumbling walls, clambering through broken gates, fleeing from fierce dogs and dreaming of getting my sticky fingers on a falling down farmhouse like the one you spotted in Sicily, perfection! Perhaps they are better in our dreams than in reality though?

Thank you for the most inspiring blog ever…. I look forward to it every week!


Thanks Dominic 🙂 I agree. Greece at the moment!



I truly reading your blog ! Take a look at the Mani region of Peeloponnisos of Greece ! So Beautiful.


Dreams of Mallorca – Deia, Soller Valley, Fornalutx – but they are having such a terrible time with unemployment and dwindling state support for things like pharmacies, that I hear from Spanish friends that you can’t even buy an aspirin at present. Or Southern France – do you know a lovely book of illustrations and thoughts on France by Sara Midda ‘A Sketchbook of Southern France’ – full of dreams. But I love England and its countryside. Perhaps there is in fact nothing better. thank you. sbw


SBW there probably is indeed nothing better. But you appreciate more after being away!

Are we allowed to know which magazine? Please tell.


Of course! Gardens Illustrated – next year.

Robert Rowandsays:

Dreaming of heat? You should have been in design capital of the world 2014 this weekend, where it was 34 degrees!


Properly now Tanger – otherwise Tangier – NEVER Tangiers, that S just kills it….


whoops! I love a pedant, pedantic. My aunt lived there and it was always Tangiers in her mind I believe. You’re right though.


oops,I don’t know what happened there. I decided I needed a glass of wine and somehow on having poured it and sat down again, I seem to have lost part of what I was saying…and I haven’t even got there yet ! Lisa


Ah Ben Ben…a little while ago you were in bed with a cold and thinking of not renting but getting a mortgage. I wrote a comment as I too had been in bed with a cold and I had decided to sell and rent…hopefully a small apt. in Italy. A dream.
I have just paused in my sorting and packing to read your post ( Sunday evening here ) to tell you, and I am smiling, that I am moving to Italy in two weeks. I have rented a larger than planned apt. in a huge old house right in the Centro Storico of a small medieval town.I am almost unable to eat I am so excited.
So when I read your future posts it will be from a different perspective. And I am a hop and a skip away from Tangier etc.I love Tangiers. I look forward to masses of gorgeously happy holiday photographs from you. Lisa

I am happy that you have posted such a lovely blog before I left. Such beautiful photo’s of the cows and the evening sun, and with such excitement of your imminent travel in distant parts. I look forward to reading



Lisa that sounds like BLISS!!! Congratulations.


I was really HOPING you would be in Dorset this weekend to take photos of the utterly perfect spring day, the air still cool and fresh, and the cow parsley just beginning to come out along the lanes. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed the springing of Spring so much. Perhaps it’s because it’s coming in such a RUSH, after all that hellish winter rain and storm. Every moment you turn around something else is coming into bloom, tulips, bluebells, may flower…
Patmos is also heaven on earth, but more expensive than Notting Hill.


I know. I think I’m going to miss the cow parsley arrival moment – not down for 2 weeks.

I loved the photos of the cows grazing. When I lived in Kent, it used to be all about the lambs at this time of the year.

Your garden looks wonderful at this time of year. Black tulips are my absolute favorite to grow. I wish they were as easy as narcissi, which faithfully return from year to year.

As to where in the sun you could look for a suitable home, my vote would be Greece. Love the place! How wonderful to have dreams and long term plans. Always a must for curious and creative beings.


Yes, yes, and yes.

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