Work in progress

14 February 2016
Ben Pentreath

Regular readers of the blog (and of a particularly lively comments page) will remember that a few weeks ago I caused minor consternation in benworld by announcing that the garden was going to be turning into the battle of the Somme… the diggers were moving in the next day. Charlie’s been on the case ever since, and I can’t imagine a luckier team than Mike and his men who have been served a daily diet of biscuits scones toasties tea and cake by the master baker (who we on Rugby Street got to experience during the heady crazy days of Charlie’s pop-up shop last autumn). The village has seen its own version of the great British Bake off these last few weeks.

I’ve hardly been in Dorset at all – trips to Worcestershire and a London weekend, and a pretty crazy couple of weeks of work, have put paid to that. I haven’t seen quite so much of the chaos, except on photos emailed to me by Charles. So arriving on Saturday afternoon (coming down from Nottingham, and our lovely project up there, where I’d been on the public consultation the day before) it was with minor trepidation that I walked into the garden for the first time in 2 or 3 weeks.

Some things hadn’t changed…


But if you glimpse carefully you can see an upturned wheelbarrow…. a sign of things to come.P1070450 Some things don’t change… primroses coming out in their usual spot…
P1070453 But others do.  A few weeks ago this was the site of our dying golden laurel tree. Which is now going to become Charlie’s flowering shrub bank (for cutting branches).

All along the lawn beds is a low drystone wall, where once the bank tumbled into the flat grass.  It’s extraordinary the spatial effect this low line of stone has had.  The suggestion for these walls first came from our friend Kim Wilkie. How right he was.P1070460

The door to the sitting room is beautifully framed by Charlie’s new flower beds, which to be honest look as if they have been there for years.

One level down, the new long grass terrace is taking shape.  At the lane end, is a new pair of gates that we found in a junk yard up in Worcestershire. P1070462Perfect to have a wider opening so that we can at long last dump a load of manure right by the veg garden, rather than wheelbarrowing everything from the very top of the garden down to the bottom, which has always felt like making a bad job worse.

Mike’s been having a fun time trying to level the terrace in all the rain, which has been little short of extreme these last few weeks, but plenty of sand seems to have done the trick.P1070463 P1070465

When I first set out the veg garden whatever it was, seven or eight years ago now, we made the fence parallel to the boundary of the garden at the bottom – not parallel to the house. This time, we’ve straightened everything up. The old fence used to run tight to the brick path. Look at the change now. As a result we have some very funny triangular beds in the veg patch now, but somehow, they just work.  P1070469And a lovely new rabbit proof fence… the badgers had been having a fun time with the last one.

The veg garden was looking beautiful in spring sunshine that felt warm, briefly, this morning.
P1070477Tulips are coming up everywhere.P1070479

Here’s the low stone wall at the foot of the new terrace.P1070481 P1070483 P1070487 P1070488

I’m not quite sure what the police cone is doing but there you go.P1070490

The tulip border is going a little bit mad already. A bit too early, I might add. I hope there isn’t a crazy frost coming.P1070492

More tulips, and Fritillaria Imperialis, in pots, are hiding around the corner…

The old regency wirework arch has survived the cull. At one stage I think Charlie was eyeing it up for removal, but it is reprieved for now.P1070495 P1070501

The snowdrops are in force at the foot of the beech tree, which always makes me very happy.P1070504 P1070507

The stonework built by Paul, the dry stone waller, is absolutely beautifully done.
P1070510The apple trees down to the church gate..
P1070508 P1070511 P1070512 P1070518 P1070520

The sense of space that comes from having the new long terrace running from one end of the garden to the other is amazing.P1070525 P1070531 P1070539P1070452 P1070458 The garden feels different… so much bigger.
P1070547Work in progress, but nearly complete.  The next time I’m in Dorset, I think everything will be finished (as you can see, I’m an armchair spectator in this game). I can’t wait; we can’t wait. Spring feels like it’s on the brink of coming.  And it’s never looked better.

20 comments on this post


I love what you’ve done and it’s a wonderful improvement. Have you thought about replacing your lovely large kitchen window with french doors that would lead out onto a small covered sitting area, just big enough for a morning coffee and an easier way to bring fruit and veg into the kitchen?


Lovely bones!


In the words of Macaulay Connor, “You’ve really got something there.”

Can’t wait to see this beautiful garden in bloom.


It’s already looking wonderful! Can’t wait to see the photos from this coming spring and summer. Will you have a “christening” party for the new improvements? Break a bottle of champagne over the lovely new stone wall? (Just kidding, I know you wouldn’t do that to a perfectly good bottle of champagne.) That lovely long terrace just cries out for entertaining. I too love stone walls. I have built several quite small ones to terrace my quite small but hilly property. However I try to use only found rocks, which considerably adds to the time factor. Congratulations on the garden face-lift!

Suzy Fanningsays:

I can’t wait to see how the new garden develops. Having read your blog over the years, I thought that the garden had reached its full potential. However, with some well planned hardscaping, it’s a brand new canvas for planting. I would love to know some of Charlie’s plans, including the shrubs for the bank

The garden is looking so very beautiful. The whole area does seem to be much larger. Charlie has a wonderful eye and plan.


Love the new look garden. Strangely it appears to make the house look bigger and grander. Super job.


Love a classy unpointed stone wall. As for the arch – stay of execution until it flowers, then decide. Perhaps a relocation is in order. Can’t wait for all those tulips. Best, Nicola


Kim Wilkie made some brilliant suggestions. Your garden is going to look so much more beautiful now.

Just had to add the tidbit about your new gates. As if, as if, as if, they could be found, at any price, within 1,000 miles of my home/garden in Georgia. Lucky ya’ll with that find.

Quite nice, the new rabbit/badger fence. Better, your dry stack stone wall. Where was the stone sourced? Sold by the pound? What type?

Had to smile at the original fencing following a path and not the house. Garden humor for a garden nerd. We all made the same mistakes at the front end.

This post feels a bit like having Beverly Nichols back.

Congrats on your many new layers in the garden. You are living in ‘high cotton’.

Garden & Be Well, XO T


as a garden builder, lover of stone walls and english box, I’m so enjoying these glimpses. as someone who is coming to britain this early summer (to see the homes and gardens of virginia woolf and beatrix potter) you encourage me to think it’s going to happen sooner. It was 1 degree fahrenheit this weekend where I live.

Pierre B.says:

If perfection could exist… How lucky you are to really enjoy four seasons! In North America we hardly have two, sometimes three… Thanks for sharing!


Charlie’s absolutely right, the wirework arch is fussy and superfluous, of course everything else looks fantastic.


When Charlie comes to planting, if he possibly can, he should cross the border into Somerset and explore the most beautiful nursery (and yes I mean a nursery and not a garden centre)that I discovered last year. It is every person’s idea of what a nursery should be: plants cultivated from scratch from stock plants and not shipped in from goodness knows where and attended to with expertise and care. If you like plants, it is like walking into heaven. Whisper it quietly, Somerset Plants in Low Ham. There is a website and they will post, but it is a joy to visit and talk to the charming and knowledgeable owners (and it’s also cheaper.) Just bear in mind that they close at 1.00 on a Saturday, don’t open at all on a Sunday and only take cash or cheques. So much nicer than the world famous also iris nursery nearby


Midas touched and things became of gold. Boring and useless. Ben & Charlie touch and things become beautiful, or even more beautiful. A blessing from God.


how wonderful, the cool misty countryside and garden are beautiful…..does Paul the dry stone waller ever venture as far afield as Cape Town…? X


Hi you two the garden looks amazing can’t wait to to see the end result.All fine here in rocky Christchurch.


Yay! It looks amazing. C’mon Spring…

Brilliant! The new terrace created by the dry stone wall is a triumph, and alters the overall perspective dramatically and almost appears to anchor the house, as if it was always part of the scheme.

I stumbled upon your website and I love it. Your home and gardens are wonderful. I live in US with snow on the ground and you have plants popping up. So jealous. What a great life you lead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.