Pottering about in West Dorset

9 May 2016
Ben Pentreath

After the washout of the Bank Holiday weekend in Cornwall…. enjoyable as it was…. it was nonetheless rather a rare and lovely feeling to be arriving in Dorset on Friday evening with the forecast of hot sunshine all weekend.  Zoe from the office, my right hand person (although she sits on my left, as it happens) was coming to stay and we caught the train from Waterloo with that wonderful sense of relief that only Friday afternoon can really bring. We arrived just in time for the social club committee meeting, planning the events for our Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations next month. It didn’t take too long to sort the logistics of Victoria Sponge baking competitions and dog parades before we settled into the usual committee banter which rapidly turned into a fascinating discussion of ‘IN’ or ‘OUT’. Opinion was divided.

Maybe as a result the committee meeting wasn’t quite as raucous and dangerous as usual and we woke up bright and early on Saturday morning (thanks to Mavis) without feeling too ill.  But it was very grey. Where was the sunshine? We headed in to Bridport for the market and breakfast at Soulshine.

We were overwhelmed by the blossom in the churchyard next door…P1000576 P1000578 P1000579 P1000581

Mavis (who is growing up fast) enjoyed visiting the Bridport Community Allotments and orchard, next door…P1000586 P1000589 P1000590

And then we went to Forde Abbey to look at the gardens there. Sunshine breaking through.P1000599 P1000607

Tulips were in full force, looking magnificent.
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The walled garden is one of the most beautiful places I know. It feels like one of those gardens that have been in continuous production for centuries. P1000619 P1000621 P1000626

Incredible to see black bearded irises flowering already….P1000627

Passing through the walled garden the tulip dial was turned to mental.P1000630 P1000631 P1000633 P1000636

Incredible.  The contrast with the old monastic Dorter Range was serene…. grey walls with wisteria waiting to burst.P1000641

A glimpse into the chapel window, showing the oculus beyond:P1000644 P1000646 P1000648 P1000649 P1000654

We often see this wonderful gardener at work, when we visit, and wonder if he has any help:P1000655

Orchids in the meadow:P1000660 P1000663

Cattle in the avenue:P1000668 P1000669

Insane auriculas in the rock garden:

More tulips:P1000676 P1000677

We left and meandered cross country to Beaminster. We went for yet another fantastic lunch at Brassica. If you ever are coming to West Dorset, make sure you eat here. It’s the absolute best, every time. P1000684

After lunch, a little walk:P1000685 P1000686 P1000689 P1000691 P1000696 P1000697

Next door to the restaurant is the excellent and beautifully well-curated ‘Brassica Mercantile’ which is full of things you couldn’t buy anywhere else for a radius of  100 miles. Probably not, in fact, until you get to a certain emporium in Rugby Street, Bloomsbury….P1000698

And then we were popping over for tea with my brother and sister in law Jon & Laura. It was my goddaughter Daisy’s birthday. Really we were there to pick a couple of kittens. Daisy’s cat just had a huge litter. Tea turned to drinks.

I designed the stone bay window which we built five years ago – turning an otherwise dark room into a much lighter space that connects into the garden with a huge south facing bay (and making a tiny upstairs bedroom a lot larger at the same time)… a simple but effective extension. It’s mellowing in nicely now.

Eventually we wound our way home and had a happy supper and an early bed, having been out and about for what felt like a very long day.

On Sunday the weather was bright and blue and breezy and we couldn’t resist a trip to the seaside.  On the way we bumped into our neighbour Harriet and Evie, doing the cattle. Harriet used to be my landlady before I moved to the Parsonage!   She is rarely out of pearls and dungarees. P1000710

Harriet’s beautiful Longhorns have had 12 calves:P1000711 P1000712 P1000714

Mavis had quite an admirer….P1000715

And then to Lyme Regis.  We walked past the beautifully restored Landmark Trust house, Belmont, which we’ve been watching for years. All done, and looking very fine.P1000724

Seagull settling in on the parapet:P1000726

More classic English scenes at the harbour front:P1000734

We were taking Mavis for her first trip to the seaside.  She wasn’t quite sure about getting in the water. Waves are still a bit scary.P1000736

A lovely walk out on the cobb:P1000737 P1000739 P1000745 P1000746 P1000747

The small town below; vast Regency villas on the wooded hillside above. Lyme is a perfect town.P1000749

Boats this way and that at low tide:P1000751

The beach was packed. Heaven.P1000755 P1000757 P1000759 P1000762 P1000763

And after fish and chips on the front, and a walk up through town, we made our way home.  Charlie and Zoe were heading back up to London, and unusually I had a night at the Parsonage alone, because I’m working down here tomorrow. It was the stillest, softest evening. The garden is the most intense green just now.P1000775 P1000776

Charlie’s cleared out the tulip beds, ready to plant dahlias…P1000779 Maybe it was the amazingly hot weather; but it feels as if we are drifting into summer.  This year, we’ve decided not to go away. We’re going to be spending as much time as possible down here.  After a weekend like this, I have to admit I can’t wait.

23 comments on this post

Oh, to be in England now that (April) Spring is here!
Just as I have lived in England for the last twenty years, I am now rediscovering the green and pleasant land, appreciating the many details that make this country so great.
Saw your name, blog and instagram accounts recommended by Anna Spiro in her book ‘Absolutely Beautiful Things’ and I am truly smitten. I am again in the mood for Englishness – town and country, tea and cake, houses and gardens! So refreshing to read a blog which reassures me that England is still here and the most wonderful place on earth despite its many foibles (?).
Thank you.


Your photos are so amazing. The tulips and other flowers just made my morning here in California where it never rains enough to have such lush blooms. Thank you so much!


another lovely weekend….another big thank you from me. (and now, I’m going to go against the general feeling of other commentators and say: much as I love cats, its fine by me not to have an inundation of cute kitten photos! as a cat owner who would also love a dog, pix of Mavis fit the bill nicely

Southern Galsays:

oh kittens! photos! please!
are they going to london?
dog, kittens, pigs next? (joking)

thanks for the gorgeous photos, your blog is my dream travel blog as i have never been to london or england …

I’ve just stumbled across your lovely blog, wow what wonderful places you visit and love all the photos. Will most likely be back soon to read more x

Ben, Thank you for all of the travel and garden inspiration in today’s post. I love those tulips! Reading your blog is a mini vacation for me. Have a great week
xo, Lissy


Dear B and C, I hope the kittens are short haired grey as I recommended! Now would also be a good time to get a parrot. African Grey, natch. Just saying. Best, Nicola


Forget kittens…you should get bees.

John Hartsays:

Two great blogs Ben. Such beautiful pictures of houses and gardens. Good to meet all your many interesting friends too. I don’t think you are going to get away without posting some kitten pictures thoug but of course Mavis is great! Looking forward to seeing your garden through the summer. Please let us see some pictures of your many super projects. We are coming to England next week, London, the Midlands and then Leeds. Have a good week.


Orchids in the meadow, cattle in the avenue and views of Dorset in all its glory – ohhh I’m coming all over all Bathsheba Everdene!!


Have you got the message yet? We love tulips and we love Mavis and we love you, but we really – REALLY – want kittens. Kittens. KITTENS. OK?

Jane Goldingsays:

I was reading your blog this morning, looked at one of the Beaminster photos and suddenly thought “Hey, that’s my garden!” (With a view of the church). Do call in for tea and cake next time!

Ben, thank you for a couple of dreamy posts, this, and last week in Cornwall. I love reading about and “meeting” your friends. Are you and Charlie keeping the kittens, or delivering them elsewhere? One of the many things about England that makes me jealous (here in the USA) is that it’s so compact, so easy to travel around in. I have to drive for 6 hours just to get from west to east end of Pennsylvania. It’s been a good 20+ years since I’ve been in England, and have yet to make it to Cornwall, Lyme Regis and other lovely places. For now, your blog is my Magic Carpet.



Ellen Spencersays:

Lovely post, but…you got kittens?!!!Pictures please!


What a weekend! I am so looking forward to photos from summer weekends in Dorset. Kitten photos are fine with me!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your weekends.


Thanks , once again for sharing. I feel as if I just took a mini vacation.

Colin Graysays:

What a delightful blog – sounds like the perfect weekend!


You should get bees…


Great post! One small complaint though – no kitten pictures.

Mary Jenkinssays:

…and there’s going to be kittens? All my favourite places Ben, love Beaminster and Lyme! You are very lucky to live in Dorset, not to mention being near Devon! Please go to Totnes and give us your take on it! It was my home at one time and I love it dearly and miss it!


It´s absolutely gorgeous! Your blog, I´m reading since several weeks is really great! Usually I go to the South of England every May or June for a week, but unfortunately this year it is not possible. But I´m so glad – your wonderful pics and comments bring England to me to Germany… Thank you so much!


Lovely reading and beautiful pictures. Thanks a lot from Spigno Monferrato, Italy


Another triumph; I do so love reading your blog and seeing Dorset (and London and the gardens and Mavis) through your camera’s lens. Thank you for the pleasure you give!

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