Early summer days

15 May 2016
Ben Pentreath

The sun has shone on Dorset this weekend. I’m writing on a quiet Sunday evening after the most fantastic couple of days. We’ve had our friends Will and Brandon (and Mavis’s best new friend, their Airdale puppy, Lewis) staying with us.

Friday evening was balmy. The Parsonage was bathed in warm sunshine. Charlie’s vegetable garden is looking like a microcosm of paradise.

The last of the tulips, pretty much:P1000813

But the first of the apple blossom:P1000815 P1000817

I have always loved the delicate beauty of the late flowering Narcissi, Pheasants Eye, which we are planting every year now along the orchard path.
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The wisteria decided this was the weekend it was going to burst into flower. As it has been for primroses, it feels like it’s been an amazing year for wisteria. P1000825 P1000829

We took Mavis and Lewis to meet the cows in the field, which always arrive at this time of year, as regularly as the seasons change.P1000838

The cows galloped over (do cows gallop?) and were fascinated by the puppies. P1000839

The setting sun did its usual trick for first-evening-arrived-from-London friends.
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Mavis and black cow love-in:P1000851


After a very happy dinner we woke early (well, you can’t help waking early with the puppies in tow) and headed to Bridport Market. As everyone knows, there is no point in even trying to drive into Bridport after about 9.15 in the morning, unless you enjoy traffic jams and frantic middle-class road rage in the Waitrose car park.  Best get in early.  We did.

We had a good market – buying a very nice jug with a little price label on it saying £7.50. ‘What’s your best price’ I asked the lady on the stall. ‘Let me have a look at the label’ she said. ‘oh, yes, let me see, it’s £7.50’.

Fair enough. It was still a bargain, although I’m afraid I haven’t yet taken a photo.

But I did enjoy the randomness of stalls at Bridport Market, as always.
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Bag of plastic dinosaurs anyone?P1000860

Or, as Brandon said, a talking-point book for your coffee table? P1000861

Or someone else’s wedding photo?

This was a nice cover:P1000863

We bought fresh crab to go with drinks that evening:P1000874

And listened to the St. Swithin’s Silver Band:P1000877

Who are brilliant, and I realised at that particular moment there was no where else on earth that you’d rather be than in Bucky Doo Square in Bridport.P1000884

After lunch we ventured on a little trip, National Trusting; two beautiful houses that incidentally (following my slightly controversial post from Cornwall a couple of weeks ago) had been presented without a costumed interpreter in sight.  Tintinhull, followed by Montacute.

Tintinhull is approached across a perfect orchard meadow.P1000888 P1000892 P1000893

Their wisteria is extreme.P1000895

The house must be one of the great, perfect gems of English classic domestic architecture. It is truly impossible to think of anything which would improve this facade.  P1000901 P1000903 P1000908 P1000909 P1000910 P1000914 P1000917 P1000920It is rather the thing these days to comment that the garden is not what is was in the glory days when Penelope Hobhouse was the National Trust’s remarkable tenant here for many years. I well remember visiting when I was really quite young, my breath taken away.  Maybe Charlie and I need to persuade the Trust to let us move in one day. What do you think?

For now, you can enjoy this beautiful place as a short term holiday let… probably the finest National Trust cottage there is.

There is nothing in the world more inviting than an ancient oak gate, faded silver grey, set in a lichen-encrusted brick wall with a small stone manor house beyond.P1000928

We arrived at Montacute in the late afternoon, as the gardens were emptying of people but full of serene early summer grandeur.

I suddenly had a vision that Montacute, and all these great Tudor palaces, feel more genuinely of the Renaissance than any more pure renditions of Palladian architecture that followed a hundred years later. Blink and you could be in Urbino.  Especially at the place where this gravel path meets the hard warm sandstone wall bounding the great courtyard garden. How fascinating to have resisted the urge to smother this wall with climbing plants.

The contrast within the court garden is all the more magical. I adore the tiny, romantic corner pavilions. Would they not be a dream place for a midsummer dinner?P1000941 P1000942 P1000945

Beyond, the great wide avenue stretches away to the east.P1000946 P1000948 P1000949 P1000952 P1000950

Fabulous beasts on the roofline.P1000965 P1000967

“Act Naturally”P1000972

The orangery.P1000979Fragments of the ancient, red-brick walled garden are now the overflow car park. Possibly the nicest car park in Britain?
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We got home to the late afternoon haze, the whole garden glowing, jewel-like.P1010004 Mavis and Lewis were basically in heaven all weekend.P1010007 P1010008 P1010009 P1010014Charlie’s crab salad and Brandon’s home made pate accompanied drinks with our neighbours Ed, Christine and Nic.P1010018

I couldn’t resist a photo of the veg garden in the early evening sunlight, I’m afraid.P1010023 P1010027

Mavis and Lewis carried on playing for hours, which generally involved Mavis chasing Lewis, if we are honest.P1010040 P1010049 P1010059 P1010065 P1010068 P1010102 P1010116 P1010130

Another spectacular sunset. The valley is so beautiful at this particular time of the year.

This morning, some of us fighting hangovers more than others (you will be very glad to know I went to bed at midnight…) we went in sparkling sunshine to Mapperton, which I suppose is the perfect Dorset house and garden. Obviously I have taken photographs here before, and I know that it is a favourite house of many readers of this blog. With reason.P1010149 P1010150 P1010156

The restored orangery was looking very fine.P1010163 P1010164

I was very jealous of the daturas.
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I don’t think you would believe that the orangery was constructed in the late 1960s.
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I love the contrast between the ancient house and the perfect Edwardian gardens below. Two different worlds.P1010205 P1010207

One of my favourite parts of Mapperton is the wonderful arboretum at the end of the garden. The spring green was intense.P1010212

Clouds of cow parsley billow down the hillside.P1010216 P1010217 P1010218 P1010219

We found a tiny beautiful baby rabbit and were rather thankful that Mavis and Lewis were at home at this particular moment. Charlie tried to catch the rabbit in which case I think we would be home with a new pet. This was not to be.P1010223 P1010230

Mapperton really is like something out of a dream.
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We came home to a delicious lunch cooked by Charlie at which moment I put my camera away and lived in the moment of perfectly roasted lamb, salads, cheese, wine, happy conversation and intense heat from the sun. The first lunch in the garden. I collapsed in to a deep sleep and then it was time for the boys’ farewell. We had a little walk and got back to the grass terrace and fell fast asleep again, Mavis, me and Charlie lined up in a row.

Now it is evening. Clouds have rolled in from the west but a beautiful sunset is about to open up. Charlie and I are sitting in the kitchen. Mavis is fast asleep on her armchair. And as I was just writing that sentence, a great golden sun broke through the clouds and set in the west. You won’t mind the fact that C and I went out with our cameras. So beautiful. Have a great week ahead.P1010254 P1010257 P1010260 P1010261 P1010263 P1010269

38 comments on this post

deby (inCanada)says:

very late to this one but have to say one of my favourite posts in a long time and must thank you for the wonderful memories it stirred- we stayed at Tintinhull House for a week in June to celebrate an important graduation- what a lovely place it was to stay. My favourite was to take coffee early morning in the quiet garden and such wonderful places to visit when we could tear ourselves away…
xoxx deby

Alison Lewissays:

Just heavenly and thank you so much for sharing your weekend stories and pictures.


Very late to the party here. What a beautiful post, one of your best. Perfect weekend. Love what you do.


every year I so look forward to the beginning of the cow-parsley posts and this one did not disappoint! Gorgeous photos and thank you for sharing such a lovely weekend.


Thank you for providing me my (albeit virtual) spring green fix – so much missed from evergreen Singapore! I loved this blog, everything about it is perfect and inspiring.

Ben, may I re-christen this post “Dorset Rhapsody”? Truly marvelous, though I agree with the reader who noted that the final pic looks like the Parsonage afire. Mavis and Lewis appeared to be having a contest to see who could keep their ears in the air the longest. Thanks to you and Charlie for sharing such beauty with us!


This has to be one of your very best posts with all of my favourite ingredients. I have to say the picture of Mavis and Lewis chewing the fat as they trot along takes the biscuit – clearly discussing the merits of their respective new owners! Hilarious. Best, Nicola

Ben, I’ve only recently discovered your very evocative writing and photography through my wife. I can see why she’s so enthusiastic, as we seem to have a certain affinity with your lives. We’re fellow West Country dwellers, with dogs Archie and Rupert, striving to renovate an old vicarage and gardens in Somerset. We were in Cornwall before then, just nearby Henrietta and Toby who you featured last week, so it provoked many memories to see their house, and the North Cornwall landscape. Sigh.


Your blog post is the personification of bliss. Thank your for sharing.

Andrew Bsays:

Thank you for yet another visit to Arcadia!


how is it that spring which comes every year always delights as if one had never seen it before?

Thank you for your beautiful images.


Thank you Ben for making life look so beautiful and peaceful. You bring out the exceptional bits that are perfect reminders to me of what is so dear.


I think you photos of the young cows just turned me vegetarian… once again. What sweet souls they are.

Marjolein Holteasays:

Dear Ben, Thankyou so much for the lovely blog, I am always looking forward to read this blog and to look at the magnificent photos! Thankyou you so much fot the nice pictures of Montacute and Mapperton, also one of my favorite Gardens! It makes me happy! Best wishes!!!


Look forward to your blog each week. It’s still a little too early to plant our gardens in the Maritimes but yours is certainly an Inspiration.


Once again yet another delightful blog of an idyllic weekend in the country. Thanks for sharing it.

Your blog is amazing! Your photos and commentary a delight. You bring England and beyond here to California and make it live.


You made my day with these photos! Thank you for bringing us along on your lovely weekend.


I’m speechless….a stunning blog. So glad Mavis has her own armchair. OK – here comes the speech: I know writing a blog every week is a commitment, but I do so appreciate you for taking the time and making the effort to create this wonderful, inspiring, soothing, and beautiful blog. You are the best!


Bliss. I don’t blame you in the least for wanting to holiday at home this summer; on a beautiful day England cannot be beaten and you do seem to visit the finest she has to offer. I’m sure I speak for many people when I say that we will all look forward to your summer posts. Incidentally, when Mavis is older and has taken a few swimming lessons, take her down to Cogden beach the other side of Swyre which allows dogs (unlike Burton.) My one year old black lab had his first swim in the sea there yesterday morning (even waves over his head did not deter him – completely fearless)


Your beautiful blog is my Monday morning wake up call. Inspiration for the week indeed !!!


You are surpassing yourself. Charlie (and Mavis?) are getting more and more inspiring week after week and your talent equals your generosity. Thank you!


Do you remember the name of the perfect blue paint used on your metal chairs and garden bench? I’d love to copy it?

The NT would be lucky to get you both as tennats!

What a treat – an absolute delight! Tintinhull looks exquisite.
Thank you so much.

Jane Nicholsonsays:

What fabulous photos;they are always a great way to start the week, thank you.


utter bliss. thank you so much for sharing with us. I shall carry these images along with me all week.


Re. Margherita’s comment – I rather assumed that the ‘upper class’ had some-one to do their shopping! Ditto the driving…..
Wonderful photos, as ever.
I have noticed that Charlie is appearing in them more often these days. Has he overcome his aversion to being snapped or have you got better at sneaking up on him? Either way, it’s nice to see him.

Mary-Anne from NZsays:

Lovely photos as always. But the last one looks alarmingly lie your interior is aflame!

elizabeth csays:

Another wonderful piece Ben!
Thank you for opening our eyes to the sheer beauty around us.
It makes the week .


Would a upper-class frantic road rage be more enjoyable than a middle-class one?
I don’t like crowd either but I have no disdain for middle-class. As despicable as it may be, I’m one of them. Respect, brilliant brilliant young man, is due to every class


Dear Margherita, the upper classes don’t go shopping on Saturday morning, as I am sure you know! 😉 Ben

What a slice of heaven Ben, thank you for the armchair tour. I’m going to add those houses to my ever burgeoning list of houses to visit. It seems The Parsonage is just magical right now. xx


Gardens, dogs and cows are my favourite ingredients for a beautiful weekend. Thanks for sharing X


I couldn’t agree more! Thank you so much Ben. Love the pics and your post.
Karen T in N Z.


I love the weekly posts of charlie’s garden, it is growing so assertively. I have a serious case of boxwood envy. thanks as always.

Nicola Lawrenceesays:

Oh so beautiful, all of it (and amusing – the wedding photo comment). I’ve just had the best idea. If you and Charlie do succeed (and I hope you do) in talking the National Trust into letting you move into Tintinhull, Peter and I could sub-lease and look after The Parsonage….(until such time as you wish to return). Oh it would be wonderful! It’s so lovely to see Mavis running around – she must have been exhausted. xx


This entry just goes to explain why I tell my friends that your blog is the highlight of Sunday evenings. Such loveliness and happiness in every photo.

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