High Summer, already
30 May 2016
It’s been a rare bank holiday of beautiful weather from start to end. When did that last happen?
Dorset has fallen headlong in to summer. Our weekend began on Friday evening, as it will also end tonight, with a drink with our next door neighbours Nic and Jim. There was the softest pink sunset as we made our way back home.
On Saturday we got up bright and early for Bridport Market, and breakfast with Mavis at Soulshine. We popped into Beaminster, to the shop at Brassica, and to my sister-in-law Laura’s exhibition for Dorset Arts. She is very shy about her sculpture but will have to get a bit less so when her pop-up comes to Rugby Street in November.
And then, returning home after an already packed morning, we decided to go to Wilton. We called in on the way at a job I’m working on, a great Dorset mansion, a dream house – wonderful to see progress there as new owners bring life back to a sleeping beauty. And then on toward Salisbury. It was years, in fact decades, I suppose, since I’d visited the great Palladian mansion on the banks of the clear-flowing River Nadder in Wiltshire, the ultimate arcadia. A blue haze filled the air and it felt, and smelt, like full-blown high summer. The house is beautiful, and architecturally magnificent, but a strange place to visit; cold, perhaps. One dreams of walking around in the late ’30s, deep in conservation with Rex Whistler, on a hot lazy afternoon, with a glass of lemonade or gin. The visitor experience is rather austere, by contrast. I wonder why?
The laburnum tunnel was a vivid shade of chartreuse, on the brink of bursting into flower.
The famous Palladian bridge was under scaffold, which I was sad about. Roses baked in the forecourt.
The drive cross-country over Cranborne Chase was somehow more breathtaking than anything we’d just seen in the darkly classical rooms. The air was hazy but you could see for miles, hills vanishing into blue mist. Luckily for all of us, Charlie didn’t mind stopping the car from time to time, pulling into verges overflowing with cow parsley.
We were on our way to Edward and Jane Hurst’s, whose idyllic house will take a starring role in my new book when it is published in September. On Saturday, in the heat of the late afternoon, that threatened to break into thunder but never did, we spend happy hours in the garden, completely beautiful. Tea turned to wine, and better and better gossip.
We made our way home cross country, as evening fell. Mavis was exhausted after her day out but still had time to carry on digging her enormous hole in the garden as soon as we got home.
Charlie’s Eremurus are going crazy. I suspect there will be about 500 in the garden next year.
Sunday was the laziest day ever. We went nowhere. We woke early in the bright morning light, and took Mavis for her walk.
The afternoon was as hot as I ever remember it being Italy, and we spent the entire afternoon on the grass terrace, rolling from sunshine to shade and back again…
…Occasionally popping into the kitchen for a snack or another bottle of beer. Heaven.
Or for charlie’s scones (a small batch, which we devoured in seconds).
(not that I usually post photographs of food).
We are about to repaint the kitchen walls in an extremely bright gloss yellow paint. It will be like walking into a boiled egg. Second down on the left is the final choice. Watch this space. In the evening we had another Mavis stroll – luckily at this stage these are just up the road rather than for 8 miles –
Past the cricket ground where the Scouts have had their campsite all weekend, looking like a scene out of Enid Blyton or Moonrise Kingdom: Jane Hurst had told us, incidentally, why the verges are looking so beautiful in Dorset this year. It’s because of council cut backs – no more verge cutting on rural lanes. Heaven. So much more beautiful, and so much better for wildlife, and I am sure we will all naturally drive a bit more slowly because we can’t see quite so far around the corner. Needless to say we decided to pop into the Goodwin’s, whose house was buried in yet more clouds of cow parsley. More wine and chat. Home to roast chicken and bed. Happy summer days.