The joy of the everyday

7 August 2016
Ben Pentreath

Last week was one of those weeks (as some of you will have noticed) where I entirely ran out of time to post a blog. Events had conspired. No matter.  You now get two weeks blog in one. Holiday time double billing!

W E E K   O N E

We’d had Bridie staying last weekend, and a lovely time we had too. The usual… Bridport market, followed by a delicious lunch at Brassica; but on the way home from Beaminster we called in at the Puncknowle Fete.  Puncknowle, which for the uninitiated, is pronounced ‘Punnel’, is a fine village down the valley from us.  It is one of those places with many corners which beckon you in.

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There is of course nothing else on earth like an English Village Fete.P1020284

The Manor has a sublime ancient facade.P1020287

The coconut stand, as Bridie later found, was something of a fix. The coconuts were very small, and very tightly wedged into their metal brackets. The little girl in pink hit one of the stands very firmly, which in my book would normally release a coconut. Not so at the Puncknowle Fete.P1020291

We did not try the football, on the grounds that the holes were probably smaller than the balls.P1020292 P1020295

But I loved the Human Fruit Machine.P1020298 P1020303 P1020308

This lady had done very well on the tombola.P1020310

The jam stand was heaven.P1020318 P1020323 P1020327 P1020328

The manor sits in a sublime position next to the church.P1020330

A small note. Violently coloured begonias, such as the one I photographed here in the village, are – I predict – about to come bouncing back in to fashion.P1020343

On Sunday, we had a lovely walk on Maiden Castle, the ancient hill fort overlooking Dorchester.  It is a strange and wonderful place.P1020348 P1020378 P1020387We dropped Bride back at the station. The sun settled gently that evening; a beautiful warm night. Charlie and I could not resist taking many photographs of the spectacular sunset.  It took a long time to tear ourselves away from the scenery in the sky and make supper.P1020407 P1020422 P1020423 P1020425 P1020428 P1020431

That moment when the sea gleams with the light of the sky, but the land is dark:P1020433 P1020439

I had a very, very busy few days in London (hence no blogging), and then bright and early on Thursday morning we drove down to Dorset. Meetings all day, but home to a beautiful evening. Back in the spring, Charlie had planted hundreds of dahlias in a new border in front of the house. Their moment is about to come.

W E E K   T W O

P1020442 P1020443The veg garden is overflowing.P1020467 P1020471 P1020474 P1020486 P1020490 P1020511 P1020514

Friday morning was beautiful. The garden was soaked in dew. It is an amazing time of year.P1020535P1020536 P1020543 P1020545 P1020551 P1020559 P1020565 P1020566 P1020570 P1020571 P1020572 P1020575 P1020576 P1020578 I had a wonderful day on Friday, at a dream new project, restoring a beautiful Georgian Gothick Folly in the park at Stourhead. That is another story. But I got home in time to collect our friends James and Eldon from the station, who were staying for the weekend.  Friday evening descended into happy drunkenness with friends from the valley and from Lyme Regis over for supper on a beautiful, heavenly evening.  We were all slightly the worse for wear on Saturday.

Twenty four hours later we found ourselves – thanks to an incredible last minute invitation from our friend Tania Compton, the renowned landscape designer – at Shute, that achingly beautiful garden in North Dorset, designed in 1969 by Geoffrey Jellicoe around the ancient source of the River Nadder. It was truly magical.

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From one type of magic to another: we drove across heavenly Dorset and Wiltshire lanes, in the late summer haze, back to Tania’s dreamy farmhouse, surrounded by the magical, wild, extraordinary garden that she and her husband Jamie have made here over the last 15 years. It was breathtaking.P1020940 P1020948 P1020953 P1020956 P1020957 P1020963

Supper was late and wonderful with conversation deep into the small hours. We drove home and fell into bed. Two nights in a row is sometimes more than I can cope with, but it had been an extraordinarily invigorating evening.

This morning, the valley was embedded in a deep mist. We took Mavis for her walk through a beautiful, silent, grey world.P1020972 P1020974 P1020977 P1020979 P1020982 P1020984 P1020986 P1020993 P1020995 P1020996 P1030001 P1030005 P1030027 P1030032 P1030034 P1030036 P1030037 P1030039But the sunshine burned through, of course. We had a beautiful afternoon, and just before I sat down to write this evening I wandered outside to snap a few photographs of bright, golden, evening sunshine streaming across the garden.P1030076 P1030077 P1030078 P1030080

Some little while ago, C & I decided that we weren’t going to go anywhere this summer. The veg garden is overflowing with produce. Dorset hasn’t looked finer in a long time. We couldn’t wait to just enjoy home. So now, with a couple of tiny exceptions, we are here until September. On a misty morning like today, summer feels as if she is on the balance of tipping into autumn, but I have to keep reminding myself that that is not really for a few weeks yet.  This is the magical moment when the countryside is dark, green, full, dusty; all across the fields farmers have begun getting in a golden harvest, and we are poised on that perfect moment of high, high summer.

Life is all about days like this. And I have never known a year where it is more important to remember what it is that keeps us full of the joy of the small moments that make up our everyday.

39 comments on this post


A post reminiscent of those Jamboree bags we used to get as kids – full of all sorts of wonderful surprises.

Had to smile at the undersized and unfair coconuts in the village fete, and at your comment about the football – unusually waspish! Loved the pic of the people either side of the table piled high with bric-a-brac and looking slightly as if they were having a bit of a stand-off. Loved many of the photos, actually, and would happily have the one with cow parsley blown up to giant size and hung on a wall.

I’ve only just come around to dahlias, courtesy of Charlie. Must I now open my arms to begonias? There’s something rather oddly fleshy about them, and while I’m a great lover of all things orange, those particular orange blooms are somehow reminiscent of women’s bri-nylon nighties in the seventies.

Thank you for your last sentence. In my small family we’ve just had three deaths in rapid succession – on a micro as well as a macro level, those moments that are small and full are the things which keep the membranes plumped. I wish there seemed more of them likely for those in war zones, fleeing war zones, or in the many camps strewn about the world.


Your blog is truly inspiring Ben – being a Dorset lass slogging away in London during the week and never getting up early enough to miss the traffic to spend my weekends in my Purbeck hideaway, I can really relate to the push & pull of what seems like two lives. Whilst I love the Purbecks, further west needs much exploration, plus a sneaking suspicion I didn’t move west enough, I am gleaning all your recommendations of galleries, book shops, gardens etc so I can spend a few days exploring around Bridport this week and next, so thank you and more please. I enjoy nothing more than village fetes (Wimborne St Giles coming up is a corker!) and pottering around junk shops, art weeks, discovering crafts people etc

Fiona Cooksays:

Thank you Ben for transporting us out of a rather rainy and humid Thailand – beautiful non the less. We are new to your blog but eagerly await the next instalment! Just love the photos, colourful descriptions and the country fair… magic!


Hear, hear! Thank you for sharing yours and Charlie’s work, your play, your friends and your times of rest with us. It’s very generous of you and so appreciated.

Diane Keanesays:

Ben and Charlie, you do know that you live in Eden, don’t you? The heck with heaven, when I die I want to go haunt your garden. I promise to be a gentle, merry ghost and not startle Mavis! Thanks so much for sharing your personal paradise with us. xo


Your last sentence was perfection.

Emma-Jane Whelansays:

Ah! Like slipping into a soothing scented bath, I have just enjoyed that immersion into your dreamy Dorsetshire lives. Thank you. I get excited when I notice similarities between parts of my own (rather wild and unkempt) East Yorkshire garden and yours, so I was delighted with the fennel/nasturtium combo! I also loved the three feeble little courgettes on the jam table at the fair, were they unwanted produce? Made me feel very sorry! But most of all, I enjoyed your closing sentences, as they have reassured me that my mounting dread of the fast approaching Autumn (and then winter brrrr) can be put aside for a few more weeks! Thanks. Again! x

Jean-Bernard Lasserresays:

Once again,you have graced your regular readers with marvellous pictures.Thank you ever so much for giving me so much pleasure.I do agree with you that beauty is what we need most in times of crisis.
I would like to tell you that I visited your beautiful as well as interesting Bloomsbury shop last Saturday.In fact,I do so every year while I teach a group of French engineering students a two-week crash course in Croydon.Last Saturday was a glorious day and I truly enjoyed strolling along the quiet streets of your neighbourhood and browsing in several shops such as yours and Persephone Bookshop.


Just superb. Best, Nicola


I wanted to read this yesterday but busy in my own garden it took until this morning. As echoed by many others, magical post Ben, isn’t our countryside (and you garden) just the most beautiful at this time of year. Ditto what Mike said. Think you have chosen well to stay in Dorset for August, if we have reasonable weather, there’s nowhere better than England. Charlie’s borders are looking amazing and you’ll be eating very well from that veg garden! Thanks so much for taking the time to make these posts, they fill me and others with pure, pure joy.


Well, that was like going to heaven and back. Still pondering how the Human Fruit Machine works though.

Pierre B.says:

So does the jam and marmelade lady!

Pierre B.says:

Great photos! Charlie and Mavis deserve to appear in the next Country Life.

Lesley Ssays:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! So true..

Love the serenity of your picture world.

Thanks Ben

Andrew Bsays:

Thank you for yet another visit to arcadia


Beautiful, beautiful gardens. Summer on this side of the pond has been amazingly warm (for Maine). I’d love to see how Charlie cooks up some of that garden produce.


Today is my birthday and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than reading your wonderful blog. The misty morning that you had was the very thing that I needed to make my day perfect when our temp in Fort Worth, Texas is 102.


Your last sentence – so absolutely true. Thanks Ben

Anne Guionsays:

What beautiful photos! Lovely home and gardens! I am quite sure that they would be hard to leave for holiday. It would be impossible to find a place more bucolic! Have a wonderful week!


Perfection, in every way.

Rebecca Smithsays:

all so very lovely – isn’t this time of year divine? the gardens just on the cusp of reaching their crescendo and sometimes there is a hint of autumn mist but this summer has been glorious.
Also love the look of the front garden at the Manor House where the fete was held!

Diane Hawleysays:

Home. and garden. You are right There is nothing quite like it! Thank you for helping us remember that. And yes, especially now more than ever. So appreciate your thoughts and reflections. Perfect way to start the week. Have a great month!

deby (in Canada)says:

Oh Ben
You have done it again! Most beautiful post ever! I think there is some magic in the soil at The Parsonage…and of course in Charlie’s touch…
Looking forward to more on the folly… when Phil and I used to stay at Bratton Seymour we could glimpse Stourhead from the back garden…is such an amazing place…
The black swan picture is heartstopping!
Wishing your Charlie and fur family the best holiday
xo Deby

Robert Gladdensays:

Wonderful – as always. Luck you to find a proper village garden fete too!


Perfection -so restful. Thank you.


Monday morning giggle out loud at the tiny, tightly wedged coconuts and and goal holes smaller than the footballs.


Whew, was hoping nothing untoward had happened to you, so very pleased to know all is well with you and yours. My dahlias, here in Frankfurt, are also just flowering but my garden is nowhere near as beautiful as yours. Your writing/photos give so much pleasure to me and some of my expat friends; thankyou again for sharing.


Rather hope you aren’t correct about begonias because they are hopeless for bees! Your garden on the other hand must support lots.
Maiden Castle indeed strange and wonderful – it featured recently on Sacred Wonders of Britain (still on the i-player), a rather interesting series tracing expressions of belief over millenia. My grandfather was involved in archaeological digs there and a number of sites in Dorset but thinking on the meaning of many sites has developed since then.

Peter Hobbssays:

Beautifully narrated accompanied by stunning photographs of a truely wonderful garden. Thanks Ben. I especially loved the earlier photo of the entrance gate and drive…. My my that just drew me in…makes you want to wander in and settle for a while. This is when you know your garden is successful…when you don’t want to leave.

Isla Simpsonsays:

Wasn’t last weekend just heavenly, I didn’t want it to end! I kept pinching myself not to think of Autumn and just enjoy reading my Roald Dahl book under the tree in the dapple sunshine. Hopefully we’ll squeeze a few more in before September. You’ve captured it so beautifully as always.


Beautiful Ben. I do look forward to reading what you write as well as seeing your pics. We’ve stayed in Wiltshire this summer rather than going away and it has been blissful having time to garden and explore.

Patricia Taylorsays:

Inspiring start to the week reading your words and drooling over the
beautiful photos – your friends garden is so beautiful and etherial.
Thank you for sharing.

southern galsays:

thank you once again for sharing your life. your photos. the flowers. mavis.

revisiting these pages helps thwart the darkness in the world.


Your weekends are like a dream.

Nicola Lawrencesays:

August at home at The Parsonage sounds absolutely divine, Ben. Enjoy every moment – as I know you both will. x



I have recently discovered your Blog. I am thrilled, it is pure magic. Now living in Minnesota, USA. Not lived in England since late 1980.s. I love your writing too. I was getting worried that the August blog may not appear, but so thankful it has! Enjoy your time at home with Carlie. SC.


Me too Mike! Monday morning, breakfast, in Queensland, and it’s time to see what Ben and Charlie have been up to, especially what is happening in their beautiful, beautiful garden.


Really,Ben, the British tourism council could benefit from your talents. It would keep the locals at home & bring in punters from far & wide. Your photographs & sublime descriptions are truly magical. You are blessed with the “touch”. I always look forward to starting my week with you.


Yet another absolutely delightful blog, you have totally evoked a gorgeous moment in time!

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