22 January 2017
Ben Pentreath

This blog starts with a prelude to great things.

We went to Bridport early on Saturday morning. The market was quiet but Charlie and I came away with a haul of goodies from the famous £1 china lady (everything on the stand £1).

Followed by breakfast at Soulshine. If you want to find me and Charlie, it’s a fairly good bet that we’ll be the first people through the door at Soulshine if it’s a Saturday when we’re in Dorset.

And then back home via our friend Caddy, where we had coffee that rolled into lunch, and could have fairly easily lasted until supper, with her, and Martha, her daughter.

Caddy handed over the equivalent of gold, or of rare bulbs at the height of the Tulipomania craze of the 1630s. She has received (from a very secret source) a pair of seeds from the largest pumpkin ever grown in the UK.  One is for her, and the other for Charlie.

A second packet contained two seeds from a slightly smaller giant pumpkin. 

I think I’ll bring out those little photos at the end of the year, and we can see where things got to.

_ _ _

This morning, Charlie and Mavis and I got up early and went on a trip. In the interests of the ‘new things every week’ directive, we thought we’d do a trip over to Lulworth and Durdle Door, which I haven’t been to since a child, and not in all these long years that I’ve been living down in Dorset. I think it’s one of those things that is just too touristy to possibly consider in the height of summer. So a beautiful, crisp, early Sunday morning in the third week of January was about the perfect moment to make a trip.

The sun was rising as we made our way.

The roads were empty and beautiful.  Mist hung thick in the valleys.

As we neared the coast, the air took on a haze that could have belonged to a heavy, warm summers’ evening in July…

… And when we began walking, for a moment I felt as if we were watching sundown on a small Greek island in the intense heat of summer.  It’s funny how light can play tricks on the mind.

For people like me, who like the Faces in Things folks, you’ll like the rocks below:

(See what I mean?).

Lulworth cove is serene and sheltered; the rising sun again played those tricks of the eye.

We walked to the coastguard cottages, with their huge chimneys,

and past a Regency cottage orne, making one think that Lulworth must have been a very beautiful place at the beginning of the 19th century. The 19th and 20th centuries have not worn so well here, but the bones of the place remain.

We walked up the cliff to Durdle Door. The path was deserted.  I can’t imagine quite what it would be like here on a hot August weekend.

The great coastline of Dorset stretched out before us, away to Weymouth bay in the distance…

…Where splendid Georgian terraces gleamed through the haze, ten miles down the coast, looking like a convoy of ships floating on a distant horizon.

The Durdle Door caravan park loomed on the skyline.  It’s the sort of thing that shouldn’t be here, but I liked it, really.

The sea was an astonishing colour, and beautifully clear.  I had that same flashback to Mediterranean summers.

Durdle Door was simple and majestic.

Mavis and I getting vertigo.

A beautiful start to the day. We drove home in time for church in the village, with cake baked by Charlie and coffee afterwards, and everyone was mildly shocked by the rather smug way in which we announced we had been for a long walk over the coastal cliffs already.

But what’s the most amazing thing about this weekend?  Suddenly, today, after a lovely long lunch with neighbours in the village, and walking home, you think to yourself:

It’s 5 o’ clock, it’s still daylight, and the birds are singing loudly in the woodland.  We glimpsed our first snowdrops this weekend, too, and spring feels on the brink of bursting.  Warm days in January are always a false dawn of course, and foolish is the gardener who doesn’t consider cold blasts of icy winter in March, or April, even, but there is something about the daylight lengthening that even an arctic blast cannot deny. Rebirth is around the corner.

How can Charlie and I thank everyone enough for the many, many comments about little Percy?  Strange how a week flies by so quickly, and yet simultaneously seems so distant.  We still miss Percy like crazy, but we’re not so bitterly sad. Time is a healer.


It seems strange writing about a walk on the cliffs, or daylight lengthening, at precisely the moment when many readers of this blog will, I suspect, be in depths of despair about the Presidential Inauguration on Friday. It’s hard to pick up a newspaper without being plummeted into a sense of gloom.

Amongst all the despair, the one glimmer of hope I find, myself, is that at last a politician is speaking about places and conditions that I think have, honestly, been forgotten about, for a long time; in this country, as well as in US. I can’t be the only one who feels queasily uncomfortable when someone refers, disparagingly, to the ‘flyover states’.  Of course I’m not sure the President has the answers, and maybe the complexities of office will come crashing down his shoulders sooner than we imagine. But I am glad that the question is being raised.  I hope that in quiet moments among the howl of despair, from almost everyone I know, people will consider how we got here, and at least wish this country well in her task of reconstruction, a reconstruction to which the current President may be the prelude (or even the cause) rather than the main act.

I adore America; I’ve loved America ever since I lived there, and not just the America of the refined coasts (or of the supremely elegant and intelligent and timeless President Obama).  I’m fascinated by this country and all the extraordinary paradoxes she represents. But can I be the only person who is amazed, and not a little horrified to see how, in the richest country on earth, so much seems to be falling apart.  But I believe that the glue exists to keep this great country together, and true to her principles.

I have the same feelings. from time to time, about so much of Britain, where extraordinary gentleness, humour and profound beauty sits directly alongside so much decay and helplessness. Maybe these problems are after all insoluble, but I’d like to think about ways in which the building blocks can be put back together again.

38 comments on this post


buried under 20 feet of new snow, past few days, eastern sierra, california, your tender photos, dear ben, of dirt and grass and kind timeless buildings is like a hot fudge sundae for mine eyes! came to the u.s. from oz when nixon was president, this country has been good! to me, i want only and all good for her, and i see positive! love the mavis with the fence line silloette!

Annie Msays:

Ahh, a fellow early morning walker! Don’t shout about it too loudly…..


I’ll stick my oar in once again to thank you for your diplomatic remarks vis à vis the new administration;I know you typically steer clear of such imbroglios but your kind words are much appreciated.


Our country is now irretrievably split, and the divisions are becoming more permanent with every day that trump ‘reigns’..this split is happening not only between the two political parties, but within our own families. The anger towards each other is immense and won’t soon abate, because we are confronting deep social conflicts such as bias towards others, the denigration of those of different sexual orientation and their rights, the right to health care, as well as women’s rights to decide over their bodies.I see very little hope that we’ll come together any time soon .My daughter went to march in Washington DC, and I’ll be joining her on the next scheduled demonstration on Aprl 15. In the meantime- I come here for peace and serenity..


I’m a huge fan of your blog, Ben. It’s a great way to start the week. But as an ex-pat American, I am alarmed that you are prepared to give Trump the benefit of the doubt. He and his cohorts represent a dangerous threat to democracy. That much should be patently clear by now. They are not an answer to the ills of the forgotten ‘flyover’ states. Quite the contrary.

Lindsey Backsays:

Thank you for putting into words what I have been struggling with. I am so depressed with the news from America and the UK and we in Australia have our own Nigel Farage stirring up racial tension and generally seemingly getting people to listen. But during all this the back of my mind has been suggesting that something has gone terribly wrong for people to behave and vote in such a way and perhaps the saying ‘walk a mile in my shoes’ is appropriate for those living in rural America and the northern areas of Britain….. Oh and by the way Dorset is now on my bucket list…I was born in Sussex and had one holiday with my best friend in Portland before we left for Australia. The coastguard cottages remind me of my GGG Grandfather who lived on the Isle of Wight in a row of cottages in a place called Brook. I have seen a picture of them and they gaze out to sea, it must have been a difficult life for my GGG Grandmother particularly.


Your travels with the beautiful photos and stories have given me much joy until today when for some reason the driver took a sharp turn onto a bumpy political road.

Diane Keanesays:

Ben, the early morning photos of the Dorset coast are just wonderful, in the calming way that photos of great natural scenery always are. I can almost hear the grasses whispering in the breeze and smell the sea-freshened air. That photo of early sunlight striking the beach through Durdle Door is an amazing study in the play of light and subtle colors, almost an abstract painting. I am re-reading, chronologically, the novels of Iris Murdoch (which I last read in the 70’s) and now her descriptions of English scenery evoke images like what I’ve seen on your blog. (I am so jealous of Jane P expat-ing to London!!)

We have a new saying over here: You can’t put a crown on a clown and expect a king! I did not take part in the marches in Washington DC, but I have many friends who did and they say the energy was amazing. If the Cheetos Caesar does nothing else, he will no doubt continue to galvanize those who do not want to let the country descend into the chaos of hatred, fear and greed. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.

Looking forward to seeing Charlie’s pumpkins in a future post!

Thanks for the inspiration this morning. Thank you for loving America. Spread love and beauty, not hate.
xo, Lissy


Unlike what some have said here (perhaps due to your comments) many of us are looking forward to our new president and hopeful he can turn this country around.
I enjoy your blog and love the photos. I lived and taught in England for several years and love to see the beauty of your countryside and the warmth of your people.


My favorite picture for reflection is the one of the tucked in garden in frost. It matches your title Prelude. As for our new chapter in the experiment that is the US, count me Skeptically Optimistic. Too depressing to be otherwise!


So nicely put. The disdainful comments heard about the middle of the country from those around me in New England are uninformed and foolish. And the South. Worse still! They are indeed part of the reason we are in this awful situation.

I am looking forward to seeing those pumpkins however they may turn out.

Jane Psays:

Thank you, Ben for the lovely story of your peaceful Sunday morning.
Thank you as well, for your thoughts about your American “cousins.”
As an American who’s sympathies are with the Saturday marchers rather than the Friday Inaugural celebrants, like so many, I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster of late.
You are right. The cry rising from many who supported our new President needs to be heard and honored.
My fear is that we have elected a “messenger” who will fall far short of their hopes and needs.
All Americans must now hope, pray and work for a country that serves all its citizens. Whether that turns out to be in concert with or in spite of our President.
As for me, I’m a soon to be expat. Totally unexpectedly, I will be following my husband this spring as he assumes a position in London.
I’m overjoyed to be moving to a city I love and look forward to visiting Rugby Street more frequently, not to mention finally seeing Dorset with my own eyes. Although, thanks to Mavis, Charlie and you it’s a place I already love and feel I know.

Ellen Spencersays:

One of the things I loved about living in England (Kent) was that, at least in the South, you could always take wonderful winter walks. And Spring began so early and unfurled itself in such a leisurely manner! Not so in New England, where we wait for it to burst out in May! Thank you for the teaser, though!


Very impressed with your early start..amazing not a soul around…there’s a tiny chapel and interesting old garden up some steps along the end of Lulworth Cove, worth a nosey, has a NGS open day. I definitely want to find £1 china lady, love a crockery bargain, I just cannot be minimal however hard I try to be sleek and chic. Visit the Purbecks sometime. We went over to Arne yesterday quite early to wander about the heath and foreshore with binoculars, see the white stag and the spoonbills, and its usually quiet and peaceful but it seemed half the BBC were there for Winterwatch!! So that was a short trip – I love your blog, thank you

Sonia Olsensays:

By now, Ben, you must know how much your readers in the US love your Monday ‘Inspiration”,
Thank you . As an ex-pat, your photo essays of Dorset (and other parts) sends a message which emphasises the positive remedy of Beauty. Via your lens, you give true inspiration and encouragement to “go out and SEE” !
This morning, following the astounding global Marches, the clear strength and sentiments of the American spirit shows that an inclusive future is possible – without the narcissistic rantings of the new President. So thank you for your friendly understanding…. It will be interesting to see how the meeting with Mrs M goes! Greetings from beautiful Michigan to you, Charlie and Mavis!


A lovely post this morning. As always your willingness to take time and share a bit of beauty makes my Monday just that much more easy to take on. I appreciated your shout out to the “heartland” of the U.S.. I am in “blue bubble” Chicago and did march in a glorious sea of pink loving kindness with all types of people dedicated to helping to bring about positive change. It was really a march of people “for” something, not against. We may be separated by an ocean, but really we are all in this together. Bless you and Charlie.


I am one of the Americans who just returned from the Women’s March on Washington. I live in the hinterlands of Montana and had to get there by three different flights, four hours of walking and the Metro to even reach the start of the March. And, then, there were too many people to move so we formed human chains to find parallel streets. The only thing I wanted to read when I reached home last night, exhausted, was your post, Ben. I knew the beauty you see in the world would soothe me to sleep. There is a “howl of despair” right now, but amidst the millions on Saturday, looking for hope not fear, there was “extraordinary gentleness, humor and profound beauty…”. Thank you for caring about us all.


That spectacular stretch of coast is among my favourites, so thank you. Last May we walked from Holworth to Lulworth (and back) and, while it was very busy around Lulworth, for most of the walk we were almost alone. Incidentally we stayed at The Marren B & B, I think you would like it!


I couldn’t bear to read further in your last post once you’d written about the death of Percy. We lost Tilly in exactly the same way. But time does heal and I’m glad the sadness is easing.

Thank you for another brilliant blog – both the images of lovely Dorset and your percipient comments on present circumstances. I have great faith in the US – they veer off course now and then (e.g.Macarthyism) but always swing back in time to their founding principles. I love the optimism and ‘can-do’ attitude in the US – in contrast to our ‘Mustn’t grumble; have to put up with it.’ I wish them all luck in the years ahead.


I am one of those Americans who views the next four years with trepidation, largely due to the fact that my fear is that our new President will do nothing to help improve the lives of his disenfranchised followers, and, in fact, will probably do considerably more harm than good for our country. That being said, your observations and reflections today did give me pause as I am striving to look for any sliver of a silver lining, and maybe you have provided that.
Whatever the case, I know that on Monday mornings I always have your luminous and lyrical blogs to look forward to, and presently they are a very bright spot in an otherwise gloomy time.
Thank you.


As always, these coast photos (especially the sand crown) fascinate me and your level thoughtful words give hope. Thanks, Ben.

Andrew Bsays:

Thank you for yet another visit into Arcadia… the days are indeed beginning to peep out and winters last lap (often the longest) still stretches ahead but already there is the awakening that is spring ahead…


Well said. Let’s give him a chance as we have with other Presidents in the past. People obviously wanted change or he wouldn’t be in office.


My first thought was “this too shall pass.” We have outlived a presidential reign of a man who started a war that killed hundreds of thousands. That was done on fake news. My only question, will I outlive this liar? Your posts are food for the soul and I’d like a calendar of your pictures! Denise


wonderful post. thank you x


Healing nourishment for my brain!


Debra I totally agree with your comment. God is the only leader. I wanted to write this too 🙂

Nessa Ryallsays:

Thank you for such a reflective post,just what was needed at the start of an unpredictable week.

Vanesa Ryallsays:

Thank you for such a calming and reflective view of the world and some spectacular images of that coastline.Your blog is a healing start to an unpredictable week.


Wow! My husband and I had exactly the same idea yesterday and went to Durdle door and Lulworth cove ( but a bit later in the day!!) Like you, I hadn’t been there for ages because of the tourism ( I have lived in Dorset on and off all my life!) But yesterday I have to say it was amazing, so beautiful!
I have been following your blog Ben for some time but never left a comment. I love your images of a county which is so dear to my heart and about which I have also written. I also love interior design and want to take this opportunity to say that your new book is amazing!!


Beautiful images of Durdle Door we are so lucky to inhabit such a wonderful world. A world that sadly struggles to survive by the often harsh treatment of nature and us humans. Whatever political views we have one thing is certain we need unity and the desire to make the best of our precious lives. So many predecessors have failed to deliver answers maybe until we realise God is our only leader he has all the answers if only we could ask him more for guidance in our changing world we may have ALL the answers revealed to us.While we wallow in the comfort and luxury of our western lives let us pray for citizens in war torn countries like Syria and as a nation take care of our brothers and sisters not diversify ourselves barriers are not the answer unity is.As the song by John Lennon goes Give peace a chance.


thank you for being so reassuring and optimistic, as usual. Fantastic that you ‘always look on the bright side’…and, wonderful to see the stunning photos of your walk and the amazing views. I think they are the cliffs over which Gabriel’s sheep were driven by his dog, to their doom, in Far From the Madding Crowd. Breathtaking yet dangerous!


I admire your sunny optimism Ben. I’ve lived all over the US (currently in California) and honestly I’m exhausted at this point. The new administration is already hawking “alternative facts”- not an auspicious start. There’s a fine line between “spin” & good old fashioned lies… At any rate I’m keeping my options open.
Thanks for a momentary reprieve with your gorgeous photos & kind words.


Durdle Door – could a place have any better name? And is it a surprise that Farrow & Ball had to come up with “Lulworth Blue”?

A lovely post, a lovely wander. A little honor done to the lost mog. And a gracious and graceful tribute to the flyover states. I’m happy to still call it the “Heartland”. Sadly what’s come to us has been a long time coming. It will be a hard and unfortunate lesson. But as with Obama’s second four years which was never guaranteed – human progress is probably much more about evolution than revolution. Cheers. Yes. Spring is coming. Again!


Thank you for this post. It is good to know there are folks out there who care about our circumstances right now. The “glorious pink haze” is here to stay. We came out in numbers all across the country to say: We are here. We are watching. We are united in our determination to preserve our rights.

My small patch of a garden keeps me sane and this: “Beauty will save the world.” Dostoyevsky

Thank you for continuing to share the beauty of your world….


I woke up early this morning and thought out loud that if I could, I’d go for a drive to the ocean. As it is, I live in American ‘fly-over’ country where there’s no such thing as a morning drive to the coast, but I’ve enjoyed seeing your morning excursion immensely. I also enjoyed your comments about America. What you’ve said is true. Although those in despair are very vocal and well-published, there’s a quieter contingent of hardworking people who seem to suffer their lot in relative silence– finding what they feel is a voice and some hope in the surprising turn of events that they see as a change in business-as-usual. They do not expect a savior, but they feel they have little to lose in this new “experiment”.
Whatever the eventual outcome of this shift, I desert it all a few hours at a time for my happy place- a little town garden- and your blog and Charlie’s beautiful flowers are always a source of inspiration.
Have a wonderful week!


Such a lovely post. A perfect read ( while still basking in the glorious pink haze of yesterday) for a foggy day on the Virginia coast. Excited to see those pumpkins, as I have never had much luck….K

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