Spring calling

26 March 2017
Ben Pentreath

It’s been a perfect weekend in Dorset.  The end of a pretty hectic week – a weekend of peace and quiet had never been more welcome.

On Friday evening I took Mavis for a walk – the sheep are grazing the cricket pitch, with their lambs, which puts one in a good state of mind really. 

The hills never fail to calm my mind. 

Charlie’s garden is bursting.  Each evening the air is almost thick with the scent of hyacinths. 

Thousands of tulips are coming soon….

Charlie will shortly be taking tulip orders – he’ll be bringing buckets of tulips up to London weekly. Email him here if you are interested.

On Saturday, the day dawned bright and breezy. Thinking of our resolution, always to find something new to look at, we decided to go on a trip up to Somerset, to investigate the National Trust house at Barrington Court. I’d been years and years (literally, decades ago) and had always wanted to go back.

Perfect daffodil meadows surround the house;  And ranges of beautiful, arts and crafts cottages and garden buildings, which I don’t remember at all from my last visit. Very inspirational.

The house is approached through a meadow filled with daffodils; the old Jacobean house to the left; the 17th century stable and kitchen block to the right.
Inside, the place is completely empty.  It was purchased by the Trust in 1907, as a near ruin. but they didn’t know exactly what they were going to do with the place; and had no funds to execute a repair. Rescue came, after the first world war, in the hands of Colonel A. A. Lyle (of the Tate & Lyle family), who took a long lease in the 20s and poured his heart and soul into the restoration. Lyle had a vast collection of medieval panelling and joinery that has been artfully incorporated through the building – which feels, inside, much more like a late arts and crafts building of the 20’s than it does an original Jacobean house. But it is a beautiful place. The Lyle Family left in the 1980s and the house is now entirely empty of furniture – strangely nice.

The 1920s bathrooms are particularly fine. 

In the long gallery.

Lyle hired the ageing Gertrude Jekyll to design the garden. A beautiful plan of the garden, part executed, hangs in the converted stable wing.  A dreamy drawing. 

Beautiful gardens surround the house.

Many corners of the walled gardens are moated. A dream.

Inside the walled vegetable garden; high walls lined with fruiting trees.

Plum blossom on a north facing wall:

The tennis pavilion:

We made our way back home and stopped in a little village, Hinton St. George, on the way, for lunch.  The name had a nice ring to it, which – unlike more than a few Dorset villages – didn’t prove wrong. 

We got home in time for tea with our friends Roy and Chris, and a beautiful sunset.

This morning, early, Mavis and I went out – well, not quite as early, thanks to the change in clocks.  I love this moment in the year, even if you do lose an hour.

My brother and sister in law, and niece, were coming over for lunch and we had round two of the walk in the warmth of the midday sun.  The sheep had moved to the shade.

Mavis didn’t stop all day. Here she is with her cousin Coco. 

It has been the most beautiful afternoon in Dorset. We lay in hot sun and did nothing.  But then it was time for me to turn around, and head back to London, and I can’t say the journey is going very well.  Sunday evening train delays, the usual…  I’m staying calm, but please remind me never to arrange an early morning meeting on a Monday in London ever again?

At moments like this, I’d rather be Mavis.

16 comments on this post

Charlotte Ksays:

I honestly don’t understand how England retains that tame, rural beauty so evident in your photos. I know there has to be a Tesco and a car park somewhere around there, but I am grateful you don’t show me! Fantasy world is good enough for me, when reading your lovely blogs.


Barrington Court is too much for me, it put me right over the edge! Seemed empty too, that’s the best when you can spook around alone.

Diane Keanesays:

Ben, I just read the article about you/Charlie/P&H in the April edition of Architectural Digest! KUDOS!! I’m eagerly awaiting a full, feature article about the Parsonage and/or London digs. Congratulations to all!




so, so beautiful. Thankyou Ben for posting. Look forward to sitting down with a cuppa each week and weeping and wailing for the northern spring.

Robert Gladdensays:



Her we go: walled kitchen garden, baa lambs, blossom, sunset skies, Ravilious tree clumps on hills, and bonkers Mavis. Perfect Spring blog. Might even consider rejoining the NT. Also enjoying a different view of your next door patch via the Broadchurch series. Best, Nicola

Penny Armstrongsays:

Thank you for sharing the beauty of your lovely spot on the planet.I almost feel like I am there, if only I could smell the air whilst looking out over the valley and feel the wind in my hair…maybe there’s an app for that .


We’ve been debating (not quite in theory) whether a beautiful, run down house with beautiful gardens could make up for having Yeovil as its nearest big town, or whether it’s better to hang out for something, probably less beautiful, with hills all around it. Your pictures have nudged me back into the hills camp.

And I don’t believe in ghosts, but the Long Gallery of Barrington Court is most definitely haunted!


thank you for sharing your peaceable adventure(s), dear ben. same, was wondering if that mavis gal counted sheep in her doggy sleep, so tempting. those lambs are exquisite. how fascinatingly “grounding” to live surrounded by so much truly ancient history and to be able to visit/step inside such superb architecture! i consider myself most fortunate to tag a long.

blessings of safety all round you and your charlie and mavis, ben.


Diane Keanesays:

Ben, your posts “never fail to calm my mind.” How beautiful are those hills, the sheep, the villages, the walled gardens and stately old homes (even empty.) That final sunset shot is a stunner! Perhaps having to spend time in London makes you treasure Dorset even more. If you are Mavis, that must be Charlie chasing you. In fact, I hope you guys do cavort on the hills from time to time! Keeps you young. Have a good week.

Hugs from Diane

southern galsays:

adding the sunsets to my folder for background images that i rotate thru… so many from your posts!

southern galsays:

Heavens! That sunset! That’s a memory to tide you thru the work week!!!

thanks for sharing it.


The Lyles now live in Perthshire, at Glendelvine, near Dunkeld. We used to rent the farmhouse on the estate. A friend from London was just at a memeorial for another Lyle, so I asked (yesterday) her if he was one of the “Tate ands”. Co-inky-dink.


Beautiful images of dreamy Dorset it sounds like you had a wonderful weekend.Barrington Court is magnificent like somewhere out of a Austen novel a timeless beauty. Spring entices the senses after a long winter lovely to see an array of new life it gladdens the heart.Oh my what a beautiful sunset and yours and Charlies garden is coming to life so exciting. Thank you for sharing with us and yes Mavis is one lucky dog.Enjoy your week and thanks for your celebration of life.

David Sanderssays:

Jacobean houses are just so dreamy, and sit so perfectly well in the landscape of the West Country. I agree, sheep are such wonderfully calming animals, with the added bonus that they look so aesthetically pleasing strolling about on rolling hills; takes me back to my childhood on the family farm in North Canterbury NZ. Does Mavis ever develop the urge to start herding these very calm looking sheep Ben?

My thoughts are with the people who live and work in London.


Agreed,Mavis has the life of Riley! Have a great week,Ben.

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