2 July 2017
Ben Pentreath

The sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed that my first book, English Decoration, was dedicated ‘to Anthony Sykes, who understands more about English Decoration than anyone I know’.Later, we’ll see more of Anthony’s decoration, and his remarkable house, Bellamont, which he and his wife Harriet built on a hillside in West Dorset, close to us, some 20 years ago now. (The house has once or twice featured on the blog in passing before…. but never as the main subject).

This weekend, Bellamont was open to the public for a fundraiser for our two villages. So this is also a story of dedication in a different way – the simple, hard-working dedication of a couple of little villages in West Dorset putting on a brilliant summertime event to raise a bit of money for their two churches.  Our church needs a new roof, and I think the next door village is in search of a new bell (but I may stand corrected there).

Charlie and I were running the plant and cut flower stand, together with our neighbour Nic.  For weeks now, Charlie has been propagating, sowing and taking cuttings, as well as making the odd raid on extremely well-priced plant stands in Bridport Market. Neighbours have been dropping off trays of plants for sale.  And early, early on Saturday morning, I think around about  5.30am, I woke to the sound of Charlie snip-snip-snipping out in the garden, cutting buckets of fresh flowers before the heat of the day came up. After a quick foray to Bridport for breakfast at soulshine, we loaded up the car to transport everything up the road to Bellamont.

Setting up….

A snapshot of the side of Anthony’s barn – a sample agricultural shed with a grand-and-somewhat-flimsy facade. All will be revealed in a bit….

Good Village Fete fare:

Anthony, dapper as always, inspecting the set-up….

Our completed stand…. ready for the punters…!

Charlie and Nic look like a pair of french sailors.  I’d missed the stripy blue t-shirt memo. 

At 1pm the gates opened. People flooded in. Here are the first sweet-pea customers.  Sweet-peas sold out in about 10 minutes, to be honest. 

Saint Gwen, who organised the whole event brilliantly, pretty much singlehandedly, was very shy about having her photo taken, but I managed to snap her in the midst of a big hug from Charlie.

I have to say the plant stand was the busiest by far, but then maybe I would say that wouldn’t I?  Here in the distance is your first glimpse of the castellated confection that is Anthony  & Harriet’s house.

And here are our neighbours Catherine, Jo & Kate running the bric-a-brac stall, doing a roaring trade, with Anthony’s barn facade beyond. Completely bonkers, but brilliant.  Plants selling fast.

This is Liam, who announced he is a regular blog reader from County Cork, over from Ireland with his wife on holiday in beautiful west Dorset.  It was great to meet you, Liam!!!

Plants were flying out by this stage of the afternoon…..

The barn dance moved down the track….

Our neighbour Harold inspecting the last of Charlie’s lilies….

And then I was called by Gwen down to the house. It was an emergency.  There had been so many queues of people, so many tours, that Anthony and Harriet were exhausted and needed reinforcements.

Here we are entering the inner courtyard. Queues for miles. 

I arrived to find Harriet and Anthony holding forth in the hall. I stepped in to give them a break…. More queues.  And more….

Harriet is never ever out of her pearls.

The vestibule….

The Hallway…..

An armchair in the sitting room, in the great, late chintz Maryport, now discontinued.  Why, oh why, oh why do people discontinue fabrics like this? 

One end of the drawing room….
And the other… looking back to the kitchen.

A detail of a cypher on the doors that Anthony designed and had cast in resin – his initials and Harriet’s, and the family motto (which translates as ‘it costs what it may’, or, as Anthony shouted to his visitors…. ‘bugger the cost’).  There is plentiful use of gold and silver paint at Bellamont.

The dining room, tented in ticking costing £7 per metre at Bridport Market.   Five tours later, the house finally closed and I headed back up to Charlie and Nic to see how the plants had gone.  ALL GONE.  Result.  everyone was packing up ready to go home.

We popped in to have a look at Anthony & Harriet’s son Eyre’s amazing box tree nursery, Bellamont topiary.  The stock is amazing.  Inside the courtyard.

For a year, I lived in the West Wing when I first moved to Dorset. This was my front door…The south front…. Everyone left, and we had a quick drink with Anthony & Harriet before saying goodbye, to leave them in peace….
Anthony holding forth on a million subjects, from 18th century architecture to the genealogy of an obscure branch of an Irish aristocratic family, to his rather unconventional views on politics, or a very rude limerick:

Can you guess what this one was?

The back kitchen, painted in high gloss Victoria Plum.

Heading home. Late summer haze amongst the battlements and crenelations.
The view from the south….
And the gates to the road.

Afternoons like this one are the best.   Of course, amongst all the dedications, is the most important of all, to my wonderful friend Valentina – who first introduced me to the crazy Sykes clan some 18 years ago now.


I should also say, talking of fundraisers, that in a fortnight, on Sunday 16th July, Charlie and I will be at magical Buscot Park in Oxfordshire, in aid of the Wild Camel Trust – the eighth most endangered species on the planet (and you know Charlie’s love of camels).   If you’d like to come for the lunch, tickets are £60 and you can visit the booking page of their website here and order away…. there are still some places remaining (as far as I am aware at time of writing…..)  We’d love to meet you over a cup of Mongolian yak’s milk vodka!  Can you think of anything nicer to do in a fortnight’s time?  No, nor can we.  See you then and there!!!


26 comments on this post


Lovely blog, as always. I think there is a ‘stripy blue t-shirt virus’ going around. Last week I went to a picnic and I was one of only two people not wearing said item of clothing. In two weeks I’m coming to England and maybe visit some of the Dorset locations you mention in your blog. Really looking forward to it! Only problem is finding somewhere to stay. There is some sort of large religious festival going on in Somerset and they booked all the decent B&B’s between the Cotswolds and the coast. I’ll probably end up in a stable …

Diane Keanesays:

What a wonderful post! The saga of the house tour made me think of the episode of Downton Abbey when theirs took place. Bellamont is every bit as glorious, if not as grandiose. What a creative and talented couple the Sykes are. As are you and Charlie. Thank you for sharing, dip let us readers know a out donating to the church (might be able to stock up on more stacking chairs after the roof is fixed!)

Hugs from Diane


…gloriously glorious…blessings…laney


From a mainlander European who is tremendously fond of your blog, I love the idea of donations. Count me in! Another evening of jolly reading and lovely photos. Thank you, Ben and Charlie.


am so jealous! what a perfectly exquisite neighboring town’ raise money for local churches’ english style! thank you for sharing, dear ben. am staring down smokey blue sky from a wild fire 4 hour’s drive, jack rabbits throwing in the towel, cuz’ too hot and moles burrying holes big enough to drive an 18 wheeler through and still 10-20 feet snow up higher. can almost taste the wonderful afternoon tea-ness of your dorset days. thank you dear ben and charlie for taking us along.



What an amazing Gothicky, trompe l’oeilly pad. Did Anthony have to apply to the planners for licence to crenelate, as in the olden days? Jolly good fun and fab setting for village fundraising stuff. And very nice to see you too, Ben, for once in the photos. Best wishes, Nicola

julia hoskinssays:

You two are national treasures. I’d have been tempted to camp all night so I could be first at your stall. And I’d have found it hard to resist buying the whole damn lot.


sorry for the mistake ” Hausband ” in my comment …….
right is of course husband !!!
Greetings, Birgit 🙂

Jennifer Phillippssays:

Always a delightful pleasure to read about Dorset and the goings on. Especially nice to feel part of the house tour and to see the happy punters buying all your plants. A perfect day all round and hopefully lots of funds raised for both causes. Cheers from NZ

Randy Coxsays:

I thought of you and Charlie as I watered the garden at Spring House restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C. USA where I design the flower arrangements. I wish I could have bought some of your sweet peas!
What an interesting house! Thanks for sharing!


What a wonderful day with perfect weather. Thank you for sharing it. Oh and I adore the Maryport chintz.

Anne Guionsays:

What a fun day! Wish I had been ther, too! Loved the fabulous home tour.
You will have to let us know how to donate (from afar) to this cause.
I always enjoy your posts!
Anne Guion
MAdison, Mississippi

Charlotte Ksays:

Feel as if I’d been there though if I had I’d have bought all those rangy geraniums left on the table. It’s thanks to pictures of yuor windowsills that I’ve adorned my winter windowsills here in darkest New England with bright leggy flowery g’s. I take all comers!


DAmmit, can’t believe I missed this. Luckily, I have already had the pleasure of visiting Bellamont, quite the wonderfully craziest house ever. The great thing about Harriet’s pearls is her wearing of them with her faded blue dungarees most days!


Thank you Ben! I love the dedication to your local cause…I also love the elbow grease and hard work! Kudos to you and Charlie! Job well done.


What a beautiful summerly monday, my Hausband and me have holiday and after a nice BBC Film of ” Father Brown ” I had a look at the blog here and as always enjoyed it !
These typical english events ( hope a bit of money for the church is raised ), so many lovely people , a Dream summerday , a wonderful english house, Anthony & Harriet, this chintz Maryport Armchair………. fantastic, enviable from here in Germany !
Thanks a lot for give me this pleasure,
Yours Birgit 🙂

Sally Leonardsays:

And in a fortnight–love that word–we can contribute to Charlie’s camel fund!

Sally Leonardsays:

I, too, would love to make a donation for these churches needs in honor of you and Charlie!


That blog made me smile from start to finish and can I join the chorus regarding donating to the church fundraiser by way of thanks to you and your village. Your blog really does bring a lot of joy and pleasure.


Excellent blog!! The rhubarb looked fabulous. Oh, to have been there! Your photos and words captured the joy of the day. All very uplifting. Thank you so much, Ben.

deby(in Canada)says:

Count me in for a church fundraiser donation… your post this week brought happy tears and I would be pleased to give back for all the beauty charm and eccentricity you share with us every week Ben
xx Deby


You transport me to a very wonderful place every Monday morning, and that pleasure lasts all week, thank you.


what a great idea from your commenter Jo. I’d be happy to make a donation too. Your blog gives such delight and it would be lovely to give back. Can’t make it huge but ‘every little Alps as they say in Switzerland’


That’s a great idea Jo, we could buy virtual sweetpeas, as a thank you for the Monday morning loveliness.


Can we possibly donate to the church fundraiser as a way of giving thanks for your enormous generosity over the years on this blog, Ben?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.