Glimmers of hope

3 April 2018
Ben Pentreath

Regular readers of the blog will again be aware that a post hasn’t popped into their email address boxes for a week or two. I am sorry…. it’s been a rather busy time.  Work in the office has been rushing. Life rushes by generally, and yet spring seems painfully reluctant to rush along. Still, amongst the rainfall sweeping through Dorset and London, I detect glimmers of hope.

W E E K   O N E

A week before Easter, Charlie and I had the Frugal lent lunch at the Parsonage.  Here is the kitchen table laid, just before everyone arrived…  The yellow gloss walls looking particularly… yellow.

(sharp eyed viewers will realise I hadn’t wound the clock).

Soup bubbling on the stove.

In the dining room, blue.

The problem with Charlie is that he doesn’t ‘do’ frugal very well… 

(although actually, to be honest, those cheeses were sort of left over from some people coming for supper in London a few days before…)

Easter may have been coming but the countryside is drenched and bitterly cold.  Not a glimmer of spring.  March is, I think, perhaps, the darkest month of the year…. the changing clocks trick one into thinking that life is returning, but it’s not, quite.  The trees and hedgerows feel like they should be in leaf, but they are not, not yet. 

The palette of our walks is entirely green and brown and wet…

… and ash grey.

W E E K   T W O

More grey-ish skies, but at least glimmers of sunshine and NO RAIN (it seems at the moment you have to go to Scotland for that). On Good Friday I was near Inverness, visiting our project at Tornagrain – the Earl of Moray’s new town that we are designing. Again – regular readers will know the story (which you can read about here, and here) of our work here.  It’s incredible to see how much has grown and been finished even in the months since I was last up north.  Here are a few photos.

At moments like this, I really do feel pretty happy.  The community is growing fast, and nothing that we are doing feels too at odds with the lie of the land or the spirit of the place… in contrast, I might add, to so much new development in Scotland – which tears the heart and soul out of the place that it builds upon.

But by Saturday lunchtime I was back down in Dorset, and so happy to be down.  It poured all day. Do you detect a theme?

On Sunday – Easter Day – the weather was still cold, first thing, but sunshine almost shone through.

In Charlie’s vegetable garden, the tulips are coming up – way later than a year ago, than two years ago, but they are coming.

We’ve been dog sitting our friend Lexi’s Bertie this week.  Sibyl is nowhere to be seen in this photo… but some readers will notice that Charlie is, basically, turning into H.M. The Queen, with his granny’s silk headscarf acting as a very suitable prop.

The dog walking garb is flipping hilarious.  I can’t stop laughing.  Wait until Sibyl can come too – one more week before her jabs are done. It’s going to be insane.

Still all brown and green, but something is shifting perhaps, on the hills?

We went to Easter service in Long Bredy.  I’ve always loved these little cottages at the green by the road to the church.

This is a house which until two or three years ago had horrid plastic windows.  The new owners, Colin and Sue Dyer (who you can read about in last year’s Melplash show blog here) restored the house perfectly.  A dull, ugly corner had new life breathed into it; a little house that had been disfigured has been brought gently back to life.  

I love that sign, amongst the daffodils bedraggled by snow and rain. Not a good year for the daffs:

The bank leading to the church is thick with primroses.

Inside, a good service; afterwards, tea and coffee and Easter eggs.  I was obsessed about the stained glass windows. Would these patterns not make a beautiful printed chintz?

An Easter garden competition had been run, of which this was my favourite entry.

I love the back of Long Bredy church, and the fact that its great West Tower entrance is also a garden shed, home of lawnmowers, watering cans and flower pots – and those narrow steep stairs, leading to the bell ringers’ chamber.

More beautiful glass.

And the profound poetry of electric meters and Piero della Francesca (or some other Renaissance artist, sorry, I can’t tell at this distance). 

Long Bredy church also has brilliant kneelers.

And a perfect churchyard.

Here is buried Jill Maltby, who planted the snowdrops I wrote about a few weeks ago, surrounded by the folds of the hills that come down and embrace this magical place:

Back home, in the garden, I tried to get Sibyl to pose the perfect Easter pose to announce my sort-of return to Instagram (I’ve enjoyed not being quite so glued to my phone these days, I’ll admit).

She looked to the right.

To the left.

And then, for a second, she gave me the perfect naughty eye that is her trademark.  She’s been terrorising poor Bertie (who went home today) for the last week, as well as the rest of us. But with a face like that, everything is forgiven.

There is one final thing, and I am afraid this is going to get boring, but we are desperate.  Our church.  As you know – I’ve written about it before on the blog, Our roof is falling down.

Now whatever your religious views, I know, if you read and enjoy my blog, that you will appreciate the beauty of the tiny church at the end of our garden.  It is medieval in origin, but was beautifully repaired and extended, in the 1850s, by Benjamin Ferry, the remarkable Victorian Gothic architect who worked alongside Pugin, and who started his practice so close by to where I am writing this evening in London – in Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, in 1834.

Our church is one of the most beautiful I have been in, but is deeply personal to Charlie and me  not just because it is next door, but also because it was here, back in 2015, that we were given a blessing to celebrate our marriage – led by our vicar Stephen, who is now so cruelly afflicted with Motor Neurone Disease.

For five years, the village has been fundraising to carry out urgent and essential repairs to the church, and especially to the roof. The entire stone roof is disintegrating and needs major work. As you can imagine, I have become rather involved.

We have raised an incredible amount of money, given how small we are – from amazing village events, from private donations, and from grant-giving trusts. But, we now have a final £22,500 (of £100,000) to raise before works can commence, which we need, and hope, to start later this summer/autumn.

This is a small plea, then, to readers of this blog, to help now.  I can already say that some incredibly generous and thoughtful readers have already over the months written to me – un-asked – with very kind donations. Now, I am stepping into a new territory by asking more directly for your support. I hope you don’t mind.

I’ve set up a just giving page here to make it easier.   If every person who read this blog donated a pound, I think we could raise our money in a few weeks!

And if this took off, I could think of a few other causes that could do with our help out there.

Thank you, in advance, for whatever help you can offer.

16 comments on this post


I spy a nice little blue and white Clyde Pottery pitcher on the kitchen table in the first and second photos (with the daff buds)! They’re quite hard to come by. Such a brilliant blue.


Beautiful post, bravo on the JustGiving page – hope the donations flow in


Please could you let me know where I could mail a cheque for the church fundraising campaign please?
Many thanks – Claire

Deborah Wagnersays:

Ben, lovely, as always. I’m over on Instagram, morning, noon, and night, desperately trying to ❤️ everyone’s photos, and I find your blog to be infinitely more restful and pleasant. The flow is great, and the pictures hang together to form a cohesive whole so I don’t get whiplash from reacting to them. Please keep doing it, to the extent you can.

Charlie looks fab in the headscarf. Such a useful piece of kit. I’m going to dig out my Hermes.

Good luck with the roof.



most precious and divine round up of your activities, shared with tender photographs, dear ben. sigh, your english countryside, in her end of winter outfit, still looks lush to me, incredibly beautiful, viewed through your heart eyes. love your’s and charlie’s blue and yellow walls. the world is a better place with your english thoughtfulness! and yes, sibyl does look like a terror, lucky for her she is gorgeous!

Mary Lou Bethunesays:

I live in an small 18th c., North Carolina town- Hillsborough, where Cornwallis stopped on his way to Yorktown. We were resisters way back when, as we say in the south. My town has a Halloween celebration and I usually dress up as Charlie did for the dog walking..and I walk my corgi but the only one who knew I was going for the Queen was my English friend. Ha.

Diane Keanesays:

Thanks for putting up a donation site, Ben. It’s been awhile since you first posted about the church roof, happy for the opportunity to help.
Your handsome husband does a marvelous imitation of a white-haired elderly lady, complete with slouch and grim expression! Hilarious is the word!
Tornagrain is coming along nicely. It will be wonderful once the trees and hedges mature to blend it with the scenery, and people have put in their gardens. Please keep posting, we are all enjoying watching it develop.
Here in western Pennsylvania, we had a couple inches of snow on the day after Easter, but the holiday itself was lovely!



Thank you for all those beautiful Photos of Dorset, a great inspiration! I’m an art historian from Germany – “in Love” with Britain. My summer-holidays will be in Dorset this year. Is it possible to leave a donation directly in your little church?

William Morgansays:

We would love to make a donation to St Michael’s and All Angels, but would rather not do so electronically.

Will you give us an address to which we may mail a check?

Many thanks,


Isla Simpsonsays:

YES to Charlie bringing back the head scarf, what could be more chic? Practical and beautiful!
HR would be mega proud. Also, love seeing how the Scottish project is coming along, so much character and soul in those new builds. Maybe one day I’ll swap my London pad for one of your Scottish designs! Onwards to Spring please!


Dear Both

I love reading your blog and my black dogs and I sit on our kitchen sofa sharing lunch and looking…perfect!
Re your roof..having the same problems raising monies for our tiny but much loved Church in Herefordshire. The Gesualdo Six have been to sing in two of our Churches for two nights as a fund raiser and wow to a packed audience…what could be more magical than wonderful voices singing English Motets.
Would highly recommend it.

A ray of sun so off to walk!

deby (in Canada)says:

Oh Ben What a wonderful post… worth the wait- so much beauty…but best of all I am laughing until tears stream down at Charlie- not sure what is funnier- his frugal cheeseboard! or his dog walking
look – how lucky you are to have him in your life and us lucky readers who you share him with…
Sibyl is such a beauty… all best with the church fund.
xxx Deby


Dear Ben & Charlie
Thank you again for sharing all your nice time in photos with us. I love always to see your beautiful home and the landscape in change with the seasons and the preparation for lunch or dinner etc. with all your lovely people. Sibyl looks so happy and Mavis too ……….. So funny Charlies H.M. The Queen look 🙂
I love all the british churches with their simple beauty, especially the nice and colored kneelers !
Thank you for the link for donations ,it is great all what you do !
Have a nice springtime with your beautiful work and all the dear people !
Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂


Thank you Ben for once again treating to us to lovely photos best of all your beautiful home in Dorset and your attention to detail.It is always delightful to see flowers trees animals nature and the changing seasons.I love the stained glass windows it sounds like you had a lovely easter.Sybil is growing fast such a lovely photo of her amongst the primroses.Mavis hopefully enjoying her new family member.I enquired how l could donate towards the church roof some time ago.I love all our churches l have visited your church it is very special in fact l was in awe of its simple beauty and age set in the most beautiful valley a little bit of heaven on earth.Thank you for the link for donations l will gladly give what l can.Most of all thank you Ben for all you do and for all the pleasure you so kindly give.P.S sorry to hear your friend the vicar is not keeping too well.
My thoughts and best wishes are with him for better days ahead.


Happy to do my bit,it’s vital to maintain our cultural heritage.
Glad all is well in your corner of the world,Happy Spring!


I tried to leave a donation but I do not have a facebook account. Love the blog, James Lees Milne springs to mind.

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