Pootling about

5 August 2018
Ben Pentreath


I followed Charlie back from Stockholm a day late, and had a beautiful day heading to Richmond Park for our friend Monica’s birthday. London steamed in sultry heat, and, giving a bit of thought to where I was heading, realised that the sublime Marble Hill was going open for tours. A house I have wanted to visit for years – a cool, leafy, perfect Palladian villa on the banks of the Thames at Twickenham.

In the care of English Heritage, the house is a little dusty around the edges at the moment because of a massive argument (I don’t know any of the details, I’m afraid, and probably don’t want to) going on about a proposed re-presentation of the house and surrounding landscape involving a large Heritage Lottery grant. I understand the locals went ballistic. While the arguments grind on, works are on hold. The very nice lady at the ticket desk (who turns out to be a reader of the blog) apologised profusely, but I couldn’t help but admit I found the place perfect just as it was.  I love a slightly dusty and ever-so-slightly down at heel house; so much more magical than something over spruced and over-explained. 

The interior can only be seen by guided tours, on Saturdays and Sundays only – times are on the English Heritage website. The tour was erudite and excellent. When the house was rescued from demolition and housing development in 1901, it was stripped and empty of all contents.  Over the decades great efforts have been made to furnish it with appropriate paintings and pictures, and a rather ravishing collection of early Georgian contents has been assembled.

De Gournay created the beautiful Chinese paper in the ground floor dining room. 

In the parlour opposite, an engraving of the house showing the view from across the river that has not changed at all in 300 years. 

The stair hall, with extraordinarily lavish mahogany floors and staircase.

In the saloon:

And the principal bedchamber:

I took the footpath down to the Thames where a ferryman is still there to take you across the river to Petersham.

The view back. I liked the little plastic boats in their own way.

Richmond Park, burned dry, with the beautiful view from King Henry’s Mound.  We had a hot, happy picnic for Monica’s birthday on the grassy banks just below.

The following day, to Dorset – we were there for the week. I had some quite long days out and about with work, but so magical to be waking up there every morning – misty mornings.

The heat has been intense even on early morning walks.

Beautiful warm evenings with trips to the seaside for cocktails.

Charlie’s beautiful dahlia border is in full flower.


Last weekend we were in Bridport. It was the Folk Festival all last weekend.  The town was full of Morris Dancers. Brilliant.

But the weather was turning.

Blackberries in July…

Sunday was pouring with rain.  We met up with Sharon at Old Albion, for a bit of a laugh and some sympathy.  In fits and starts, the folk festival had moved indoors. The dancing was great but the atmosphere not quite what it might have been if South Street had, as planned, been closed to traffic, and all the groups had been parading down the street. Ah well, next year. 


This weekend has been random but fun. Yesterday, we found ourselves driving through Frampton. ‘Flower Show Today’ announced an A-board on the main road.  Charlie came screeching to a halt and turned around.

The village hall was filled with a rich display.

The most fragrant rose was incredibly fragrant:

Liz Napier won most prizes, I realised, including Best Rose in Show. Deservedly.

It turned out that Flowers in August in Frampton was 30 years old this year, and there was a lovely display showing the early years.

The Vegetable table.

We were delighted to meet Liz Napier!

Cups ready.

Then to our friend Flora’s for supper.  Flora, conveniently named, is a brilliant florist. She’s been growing the most amazing flower garden on the side of the hill at their farm. Here’s a peek.

We’d made a plan to meet Mum and Dad at the Cattistock show today. Charlie, really sadly, was a bit under the weather and stayed at home, resting up – which was sad because the Cattistock is Charlie heaven. I took the Morris 1000 and found myself being entered into the classic car parade.  Hilarious. 

Spenny, this one’s for you:

The show secretary’s tent:

All eyes on the show ring, although sadly the ground was too hard for equestrian events, and I guess the day was too hot for the doggies contest (unless I’d missed that entirely). 

The shade of the beer tent was the place to be.

Punch and Judy:


Tug of War:

My favourite of all – all the spray-painted signs advertising the various tents and attractions….

were on the back of old election placards.  Theresa May – standing up for the Pimms Bar.

This evening, Charlie and I went down to Burton Bradstock to see the sea. We came back via Puncknowle, and a little glimpse at one of the most wonderful, romantic farms in the whole of West Dorset, that has just come on the market for the first time in a century. 

Sharp-eyed readers with long memories will remember my blog on the subject from a few years ago now, About a Farm. Looke Farm is a dream. Anyone with a deep sense of romance and a determination not to over-do this amazing place, please get in touch…. the details are here.

We drove home through high summer lanes.

back home at the golden hour, for a final walk around the garden.

And sunset, over the gently glowing dahlias at dusk, in highest summer.

17 comments on this post

Jayne Trottsays:

Dear Ben,
I really enjoy reading your blog.
Could you please tell how I can subscribe so that I don’t miss out.
Wishing you all the best,

Cecilia Stauntonsays:

Great post as usual, one question, the Henry’s Mound you mentioned, do you know which Henry? Also, I love that little cap of forest on the hill. You take pictures of that view often. I like to imagine its an ancient hill fort, I mean it’s possible : ).

Julianna Vaughansays:

That Dahlia!

Diane Keanesays:

Ben, are you sure the view of the Marble Hill hasn’t changed in 300 years? It looks to me like the house in the print is much closer to the river. Possibly the Thames has silted up at Twickenham somewhat? Or maybe the artist was taking artistic license when he made the print. Either way, a beautiful view! Thank you for another enjoyable post!

Hugs to you and Charlie,



I do appreciate a personal tour of a house I haven’t visited. Thank you. My family’s car was a Morris (pinky beige) and when I see one on the road which coincidentally we did today (Myrtle by name, claret in colour, circumnavigating Budleigh Salterton) I cannot believe we squeezed in, luggage and all, to make those unending journeys down to the coast on single carriageways. Best wishes. Nicola


I do hope you print that photo of Charlie, it’s the most timelessly glorious portrait I’ve seen for some time.

Southern galsays:

Having a sick day and seeing this wonderful post. Oh to be able to buy that farm and care for it. Not unless many ships came in including winning the lottery.

So to dream of a different life instead of unpack8ng into a new apt where the garden is smaller and darker and worse condition and the boxes seem to be breeding in the night.

Onward refreshed by your gorgeous images especially the sunset on the dahlias.


So much to love about this week’s Inspiration, de Gournay, that beautiful house, Richmond Great Park, Morris Dancers, dogs and some of my fav local shows. Looking at your blog always reminds me of the England I left in 1980, and it does that thing of making me equally happy and sad, which in my books is a very good thing.

Pierre B.says:

What a nice eclectic post!

Chris Webbsays:

Dahlias look great Charlie
NZ still in winter and very wet
110 mm in 12 hours recently
Very green to say the least


Farmhouse is exquisite and charming, it’s also a bit like Beaton’s house at Broadchalke, but without being impolite it all needs quite a lot of work, but 2.8 million for the farmhouse and about 175 acres ? If they break it all up which would be a great shame.
At over 5 million for the whole Estate, I now see why you’re not buying for yourself and Charlie . Best to all

David Hughessays:

Our Civil Partnership was at Marble Hill. Limited to 50 people including the registrar and choir. No red wine so it had to be fizz all the way then home for a rousing house party for two hundred “of our closest friends”. Family parties were held later in cousins barns after the harvest. Hard to believe it’s more than ten years ago.

Tee Tansays:

Dear Ben,

I have been an avid reader of your blog and would like to thank you for sharing these beautiful scenes of the English countryside and yours and Charlie’s garden and homes. They are all charming and what I really love about these scenes are the lack of pretension and how leisurely they feel, especially in an age when people have a tendency to overshare their material pursuits above valued experience. I know how difficult it is to achieve this relaxed feel, and enjoy reading your blog, books and visiting your shop in London. With best wishes, Tee

Isla Simpsonsays:

Wish I was in the market for that farm, literally THE DREAM. I’ve practically named all the cows I’d have.

Frampton flower show looks so fun – an unspoilt tradition, love that they held it in a barn , the year they were without the village hall.


Dear Ben & Charlie
Thanks so much for your high summer blog. Love the engraving of the Marble Hill House !
Beautiful as always is Dorset, the Farm and the whole landscape, Charlies dahlias are so colorful. Folk Festivals in England are very special and always a pleasure, also the Shows like flowers, vegetables, sheep shearing ….. I love it 🙂
Very nice photos Ben, very summery as the whole time.
Here in Germany is every day very hot hot hot, 35 – 38 degree !
I`m looking forward autumn.
Wish you all the best, dear Ben & Charlie, have a nice week,
Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂

David Sanderssays:

Marble Hill; so lovely, just sitting there in all its foursquare Palladian glory, squeezed in between a long approaching vista of very fine trees.
The Morris dancers… marvellous – makes me smile.

Charlies obsession with village flower shows – priceless.

Classic cars; I love them… my favourite eras are the 1930s and the late 1950s through to the early 1960s – sports cars, of course.


Lovely photos Ben l particularly love the images of the valley.Sybil has grown so much how is Mavis? We are looking forward to returning for our holiday 4 weeks 5 days and counting.This time we are staying in the west wing it looks lovely.l love Dorset in September the colours are mellow and it’s a little quieter.Thank you for a snippet of your Dorset life Charlies dahlias are amazing kind regards Debra and David.

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