Quiet Times

17 February 2019
Ben Pentreath

We got back from America and have had the quietest time… Recovery and catching up.  But… we also collected Enid. Oh golly. 

For those wondering, she’s not a relation of Sibyl at all. They just look like that.

More Enid pictures to follow (and many more are to be found over on Instagram).

London weeks have been furious and frantic, catching up with life and work and a million things. Dorset weekends have been serene and quiet.

Last weekend we went to our friends Jasper and Oisin for lunch. Low February slanting light lit up the house and their valley.

Enid was basically the star of the show.

We got back to the Parsonage to find the garden still light at 5.30. There’s that amazing sense at this time of year of spring right around the corner…. coming and going, depending on the weather and the wind.  Last weekend, the sounds of knocking at the door have been getting louder…

This week, I’ve been busy too.  On Thursday, in serene spring sunshine, I was in County Durham, for a first look at an exciting new project at Castle Raby.  It’s an entirely new part of the world for me and I’m blown away. Tiny glimpses – here are the stables:

The ancient yew hedges in the walled garden:

The tropical house:

The main stable building, designed by Carr of York – serene.

Lots more to come from what I think will become a really wonderful and exciting project.   I got down to Dorset on Friday – brilliant sunshine again (when I was looking at the design of a new small village house not too far from us…which, I’ll just add, is my favourite kind of project).

On Saturday, a dense fog had blown into the valley. The light was grey and flat.

After Bridport Market, the first we’ve been to in weeks, we took the dogs for a walk in the mistiest of valleys.

We missed the sunshine of the day before, but it was strangely beautiful nonetheless. most of the day was spent doing nothing at all. I went to bed for a long sleep and a read. Charlie hung out with the gang on the sofa. Mum and Dad came round for tea, which turned into a drink.

This morning, the air was bright and optimistic.

Snowdrops on the little group of hazels that I remember planting as whips when I first moved to the Parsonage ten years ago:

The light was briefly golden and heaven-like. Snowdrops are at their peak this weekend, I’d say.

Enid keeping up with the gang…

The first daffodils are coming up the churchyard. 

But the day was getting greyer.  Daffodil yellow gloss-paint walls do their best to cheer you up though.  We had our friends Gracie and Adrian and Ed coming over for a long, lazy lunch. 

hours later, here we are. Ed and Enid.

Gracie & Adrian, as regular readers of the blog know, run the superb and extraordinary Little Toller Books.  Ed’s a brilliant artist.  We are plotting an exhibition and book on Dorset Houses which will be coming out this time next year – with an essay by me.  Watch this space.

I love this time of year, when we are all stirring out of wintery slumber, and cooking up plans. The year feels full of promise right now.

My strong advice – right now – ignore the news entirely. When I was over with Mum and Dad on Friday afternoon, we ended up watching the 6 o clock news, which is what Dad just does. It was full of the entire opposite – no promise at all. Depression, worry, angst – and all about things that are completely outside our control.  At the end of a long week, it was frantic and exhausting. I’ve definitely been known, from time to time, on this blog, to make a gentle plea for sorting out the things that ARE in our control. Is it a case of doing something you’ve been putting off for ages?  is it a case of getting in touch with an old friend who you haven’t spoken to for years?  Or of tidying up the front garden? Or just making the tiniest step towards fixing something that’s broken.  It’s the place to begin feeling better about life, trust me.

31 comments on this post

Chris Ankeneysays:

So sorry to learn of your loss, through the comments above! Your readers all miss you and your lovely posts. Thinking of you.

Kathryn Vezeriansays:

Just swooning over the pictures in your posting. You do live in a beautiful part of the world. I appreciate the suggestions made at the end. There are times when I feel like my mind is going to explode while watching the news. Thank God it’s turning Spring, I’m getting lots of early garden prepping done, in an attempt to think of something else. Good luck on the new projects, hope you post some after pictures when the time comes.

Peggy Stanwoodsays:

This post is all the loveliness we look forward when we click on your site.
It had been so long since this post I checked Instagram only to learn the saddest news, the sudden passing of your mother. So good to know through years of following you that your support system is terrific. Be well. . .Peggy


Thanks so much for writing this wonderful blog Ben. It’s a ray of sunshine and a safe haven in a sometimes bleak world. I agree so much with watching news, it’s nothing but negativity. When studying psychology I learned that the news focuses only on negative stories because the positive ones don’t affect us as strongly. Fear is money. That’s also when I started to ban news and newspapers. I actually haven’t read a paper och watched tv news for about eight years and I survive! Or thrive might be a better word?! What I need to know I learn from family and friends, what I don’t need to know I never learn about. Such a load off!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, despite the grief since loosing your mother.

Much love from Sweden

Helen Youngsays:

Hello Ben,
So happy to see you will be working in Teesdale. It is spectacularly lovely in so many places. I would recommend your looking around Egglestone Gardens: a lovely walled garden nursery with serious plant lovers. Also behind their sheds is a lovely derelict chapel with pet graves and, in January, lots of snowdrops. BTW I am a Canadian fan with a riverside cottage in Barnard Castle and your blog keeps my Anglo blood moving when I am in North America!

Helen Youngsays:

So glad to hear you are working at Raby. I have a delightful cottage on the Tees that I rent out if you need to put your feet under you in a private space whilst working on the project. I am not bold enough to think it is anywhere as nice as your delicious homes, but it is beautifully situated and the water rushes by in the most relaxing way imaginable. I will watch with great interest and if I can help with a spot to stay, please get in touch. By the way, I too am a Canadian fan!


Those Yew hedges have left me speechless, not a leaf out of place, amazing. Adorable addition to your family. Beautiful photographs of my beloved Dorset, even in the mist, I miss it so much so you can imagine I am so looking forward to your book on Dorset houses. Adore your blogs,a high point in the week. Thank you so much. From sun parched NZ


beautiful pictures as ever and who can resist a darling little newbie puppy?!

about the state of politics and world news in general – I limit myself often to reading the opening two sentences and then move on. We’ve given up watching network news altogether – getting angry about Trump and co never mind the Europe project… very underwhelming indeed.

I’ve found relief in just working on my own patch of house and garden – when the job seems too big and intractable – I just agree to start and do 10 minutes – couple of hours later its well on the way to being done – just start and the job almost gets itself done – so cheering!


Such beautiful pictures! Love your new baby! You should listen to Lukas Nelsons song “Turn off the news”.
He is Willie Nelsons son. I hope you can find it on YouTube. Thank you again. Denise / North Carolina


Such beautiful pictures! Love your new baby! You should listen to Lukas Nelsons song “Turn off the news”.
He is Willie Nelsons son. I hope you can find it on YouTube. Thank you again. Denise

David Sanderssays:

Holy moly, I’m blown away by that wondrous Yew Hedge at Castle Raby – that’d be a job and a half to keep it in order. You’re quite right about the change in the season Ben. In the Land of The White Cloud (NZ) I’ve noticed just recently a distinct chill in the air towards the evenings.

Sage advice in your last paragraph, have you been reading Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” – to unlock your inner stoic 🙂

Darlene Chandlersays:

What a lovely blog I received today. Enid is adorable. I just love the pictures of the flowers coming up, as I am in snowy Canada and minus 8 degrees. I so look forward to your book on the homes of Dorset. And I fully agree with worry about what you can fix or change, well said. The world is evolving into a sad state and I so look forward to my many jaunts a year to London and the countryside to just think about nature and culture and beautiful things. Thank you again for your wonderful uplifting blogs and I look forward to visiting your shop in April.


A lovely post and I really appreciate the last paragraph. Those three darling dogs, the anticipation of tulips and dahlias and the way the light filters through are things to focus on to lift the spirits. Aroha nui

Diane Keanesays:

Oh, those long, lovely country lanes! Is it possible to miss a place you’ve never been to? Thanks to you, Ben, we can visit Dorset whenever we like and partake of the peace and calm the landscapes inspire.

My local classical radio station broadcasts the BBC news, for some reason. It is relentlessly unhappy-making. I don’t even understand what’s going on with Brexit now. As for this politics in this country, let’s not even go there. National Emergency, indeed!

I recall seeing Jasper’s & Oison’s house from a summer posting, when the base of their lovely front gates were lost in a froth of Santa Barbara daisies (I forget what they’re called in England.) I was inspired to plant some, and they’ve come back every year and quietly spread cheer around the garden. As your blog does in our lives!

Thank you, dear Ben and Charlie.

Hugs from Diane

Lisa D.says:

Oh Ben, what I wouldn’t give for a vacation/visit to your beautiful house in the country…sigh. Enid is adorable, and so are her sisters. How old is she? You’re certainly right about the news. I live in the states, and although the news is different, it’s really the same sort of thing. It’s so important to keep some sense of normalcy and serenity in our personal lives. Thank you for the lovely post

Your big brothersays:

I agree to a certain extent with not worrying about things outside your control, however try telling that to the 3,500 Honda workers who will be losing their jobs in 2022. Or to the Nissan workers in Sunderland… Then there’s insect die-off and climate change… Yes we can’t do much about Trump and Putin from the UK, but regarding other things, yes, I really think we have to worry about them, not just stick our head in the sand. We need to get angry and make changes ourselves where we can, and we need to demand that our government (if that’s what you can call it at the moment) does more. Having said that though, worrying about these things 24/7 isn’t beneficial…


Thank you for your optimism and the lovely photos of your dogs and garden. It’s made my day!


Love the look on the face of the young pretender! Re The News – Problem is remaining informed without becoming anxious/annoyed/bored/despairing etc. Solutions do lie in nature, nice things and people around one, and slower living if it can be achieved for a short while. Eg..a book on Dorset houses. Best wishes, Nicola

Clay McCleerysays:

One of your best, and beautiful, blogs ever!
Can’t wait for the book!
News. Who needs it! I haven’t had television for four years now, and life is much more serene.


I love the photo of Charlie with your three girls. You are now outnumbered!
I am British and I live in Italy with my Italian husband. Our three daughters are Italian/British but, especially after having lived for a while in Germany and in the States, they feel that they are citizens of the world. They can’t believe what is happening.


Peaceful and soothing. Thank you so much. Enid is darling!

Charlie The Tall Photographersays:

I SO agree with you about not getting too fret up about the news, if you can. There’s so much we cannot know about the future, so keeping a handle on what we do know, what we can do, and appreciation of what we have is so crucial.

And your beautiful little photographic journal of life lived with beauty is the perfect example of it.

Thank you for the reminder Ben.


How adorable is that second photo of Enid on the sofa – but that sofa! Fabulous, do you know what the fabric is please??

Thanks so much for continuing to provide a wonderful blog – looking forward to the Dorset houses book already…


Lovely photos, balm for the soul – and so agree with you about the news. If I thought listening helped, fair enough, but all it does is depress. So planting seeds, joining the Woodland Trust and getting together with family and friends it is then! Have a good week.


Enid is adorable! I discovered Ed Kluz on your blog and now own three of his works (and have his book). What a talent! Now after gushing, I’ll say that politics in America and the UK is depressing right now. But I believe staying informed AND working towards political change in whatever way you can will definitely make you feel better. Maybe almost as good as after reading one of your posts!


I do so admire your unflagging optimism,Ben. I will take your advice and concentrate on those things over which I have agency rather than the things outside my control. I can’t promise to unplug from the news entirely…. I literally grew up with it.
Also looking forward to the book on Dorset houses and your new book as well- I’ve been keeping a keen eye for it so I can preorder. Have a lovely week with your newly enlarged family, they’re a handsome lot.


thank you! for sharing your peace and happiness and the woofers! dear ben


I look forward to seeing your book on Dorset houses adorning my new bookcase.


Another lovely post as always.
Your advice about taking steps towards making ourselves feel better is so true.
This week after years of procrastination combined with difficulty finding someone to do the job for us, my husband and I at last took the plunge and built our own wall length built in bookcases! I then painted them.
They have been a complete success and I have no idea why it took us so long!, too much time watching the news maybe!,
Love Enid, the new family addition, may she bring you much fun.
Best wishes, C


Wonderful post. Enid is a marvel.

I particularly like your bit at the end. I recall in 2016 you said that everything will be alright. You have no idea how I have held onto that over the past couple of years. I absolutely believe you are right.

Tropical house. Just when I have been dreaming of something modest, you up the ante.


Dear Ben ,
thank you for all your beautiful photos, your new family member is so sweet & all the dogs are so lovely together ! Spring is in the air, every day more flowers can be seen, it’s amazing every year ! A great time , a new beginning ! But the News are terrible, I’m so hopeful that everything will end well, I hope ! Thank you for your words at the end of the blog, it’s really important ! Looking forward to the book of Dorset Houses next year .

All the best for you & your loved ones,
Your Birgit from Germany 🙂

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