4 July 2021
I can’t quite believe the whole of June has flown by like this? Can you? And I am sorry that yet again it feels that the blog, which I used to publish so religiously on a Sunday night or Monday evening, has somehow slipped into being a ‘periodical’ – a term that a friend recently put in my direction as the ideal description of something where you can’t quite commit to weekly, monthly, or quarterly….
The truth is rather a lot has been going on. But I’ve just had an enjoyable while, this evening, looking back at photos for the last month and it’s been a happy time. Slowly, grindingly, we are easing out of the lockdown – I can’t help but admit I am really hoping that things do finally lift on July 19th – let us see.
I. D O R S E T
This blog begins at the end of May at our friend Kate Hubbard’s garden – the beautiful farmhouse at Chilcombe where her mother still lives, and her late father, John, worked for so many years as an extraordinarily distinguished painter. For Dorset Arts Week, Kate and her brother Ed, were showing a beautiful exhibition of John’s paintings, in his studio. It was ravishing to see so many pictures together, and then to wander in to the garden of earthly delight, which John created over so many years on this Dorset hillside – its hedged ‘rooms’ filled with treasures.
We were the last car in the field when we left….
Heading over to Chris & Caddy’s for supper that evening. A familiar and welcome sight – one of the most beautiful farmhouses in West Dorset.
Which was filled with the extraordinary scent of her glasshouse sweet peas, already in flower.
Gardeners deep in discussion:
The pond that Chris and Caddy made just a few years ago now. I remember it going in, and feeling a little raw, the edge of the black liner waiting to be covered. Now it feels as if it has been here for ever, teeming with wildlife, a complete new ecosystem, a beautiful tranquil place. It is amazing to reflect on how quickly you can make a patch of earth a better place.
The next day, in brilliant sunshine, we were at Julian & Isabel Bannerman’s for lunch in the garden. Heaven on earth, as always.
Talking of how quickly bare earth can be made beautiful, this garden is one year old. That is the touch of the incredible Bannermen.
Julian and Isabel’s guest cottage which they have moved into while structural works happen to the house. Then you can rent this beautiful little place to stay in…. watch this space.
Back home, and I had a few days in Dorset while Charlie headed to Wisley to volunteer with the National Dahlia Society. I was working down here, and looking after the dogs. A good place to be that particular week of basking sunshine.
The days were long and clear. Some mornings, the atmosphere had shifted, but summer hung dreamily in the air.
II. H A M P S H I R E
In high June, I went over to stay the night with Kim Wilkie and Pip Morrison at their astonishingly beautiful farmhouse in Hampshire. The garden was recently published in House & Garden. It was looking incredible in the evening golden glow, as we walked around each area before supper.
Kim and I were working together the following day, and that evening we were at a wedding of friends in Hampshire. The happiest time. We rolled away on the Sunday…. Charlie was heading back to Dorset, I was back to London – but first we went to beautiful West Dean Gardens, in Sussex, together – something that had been high on our list for a long time.
The walled garden was incredible – like nothing else I’ve seen in a long time. I need to read the history of the garden’s restoration in more detail, but every last detail was impeccable, in perfect order, without in any way shouting. No fuss, no complications, no frills: quiet perfection.
The fuchsia house…
The vine house;
Vine houses from the lower double border….
Just glimpses of the whole place tell you how extraordinary it is. Do visit. We can’t wait to come back.
That evening, late, and very early the following morning, I was taking photographs of one of my favourite projects that we’ve designed in the office these last 15 years. I knew the light would be perfect, but who could imagine how wonderful the garden would be looking at that moment – my brilliant, green-fingered client creating the perfect frame for the house. This wing was entirely new – completed about ten years ago now. First light in the yew garden – white alliums looking like giant dandelion clocks…. I felt like Alice in Wonderland as the sun rose that morning.
III. L O N D O N
A London interlude. We’ve been keeping the office open on a fairly limited staff since the spring; so I’ve been spending some time here in Dorset, some in London, as needs be. The following morning, in the heat of full summer, I woke incredibly early and went for a walk down to the Thames.
I’ve noticed many times recently how mirror-flat the water can be on windless mornings and evenings, without the usual boat traffic churning everything up. Just like those famous paintings by Canaletto.
Back to Dorset – a lovely weekend with Bridie and Lucy staying. We didn’t do much at all, walks, lunch with a friend, staring at the rain – the weather had broken. I cannot say how good it feels to do very quiet, normal things again. Charlie’s ‘allotment bed’ as it’s become christened, is in full productive leaf.
IV. S C O T L A N D
And then, final piece in the composition of June – last week: Scotland. After a fairly intense week in London, I jumped on the train early last Saturday to Penrith North Lakes. A minute before the train rolled in, Charlie and the dogs had arrived at the station, having left Dorset early that morning. Serendipitous travel is good, when it works. We had a brilliant rest of the journey round to the bothy, arriving in the afternoon, as the sun shone and sky cleared, and we went for a walk round the peninsula to look across to Jura. Here is our neighbours’ beautiful little cottage on the headland…
Fields filled with orchids, and hundreds of wild flowers.
So good to be here again. The first evening is something of a ritual now.
A walk up the hillside – our own orchids!
The following evening we had our friend Ruth (aka the Bible of British Taste) around for supper. The light glowed golden pink… it basically doesn’t really get dark in Scotland at this time of year…
A couple of mornings later, I woke incredibly early, before sunrise…. the landscape was extraordinary and mysterious. I couldn’t help but get up and drink it all in.
We took ourselves off on a massive trip of discovery that day, under clear blue skies – Kilmartin:Where ancient standing stones, 5000 years old, mark the solstice sunrises and sunsets with remarkable accuracy; and tombs and stone circles abound. The first inhabited place in Scotland after the last ice age. Standing by these stones makes you think quite profoundly about time, and our place within it.
The two stone circles, also about 4000-5000 years old.
Then down to Skipness, and the Seafood Cabin…Beautiful views down to a sparkling Isle of Arran:
We explored around Kilberry, finding ancient tombs and beautiful farms and beaches, vowing to return soon.
And home, to our own side, looking across the Sound of Jura….
The dogs having the best time ever…
Our happy place.
From the west, I took the train over to Aberdeen and up to Elgin, where exciting projects are afoot, and then to Tornagrain, the new town we have designed in the highlands where lots is happening at the moment. That could be a blog in itself, but it’s time to stop.
I’ll admit, it was a fairly exhausted me who got down to Dorset late on Friday evening. Charlie scooped me up from the Dorchester train at 10 o’ clock. But it was worth it.
I suspect you’ll be fairly exhausted too, having reached the end of a months’ worth of travels – for which, apologies.
Have a peaceful week, and keep well.