An Easter of hope

Ben Pentreath

It has been a beautiful weekend - I hope you have had a very restful, happy Easter. Spring has arrived in Dorset. The air has been filled with birdsong each morning; the evenings are getting lighter; the garden is bursting with blossom and life again.  As we begin to turn a corner from the darkness of the pandemic, it literally and figuratively feels like a time of deep redemption. Sunset on Good Friday.... Charlie's beautiful new garden for growing flowers and veg for the show bench is finished and ready to go.  Easter Saturday was cold and breezy.... we went for an early morning spin around the hills. We came back via the church.  I wanted to take some photos because this week we are launching a new fundraiser for the church windows. Three years ago, you may remember, we had a huge appeal for our church roof which was in need of complete repair and overhaul, a huge task and a huge sum to raise. The world of this blog and of instagram was incredibly, hugely generous in helping our tiny village here to raise funds to commence the project - and two summers ago, the church roof was beautifully repaired by Simon Crumbleholme, a local builder, and his talented team. Now, we need to repair the windows. We've known about this for some time but last year the Quinquennial Inspection (that is, the church fabric inspection done every five years) has highlighted that the windows are at the moment where they need to be carefully looked after now, or face a much more massive problem in a few years time. The problem is that the stonework is disintegrating; water gets in, the iron fixings are set directly in to the stone, and rust; the lead moves, and more water gets in, and it becomes a self-fuelling problem that spirals out of control.  Each window is going to cost about £6000 to overhaul and repair, and there are 5 major windows to tackle. It's a big task.  If you've enjoyed this blog over the years, I would be incredibly grateful if you would consider donating any sum, however small or large, to help. I've set up a justgiving page here which would allow you to donate to the window repair fund, and I am also pledging that our the architectural practice is going to donate match funding for whatever we raise. It's such a hard time to ask for anything, but I am just conscious that in our tiny community, where so many people have so many other things on their plate to deal with at the moment, sometimes it's as good - if not better - to reach out to the wider family of friends and readers of the blog, and Charlie's and my followers on instagram - for help when we need it. I hope you won't mind if from time to time over forthcoming weeks I mention this appeal... it's very close to my heart to get these beautiful windows repaired for the decades to come.   Later that afternoon we went to visit my clients up in North Dorset at their beautiful house which we're helping them with, and I couldn't resist posting this photo of the ancient garden shed they have uncovered in an overgrown corner of the garden. Magical.  We got home in time for sunset.  The churchyard, next to our house, is filled with primroses - a magical display this year. Easter flowers in the churchyard. Easter Day dawned bright and clear and cold.  After tea (and eggs) in bed, we set off in bright sunshine for a walk... The air was cold and clear.  Not quite sure how I managed to snap this moment but it fairly much describes our walks every morning!  The sun is still low and slanting at this time of year - revealing the geography of time and place and man on this wonderful landscape.  Everything is springing into life. Charlie's flowers on the altar of the church.  Breakfast in the garden. It was that warm! We had a fantastic Easter Day, the church was reopened and we held our first service of the year - singing a hymn out in the churchyard.  And then up to my brother's family for Easter lunch in the garden - hot, hot sunshine. Back again for an afternoon walk... Animal tracks make this extraordinary pattern of ridges on the edge of the chalk hills... But in the valley we normally walk down, we took a slightly different route, staying on the high ground and looking back west.  Majestic hills hang like folds of ancient cloth. And there, which we'd never seen before, the shadow of an old field enclosure, which I presume to be very old indeed.  We've walked this way a thousand times, but never from this spot at this time of day at this time of year.  New things reveal themselves every time you look.  The crab apple tree is about to burst into leaf.  In a moment's time, it will be in flower.  The blackthorn is out everywhere. And home, to sunset on a magical day.  I hope you have had a peaceful Easter - what a year it has been since last Easter.  Let us hope the worst is passed and a corner is turned, and that together we can enjoy a beautiful spring and summer. And thank you, in advance, if you are able to make a small donation to the church window fund - I launched the appeal on instagram this evening and the results are already overwhelming.

17 comments on this post

  • Helen Young

    I am a keen reader of your blog posts and am also, like so many here, from Canada. In addition, I own a home in Barnard Castle and am thrilled to see you will be part of the Raby Estates developments. I know with projects like this there are always gloomy prognostications of ruining the character of the countryside, but reading your blogs for years, I know the glorious landscape of Durham is in very safe hands indeed. I am right on the Tees (when I can get there) and will watch with great interest as both Gainford and Stanhope become more beautiful under your care.

  • Iris

    I just wanted to say that I have been reading your blog for years and its just gives me so much hope and pleasure reading your posts and seeing your beautiful photos of your life, garden, Charlie’s garden, your pets and how you write about love, life and the world. Your photos are truly beutiful, always, and they just makes me feel good . My favourite qoute is : “When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden.” — Minnie Aumonie Have to include there is always your blog and Charlie’s s Victoria Sponge. (photos of it :) ) Sad I have read that the Melplash show is cancelled this year.
    Have a lovely day. Iris

  • Sally Secrest-Stotler Leonard

    Ben, although you’ve reached your fundraising goal, I just donated in case costs go over for repairing those beautiful windows! You and Charlie and your posts are true treasures.

  • Darlene Chandler

    Such beautiful pictures of your wonderful Easter weekend. So nice to see the new garden and all of the lovely flowers and the pictures of the church and the flowers that Charlie arranged on the altar. So nice also that you were able to have breakfast out in your yard, and visit family. Thank you for the information on donating for the church windows. We have headed in Ontario Canada back to a very severe lockdown just before Easter and so happy to hear that England has some shops and restaurants opening and progressing. Our numbers are devastating this past week. So happy to have these pictures and your flowers and gardens to show the beauty in other parts.

  • Flora Lontou

    I loved the small iron garden gate and the flowers on the altar

  • Stella Trainor

    Magnificent! Thank you for taking us along. (I have made a note re your windows — our little community has a small old stone church as well and caretaking is an undertaking indeed.)

    Sutton West, Ontario

  • Lindsey Back

    Hi Ben. Thank you for transporting me to Dorset and your magical landscape. We have heard here in Brisbane that Prince Philip has died, I surprisingly feel much sadness as if it’s the end of something comforting and enduring. Maybe it’s Covid where although we have so far been fortunate, the virus hangs over us like the sword of Damocles and here now today we have lost another constant another reminder that life moves on regardless. So particularly today I am revisiting my childhood in Sussex, remembering lining up with our flags to pay our respects to our monarch and Prince Philip as she flew past in a big black car! Your blog speaks to that peculiarly Britishness that I hold in my heart. Thank you.

  • Malcolm Pym

    Hello Ben and Charlie, I am so envious of your part of the world. The ancient flowering trees, the cows in the fields, the beautiful church and your wonderful home and garden. As I read ,I am filled with peace and enjoyment. It’s your appreciation of all things that are great in this world that makes it so. Thank you.

  • Carol Young

    Dear Ben, What a great week! Not only a new blog from you (which I’m sure I’m not alone in always awaiting with squirming anticipation), containing another heavenly selection of life-enhancing photos, but also a new entry from Ruth at BOBT to drool over. Has life anything nicer to offer right now? As you yourself might say, “No it does not”! I’m already longing for your next blog and hope you, Charlie and the girls might have managed to get back up here to Scotland to check on your little burrow. Perhaps we might even be allowed another peek inside?

  • Judith

    O, I wish I could be in England now that April’s there! Thank you for your wonderful blog; full of hope and beautiful photos.
    Will gladly donate to the Church windows as they are so special.

  • Malcolm Pym

    Thank you Ben, for another very interesting post with wonderfully peaceful photos. Charlie’s new garden area looks very promising , so I can’t wait to see all the flowers he’ll plant blooming. I am so envious of his Dahlias.

  • Dana

    When I am able to visit England, and especially during the past year when that wasn’t possible, your blog is always a joy. I would subscribe if necessary but instead I have the pleasure of helping your church. So happy to do it.

  • David Wenlock

    Ben, you’ve captured the Easter weekend beautifully! When you next take your camera to your local church I’d be very interested to see how your community manages churchyard signage. My own country church in Shropshire, dating back to 1086, has an ongoing challenge to minimize the use of plastic laminated notices in and around the building, whilst continuing to communicate essential information to visitors. We’ve managed to replace some of the signs with small hand-painted wooden ones – or remove them completely! – but we still don’t have a satisfactory solution for many of them. Any inspiration (divine or otherwise!) would be appreciated! David

  • Liz Allen

    I have long enjoyed your posts (Blog and Instagram), Charlie’s also, but have to say that this year they have become more meaningful as we have weathered this sci-fi show we are all trapped in taking us along on your walks vicariously. My girlies and I were to visit your part of the world last year to celebrate some birthdays, retirements and many years of friendship. It was cancelled thanks to this pandemic. So no in-person visits to your wee-church, nearby towns, markets, pubs, long enjoyed in pictures. One day… (sound a bit like stalkers, sorry about that, trust me we are a good bunch and good for a pint…)
    In the interim as Ontario enters yet another lockdown thanks to the ever increasing numbers of variant cases of this virus, I know I will be scrolling through Instagram and looking forward to emails in my inbox full of corgis, gardens, explosions of daffodils and other Spring delights. Can’t wait to see the church windows restored in person one day. Cheers!

  • Christina Sharp

    So enjoy your blog and photos, thank you. I was wondering if the rectangle you saw in the landscape might have been evidence of a building rather than an enclosure? Unless you know better…………?

  • Sophie

    Amazing primroses and blackthorn, and I love the simplicity of the little church and Charlie’s vases of flowers. So perfect for Easter. Fascinating field enclosure. It is amazing how the Dorset landscape speaks of time past. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Patricia Childs

    Dear Ben, your magical photographs and musings are a delight which I so look forward to. We’re having unseasonal weather for autumn and tomorrow will be a 28deg day.

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