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High Summer, already



Ben

It’s been a rare bank holiday of beautiful weather from start to end. When did that last happen?P1000065

Dorset has fallen headlong in to summer. P1000070 P1000074 P1000084 P1000086 P1000089 P1000092 P1000095 Our weekend began on Friday evening, as it will also end tonight, with a drink with our next door neighbours Nic and Jim.  There was the softest pink sunset as we made our way back home.
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On Saturday we got up bright and early for Bridport Market, and breakfast with Mavis at Soulshine. We popped into Beaminster, to the shop at Brassica, and to my sister-in-law Laura’s exhibition for Dorset Arts. She is very shy about her sculpture but will have to get a bit less so when her pop-up comes to Rugby Street in November.

And then, returning home after an already packed morning, we decided to go to Wilton. We called in on the way at a job I’m working on, a great Dorset mansion, a dream house – wonderful to see progress there as new owners bring life back to a sleeping beauty.  And then on toward Salisbury. It was years, in fact decades, I suppose, since I’d visited the great Palladian mansion on the banks of the clear-flowing River Nadder in Wiltshire, the ultimate arcadia. A blue haze filled the air and it felt, and smelt, like full-blown high summer.P1000143 P1000144 P1000145The house is beautiful, and architecturally magnificent, but a strange place to visit; cold, perhaps. One dreams of walking around in the late ’30s, deep in conservation with Rex Whistler, on a hot lazy afternoon, with a glass of lemonade or gin. The visitor experience is rather austere, by contrast. I wonder why?P1000146

The laburnum tunnel was a vivid shade of chartreuse, on the brink of bursting into flower.P1000160

The famous Palladian bridge was under scaffold, which I was sad about.P1000191 Roses baked in the forecourt.P1000194 P1000195

The drive cross-country over Cranborne Chase was somehow more breathtaking than anything we’d just seen in the darkly classical rooms. The air was hazy but you could see for miles, hills vanishing into blue mist. Luckily for all of us, Charlie didn’t mind stopping the car from time to time, pulling into verges overflowing with cow parsley.P1000204 P1000205 P1000211 P1000212 P1000213

We were on our way to Edward and Jane Hurst’s, whose idyllic house will take a starring role in my new book when it is published in September. On Saturday, in the heat of the late afternoon, that threatened to break into thunder but never did, we spend happy hours in the garden, completely beautiful.  Tea turned to wine, and better and better gossip.P1000249

We made our way home cross country, as evening fell. Mavis was exhausted after her day out but still had time to carry on digging her enormous hole in the garden as soon as we got home.P1000277 P1000278

Charlie’s Eremurus are going crazy. I suspect there will be about 500 in the garden next year.P1000283 P1000288 P1000290 P1000292

Sunday was the laziest day ever. We went nowhere. We woke early in the bright morning light, and took Mavis for her walk.
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The afternoon was as hot as I ever remember it being Italy, and we spent the entire afternoon on the grass terrace, rolling from sunshine to shade and back again…P1000316 P1000318 P1000319

…Occasionally popping into the kitchen for a snack or another bottle of beer. Heaven.
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Or for charlie’s scones (a small batch, which we devoured in seconds).
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We are about to repaint the kitchen walls in an extremely bright gloss yellow paint. It will be like walking into a boiled egg. Second down on the left is the final choice. Watch this space.P1000336 In the evening we had another Mavis stroll – luckily at this stage these are just up the road rather than for 8 miles –
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Past the cricket ground where the Scouts have had their campsite all weekend, looking like a scene out of Enid Blyton or Moonrise Kingdom:P1000344 P1000346 P1000348 P1000351Jane Hurst had told us, incidentally, why the verges are looking so beautiful in Dorset this year. It’s because of council cut backs – no more verge cutting on rural lanes. Heaven. So much more beautiful, and so much better for wildlife, and I am sure we will all naturally drive a bit more slowly because we can’t see quite so far around the corner. P1000354 P1000356 P1000360Needless to say we decided to pop into the Goodwin’s, whose house was buried in yet more clouds of cow parsley. More wine and chat.P1000361 P1000362 P1000367 P1000378 P1000381 P1000382 P1000395 P1000396 P1000401Home to roast chicken and bed. Happy summer days.

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