It was sort of a quiet weekend; sort of action packed. I’m sure you know what I mean. Friday started bright and early, with an amazing visit pre-gates opening to the Chelsea Flower Show, which could have been the blog all on its own… but I decided to save those photos, perhaps for another day.
Charlie headed straight down to Dorset and that afternoon I left on the train, weary after a rather full two weeks in London. The countryside was transformed in that fortnight into a vivid late-May bursting bright green. It was such a relief to be home.
Early on Saturday morning we headed to Bridport Market before the crowds of Bank Holiday trippers clogged the roads into our favourite little Dorset town. After breakfast at Soulshine we headed west. The clouds were clearing, sunshine breaking through, and I thought Charlie might like a look at the gardens at Forde Abbey.
The house is always closed on Saturdays which seems to be the only day I ever have visited, so I’ve yet to walk around inside. But the tiny chapel is completely perfect, and for now that’s enough.
The ancient stone porch is bowing dramatically. The curves are not from the lens of my camera. That’s how the building is. Every time I go, I wonder if it will be standing the next time I visit.
The view up the long avenue is sublime.
We encountered an ancient, perfect gardener working away at the borders. The bright green netting you can just catch a glimpse of is not quite my choice of plant support… It’s better to see this border in the autumn, when it is at its most remarkable. We’ll come again. Parts of the garden at Forde are as close to sublime as anything I’ve ever seen. I love these sculptures set against trees and wide, distant parkland, cattle grazing beyond.
Back in the beautiful kitchen garden, which will reach its peak in a month or two, we found this lovely lady gathering radishes and salad leaves. Perfect.
A glimpse into the greenhouse before we leave.
That evening we were bidden for supper at our friend Kate Hubbard’s, at her wonderful cottage down the valley from us. I’d collected our friend Maggie from the station that evening. We drove through eight-o’-clock summer haze to Chilcombe. The view down to the sea was perfect – as was dinner, and the company. Such a happy night.
It’s the moment in the year when, as my friend George said the other day, ‘Ben you can just write your cow parsley blog and move on’. Here’s a big bunch of cow parsley in the hall. Heaven. We were on our way over to our neighbours Jim & Nic for a Sunday evening drink.
A view on the way down into the garden… I bought those blue chairs from Christies South Ken a couple of years ago, and I realise time and again what that colour offers to the garden at particular moments of the day and the year.
More cow parsley, especially for George:
Jim and Nic live in the most beautiful lodge house, just across the lane, at the entrance to the village. Behind their house, they are making a veg garden, just getting going, neat as a pin. For now, an old barrel makes a sort-of-gate.
The view from their garden is, I think, about the most spectacular of any house in Dorset. The distant sea gleamed sliver-gold.
Clouds scudded across the sky; sun streamed across the valley; the landscape felt close to heaven that evening.
I suppose it is one of my favourite times of year in Dorset; so perfect to be happy settled in with our neighbours, and our friend Maggie (who was staying for the weekend) chatting into the evening as the sun settled in the west. We staggered home after too much hospitality. The garden glowed in the setting sun. As the sun went down, the whole house, garden and church glowed a vivid pink. I dashed out from supper to take one last photograph. It was that sort of a day.
Today, back to Mapperton, where (great treat) the house was open for a rare day – it is a wonderful house and a brilliant tour in the way that you can’t make up. On our way back to London we stopped for tea in Broadchalke. The owners of Reddish (Cecil Beaton’s old house) – seeing that I had put a photograph on the blog a week or two ago, had asked us over to have a look. Now that is a whole new world of six-degrees-of-separation. It is a beautiful, magical, dream-like house.
Bank holidays are strange, aren’t they? You take an extra day off…. and if you are anything like me you find you forget not only every piece of work you ever had to do, but probably your own name for good measure. “What am I meant to be doing today?” I suspect you might be asking yourself as you prepare yourself, a little bleary-eyed, for Tuesday morning and a shorter than usual week.
Well, if it’s any consolation at all, I’ll be saying the very same thing tomorrow morning. And dreaming of the weekend already.