One year later….


I’ve been thinking a lot to this time exactly a year ago; I’ll be honest, to the sense of total fear that I had, as I’d arrived in Dorset, physically and emotionally drained after four long days of preparing the office for the lockdown… getting to Dorchester on the Friday evening at the end of the longest week, arriving on a near-deserted train, to find Charlie (himself only just back from New Zealand) waiting for me at the station; back home, the lights were on, supper was in the oven, the house was warm and friendly but in our heart of hearts we were filled with worries and fears.

Days followed of phone calls with friends and colleagues; on the Monday evening, the Prime Ministerial announcement that the country was now in total lockdown; fear for jobs, livelihoods, our business, friends’ businesses; shops closed, the street closed, the architectural practice on hold and struggling to move thirty people to suddenly working from home; then the news that an old and much-loved friend had passed away, and a colleague from Lambs Conduit Street… It felt as if the world was closing in. 

In those days and weeks that followed, these hills – our daily, dawn walk – provided an extraordinary sense of calm in long days that were filled otherwise with intensity and troubles.

Gradually, things settled; gradually – and especially, I suppose, when we all began to digest the vast support the government was pouring into the economy – we realised that we could keep everyone employed, keep the show on the road, carry on paying bills because people carried on paying our bills; but that tiny sense of relief, the tiny shoots of hope were nonetheless filled with the sadness of relentless grim news and the sense and knowledge that so many were not faring so well; let’s face it, for so many families, and for so many small businesses up and down the land, the worries are no-where near over; in some cases just beginning again as small shop keepers, cafes, pubs and restaurants struggle to come out of lockdown and cope the uncertainties of how things will move forward – let alone children stranded from friends and struggling to get back to the rhythms of school; or grandparents still longing yet not quite yet able to see their grandchildren. 

For all of us on the street, I’d say, the sense of loyalty from our customers has been little short of amazing – and for Pentreath & Hall, I know that’s been the case. Bridie, Emily, Kinga and I have been so overwhelmed by the incredible support we have received from so many people in these last few months, especially round the hardest time just after Christmas when the shop was shut again, the street closed and dark, and trade is normally at its lowest ebb anyway. 

So, from the bottom of our hearts – thank you. As I wrote on my Instagram page over the weekend, I can’t help feeling that the road will still have its twists and turns ahead, but at least we can see where we are going.  I’ve been spending some time in London recently for various reasons to do with work, site visits and project meetings; and I’ve been away from Dorset for the longest time as a result. I can sense a feeling of energy about to burst on little Lambs Conduit and Rugby Streets – so many shops still sadly shuttered and barred, but I know that all the traders are itching to reopen in just a few weeks’ time now. That will be a beautiful moment!

And meanwhile – I haven’t blogged in weeks, it feels, and March is not quite but almost through. These are photos of recent beautiful mornings and evenings in the hills of Dorset…. every day getting that little longer until the Spring Equinox this weekend.  It feels as if we’ve turned a corner.

On days like these, with blue skies and sunshine for ever, the world viewed from on top of the hills feels timeless and settled in a way that belies the newspapers filled with turmoil and strife or the more artificial worries of Oprah. 

Shadows of the low slanting sun cross the landscape like drawings on a page. 

My desk for these last few weeks…

Some mornings have been bitterly cold, heavy frost in the ground….

Other days giving way to warm sunshine…
Very muddy walks…

Gentle evenings…

Early morning walks before taking the train back to London; 

On Friday afternoon, I got back down again, at last, after a long and exhausting week. I took the dogs for a circuit around the hills as the sun was setting. 

Suddenly an orange glow across hills and woodland….

The weekend weather has been grey and rather depressing; life feels listless and restless. We’ve been longing to make plans, to see family and friends, and especially to visit our little bothy in Scotland; I’ve been longing to welcome everyone back into the architectural practice again, to once again create that atmosphere of fun, of creative dialogue, of time and proper space to think – that somehow gets dissipated in a million screen calls? But these are all things that must wait.  Time moves slowly.

But at the end of the afternoon, the sun suddenly broke through.  Charlie’s vegetable garden sparkled, neat as a pin; the house and the church glowed. 

The greenhouse gleamed – Charlie’s happy place, filled with productivity. 

The house shone and the newly mown lawns looked neat and the cottage borders are bursting with life. 

It’s another good year for primroses. 

And as the sun lowered, the sky when the most beautiful rosy orange colour and the birds were singing like crazy things…. and it was hard not to be profoundly positive all of a sudden. 

We’re stretching our limbs again after what feels like one of the longest winters; let’s all hope for the happiest spring to come. One year on, it is time to pause for those that we’ve missed, and those that we’ve lost; time to reflect on what we’ve all learned; but it’s also time to concentrate on the future now, with vigour and energy and hope, and to remember that the world is an ancient place and the future has a distant horizon to come. That has been the message of nature to me, tonight.

33 comments on this post

  • Merne H Branscombe

    What a lovely post. I always look forward to it. A very upbeat one after the year we have had. Spring is showing itself here. The crocuses are up and provide a bit of colour in the drab winter-scape. I love your pictures and dream that perhaps on day I will take a walk there and meet the two of you.

  • Jean

    What a beautiful post filled with spring and hope. I felt transported and inspired. Your posts are always a treat for readers to savor. Thank you.

  • Deb

    What beautiful photos. We live in the loveliest of countries. I do hope we have a happy spring and summer. Best wishes to you both x

  • Rosemary Beckham

    You are blessed to bide a while in this beautiful, tranquil spot. It makes me feel so homesick for England!
    I love all your doggies too! Just imagine, there is no pandemic for them, nothing has changed, they just get on with enjoying all that life has to offer. We should take a lesson from them.
    Thank you so much for this beautiful, uplifting blog!

  • Diane Keane

    Fear Ben, thank you for another lovely post, a feast for eye and spirit. I think I channeled your mood right from the start. The photo of Charlie and the dogs treading the breast of the hill brought the thought: how long have men and women taken to the hills in just this way, seeking the benison of the natural world to ease heartache?

    Dogs, like children, know that mud is therapeutic! We look forward to seeing photos of you all at the bothy in the coming months.


  • Karen B.

    Your photographs and the story that accompanies each post are like a breath of fresh, relaxing air. Thank you for sharing your talent and tale with us.
    Best to you and Charlie and the dogs in the coming months. I feel like we’ve turned a corner here in the U.S.A

  • Janbelcher

    Ben, all these messages say it all. Great to see your back love to all your family.

  • Celia

    Thank you Ben, for your reflections on the past year and your wonderful photographs! Such a lovely post to wake up to and view.
    Take care and enjoy the freedom we are about to regain.
    With best wishes Cx

  • Darlene Chandler

    Ben so inspirational. Loved all of the pictures, Charlie’s greenhouse looks amazing and the garden is really coming to life. Loved to see the dogs enjoying themselves in the mud without a care in the world. Nice picture of your workspace at home with the sun streaming in. Let us all hope a new regeneration is coming this Spring. In Canada where I live we have had a week of glorious sunshine and people are venturing out to sit outside and enjoy seeing people, even at a distance. We are still under heavy lockdown, but just the thought of Spring and sunshine is so wonderful. I hope you will be sending us an Easter blog and pictures of the church and flowers. All the best to all of your shop staff miss visiting them all and their kindness when shopping. More to life then Oprah saga, so many lives affected, jobs, families in the past year. Those are the people to reflect on and the so dedicated health care workers who brought us through the dark times and their dedication. I rejoice them. The heroes of the past year.

  • Malcolm Pym

    Dear Ben, A wonderful post. Your words and pictures say so much and are always filled with hope in these troubled times. Fingers crossed , things will get back to normal soon. Thank you, once again, for your fabulous post.

  • southern gal

    another wonderfully soothing post.. so many photos that take me there … i feel i know that stand of trees on that hill afar… having seen it so often – and jealous of the garden. my wee garden in my new house (new old house circa 1898) is bare and full of my planters for now…. itching to get it going but too much to do in the house this year – will just plant annuals and plan for next year!

    so we start another year with vaccines and hope … and your blog to soothe us on our path.

  • Moira Bailey

    So grateful as always for your sharing Ben. Timeless and ethereal part of the world. Stay safe as always. I’ve missed the bothy too. xx

  • Jeremy Fergusson


  • Jo

    Ben, your post covers it nicely…..“HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL”.

  • Alexandra Bennett

    Dear Ben, Charlie, and the Sweet ones,
    Many thanks for this beautiful and heartfelt post.
    The year in review has been difficult, heart breaking for many of us. However we have been tested and will now thrive. Each generation has faced great challenges. The hard things to be overcome. This may well be the newest attempt to subvert the world. In Canada our view is of renewed hope. Perhaps with our winters we are used to isolation at times, and it builds character. The birds are also singing in PEI as I write this, and spring bulbs are seeking the light. :)
    Blessings Alex

  • Ann

    Beautiful post, as always…images and musings. I love that your Corgis have kept their tails!

  • Anne


  • Frances E

    I love looking at those dogs having fun! They are adorable and make us all glad to be living.

  • Teddy

    Thank you Ben, for the glimpse into your beautiful world. I read your writings and scroll through the pictures while I breakfast. You create a wonderful start to my day.

  • Bobbi Cross

    Dear Ben. Your lovely pictures and words are always inspiring. They have a transforming effect and it is a pleasure to be reminded life goes on, and that there is still beauty and wonder to behold. You have helped immensely over this insane year!

  • Clare Edwards

    A beautiful post well worth waiting for – a keeper to view again and again. Thank you!

  • Janet Daniels

    What a renaissance of a post. Such beautiful photos and hope for the future. Thank you.

  • Cydney O

    Yes, thank you for your beautiful, inspiring words and photographs. They are a gift to all.

  • Anita

    Dear Ben, Thank you so much for your lovely posts which have kept me going through lockdown. The pictures you post have made me notice far more in the countryside where I live. Simple things I took for granted before I don’t now. I embrace the changes and look ahead to better times.
    Wishing you and Charlie all the best for the year ahead. Xx

  • Deborah Wagner

    What a tonic of a post! Thanks, Ben. Always worth the wait.

    Our dog is so jelly of your dogs with all that beautiful muck—like a mud pack at a spa—and I am coveting your tidy desk with that stellar view.

    Upward and onward, indeed. I have a vaccine appointment, my husband soon to follow, and my parents are fully vaccinated and rejoicing that they, at 90 and 91, have come through it.

    Much to be thankful for.

    Hugs to you all,


  • Teresa Person

    I can almost smell and feel the cool crisp air… beautiful… thank you for sharing your lovely area

  • Tara Dillard

    Your photography skills entwined with all your other skills, timeless magic. Today, many looked like historic Wood Cuts.

    Appreciate your taking the time to post so many pics for us. Your thread of pics, becomes MY walk across hill/dale, with dogs, in potager, in the house looking out to views of……etc.

    Woven fencing at Charlie’s garden? Does it come in rolls? What is it made of? How long does it last? What are dimensions of the fencing? Where did Charlie get the long cloche, looks like plastic…..and oh so functional !

    Words & pics, always a respite. Every post you gift us.

    Garden & Be Well………….. Tara

  • Debra

    Dear Ben beautiful photos and narrative l can almost smell the wild garlic. I admire your optimism mine is less so but nature does have the ability to lift our spirits and give hope.Thank you for your wonderful blog it is always a joy even when life has its struggles.
    We were in Long Bredy one year ago and after an idyllic few spring days we left in a hurry when lockdown was announced with heavy hearts into the unknown.I will think of those who are not with us one year on and give thanks for all those who have helped us get through the last 12 months. God Bless Ben Charlie and all hope you have a happy Easter.

  • Lucy

    A wonderful blog. Your beautiful photos and soothing words bring much needed solace & your last line ‘the world is an ancient place and the future has a distant horizon to come’ will now be writ large on my pinboard! T h a n k y o u!
    Lucy, North London

  • Angie D

    Such a poignant and succinct post. Certainly a year like none other and how much are homes, gardens and animals have seen us through. Your photographs are Outstanding Ben and really capture the intensity of our present lives.

  • Henrietta Bredin

    Glorious pictures and hopeful words, hilariously cheery mud-spiked dogs and I now have a serious case of cloche envy

  • Henry Gillespie

    Dear Ben,
    Thank you for the truely inspiring post. The world is moving forward in a positive way and people have all pulled together to support one another. The photos are beautiful and your garden is well placed to greet spring.

    Best wishes,


  • Pierre B.

    Dear Ben, this is one of your great, great posts. Of course, we missed you, but there is more than that, much needed now: real hope.
    Never enough dogs as far as I am concerned – whereever they walk.
    The photos are stunning, should I say as usual? Thank you.

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