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.


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.

Merne H Branscombe

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.


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


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!

Rosemary Beckham

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.


Diane Keane

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