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.


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

Henrietta Bredin

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,


Henry Gillespie

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.

Pierre B.

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