Out of the storm…

The rain lashed the valley on Saturday. A huge storm passed through. Any tree exposed to the wind has lost its leaves.  We stayed in bed late and got up for breakfast and stared out of the kitchen window at the foulest day you’ve seen in a long time. And, of course, we’d woken up to the news that a new lockdown was looming.

But by lunchtime the clouds were passing and we took the dogs out for a turn around the hills.

Sheep scattered on the hills.

Ivy is going in to flower now. 

We remembered this tree back in April and May, filled with blossom, bursting with thousands of bees. Now just a few wild apples hold on.

And as we climbed the Valley of the Stones, the clouds began to clear.

Within minutes we had blue sky and sunshine. 

The day was so warm, it almost felt like spring – as if we were looking at trees that were about to burst into new growth, rather than about to lose the very last of their leaves for the dormant winter.

The lake sparkled in late autumn sunshine…

The trees glowed…

And we called briefly into our little church, sunshine streaming through the windows.

It feels like such a strange time.

The house is under scaffold… the windows are being repaired and painted.

In the garden, Charlie has dug the first quarter of a new patch, getting ready for next year.  And today – again, sunshine and shadows, bursting across the landscape.
It’s hard to be optimistic at a moment like this.  Like tens of thousands of businesses, I’m contemplating this evening the measures we now have to effect, not only for the office, but for the shop, and so many of our neighbouring shops – just as we have been fine-tuning all our Christmas plans (if you don’t mind my being commercially realistic).

This time round, it’s a little less easy to see things in the black and white of the spring. The reality today of the best way forward feels more nuanced, grey-toned… but may I be honest too – I have no sense of panic, which I most certainly did in March (which I am the first to admit).  Today, it’s much calmer; plans are in place and we know what we are doing. But it’s no simpler.

Tomorrow, America waits on the brink of a generation-defining election. This blog is not the place for that, I’m afraid. Although I know many of my readers are American, I suspect they come here to escape the madness of events for just a moment, and to realise – as I do every week – the simplicity and permanence of the hills, of the landscape around us, which grounds us in a calm sense of reality.  But I will merely wish that great country, which I love so much, the best over the next few days and few weeks, hoping that their decision can be made clearly, and is calmly accepted by all sides, without fear or despair. I worry that my wish may be deluded, but I wish it all the more as a result.

Dark shadows spread across many countries at present, but all the more vital for all of us to realise the good things in life and love. I’ve always believed in the essentially true nature of man, and that for every bad person there are 10,000 good. So far my personal experience has never been proved me wrong; it’s just that the bad news makes for a more gripping story.  I can’t think of a more important week to remember this.



Thank you for the lovely pictures of the beautiful fall landscape, and the lake. Loved the picture of the dog entering the church. Can’t wait to see what Charlie plants next spring where he has newly dug the ground. I am sure your home will look amazing after all the windows are replaced. Yes, I know what you mean about Christmas, not far off and so sad this will be the first time in 20 years that I will not be able to come to London because of Canadians and quarantine and sad to hear about your lockdown and everything closed up again. I do hope spring will bring a brighter future for all of us and hope and peace of mind for everyone. And hope as you mention, to think about the love and good in many people. I will so miss your Conduit Christmas shopping event this year and all of the other venues, as many others will miss I am sure. As mentioned before the pictures of nature you have captured, seem to be flourishing in our hardship we are dealing with and give us hope. Thank you again. I look forward to pictures of your festivities for the Christmas.

Darlene Chandler

So delighted to hear that you are designing a house that James Ogilvy (my brother in law) will be designed the landscape around. A brilliant fit……. Will be interested to see who is chosen for the interior design element.

Charlotte Bowater

I am reading this is Brisbane and am so sorry that you have to endure another lockdown. I have family in England still. We emigrated in the 60’s and although I have lived here for over 50 years I still regard myself as British. Just as our First People have a spiritual connection to their landscape or ‘country’ I feel that connection to English landscape. I love your wonderful photos of the countryside and they definitely calm me in these crazy times. I believe we have varying circles of influence and I’m not stepping outside my immediate circle for any reason at the moment. Thank you for your calm and for quietly carrying on regardless.

Lindsey Back

Thank you for the calm your incredible photographs provide me. I’m an American and I love your country as much as my own.
I have always thought (like you) that good people outnumber the not so good. That keeps me optimistic.

Karen B.

Dear Ben thank you for lifting our spirits at a much needed time. Your observations of nature remind us to live in the moment.Well done Charlie for preparing for next year.You are so lucky to have the comfort and companionship of your dogs they help you get through tough times. Keep safe and well.

Debra Moore

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