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.


37 comments on this post

  • Darlene Chandler

    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.

  • Charlotte Bowater

    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.

  • Lindsey Back

    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.

  • Karen B.

    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.

  • Debra Moore

    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.

  • Meridith Moore

    Yes I do go to your blog for peace and a reminder of the beauty in the simplest things… which you so well share. Terrified of what tomorrow may bring… the world waits on the brink of change. Thank you for your blog and the respite it brings.

  • Virginia

    Thank you so much for your beautiful message and lovely, lovely photographs. As an American, I yearn for the calm and serenity of your beautiful country side photos. May peace prevail.

  • Lisa D.

    Just beautiful. I know I say that every time I read one of your posts, but it bears repeating. Yes, politics in the US are so unpleasant, that I sometimes think about leaving my own country. I’m not sure where I would go, but the English countryside would absolutely be my first choice.

  • Timothy Van Dam

    Dear Ben and Charlie,
    Just in the nick of time, to get us through the next days, your missive arrived. Your wise words are always a calming balm. The election has been excruciating, and it helps to know the rest of the world is thinking of us. And we, in turn, send you best wishes as you head into another lockdown. I was happy to see Charlie looks toward the future, laying out new planting beds, which is what we try to do, in our own way, in our own corner of the world.

  • Louise Stobart

    Our thoughts go out to all of you in England, and thank you for the beautiful evocative and gentle photographs which give pleasure to so many. Here in New Zealand we are fortunate to be living so freely for now, and perhaps a reminder we should not be taking this for granted. We are living in extraordinary times and now the human species is paying for crimes against the planet. Please keep reminding us of the balance we need to recreate.

  • Jo

    Good morning Ben, thank you again for such inspiring views with so much beauty. As an American, you are right about these indecisive times……things come and things go…..but God’s true beauty never fades.

    thanks again


  • Elizabeth

    I really think that there is so much that creation offers us more then we can understand .It really is the true world that we live in.There is a natural sense of rythm in it that makes sense. Gives us HOPE for the future and my the leaders that are called to make decisions remember that. The People who live in peace have a future.

  • Christine Coulson

    May the 10,000 good all be inspired to VOTE. 🤎

  • LIllian sHarp

    Indescribably beautiful as are your thoughts. Thank you.

  • Jane

    Thank you for your lovely pictures and your thoughtful observations. It is indeed a welcome respite, scrolling through your pictures, recalling my time not so long ago, although it feels like a lifetime, visiting Dorset. Your thoughts for those of us here in America are so appreciated. We all look forward to more peaceful and healthy days ahead for us all and for the time when we can wander the English countryside once again.

  • jean clapp

    Thank you, Ben, for your magical photos and thoughts. Reading your blog connects me with the beauty and serenity of nature. I am fortunate to live on an old farmstead in the Green Mountains of Vermont – Cumbria would be my first choice, maybe in my next incarnation. I await with anxiousness the road ahead, stuck in limbo and held hostage by he who shall not be named. The forrest is my refuge, as are your beautiful hills and the Scottish sea.

  • Liza Vandermeer

    The corgi going to church is my very favourite image of everything I have seen this week.

  • Emmy Gainey (USA)

    Thank you for being you! Thank you for your wonderful blog! It is like a cozy spot to which I can escape during these trying times. I practically clap my hands in glee when your blog arrives!

    I wish the best for you and your country, too.

  • Ann

    Thanks Ben for your calming and serene photos of your beautiful countryside, they are really appreciated along with your hope for peace here as we await the election tomorrow.

  • Teresa Person

    What a beautiful place to be locked down in

  • Alice

    Thank you, Ben, for your best wishes for the US…we need them. And I wish your great country the best as you go through your own uncertain times. I’ve begun to take your philosophy of focusing on the things within my control in earnest and it definitely helps keep life in perspective. I get up, fasten my seat belt, and go about the day as gratefully and as gracefully as I can! xo

  • DAna jEnkins

    You’re right. We don’t come to you for political choice but we do come to you as a well of calm and hope that all will work out. You never fail us on that front. I hope and pray that we measure up and that globally we beat this virus so we can come to England again soon…and hold our heads up when we get there.

  • Deborah Wagner

    I have never seen ivy bloom before, and I now realise it never occurred to me that it did. A big gap in my powers of observation has been filled. Thanks for that nugget of information.

    We will get through this.


  • PAtricia Nolen

    Thank you for being the calm and beauty during this difficult time for us in the US

  • Melina Blaxland-Horne

    Beautifully photographed and said Ben. You always speak from the heart to our hearts ♥️ There is indeed more good than bad in this world and that is how I choose to think of it too xxx

  • Billie Oakley

    Thank you Ben for the glimpses into your beautiful world. Yes, we are worried in the United States, but most of us have faith in our resilience as a country. Stay safe and please continue with your wonderful photography which is such a relief in this pandemic.

  • Christopher Wilson-Tate

    Beautiful and uplifting post as always Ben, very much required today thank you

  • Wendy

    Lovely as always, Ben.

  • Kay

    Thank you for your blog, thank you for your good wishes for us over here, and I send mine back for you all as we navigate this winter. Peace and good health.

  • Peter Williams-chanot

    Loved your photos nice part of the country to live.

  • Celia Slack

    Certainly inspirational Ben. Thank you. You are so lucky your church is open! I wish ours was. Cx

  • Jane Kaula

    It does seem strange that at the start of this normally insignificant week that so much is now going on. Thank you for putting all our worries into perspective

  • Helen Bainbridge

    It was so lovely to read your gentle, compassionate thoughts this morning. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by the divisive news on these shores and across the pond. Your reflections have restored a badly needed sense of proportion.
    Thank you Ben

  • Christine

    This American thanks you for the hope and peace your writing and photos always leave me with.

  • Hanna

    I’m in America waiting, waiting — and I checked in this evening to see if you had a Sunday post up. It’s the perfect antidote to reading election news. Thank you for always providing a dose of beauty and calm.

  • Pam watson

    Oh Ben,
    Those green rolling hills filled with sheep. I feel sometimes I belong there or have known them in another life.
    The election here hangs over us like the Sword of Damocles. This is no way to live. I, like many others, have never experienced such traumatic political nastiness.
    I appreciate the peace conveyed through your photographs and your belief in the goodness of men and women.

  • Peggy

    Thank you, Ben, for taking us on your walk again. Sometimes I think if I was blindfolded and dropped in front of your church I could confidently traipse those hills! Wonderfully familiar yet unknown. Odd.
    Yes, we Americans are voting and holding our breath. Not much longer.
    I"m so glad this blog isn’t the place for that . . . it is a place for peace, beauty, travel and dreaming.

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