Pottering about in West Dorset

After the washout of the Bank Holiday weekend in Cornwall…. enjoyable as it was…. it was nonetheless rather a rare and lovely feeling to be arriving in Dorset on Friday evening with the forecast of hot sunshine all weekend.  Zoe from the office, my right hand person (although she sits on my left, as it happens) was coming to stay and we caught the train from Waterloo with that wonderful sense of relief that only Friday afternoon can really bring. We arrived just in time for the social club committee meeting, planning the events for our Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations next month. It didn’t take too long to sort the logistics of Victoria Sponge baking competitions and dog parades before we settled into the usual committee banter which rapidly turned into a fascinating discussion of ‘IN’ or ‘OUT’. Opinion was divided.

Maybe as a result the committee meeting wasn’t quite as raucous and dangerous as usual and we woke up bright and early on Saturday morning (thanks to Mavis) without feeling too ill.  But it was very grey. Where was the sunshine? We headed in to Bridport for the market and breakfast at Soulshine.

We were overwhelmed by the blossom in the churchyard next door…P1000576 P1000578 P1000579 P1000581

Mavis (who is growing up fast) enjoyed visiting the Bridport Community Allotments and orchard, next door…P1000586 P1000589 P1000590

And then we went to Forde Abbey to look at the gardens there. Sunshine breaking through.P1000599 P1000607

Tulips were in full force, looking magnificent.
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The walled garden is one of the most beautiful places I know. It feels like one of those gardens that have been in continuous production for centuries. P1000619 P1000621 P1000626

Incredible to see black bearded irises flowering already….P1000627

Passing through the walled garden the tulip dial was turned to mental.P1000630 P1000631 P1000633 P1000636

Incredible.  The contrast with the old monastic Dorter Range was serene…. grey walls with wisteria waiting to burst.P1000641

A glimpse into the chapel window, showing the oculus beyond:P1000644 P1000646 P1000648 P1000649 P1000654

We often see this wonderful gardener at work, when we visit, and wonder if he has any help:P1000655

Orchids in the meadow:P1000660 P1000663

Cattle in the avenue:P1000668 P1000669

Insane auriculas in the rock garden:

More tulips:P1000676 P1000677

We left and meandered cross country to Beaminster. We went for yet another fantastic lunch at Brassica. If you ever are coming to West Dorset, make sure you eat here. It’s the absolute best, every time. P1000684

After lunch, a little walk:P1000685 P1000686 P1000689 P1000691 P1000696 P1000697

Next door to the restaurant is the excellent and beautifully well-curated ‘Brassica Mercantile’ which is full of things you couldn’t buy anywhere else for a radius of  100 miles. Probably not, in fact, until you get to a certain emporium in Rugby Street, Bloomsbury….P1000698

And then we were popping over for tea with my brother and sister in law Jon & Laura. It was my goddaughter Daisy’s birthday. Really we were there to pick a couple of kittens. Daisy’s cat just had a huge litter. Tea turned to drinks.

I designed the stone bay window which we built five years ago – turning an otherwise dark room into a much lighter space that connects into the garden with a huge south facing bay (and making a tiny upstairs bedroom a lot larger at the same time)… a simple but effective extension. It’s mellowing in nicely now.

Eventually we wound our way home and had a happy supper and an early bed, having been out and about for what felt like a very long day.

On Sunday the weather was bright and blue and breezy and we couldn’t resist a trip to the seaside.  On the way we bumped into our neighbour Harriet and Evie, doing the cattle. Harriet used to be my landlady before I moved to the Parsonage!   She is rarely out of pearls and dungarees. P1000710

Harriet’s beautiful Longhorns have had 12 calves:P1000711 P1000712 P1000714

Mavis had quite an admirer….P1000715

And then to Lyme Regis.  We walked past the beautifully restored Landmark Trust house, Belmont, which we’ve been watching for years. All done, and looking very fine.P1000724

Seagull settling in on the parapet:P1000726

More classic English scenes at the harbour front:P1000734

We were taking Mavis for her first trip to the seaside.  She wasn’t quite sure about getting in the water. Waves are still a bit scary.P1000736

A lovely walk out on the cobb:P1000737 P1000739 P1000745 P1000746 P1000747

The small town below; vast Regency villas on the wooded hillside above. Lyme is a perfect town.P1000749

Boats this way and that at low tide:P1000751

The beach was packed. Heaven.P1000755 P1000757 P1000759 P1000762 P1000763

And after fish and chips on the front, and a walk up through town, we made our way home.  Charlie and Zoe were heading back up to London, and unusually I had a night at the Parsonage alone, because I’m working down here tomorrow. It was the stillest, softest evening. The garden is the most intense green just now.P1000775 P1000776

Charlie’s cleared out the tulip beds, ready to plant dahlias…P1000779 Maybe it was the amazingly hot weather; but it feels as if we are drifting into summer.  This year, we’ve decided not to go away. We’re going to be spending as much time as possible down here.  After a weekend like this, I have to admit I can’t wait.

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