I’ll admit, I woke up this morning feeling rather healthier than last Sunday.

That’s the difference between having the decoration office, and Mum & Dad, to stay at the Parsonage for a weekend. We had the quietest time imaginable but that’s not altogether a bad thing. In fact, it was a very good thing. I think this was a weekend all about ‘rest’. It’s all very well working; it’s all very well playing. But I guess what I probably needed right now is… something in between.


It really was a mad week – I can’t believe how time is flying right now. On Monday and Tuesday Rob, from the office, and I went up to our project at Cholmondeley. We’re designing a new Estate Village for the ancient castle there. It’s a wonderful, albeit rather eccentric, job to be working on. We were meeting locals for a two-day consultation on the scheme as designed so far. A talkative two days, and it was a tired pair of people who got back on the train at Crewe on Tuesday afternoon. We couldn’t speak another word.

The problem with Monday and Tuesday out of the office is that it feels like a very short week. Which didn’t help when I was out of the office on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as well.

So it was good to collect my parents from Dorchester station on Friday afternoon and get home in time for a cup of tea and a beautiful soft sunny Dorset evening, and to switch off. The valley is amazingly green. I think I say this every year. But it really is.

We had a weekend of doing nothing at all. Apart from a bit of gardening. Despite the fact that Mum and Dad both should spend a lot more time resting, they are both extremely unhappy unless given a task. And if they’re coming to stay for two days, you really need to save up tasks.

It’s been like this for years. Here they are working on the lawn, back in 2009:


when, incidentally, the vegetable garden looked like this:


Isn’t that crazy? So new, so much promise. Who knew what the veg patch would turn into five years later?

And yesterday, if you’d wandered down to the garden, you’d have found mum and me hard at work weeding.


Dad was taking a slightly more relaxed view of things:


And when I was looking back at a few old photographs of the garden, I found these from a couple of summers ago:

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Do you detect a pattern? Well, in fact, that’s a little unfair. Dad moved all my heavy cast iron cloches from one corner of the garden to the other, despite my protestation that it was not a good idea (it wasn’t a good idea, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Something else I have to factor in when Dad comes to stay).

Well, we had a very quiet time and a great catch up. And the garden was under control as well, which at this time of year is a slightly restful feeling all of its own.


My cabbages, for instance, are even netted (after last year’s caterpillar fiasco).P1040875 P1040881 P1040887 P1040879 P1040880

Everything is looking insanely green.P1040886

Globe artichokes were for dinner.

The irises are having a strange year – some on, some off. And by and large, it appears that the only plants in my garden which got the ‘let’s flower this year’ memo are purple ones. It’s rather strange, although just about holds itself together.  I think the borders need some slightly more aggressive work this autumn to knock them into shape.

So, this morning, we set off on a little visit to the Isle of Purbeck. It was a long time ago that I was asked to help design the new wings on the zaniest building I’ve ever seen in my life – the Manor House, in Studland, a rambling 19th century house, once the holiday home of the Bankes Family of Kingston Lacy, which for years had been a rather tired, rather run down hotel – then taken over by my client Robin Hutson, from over at the Pig in the Forest. The before and after shots will be crazy. Today was their opening – and the first guests arrive on Wednesday.

Here’s the house:


Do you see what I mean by bonkers?!? It’s mad. But definitely quirky. I love the ancient Purbeck slate roof.


Here is part of our new wing. Um, still being painted.


My favourite of all are the two little pepper pots in the walled garden. Still being thatched, as you can see. The garden is stunning. The vegetables go straight to the kitchen.

Meanwhile, the new gothick orangery is beautiful, with its purple and yellow restoration glass in the windows… Robin and Judy Hutson have cast their magic across the interiors. The place was virtually booked out within 36 hours – Robin had a wry happy smile on his face this morning when he told me that. Deserved.

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The first glimpse of the pepperpot pavilion from the lane leading down to the hotel.  Cute, quite literally.  And then we were on our way. Preparations were a little manic, and it was time to leave.P1040941

I dropped Mum and Dad back at the Isle of Wight Ferry to go home, and got back to London, and napped. What a beautiful afternoon it has been here.

So, really, it’s all been about three vegetable gardens this weekend. Here’s my tiny garden on the roof in London. I think just now it might be my favourite of all.

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It’s a bit crazy, and these are definitely the most expensive broad beans in history. But I’m very happy they are there. Almost as happy, in fact, as I am that we hadn’t had a crazy dinner party last night, and a huge crazy fun weekend, but went to bed at 10pm. What a difference a week makes.  I hope you’re feeling rested too.

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