Lucy and I headed down to Dorset early last Friday morning - we were bound for Ben Pentreath's Old Parsonage. We spent the afternoon working (photographing a lot of antique furniture and eating strawberries on the go). Early in the evening, Ben arrived from Hampshire. We drank gin and tonics and chatted about our weeks, before taking a quick stroll down to the lake and around the village.
I hadn't visited the Old Parsonage for two years - a long time before I started working for Ben and just before I graduated from Saint Martins. It's heaven.
The twilight view from the village green across the hills was almost too much. Mist, light and shadow. Bridie and D. arrived later on; we ate supper and drank quite a lot of wine, before retreating to our bedrooms for a good, long sleep.
Saturday morning was spent in nearby Bridport - we collected supplies for dinner that evening, and I picked up a couple of books from the excellent old bookshop.
One of Ben's books, discovered in my bedroom, with its perfectly illustrated cover.
Ben's beautiful garden.
We headed off to Abbotsbury for lunch, where signs announcing how baby swans were soon to be hatching at the local swannery littered the entire village. Obviously I had to get down there pronto. We wandered over after lunch, and if truth be told, the place was more than a little odd. I have never seen so many swans in one place, and whilst they are naturally very beautiful creatures, I think their appeal lies in the fact that one only sees a swan every now and again - a swan is a mysterious, enchanting creature, to be spotted from afar, from a Palladian bridge perhaps, or from the other side of a misty lake. Seeing so many up close sort of shattered the illusion. Alas, we still had a very amusing time - one particularly hilarious moment involved an exceedingly large swan that outright refused to let us cross its path (we proceeded to run in the other direction). It was quite terrifying actually - aren't swans very good at breaking human limbs? I went away daydreaming about the eccentric King Ludwig II of Bavaria (often nicknamed the Dream King or Swan King) - a personal hero of mine due to his mad obsessions with beauty, castles and... swans.
We returned to the house and enjoyed a brief afternoon nap. For the rest of the afternoon the kitchen was a hive of activity; all hands were on deck as we got going with preparations for supper. I roasted chickens with butter and herbs from Ben's garden, D. made the most perfect, fragrant tarragon mayonnaise and Lucy assembled a salad of broad beans, peas, goats cheese and edible flowers. Bridie whipped up a wonderful meringue which we turned into pudding and served with passionfruit, mango, cream and ginger biscuits. We christened it the Dorset Mess. Ben had invited four friends over, including antique dealer Edward Hurst and his lovely wife Jane, a garden designer - we ate and drank into the night. Lots of fun.
A perfect moment just before our guests arrived - we sat in the garden with gin and tonics (yes, more gin), watching through the trees as the sun slowly began to set.
Sunday morning passed most gently, as all good Sunday mornings should. Eggs, bacon and coffee swiftly brought us all back to life and cured our slightly sore heads. We read the newspapers and meandered on down to the lake once more, via the sweet little church which sits at the end of Ben's garden.
Hazy weekend morning light.
D. drove us through the village to drop off a bunch of peonies at Anthony and Harriet's house (Anthony and Harriet were the other two guests at dinner the previous night). They have an incredible home. As in, absolutely incredible and completely wondrous. This is a corner of their entrance hall.
After a quick lunch of leftovers stuffed into sandwiches, we put the Old Parsonage to sleep and began making our way back to the city, taking a detour via Salisbury to visit a client. I love this quick snap of Duncan which I took in Ben's newly painted and really quite spectacular purple dining room before we departed. The intense colour has divided opinion - personally I'm in favour - it's magical after dark...
All in all, a sublime weekend. Thanks Ben!