Buckets and Battleships in Dorset

We have just been down to our annual bucket and spade at Ringstead Bay in Dorset; we had the best weather we have had there in a decade and swam in the sea. We always have an annual craft theme with the children and this year was creating fine looking battleships out of drift wood, only wood glue used and only driftwood found on the beach; they are then ceremoniously put out to sea and bombarded with stones until they fall to bits or sink; it keeps some of us busy in the evenings anyway.

Actually, this year was uncommonly social as well, with a kind friend inviting us to a lunch and drinks, where we talked about Iran, Tuscany, Thomas Hardy and the brilliant bookshop in Sherborne (the lunch as held at a house where smugglers used to store contraband behind the genteel Georgian front, a story referred to by Hardy himself) . I called in for a quick drink in one nearby manor house which I had long promised to see on account of their new works, only to have my leg rubbed by the chatelaine: “just so the dog knows we are friends!”, it seemed to work the dog stopped barking and looking fearsome.

I visited quite a number of Thomas Hardy connected sites, including the ruins of Bindon Abbey, in a private garden, which provided the fictional setting for the burial of the Tess of the Durbevilles, and Max gate the rather modest neo Queen Anne he built for himself, in the manner of a modest rectory.

Back from Dorset and straight into the glamorous new offices on Southwark Street which certainly has “presence” to the street and an amazing roof terrace (pity I get vertigo or I would be up there every day spotting church towers). The Genius of the Place award for the best restored landscape is in full swing and I have started on the judging visits, including one moated manor houses of unbelievable loveliness, surrounded by new woodlands, handsome gardens and parkland with wildflower meadows; every window in the house showed something that had been lovingly planted and cultivated over the past two decades, it must be so satisfying to look out on your own creation in this way. It is also the perfect time to inspect landscape with everything just bursting into green.

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