Happy New Year

Can we wish all our couples past and future a very Happy 2019.

We celebrated by first going to a lovely service in St Catherine’s Chapel at Abbotsbury which sits silhouetted on the hill above the village. The church has no lighting so torches were vital but it adds to the wonderful atmosphere and the walk back down the hill to the village is magical.

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Belated Happy Christmas to you all.

Christmas once again brought the garden indoors with Allium heads sprayed red up the stairs and Honesty seeds in the drawing room.

We had cut some of the magnificent crop of holly berries in November and their red and green hue was echoed in the dining room decorations.

Our beautiful Christmas tree came from our favourite local Nursery Garden, conveniently situated over the river in Child Okeford. Oasis Plant Centre comes to our rescue many times a year, always having the perfect plant for a bare patch in the borders - 01258-861-325 - and there is the additional joy of finding Peake Perennials on the same site - Tel: 07708 872918 - who have some very specialist plants.

Autumn colours following the weekend storm

We returned from Cornwall to find the storm over the weekend had flooded the cellar, the boiler was out and one of our new olive trees had blown over.

However, the wonderful Autumn colours that had come to life since we left compensated for everything.

First major frost

First serious frost but all safely gathered in. So beautiful as the sun rose.

And then when the sun came up and melted some of the frost on the lawns.

Apple pressing

Our Bramley apple tree was laden this year. We were able to send some to the Food Bank, local Children’s Centre and the United Churches in Blandford who cook free lunches during half term and holidays as well as giving them to friends and storing some for ourselves!

Plus we had enough to make apple juice at our village pressing session when a lovely lady opens her house and equipment to anyone with apples to press. It results in many bottles of delicious juice, much stickiness and much fun.

Harvest Home

Pumpkins of every size and shape coming in to be stored for the winter with the added bonus of some edible lawyer’s wigs amongst them.

Catch up!

We have had our last wedding of the year - an incredible Steam Fair Wedding - story about to be posted.


Now the garden needs to be put to bed, with Jean and George our wonderful gardeners working really hard - roses pruned, long grass cut and fragile plants taken in to safety before the first frosts.

The garden continues to grow with the yuccas outside the stables sending up the most amazing flowers.

The spiders have also been busy! Their webs are so beautiful with the sun on the early morning dew.

New Suppliers from the Cheese Festival in Sturminster Newton

We went to the Cheese Festival last weekend - masses of wonderful cheeses and food but also three suppliers who we felt we would add to our Website.

The wonderful strains of 50’s and 60’s music drew us across the site to find Chrystal Ship playing. We sat in the sun for some time listening to the band and their new singing Patsy perform.



 Two caterers might be of interest too. A Pizza provider whose ovens are able to come onto the lawns - Dorset Pizza Kitchen - www.dorsetpizzakitchen.co.uk - and a gelato icecream bicycle machine selling declicious ices and sorbets from cones or tubs - info@ecco-gelato.co.uk/01935-813659

Past bride now making wonderful wedding cakes!

Katrina was married here in 2015 - a truly wonderful wedding and Katrina organised so much herself and even made her own wedding cake.  She has now set up her own cake business and I would really recommend it as her wedding cake was delicious.

Her passion is to produce hand made, bespoke wedding cakes using local and organic ingredients from Dorset based suppliers, for example her flour comes from the wonderful Stoate & Sons @ Shaftsbury flour mill, the butter & cream from Craig's Farm Dairy, Weymouth & the eggs from her very own free range chickens.


Amazing day with Mariel Hannah, US Photographer and her husband Abe


Emma Whicher, our incredible florist in the village - https://www.marthaandthemeadow.com - was contacted by the American photographer, Mariel Hannah, to ask if she could use her as the florist for the UK shoot she was planning as part of her European tour.  Emma very generously suggested that the shoot take place at Shillingstone House! See Mariel's other amazing photographs at https://www.instagram.com/marielhannah

They came in July and it was a wonderful experience - it was fascinating being able to watch how the shoot developped from the original ideas.  We have had to keep the photographs under wraps but can now share some of them with you.  The blog has some in-house pictures too but marked with a dot.

Emma had suggested that we use our summer house for one of the tableaux and she created in seconds a stunning pillar of flowers up one side.  She had sourced many of her flowers from our local trail way and even a few weeds from Lidl's car park - this foraged look is why Mariel sort her out.  She also made a beautiful tied bouquet for the bride to carry.

Victoria Fergusson had been brought in as makeup artist and hairstylist She is very experienced in this field covering Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset and further afield and was not put off by being asked to work her magic in the dining room of Shillingstone House. She had made some stunning jewellery specially for the shoot.  www.victoriafergusson.co.uk

Jess Johansen, came to model the Edwardian Style Jo Flemming Design wedding dress.   jessjohansen@jessjohansencurve

She was so lovely and seemed to work really well with Mariel and her husband Abe, understanding immediately what they wanted.  The dress was amazing and just perfect for the setting.   (https://joanneflemingdesign.com)

The sun was still too high to take photographs in much of the garden so Mariel and Abe started with the summer house shots where the sun coming in at an angle was perfect.

In the heatwave, Shillingstone House was surrounded by browned grass and scorched flowers, not the green grass and cow parsley that Mariel had originally wanted but she really embraced the surroundings.  I will never look at our long grass in the same way again!

And now for the amazing photographs that they took.

When Mariel suggested using an apple tree in the shoot, our's only had tiny apples on it but on the day it was perfect.  During the filming here they used some Shillingstone props - my grandmother's 1937 straw hat, her flower basket and Monty, my daughter's working cocker spaniel!  


And now for the real ones.

One of the scenes that Mariel wanted to create was a fully laid table.  Our weathered garden table and chairs were perfect and Emma and Victoria produced the props along with some of our plates.  The result, placed in the long grass by the Ha-Ha, looked stunning.

The shoot finished with some shots in the walled garden and by the big urn at the end of the White Walk. Once again Monty was included.  We had enjoyed every moment of the day and felt very privileged to be included.  Now we share the finished photographs with you.





Pre wedding preparations with a difference

Last week brought a steam roller to Shillingstone.  The marquee company for our next wedding were worried that the field was not smooth enough so the groom and his cousin turned up with a steam roller to flatten it.  It was not any ordinary steam roller though!  A taste of the wedding to come in ten days time?

Time for Apple Pressing again

Once again our lovely neighbour in the village allowed us to take our bags of apples to her apple press and turn them into apple juice.  A busy, sticky two hours resulted in two dozen bottles of delicious juice.

Firebrigade come to pump out the cellar

The first week of June brought the Fire Brigade to Shillingstone House to the huge excitement of our grand-daughter and her friends.

The wet winter had raised the water levels and the spring under the house had been working over-time and the cellar had filled with water.  The Sturminster Newton Fire Brigade agreed to come and pump it out as part of a training exercise.  Two engines were needed to give the length of hose required.  Our thanks go to them.