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 - - and a gelato icecream bicycle machine selling declicious ices and sorbets from cones or tubs -

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 - - 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

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.

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.   (

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.


Garden in June

Our work is paying off and the borders are crammed with flowers topped by roses.  Our new supports from Snape Supports at Snape Cottage near Bourton are proving invaluable.  Usually we can make hazel supports in the Winter but this year it was too wet to get onto the flowerbeds.  ( )

Our incredible Himalayan Musk rose is now spilling over the garage roof as well as the old greenhouses. 




Chestnut tree has to be felled.

With huge regret I have to tell everyone that the big chestnut on the tree had to be felled last month. Without warning, one side fell onto the flower bed below and the tree surgeon said that it was unsafe to leave standing.  It was in full flower and looked magnificent.

We had a wedding the following week so all hands on deck to restore order.  A huge pot was moved from elsewhere in the gardens, structures were made for the roses and new plants found.  

Once we had got beyond mourning the tree which gave us such wonderful shade for lunches and for weddings a place for babies to sleep, grandmothers to sit away from the sun or keep drink cool we realised that the view across to the Gazebo was lovely and now hardly miss it.

Shade can now be provided by our two new garden sails from Lidl in Blandford.  They are bigger than they look below and would easily take a table of drinks.  Michael can stand up underneath and he is six foot three.


Easter at Shillingstone

Easter is celebrated at Shillingstone with Easter Trees and ancient cardboard eggs filled with small presents.  Even our egg hunt does not feature much chocolate as granddaughter is not allowed anything sweet.  Michael and I, however,  seem to have accumulated a pile of little eggs to eat!

New pots for the garden

Winter is the time for refurbishment although this winter has been challenging as the lawns have been to wet to walk on  and we have had two loads of deep snow.

We added some box balls in pots to the rose border to give some interest for our wedding in January.  We thought they looked so good that we have bought some new bigger ones.  They look very new so we are going to paint them with yogurt to age them!

 One of the new pots in the melting snow

One of the new pots in the melting snow

Great New Cheese Maker to add to our website!

Just back from a wonderful residential cheese making course with Louise Talbot, a cheesemaker who lives near Blandford, so she is very local.  The course took place at Denman, the WI College,  which holds an amazing array of courses open to WI members and non members alike.

The course was fantastic and what is even better is that Louise holds four hour courses suitable for Hen Parties.  She can be found at "Cutting The Curd" -


As you can see from the pictures below, I brought back a huge amount of cheese and had an amazing time with a very patient and excellent tutor.







New Marquee company came to visit

Chris from Abbas Marquees came over to bring photographs on a USB stick for couples to take away and look at. ( They are based in Somerset and Devon but work all over the UK and have been Marquee specialists for the last 15 years.

They seem to cover every type of Marquee from traditional to Tipis and have a vast range of additional items that they can hire as well. Take a look at the listing under suppliers on the website.

First wedding of the year

We had a wonderful ceremony only wedding in the dining room on 20th January.  Taking place in the dining room with a fire in the grate and candles and fairy lights on every surface it had a beautiful, warm and cosy feel to it on a cold and wet day.  (more photographs and a full write up to follow)

Christmas 2018

Christmas seems so long ago now but I felt that I must share how the garden is very much part of our lives even at Christmas!

Aliums from the big border sprayed silver on the Christmas Tree and honesty seed pods and old man's beard on the staircase.


Leaves and twigs from the garden dried and sprayed white,  mixed with the red twigs of the Cornus on the dining room table.   Otherwise, here, it was a recycled Christmas!