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Ben Thompson
Tete a Tat With Ben Thompson

Tete a Tat With Ben Thompson

by Liberty Nimmo

Heckfield Place, Hampshire
Heckfield Place, Hampshire

Ben Thompson is a visionary. His work at Heckfield Place, which champions biodynamic farming, design, and happens to be a ruddy nice hotel, needs little to no introduction.

I admire Ben because he has the rare ability to see both the bigger picture—the end result—and simultaneously focus on the details, the process, and the reality of what needs doing and when. It's similar to being a skilled music conductor (I wonder if Cate Blanchett in "Tár" can relate), where the end result is something beautiful and collectively produced. This wouldn't be possible if everyone playing their part hadn't been instructed and encouraged in the right way.

His studio, Ben Thompson, was established almost a decade ago and has delivered a diverse range of projects across the world, particularly focusing on reinvigorating rural estates and re-establishing or reinventing existing buildings. Ben and his team are nearing completion on a project in Southern Tuscany (budding Italophiles, keep your eyes and ears open) and are midway through restoring a rather magical-sounding estate in North Wales. These are just two examples from a whole array of place-making, people-focused, and design-led projects.

It was fun speaking with Ben; he has a lovely and wonderfully dry sense of humour, and I suspect that his generosity of spirit, combined with an innate positivity, adds another dimension to his vision and enhances his ability to deliver so many beautiful projects.

As a side note, he also happens to be an excellent cook, which I find reassuringly good to be around. Somehow, it's trustworthy, abundant, and delicious. Ben's vision shines through here too—he doesn't just throw together a marinade, chance the timing on slow cooking, or squeeze lemon through his fingers hoping the pips don't fall in; he really pays attention. The end result is something beautifully presented, delicious, and well thought through. I suspect there may be a lesson for me and my rather slapdash ways.

Ben and his family have recently (ish) moved to a smallholding on the banks of the River Severn in Gloucestershire, where the tidal river creates a constantly changing landscape. With May Hill and its cluster of trees as a backdrop, birdsong galore amongst the bulrushes, an abundance of delicious vegetables, and soon-to-be-laying Burford Browns, I wonder if they may indeed have struck gold.

Partly linked to their move, much of Ben's work is now turning towards food, farming, the environment, and sustainable tourism. Alongside running his studio, Ben and his equally delightful and breath-of-fresh-air wife Florence are soon to launch their exciting new project, Post, a village shop in Newnham, Gloucestershire, selling local wines, cider, and produce from their smallholding. Oh, and don't let me forget their project Fallow, which involves renovating caravans to work with farmers as a way of linking up food production and sustainable tourism. I don't doubt it will disrupt the caravan industry once and for all.

I was delighted that Ben could spare the time from his many projects, as well as his young family, to answer these important questions for Tat.


The River Cafe
The River Cafe

Favourite restaurant?

River Café —I go there far too often—and most of the time—on my own. It’s wonderful to feel so welcome, content, and celebratory just for consuming a bowl of pasta while scribbling on a plan.

Do you believe in ghosts?

Absolutely not (tempting fate!)


Are you a fan of surprises? 

No way, not at all. Beth from the studio insisted I wore an acrylic post box at our studio garden party.  Just the worst!

Favourite poem? 

After Long Wandering is a local Gloucestershire poem my wife Florence found.  It reminds me to take care and appreciate what we are so lucky to have at home.  It’s also a nod to Florence’s brilliant curiosity and many happy times spent with my kids eating their own body weight in wind-fallen apples and pears at home on the banks of the River Severn.

After Long Wandering [1st and last verse]

F.W. Harvey

I will go back to Gloucestershire,

To the spot where I was born

To talk at eve with men and women

And song on the roads at morn.

And I’ll sing as I tramp by dusty hedges

Or drink my ale in the shade

How Gloucestershire is the finest home

That the Lord God ever made.


I’ll drink my perry and sing my song

Of home and home again,

Pierced with the old miraculous pleasure

Keen as sharpest pain;

And if I rise to sing on the morrow

Or if I die in my bed,

‘Tis all the same: I’ll be home again,

And happy alive or dead

Any good advice? Who gave it to you? 

Never catch a falling knife - Sasha Kipferling.

Pet Peeve? (eg - mine is people not saying thank you if you hold the door open etc) 

Can I have two?


Organised fun, it’s just not fun.


Being asked if you are a “foodie”.

Marino Marini Museum In Florence
Marino Marini Museum In Florence

If money was no object, what painting would you like to own?

One of Marino Marini’s horse and rider bronze sculptures.


Top destination in the UK?

Porth Ysgaden. It’s a beautiful cove on the West Coast of Wales. I went swimming there with Harry from the studio following a tip off from some super clients who have since become dear friends. It was a funny coincidence as I have earlier memories of sailing just round the corner whilst staying with an old friend who had the most amazing house where the sea happily came in through the front door at high tide. It feels almost too coincidental, 20 years later, to now end up working in the same remote spot.


(maybe i do believe in ghosts)

What language you'd most like to be able to speak?

Italian.  I have so many happy memories with friends, family, and work….. i still fumble about trying to get it right. Especially as my wife, my bro and my mum are all fluent, makes you feel even shitter about it.


f you could live in any era of history, which one would you choose and what would you do?

I very much appreciate the historic, but I find it hard to imagine anything too far back from us now. Can I be more age specific and say I’d prefer to have been in my 30s/40s during the 1960s?  It all seemed a little looser with more smiling and more reward for original thought.

What song will always make you tap your foot?

I don’t tap my foot. Get Back, by The Beatles, nearly makes me want to do that.


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