In the summer of 1925 he succeeded in re-joining the RAF, which put Clouds Hill largely out of reach. Nevertheless he decided to buy the cottage, and in his absence it was looked after first by Private Palmer, and then Sergeant Knowles, both from Bovington.
At Lawrence’s instruction, Knowles put the cottage in some form of shape for letting. He wrote to Palmer in March 1927 that
‘Knowles … is now engaged in converting Clouds Hill to a Christian way of living, with a view to letting it. Alas! However, or if ever, things change, and I’m able to get back and free… I’ll enlist your help, and we will go down some weekend with axes, and re-paganise the place.’
This is how the visitor finds Clouds Hill today. Every detail precisely considered, and often designed, by Lawrence, from the inscription, in Greek, in the stone pediment over the front door – ‘Don’t worry’ – to the three glass bell jars upstairs in the ‘pantry’, lined with foil against the damp.
Above: The lintel over the front door with the inscription in Greek 'Ou Phrontis' ('Why Worry?) from a story in Herodotus.
He removed the kitchen Knowles had installed downstairs and converted it into the book room, with the walls lined against the damp and bookshelves built to exact dimensions for his book collection. A bed covered in hide for reading, and a sleeping bag (one for him and one for a guest) for sleeping.
To this he added an armchair chair and fender, constructed to his design and to suit his small frame, for warmth by the fire in winter. Finally, via ingenious plumbing, he added a bath – though no lavatory.
He added to the existing rhododendrons on the hill with different varieties to produce different shapes and colours, but rejected any idea of a garden or plants, giving away plants that his mother put in – ‘Clouds Hill is no place for tame flowers.’
Regrettably, the rhododendrons have now been cut back due to the threat they pose to other species; they are one of the main routes for the spread of 'sudden oak death', a disease that threatens trees and plants like oak, beech, larch and bilberry.