Time Flies, Year Turning…

6 January 2019
Ben Pentreath

I am sorry – that’s all I can say. I can’t believe quite how much time has passed since I actually last wrote… time has been flying; since I got back from New Zealand I was in those hectic two weeks hurtling towards Christmas, and then to New Year in Scotland, where we spent most of the time completely without phone signal or wifi – a good way to start clearing the brain a little!

So this is a long blog in various parts because so much has happened – a dip into antipodean summer, back to Dorset, Christmas in London, New Year in Scotland.

N E W   Z E A L A N D

It was a flying visit really – I think I was there for only a week. Charlie stayed on but for various reasons at work it just wasn’t quite the time for me to take 3 weeks out of London…. we were there for Charlie’s cousin’s wedding, and then also – mainly perhaps – to meet our new niece Charlotte McCormick, just 9 weeks old.

Christchurch glowed as usual – we made our usual trip to the beautiful botanical gardens.

I didn’t take lots of photos in the city, but the momentum is clearly picking up which is so good…. And then the next day, down to Mayfield, and all those long, straight, empty, green roads.

We called in to Charlie’s grandfather Hamish for the annual tour of the garden. 

Completely incredible to think that all this garden has been created by Hamish, and by his late wife Enid, over the last sixty years. Inspirational indeed.  Incredible rhododendrons and azaleas grow to great heights now, all planted by Hamish.

Wild foxgloves are everywhere.  Time too for the annual beers and catch up on Hamish’s deck, putting the world to rights. Hamish hasn’t ever really traveled very far (he’s been to Australia and to North Island once or twice) but he knows absolutely everything about international politics and affairs, in great detail. 

Back at James’s farm: 

We didn’t do much in our week there – just spent quiet days doing nothing at all.  One day we made a trip to Little Mount Peel, and the Peel Forest… 

Giant trees:

Acland Falls:

And a little Gothic chapel, made of timber:

As usual, the porch is my favourite part of the church: 

And then all too suddenly, my New Zealand week was over.  The weather hadn’t been hot but there is still that amazing fact of the blast of sunshine and daylight at the darkest time of year back home… such a huge tonic.

The long journey back went quickly… drifting over New Zealand…

And across the Pacific into sprawling L.A…..

Taking off for London…..

And then back home. So, so good.  The dogs were very happy to see me!

A few quick days later and Charlie was home too.  We had a weekend in London with friends staying, ironically all the way from NZ, and did lots of brilliant touristy things like going around the London Eye that I had never done, and walking up to Buckingham Palace and though the West End.


A week later it was a huge relief to arrive down in Dorset in what felt like the first time in an age.   I suppose the real purpose of travel is to remind you how much you like home. 

Charlie had put his garden to bed before we had left.  I actually love this time of year, structure laid bare. 

The next day we had a big family lunch – my whole family coming over for Mum’s 84th birthday…

It could be argued that Sibyl was the star of the show.  But a nice photo of Mum too!   Notice anything different about Charlie’s hair?

Grey days in Dorset, grey walks: 



Then back to London for Christmas:A walk on the Heath with the dogs – 

And a long, lingering Christmas lunch with our fiends Maggie, Roland, Amy – and Elspeth from the Art Workers Guild.  Fantastic. 

That night, we popped up to see our friend Flora to see out Christmas Day!


An early start for the drive north but we soon recovered and had a lovely day in Edinburgh, in beautiful watery sunshine. 

One of my favourite cities on earth.  In the afternoon we drove up to Darnaway to stay with our friends John and Cathy.

A brisk walk on Findhorn beach the following day, long shadows stretching across the sand. 

Sibyl was probably rather surprised by the length of her shadow. 

Rainbows in the sky and the Black Isle in the distance. Close to heaven.  

We had two quiet evenings at Darnaway and then crept off at first light on the long journey down to the Mull of Kintyre, where we were spending New Year. We called in for two seconds to the new town at Tornagrain, on the way….

Up past Loch Ness…

And a great long journey through the Great Glen.  We arrived at Saddell at dusk.

We were staying in the little Landmark cottage, Cul-na-Shee, which we’d stayed in a couple of years ago when Mavis was still a puppy. Strange looking back at that blog now, because it was on that trip that I have just read that Charlie and I first began to daydream about buying a little house in Scotland.

The following day – we went to our bothy to meet the builder! It’s all beginning to happen. I’d say it was looking a little bleak the day we were there…. but so exciting to be getting going on phase one of the restoration – getting the buildings dry and watertight. 

We had lunch at Crinan…. misty and grey… 

And back to the cottage where Charlie and Sibyl trounced me in bananagrams (for once). 

Lots of walking on the beach – admiring the sculpture by Antony Gormley, that seems to be permanently installed now, I’m happy to say:

I took exactly the same photos of seaweed as last time: 

And pebbles….

Rocks, and rock pools. 

I’m afraid I think dogs are banned from the sofas in Landmark trust cottages (but we did super-clean them before we left): 

We had a brilliant New Years eve, unexpectedly jolly courtesy of our German and Italian neighbours in Ferryman’s cottage – who very generously invited us over for dinner. So we didn’t go to bed hours before midnight, as expected…

The following day was clear and bright. 

We had a New Year’s day walk at Carskiey, for lunch – in the far bothy, that is just a tiny dot in the middle of this picture (not the roof in the foreground):  

Lunch for 15 was magnificent, complete with langoustine and scallops and stew, followed by camembert baked on the fire, and a pair of musicians piping away. Thank you Tom and Lisa!

The walk home as dusk fell. 

And then early the next morning we slipped away and back to London. 

It’s been the quietest weekend in Dorset.  Lunch with Mum and Dad, the odd walk, a regular Saturday morning trip to a very quiet Bridport.

Last night we had our friend Kate over for supper – who remarked a truth that I had never thought about before.  What a long month January is…. like the first week of a three-week holiday, it seems to go on for ever, whereas the last week rushes by in the blink of an eye.  There’s something in this, I think. How slowly do the days pass in January – compared to the frantic weeks of October or November or December, as we hurtle towards the end of the year. So let’s relish the quiet time, before the year starts to rush.

31 comments on this post


Your blog is a tonic during a Canadian Winter. (Or any Winter, I’m sure.)

Rohan Heathsays:

Hey Ben. Rohan here from Urban Cookie Collective (that dance band from the 90’s). Love your blog – it’s the only blog I actually follow. Also love dorset (fly fish the river frome sometimes, as well as South Island NZ) and bananagrams. Was amused by your post re losing at bananagrams – noticed the word PLUTO in the pic. Pluto a Proper Noun so whoever used it disqualified! Hope this means you won!

Darlene Chandlersays:

What a wonderful blog about your trip to New Zealand, family and your wonderful NewYears. The gardens and scenery was magnificent. Charlie’s new haircut is so nice, just amazing. And your beautiful pets so lovely. You both are an inspiration to me. I look forward to your next blog. Happy New Year to the both of you and your famly and beloved pets.

Mary Lou Bethunesays:

Still got it bad for Mavis, I see. HOW COULD YOU NOT?

Deby (in Canada)says:

Oh Ben This post could just about be a wee book! Such simple magnificent adventures…
The lichen colours in Scotland…I feel a knitting project coming on…
Happy New Year to you Charlie and those delicious pets…
xxx Deby

Peter Hsays:

Fascinating range of places you were able to experience and photograph in such a short period,it must all have been a little tiring as well as inspiring.
Happy New Year to you and yours


Very much for Mr. Charlie’s new haircut.


Happy New Year! I’m late to your post and I fear I have little to add to all the heartfelt sentiments as they mirror my own. Here’s to a Happy,Peaceful,Healthy & Prosperous 2019!


So love your blog, Ben, and have missed it in the last few weeks. Happy to know you were gallivanting around the world! Your photography is superb and your photos have me yearning for trips to Dorset, Scotland and NZ. Love Charlie’s new “do”!


Happy New Year and Slow January to you both. The wait for dreamy photos and comments was worth it. The holidays were so rushed, they would not have had the appreciation. Our snowless wet and grey days along Lake Michigan needed a bit of respite fantasy, so thanks much. Happy project dreaming into the new year and as always, thank you much for taking the time to share with us.
PS: Charlie, your new look is lovely.


I think Charlie looks like his grandfather.


Long, straight green roads, Findhorn beach, still as beautiful as ever, dogs at the dinner table and lounging, and winter mizzle. It all made me smile, laugh and reflect . . . perfect for a long month with deep dark nights.


Oh man, I love your blog! You both seem so lovely. Happy New Year!

Philippa Lloydsays:

Lovely blog Ben. Have a cottage nearby to you in Scotland on Loch Fyne. Do get in touch as I may have some good contacts for you and know of lots of secret junk shops etc!!
Happy New Year!
Philippa Lloyd


What a treat to enjoy your delightful pics and stories, especially as I was experienced a particularly hot Christmas here in Johannesburg. The softness of Scotland and the gentle light of those grey Dorset walks etc. -all so soothing. Thank you.
Interesting comment on Hamish as he seems to be a real interior traveller- the best traveller to be!
Best wishes for a happy year.

Clay McCleerysays:

Lovely stories and pictures, as usual. I’m partial to the Scottish ones, but I’m biased!

P Varleysays:

It was well worth waiting for – thank you so much for the latest blog.You’ve certainly both been doing your share of travelling in the past weeks so hope you enjoy settling down to a slightly more sober existence – at least for a little while!

Particularly loved the pics of the dogs.

Look forward to your next missive


Oh goodness, just had a flashback to a family holiday years ago in Saddell Castle. Beautiful part of the world. Glad you and Charlie had such a lovely Christmas and New Year, all the best for 2019.

Diane Keanesays:

Welcome back! And Happy New Year to you well-traveled fellows! I enjoy you on Instagram, but love the “letter from home” feeling of your blog, Ben. Charlie goes from looking like the Little Dutch Boy (see photo from rear of C and Hamish) to looking like an elegant young Italian count.

I’m still cleaning up last night’s Twelfth Night party, and Looking forward to the January quiet. And to another year of Inspiration blog! Thank you so much for this gift, dear Ben.

Hugs from Diane in Pittsburgh, PA, USA!


I actually like January because it is so slow, thank you for describing the quietness so well. And your new home in Scotland looks and feels like the most wonderful bolt hole.
Your alphabet book came as a Christmas gift, no 296, and I love it with all the wonderful images, connections, and inspirations from Bridie and you.
Love Charlie’s new look…
May 2019 be a wonderful year for you, Marjolijn


What a wonderful way to start the New Year. The post was definitely worth the wait.


I savored every part of this blog. How beautiful and uplifting these pictures, especially Charlie’s grandfather’s garden. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Dear Ben What a lovely blog l loved all your photos.Charlie looks as handsome as ever with his new haircut l like him better with his dark hair.My favourite pics are the ones with Charlie’s grandfather and the one of your mum with Sybil and sunset over the valley in Dorset.The beach in Scotland looks idyllic l must try and visit Scotland.Enjoy a quiet beginning to the new year.We spent Christmas in West Dorset we loved it.Your new home sounds exciting enjoy the planning and watching it evolve the best things in life are worth waiting for.


there are reasons why your’n is the BEST! blog!, ben penreath!
charlie’s grandfather’ hamish, is magnificent, along with his jungle kiwi garden, the way the world used to be/better! and very “down under” being aware and versed in the condition of world/politics et al! cobalt glass “chandelier” in the dining room’ exquisite!

a more than prosperous 2019! for all your good works!

Sue Hannasays:

‘‘Twas a crazy few weeks for you. Joanna adores your new book, has poured over the pages. Me I am still laughing about that dreadful drive in the kombi with that huge truck bearing down, pleased you got home safely. Love Charlie’s new look, just like a boy. All the best for 2019.

Southern galsays:

Such a nice newsie post. Love the new haircut. And all the wonderful photos of your adventures. Vicarious travels for me.

Happy happy new year to you both!

mrs hsays:

As ever, a wonderful look and read.

We spent this Christmas in NZ! A beauteous place but so very, very far away. It takes a day and a half to go to Auckland; it only takes three days to go to the moon. Had my P&H bag (number 25!) with me and kept hoping to bump into you, but it wasn’t to be.


No, can’t guess, give us a clue! Fantastic range of views, textures, and colours. Happy New Year to you both. Nicola.

Annie Dsays:

Lovely post – what a wonderful stretch of weeks – from NZ to Scotland, I do envy you.

I was filled with all kinds of January resolves – yoga, more home cooking, more walking in all kinds of weather – but started the year off with a fall while walking the dog and a small fracture to my elbow. Luckily my left arm and it should heal quickly but it did delay the sense of New Year a bit. As a result I’ve been enjoying beautiful blogs and Instagram accounts (like yours) even more than usual.

All the best to you, Charlie, the dogs, and all your families and friends in 2019!

Pierre B.says:

Is it because it has been a while? This could be one of my favotite posts. Thank you so much! And happy new year to the four of you! (Nice haircut Charlie!)


Dear Ben & Charlie,
a very nice blog as always, so interesting to read and all the nice photos, love it all, Charlie’s grandpa so lovely and Charlie’s new hair, your Mom, such a wonderful lady and everything you have told us !
Thank you and wish you and yours the very best for the New Year,
enjoy the quiet time in January !
All my best wishes,
Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂

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