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En route….

6 October 2019
Ben Pentreath
36 Comments

This was meant to be a blog about moving into Scotland. But I’m 100 photos in and we just arrived at the bothy.  So, that will be another blog, because it’s Sunday evening, I’m back in London, feeling a little tired, and I think I can’t write for hours and hours and hours. As I write, helicopters are hovering furiously overhead above the flat. Maybe something to do with the Extinction Rebellion ‘shutdown of London’ being forecast for tomorrow morning? Our tiny bothy seems so far away from all this. And I’ve got to admit, I’d rather be there I think.

The reason this is a long blog is because we didn’t drive in a straight line. Last Saturday, Charlie, the dogs and I left Dorset bound for Herefordshire, near Ledbury – beautiful Perrycroft.

Now, long term readers of the blog will recall that a long time ago Charlie and I went to stay at Perrycroft as guests of our friend Phoebe Clive. It’s worth reading that blog, if you have a moment to look at the beautiful gardens around this extraordinary Voysey house.

This time we were back to stay with Deby and Phil, friends over from Canada, who make the Ledbury pilgrimage every year. This year was especially special – Phil’s 70th birthday. We arrived in time for a superb lunch of warm pork pies and scotch eggs from the Ledbury butcher.

And then we were off, just down the road, to something Charlie’s been wanting to see for a long time. The Malvern Autumn show. 

For Charlie, it wasn’t really about the people:

It wasn’t about the garden machinery stands…

Or about the classic car corner…

Or the Classic Car People in the classic cars…

No. It was about the Dahlias. More dahlias. 

Malvern really is the national championship of dahlia growing. 

But as well as being blown away by the craziness, I couldn’t help but love the faces too.

Here was a happy person….

Realising that his dahlias could hold their own in these ranks. 

Tomato lovers would have enjoyed themselves too. 

Bigwigs of the National Vegetable Society were making their rounds…

Perfection:

Did you know about the National Trug Championship?

No, nor did I. Amazing. 

The busiest tent of all was giant veg. This was full of spectators, like an ugly vast celebrity boxing match in Las Vegas. 

For some it was a little too much. 

Giant onions. 

beans. 

Beetroot (radishes in the foreground). 

Insane marrows, although we worked out that Charlie’s would have made a pretty respectable showing… 4th or 5th perhaps.

Pumpkins. 

Giant cabbages. 

We were in awe.  But sadly, we needed to return to the festivities at Perrycroft… so I had to miss a noodle. 

Back to the dream house….

Debs, who is an amazing cook, had created a superb dinner.  The room was filled with friends. So much fun, into the night.

That night, a huge rainstorm swept in. But in the morning, briefly, clearance. 

Our bedroom window looked straight over to British Camp.

The hills gleamed with orange sunshine, stunningly beautiful.  It is a part of the world that I love and would like to explore more….

We left Voysey’s low-eaved, welcoming house….. (which is, incidentally, beautifully furnished and available to rent, year-round, here)…

Deby had amazingly knitted us not one but TWO beautiful tea cosies as a house warming present for Scotland, together with perfectly sized tea pots. 

As we left we called into Phoebe’s beautiful Tinsmith’s shop, looking better than ever. 

We left laden with treasures…

The wall of letterpress posters by the Tilley Letterpress

And we tore ourselves away from Ledbury, and set off on the next phase of the journey. We were heading to Edinburgh for the night, to see the daughter of a good friend who’s just started at uni there. And on the way, Charlie had cooked up another detour with a dahlia variety. This time, Halls of Heddon, nurserymen. 

The dahlia nursery was set up 98 years ago by the current owner’s grandfather. Their dahlia fields are beyond mad. The first photos are in the covered beds. 

And then we walked out into the field.  Incredible. I particularly loved the power pylons marching their way around the flat landscape beyond. 

We had missed huge rainstorms that were sweeping across the country that afternoon.  We still had a way to go before Edinburgh. So we left, but took the dogs for a little walk along a large intact section of Hadrian’s wall in the village at Heddon, poetically overlooked by a large number of small 1960s bungalows. 

We had a brilliant night in Edinburgh with Willow. Here’s Sibyl working the camera a bit more artfully than Charlie… And then the next morning we were off…. driving over to Glasgow, calling in, I will admit, to Ikea, too buy some boxes of white candles but ending up with millions of things we hadn’t thought of ever needing.

And then the serene journey, that’s becoming so familiar now, to Inveraray. Loch Fyne was mirror flat. The air was completely still. 

We’d decided to stop at Auchindrain, just south of Inveraray, which we’d spied many times on the road before.  If you get the chance to go, you must. It is a dream. 

Auchindrain is a museum of a way of life now completely passed in Scotland… a small township of the type that once dotted the whole of the Scottish countryside.  Unlike many other museums of Rural life, which have recreated buildings threatened with demolition, this is an actual place that somehow, curiously, survived the huge economic and agricultural upheavals of the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centurie, well into the 50s. The sense of history is palpable. The buildings, houses and barns are incredibly simple but very beautiful too. And very inspirational for Charlie and me in our own little project. 

You can walk around all the houses, with a guide book explaining who lived there and the history of each one. Pictures really do speak louder than words here. And I am afraid, as you can imagine, that I took a lot of pictures.  (By the way, if you do visit, buy the eggs for sale in the shop. They are delicious.  Hens roam everywhere.).

Amazing little house. 

Auchindrain is brilliant. It hasn’t been over-run with interpretation boards or this and that. It’s gentle, it’s thought provoking, it hasn’t been ruined by lottery-funded makeovers, it’s just totally right. Get there if you can.  Reminiscent, for those who know it, of the Lost village of Tyneham in Dorset.

And then, we drove west, and over to our own little piece of heaven.  The removals van was arriving the next morning.  That evening, the light was perfect, the sea was glass-flat. It was a moment to savour for ever. 

The veg garden off to the left.  The cottages NEARLY finished, and looking fantastic. 

That evening, in the bar of the Crinan hotel, the dogs were exhausted. As were we. 

And the following morning we were up with the lark. We had an early early breakfast,  in the hotel, and set off down the road to meet the removals lorry, arriving at 9 that morning. The light gleamed on the long road to the house.  A new adventure was about to begin. It’s one that readers of this blog are going to become familiar with.

Tonight, I’m back in London, as I say – Charlie has headed down to Dorset to give some love to the garden and to Henry, the cat. We’ve both got busy old weeks coming up. As I walked out of Euston station this evening, the bustle and chaos of London hit me like a wall. Don’t get me wrong – I love London; I love its mess, its chaos and creativity, its sprawling majesty, its ugliness and beauty, but I think I felt the contrast between here and the empty, wide open spaces of Scotland more intensely than ever. Much more so that when I return from Dorset.

When I read the many kind and generous comments left by readers from around the world on this blog, one of the recurring themes is that they find in some of my words and photographs a sense of respite from the pressures of the so-called ‘real’ world, from the madness of politics, on both sides of the Atlantic (and doubtless beyond).  Whether wittingly or unwittingly, I suppose this is true. And that’s because my eye is drawn to things that in some way or another, don’t really change, or don’t worry about politics. The dahlia show at the Malvern show – the people who grow those beautiful beasts – they know the important things in life. The dahlia fields at Heddon have seen the great crash of 1929, they’ve seen the rise of Hitler, the Second World War, economic boom and bust, the nuclear age, the rise and fall of the communist empire, and, as we tip through our own decades of this century, more and yet more cataclysmic changes. But life chugs on. A hundred years ago, when the Dahlia nursery was founded (in 1921), the men who were planting the first rows of dahlia tubers that spring had just come through the Great War; an event that would be far more brutally etched in their minds’ eye than New York on September 11th, 2001, is in ours today. And yet here the dahlia fields still are, doing their thing, brilliantly and beautifully.  And that’s what I like about life, and why I’ve said a million and one times now: look after, and nuture the things, the places, the people, the world that are in your direct gift to do so – like Deby, our Canadian friend, who so gently, carefully and thoughtfully maintains and looks after her friendships – around the world.

And be concerned for the rest, but don’t be consumed with fear about the things that you can’t control.  It’s a message that was reiterated to me again and again on our meandering journey, en route to the final destination this week.

 

36 comments on this post

Tracy Goodingsays:

Dear Ben and Charlie,
May your home in Scotland be filled with all the love and joy in the world. May many precious memories be made in that beautiful place. Wishing you all the best as you settle in your new home away from home, and thank you for taking the time to allow us to enjoy the ride. Best

JENNIFER PHILLIPPSsays:

Nothing left to be said, except thanks for sharing these amazing places, flowers, ancient buildings, glorious vistas….always ready for the next instalment and more to come from your Scottish crib! Greetings from a slightly volatile springy NZ!

Mikesays:

It’s a compliment to both yourself & your fine writing that you attract such a devoted & thoughtful readership. As much as I enjoy your blog (it is always food for thought & the soul) I equally enjoy the heartfelt comments. It gives me some hope that the world isn’t as mad as I fear and that all will be well in the end.

Ben!
Hope you are well.
You’ve moved to the highlands! Good for you, it’s THE best place. If you fancy a catch up then I’m in Arrochar (which is I presume, en-route). We always have wine, whisky and other non-alcoholic refreshments to hand, so it would be lovely to see you and Charlie.
We have a small B&B, so if you’re ever stuck getting home, at least you know you have somewhere to stop near-ish!
Matt

Tove Mauritzsonsays:

The perfect ending to a wonderful blog post, as always. The Dahlias know how it’s done! And now I’m going outside to do some brickwork and dig my little garden…

Sallysays:

Thank you for these words. We might know these things but when life gets worrying and frenetic we need reminders. dahlias (I planted some this week in NZ), friends, time to think about the light in the sky, and warm thoughts. I’m looking forward to your next chapter with photos of Scotland, the homecoming.

Ellen Shooksays:

I really enjoy your blog, and I have admired your design work for a long time. The dahlias and your travels are so inspiring. My late father was also a dahlia grower. You are also a very good writer.

Darlene Chandlersays:

Thank you again for a beautiful blog and pictures and true so lovely to forget about politics and what is going on in the world and just to see the beauty of earth. I loved the story about the Dahlias and their background. All of your pictures are beautiful and enjoyed your friend’s dinner, shop and the wonderful show of vegetables and Dahlias, a lovely thing to experience. As your friends I too live in Canada and cannot wait to get back to London in December and attend at your shop and the Christmas shopping evening, which I have attended for years and to bring back something. I so look forward to see and hear all about your home in Scotland and your next blog. I also just loved the pictures of the dogs, especially the one Charlie was holding.

Ann McDonaldsays:

I love all your images but especially those of Auchindrain. My McDonald ancestors migrated to Nova Scotia in 1810 then on to New Zealand in 1853. I don’t know exactly where they came from but like to think it would have looked like Auchindrain.

So looking forward to seeing photos of your home in Scotland. Charlie is going to have fun creating a new garden.

Dear Ben

Your last words on this post are exactly what I needed to hear today. I often feel lost, overwhelmed, guilty and consumed by everything political and environmental. Being reminded that it’s my immediate impact on the people and the world around me is what I need to hear. A little bit of hope and encouragement is very welcome…I’m trying to raise three children in the chaos. It’s nice to be reminded that there is lots to cherish and be grateful for, and hopefully much that will endure and last for their future. Thanks also for the wonderful photographs. I never comment on blogs but this is exceptional. Susie

Clay McCleerysays:

Auchindrain brought tears to my eyes!
And I’ve Always been a fan of Voysey.

Angela Tosonisays:

I love all those countryside flowers and vegetables show❤️ not to mention the Scottish landscape so beautiful and lyrical

Junesays:

I love Charlie’s obsession with dahlias. And Ben’s timely shots of all the beauty.
Thank you both.

How did you manage to catch the purple hair girl and the yellow jacket woman bracketing the huge orange pumpkin? Timely.

And the historic cottages. Thatch vs tin/aluminum. Aha.

Jagnansays:

A magnificent blog-thank you so much. I am not sure what to do first–try my hand at growing dahlias or moving to Scotland!!

Leslie A Higginbothamsays:

Ben – your final comments brought tears to my eyes. Thank you and Charlie and the dogs for contributing to the way of life you so richly describe! You depict the important things in life so well. All the best in Scotland, Dorset, and London

Michellesays:

Would like you to know how much your photos and prose mean to me and so many others…look forward greatly to your Blogs…particularly loved the photo of the Dogs napping, so incredibly sweet…I sometimes think you are the busiest person on the planet…sending so much gratitude to you…

Kathie Johnsonsays:

Each post a treasure. Pure and clean. Beauty and love always the message. Sharing is caring and I am grateful. Much love from Texas.

Margiannesays:

Ben,
You make the beginning of my week shine when I receive your posts. Your photography is unsurpassed. Scotland is my favorite country by far so these photo shots resonate with me. I live in Austin, TX, but would give this all up in a second to be back in Scotland. We lived in East Anglia for 3 years and they were the best years of my life. Thank you for allowing us to live through your gorgeous photography. My father raised award-winning dahlias and through your pictures, I can relive his love.

Joaniesays:

Thank you for your thoughtful comments at end of glorious winding crooked paths of pictures. Your posts do indeed give respite in the spaces between. Within the tiny brilliant spaces that allows for each dahlia petal to impress the eye, the small humble abodes and gatherings, and the meditative landscapes of Scotland and England, we are allowed to lay down our concerns both miniscule and large to rest. Sending appreciation from Chicago on a beatiful autumnal day on the shore of the very serene Lake Michigan. Life is full if we pay attention.

Patricia Cartersays:

So beautifully stated Ben, I am verklempt.

Jeansays:

Thank you for this post. Thank you for all your posts which give sunshine, joy and hope in this time of political madness. The dogs, homes, gardens and dahlias get me going for the day. All the best from Maryland, U.S.A.

Elizabethsays:

Dear Ben, Charlie and four legged friends,

I feel sometimes that for Charlie plants are living creatures and I have the same feeling. I hate to see plants dying on supermarket shelves because nobody thinks of watering them and they will be discarded lateron. I love my trees and plants, can’t live without them.
I live in a similar area as your Scotland little house: remote, no neighbours, only wildlife, but in the province of Piemonte, Italy,
Not lonely but with my 8 lovely animals. You have to see it to believe it. U2 are welcome.

Love your blog and this one is more than special. Wishing you both a warm welcome to Scotland. We are also renovating a cottage in the Highlands and it certainly gives you a sense of place and a grounding in an otherwise fragile world. All the very best!

Jill Rowesays:

This so confirms the need for me to have a small, simple little place to go to “check out” for a length of time each year. We live on an organic farm in a sub-urban neighborhood and can be quite removed there. But it is where we not only live, but work ~ so we don’t have a lot of down time. We are dreaming of a small place we go to once a year for a stretch of time. Your beautiful, little conversation of cottages reinforces my need to make that dream a reality. I’m looking forward to your next posts about its realization.

Nicolasays:

Super gorgeous flowers and repulsive oversized veg! Contrasts and textures highlighted. Also good to be reminded through our imagination that life in those little Scottish cottages must have been very hard, and to count our blessings always. Best wishes, Nicola

Mariasays:

Dear Ben,
I always try to leave a comment, but for some reason it never goes through..? Anyway, just wanted to let you know you are one of the bestest people on earth, both with your job and your life.
Charlie and the doggies, and you, and houses and gardens, you are just heaven . Sooo nice to think there are still such extraordinary people ,
Thank you for your blog!

mirandasays:

You are so right, Ben. Friendship, beauty, and simplicity the only antidote to global insanity. The rhythm of the seasons, and the growing of vegetables of all sizes!!

Birgitsays:

Dear Ben,
thank you so much again for sharing all your wonderful experiences with us. I do enjoy always every single photo and it’s every time and everything amazing ! The bothys are so lovely and they’re in such a wonderful surrounding…. that’s really heaven on earth !
Now you’re back at work, I wish you a lovely week and with all my best wishes ,
Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂

Lyndasays:

Ben,
Brilliant. Through the beginning of this I was busily saving info for what would make a lovely vacation! But your final paragraphs really spoke to me. So true. I am drawn to your blog and instagram for those very reasons. It feels as if so much is a loss of common sense, and people are forgetting what is important for life. Thank you for setting an example with your work and words.
Lynda

Gilliansays:

Thank you Ben for your blog and wonderful pictures. You have inspired me to visit some previously unknown places when in Dorset and we have just booked a few days in the Lodge at Perrycroft!
Many thanks, particularly for the last paragraph. I have been made very anxious and depressed about the state of the country and I need to be reminded about the hardships the country has endured in the past – and to take comfort and strength from beauty and beautiful places, though I am furious that this time it is so completely unnecessary and I know that if certain people get their way, it will be ordinary, good people who will suffer the most.
However, I will continue to read your blog (and follow your photos on Instagram) and take consolation from them – again, thank you.

Patricia Lillian Taylorsays:

Late breakfast for me this morning! Glued to my screen and taking
notes of places to follow up on later today. What amazes me is how
you find the time to do these wonderful blogs in your oh so busy
life but I thank you so much for doing so – you bring so much
pleasure and inspiration to so many.

David Sanderssays:

Nice photo of the dogs in the Crinan hotel; hence the expression ‘dog-tired.’ The blessed sleep of the innocents is enviable.

Karen Greenshieldssays:

Couldn’t sleep, flittering around online and discovered your blog. Heaven! I did not know about Auchindrain much to my shame since it’s in my vicinity. Thank you! Look forward to more.

Terry Aguirresays:

Thank you Ben for sharing your beautiful stories and pictures. I always love reading them, and your blog is an oasis for me. You are right that events come and go. What mattered so much yesterday doesn’t matter today. But if I see that each spring the grass turns emerald green and each fall the first cold wind arrives that’s all that matters really. My house is almost 100 years old and I feel so privileged to live here. Old simple and beautiful. ❤️❤️

Philsays:

Came across your blog only this past week so this is the first post read in real time – hot pork pies…really!!.
So have been going back in time (and 67 pages to enjoy) and its so interesting to see the development of a garden, as well as life, in reverse. Have got back to ‘the big dig’ in your Dorset garden – so tbe big box balls arrived ready made, and the long grass terrace is inspired. And goodness how poignant to see happy pictures of loved ones lost to you soon after.
Much holidaying in the West Country as well as working in Queen Square/ Lambs Conduit Street for me so lots to be interested in.
Happy times ahead for you all in the Bothy.

Debra Mooresays:

Dear Ben Charlie and furry friends
What a heartwarming blog such lovely news that you now have a home in Scotland it looks idyllic there. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos. I am a little relieved to see the interior of some of the little cottages at the museum are not your cottage l hoped you would have more home comforts You have enticed many of us to visit Scotland to see the beauty of the place.

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