In the midst of darkness – there is always light


Yet again, time and events run away from me and weeks pass before I write another blog! Happy New Year! But the funny thing is that nothing gives me more pleasure than spending a little time looking back over photographs from weeks passed. They all roll into one, in a sense, but with the perspective of the rear-view mirror we feel the seasons more keenly. It was early November when I last wrote. The skies were blue, days still warm, the garden still full of Charlie’s dahlias, softly saying goodbye to the year.  And now, it’s the 5th of January, the year has turned, the decorations are coming down and we are all casting ahead.  But what I really like is to think that almost three weeks have passed since the solstice. In another three weeks, we are back to the length of days we had in October. And although spring is not yet around the corner, it’s strange to think the garden will be filled with snowdrops and early daffodils already.  I find this a very heartening thought on the darkest weeks of the year. 

It has been a really beautiful autumn, and we’ve had some wonderful early walks in Dorset…

And magical evenings – golden light – my favourite time of year.  I’ve been down in Cornwall, at beautiful Prussia Cove, with my friends Ruth Guilding, Antony Crolla, and Leo from the office – taking photographs at this magical house of my new Morris & Co collection for Sanderson, which releases this spring – incredibly exciting and I cannot wait to show you more! 

I was back to Dorset for our friends John & Beata staying – blustery walks and happy days.  and fields of curious cows, of course….

We did a fantastic trip to Scotland with the masterplanning team, to check on progress at Tornagrain – our new town that we are designing for the Moray Estates to the east of Inverness – gleaming in the late November sunshine…

My 50th birthday interlude – a supper at Spencer House (the tables filled with Scilly Isles narcissi) followed by crazy dancing back at our flat…

the carpet and all of us were rather worse for wear the next day. 

Dead to the world. 


Back to Dorset, to a few tiny roses lingering on in the garden; 

And if you want to know how to plant your tulip bulbs…watch this space…

The compost heap has been growing to gargantuan proportion. 

Mistype days, leaves all gone. I love this light so much.

The hedgerows had jewel-like leaves of extraordinary intensity – these are brambles. A week later the golden red leaves had turned brown and black.  This was such a magical moment, and I was glad to make a record.

Days in Dorset as Christmas drew near; astonishing skies and sunsets and sunrises. 

The shortest day of the year: 

Brightened by Charlie’s remarkable Christmas tree, groaning in ornament…

Boxing Day walk:

And then, just for a few days, at long last since the autumn, we managed to get to Scotland. Inveraray, my favourite town in the whole of Scotland, gleaming. 

We got to the bothies as the sun was setting, just in time. 

We have a new roof! It’s taken a long time to sort but so worth the wait, and so beautifully done.  At last we lie in bed at night listening to howling winds and punishing rainstorms – feeling cosy as opposed to waiting for drips and buckets.  Such a huge, huge relief.  So beautiful.  We are getting there, slowly…

This is our little cottage, with our sitting room on the left and bedroom on the right. 

and here’s the bothy, which is our kitchen. 

A walk down to the peninsula at sunset. 

The following morning, bright and clear, Charlie’s birthday, starting with boiled eggs and a modest half bottle of bubbly! 

An invigorating walk…

Quite muddy for some… followed by a long pub lunch and home to a fire and a bath in the old tin bath.  Which, as so many people have been asking, we fill up with water from a village hall tea urn that we heat up, and buckets of cold water from the spring.  It’s going to be nice to get a bathroom one day, but this is pretty nice for now.

Another walk to the peninsula the following day…

Amazingly saturated colours, such a different, more intense light than Dorset days. 

This is how we wash the dogs, for those that wonder? 

And yesterday another long walk over to the other side of the peninsula, around the coast – light and skies that felt like stepping into a painting.  a beautiful but abandoned farmhouse. 

And back home. 

We came south today. Charlie is back in Dorset; I took the train from Glasgow down to London. I wrote a little post on instagram where I said ‘missing this – back to reality’ and people made the sensible and beautiful comment – what is reality? maybe it’s the bothy. But I have to be honest, it feels like a dream world – literally as if we’ve stepped into a dream; we cannot believe just how much we love those little houses, and how much we love being there. But partly the magic is the other time, the otherness, the sense of separation from work and London and even the day to day round in Dorset. I suppose everything is real, and collides, but days in Scotland feel especially bright and clear, and intense.

It’s the turn of the year – a moment I always feels belongs better with the beginning of autumn, maybe, leading through to the end of high summer, in terms of our own seasonal, internal rhythms, but a time of course to reflect, and to look forward to the future.  I’ve cast some simple resolutions this year – one being, to paint more.

I hope you had a wonderful rest over Christmas, and in the in-between time; I suspect we will all be especially grateful for the lengthening days of spring this year to come.

24 comments on this post

  • Jack Montrose

    This blog is the closest thing I get to a weekend in the country. Thanks for taking the time to share Ben!

  • Monique Caffet

    Quelle générosité de nous montrer autant de beauté, la beauté du ciel, la beauté du geste du jardinier, du style de vie, des paysages, la beauté de la vie, qui chaque fois m’émerveille. J’espère un jour visiter votre région. Emily Dickinson a écrit,
    Pour faire une prairie il faut un trèfle et une seule abeille, Un seul trèfle, et une abeille, Et la rêverie. La rêverie seule fera l’affaire, Si on manque d’abeilles… Merci !

  • Henry Gillespie

    Dear Ben,

    Belated birthday greetings. How wonderful to celebrate it at Spencer House.

    With all best wishes,


  • Brooke

    Ben, I have only recently discovered your blogs and have spent a number of evenings looking at your ‘archive’. I am really enjoying reading about what you and Charlie are up to, and looking at your wonderful photos. If you keep your resolution to do more painting, I hope you will share them with us. All the best to you both.

  • Pierre B.

    So, Ben, it took your 50th birthday for you to appear in person on a photo of your blog? This worth an acclamation Happy birthday to you both and better new year to all.

  • Patricia Taylor

    Always so uplifted ad ready to get going when I read your post – if was so worth waiting for – thank you.

  • JulieLarson

    The clouds and sky were magical. Thank you for sharing.

  • David Sanders

    Delightful, as always, and the bothys are looking more charming than ever; the estate fencing finishes everything off nicely. I’m relieved to hear that you are planning to install a bathroom in the future, I mean a tin bath has a certain rustic charm, which is all the more charming when it is filled with hot water from a village hall tea urn, but it all sounds like too much of a palaver, just to refresh oneself. What is reality? When your reality feels like a dream, then that’s the reality I would want – not Mark Zuckerberg’s fake Metaverse, I hasten to add. Best wishes to you both.

  • Louise Stobart

    Always such a joy to step into your magical world with you… thank you for sharing. It feels a real privilege, and as for that bath!!

  • Clay McCleery

    A belated Happy Birthday, to your both.
    You always cause me to yearn to search out my Cameron roots, whenever I see pictures near Lochaber.

  • Patricia

    Can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog and poring over the always wonderful photographs, all due to technology in one of its best roles. How else could a woman living in a small town in the middle of New Hampshire get a peek at such a well lived life in the UK? And oh, so glad to hear of your intent to do more painting!

  • Joanne Robinson

    Beautiful skies, muddy dogs, calming bothies. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jagnan

    Stunning as usual. Reality = the bothies!!

  • Shelby Allen

    A post worth waiting for. Thank your for your inspiring message, especially lush photos, too!

  • Darlene Chandler

    So lovely to get this blog today. Loved all the pictures and your tree was gorgeous again this year. The bothy seems so tranquil and uplifting to me, a place definitely to be a peace and appreciate beauty and one’s self. Happy Birthday to you both and happy to see you are both busy as ever. So uplifting to me and so appreciated, as living in Canada we are not into more lockdown restrictions as of yesterday and so another dismal January, to with your glimpse of nature and beauty and your daily walks even bring a great deal of hope to me and inspiration to again get out daily for a walk even in these times and enjoy nature, at least we have that. Happy New Year and I so look forward to getting back to your shop in London and your lovely staff who helped me so many times on my visits and so miss your Christmas street festival evenings, which I used to fly from Canada just to attend that week. Regards

  • Penne Layton

    Thank you for your photos and comments. I’m across the pond in the Midwest; completely in a place that is counterintuitive to my nature. I grasp what I can where I lean. Nothing is all bad nor all good.

  • Jenny

    So so glad to know that you are both well. Was becoming very worried. Have an excellent 2022 and be safe. Love to both of you

  • Celia

    Lovely Ben. Oh so beautiful skies/photos! Thank you. Happy, Healthy New Year!

  • Peter Sullivan

    A belated Happy 50th Birthday Ben in wonderful Spencer House.

  • Deborah Wagner

    I forgive brambles for their thorns because of the spectacular beauty of their turning leaves.

    Thanks for this, and Happy New Year. Please God let it improve.


  • Jules

    Thank you. xx

  • Ursula Buston
    We all need stuff like this to get through the darker moments of winter and thanks for sharing.


  • Debra Moore

    Happy New Year 2022 and a very Happy birthday too.Thank you for a beautiful blog your photos are a joy so refreshing and invigorating. 🏞🎄 Your Christmas tree was magical.

  • Stephanie Murray

    How appropriate that up North we call these houses ‘but and ben’ ! What more could anyone want or need than this? Warmth, safety, the sea and dogs, the complete recipe for happiness. God blessxxxx

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