Benji’s Dog Blog

I snooze, eat and play all day long…

PicMonkey Benji in and out

I dig in the garden and jump up to catch a pretty pink flower in my mouth.  I give it a good shake and throw it in the air.  Oh dear, now I’ve lost it.  Better go and practice football to play with Antony when he visits.

PicMonkey Collage Football 12 weeksNow I’m big enough to go for walks, grown a lot and having loadsa fun.  Not frightened of anything.  Well, not much.


Not sure about larger dogs who poke their huge black noses round me.  The Bernese mountain dog was giant size with huge wet nose, but he snuffled gently.  Better than the golden labradoodle and black standard poodle I noticed chasing across the park, playing tag.  What a game!  I raced across to join in.  They stopped playing to give me a good sniffing.  They were sniffy too, roughly knocking me with their paws before racing off together, noses in the air.  I jumped up and gave chase, but Diane called me.

‘Benji, Come!’  Back I ran to lots of praise and my favourite treat.  ‘Good boy,’ she said.  ‘You’re too small to play tag with their long legs.’  She turned and ran, pointing towards our favourite log.  Will I get a treat for jumping up and running along?  Yes, yum, yum.  It’s easy.  I like climbing on branches and tree stumps, but I never say no to a treat or two.

PicMonkey Collage climbing on logs

I meet children in Oatlands Park, but when I try to dig my way into their play area, I’m told ‘No!’  I’m only being friendly.  Never mind, I see dogs in the distance and race off to say hello.  When I reach them they’re bigger than they looked from across the park.  I wag my tail but a golden labrador is chasing a ball with his owner, not interested in playing with me.  Shame.  Another dog, brown bitsa I think, walks past.  Why would he stick his nose up?   I run back to Diane and another treat as she clips the lead onto my collar.  More treats as I sit in the crate for the journey home where I jump onto my comfortable bed for a snooze.

I'm getting a big boy and like travelling in my crate
I’m getting a big boy and like travelling in my crate

I dream about my first car ride with Diane and Paul.  I didn’t like the crate they put me in, tried but couldn’t dig my way out, so I did a poo.  They stopped the car and cleaned up.  We walked round a field before joining other puppies.  Paul and Diane sat on chairs and I stood on a mat in front.  I wasn’t sure about the golden retriever puppy nearby, it seemed very large, much bigger than my brothers and sisters.  We were let free and he moved across to play, other puppies joined in.  ‘Help!’ I yelped and ran off towards the legs of a lady in charge.  When the puppies found the treats she threw she stroked and talked to me. Feeling better, I stood up, wagging my tail. Next time I met a pretty miniature schnauzer puppy called Blodwen.  She was older and taller than me, with lovely long eye lashes, pink collar and lead.  We looked and sniffed around each other, happy to be friends.


Puppy Pre-School – 3-weeks social skills course at

The Animal Behaviour Centre of Dr Roger Mugford

The Company of Animals, Chertsey, Surrey

01932 566696.


Diane and Paul take me for walks in the park and by the river.  I get treats for sitting quietly in the car.  It’s good fun and I don’t poo in the crate.  It would be more fun if older dogs played with me but they only sniff around, then ignore me.  At least their ladies give me lots of fuss.  Once I followed a lady with a friendly dog to the other side of the park.  I couldn’t see Diane and was glad to hear her call.  I raced back for a treat and lots of praise.  Another time I followed a lady with a little boy.  I don’t know why Diane clipped my lead on.  I enjoy racing across the park to new people with children and dogs.

I’ve grown a lot and having loadsa fun.  Bigger now.  Not frightened of anything.  Well, not much.




Our fourth and last day in Perth we had taken advice from Trailfinders and pre-booked places on a day excursion to Rottnest Island.  At 7.25 am, the bus was on time and by 8.30 am we were glad to be in the queue to board the Rottnest Express.  The hour and a half boat journey passed quickly.  After such an early breakfast we were ready for a snack and were soon disembarking at the main jetty in Thomson Bay.

Thomson Bay Main Jetty Rottnest Island
Thomson Bay Main Jetty Rottnest Island

This fortuitously brought us to a variety of cafes, bars and shops with good quality offerings.  Keen to explore and not waste any time on the island, we chose a tasty take-away of freshly baked bread and home-made filling.  We ate perched on a low wall in the shade of an overhanging tree, at the same time taking the opportunity to gaze at the pedestrianized shopping and eating areas.

A popular way to get about is to hire a bike.  Cars are not allowed on the island.  There is a bus service but we decided to stretch our legs by taking the road to Thomson Bay North.  The path led us past single storey buildings, reminiscent of the holiday camp chalets on the Isle of Wight.  Cyclists wheeled by as we stopped to see what a small group of people were doing.  One lady had taken pity on a small animal we later learned was one of the unusual Quokka marsupials on Rottnest.  The summer had been unusually hot and dry and the Quokka looked very flea-bitten, certainly I would not have been so generous as to share my water bottle with him.  Quokka carry their young in a pouch, as wallabies, but I thought they looked more like large rats. We walked on.




I admired the aquamarine and blue sea on our right as we continued uphill.  Catching up with a group of walkers in front, we realised it was our Brazilian friend Haroldo with his cousins, whose company we had enjoyed during our evening dinner in the Dubai desert.  He turned, immediately recognising us.

‘Hello my friends!  How good to see you again.  This is our sister, you remember, the reason we travelled from Brazil, to be in Perth with her for New Year.’  We hugged, exchanged pleasantries and discovered we had all visited Kings Park the day before – New Year’s Day – taking advantage of the over 30 degrees centigrade temperature to meander about and make the most of the grassy areas in the sunshine.

‘You must come visit us in Brazil,’ said Haroldo.

‘Thank you, that would be great, but not sure when.  Meantime perhaps your next holiday could be a visit to us in England.’  Cards were exchanged and I’m sure we all were wondering whether we would meet again sometime.  We did seem to have an affinity as we walked together, admiring the seascape and rocky outcrops with natural vegetation.


Arriving at a fork in the track towards the top of the hill, we left the Brazilians to continue to the Bathurst Lighthouse.  We returned towards the settlement, exploring the back streets with the Chapel, Museum and Library, and Salt Store dating back to the days when salt was used to trade in the mid 1800s.


We passed the Dome café and continued by a well-kept lawn leading to the Hotel Rottnest.  Resting on a bench shaded by the spreading branches of a giant tree, the enticing aroma of plated lunches – carried by smartly dressed waiters – encouraged us to find a seat.  All the outside tables were busy so we sampled their white wine.  The wait was worthwhile – the chef knew his trade.  The burgers were perfectly cooked to our taste, delicately spiced with accompaniments. Our friendly efficient waitress kindly posed to show off her shirt.  Unfortunately we mislaid the paper serviette with her email details during our subsequent travels, so are sorry not to have sent her a copy.

Hotel Rottnest
Hotel Rottnest

‘That will keep us full until later this evening,’ said Paul.  ‘Delicious, that’s better,’ I replied.

Looking up the timetable for the Rottnest Island bus tour, we discovered many different activities are available.  Cycling, walking, camping, backpacking, bird-watching, swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, or lying in the sun on one of the sandy beaches, all are available on Rottnest.  The bus tour allowed time at a variety of viewpoints, including the Bathurst Lighthouse.  We thoroughly recommend you include at least one day on Rottnest Island when you visit Perth in Western Australia.



Benji joins us at nine weeks
Benji joins us at nine weeks

When Paul and I first thought about a dog joining our home, I remembered the cheeky character I had met at a friend’s house.  The miniature schnauzer was staying while his owners were on holiday and Pat kindly found the breeder’s details.  Barry Day has bred many champion dogs and is a well-known judge, so we were delighted to hear that a litter had been born on Sunday, 16 August comprising four bitches and three boys.  On Saturday 17 October 2015, Paul and I drove to Solihull.  Our life with Benji began.

Benji at five weeks
Benji at five weeks

I was sad to leave my brothers and sisters when Diane and Paul collected and drove me to their home.  I was nervous on the journey, in a crate on the back seat, but Diane stroked me to sleep.  When I awoke they showed me a comfortable blanket on a new bed in a different house.  No smells of other puppies, where were my playmates?    It was fun playing in their garden and being fussed.  I do enjoy attention and for a while forgot about my other home.  But later – when they left me in a bed in the kitchen – I was so lonely, I cried and howled, howled and cried.  I couldn’t stop.  Even when they picked me up, it didn’t help.

At least breakfast was familiar, Royal Canin puppy food, the same as my other home.  I was hungry and gobbled it up.  Later I explored a clump of yellow bushy grass.  It looked inviting so I jumped in the middle.  What a shock!  I was covered in cold water;  some I swallowed.

Benji playing tug
Benji playing tug


‘Paul, Benji’s in the pond!’  Not waiting for rescue, quickly I clambered out over the edge. I had a good shake, water droplets all around, before Diane picked me up in a fluffy yellow towel.  Rubbing my tummy made me wriggle, so she put me down to race around in the sunshine, playing tug with Paul.  It was such fun but then I had to lie down for a power nap.

I won the game of tug
I won the game of tug
My friends - Mr Fox and Fat Sally - keep me company
My friends – Mr Fox and Fat Sally – keep me company

Next day a boy called Dominic brought me some presents and threw a ball down the garden for me to chase.  It made me happy, just like playing with the children in my other home.  He said I could meet his black labrador called Guinness when I’m allowed out for walks.

Dominic went home
Dominic went home

Lots more cuddles and another bedtime.  They found me a different, more comfortable bed, very snug in my special sectioned off area in the kitchen.  Sweet dreams, I’m getting used to it here.

Copper Copy Cat has joined my gang
Copper Copy Cat has joined my gang

It’s fun on the garden table where I pick up the edges of the cloth I’m standing on with my teeth, trying to give it a good shake.  I’m given lots of treats, one a new chicken flavour, and suddenly my fur feels clean and smooth.  When they try to put a soft red collar round my neck, I catch it in my mouth:  if I play it right a few more treats come my way.  Then I sit on my bottom, I’m good at that, just like my Mum.  They try to make me walk but I don’t like the feel of something pulling my neck.  ‘Benji, walk, walk Benji.’  I don’t know what they want but treats are being offered, I guess they want me to eat them.  So I get up and gobble all the pieces held out in a hand.  Before I know it we’ve moved down the garden path to another flower bed with interesting plants to smell.  I taste some leaves ‘No Benji, hydrangea leaves aren’t good for you.’  I let them take the leaf from my mouth.  I prefer the treats.

I like the scent of roses
I like the scent of roses

They put me in the crate in the back of a car.  It reminds me of leaving my brothers and sisters so I struggle to get out and cry.  I ignore the treats and cannot help doing a poo.  My mum would push us puppies out of the bed we all shared to poo – and I want to be good – but I’m frightened and don’t know where I’m off to now, maybe another new home?  No, the movement stops.  I’m lifted from the car and wiped clean before Paul carries me through a door.  I remember the friendly lady’s scent from our last visit and wag my tail.  I sniff the air but don’t recognise any puppy smells.

Looking down is fun
Looking down is fun
In good hands with Simon
In good hands with Simon

Simon Felger BVetMed MRCVS, Weybridge Veterinary Centre KT13 9DT – 01932 855856

Then it’s onto a table, a good vantage point to look around.  Last time I was here someone called Simon the Vet gave me lots of his Coachie treats, that I like a lot.  I wag my tail more vigorously, hoping for more.  Simon feels me all over, inspecting my ears, eyes, paws, back and bottom.  I don’t mind, Simon says how healthy and well-adjusted I am and gives me more Coachies.  As Diane and Paul produce my inoculation and microchip forms, Simon says he thinks I’m champion and likes the way Barry trimmed my fur when he gave me a last bath at his place, before I came here.  Well, everyone says I’m like a fluffy ball and I enjoy all their cuddles so it was worth being bathed, even though I prefer exploring and getting dirty.

Exploring in the garden
Exploring in the garden
Standing on the Agapanthus, moi?
Standing on the Agapanthus, moi?

Today I have a new friend, Caitlin, a friendly girl who gives me lots of cuddles, fuss and attention.  She makes me feel special, we play all the time, well, unless she strokes me on her lap until I fall into one of my power naps.  When I wake I’m ready for more fun in the garden.  My favourite game is chewing flower petals.

One day I somersaulted out of this door!
One day I somersaulted out of this door!
I like the taste of these pink flowers
I like the taste of these pink flowers

‘You’re like King of the Castle playing on the rockery,’  Caitlin said.

‘You’re a lovable scallywag,’ said Diane.  I’m not sure what that is but I get lots of treats so it must be good.  Caitlin’s Mummy arrived and made a fuss of me.  She kept mentioning another puppy called Dougal.  I hope to meet him soon.  I like it here but I miss my puppy friends.  The dogs I’ve met in the park don’t want to play, I think perhaps I’m too small. Still, I’m eating all my meals as I’d like to grow as big as my Dad, then other dogs will play with me.

The first puppy I meet is called Ziggy.  He’s a few months older than me and wants to play, but he’s gigantic and I wasn’t sure where I could hide in this huge garden.  I explored all the flower beds while Ziggy stayed on  his lead and I was able to run around and play with Ziggy’s boys.

Ziggy and Benji phhotos courtesy of Debbie Sasso
Ziggy and Benji photos courtesy of Debbie Sasso
Benji meets Ziggy
Benji meets Ziggy

I liked finding new scents in a different garden.  Before we left I was allowed in their kitchen.  I wore my red collar and lead and drank water from Ziggy’s bowl as he lay in another room.  When it was time to leave I didn’t object to going in the crate in the car and fell asleep on the way home.

That’s all for now, next time I’ll tell you about my visits to the local park and meeting other puppies on Saturday mornings.  I feel another power nap coming on.



All Rights Reserved

PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Kings Park Botanical and Memorial Garden

Eternal Flame and State Memorial
Eternal Flame and State Memorial

Its close proximity to Perth brought tourists and local people to Kings Park, enjoying the fresh air and open spaces, this New Years Day 2015.

We made our way to the State War Memorial on Mount Eliza overlooking Perth Water.  A part of the War Memorial, the Cenotaph includes a roll of honour naming all servicemen and women who gave their lives representing Western Australia in combat:  the Boer War; World Wars 1 and 11; the Korean and Vietnam War;  most recently in 2012 in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Flame of Remembrance and Pool of Reflection were inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth 11 during her visit in April 2000.

Numerous military memorials are placed around the park.  It was humbling, in the embracing heat of New Years Day, to walk along the Honour Avenues lined with eucalyptus trees, where each tree had a plaque in memory of a specific person lost in action:  a total over 1100 plaques.

Botanical knowledge of the trees and shrubs that thrive in the soil at Kings Park continues to evolve.  In 1898 red-flowering gum trees, Corymbia ficifolia, were planted along Fraser Avenue to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.  Unfortunately attacked and killed by patch canker disease during the 1930’s, eventually they were replaced with Lemon Scented gum trees, Corymbia citriodora.

Statue of Queen Victoria
Statue of Queen Victoria

Kings Park consists of 1,000 acres with over 12,000 Australian plant species.  The Lotterywest Federation glass walkway links areas in the 45 acre Botanic Garden, taking visitors high up through shrubs and trees.

The Lotterywest Walkway
The Lotterywest Walkway

As many local people we met, our taxi driver was proud of the open spaces, monuments and ancient trees in Kings Park.  Its easy accessibility to the city and panoramic views across Perth, as well as the Swan River from Mount Eliza, have a unique appeal.

The Park’s history dates back to 1872 when the Surveyor General Malcolm Fraser had the foresight to set aside an area known as Perth Park for public use.  In 1890 Perth Park was enlarged to its current size and in 1901 the name was changed to Kings Park, in celebration of the accession of King Edward VII to the British throne.

Boab Tree (Andansonia gregoril)
Boab Tree (Andansonia gregoril)

Several young Boab trees have been planted.  The Boab is valued especially by local  indigenous people for its edible fruits and other medicinal uses.  Water is retained in its trunk.  In 2008 an established Boab, believed to be over 750 years old, had to be relocated due to expansion of the Great Northern Highway.  It was moved over 3,200 kilometres from Western Australia’s Kimberley region to Kings Park, as a special gift to all Western Australians from the local indigenous people, the Gija.  Today this tree is known as the Giant Boab ‘Gija Jumulu.’

The Giant Boab 'Gija Jumulu'
The Giant Boab ‘Gija Jumulu’

It was great wandering around the Park where we were able to see tree ferns and agapanthus, that we have in our garden at home, in their natural habitats.  Family groups enjoyed picnics on the spacious grassed areas in the 30 degree plus temperature, many taking the opportunity afterwards to relax by the cooling water of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Fountain.

Tree Ferns
Tree Ferns
Pioneer Women's memorial fountain
Pioneer Women’s memorial fountain

We punctuated our visit with a tasty fish lunch in the restaurant before a second walk through the botanical gardens and an ice cream, wending our way to the bus stop, physically and emotionally sated.  With fellow tourists and Perth residents waiting for a return bus to Perth, we felt lucky to have experienced this unique open space:  more so because it is free, no entry or car parking charges.  Fantastic!


PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Exploration and Settlement

View of Perth from Kings Park
View of Perth from Kings Park

Perth on the Western coast of Australia.  With no idea what to expect and time being limited, we had booked ourselves onto a coach tour of the city and surrounding area.  A furious ringing from the bedside table disturbed our sound sleep.  7.15 a.m. local time:  reception saying a coach driver and coach load of people were waiting.

‘No, no,’ I said in dreamlike state, ‘that’s tomorrow, Wednesday,’ replacing the phone.  Our brief return to the land of nod again was disturbed by shrill ringing.

‘The driver assures you it’s today, today is Wednesday.’  Oh, no!  ‘We aren’t ready.  Please send our apologies and ask the driver to continue without us.’

Forty-five minutes later we were climbing into a taxi outside the hotel.  The driver was as good as his word, delivering us to the cafeteria in Kings Park within twenty minutes.  Here we breakfasted on coffee and pastries, strolling to admire the views of Perth below, before uniting with the early-bird coach driver and his passengers.  An interesting history, including ancient trees and shrubs found only in the southern hemisphere, made us resolve to return another day and explore at our own more leisurely walking pace.

Perth from Kings Park
Perth from Kings Park

Between the Carey world-wide chauffeur service – whose welcoming driver had met us at the airport – the taxi and coach drivers, we learnt Perth’s history.  The coach stopped at St Martins Centre.  Located on the site of the first businessmen’s club of WA it was the inspiration for an unusual sculpture group.

FOOTSTEPS IN TIME  commemorates the 175th anniversary of Western Australia and recognises the involvement of businessmen in significant historical moments during Perth’s development.

1697 (back) and 1829 (front)
1697 – Dutch exploration, discovery, mapping, naming of the Swan River. 1829 – Anglo Celtic settlement of Swan River
Central figure - 1885-95 - The discovery of gold
Central figure – 1885-95 – The discovery of gold
1945-55 Post World War 2 European Immigration. 2004 The millennium man
1945-55 – Post World War 2 European Immigration. 2004 – The millennium man


The coach arrived in Fremantle with time to appreciate some of its large collection of heritage listed buildings, before boarding a boat for our ride up the Swan River.


The indigenous hunters and gatherers of South West Australia were aborigines of the Noongar tribe, who called the Swan River area, Boorloo.  A few years after the arrival of the first settlers in 1829, hostilities – including executions and massacres of the Noongar people – caused them to retreat from the area, moving to the swamps and lakes north of the river.

As we cruised up-river, I imagined the first Dutch explorers travelling along the river estuary in 1697 and their disappointment at finding the soil infertile limestone and sand, interspersed with large flat swamp-lands.  Black swans gave rise to the name ‘Swan River.’  Later explorations by the French and British in 1801 and 1822, found little change:  the land was infertile and unsuitable for settlement.


In 1827 Captain James Stirling was searching for a settlement in Western Australia, to aid relatives in the British East India Company who were seeking to establish Indian Ocean trade.  In a positive frame of mind, Captain Stirling did not travel far enough upriver to see the mainly sandy soil around the estuary, reporting that the area would provide good quality agricultural land.  Lobbying for a free settlement, unlike the other penal settlements, the British Government was persuaded that such a colony would incur negligible cost, and permission was granted in 1828.

Paddle boat on the Swan River
Paddle boat on the Swan River

Today’s fertile green riverbanks and smart residences along the river estuary are vastly different to the raw emptiness that greeted the first fleet of settlers.  Having disembarked with their possessions in June 1829, they found that no land had been allocated or buildings constructed.  Captain Stirling’s Surveyor-General, Septimus Roe, demarcated the fertile locations close to the Swan and Canning Rivers and upstream, where the district of Guildford had the best quality soil and was settled in the first year of the colony.

The town sites of Perth, Fremantle and Guildford were laid out by Septimus Roe. Perth’s site with access to fresh water, river transport and building materials, was to be the administrative and military hub. Fremantle was the port city, with Guildford the loading point for agricultural produce.

Poor soil around Perth inhibited agricultural development, its slow expansion contributing to Perth becoming a penal colony in 1849.  Over the next sixteen years the large convict workforce – comprising over 9,000 convicts – brought expansion in the form of infrastructure and colonial inspired buildings.  Despite being proclaimed a City by Queen Victoria in 1856, Perth remained a garden city with scattered residences.

IMG_2392 IMG_2394 IMG_2397

In the last quarter of the 19th century, a telegraph line from Adelaide to Perth improved intercontinental communication and was followed eight years later by the first weekly newspaper, the Western Mail.  Impressive government offices were built and the railway line from Fremantle to Guildford was completed.

Fremantle Railway Station
Fremantle Railway Station

The location of the central Perth railway station, with railway lines acting as boundaries, created a vibrant central walking area.   Today this pedestrianized area is being enlarged and improved by the construction of underground tunnels to run trains beneath the city.  Residents and tourists will be able to reach all parts of the city on foot, without the hindrance of finding designated crossings or bridges to traverse the railway lines.   It was a fifteen minute detour from the Four Points Sheraton hotel, to reach a part of town containing excellent restaurants and promising New Year celebrations, so we thoroughly appreciate the improvement these changes will bring once completed.

Perth 2014-a5
Perth 2014-15
New Years Eve Perth 2014/15
New Years Eve Perth 2014/15

Before joining in the musical celebrations to sing in the New Year, we found an outside table where we ‘whispered sweet nothings’ over an excellent dinner for two.  Thinking of the cold wind, and often rain, that heralds in our English New Year, we appreciated the deep warmth we were enjoying here in Perth.


We can luxuriate in a lie-in tomorrow, I’m sure nothing is booked (!) so we won’t have reception ringing our bell with a loud wake up call.

Our plan is to return to Kings Park for a leisurely day, before catching a boat to the unique Rottnest Island, the day after.  I hope you’ll join me for Part 2 of tales about Perth.



Guildford Road, Chobham, Surrey  GU24 8EH


xMG_2402Do you enjoy a family day out with super attractions?

RSPCA Millbrook’s main fund-raising event takes place each year on the first Sunday of September.  Last Sunday did not disappoint.

PicMonkey Stalls
RSPCA Gala Day stalls

The day starts at 11 a.m. when stalls and tents open, displaying a variety of reasonably-priced plants, home-made cakes, jewellery, cards, bric-a-brac and essential animal paraphernalia, as well as tombola, face painting, Inspectors and Campaign displays. In one corner the Fairground slide and roundabout keep children amused.

PicMonkey RSPCA Dog Show
RSPCA Gala Day Dog Show

Dogs of all shapes, sizes and colours come with their owners to enjoy the day.   The Fun Dog Show this year was sponsored by Personnel Selection, who have offices in Surrey, Sussex and Hants.  A pretty husky/pom cross puppy was awarded a best puppy red rosette at the Dog Show.  Not all dog visitors are rescues, but the wagging tails and smiling doggie faces of some showed their delight at reuniting with dog walkers and carers met during their sojourn at the Millbrook Animal Centre.PicMonkey Collage RSPCA Gala Day 2015

Straw bales positioned around the main arena add atmosphere to events. The Dog Agility Display demonstrated the close understanding required between dog and owner.  The skilful demonstration encouraged other owners afterwards to ‘have a go’ in the Fun Dog Agility area nearby.

Fun Dog Agility Arena
Fun Dog Agility Arena
Keen to try Fun Agility Course
I want to try this Fun Agility course

Richard Curtis demonstrated how to teach Heelwork to Music with his talented harlequin dog, and children were invited into the arena at the conclusion of the Mighty Smith Show, to participate in a tug o war.

Richard Curtis with Heelwork to Music
Richard Curtis with Heelwork to Music

The sound of bells and flicking white scarves of the traditionally dressed group of Morris Dancers was entertaining.  Events repeated through the day.  The Shire Horse unfortunately was lame that morning but hopefully will soon be better.

PicMonkey RSPCA Spectators and Morris Dancers

We lunched at our favourite Burger Tent with a welcome  cup of tea from the refreshment hut.  Veggie burgers, hot dogs with a glass or two from the Beer Tent are excellent alternatives.

Away from the Main Arena, small animals and donkeys were on show in the stable block where equine information and lots of tack plus horse rugs were for sale. The Cattery and Kennels give an insight into the work carried out at Millbrook on a daily basis. Dogs and cats arrive in different degrees of distress, for a variety of reasons, and some backgrounds are heart-rending.

RSPCA Cattery
RSPCA Cattery
RSPCA Millbrook Rescue Cat
RSPCA Millbrook Rescue Cat

The Tillingbourne Accordion Band’s unique sound drew us in, to stand and listen to their repertoire, that sent me day-dreaming down memory lane.  I first heard an accordion played outside a cinema queue in Leicester Square: the busker had a string attached to the heel of his shoe that beat a drum on his back.  Very clever, I thought.  A few years later, a smartly dressed accordionist was part of a group entertaining diners in the restaurant up the Eiffel Tower during my first trip to Paris.  Now I associate the accordion with musicians in black berets, singing in French to celebrate Nouveau Beaujolais day.

TheTillingbourne Accordian Band
The Tillingbourne Accordian Band
The Tillingbourne Accordian Band
The Tillingbourne Accordian Band

Following this enjoyable interlude we continued towards the Vintage Car Display, where colourful models shone in the afternoon sun and proud owners ate picnics close by.

PicMonkey vintage cars and pony area

It costs over £500,000 each year to run Millbrook, where new homes are found for hundreds of dogs and cats, horses and ponies and small animals:  guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats chinchillas, degus, budgerigars, cockatiel and parakeets. Each year the money raised by Gala Day helps fund specific projects.   In previous years this has included reforming the pond, constructing new animal blocks, and providing a new enclosed riding school area. Donations are still being received but so far Millbrook Gala Day this year has raised almost £19,000.  A great achievement.  Well Done Sue and all the workers, sponsors, volunteers and Gala Day participants.

xMG_2522 Sue with Dougal
Sue, Manager of Millbrook Animal Rescue Centre, with Rescue Dog, Dougal

If you are interested to learn more about homing or training an animal, working or volunteering, please contact RSPCA Millbrook direct.

Please note the first Sunday in September in your calendar. It really is a great day out for children, dogs and animal lovers.

Puppies and dogs adopted from Millbrook have access to their resident dog behaviourist, June Williams M.A. (Hons) Ed.D, C.A.B.T. June supports new owners during their first three months, with free advice.

Puppy and Dog Training Classes:
Sarah Whitehead’s Clever Dog Company
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Ventnor, the Isle of Wight, Steephill Cove, Bonchurch and the Round the Island Race (Part 2 of 2)

PicMonkey Ventnor ParkOften referred to as ‘A Hidden Gem,’ there are two ways to access Steephill Cove, both by foot.  We chose the ‘upper’ walk taking us by Ventnor Park.  The gardens were in full bloom and stepping stones across a flowing stream enticed, encouraging exploration.  A family was enjoying the open green as I studied a blue plaque on an ancient tree, indicating the park as an important local amenity.PicMonkey Flowers by sea

Past Ventnor Cricket Club and the Botanical Gardens car park – the closest parking place to Steephill Cove – onto the downhill path that, as the name implies, is very steep (!)  We paused to admire the beautiful views out to sea where participants in the Round the Island race were visible in the distance and a helicopter hovered overhead, possibly monitoring progress.

PicMonkey Steephill Cove

Along the Coastal Path, a closed gate indicated the entrance to the privately-owned Steephill Cove.  Its original owner, in the 18th century, was the governor of the Isle of Wight who built a house there called ‘The Cottage’ with landscape gardens.  Changing hands after his death, Steephill Cove eventually was purchased by John Hambrough who, in 1835, replaced The Cottage with Steephill Castle.  Owners changed over time until, after World War 1, the Castle became a hotel and a school during World War 2, remaining empty until, beyond repair, Steephill Castle was demolished in 1963.  IMG_1854

Plates of lobster served to diners seated outside the Boathouse Restaurant looked delicious, definitely on the ‘to do’ list for our next visit when also we might explore the unique accommodation available at The Lighthouse , The Sail Loft and other interesting buildings on the beach front.  Last in line we reached The Shack with plenty of outside seating overlooking the sea.  Their crab and their prawn sandwiches arrived with lots of filling, salad and a pot of crisps.  Traditional tea was served in a bone china pot with matching cups and saucers:  excellent – a welcome change from tea served in pottery thick mugs, my personal dislike.  A cocker spaniel on a nearby table also was well catered for with a clean bowl of fresh water, clearly to his taste!  Many of the tables were protected from the wind by clear screens through which the rocky shoreline, sunny blue sky and racing stragglers were clearly visible, perhaps contributing to its convivial atmosphere.PicMonkey Steephill cove - 2

In the distance, off Ventnor Bay, a helicopter was flying unusually low. The wind had freshened:  ‘Is it checking on competitors or is someone in need of rescue?’ we wondered.  The helicopter disappeared as we returned via the coastal route up a fairly steep winding path taking us over the point before we descend to the family run free house,  the Spyglass Inn, that offered also separate accommodation overlooking Ventnor Bay.  Next day we learned that a yacht had become trapped on the rocks and the helicopter had ‘stood by’ while a boat pulled her free.

Retracing our earlier steps on the path beside Ventnor beach we noticed the Gnomon, an astronomical instrument for measuring the sun’s altitude using the length of the Gnomon’s shadow measured at noon.


Further along, parents paddled and children played in the water surrounding the model of the Isle of Wight:  ‘A great idea,’ I thought.


We rounded off the day with an enjoyable dinner of Moules Mariniere, Chicken and Chickpea Tagine with Couscous and a bottle of Hardy’s Shiraz/Cabernet/Merlot – not special but very quaffable with the tagine’s spicy taste.  The Rex Piano Bar is found on the ground floor of a 1920’s style apartment block, perfectly situated along the road from the Royal and Wellington Hotels, overlooking Ventnor and the sea.  Mohammed, the owner, makes guests very welcome.  We had caught up with his news earlier in the day when we made use of the restaurant’s small but comfortable outside sitting area to look across the bay while resting with a frothy coffee.   Over dinner we were entertained by Nick Page who accompanied his velvet vocals with good guitar and high quality dinner jazz, perfect for this romantic setting.  He sang many of my favourites, including Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day.’  Many years ago my late musician husband had used the chords from this song to compose a tune that he called ‘Diane’s Day Out,’ fast and slightly frantic at times, whistles and bells indicating his view of my dashing in and out and about.  A great compliment.


Next day we took the Coastal path east, turning up past the 11th century church to the small village of Bonchurch.  Interesting cottages and buildings form the High Street. The Pond café is open in summer, the pond on the opposite side of the street being a main area of interest.  A heron flew down to fish as we stopped to watch.  Various blue plaques throughout the Ventnor area inform on local history.

PicMonkey Bonchurch

We couldn’t leave Ventnor without dinner at The Royal.  A favourite, it is always a pleasure to visit and see how the climbing geranium is faring on its front wall.

PicMonkey The Royal Hotel Ventnor

Eventually it was time to queue for the ferry and return to Portsmouth, feeling great after our relaxing visit to the island and its ‘Hidden Gems.’.

Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower
Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower


Ventnor, the Isle of Wight, and the Round the Island Race (Part 1 of 2)

Ventnor, Isle of Wight

Ventnor, Isle of Wight


Mention the ‘Isle of Wight’ and memories of family holidays in the 1950’s, when we stayed in then fashionable holiday camps, spring to mind.

In Brighstone Bay on the south-west coast, we were awakened each morning by the camp loudspeaker’s ‘Wakey-wakey’ call.  Dad put a dressing gown over his pyjamas to queue outside at a strategically stationed tea trolley, returning to our chalet with two cups of tea, for him and Mum.  We children raced to find a seat at the long tables set for our breakfast, loving the fact that the adults ate elsewhere.

Pocket money purchased a plastic green kite, its ability improved by the extra weight added to its elongated tail, before it was released to fly high above the windy green grass cliff top, together with those of like-minded children.  We were well looked after with organised games, running races and swimming competitions in the outdoor pool.  I relished racing around outdoors, returning home with prizes for athletics and swimming, no doubt helped by my special black running plimsolls and the ability to swim a mile by the age of 9!

Probably I have inherited my love of new places from Mum whose special holiday treats were family visits to the nearby picturesque villages of Brighstone, Niton or Godshill, where small keepsakes were purchased.

I love still the beach and the sea – the old-fashioned sea-side – so am thrilled to be spending a few days in Ventnor taking advantage of its cliff top and esplanade walks.  The Isle of Wight, with its slower pace, is reminiscent of life before our modern urge to rush, race and whizz about, allowing little time to stand and absorb.

Isle of Wight ferry

The holiday starts as soon as the car is parked on the ferry in Portsmouth.  Even the cloud could not dampen our anticipation of a relaxing few days.  Passing other ferries and boats, the busy Solent reflected the various events taking place on the island this weekend.  The Royal Hotel in Ventnor was fully booked.  We were staying at the Wellington Hotel with town and sea views and within comfortable walking distance of various cafes and restaurants across from the beach below.  The one we chose that evening produced a good meal of local shellfish. IMG_1679 Next morning it was past eight o’clock in our comfortable room when the sun shining between heavy floor-to-ceiling curtains called us out.  We sipped tea on the wrap-around balcony of the Wellington Hotel’s best room, appreciating its panoramic seascape.  The bird’s eye view showed a few ‘white horses’ on some of the waves, whipped up by the fresh breeze.

‘That’ll make for exhilarating sailing.’

‘Tricky but not too large so as to cause capsize.’

‘Perfect for today’s Round the Island Race.’

The start was in Cowes where competitors left in stages.  Smaller dinghies were followed by larger vessels over the many hours it took to release the total 1584 entries, all hoping to complete the 50 nautical miles to the finish.  They sailed west past Yarmouth:  to Alum Bay with its coloured sands and the historical Needles Battery – a military base built in the 19th century to guard the west end of the Solent – it is located above the familiar chalk stacks that form the Needles. Rounding the Needles, boats enter rougher water off the south coast of the island as they pass the Bays of Freshwater and Brighstone, sailing on to St Catherine’s Lighthouse warning unwary sailors they are approaching the most southern point of the Isle of Wight.  Continuing eastwards, the boats emerge round the western end of Ventnor Bay, behind the Spyglass Inn.  Sails coming into view increased in number so – as we had finished breakfast – we joined other hotel guests outside.

IMG_1730IMG_1726 IMG_1719   IMG_1611 Back on our own balcony, we criss-crossed from side to side – snapping and zooming, zooming and snapping – ‘That one leaning with its red sail will make a good photo, no this is better.’ ‘Look, three racing close together….another catching them up.’ IOW round the island 2015 So many photo opportunities, it was difficult to stop, just a few more, click, click, click, zoom. Eventually, seeking more vantage points, we found a steep lane leading to the foreshore where children played ‘chase the waves,’ or dug their toes in the sand, seeming oblivious to the sailors striving for their personal best in the annual competition. IMG_1761

Coming ashore on Ventnor beach
Coming ashore on Ventnor beach


After coffee at the family-owned Spyglass Inn where we took advantage of its proximity to the competing sailors, we meandered along the beach.  A left turn took us onto the path leading up to the recently renovated Winter Gardens where we paused to admire the waterfall and colourful planting.  The Winter Gardens re-opened in 2014 after undergoing refurbishment, but is not yet finished.  Meanwhile its programme includes tea dances and regular Friday music nights.  The bar and restaurant are open, providing simple refreshments with excellent views across Ventnor bay.  Below the Winter Gardens sits the Haven Harbour, built in 2003 as a safe haven for local fishing and pleasure boats, where mackerel fishing, boat trips, and a sea safari are offered.   A restaurant, shops, fish and chip takeaway, and workshop used mainly for the fitting of Cheetah Catamarans, add interest to the Ocean Blue Quay.


The Winter Gardens Ventnor
The Winter Gardens, Ventnor
The Haven, Ventnor
The Haven, Ventnor

After  walking along the Haven wall snapping the boats sailing on towards Shanklin and Sandown Bay, we returned past the Winter Gardens to walk through town, deciding to head towards Steephill Cove for lunch.IMG_1644

The Haven Fairweather Harbour and Ocean Blue Quay
The Haven Fairweather Harbour and Ocean Blue Quay

Pinnocks Coffee House, Ripley, Surrey


Sunday morning – a lie-in is allowed – Andrew Marr Show catches my interest.  Telephone call prompt urges quick leap to shower – meeting my walking friend, Nicola, in Ripley at 10.30 this morning.

Confusion over meeting place sorted. Nicola amicably agrees to start with coffee as I haven’t had breakfast.  Pinnocks Coffee House in the centre of the high street draws the eye.

IMG_2038 - Copy


I’m treated to a fresh, nutty, and tasty almond croissant that accompanies our delicious coffees from the huge choice available.  Finding a comfortable space among the settees and armchairs in the beamed upstairs area we settle into our catch-up:  the locals are lucky to have this cosy meeting place on their doorsteps.


Re-invigorated, we walk beside the cricket green, past the children’s play area, across fields, over a wooden bridge, through a copse of trees, returning by a more direct path towards Ripley High Street.  We are struck by the friendliness of dog-walking locals, and walkers without dogs.  Ripley Village is full of historical buildings and well worth a visit.   A pleasant place to while away a few hours.