PENINSULA LIFE • OUR HERITAGE
The Gower Peninsula is celebrated as the first named Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK. It’s the best kept secret of the west; home to lazy morning mist hovering over the estuary, oyster catcher calls and rolling sheep grazed moorland. With countless sea-kissed sand-filled vistas, hidden coves and clean surf encased by miles of rugged coastlines, it’s no wonder this magnificent, award-winning landscape has inspired generations of artists such as Dylan Thomas and Michael Sheen.
Ben Holbrook is just such a creative and Gower is his muse. Growing up in Penclawdd, he moved away for over 20 years and has recently returned to the North Gower coast with his wife to raise their family. As a filmmaker, writer and photographer, Ben is rarely seen without a camera of some form in hand. His personal portfolio, Driftwood Journals, is an ode to Peninsular life. It speaks of slowing down, drawing closer to nature and showcases the raw beauty of what it truly means to live in this scenic enclave in Wales.
A local to the brewery and lover of Gower Gold, Ben has often featured our beers throughout his work. We met up with him on an early summer afternoon for a pint in the Worms Head Hotel and a stroll along the top of Rhossili.
“So, I’ve run Driftwood Journals for over 10 years now as a travel and photography blog, but the main focus shifted to Gower when I moved back 4 years ago just before COVID. I’m also a freelance writer, wedding photographer and filmmaker which keeps me busy a lot of the time! I get down to the beach as much as I can with my son and love surfing; guaranteed I’ll have a camera with me whenever we go out.
Although I grew up in Penclawdd, I only really appreciated the wilderness of this part of the world when I moved back. I love it, it’s the gateway to the Gower, being this close to places like Llangennith and Rhossili yet not too far from civilization. I am so happy to be back! I feel so settled here, with a family of my own now; I can’t see myself moving again.
I love photography! It’s something that I have always been interested in. The creative projects I do outside of work feel more than just a hobby to me. For me, photography has become more of a philosophy for life. When I’m out with my camera I have to be in an optimistic mood because I’m assuming that something is going to happen that is worth photographing or filming. So, I’ll take my camera with me as it makes me look and experience things differently. It’s a form of meditation for me and I’ll never stop, I don’t think.
Gower is simply outstanding isn’t it? Besides the beauty and the beaches, I love the fact that it's an ever changing landscape; it feels so alive. For example, I came down to Llangennith a few months back and it was completely silent, covered under a blanket of snow with no one in sight. Then, the next weekend I was down and there were loads of surfers, people on the beach - I even got sunburned! You can kinda be sure that you’re going to stumble across something; I just love that about being here.
During lockdown I ran a photography project called ‘Living on an Island’ because being here can feel a lot like that. For such a small geographical area, each corner is incredibly diverse and different. You can also drive half a mile and the accent completely changes! Gower is also full of secrets and I’m still discovering small pockets and new places that I’ve never been to - I discovered Slade beach and went there for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I feel like there is a never ending invitation; exploration is always here if you want it.”
Ben’s life on Gower would be envied by many; simple, slow living a few minutes drive from some of the best beaches in the world. His outlook and approach to life enables him to truly absorb and appreciate his surroundings. We asked Ben to describe his life on Gower in three words:
Wild. Unpretentious. Simple.
These words are not only true for Ben, who wears his slippers to the beach, but also in his work. It’s an authentic taste of Peninsula life; a simple and good life saturated in the outdoors. So, grab yourself a pint of Gower Gold, head over to Driftwood Journals, and have a browse.