This morning Jackie and I drove over to Minstead to do a little more research into what is to be our local village. As we arrived, signs proclaimed that there was an antiques and bric-a-brac fair at Minstead Hall. Since we had come upon it by accident, the organisation’s name, ‘Serendipity’, seemed fortuitous. After we had got past the man in the entrance hall who was wishing to sell us a set of prints he thought were watercolours, we spotted, on the very first stall, two similar vases. They were of a dark green ceramic material in a shape which was certainly used in the 1880s; when Castle Malwood Lodge was built; with delightful floral designs appliqued in a hard paste. We don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to buy from the first stall you see, but we bought these and were well pleased. It was, of course, mandatory to try out The Trusty Servant, if this was going to be our local. With excellent real ale, a choice of lagers for Jackie, and first-rate plentiful food it turned out to be a winner. Despite the fact that the bar was quite busy, all three staff behind the counter greeted us with winning smiles as we entered, and the service continued to be efficient and cheerful. We both lunched on roast pork.
On the grass verge opposite the pub, a row of cattle grazed. We have much to learn about the New Forest, but we believe these animals to belong to verderers, a group of people with ancient rights to graze their cattle and pigs, who in modern times have responsibility for management of the woodland. A short distance away was a group of New Forest ponies. These animals, owned by the New Forest Commoners, roam freely throughout the forest and the villages therein. I am particularly amazed at how still these creatures are, when not actually cropping the grass. Last year in a car park in Burley I had been convinced that those I saw individually positioned, sometimes almost touching cars, were incredibly realistic sculptures. It took a very close examination to reveal that they were alive. Jackie says that it is important for them to conserve energy otherwise they would have to eat an awful lot of grass.
We also checked out the village shop which is reasonably stocked, sells newspapers, and offers a tea room. Not quite in the class of Tess’s establishment in Upper Dicker (see post of 12th May), it is certainly a very good asset, and only half a mile from the Lodge. Jackie bought the Ordnance Survey Leisure map for the New Forest.
This evening we dined on left-overs. This of course conjures up the image of a concoction produced from small amounts left over from recent meals. Sainsburys, I think it was, who ran a television advertising programme after the 2008 credit crunch, recommending people to make use of left-overs to create wonderful new meals which most of the older generation had been producing for years. Now, left-overs from a 90th birthday party are certainly not scraps. We could choose from whole roast chickens; unopened quiches; platefuls of ham; cooled salmon; a good half dozen French sticks; untouched cakes; baked potatoes; and still fresh coleslaw; with half empty bottles of assorted red wines, and, in Jackie’s case, a previously unopened bottle of Stella. We’ll probably get some more at some stage tomorrow.