The landscape after the deluge was pretty waterlogged today, but the light was bright and clear, giving us beautiful skies.
Apart from a diversion to Acres Down, my walk took the form of a roughly drawn ampersand. I turned right at Minstead Hall, left down to the ford, right at the ford, through Fleetwater to Acres Down, and back via the other fork, going straight into the village from there.
Five or six ponies approached me as I walked down Running Hill. They completely blocked the road. I can’t say I was scared, just marginally apprehensive, to be surrounded by these creatures we have been warned not to touch. Apparently they can bite. I used my usual method of negotiating them, which is to hold my line and walk on. Normally this works well. This time the horses had the same idea. One in particular, the light-brown white-maned creature in the centre of the picture, was into the head-to-head approach. Close enough for me to smell its not unpleasant mustiness and eye its not very pleasant teeth. As I rejected its desire for further intimacy, used the better part of valour and walked around this beast, I did momentarily think I would rather have been in one of the cars whose drivers were patiently waiting for the road to clear. On skirting my interested pony I said ‘I’m not supposed to touch you, mate’. I received no reply, and one of the most disconcerting aspects of these animals is that they are always absolutely silent.
When taking the right fork after the ford I exchanged greetings with two Highway Maintenance workmen seated in their stationary truck.
Reaching the main road between Emery Down and the A31, I noticed for the first time a chalked sign advertising the Acres Down Farm Shop, and decided to go down and check it out. There was also a ford on this road, with fast-flowing water streaming across it. Its footbridge looked rather inaccessible, but I thought I would give it a go. Not a good idea. There were three deterrents to taking this route: the thick, squelching mud; the piles of glistening horse shit; and the low branch requiring a limbo dancer’s technique to get under it. Feeling intrepid, I persevered and reached the bridge. One glance across to the other side made it clear that a better option would be to wade through the clean, fresh water. I stepped into it and did just that.
The farm shop wasn’t open. According to a notice it didn’t open for another ten minutes. I thought I would wait. A gentleman suggested I should ring the front door bell of the house next door. I did. A young woman told me it wasn’t open on Mondays. As she said this she looked at me quizzically and said there was a notice which contained this information. ‘Ah, yes, I read that.’ I said, ‘I’m retired you see. Ah, yes. Monday. Sometimes I don’t know what day it is’. This was the point at which I sensed her instincts were telling her to back away. She stuck with it, however, and explained that her sister ran the shop and its stock was largely meat and eggs from the farm; various chutneys and pickles; and seasonal gifts. I thanked her, saying that was just what I needed to know, and I could now report back on my find. As I left, the helpful gentleman was starting to drive off. Claiming to be a dodderer he said he’d forgotten the shop wasn’t open on Mondays. Since I had told the young woman that he had suggested I ring the bell, she must have thought we were a right pair.
Returning down the road to Minstead which takes me to the left prong of the fork, I discovered evidence that my prediction yesterday, that the rainwater would reach the cones by the vast pool, was correct. Water now trickled between the cones onto the private drive. Rounding the corner now blocked by this water, I met my Highway Maintenance acquaintances. This time they were leaning on their truck, one having a fag. He was their spokesperson. Perhaps because it was about three quarters of an hour since I had last passed them, he greeted me with: ‘We’re not skiving. We’re waiting for a machine to clear all that water round there’. Only when the water was cleared would they be able to determine what needed to be done to rectify the situation. I told them about the obstacles to using the Acres Down ford footbridge. They advised me to contact Hampshire County Council. I said I wasn’t bothered enough for that and thought not many people walked that way. They agreed.
As I walked up the road from the ford, the machine, not unlike the vast vacuum cleaner I described four days ago, passed me. I considered the smoker would have time to finish his cigarette.
This evening we are going to The Amberwood Christmas quiz, where we will be fed what are promised to be very good and plentiful snacks. Anything worthy of note will be recorded tomorrow because we will probably be late back.