Dawn across the lawn was stunning this morning.
We took advantage of the beautiful conditions and drove cross-country to Shaftesbury in Dorset. On probably our coldest day this year the temperature was mostly below freezing and never rose above 2 degrees centigrade. The proliferating pools on the forest floor remained frozen. The Hampshire forests and moors gave way, as we crossed into Wiltshire and Dorset, to frosted fields and picturesque villages with names like Martin, Tollard Royal, Sixpenny Handley, and Gussage St. Andrew. Thatched roofs abounded.
On the New Forest stretch many ponies were grazing, and two deer scudded across the road in front of us. A white-surfaced golf course was providing fodder for two ponies, one of which was defrosting the green. Munching comfortably, close to the red flag of a hole, the only actually verdant area was a neat circle around the animal’s muzzle. We thought that this equine trespass would probably make for some interesting putting for the golfers.
Whilst in Wiltshire I was so engrossed in a telephone conversation I was having with Becky that I did not notice Jackie slow down, drive into a farm entrance, perform a three point turn, and return the way we had come. I did notice her bring the car to a standstill. Looking out of my window I learned what had brought about this about turn. The roadside to my left bore a clump of crystallised brambles.
Thank you, my subject scout.
As we paused in a layby above Shaftesbury, to take in the splendid views descending to the level of the town, Jackie mentioned that one March she had sat at that spot, watching mad March hares leaping up and down in the fields below. Throughout the town we noticed representations of these creatures, so hers was clearly not an uncommon experience. Soon after this we came to a very hairy corkscrew in the road, rapidly twisting and turning until our goal was reached. Having parked the car, we wandered along the high street until we came to Gold Hill, the steep cobbled road made famous in 1973 by the Hovis television advertisement produced by Ridley Scott, who was to become even more famous as one of our major feature film directors. In 2010 Victoria Pendleton posed as the girl on the bike replacing ‘The Boy on the Bike’ in the original minor masterpiece. She, currently, is probably even more world famous.
We both walked down and back up Gold Hill. I then left Jackie in the comfort of a coffee bar and restaurant at the top of the hill, walked down again and had a ramble before joining her. At the bottom of the hill I turned left along Layton and then Hawkdene Lanes, then left again and eventually back into the town centre which I explored for a while.
Alongside the carpark we had noticed an Indian restaurant and decided to lunch there. This was the Aroma, an absolutely marvellous establishment in an unpretentious situation. It is to be thoroughly recommended. The food was top quality, the decor tasteful, and the service excellent. We drank our usual Kingfisher and Cobra.
Jackie hadn’t had enough time to ‘do’ all Shaftesbury’s charity shops, and hadn’t explored the town as much as I had, so after our meal we put that right. In my earlier exploration I had found The Cygnet Gallery at Swan’s Yard, and bought a couple of presents there. Consequently I introduced Jackie to this artists’ cooperative and we bought another, and some cards. The shop has a range of beautifully produced items including paintings, photography, ceramics, leatherwork, jewellery, and others. I found it particularly good because everything was of good quality and craftspersonship. They were carrying no-one. Prices were very reasonable.
On our return the hills above Shaftesbury seemed to be full of pheasants attempting to get themselves plastered on the tarmac. There were the usual ponies wandering across the road, and as the sky was darkening we were relieved we were not in the dead of night on the unlit road across the moors of Hampshire.
A late evening fry-up with toast completed the day