The New Forest hasn’t changed much since I left it on 20th January. The snow has cleared, but it is still very cold, drab, and, if anything, even more waterlogged. Light rain had begun to fall by the time I reached Shave Wood when walking the loop that touches it.
A small van approaching me from the rear as I reached Seamans Corner gave me an abrupt reminder that I was in a different country. I follow the general rule that it is safer when walking along unpavemented roads to face the oncoming traffic. Consequently, for the last three weeks I have been carefully walking on my left hand side of the road. That is what I was doing this morning at first. Even after I’d corrected this, when waving acknowledgement to drivers of approaching cars who gave me room, I found myself waving to the passenger seat.
Fingers tingling, I stopped and had a long chat with Audrey Saunders (see 16th December last year) who, begloved, leant over her garden gate. Her sister, who had struggled to answer the door when I delivered the first set of photographs, is now in a home. Her pony Primrose had managed to pick up a length of barbed wire obviously overlooked when the fence was installed. She had wrapped it around her leg, sustaining a deep surrounding cut. The RSPCA vet had successfully treated this, and, in the process, Champion’s alarming cough. The male horse had consumed some of his companion’s medicine, whereupon his chest infection had disappeared. Further on through Minstead I met Alison with her dog Tom. Tom now has terminal cancer, about which Alison is quite philosophical.
On the walk I reflected on the fact that I really must learn about trees if I am going to live in the forest. Jackie, last night, showed me an excellent little Dorling Kindersley guide to them that she had just bought, which reminded me of my first second-hand book purchase. This had been in a Dutch auction at school. I believe I paid 2d. for G.S.Boulger’s ‘Familiar Trees’, as much for its exquisite illustrations as for the subject matter itself. 2d. in pre-decimalisation currency is the equivalent of less than 1p. today. I was thirteen; 2d was a lot of money for me in those days.
When we set off in the car this afternoon for a trip to Donna-Marie in Ringwood for me to have a haircut, snow was falling again. It did not settle and had turned to rain by the time we got back from a visit to Helen and Bill. Visibility on and beside the motorway was limited by a fine grey shroud.
Jackie then produced a fine vegetable soup; a delicious beef stew; and an excellent rice pudding. She drank Montpierre reserve Sauvignon blanc 2012; my accompaniment was Carta Roja gran reserva 2005.