Another warm day meant we could admire Jackie’s flowering violas and tagetes seedlings whilst lunching in the garden.
On 5th March I had got hopelessly lost and therefore considerably delayed when looking for Ditchend Brook en route from Godshill to Frogham. Studying the Ordnance Survey map afterwards I discovered the route of this waterway winding through the heath to the left of Roger Penny Way coming from Cadnam. When Jackie suggested a trip to Frogham this seemed the day for an expedition along the stream. She drove me to Ashley Walk car park and met me at the said village. The footpath over the heathland from that point crosses the gorse-bound brook. Eschewing a straight path that avoided the natural meanderings of the gravel bedded clear peat-coloured water, I threaded my usual way along the pony tracks sprinkled with dry droppings. The animals clearly chose to wander within easy reach of their drink. Had I not done so I would not have noticed two, hopefully successfully hatched, duck eggs hidden in the bushes.
The stream descends gently from the height alongside Roger Penny Way to its end in a valley below. In this fairly flat area, basking in the lazy, hazy summery afternoon, lay a number of cattle including the rare Belted Galloway, or ‘Belties’, breed , contemplating the water and hoping for shelter from the scrubby trees. Beyond them stood many ponies. A trio of these, abandoning their observation of two mallards swimming across a still wet pool, began leading the hopeful march towards me. They were disappointed to discover I had nothing for them. These poor creatures, most of whom are displaying bony ribs, have had a hard time of it this winter.
Soon after weaving my way among the livestock, I came to the beautiful goal that had eluded me on my previous visit, the brook that I had had to cross. This time I knew not to expect a bridge.
The route from there was familiar to me. Feeling confident, from Burnt Balls and Long Bottom I walked parallel to, but lower down than, Hampton Ridge as far as Chilly Hill. At this point I checked with a cyclist that I was on the right track to turn and walk up to the ridge from where it was a gentle downhill stroll to Frogham. The young woman, who was the only person I met on this idyllic afternoon trip, confirmed I was headed in the right direction. I apologised for stopping her on an uphill stretch. ‘Don’t worry’, she replied. ‘I’ll be walking myself in a minute’. Off she pedalled around a bend. As I turned it myself I saw what she meant. There she was, pushing her steed up an almost perpendicular climb. At the top she was crouched over the bike in some disarray. She looked up, her hair dangling in her eyes, and looking somewhat flushed. ‘Are you strong?’, she asked. Well, I was certainly going to be, wasn’t I? It’s not often a Knight comes across a damsel in distress. Of course, I know nothing about bikes, but I have got a bit of brawn, so long as bending of neither of my two rugby shattered finger joints is required. There was a thingy sticking out that should be flush with the frame. It seemed to be in place for casing the brake or gear cables. I had to place my palm around the sharp end of it and apply as much pressure as I could, trying not to give away the fact that I was in danger of administering the stigmata to myself. Fortunately I was able to demonstrate that I was sufficiently strong, and the young lady was able to wobble off without discomfort to her lower limb.
Jackie arrived back at the Abbot’s Well car park at the same time as I did. She had thoughtfully gone off to buy me a bottle of water, for which I was most grateful. Today has been a day of glowing gorse and a bank of pastel primroses. On the Cadnam roundabout on the A31 cascades a bank of these latter plants that has attracted us every time we have passed them. This afternoon Jackie parked at a safe distance and I took my chances among the traffic to walk back and photograph them.
Dinner was Jackie’s chilli con carne with which I drank Piccini chianti reserva 2009 and she didn’t.