The lower lawns at Castle Malwood Lodge have the appearance of scuffed up snooker table beize laid on a rocky outcrop. A game of bowls on the surface would be impossible; a game of croquet interesting. The rabbits, therefore, who attempted to burrow into it overnight were undoubtedly disappointed.
The only aim I had in mind when I set out on today’s walk, was to traverse the A31 via the Stoney Cross underpass. The hedges of Minstead are now thick with hawthorn and various prunus blossom. So, if you adhere to the ‘May’ in the ancient adage being the blossom, you may ‘cast a clout’. If you believe the reference is to the month, you must stay wrapped up until 1st June.
The far side of the forest looked pretty dry now, so I set off on a diagonal through the trees, which I thought would take me to Rufus Stone (see 19th November 2012 post). I was pleased to find that I was spot on, as I saw a crowd of backpackers gathered around the monument. They had moved on by the time I reached it. I then remembered that Berry had told me it was possible to walk to The Sir Walter Tyrrell Inn (see the same post) from behind Castle Malwood Farm. I therefore went on to the inn, walked around it, and took a punt. I am sure that there have been times during the last waterlogged year, when a punt would have come in handy. There wasn’t a beaten path, but my by now unerring sense of direction suggested another diagonal. I am pleased to inform all my doubters that this was successful too.
Indeed, en route, I was even able to put an antipodean couple on the right track for the stone, and to prepare them for what they would actually see. While we were talking we were joined by an Englishman who knew all about Australia, which is where the visitors lived; roads; history; and no doubt much else. Was it my imagination that their walking boots seemed to want to take off of their own accord while they politely listened to the story of the Norman invasion? The historian’s terrier, attached to the end of an expanding lead, was certainly itching to be off, as it progressively made its owner look like the central post of a game of swing ball that has gone wrong. For those who are unfamiliar with this analogy, unless both contestants in this game successfully hit the ball, the string attached to both ball and post becomes shorter and shorter as it winds around the post. This has invariably been the case when I have tried it.
Our visitors would not tell the other man where they came from. This may have been because he had such forthright views about their country, and had already told them that they should, like his Australian wife, ‘get rid of that accent’. They remained pleasant, however, and when I explained why I wanted to know, told me they hailed from Sidney. I naturally told them about Sam, Holly, their children, and the O’Neills. The other Englishman was not impressed when I said I had liked Melbourne best. He said it was too full of Poms and Irish. I resisted the obvious temptation. Sorry, O’Neills, it was only a fleeting visit to Perth, and too hot and humid to get out of the air conditioned car.
By now, we were all itching to be off. I felt it incumbent on me to break up the party, so I did. Berry had warned me that the area near my goal was likely to be muddy. When I encountered masses of dried craters gouged out by ponies’ hooves on the approach to a pedestrian ford, I thought that was what she had meant. I confidently crossed this, mounted a slope, and felt the familiar pull of the suction of mud. My left shoe bravely clung to my foot, I pulled up the legs of my trousers, and eventually reached dry land.
We finished the day with tasty ox heart casserole followed by vibrant plum crumble, with, in my case, a glass of Carta Roja gran reserva 2005.