A bright, warming, sun lit the horse chestnut candelabra in the garden this morning as I set off to walk the two A31 underpasses route this morning. A cool caressing breeze offered welcome refreshment. As the day went on it remained bright, but didn’t really warm up unless you were directly in the sun.
Fresh growth of all kinds is piercing the forest floor. Near the edges of the woodland new spring flowers emerge daily. Young bracken, just two weeks ago crouched curled and cowering from the cold conditions, now stands proudly erect, flaunting its youth beside its withered forebears.
In parts the ground is hard clay pitted by ponies’ hooves; in others the darkened soil warns of a quagmire beneath.
I nearly found my way between The Rufus Stone and Castle Malwood Farm without a hitch. Not quite. I am now recognising a few fallen trees and just about know which way to turn when I cross the stream. However, crossing the stream is only a first step. What to do when you get to the other side is not always clear, and clambering over sleeping giants that once rose aloft gets more and more difficult as the months pass.
We drove to Shelly and Ron’s home in Walkford for a barbecue lunch which extended into the evening and was shared with Helen and Bill and Jackie Ryder and Malcolm. Ron presented us with skewers of sausages, swordfish, beef, and chicken tikka. Shelley provided an array of fresh tasty salads and a fruit flan that was so full and artistically presented that it wasn’t until it was sliced that I realised it had a base. The barbecued items were tender and cooked to perfection; in other words to a correct even temperature, not burnt to a crisp one side and raw on the other. And they didn’t taste of firelighters. The various beverages included red and white wines and beers. Cheese and biscuits and mints accompanied coffee.
As always at such gatherings, tales are told, jokes are shared, and there is much reminiscing. A consequence of the forty year hiatus in my relationship with Jackie’s family is that we fill in the gaps in our histories; I have a completely new audience for my stories; and Bill has the opportunity to share his with someone who hasn’t heard them all before. The musical activities of Jackie’s nephews and nieces led the conversation in the direction of musicians, which gave me an opening to speak of Tom, posted on 24th August last year, and tell of his A level in guilt quip, given on stage in Newark.
As we entered Minstead early in the evening a flock of excited sheep came streaming up the hill, various young farmers following in their wake. They appeared to have escaped from somewhere.