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Knowing that the clear morning would turn overcast as the day went on, Jackie drove me to Beaulieu and back for a photo session.
We began at Hatchet Pond where a couple of well-wrapped-up silhouetted walkers, observed by swans in the icy water, passed
a pair of chomping ponies, one freckle-faced.
After a while they turned and headed back for the car park.
A number of other ponies unsuccessfully attempted to merge in with the bare branches of the trees.
Even this duck appeared to be huddled against the chilly weather;
despite being blue with cold, the more playful gulls swooped, skidded, and skated along their improvised ice floe landing strip.
There is always at least one pony lurking around the cars in the hopes of drivers donating delicacies.
This one mistook my attention for intention to feed, and peered hopefully through the windscreen as I returned to the car.
Both the large pond and the tidal Beaulieu river bore shards of ice on their banks.
I was unaware that there was risk of flooding, but the owners of Abbeygate Cottage, opposite the river, had reinforced their gateway with sandbags, so I imagine there must be one.
Ponies very rarely either make a sound or break into a trot. I was therefore surprised to hear one whinnying at a pace up and down the bank.
It was only when it took its place among the traffic that it slowed down and kept silent.
Another surprise was to see gentleman with a long stick, carrying a Waitrose ‘bag for life’ across the still wet river bed. He strode purposefully until his goal became apparent.
Quietly, patiently, the swans lined up for the treats he carried. There was none of the usual clamour as these elegant creatures craned to take food from his fingers. Even the non-squabbling gulls awaited their turn. They knew this man who loved them.
On our return, seeking a place to turn, we were assisted by two ponies blocking the road.
They were licking the salt from the tarmac.
This evening we dined on cottage pie, boiled potatoes, carrots and green beans. Jackie drank sparkling water, and I finished the barolo.