The Path To Deadman Hill

The day before yesterday I finished reading

being the final novel in the trilogy of the Larkin family, first featured in “Freak Of Fate” in which I described the first book; how I came by it; and the amazing coincidence of the address on the flyleaf, also borne by this Book Club edition published by Michael Joseph in 1960.

In his now familiar rollicking style the author continues to relate the cheerfully energetic romp through life of Pop Larkin, his friends and family. I have now realised that one of the chief pleasures of these stories is the ease with which Bates weaves beautiful bucolic descriptions into his innocently scandalous narrative. For the Larkins, life really is “perfickly” beautiful. Maybe, only 15 years after the ending of the Second World War, that is what the world needed.

This morning we visited Bill and Helen to exchange birthday presents.

We diverted to Abbotswell, near Frogham, on our way home, then decided to lunch at The Fighting Cocks at Godshill.

In the deeply pockmarked gravelled car park at the top of Abbotswell hill a couple of riders were persuading two splendid, reluctant, black horses into their trailered transport which, with their weight, seemed certain to increase the potholes.

I took a short walk among the undulating woodlands overlooking the sloping landscape below.

As always in such terrain it was necessary to tread gingerly over tree roots.

Bees swarmed among wild blackberry blossoms.

Cattle and ponies congregated in the valley below.

A lone cyclist sped along a footpath

and re-emerged on the path to Deadman Hill on the other side of Roger Penny Way. To think that just four years ago I would take that walk without thinking about it.

My lunch at the pub consisted of steak and ale pie, chips, and peas; Jackie’s was mushroom stroganoff with which she drank Hop House lager. My drink was Ringwood’s Best.

Long haired miniature ponies groped their way across the greens beside Cadnam Lane where

an enterprising hairdresser had given a bug-eyed tree stump an impressive Mohican.

The Head Gardener has a little friend in the form of a juvenile robin that follows her around during the day and has taken to joining us on the patio for a drink in the evening. Jackie, on this occasion, drank Hoegaarden, I drank sparkling water, and Robin drank water from a flower pot saucer.

After this, Jackie and I dined on pepperoni pizza and salad; Robin probably finished off what was clinging to his beak.


  1. I found I rather fancied your lunch this cold wet morning Derrick. Jackie has a way with birds it seems – that Robin is a fine looking chap. I take it her previous impetuous young love never did come back? πŸ™‚

  2. The title of your post combined with the pic the herd of cattle and horses led me to think we’d be treated with a Wild West tale. ?

  3. Such a delightful post (and day it seems). I laughed at the tree that did look like a strange creature, and I agree those horses are splendid. I’m glad Robin drank only water. πŸ™‚

  4. Horsesβ€”such beautiful creatures! I’m glad you came upon them, and captured them in photos! Obviously those were my fav pics, but I loved many of the others as well, especially the ones of the ‘undulating’ countryside!

    1. Thanks very much, Cinnamon. When I first sampled pizzas in England, some 60 years ago, they had very little, unappetising, topping. They have improved immensely since then

  5. Another wonderful set of floral and faunal photographs Derrick! πŸ™‚

    Those black horses are magnificent creatures, the riders must feel like Royalty riding them, i believe they are most likely Friesians.

    The long-haired ponies look adorable, as does your beautiful robin (or should that be Jackie’s beautiful robin??) πŸ™‚

    I feel like i’ve been transported to so many beautiful places that i deserve a snack on something myself now! πŸ™‚

  6. A beautiful post, Derrick. I can’t walk very far nowadays, after a lifetime of being a country boy and always wanting to walk around the fields and woods and see things. I can’t cope with uneven ground either.
    I took walking four or five miles in the countryside for granted, as, I suppose, most people do. Still, I too am now the personal friend of a robin, although he’s nowhere near as tame as your friend.

  7. A day with book-friends, life-friends, and Mother Nature! Can’t think of a much better day! πŸ˜€
    Little Robin could be The Head Gardener’s Apprentice! πŸ™‚
    HUGS!!! πŸ™‚

  8. Those black horses are magnificent!! But I can’t deny, the little ponies are so cute I just want to take them home !!
    Looks like Jackie has a friend, Derrick. Perhaps the poor dear lost her mother and is making the Head Gardener the surrogate.

  9. What beautiful pictures – I feel like I too was in the woods with you. I like the picture of the cyclist the most. It must be nice to ride in a place devoid of throngs of people and cars.

  10. I think we could use slot of “perfickly” beautiful in our time as well. While we are not coming out of the devastation of a war, we certainly are facing different hard times—climate crisis and all the crisis that comes with this.

  11. The many stories carried by your photographs are no less interesting than delectable novels. In this post, the black horses and the riders, the woodland, the path to Deadman Hill that set you brooding, the fascinating tree stump, and Jackie’s new friend Robin, each has a story to tell. The thought of what one could do and not be aware of that only a few years ago causes a stab in the heart.

    1. I shall start again! I do like mushroom stroganoff. That aside, I was fascinated by the photo of the cattle and ponies congregating in the valley. There were a fair few animals! And I love to see tree roots in the ground – the ones shown here looked like rungs on a ladder.

          1. I remember that there is a stream running through the valley – I used to walk beside it not so long ago. Maybe they were after water

  12. “To think that just four years ago I would take that walk without thinking about it.” That’s a poignant comment on aging, Derrick. I think we have all had similar thoughts.

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