“He’s Escaped Pannage”

On another wet and gloomy morning we drove to Setley Ridge Garden Centre to buy a present for Helen, whose birthday it is today.

Is there anything more dismal than a popular garden centre, normally thriving at weekends, to have hidden this sign beneath an empty display unit? Having done their best to beat Covid-19 and continuous rain the staff have succumbed

to closure, although they are hoping to reopen on 1st March.

Keeping to the safe side of the alarmed rope barrier, I recorded the bedraggled outlet while Jackie bought some replacement provisions in the farm shop. She then dropped me at home and toured other garden centres with a little more success.

This drier, warmer, still gloomy, afternoon we drove to Helen and Bill’s intending to leave presents and a card and run away. Happily, we were spotted and enjoyed a pleasant conversation with them and Rachel from over the front garden wall.

On our return journey, Jackie parked the Modus beside Roger Penny Way in order for me to commune with

sustenance-seeking donkeys and ponies.

At one point we were all distracted by thudding hooves as an equestrienne galloped across the somewhat sodden sward.

The pannage season which starts in the autumn and was this year extended to December is the period when ring-nosed pigs are freed to wallow in the mud in search of acorns and other mast which are poisonous to ponies. This little porker was seen and heard sploshing and snorting with glee, prompting Jackie to pronounce: “He’s escaped pannage”.

This evening we dined on Mr Chan’s excellent Hordle Chinese Take Away with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Dao.


  1. What a shame re the garden centre that was closed. Thank goodness they all weren’t and the other should be opening soon. It looks a nice place.

        1. The forest ones are all living free. Some are trained for riding (being backed) and kept in fields. This process is very difficult and can take months. They have been wild in the forest for 2,000 years

  2. Hopefully the garden center will reopen. I imagine it’s not a very busy time of year for them.
    One of the donkeys looks like it has a unicorn horn to me. ?
    That little pig seems to be having a thoroughly wonderful time in the mud!

  3. I am up early this morning Derrick, and your glorious photos of the gorgeous donkeys and ponies, have given a big smile here at breakfast time…

  4. How sad that one of your favorite garden centers is now closed for business! Here in a city where the coronavirus is still running wild, I’ve not yet gone to my favorite garden center. Hopefully in the spring.

  5. Our local plant nursery is currently closed, but they’re re-opening soon just for click & collect of compost. I’m looking forward to being able to browse again. Wonderful photos πŸ™‚

  6. I hope your garden center is able to reopen in March. Covid has been rough on many businesses. I am noticing stores here seem to be carrying fewer items that I used to buy. I am guessing there are supply chain issues.

    I loved all the photos, especially that little porker! A young Gloucester Oldspot? He or she looks ready to muddy your trousers with that nose, Derrick. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks very much, Lavinia. I took that photo from the car πŸ™‚ I thought Gloucester Old Spot but Jackie thought it might be a cross with a smaller breed. Mostly we can buy what we need now.

  7. We are also looking forward to garden centres buzzing again – the only sort of ‘shopping’ that I like!
    The ponies and pigs winter coats are just beautiful – and so different from more domesticated breeds.
    I think winter is truly over now, though… and bright spring on the way πŸ™‚

  8. Thank you for the adorably shaggy ponies! At first glance the donkey profiled with the long ear looked like a unicorn πŸ™‚ I like that pigs get to roam freely for a few months. It sounds like a good system. Hopefully the garden center will be open in March.

  9. Another delightful post. Thank you, Derrick. I love the old wagon and that ring-nosed pig. I can just hear him “sploshing and snorting with glee”!!

  10. The abiding closures and the revellers of muddy lands have been recorded in excellent manner. What punishment now is in store for the the Pannage rebel? Could he be the Napoleon of Orwellian origin?

  11. The closed garden centre is a sorry sight. It reminds me of those movie scenes when the family has fled the house with their half-eaten meal still on the table.

  12. Many businesses have suffered here too but the government has had a financial assistance plan since mid last year. Those who lost their jobs where financially helped too as did us old pensioners. I think we receive another AU$250 very soon which I think will be the last if all goes well with the vaccines.

  13. It’s such a pity that a garden centre has to close like that. Most businesses of that type do a lot to help people’s well-being because they sell them things to plant and then to look after, all the time taking their minds off the situation we are in.

  14. At least the nursery will be opening back up. It’s so sad to see businesses going out of business because of the pandemic.
    The donkeys and ponies must be happy to see the hogs eating all those poisonous acorns, a symbiotic relationship going on there, eh?!

  15. mmmm
    chinese takeout sounds good

    and that is sad to see the sign ticked away and i can only imagine how hard things are for those owners!
    and happy bday to helen !
    truly a gift when some conversation happens and it was not expected – even tho there are times to drop and run – other times the connecting is where it is at!

  16. Busy weekend for me…just now getting to leave some comments on WP!
    HA! Love the spotted-piggy-freedom…OOH, maybe he’s “this little piggy went to market…” πŸ˜€
    ALWAYS love your photos of the donkeys and ponies! ? They give me such delight!
    YAY for places reopening!
    (((HUGS))) πŸ™‚

  17. even though I’m in New Zealand, many retail and service businesses, have not survived. Some must have had very small margins or maybe they were already on the brink of closure – like small convenience and suburban mom and pop shops that sold small goods, confectionery, that forgotten bottle of milk and bread. And even though NZ got itself back on deck, every little move in our “lockdown levels” causes some other business to shut up shop. A big hardware and house decor shop is closing, 60 people losing their jobs…A number of large chains, decided that certain stores would close, I believe a lot of the money managers looked carefully at accounts at certain stores…is it worth reopening! And then too many people (me included) started shopping online.

    the garden nursery/shop might also end up in the same predicament but that will depend on what else they had on their shelves, decorative doodads – nice pots and so forth. And whether they have the money to restock, market/advertise again … or if the usual buyer is still able to shop.

    It’s such a tight market and life for everyone at the moment…even with some gov’t helpmates and so on.

      1. We are still doing well, but maybe our population hadn’t realised we didn’t need quite as many storefronts … there have been a lot of new “small cottage industries start up” – usually via Internet – there are a few f/b pages that link to website helpmates. So many of the newbies talk about losing their job and deciding their hobby or similar is going to be their income …

    1. Believe it or not, I don’t know how not turn the camera to B/W. I do that in the computer. πŸ™‚ I just did that with the donkey/unicorn on this one. Thanks a lot, Quercus

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