Pink Champagne

Chequerboard fuchsiaJackie’s Chequerboard fuchsia is not hardy, so she has brought it into the bedroom for the winter, and it has flowered again.  It struck me this morning as being in perfect harmony with its surroundings. It was to seem even more an appropriate colour match for today’s later encounter.

By 9.00 a.m. we were in Ringwood to deliver the car to Wells Garage for its M.O.T. test.  Leaving the vehicle for its once-over, Jackie set off to the town for some shopping whilst I embarked upon the Avon Valley Path from Hurst Road, that I had last walked on 4th March.Avon Valley Path (2) Avon Valley Path The Avon Valley Path is often very narrow and bordered by very high wire fencing, keeping us away from fields, woods, and lakes on private land; or simply by garden fences.  The wire fencing as described occupies the start of this particular route, and is actually rather claustrophobic.  It soon has a meandering stream running along the left hand side although the right retains the uninviting barrier.  On my previous visit I left the stream because I took the path indicated by a green arrow as the Avon Valley one.  Today I chose to stay with the rivulet, following the yellow arrows indicating the Countryside Path.  This was far more pleasant.  It widened out in parts and had the added attractions of continuing running water.

As I had noted in March, the path was criss-crossed by tree roots of varying forms and sizes.  Given that they were now covered by fallen leaves, knowing they were there probably saved me from twisting an ankle or two. Avon Valley Path (3)Avon Valley Path (1) Recently fallen trees formed primitive bridges straddling the stream or new arches across the footpath. The only other person I met was a man doing his best to keep up with two terriers whilst ensuring he didn’t become entangled in their extending leads.  He was hard put to answer my greeting.

Back in March, on the Avon Valley Path, I had been unable to get near most of the lakes on the route. Linwood LakeLinwood Lake (1) Today, on the Countryside Path I had an excellent view of Linwood Lake, although it too, as a nature reserve of some importance, was fenced off.  Stately swans sailed upon it.

After forty minutes I came to a road beneath which, with the benefit of a ford, continued the stream.  It was signposted to Ringwood.  As a circular route would always be preferable to me, I decided to take the road, which was later signed as Gorley Road.  Turning right at The White Hart and along Southampton Road took me through Poulner and back to the town.

As I passed Donna-Marie’s hair salon, she was standing in her doorway, and I stopped and spoke with her for a minute or two.  When Jackie and I have tried to describe everything that is pink about this beautiful and bubbly young lady and her establishment, mere words have not been able to do justice to it. Donna-Marie Donna was more than happy to help me put her, and consequently you, in the picture.

Upon reaching Ringwood I walked through Kings Arms Lane to the riverside, round the Bickerley, up to and under the A31, and arrived back at Wells Garage just as they had phoned Jackie to say the car was ready.  I waited for her to return from Sainsbury’s and we took the pretty route through Bransgore back home, once again marvelling at the stunning array of varying colours of the autumn leaves that  dazzled even on such a dull day.

After a dozy afternoon we dined on tender pork fillet marinaded in plum sauce; vegetables roasted with sweet chilli sauce; and egg fried rice, cooked by Jackie in a manner which would have pleased any Chinese cook.  Dessert was vanilla ice cream with strawberry jam and evaporated milk.  I finished the Gran Familia.

Not A Bad Start

An offer has been made on the London house.  Consequently we are able to view properties rather than sneak around outside, my camera poised like a paparazzo.

We began the phone calls to agents this morning.  After I printed, and Jackie framed, The Bridesmaid, the Bisterne house had the honour of being the subject of our first visit.

The Old Schoolhouse fro trees

The Old School House in front of Bisterne Village Hall has what Jackie terms ‘great character’. FireplaceEntrance Hall, The Old School House Many original features including fireplaces, exposed brick and beam walls, wooden panelling, a thatched roof and tall, ornate chimneys, are extant.  There is also a great deal of room, the entrance hall reaching right to the top of the house giving an immediate sense of space.  Damp penetrates one side of the main chimney breast, seemingly from eroded rendering at the base of one of the pair of chimneys.  Chimneys, The Old School HouseFront door, The Old School HouseThere is a smell of this.  The front section of the roof is clean and dry.  It is the side not photographed that is affected.

Panelling and radiator cover


Situated on the main Ringwood – Christchurch road, the rear of the house is surrounded by mature forest trees leading all the way to the neighbouring St Paul’s church, which looks rather splendid.  Beyond the trees are open fields.

We instantly took to this property which is a very strong contender.  ‘Not a bad start’, we thought.  The agent is to investigate the problem of the damp and is aware that we would expect to negotiate the price if we were too make an offer.  The house is owned by the son of Rod who lives there alone.  He was on his way out when we arrived, and remembered us from our meeting on 6th September.

The Old Farmhouse

Our second viewing was The Old Farmhouse at Burton.  There is farmland across the road. Burton Hall A near neighbour is Burton Hall, which has been developed into about 50 dwellings, by Jackie’s estimate.  The owners of the Farmhouse have, in the 50 years they have lived there, seen their property become surrounded by a myriad of small modern buildings.  A bus stops outside the front gate.

The Avon Valley Path is very close.  This section runs from Christchurch to Salisbury.  As we were about ninety minutes early, I explored the surrounding modern closes, then set off along the path in the direction of the Wiltshire town.  Field of gullsThis narrow footpath passes between fenced off fields, in one of which gulls were enjoying rich pickings from between rows of stubble.  When I eventually reached a junction with Bockhampton Road I thought it sensible to leave the muddy track and return on the tarmac.  I had found that a lounge suit and shoes similar to those pictured on 21st were not really suitable for sploshing about along trails that already bore perfect imprints of the paws of dogs of varying sizes and footwear that was clearly more sensible.  Three left turns led me back to the car where Jackie was waiting just off Salisbury Road.

The house we were to view was almost three hundred years old, immaculately kept, and built for people of that time.  The middle section of the visit was fascinating, and the owners most pleasant and friendly.  The beginning and ending were rather less so.  One of the attractions for us was that there was an annexe linked to what had originally been two cottages.  The owner began by asking the agent if we knew about the tenancy.  We didn’t.  There were tenants, albeit subject to monthly notice, in residence.  I wasn’t pleased and told the agent that the proprietor should not have had to tell us this.  ‘That’, I said ‘is your job’.  That wasn’t such a good start, but we got over it.

At the wedding on the 6th we had all been given little phials bearing the label ‘DRINK ME’.  I felt, and Jackie certainly looked, as if we had first imbibed the liquid given to Lewis Carol’s Alice, then tried the EAT ME cake,  and suffered something of a delayed reaction, rather unnecessarily continuing to grow.  This was the more marked the further up the house we went.  It was necessary when mounting the stairs, negotiating the bedrooms, and particularly crawling through the corridor linking the two original little houses, to bend one’s head at great risk to one’s spinal column, and attempt to squeeze our shoulders across our chests.  This latter manoeuvre was possibly marginally more practical for me.

It could have been worse. Meals at The Plough Inn We were at least able to say that we liked the house, which was indeed something of a time capsule, and that the garden would have sold it to us, when we stated what John Cleese would have called ‘the bleedin’ obvious’.

Finishing the day with a shop at Sainsbury’s in Christchurch rendered each of us not feeling like cooking, so we dined at The Plough Inn at Tiptoe, where we enjoyed their usual incredible mixed grill and haddock and chips with Doom Bar and Kronenburg.

Access Denied

Jackie needed to have yet another headlight replaced this morning.  She drove us to Wells Garage in Ringwood where she left the car, she went into the town, and I walked to Rockford End and back.

Hurst Road lies very near the garage.  It is a cul-de-sac with a footpath leading off it.  I followed this until it joined the Avon Valley Path; crossed the road at Rockford and walked up a minor road to Rockford End, whence I retraced my steps.  The sun emerged from grey clouds in time for my return.

The footpaths ran through and around a series of lakes, the main ones being those of Blashford.  Access to these expanses of water was very restricted.  They were fenced in with wire mesh, cable, or barbed wire. Wire mesh fence 3.13 Consequently there were only a few vantage points from which to enjoy the views.  Warning notices proclaimed Deep Water, Private Property, a fishing club, and Spinnaker Sailing Club. Tree roots in path 3.13 Followers of the Avon Valley Path were restricted to narrow strips, now largely dried out, criss-crossed with tree roots of varying thicknesses.

At the Hurst Road end, a couple of scattered piles of plumage testified to an overnight reduction in Ringwood’s avian population, and to satisfied predators’ stomachs.  This footway, in part, ran alongside a still swollen stream of clear running water heard trickling around the tree roots and over gravel stones.  A couple of constructed bridges were supplemented by those formed by fallen trees.

Royal Anniversary Trees Campaign 3.13George Hall’s big day, helping to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 40th anniversary twenty one years ago, seems almost forgotten.Snowdrops 3.13  Snowdrops in bloom, and daffodils in bud, pierced the rough hedgerows.

Coot on lake 3.13Through the various barriers, I couldn’t see much of the waterfowl I could hear waking up to spring.  Of the sounds I recognised, geese were trumpeting and coots piping.  The former, in twos and threes occasionally flapped, honking, overhead.

Spinnaker Sailing Club 3.13Spinnaker Sailing Club (2) 3.13The most open stretch of water, not available to the public, was the domain of Spinnaker Sailing Club, the New Forest’s private provision.  Beyond this, a private fishing club had warning notices fixed, it seemed, to every other tree.  Here, the footpath narrowed considerably.

On reaching the road at Rockford, I struggled to pick up the Avon Valley Path, walked around a bit, and being unable to find it, took the minor road up to Rockford End.  This proved fortuitous, for the wooded slopes and farmland provided beautiful views, especially as the sun had then made it through the blanket of cloud.

I hadn’t got far up this road before a weathered footpath sign indicated a way through a field of dried mud. Bull 3.13 This was just beyond a still waterlogged stretch containing a knackered old bull.  On my approach, he staggered arthritically from the mudbath he had been enjoying, turned to observe me, then sidled off.  Even I didn’t consider him much of a threat.  Nevertheless, the walker’s way was barred by a gate.  Actually five barred.  Cattle in field 3.13The field was filled with cattle.  I continued on up the road to Rockford End. Rockford End view 3.13 Spinnaker Sailing Club’s expanse of water shone in the distance, and nearer farm buildings soaked up the sun.

The car repaired, we set off back to Minstead.  Jackie took a road she hadn’t tried before, and we were soon lost.  But, we are retired, we had all day, and the sun was shining.  So what did it matter?  We drove up and down beautiful forest landscapes and envied characterful, idyllically placed, houses until we came to a spot I recognised.  It was the road I had so recently walked across at Rockford.  I proudly told my driver where she was headed, and where she would end up if she went in the opposite direction.  ‘So it said’, said she, referring to the signpost we had just passed and I, for once, hadn’t needed.  Here was I, attempting to show off my newly acquired knowledge, and that was all the thanks I got.

Jackie made up for this by demonstrating that last night’s meal could be just as good revamped.  Especially when accompanied by Lussac Saint Emilion 2010.  Or even her Hoegaarden.

Finally, episode 7 got us up to date with ‘Call the Midwife’.