A Damp Drive

On another day of gales, gloom, and bursts of weak sunshine our brief forest drive took us along

Bisterne Close,

with its glistening autumn leaves soaking on soggy verges;

its mossy rooted and speckled lichen coated trees;

other one-eyed specimens with fanged exposed roots rising from ancient hedgerows;

a Magnum mushroom;

and bedraggled ponies wandering across into the woodland.

On the outskirts of Burley I disturbed a herd of fearful deer who didn’t know which way to run.

A so often when we dine beneath heavy rain beating on our Velux window overhead with gale force winds gusting outside, we blessed Barry for sealing our kitchen extension roof after several others had failed. Tonight’s meal consisted of pork spare ribs in sweet barbecue sauce with Jackie’s flavoursome savoury rice and tender green beans, accompanied by more of the Cabernet Sauvignon for her, and of the Bordeaux for me.

Meeting The Grandparents

Dillon has sent us all a number of photographs from his daughter’s first week of life.

He and Flo happily brought her home when she was just 14 hours old.

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Grandparents Becky

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and Ian drove them.

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Our great-granddaughter was then introduced to Jackie

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and me.

Naturally we jumped out of bed and came downstairs in our dressing gowns.

Early this morning I sat in the car outside Tesco where Jackie shopped while I began the daunting task of reading Samuel Richardson’s ‘Clarissa’, a vast tome containing “well over a million words” according to Angus Wilson’s introduction to my Folio Society edition. This may take me some time.

A further heavy shower hammered on the Modus roof and raindrops ran in rivulets down the windscreen. Fortunately this had ceased by the time my lady emerged from the supermarket, and we were able to unload her purchases before the next one, which accompanied us on a drive around Bisterne Close via Holmsley Passage.

Conkers and acorns will soon be ready to drop, clattering on tarmac or thudding on the sward of slowly greening fields and verges, the more succulent grass enjoyed by ponies and foals of varying ages.

Along Bisterne Close a posse of pootling ponies with a skittish foal interrupted the journey of a Range Rover Defender while we sat and waited; around the next bend an enormous giant-wheeled tractor towing a container loaded with a large item of farm machinery filled the lane until, after a while, the considerate driver brought his huge juggernaut to a halt alongside a gravelled drive, allowing us to pass before continuing his measured journey.

This evening we dined on Red Chilli’s excellent takeaway fare. My main choice was Tandoori King Prawn Naga with special fried rice. We shared poppadoms, Peshwari Naan, and onion bahjis and drank a toast to Ellie in Prosseco.

Time For A Woodland Drive

Early this morning Richard and Al of Kitchen Makers visited to cut the bottom off the new inner door and return it to its position.

They brought a trestle in order to measure and cut the door in the front garden.

Before they put back the door, they carried the long case clock into the hall from the corner of the sitting room into which they had toted it before the flooring work began. There proved to be some difficulty with this on account of replacing the weights, which required generous patience and ingenuity considering that they had already fitted this in ahead of their planned day’s work. Jackie having reset it, the clock continues to keep the perfect time it has maintained for 200 years

Martin, from Fordingbridge, then visited to discuss and quote for rebuilding the wisteria arbour.

After lunch we posted the Probate Application, cheque, and supporting documentary evidence from Everton Post Office; followed on to Ferndean Farm Shop where Jackie purchased some provisions; and set out upon a forest drive.

The burnished landscape glowed along Holmsley Passage.

Ponies grazed and squirrels scampered about the dappled woodland and among autumn leaves nurturing mushrooms and sheltering solitary holly berries alongside

Bisterne Close, in a field on the opposite side of which basked

a lone deer in the sunshine that

backlit a pair of ponies beside Burley Road.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome winter stewp with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Fleurie.

Drivers’ Guide

Knowing how hot it would be today we began early in the garden. My contribution was dead heading and a little clearing up.

Bees were early risers, too. Here one lands on lavender and another homes in on salvia.

Lilies are now blooming in the Patio Bed, and Special Anniversary rose has responded well to the recent care.

Later this morning we bought eggs, vegetables and salad ingredients at Ferndene Farm Shop and continued for a brief forest drive.

This picture of cyclists pushing their steeds up Holmsley Passage demonstrates why there is no safe passing space on this much-nibbled road.

In the silence of sun-dappled Bisterne Close, a trio of ponies tore hungrily at their breakfast grass. An unusual bird cry I think may have been an owl, answered by another from quite some distance.

Walkers and cyclists passed me on Cotts Lane while I photographed foraging ponies. It became crowded enough around the Modus for me to wonder whether I would able to return to my seat. Eventually Jackie shifted the car.

As usual in very hot weather, ponies gathered under the trees providing a canopy across Forest Road. This caused considerable consternation among visitors, and I found myself guiding some drivers through their necessary slalom. The woman in the header picture needed to clear the equine legs not quite visible in the left foreground, and straighten up without butting the rear of the animal to the right. She was quite grateful.

After lunch we tackled more path clearance, and this evening Jackie occupied herself watering many of the plants and containers.

We dined on a second helping of yesterday’s Red Chilli takeaway meal with which I drank Kingfisher and Jackie drank Haraszthy Suvignon Blanc 2020.

Much Neighing In The Woodland

This morning I watched the Channel 4 broadcast of the third day’s play of the second Test match between India and England in Chennai.

Today the temperature was a little warmer than of late; the weather just as gloomy yet less wet. After lunch we took a drive into the forest.

A pair of equestriennes wended their way along a pony track bordering Holmsley Passage.

At the crossroads leading the Passage to Bisterne Close, I clambered with camera among woodland with it’s bright, mossy, roots; lichen-coated branches; reflective pools and puddles on the tarmac.

There was much neighing from ponies on the move in the claggy woodland alongside the Close

which bears its own reflecting winterbourne pool.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s flavoursome chicken tikka, plain parathas, and plentiful fresh salad, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Agramont Garnacha 2019, a smooth red wine.

Waterlogged

This afternoon we took a crisp sunshine forest drive.

Jackie waited in Brownhills car park while I wandered along the

largely waterlogged roadside verges for a while.

This was a day for family walks. While certain spots were decidedly overcrowded, lesser known areas like Bisterne Close, where Jackie parked the Modus, were safe enough.

I trampled on the waterbeds that were the soggy autumn leaves.

As always, some trees were lichen laden; others stretched gnarled limbs to the skies; many, broken, lay where they fell – among them

basking ponies slumbered or chomped on holly leaves.

One fallen giant gathering foliage was decidedly waterlogged.

Many roadsides, like this one at South Gorley, were more like lakesides.

Nearby, I was soon surrounded by silently demanding donkeys desiring to supplement their diets with anything I might have brought them.

One solitary Gloucester Old Spot sploshed, salivating over squishy mast, at the bottom of Gorley Hill, well irrigated by a Winterbourne stream running down it.

Throwing long shadows, cattle grazed on the slopes above,

while hazy sun picked out inquisitive field horses and slender willow sprays.

On our return along Hordle Lane lingering sunset illuminated lines of leafless oaks.

This evening we dined on crisp oven fish and chips, green peas, sage cornichons, and pale ochre pickled onions, with which we both drank white Cotes de Gascoigne 2019.

Head To Head

On a bright, crisp, afternoon Jackie drove us to Bisterne Close,

where she parked and sat in the car while I wandered into the forest with my camera, rustling the dried autumn leaves, across which the low sun cast long shadows. One lone cow wandered off into the distance. Golden gorse glowed; a few beech and oak leaves lingered on the branches; some fallen limbs bore lichen and fungus; holly berries shone for Christmas.

Jackie photographed a bouncing squirrel

and a pedestrian me.

Ponies were mostly waiting expectantly at the far end of close. What for was unclear.

This evening we dined on well roasted gammon and parsnips; creamy mashed potatoes; piquant cauliflower cheese; firm carrots; and tender green beans, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Comté Tolosan.

Reflective Collars

Late this morning Barry, our chimney sweep and roofer, visited to look at our leaking kitchen roof. He is very busy but, a good friend, will fit us in as soon as he can.

After lunch, with violent winds still blowing, we moved the now covered patio chairs to a more sheltered position beside the house.

This afternoon we enjoyed longer bouts of sunshine between the heavy showers.

Jackie parked beside Holmsley Passage up which I wandered for a while, photographing

the autumnal landscapes.

Jackie made two contributions. The second is “Where’s Derrick” (3).

As it is half-term for schools we have been visited by a number of cyclists, some of whom, with walkers

made use of the footpaths which are all that remains of the railway line axed by Dr Beeching

We continued to Bisterne Close where again Jackie parked and I wandered.

It was the dead birch against the deep indigo sky that tempted me out of the car to photograph additional trees and shadows; bright beech leaves; and old gold bracken.

From her car the Assistant Photographer watched a squirrel, its head drilling rapidly as it gripped the snack it was enjoying.

On our return through Holmsley Passage I communed with ponies in the woodland where

the low sunlight piercing the shadows demonstrated the efficacy of the reflective collars some of these creatures wear to increase their night-time visibility. Notice which of these do not have them fitted. In this age of Covid 19 we rarely see an infant wearing a mask. So it appears to be with foals and collars.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome chicken and vegetable stoup, toast, and spicy pizza, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Trigales.

“Go Round Us”

This morning we righted the fallen pots in the garden before visiting Ferndene Farm Shop where

Jackie joined the masked queue. I have her word that she was smiling in the last picture.

The shopping went quite smoothly. Afterwards we took a drive into the forest by way of

Holmsley Passage which was already becoming quite busy.

Heather enhanced the moorland landscape and the vibrant verges.

Other vehicles, walkers, and cycling groups needed to be negotiated.

As we reached the end of this narrow, winding, lane this family group who we had allowed to go ahead hadn’t yet decided which way to go. Left would have taken them to Burley; right was the road to Brockenhurst; straight on was the route to Bisterne Close. Jackie decided she would go one of the ways they didn’t. They went straight on; we turned right and stopped at

the pool on the way up Clay Hill. Jackie parked by the roadside while I wandered around photographing the water, the reflections, the woodland, and its shadows. I found a metal dog tag with a local phone number stamped on it. I phoned the owner and left a message explaining where I would lodge it.

After this we thought that Bisterne Close might have been clear of the cyclists and wended our way back there where ponies, their foals, and cattle happily shared the road.

Another group of ponies were not about to cede ground to the motor vehicle. One driver left his car and attempted to clap them out of the way. They must have thought they were being applauded, for they didn’t budge. Cajoling had no better effect; the car horn was tried next. Eventually the unspoken message “go round us” was heeded.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic cottage pie; pleasantly chewy curly kale; and crunchy carrots with which she drank Beck’s and I drank Carles Priorat 2016.

Traffic Calming

Today’s weather was hot and humid with intermittent sunshine.

We gardened in the morning.

I am delighted to report that Nugget is alive and well and was in his customary attendance. Those readers who suggested that he might be moulting were clearly correct.

Jackie concentrated largely on the Rose Garden where, among other tasks, she planted some tall lavenders. Among my usual tasks I had not included digging since the first knee surgery. Our soil remains bone hard and I decided to attempt to relieve her of some of it.

I found this surprisingly easy. It may look as if this is my left foot; in fact it is the right one reflected in the mirror against the east fence. This was particularly pleasing since that leg was the subject of the most recent replacement.

Hydrangea Lanarth White sets off fuchsia Mrs Popple in the Orange Shed corner of the Rose Garden; yellow black eyed Susan and orange marigolds are planted in a chimney pot beside the West Bed; a red pelargonium fronted by an ornamental grass stands at the base of the gazebo which bears a blue clematis.

This afternoon, after shopping at Milford Supplies for a pair of hinges, we took a drive into the forest where graced with the presence of a plethora of ponies.

A family of three cropped the verge at the entrance to Bisterne Close, while, further along

a mare did her best ignore her colt persistently attempting to suckle.

As often on such a sultry day somnolent ponies clustered together beneath the shade of their favourite trees, spilling across Forest Road carrying out their own traffic calming project. Cyclists managed to weave in and out, while car drivers were required to demonstrate good natured patience.

Other equines rolled among dried droppings on the cropped grass, or undertook assiduous mutual grooming.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s aromatic variation on shepherd’s pie topped, instead of mashed potato, with sliced, sautéed ones flavoured with rosemary; toothsome carrots, cauliflower, and green beans; and meaty gravy, with which the Culinary Queen drank Becks and I drank Flores de Soligamar Rioja 2018.