Anyone who has followed my ramblings around The New Forest during our eighteen months in Minstead, and realised my propensity for making slight navigational errors, should enjoy this post.
As I walked down the garden path preparing to take my usual route to Giles’s, I noticed a bright red-tipped butterfly bearing a Lilliputian duckling flitting across an ornamental maple. Strong shadows were cast on Downton Lane, where an engineer perched on a telegraph pole informed his mate on the ground below that ‘it’s a bit dodgy’. For my money it was his position that was dodgy, but I don’t suppose that was what he meant.
Raucous rooks, flying to and from their nests, are now resident in Shorefield. I had a coffee and a chat with Giles before setting off back home. At the corner of Studland Drive and Blackbush Road I noticed a footpath. I took it. Very soon I was in the Nature Reserve. So far, so good. I walked along the stream where I was entertained by Katie, and another dog which tried to help her, but soon gave up and sniffed off somewhere else. She struggled to retrieve her ball, caught in an inlet where it was held by the strong current. Her owner, explaining that she was actually a strong swimmer, but could not manage the slope down to the water, joined in, but eventually he had to persuade his pet to leave her prey. She was very reluctant to leave, as was the owner who said it was pity because the ball was a good one.
I left the reserve at this point, taking a footpath to the left which should have taken me to the coast road. I found myself in George Road, along which I walked into Manor Road, and eventually Lymington Road. I turned right here, and left into the narrow, winding School Lane, from which there was a tantalising view of the coast.
I came out at another main-looking road and turned right into it. A tempting public footpath led me through a muddy brassica patch, from which I reached another winding lane leading me to a thick-root-filled mudbath masquerading as a footpath. This took periodic right angles around fields, one of which contained black sheep.
As the sun gradually sank in the sky, I persevered until reaching a board describing Great Newbridge Copse. There I met a very helpful woman who, when she heard where I had come from and where I intended to get to, informed me that I had ‘gone seriously the wrong way’. I said ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here’. She advised me to turn right and follow another sodden track until I emerged at Efford Mill, where I should turn right along Christchurch Road. I met more sheep along the way. One particular ram stared in such a way as to suggest he was questioning my sanity.
Knowing that we lived two miles from New Milton, when I passed a sign indicating that that town was five miles distant, I must admit I blenched a bit. Finally, having spent half an hour with my friend I arrived home four hours after I started. That hadn’t really been the plan.
This evening the chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and savoury rice were as good as they were two days ago. So were the beverages. We know, because we enjoyed them again.