“What Are The Effing Chances…..?”

Our forest trip on another bright and sunny day began with

scraping ice off the car.

In a field beside an unnamed lane near Gorley Common

a sleeping pony stood characteristically with one rear foot bent was not the only backlit equine the we were to see.

Ogdens North lies alongside an unmarked muddy lane labeled NO THROUGH ROAD which culminates in a running stream of clear water.

The splendid hillside landscapes were beautifully lit when we arrived there shortly before lunch.

Autumn colour greeted our approach to the lane at the end which I disembarked and clambered over the rough terrain with its

fallen logs slowly rotting into the soil from which it sprang,

and muddy tracks tramped by hoofs of the ponies I was to walk among.

I watched thirst being slaked

by strings of ponies descending the grass covered rocky banks

onto the gravelly stream bed

to drink and dribble crystal clear water.

As I stood, like the ponies, watching an apparently amphibious cross the stream, Jackie also observed the oncoming vehicle with more alarming feelings. It was undoubtedly heading in her direction requiring her to back up the muddy path pictured above. This forced her to abandon focussing on

the pony on the bridge if favour of a snatched shot. “What”, she exclaimed, as she began reversing, “are the effing chances…..?.

The tractor tucked into the side of the road. A large Waitrose delivery van then proceeded down the hill. “What”, she repeated, somewhat increasing the decibels, “are the effing chances….?  The unfortunate driver had taken a wrong turning.

I photographed a few more reflecting ponies before ascending the slope to rejoin Jackie.

Neighbouring field horses enjoyed the warmth of their rugs and breakfasts of bags of hay.

We brunched at Hockey’s farm shop then drove home in time for me to begin drafting this post before Giles collected me and transported me to the bird hide at Milford on Sea.

There we encountered gaggles of winter visiting Brent geese;

a flapping cormorant;

drinking swans;

a wandering little egret;

and the ubiquitous gulls.

As we departed sunset approached, producing vibrant reds and yellows, with pastel tinges

enshrouding the Isle of White and The Needles;

and festooning windows opposite.

Giles had also been out to lunch, so when he stayed on for dinner we all enjoyed pizza and cold meats with fresh salad.

 

 

 

 

Provoking A Squabble

Overnight winds had been powerful enough to blow this planted up stone urn off its pedestal.

Early this morning Jackie drove me to our G.P. surgery at Milford on Sea to order a repeat prescription.

We were not surprised to learn on BBC News that, at 79 m.p.h., the strongest gusts in Britain had rushed through The Needles which still seemed borne on a bed of spray as we passed them. Our home is in a direct line from these rocks, and always shares their buffeting.

The foaming waves of the Solent rolled rapidly towards our coastline, flinging ragged curtains of ocean droplets skyward. A motorboat speeding across the surface, despite its rapid rate, seemed to be bobbing up and down as it appeared to be engulfed.

Gulls reflected in pools in the car parks.

Masts at the Yacht Club stood against the sky at Keyhaven, where a group of walkers of the third age passed a younger woman with a dog.

We continued along the coast road towards Hurst Spit on and around which walkers strode beneath a fretwork of cotton clouds and streaking jet trails.

As we approached the bridge over the stream we became aware of a frenzied, shrieking, squabble of seagulls. What, we wondered, had provoked this activity?

A gentleman carefully placing muzzles on his pair of Dalmatians had spotted the answer.

He wasn’t prepared to risk a conflict between his dogs and the swans being fed from the bridge.

A string of Brent geese had found their own food in a field opposite.

Outside Solent Grange a store of stone sculptures awaited installation on the so pretentious walls.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s comforting cottage pie; crunchy carrots of virus hues; tender runner beans and cabbage.

A Little Help From My Friends

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. THOSE IN GROUPS ACCESS GALLERIES WHICH CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE.

Keyhaven harbour with boats

Today dawned dull and dry, so Jackie and I took an early drive to Keyhaven harbour and ambled along the sea wall.

Many boats were peacefully moored after the recent gales,

Boat damaged

although one looked a bit of a wreck.

Except when silhouetted against the grey waters, well camouflaged wading birds, picking their way among pebbles and seaweed in the shallows, scuttled to and fro, pausing to probe promising crevices.

Swans and cygnet

I can recognise swans and a cygnet,

Redshank

and I am fairly confident that this is a redshank, and that many of the others will be the same, but for clear identification I will need a little help from my birding friends.

I imagine that these are more overwintering Brent geese that we saw at Lepe, but I am not sure. In the foreground of the landscape photographs are many more of our own waterfowl.

Quite a few birdwatchers walked along the wall with their dogs. Unfortunately there was evidence that some owners bring their pets out to empty them, as we put it.

Hurst Castle and lighthouseHurst Castle

Hurst Castle and its lighthouse were visible through the haze.

The website of this historic building tells us:

“The History of Hurst Castle

Hurst Castle is situated at the seaward end of the shingle spit that extends 1.5 miles from Milford-On-Sea. The end of the spit, only three-quarters of a mile from the Isle of Wight, and the views from the top of the centre keep are spectacular.

Hurst Castle was the perfect location to defend the western approach to the Solent. The castle was built by Henry VIII as one of a chain of coastal fortresses and was completed in 1544.

Charles I was imprisoned here in 1648 before being taken to London to his trial and execution.

The castle was modernised during the Napoleonic wars and again in the 1870’s when the enormous armoured wings were constructed. Two of the huge 38-ton guns installed in the 1870’s can be viewed in their casemates.

During World War II, Hurst was manned with coastal gun batteries and searchlights.

Since the castle has been opened to the public many more exhibits and exhibitions have been installed, including the Trinity House lighthouse museum.”

Mittens on tree

On our way from Keyhaven to Hurst Spit, Jackie spotted a pair of mittens fitted on the lichen-covered limb of a bare tree. Although the slow-growing pale green organism suggests that its host is fairly elderly, I think the gloves have not been placed there to keep it warm, but to alert the parents of a small child who now has cold fingers.

Isle of Wight and The Needles

When we passed them earlier, the Isle of Wight and The Needles had been invisible. Just before noon, the emerging sun  revealed them.

Steamed syrup pudding and custard followed Jackie’s spicy paprika pork with wild rice and green beans for our dinner this evening. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Séguret Côtes du Rhone Villages, 2014.

Overwintering At Lepe

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. THE SMALLER GROUPS ACCESS GALLERIES.

Breakfast

Late this morning Jackie drove us to Lepe where we enjoyed a brunch in the cafe by the beach.

Gulls scavenged among the pebbles and the seaweed that proved there is a stronger wet smell than that of damp dog.

You see, the seaweed aroma pervaded the air so much that it swamped any scent of the dog that, dashing into the sea on the end of a telescopic leash; in a vain attempt to capsize the honking avian flotillas commandeering the surface of the water; became very wet indeed.

Upon enquiry at the Information centre, I learned that these noisy birds were Brent geese who regularly fly from Canada and Siberia to enjoy what they must experience as a summer holiday in Lepe.

Shipping

There was a fair amount of shipping seen on the horizon,

and approaching the Isle of Wight, which formed the backdrop of a number of these photographs.

Container vessel, yacht, group on spit

A container vessel passed a spit

Group on spit

along which. at low tide a group walked out to sea. I assume they were not aiming to walk all the way to the island.

Helicopter

A helicopter chugged overhead,

Brent geese in flight

where, later, the next flock of geese arrived for their overwintering.

Cottages on hill

Work was being undertaken on a terrace of cottages on the slopes above the beach. These listed dwellings were built in 1828 to house coastguards employed to combat the centuries-old customs of smuggling and piracy. The building nearer the shore was the Watch House.

Driving past them led us to the corner of Inchmery Lane where, perched on the side of the cliff, stood a lighthouse,

overlooking a stretch of beach belonging to a wildlife preservation society.

Taking the left bend visible in the above photograph of the lane, we continued along it, catching glimpses of the sea through the trees on our left.

At Moonhill, on our way to Beaulieu, a pony feeding in the forest caught my eye. I made my way through the trees and caught his. As I set out to cross the road back to the car, an equine companion did the same on its way into the woods. This had the usual effect on the traffic.

Logs

A neat stack of felled tree trunks occupied a cleared area.

For our dinner this evening, Jackie supplemented our second sitting of the Chinese takeaway with her superb egg fried rice. I finished the cabernet sauvignon.

A Clear And Present Danger

On a bright and blustery morning Jackie drove me to Milford on Sea, so I could walk along Hurst Spit whilst she sat in the car with her puzzles. Sturt PondI walked the length of the wall protected by Norwegian rocks, with Sturt The NeedlesPond on my left and, beyond the waves on my right, The Needles.  As it was pretty cold up there, my return was alongside the channel and the pond.  Thus I avoided the chill wind coming off the Solent. the stretch of water between the mainland and the Isle of Wight.

Gull scavenging

Various waterfowl and sea birds bobbed and floated on the pond or scavenged among the mud pools.  Suddenly spooked by something Brent geeseunseen, the Brent geese all left the surface of the water, and, setting up a cacophonous honking above the howl of the wind, filled the skies overhead, before eventually settling down again.

At the far end of the spit, beyond the granite rocks, the terrain drops and the deep shingle is banked up.  As I trudged across this my footsteps were echoed by the gravelly tones of stones seeking new levels after their disturbance.  They slipped into place with sliding sounds similar to those of ‘Dover Beach’ described so eloquently by the poet Matthew Arnold.

The channel that had made Jackie and me think of ‘Star Wars’ on an Yachts mooredearlier trip leads to a harbour where yachts are moored before one reaches Hurst Castle.  This is where I turned round and set off back to the car.  Because of the ‘Star Wars’ memory and the idea that I might be able to photograph a gull from the level of the stream, I stepped down the bank by one of the two bridges that each span a section of this stretch of water.

I didn’t spot a suitable flier, so, as far as that picture was concerned, I went empty handed.  Fortunately I also left empty handed from something else I spotted just in time.

Bridge

It soon became apparent, as I tracked the stream, that I was going to run out of dry land, so I decided it was time to climb back up the now steeper bank.  This required the use of both hands and feet.  Peering over the top and clawing at a tussock with my left hand, my right one poised for planting and restoring balance, I noticed this was destined to descend into a neat pile of coagulating dog turds.  I could no longer rely entirely on my sinister arm.  Not being as dextrous as I once was, and not wishing to hear an unpleasant squelching sound whilst my nose was rather too close to its source, in mid-air with an impressive display of reflexes, I adjusted the trajectory of my right palm, swivelled out of control on my left, and fell over instead.  In that split second I had realised that brushing dried sandy mud off my clothing later was preferable to the likely necessity presented by the immediate ‘clear and present danger’.  I trust Tom Clancy will forgive me for borrowing his title.

Our sustenance this evening was provided by battered pollock and chips; pickled onions and cornichons; mushy peas and bread and butter; followed by rice pudding with strawberry jam and evaporated milk.  I drank water.