The Blue Coat

Suitably equipped for the fray

Jackie joined the queue at Tesco five minutes before opening time. She really felt for the woman in the blue coat.

The orderly social distancing exhibited outside the supermarket was somewhat belied by the few customers who reached past others to claim items they were afraid might disappear. Although we didn’t need any, Mrs Knight reported that toilet rolls were in stock.

Perhaps the fact that the fresh meat, fish, and deli counters were off limits enabled her to

feel relaxed about photographing sheep and lambs along Christchurch Road on her way home.

After watering the pots in the front garden this afternoon – the Head Gardener was to hose those at the back later – I took a trip to Honeylake Wood and back.

This involved walking along Christchurch Road past the closed Royal Oak pub, Downton Garage, Woods used car establishment, and a row of cottages, to the currently fallow field featuring a footpath to the wood.

Sandbags line the pub’s front porch, suggesting the management had not anticipated our current dry spell when the coronavirus closures were required.

This gentleman walking a couple of dogs

back to the kissing gate

was clearly complying with the request to keep canines under control.

Choosing to eschew the gate which others will have touched, I entered via a gap in the hedge beside the disused telephone box and the still active letter box.

I then walked along the edge of the field to the footpath.

Like most local fields this one is fenced by wind-sculpted trees.

The winding path through the wood

slopes down to a bridge over a stream. The photographs above indicate the fleeting nature of the shadow-casting sun. The bridge has been repaired since my last trip down here, but I did not lean on it for the same reason that I avoided the gate.

The banks of the stream were embroidered with gentle yellow primroses.

This evening we dined on chicken thighs of considerable size crisply roasted with potatoes and parsnips; Yorkshire puddings, carrots and spring greens, with which I drank Carinena El Zumbido Garnacha Syrah 2018. Jackie had finished her Hoegaarden while cooking.

Water Under The Bridge

The morning’s sunshine was correctly predicted to succumb to clouds by mid-day. We therefore took an early drive to Wooden House Lane in Pilley.

The lane peters out into a pitted gravel path currently peppered with pools. Jackie parked the car and contemplated how she was going to turn round and return to comparatively dry land while I wandered about with my camera.

Such landscapes as I could reach were inviting enough, although

this seat would be more accessible in dryer weather.

A bubbling stream

made its way

under a footbridge in one direction

and across the path in another.

Trees were reflected in the clear gravel pits

and in the swollen stream’s pools.

In an effort to reach the open moor beyond the bridge I risked sinking into

pony- and people-trampled muddy morass. Eventually I gave up and left the ground to the oak leaves.

The stream flowed fast enough to create bobbing bubbles bearing bursting reflections. (Biggify a few – you may spot me.)

A solitary twisted stump stands beside the bridge.

Back at home Nugget, somewhat perturbed, patiently paced as a group of long-tailed tits purloined part of his pendant provender outside the stable door. It is fascinating that robins are savage with their own species, yet most tolerant of other birds.

This evening we dined at The Wheel Inn where we both enjoyed tempura prawn starters which Jackie followed with scampi and chips and I chose Barnsley chop with creamy mashed potatoes and a selection of vegetables. I hadn’t eaten such a meal before. My choice was determined by James Braxton going on about it in The Antiques Road Trip earlier. Its as well cooked, but I wouldn’t repeat it. Jacke dranlk Kaltenberg and I drank Ringwood’s Best.

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.

Casting Practice

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I am happy to say a couple of reasonably quick telephone calls appear to have resolved yesterday’s banking problems. First I phoned NatWest and established that my urgent transfer of 4th will be sent off today to the correct BIC and IBAN numbers in France. Then I called Barclays, France, and received confirmation that I would not be charged for the overdraft that resulted from their negligence. Obviously the proof will be in the pudding.

This afternoon, Jackie drove us to New Hall Hospital at Bodenham, just south of Salisbury. This was in order to test out the journey time for my Monday morning appointment with the knee surgeon. If one has to contemplate treatment, I can think of worse venues than this Georgian listed building with its attractive lodge house, mature trees and shrubberies, pink cherry blossom and banks of primroses.

Once again a murky ermine cape had been thrown over the shoulders of the forest, rendering smoky hues to the landscape. This was most apparent when, on our homeward journey we diverted to look at the mill race on the approach to Woodgreen.

It was on the bridge over the River Avon that I engaged in a friendly conversation with Richard, who had parked beside us. This engaging young man had much local knowledge and a keen interest in wildlife. He showed me where he had seen an otter with three cubs near the top right hand corner of the penultimate picture above. Knowing full well that there were no salmon at this location, he had nevertheless chosen the spot to practice his casting. First, he needed to confront the fast flowing waters and, since the river was at least a foot deeper than usual, test the depth. He was satisfied. I took a few photographs. We waved our goodbyes. Well, I waved. Richard had his hands full.

On this Friday early evening Lyndhurst was likely to be bottlenecked. We therefore opted to take the route though Minstead and Emery Down, only to encounter a motley herd of heifers exercising their right to occupy the road.

We are now driving to dine at Dynasty in Brockenhurst with Elizabeth, Danni, and Andy. I may report on that tomorrow.

Play Of Light

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Willows garden 1

Willows garden on Pilley Hill is situated on a steep but manageable incline. The house is perched in the middle of the plot with the effect that the rear beds are on the highest level and the land descends to the lily pond at the bottom.

We visited this colourful exuberance yesterday afternoon. In 2003, the current owners, Elizabeth and Martin Walker, bought a small bungalow with a natural ditch where the

Lily pond 2Lily pond 1Willows garden 4

pond is now situated. The current house was built in 2005.

Willows garden 3Hydrangea

Unusual varieties of hydrangea are one feature.

Herbaceous border 1Herbaceous border 2

The herbaceous borders, on a grand scale,

Bees on dahlias

attract bees

Visitors admiring herbaceous border 1Visitor admiring herbaceous border

and visitors alike.

Dahlias 1Dahlias 2

Some of the dahlias are really quite strident.

Thistle

There are huge thistles

Ferns

and swirling ferns.

Willows garden 5

Plentiful seating was arranged. You could even sit under a parasol and employ your mobile devices;

Willows garden 7

you could sit side by side across the pond and watch the other visitors,

Couple crossing bridge

perhaps walking over one of the bridges,

Heron sculptures

passing a pair of hidden herons;

Jackie and Labrador

or you could sit quietly enjoying your cream teas, provided you were able to ignore the silent pleading of the resident Labrador.

The women washing up and giving out refreshments were not permitted to handle money, so you had to move across the room to pay the keeper of the coffers. This prompted me to recount the story of ‘A Retirement Project’.

Bamboo

Some of the plants would have graced a much hotter environment. A clump of bamboo soared to the skies,

Banana tree

and a banana tree,

Light through banana leaves 1Light through banana leaves 2Light through banana leaves 4Light through banana leaves 5

as we departed, proffered the light a leafy playground.

Balloon in oak tree

The final surprise was the balloon tree.

This evening we dined at Lal Quilla where my main course was king prawn naga and Jackie’s was chicken hariali. We shared special fried rice, a paratha, and an onion bahji; both drank Kingfisher.

 

The Water Bed

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This morning we drove to New Milton to register with the Birchfield Dental Practice, then do business at the bank and the post office. Afterwards we visited Streets Ironmongers in Brockenhurst where we exchanged our Swan’s Basket for a more suitable grate for the new fireplace, and a bag of coal. As we left the shop, the car thermometer registered 19 degrees. we’ll hardly need a fire. Someone up there is having a laugh.

The land around the Balmer Lawn section of Highland Water has dried out enough for the flooded area, bearing strong shadows from the overhead sun, to contain discrete pools reflecting the trees and the skies.

Shadows and roots 1

Some of the shadows criss-crossed the roots exposed by receding waters.

Clear water flowed over the glowing Highland Water bed.

The river itself sparkled in the sunlight.

As I wandered along the banks a pony seemed to move across the landscape. Actually it remained stationary. It was I who changed my position.

Cyclists were reflected beneath the bridge, over which a walker proceeded in the direction of Brockenhurst,

Water under bridge

and under which the river streamed.

Other ponies had reclaimed their pasturage. This one set off past the car park towards the river, thought better of it, and, eyes open, went to sleep.

Perhaps it had decided to leave the watering hole to the donkeys,

who, thirst slaked, went off for a scratch

followed by a necking session.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s sublime chicken jalfrezi and mushroom rice, with onion bahji and samosa starters and a side dish of dal makhani and paneer. Jackie finished the Vernaccia di San Gimignano and I finished the carmenère.

Why Did The Pony Cross The Road?

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This morning, headed for Hatchet Pond, we drove out to the forest early enough to see the children trailing to Lymington’s schools.

The pond itself was now rivalled by waterlogged terrain

that had been settled by a group of mallards, already pairing up among the reflected trees.

Gulls, mallards, crows, and ponies 1

Various gulls, more mallards, crows, and ponies

Gulls 1

basked

Gulls in flight 1

and flew around Hatchet Pond,

Herons

on the far side of which a couple of cormorants perched on posts in the water,

Swan and reeds

and a solitary swan drifted among last year’s plants.

Ponies and gorse 1

Dappled ponies grazed among the golden gorse,

Reflected tree and pony

and alongside additional pools.

These gentle creatures, ignoring the thorns of gorse and bramble, tore at the clumps of grass.

Pony crossing road

Now, why did this one cross the road?

Ponies and gorse 2

To join its foraging fellows.

The forest terrain was covered in clear rainwater bathing last autumn’s leaves,

and reflecting trees.

Waterlogged landscape 2

Balmer Lawn’s land alongside Highland Water was similarly awash.

That river runs under the A337 on the approach to Brockenhurst.

It provides reflections from the bridge over which we drive.

This evening we dined on our tried and tested choice of M3 from the set meals of The Family House Chinese restaurant in Totton. As so often the establishment was full of both Chinese and English family members with dual heritage children milling about. As I said to the assembled company on our departure, “one of the reasons we like this place is that it is a family house”.