Wild Flower Verges

Mum is recovering from a throat infection for which she has been treated with antibiotics.

On our visit this morning she demonstrated the site of her discomfort and explained that she had refused to stay in bed in favour of sitting in her chair to get herself moving.

This afternoon we took a drive into the forest.

The sight of ponies exercising their ancient pasturage privileges in view of Fawley Refinery from Exbury Road prompted reflection on past and present juxtaposition..

Nearby, different reflections remain temporarily possible in a rapidly drying rippling pool. Long shadows were cast across both expanding borders and diminishing water levels.

Most of our verges, like these alongside Lepe Road, carry swathes of bluebells, celandines, primroses, and daffodils.

Jackie parked overlooking Lepe while I photographed

yachts passing the Isle of Wight coastal buildings including a string of beach huts; a motorised dinghy on its way over there;

a window in the wall of The Watch House; bright blue grape hyacinths beside the road;

and a family walking with a dog.

This evening we dined on our customary second helpings of yesterday’s Chinese fare which is still good. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mendoza Trivento Reserve Malbec 2019.

Eternal Spring

After lunch I progressed enough with ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ to feature another handful of Charles Keeping’s splendid illustrations to Charles Dickens’s novel.

In ‘The sky was black and cloudy, and it rained hard’, Dickens has used the weather as a symbol of the mood he wishes to create. The artist has reflected this in the vertical slashes across the scene involving horses hanging their dripping heads. There is neither steam emanating from their droppings, nor smoke from the driver’s pipe.

‘Martin drew back involuntarily, for he knew the voice at once’

‘He not only looked at her lips, but kissed them into the bargain’

‘Onward she comes, in gallant combat with the elements’

In ‘They walked along a busy street, bounded by a long row of staring red-brick storehouses’, Keeping displays his skill at depicting a packed street scene with gradually diminishing perspective.

On this warm and sunny afternoon we found ourselves on a drive outside

St Mary the Virgin Church at South Baddesley, photographed by Jackie, who from

her vantage point on the carved oak bench, also focussed on

mares’ tails, Celandine, and cows crunching hay opposite.

I wandered around the graveyard reflecting that the scenes reflected an eternal spring for those buried here.

Most poignant was this angel and child sculpture.

The crochet-embellished post box on Pilley Hill now sports an Easter Bunny. Nearby a sunflower embraces a post, and bluebells sweep down a bank.

For dinner we enjoyed more of Jackie’s wholesome chicken and vegetable stewp, accompanied by bacon butties, with which she drank sparkling water and I finished the Red Blend.

Lockdown Hair

I spent the bulk of the morning in boring administration, earning a trip out in the warm and sunny afternoon.

Our first pheasant sighting was just a few hundred yards away, strutting along Hordle Lane.

Most verges displayed golden celandines and varieties of daffodils. These embellished those of Barrows Lane.

Walkers at the high point of Middle Lane could, as I did, look down on a bucolic landscape featuring a grazing grey horse cropping a field.

Most forest views were dotted with foraging ponies, such as these along Burley Road,

or these beside Forest Road.

One attempted to enter the Modus

before enjoying a scratch on the lichen coated tree trunk;

another sported a fine head of lockdown hair.

In recent days we have acquired a new young couple of collared doves. While preparing this evening’s dinner Jackie, sadly, witnessed a lightning sparrow hawk swoop and carry one off, leaving a pile of fresh feathers. Its mate is wailing its grief.

Said dinner consisted of breaded cod fillets; cheese-centred haddock fish cakes; moist ratatouille; and creamy mashed potatoes, with which I finished the Cabernet Shiraz and Jackie drank sparkling water.

Narcissism Personified

We enjoyed glorious sunshine throughout this rather warmer day, beginning with a drive into the forest.

A trio of ponies cropped the verge of Burley’s Bennett’s Lane, until approached by a horse and rider. A jogger had paused asking me if I wanted to take a picture. Not wishing to disturb her rhythm, I waved her on.

Just around the corner more ponies, one seemingly narcissism personified, carried out further roadside maintenance.

At the end of Bennett’s Lane we turned into Mill Lane, where Jackie parked and I wandered past the house to the left of this picture, admiring its

garden’s display of daffodils.

My target was a reflecting pool above which pussy willows burgeoned, and beside which lichen-covered twigs littered the turf.

Residents here enjoyed spacious, colourful, landscapes.

While I wandered, Jackie photographed a weather van bearing a dog she thought might be a Labrador.

A string of horses stretched across the road beside the junction at Burley War Memorial were oblivious of the traffic tearing down the hill to the left of the picture. As Jackie drove up the slope a motorcycle sped past on the opposite side. It would have needed to avoid the leading equine.

We ventured out again this afternoon. Almost every verge has its carpet of primroses, celandines, as in Sandy Down,

and daffodils, as in Church Lane, Boldre.

A few sleepy ponies waited for a bus on Jordan’s Lane, Pilley;

others played with the traffic.

From her spot at the end of the road, Jackie watched me communing with the ponies,

and recorded her discovery of the reason that so many road signs are bent.

This evening we reprised yesterday’s pasta arrabbiata and runner beans with more of the same beverages.

Walkers In The Field

On a gloriously warm and sunny Good Friday, being the start of a four day holiday weekend, the government was still urging the public to adhere to the coronavirus lockdown  regulations; the UK reported death toll was now approaching 1,000 in the last 24 hours; and a small but significant minority of people were transgressing and being variously dealt with by the police.

The diurnal poppies that, if regularly deadheaded, will last for another six months have appeared in the back garden.

In the front we have pink cherry,

two different crab apples,

and Amanogawa blossoms;

while clematis Montana and vinca vie for purchase on the low wall.

After lunch I walked along Christchurch Road to the fallow field, down into Honeylake Wood, and back.

My chosen entrance to the field, avoiding the kissing gate was now becoming quite well trodden.

The arable land is fronted by blackthorn hedgerows

with wild flowers such as daisies and dandelions at their base.

Tractor tracks bend round the opening to the wood,

while through the hedge to the far left the screeching of groupie gulls alerted me to ploughing in Roger Cobb’s top field.

Stretching shadows striated sylvan footpaths and attendant celandines.

I stepped into the trees to keep my distance from two male neighbours I had never met before who lived at the corner of Hordle Lane opposite The Royal Oak.

Among the ubiquitous yellow flowers, in various stages of disintegration in their return to the soil

lay broken branches of birch and other arboreal debris.

Velvet moss coated trunks and roots of trees entwined by meandering ivy.

A very shallow trickle was all that remained of a small stream that usually joins

the greater watercourse which would normally cover

this fallen limb against which it now laps and ripples.

This time I crossed the bridge, continued a short distance up the mounting slope. and backtracked past

a clump of starry wood anemones.

A walking couple crossing the field in my direction on my way back thought better of it and turned round to cross the path of

the two gentlemen I had seen earlier as, keeping their distance, they crossed to my chosen hole in the hedge and presumably returned home before I did.

This evening we dined on succulent roast pork; roasted new potatoes in their skins; crisp sage and onion stuffing and Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots and firm Brussels sprouts; red cabbage cooked with onions and garlic in red wine with a touch of balsamic vinegar; and tasty gravy, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Mezquiriz.

 

 

 

The Oval Bed Today

The earlier third of the day was overcast but warm.

On my way through the garden to set out on a walk down

Downton Lane

I photographed several newly opened tulips,

one of which bore a sleepy bee.

Even 30 m.p.h. on our eponymous winding lane is probably too fast at any time, yet it seems necessary to reinforce the limit with plenty of notices along the way.

Prolific primroses,

golden dandelions,

dancing daffodils,

and buttery celandines bear out Susan Hill’s view of spring as ‘the yellow season’ expressed in ‘The Magic Apple Tree’.

Along with hardy white daisies

and rambling purple vinca, they decorate the burgeoning verges,

while bristling blackthorn

adorns the hedgerows.

A felled tree hosts ageing tree fungus.

The downward stretch of Downton Lane is a mostly manageable gently sloping descent.

I turned back at the steepest bend

and made my way home.

A pair of friendly cyclists, two abreast, had at least crossed to the other side as they passed me but I did wonder whether I should carry an estate agent’s snazzy measuring device to ensure a safe distance in these self-isolating times.

On 27th March Jackie had begun revamping the Oval Bed which she photographed.

Later this afternoon she produced images of her finished work.

She also photographed these leaves of crocosmia and day lilies,

and aroused bronze fennel setting off to soar above prize primroses and primulas.

This evening we dined on roasted sausages and new potatoes served on a bed of fried onions; a soft melange of cabbage and leeks; tender runner beans; and crunchy carrots with tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Benguela Bay Shiraz 2018.

Jackie’s having to add a little oil to the sausages because they held no fat reminded us of the gristly and cereal-filled apologies that had put us off bangers for life when we were young. Walls offerings were the anathema of our childhood. It was in France that I first experienced sausages with sufficient meat content.

 

We Thought It Best To Pull Over

Leaving the others asleep in their pits early this morning, Jackie and I took a drive into the forest in the vicinity of Burley.

Bluebells are cropping up on all the verges.

As I disembarked to photograph a stream and its reflections, a mallard shot under the bridge at a rate of knots leaving its wake serrating the surface of the water.

I exchanged waves with a bunch of cyclists while I prepared to cross to the other side of the road

in order to photograph fallen trees, their reflections, and banks of primulas, celandines, and violets,

all of which flourished beneath my feet.

I was hampered somewhat in photographing a large fallen tree with its tangled lichen-laden limbs still bearing fresh foliage. As I framed the shot the driver of the car decanting children, their Dad, and their bikes, clearly intending to ensure a bout of photobombing, reversed the necessary couple of metres. We indulged in friendly conversation and I wished the male members of the party an enjoyable ride as the mother drove away, leaving the track clear for us.

We returned home via Holmsley Passage alongside which a pair of ponies turned their backs on

a family group of cyclists on hired bikes as they struggled up the hill. The woman who towed the little trailer was not young. I don’t know about her, but I was mightily relieved when a gentleman changed places with her. We thought it best to pull over and wait until they had climbed their Everest.

This afternoon, Becky, Ian, and Louis returned to Southbourne where the young man was to catch a train back to his home.

This evening we dined on roast lamb, roast potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower cheese with which I drank more of the Merlot Bonarda and Jackie didn’t.

Ecology 2

This morning we drove to Ringwood for Jackie to make some purchases with her M & Co vouchers, and then on into the forest.

Homeowners at Mockbeggar were happy for ponies to crop the lawns in front of their houses, but installed cattle grids to keep them from their inner sanctums and away from their washing lines.

Donkeys lazing outside Corn Store Cottage had no intention of emulating their equine cousins.

The residents of an extensive thatch cottage at North Gorley could look out on a gathering of ponies and cattle strewn about their green. Many of the ponies seem to have earned a rest. Most of the cattle continued chomping. One cow had indulged in a nether mudpack.

In the vicinity of Emery Down Jackie parked the car and I went off-piste across the forest floor. Alternately crunching on fallen twigs and last autumn’s leaves, or sinking into the now fairly dry mulch beneath my feet, occasionally reaching out to retain my balance with the help of still standing trees,

I wandered among fallen trunks and branches of varying girths making their own contribution to the ecology of our historic forestation.

As the arboreal remains returned to the soil from whence they originated, mosses, lichens, and fungi made their homes in trunks and branches while celandines, violets, and wood sorrel sprang from the mulch which will soon nurture ferns and bracken to replace those of last year.

Ponies provide additional fertilising nutriment.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice served with vegetable samosa, onion bahjjis, and paratha. She drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc and I drank more of the Carménere.

“It’s Their Road, Not Mine”

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Eucalyptus shadow

We enjoyed another splendidly sunny summer’s day. In the garden the eucalyptus cast its welcome shadow across the grass;

while tulips, daffodils, wallflowers, and cowslips glowed in the sunshine.

At lunchtime I received a date for my first knee replacement. It is 18th May. I have never heard of anything so fast. This afternoon I undertook the blood test for the hip replacement check. Jackie having driven me to Lymington Hospital for the latter, we continued into the forest.

The primrose bank alongside the stream in Royden Lane was also streaked with shadows. A pair of cyclists happily rode by at an opportune moment.

Horses in field

I imagine the hay heaped in the field opposite was essential food for the horses a week or so ago. Now the grass is coming through again.

This land may have dried out now, but parts of the forest, like this area outside Brockenhurst, were still waterlogged. Instead of shadows we were treated to reflections of trees, some of which had fallen. After such wet periods as the terrain has recently endured, there are always more fallen trees. Often the roots rot and the giants topple.

Two ponies, dozing under a railway arch may, perhaps, two or three weeks ago have used this shelter as an umbrella; today it was a parasol. A pair of cyclists skirted the animals in order not to disturb them. “It’s their road, not mine”, said the leading woman.

Orange berberis flamed in the hedgerows outside Exbury Gardens, while white wood anemones, yellow celandines, and little violets festooned the banks of a dry ditch opposite.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak. Jackie enjoyed a huge portion of chicken tandoori, while I tucked into an excellent rib eye steak cooked exactly as I asked. Jackie’s drink was Amstell, mine was a rather good Argentinian Malbec.

 

 

Expect Equine Visitors

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With yesterday’s snow now but a memory, today held a real promise of spring.

The Culinary Queen made us a picnic lunch,

half of which we consumed in Whitemoor Pool car park, which, in common with all other such New Forest facilities offers a really rocky ride from the road, riddled as it is with murky pothole pools. Ponies had been there before us.

On our way to the moors, we had enjoyed the drive along Lower Sandy Down where primroses, daisies, and crocuses thrust through the cropped sward on the shadow-striated banks of its clear, flowing, stream. One garden contained a huge fallen tree.

Runner and dog

Just outside Brockenhurst, I hoped the stains streaking the backs of the legs of a runner towing his dog was mud thrown up by his trainers from the soggy terrain.

As opined by Jackie, if you live in a New Forest village you must expect equine visitors to you garden or any patch of grass outside. So it is with Brockenhurst, where ponies basked in the welcome sunshine.

Back home, a wander around the garden with its own early afternoon shadows, made clear that our plants have all survived.

We dined this evening on Jackie’s succulent pork chops flavoured with mustard and topped with almonds; crispy roasted potatoes; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and red cabbage, peppers and onions in red wine, with which I finished the Chateauneuf.