The First Foal

We took an early morning trip into the forest today.

A favourite route takes us through Holmesley Passage which links the A35 with the Burley Road.

Each time we drive along this slender, serpentine, disintegrating rat run we wonder if it will be our last – so rapidly is the tarmac crumbling.

Nevertheless, the landscapes it affords, with its resident ponies and cattle, makes the risk of winding up in a ditch worthwhile. The intrepid creature in the last of this set of photographs has sunk up to its knees in soggy turf.

On Bisterne Close, Burley, we encountered our first foal of the season. Already steady on its feet, just two or three days ago this infant would, having emerged unaided from its mother’s womb, have immediately, in ungainly fashion, tottered to its feet on the end of stick legs, and maybe wobbled a bit on its first visit to the milk bar.

The couple walking down the lane told me they had seen the new-born the day before and thought it could not have been much more than a day or so.

It had been the first of the year for this horse rider, too. She confirmed the newness.

At the junction of Bisterne Close and Bennets Lane a tree, probably precariously placed in the recent windy weather, had been felled.

It was in Bennets Lane that we came across Abbotsfield garden open today as part of the National Gardens Scheme in which approved gardens are open to the public for an entrance fee donated to charity.

For me, the highlights were a splendid display of tulips in most of the beds.

I was also impressed by the erythronium pagodas.

Jackie was disappointed that there was no scent to an unknown shrub, but she did enjoy the cherry blossom.

The garden views included magnolias and Japanese maples.

The honesty in Abbotsfield was of the white variety.

I probably didn’t need to be enjoined to be careful, but this was a helpful sign placed at ground level.

This evening we dined on zesty lemon and herb chicken, creamy mushroom risotto, spicy ratatouille, crunchy carrots, and tender mangoes touts and green beans. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I enjoyed Toro Loco Superior Organico 2017, given to me for Christmas by Shelly and Ron.

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.

Synchronicity

Cherry blossom

Pausing to admire one of the freshly flowering cherries in the front garden, we took an early morning drive through forest to Eyeworth Pond and back.

Pony behind burnt stalks

Sometimes the heathland, after the burning of the gorse, can appear like a Paul Nash landscape. So it was today. As we approached Burley, I spotted a pony appearing to be boxed in behind the stalk stubble.

The Driver obligingly turned round and drove into a carpark we had just passed, so I could  walk back and take the photograph.

Horse, Fynn in box

In the carpark stood a horse box. Peering through its barred window was a far more elegant relative of the pony. It was clearly his portrait on the side of the transport vehicle.

This was Fynn, representing the first piece of synchronicity afforded by this pit stop. He was also involved in the second, which follows:

An exchange between Bruce, Paul, and me, following my ‘Down The Lane’ post, concerning why a gentleman might have changed his trousers, reminded me of the story of the catch, another occurrence in a cricket match which I featured in ‘Six Leg Byes’. What happened was that Keith Boyce, a phenomenal West Indian Test player, hit a skier (a ball going straight up in the air) off my bowling. Everyone stood in anticipation, watching the poor man standing underneath it, as the ball began its rapid descent. The fielder safely took the catch, then turned in my direction and cried ‘can I change my trousers now?’. Neither of us could have imagined that I would recycle that joke fifty years later.

Now, what has this to do with Fynn?

Horse, Fynn amd mare 1

Well, this superbly turned out thoroughbred animal had a plaited tail of which Judy Garland would have been proud.

Mare

His companion mare’s appendage sported an attractive binding.

One of the two very friendly women about to ride out across the moor explained the plait. This was in order that her steed did not discolour his tail if he pooped in the van. I can only assume that the mare’s different precaution was either because she was more genteel, or because she possessed a less contrasting colour.

Horses and riders 1Horses and riders 2

Before taking their farewell of us, the ladies removed the constraints so the horses’ fly whisks could still be employed.

Landscape 1Landscape 2

The undulating slopes on the road up to Fritham present typically idyllic New Forest landscapes, seen at their best on such a spring morning.

Eyeworth Pond

Eyeworth Pond lies at the top of the hill, past The Royal Oak pub.

Never before had we had it to ourselves, but here, we were alone with the stillness and the birds, whose continuous sweet song and occasional less musical honks and quacks, filled the air.

Chaffinch

Small birds, such as chaffinches,

Nuthatch

and nuthatches flitted to and fro, occasionally perching long enough for me to photograph them.

Canada goose

No British stretch of water is now without its Canada geese;

Muscovy Duck

I have, however, never seen Muscovy duck before, yet here was one, gliding about in stately fashion.

Mallards on Eyeworth Pond

Mallards

Mallards, on the other hand, are ubiquitous. It was Jackie who noticed that only the drakes were abroad, and wondered where all the ladies were.

Mallards three

Suddenly a pair appeared, and, it seemed, every drake on the lake set off in pursuit, until the quarry escaped sharpish.

On our way home we called at Mole Country Supplies where we purchased three more bags of Landscape Bark, some rat bait and a tube in which to place it. We have always known there were rats in the abandoned garden, but it was not until last night that we watched a gang of them scampering in staccato mood past our kitchen window.

This afternoon we set the application.

Jackie’s super sausage casserole, new potatoes, runner beans, carrots and cauliflower, followed by lemon meringue pie constituted our dinner this evening. The Cook drank water, and I drank La Croix des Celestins fleurie 2014.

Rain Stops Planting

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It was Jackie who was up with the dawn this morning.

Frost and cherry blossom

She was struck by the frost on the Modus whilst the cherry was blooming, as the early sun lit the field behind the oak-lined hedge.

Frost on bench

The Castle Bench also had its share of white coating, although the sun had not yet reached the back.

Ladybird on euphorbia

By the time we drove off to buy 15 more packs of compost from Lidl, a ladybird (or ladybug if you are across The Pond) had been coaxed out to bask on euphorbia.

Palm Bed

We dug three bags of the compost into another section of the Palm Bed, and, until driven in by needle-sharp chilled rain, began inserting plants Jackie bought yesterday.

These evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious steak pie, new potatoes, and crunchy carrots, cabbage and cauliflower. She drank Blanche de Namur and I drank Axis Margaret River cabernet sauvignon 2014.

‘You Wouldn’t Like To Do That Again, Would You?’

On another warm and sunny day that, once we had got going in the garden, felt like the height of summer, we continued soil preparation. In addition to all her other maintenance tasks

Palm Bed

Jackie dug in the compost she had laid on the Palm Bed yesterday,

Rose Garden

and I completed the mulching of the rose garden with three more 100 litre bags of Landscape Bark. I swear they are becoming heavier by the day.

View from Back Drive to Roase Garden

Looking from the Back Drive towards this section,

View across Heligan Path

or across the Helicon Path towards the house,

one can see the burgeoning new growth popping up everywhere.

Bluebells Spanish

We now have profusions of Spanish bluebells,

Forget me nots

and of forget-me-nots.

Pigeon 1

Permanently perched on the telephone cable over Christchurch Road is a male collared dove,

Pigeon 2

pretending he is nothing to do with the nest in our holly tree upon which his lady is incubating.

Even when paying a visit, he first lands on the flowering cherry photographed yesterday. Since he is quite a ponderous creature he shakes the boughs freeing many cherry petals,

Hannah, Ben and Sam 5.83 1

just as Matthew did to the delight of Hannah, Ben, and Sam in May 1983.

This evening we dined at Dynasty in Brockenhurst with Elizabeth, Danni and Andy. My choice was lamb shatkora, special fried rice an onion bhaji. Along with Jackie I drank Kingfisher. The others drank red wine, cobra, or coke. Service and food were excellent.

The restaurant is close to the ford which we could see was waterlogged. As we were ten minutes early, I sniffed a photo opportunity and wandered down the road.

Ford and car

This was the scene as I approached, directly into the sun.

I was a bit slow to catch two cyclists wheeling through their spray. As they passed me I cried: ‘You wouldn’t like to do that again, would you’. ‘Do it again?’ was the reply. ‘Yes’, I answered.

Cyclists at ford 1

They immediately turned tail, sped through the water,

Cyclists at ford 2

Cyclists at ford 3

and, returning quite happily, enjoyed another shower.

Cherry Blossom

Cherry blossom

Today, perhaps thinking cherry blossom had no business blooming in our front garden just six weeks before Christmas, 54 m.p.h. winds strove unsuccessfully to rip the flowers from their ultra-flexible branches.

Perhaps it was therefore serendipitous that, among the unsorted negatives from 1983 that I identified and scanned this afternoon, I should have found more of those featured in ‘A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’.

Hannah, Ben and Sam 5.83 3Hannah, Ben and Sam 4

Hannah, Ben, and Sam frolic here in May 1983.

I also discovered more of the holiday, later in the year Jessica, Sam, Louisa, Matthew, Becky and I enjoyed in North Wales.

Matthew and Sam 1983 2

Matthew and Sam 1983

A couple more of Sam planted on a cow by Matthew, are now included.

Here are some portraits of Jessica:

Jessica 1983 2Jessica 1983 3Jessica 1983 4Jessica 1983 5Derrick 1983 1

and one of me taken by her.

Smugglers Inn meals

This evening we dined at The Smugglers Inn in Milford on Sea. Jackie chose chicken supreme and Peroni beer; I enjoyed Cajun pork and Doom Bar. We had eaten a good quantity of our meals before I thought to photograph them, but you get the picture.

The Gate Of India

Cherry blossom

A very straggly flowering cherry tree in the front garden needed Jackie’s heavy pruning last year. It has responded magnificently.Mahonia 1Heuchera

Mahonia 2

A mahonia and more heucheras are blooming, whilst an earlier flowering example of the former that has been allowed to grow into a tree now bears clusters of seeds.

Late this afternoon Jackie drove us to visit our friends Barrie and Vicki who moved to Poole a few months ago. Barrie drove us around the town, pointing out the old town and various new developments, ships in the harbour, the two bridges, the old Customs House, Sunseekers boat builders, and the splendid parks that back onto their building opposite the cricket pitch. Barrie is a wealth of knowledge, not all of which I was able to retain at first hearing, but the journey itself, on a sunny evening was fascinating and enjoyable.

The Gate of India

After this we were treated to a meal at a rightly recommended restaurant, ‘The Gate of India’. The food, service, and ambience, were excellent, and it was interesting that this large establishment, even on a Wednesday evening, was full of diners.

Main courses laid out on our table were chicken buna for Jackie, chicken moglai for Vicki, chom chom chicken for Barrie, and fish naga for me. There was mushroom rice for Jackie and pilau for the rest of us. We shared onion bajis, a naan, and a parata. Jackie and I drank Kingfisher, and our hosts drank diet coke.The Gate of India meal

The empty glasses indicate, as is often the case in restaurants where the food is freshly cooked, that we had finished our first drink before the food arrived. That was not a problem. The only tardiness they showed was in presenting the bill. We all enjoyed our meals.