“You Will Appear In Lots Of Photographs”

Early this morning I watched recordings of the Women’s Rugby World Cup matches between New Zealand and Scotland, and between Australia and Wales.

Before this balmy midday Jackie drove us to Tesco for shopping, and on to a forest drive.

The pannage pigs we encountered just outside Burley were Oxford Sandy and Blacks, silently rooting acorns from beneath heaps of fallen leaves.

Further on into the village a cyclist resting on a bench in Pound Lane became the accidental centre of attention for

groups of visitors focussing on wandering ponies.

He was very happy when I quipped “You will appear in lots of photographs”.

As so often, ponies and a foal wandered about the village car park.

This year, possibly, we thought, because of the long summer heat wave drying the soil to the consistency of rock, there has been a dearth of mushrooms in the woodlands, which are now receiving life-giving rainfall.

A cluster around a group of birch trunks in Beechwood Lane is the first such quantity we have seen.

This evening we dined on meaty roasted chicken thighs; crisp Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, with tasty onion gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Shiraz.

Ecological Contributions

Mum was on very good form when we visited her at Woodpeckers at midday. Her thoughts and stories flowed and her hearing and sight were not too bad. We could forgive her for repeating some tales. Her one and only flight to Jersey with Jacqueline some years ago was a new one.

From Brockenhurst we continued along Rhinefield Road to the Ornamental Drive which, Easter Holidays still in progress, was visited by

plenty of walkers and cyclists.

Some families remained at Blackwater car park with its picnic benches and where the delighted cries of children playing among the trees syncopated with melodious birdsong. Of course, when occupied with ice lollies, this little group had no capacity for shrieking.

While Jackie waited patiently in the Modus, I focussed on reflections in and ripples on the stream; tangled, exposed, tree roots; the trunk of one giant redwood, and shadows of others.

Moving further along the road, my Chauffeuse parked on the verge while I wandered among dry, rustling, autumn leaves, bracken and pony droppings; fallen, decomposing, timber; and lichen coated twigs, each making their own

contribution to the refurbishment of the forest floor.

Some of the dead trees are taking a number of years to disintegrate, and there is quite a range of colours in the blending and contrasting animals.

For dinner this evening Jackie produced tangy lemon chicken with her wholesome savoury egg fried rice. We both drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc.

‘Why Do Swans Have Such Long Necks?’

On another darkly dank afternoon, after visiting Milford on Sea Pharmacy we returned home via Keyhaven.

From Saltgrass Lane we watched geese, gulls, and other waterfowl fishing,

flying, and floating fast on the tidal current. The colour picture in the first gallery and the first two in the next are Jackie’s.

Walkers, dogs, and cyclists exercised at safe distances. The Assistant Photographer provided the first image of this set.

Swans tend to gather under the bridge linking the lane with the spit.

Today they were accompanied by

cygnets, no longer Hans Andersen’s Ugly Ducklings, but yet to shed their cinnamon plumage and acquire an orange beak.

This one is not too big to avoid mother’s sharp reprimand.

Emma, West Sussex recently wondered why swans have such long necks.

Today’s observations suggest that it is to enable them to reach the river bed.

Here I am photographing the swans.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s scrumptious sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots and cauliflower, with firm Brussels sprouts. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Shiraz.

Silhouettes At Sunset

We set out for a drive in the forest an hour before sunset.

There were a number of people out riding, such as this young lady on Barrows Lane. They were usually in no particular hurry. Neither were we.

As I emerged from the Modus high on Holmsley Passage, a dog in a Land Rover fixed me with its baleful beady eye.

A number of dog walkers, like this woman with her pair, were also taking the air.

A couple of motor cyclists followed a fast moving car, the driver of which did his best to splash me as he sped past. Fortunately I had anticipated the shower and (with poetic licence) nipped over the bank in the foreground.

The late sun burnished both landscape and ponies. The second black and white subject stretched its neck whilst emitting an extended whinnying.

Alongside Bisterne Close a group of ponies seemed intent on stripping the holly branches until, with one accord, they trooped off into the woodland and out of sight.

We just had time to catch

sunset at Barton on Sea where groups of well distanced visitors provided me with a choice of silhouettes. A young family played cricket on the green. The ball was struck in my direction, my reflexes kicked in, and I bent at the knees in an attempt to scoop it up. I couldn’t get down far enough and had to plead dodgy pins. My pride hurt the most.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s savoury omelette-topped rice served with a quartet of prawn preparations, namely salt and pepper, hot and spicy, tempura, and skewered in a skein of shredded potato. The Culinary Queen and I both drank Greco di Tufo 2019, a most mellow Italian white from Lidl.

Summer Holidays In The Woods

In an effort to avoid the holiday traffic and the intensely hot sapping humidity of the day we set off for a forest drive at 8 a.m.

Beside Ober Water which passes under Rhinefield Road ponies quietly grazed, cattle strode purposefully, cyclists and cars sped along;

sunshine dappled the woodland, reflecting trees and skies on the surface of shallow, bubbling, water

from which a splashing, excited, dog time and again retrieved a soggy tossed tennis ball.

Three different shoes and a rather useful looking pan had all been abandoned on the banks;

as they swooped from tree to tree and hunted among the roots I witnessed ample evidence that robins spend their summer holidays in the woods.

Cattle drank from the stream.

Early bracket fungus stepped up trunks further along Rhinefield Road;

bracken pierced the shadows along Mill Lane

where walkers and dogs were beginning to wander.

On Bisterne Close an inquisitive foal left its mother’s flanks in order to investigate the warm bonnet of our Modus. It took a loud application of a certain amount of vroom to shift the mohican-coiffed youngster.

Purple heather, such as this beside Holmsley Passage among which a lone walker tramps is brightening daily.

As usual, clicking on any image will access its gallery, individual members of which can be viewed full size and further enlarged if required.

Even when entering the garden for a watering session we were hit by a blast furnace, and the library dehumidifier required emptying twice today, when normally once every two days may suffice.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious liver and bacon casserole; creamy mashed potatoes, crunchy carrots; and tender green beans with which I drank Carles Priorat 2016, and the Culinary Queen abstained.

Sculpted By Prevailing Winds

Aaron is continuing to work as long as he can. This very sensible proprietor of A.P. Maintenance has taken advice and uses his plentiful common sense. We leave the gate open for him so he doesn’t have to touch it and he knocks on the window to announce his arrival. He keeps well away from us, doesn’t come into the house, and brings his own refreshments.

Jackie photographed him reading the list of tasks that she has taped to the inside of the kitchen window.

Blackthorn lines the hedgerows of

Hordle Lane, along which I walked after lunch as far as the paddock and back.

Because the overnight temperatures at the moment are close to freezing, the horses still wear their protective rugs.

Daffodils still brighten the verges, but

the drying ditches are lined with carelessly lobbed bottles, cans, and food packaging.

Arable fields flank the winding lane;

some are divided by hedges and trees sculpted by prevailing winds.

Pine cones cling to branches before eventually dropping to the ground.

It is now two or three years ago that a young teenage girl died in a car accident on this site. Her mourners keep her memory alive.

There wasn’t much reduction in traffic along the lane today;

a cheery cyclist kept his distance as we exchanged greetings;

I was slightly nervous about whether this group of four pedestrians and a dog maintained the requisite distance from me as we passed. I imagine they lived together.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy hot chilli con carne with a mix of brown and white boiled rice. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Mezquirez.

Look. No Hands

This afternoon we both collected our new specs from Boots, then drove into the dreary, drizzly forest.

Along Undershore there stood an example of the broken trees on soggy terrain that currently proliferate in the woodlands.

There wasn’t much sign of life until we came across cattle wandering along Sowley Lane.

Owner’s tags, as always, adorned their ears as they stared us out.

Several calves were left to their own devices, although by and large they stuck to the verges. One chewed its tail;

tried on a new necklace;

and indulged in a bit of grooming.

One seated adult turned her clarty back on the proceedings;

another had dried her hide after a mud bath.

Crowds of crows took to the air overhead.

Ponies on the corner of St Leonards Road were equally mud-caked;

one somnolent group dozed beside

a weedy winding winterbourne stream swiftly swirling,

sweeping loose leaves and flexing fixeded grasses while surging to a tunnel under the road.

As may be imagined from its name, such a watercourse flows only during the winter months.

The terrain at this junction between St Leonards Road and that to East Boldre becomes a similar pool during very wet weather. Today a passing cyclist was reflected in it.

He clearly had no use for his steering bars as his hands were otherwise engaged. I hoped he was the only one going round the bend.

This evening we dined on belly of pork, roasted long and slow in order to drain away the fat; firm roast potatoes and parsnips; crunchy carrots and tender cabbage, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Carenina El Zumbido Garnacha Syrah 2018.

The Path To Deadman Hill

The day before yesterday I finished reading

being the final novel in the trilogy of the Larkin family, first featured in “Freak Of Fate” in which I described the first book; how I came by it; and the amazing coincidence of the address on the flyleaf, also borne by this Book Club edition published by Michael Joseph in 1960.

In his now familiar rollicking style the author continues to relate the cheerfully energetic romp through life of Pop Larkin, his friends and family. I have now realised that one of the chief pleasures of these stories is the ease with which Bates weaves beautiful bucolic descriptions into his innocently scandalous narrative. For the Larkins, life really is “perfickly” beautiful. Maybe, only 15 years after the ending of the Second World War, that is what the world needed.

This morning we visited Bill and Helen to exchange birthday presents.

We diverted to Abbotswell, near Frogham, on our way home, then decided to lunch at The Fighting Cocks at Godshill.

In the deeply pockmarked gravelled car park at the top of Abbotswell hill a couple of riders were persuading two splendid, reluctant, black horses into their trailered transport which, with their weight, seemed certain to increase the potholes.

I took a short walk among the undulating woodlands overlooking the sloping landscape below.

As always in such terrain it was necessary to tread gingerly over tree roots.

Bees swarmed among wild blackberry blossoms.

Cattle and ponies congregated in the valley below.

A lone cyclist sped along a footpath

and re-emerged on the path to Deadman Hill on the other side of Roger Penny Way. To think that just four years ago I would take that walk without thinking about it.

My lunch at the pub consisted of steak and ale pie, chips, and peas; Jackie’s was mushroom stroganoff with which she drank Hop House lager. My drink was Ringwood’s Best.

Long haired miniature ponies groped their way across the greens beside Cadnam Lane where

an enterprising hairdresser had given a bug-eyed tree stump an impressive Mohican.

The Head Gardener has a little friend in the form of a juvenile robin that follows her around during the day and has taken to joining us on the patio for a drink in the evening. Jackie, on this occasion, drank Hoegaarden, I drank sparkling water, and Robin drank water from a flower pot saucer.

After this, Jackie and I dined on pepperoni pizza and salad; Robin probably finished off what was clinging to his beak.

The Season Has Begun

This afternoon Jackie and I left the others at home and set off for a trip into the forest., which was becoming rather congested. In fact we didn’t venture much beyond Brockenhurst where

donkeys at the ford were arousing interest

or wandering off into the traffic.

Bikers and

cyclists made their way through the Watersplash. Seconds after I photographed this young lady she was showered with spray from an oncoming car.

A small boy played in the gravel beside the ford, oblivious of the family enjoying ice creams behind him and reflected in the stream.

There were plenty of signs on this warm and sunny afternoon that the holiday season has begun. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes, some complete with dogs, enjoyed splashing about in Highland Water, or simply watching others or conversing in the shade.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb chicken jalfrezi with savoury rice and parathas. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden, Ian Kronenbourg 1664, and Louis water while I drank more of the Pinot Noir.

Emptying The Dog

Jackie and I took a trip into the forest quite early this morning.

At first there were just us and the ponies enjoying the bright sunshine and the crisp air on the undulating serpentine Holmsley Passage. The grey in the gallery above offered a perfect example of a typical pony turning from tearing at the gorse to pose for its portrait.

Another group breakfasted on the bright gold shrubs beside Smugglers Road car park

Like me, the grazing horses had to pick their way around the loose dog shit littering the slopes at this attractive spot. Of the numerous dog walkers who parked their vehicles alongside our Modus, we noticed none carrying a poo bag to take home with them. Pony excreta dries in the sun and crumbles into the soil. The canine variety grows fur.

Before we moved on cyclists were beginning to appear.

We visited another popular car park at Abbots Well, where the landscape offers panoramic views across the moors which can be accessed down well-trodden paths through now naked trees and thick shrubbery. Walkers, with and without dogs, also enjoyed the morning, balmy for the time of year. Here, one poo bag hung from a bowed branch. These are pleasant locations for emptying the dog.

I returned to the car in time to catch Jackie photographing the photographer.

This evening Jackie and I dined on her thick, well filled, onion and mushroom omelette with a nice, firm, tomato; Ian preferred scrambled egg on toast prepared by Becky, who, herself, enjoyed a doggy bag prepared by the Lal Quilla kitchen.