Down The Lane

This morning I wandered through the garden, down Downton Lane and into Roger’s field and back.

View towards patio fro Waterboy

The red Japanese maple is now coming into leaf, and we may soon have to refill the Waterboy’s shell.

Clematis Montana

The clematis Montana, retrained eighteen months ago, now festoons the dead tree;

Tulip

and different, delicate, tulips are bursting into life.

Dandelions

Dandelions currently claim the lane’s verges,

Primulas

where, soon, cow parsley will swamp primulas.

Hoverfly

On this ivy leaf, I think, is a hoverfly masquerading as a wasp.

Crows and crop fertilising

I exchanged waves with the friendly farmer as, attracting the usual avian entourage,

crop fertilising 1

he drove up and down fertilising his field, with a backdrop of Christchurch Bay.

Downton Lane

The oak trees are producing plumage. In the bottom right of this picture can be seen another amenable gentleman,

Paving and sandPaving

one of the staff of Transform Paving, working on the drive of number 23.

Grass bed

After lunch, I rendered token assistance to The Head Gardener in replenishing and redistributing soil, then cut the grass. The bed here demonstrates the soil rejuvenation process. To the left, clog clay soil has been removed and placed where it doesn’t matter much, then replaced by all-purpose compost. That to the right is, as yet, untreated. Anyone with a better knowledge than mine will recognise a self-seeded mimulus from last year in the left-hand section. They obviously do well there. That is why the wheelbarrow contains more of these plants, to be inserted tomorrow.

Wood pigeon

For the whole time we sat in the rose garden with our pre-dinner Hoegaarden and cabernet sauvignon, a big fat wood pigeon warbled his contribution to our conversation. Or perhaps he was simply calling to his mate.

There was plenty of last night’s menu for us to come back for more this evening.

How Many Bees In This Post?

Snake Bark maple skeleton

Jackie and I spent the morning on an enforced feat of forestry. With the head gardener’s advice, guidance, and assistance I sawed off a myrtle branch that had been twisted by the gales, and then performed an autopsy on the snake bark maple. This latter tree has, sadly, died. We performed emergency amputations last autumn, but it failed to recover. I therefore cut down the highest branches, leaving the skeleton as a frame for climbing plants yet to be determined. I protected my left hand with a padded cycling glove purchased by Jackie in the lucky dip that is Lidl’s central aisle. With a certain amount of trepidation I teetered on the step ladders made stable with a wedge or two. It is amazing how hard this dead wood was to cut through.

The thinner limbs I chopped into combustible sections for the next bonfire. This afternoon I sawed up the thicker ones for our wood burner pile, and Jackie continued with her creative planting. After a few yards amble down the lane, I called it a day.

Bee on dandelion

In the lane, a bee flitted from dandelion to dandelion as I tracked it, eventually catching it.

Allium

Wherever you look in the garden, a wide variety of alliums is to be found.

Iris

On the back drive, we are hoping recently planted antique parchment pigmented irises will thrive, thus emulating

Valerian and wallflowersthe rather more strident valerians and wallflowers.

The Chilean lantern tree is a-whirr with leg-loaded worker bees.

Bees on Chilean Lantern tree 1

How many can you spot in this shot?

Bees on Chilean Lantern tree 2

And in this one?  Clicking on the images will help.

This evening we dined on tangy smoked cod, creamy mashed potatoes, piquant cauliflower cheese, firm sweetcorn and peas, and crunchy carrots. We both drank Heritage de Calvet white cotes du Rhone 2014, and a good accompaniment it was.

Smoked cod meal

The Monk

One of the benefits of our mild Autumn has been that non-hardy plants, like this fuchsia Fuchsia quasarQuasar, are still out in the garden. Normally a delicate pink and lilac on a white ground, this picture was my selection for the third day of my Black and White Flower photograph submissions.

Edward Sherred, landscaper, called this morning with his wife. Every couple of years he had pruned the tops of the variegated hollies in the front garden. Our predecessors had the benefit of free tree surgery and his wife used the branches to make Christmas wreaths. Having enjoyed a similar arrangement at Lindum House I was happy for us to continue the process. He did a good job.

Stinging nettles and sticky williesBlackberry blossomDandelionIt was a dank day for my Hordle Cliff top walk this morning. Stinging nettles and sticky willies were sprouting again in the hedgerows. Blackberries had been conned into producing more blossom, and a brave little dandelion had forced its way up through a driveway’s gravel.Hordle Cliff beach

Birds were silently snuggled up in their nests, and The Needles were shrouded in mist. I met no other creature in an hour’s walk.

‘The Castle of Otranto’ is hailed as the first gothic novel, and Matthew Lewis’s ‘The Monk’ as the ultimate one. This work, which I finished reading today, has all the ingredients. Set in Madrid at the time of the Inquisition, we have a dubious monastery and a doomed convent; we have wild weather and benighted forests; we have superstition and sorcery; we have blind belief and blasphemy; we have saintly heroes and sinful religious; we have cunning and deception; we have a sadistic prioress and a seduced and seducing prior; we have terror and torture; we have ghosts, ghastly dungeons, and damp sepulchral crypts strewn with unburied bodies; and we have rape and murder most foul.

Hammer (‘The House of Horror’) Films would have relished it, but it was a French-Spanish production directed by Dominic Moll that presented the adaptation released in 2011.

It hard to believe that Lewis was barely twenty when he completed this fast-moving and insightful novel that has intrigued readers ever since 1796. My Folio Society edition benefits from an introduction by Devendra P. Varma and is embellished by the wood The Monk Illustrationengravings of George Tute, who must have thought it was Christmas when asked to illustrate a book packed with such dramatic incident. He is certainly up to the task.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delightful chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and savoury rice (recipe). I finished the chianti.

 

The Golden Touch

PlantersMole trailOn the way through the garden this morning, to continue working on the back drive, I paused to admire Jackie’s two new planters, originally candle-holders from Redcliffe Nursery. They display her usual flair. Turning into the drive, I encountered the trail made by a mole. As this stopped at the site of the bonfire, perhaps last night’s embers were still warm enough to deter it from popping its head out.Pruned conifers

Jackie soon joined me and she made good progress pruning the conifers along the side of the fence between us and 5 Downton Lane.Wire netting 1Wire netting 2 Hampered by wire netting through which grew thick brambles and a number of trees, I, however, taking the whole morning, covered about two yards. Three hours and a couple of feet separate these two photographs. After that we stopped for lunch.Fuchsia

Fuchsia and blackberriesA little further down, some fine hardy fuchsias form a splendid hedge. They blend well with the blackberries, which we are picking as we go along. Butterflies are enjoying our long summer. Red Admiral and blackberriesComma butterflySpeckled Wood butterflyA Red Admiral seemed particularly partial to the blackberries, while the broad shiny leaves of trees we cannot identify bore a Comma and a Speckled Wood.Jelly babies wrapperIMG_0306LichenCricket on dandelion

For variety, I took the longer Downton Lane/coast road route to the shingle beneath Hordle cliff, and returned via Shorefield. A jelly babies wrapper, linaria vulgaris, lichen, and dandelions, one of which attracted a small cricket, lent golden touches to the hedgerows. Rust stains on beach hutSpaniels being photographedVariations on this hue were provided by rust stains running down from the iron hinge of a beach hut, and by the tennis ball being held up by a gentleman encouraging four spaniels to pose for their photograph. Women and spanielIt was a day for spaniels, one of whom frolicked with a group of four young women.

This evening we dined at Daniel’s in Highcliffe. We each enjoyed haddock and chips, mushy peas, and onion rings. I drank tea, and Jackie drank coffee.

The Mole Catcher

One of the benefits of writing a daily blog over a period of more than two years is that it can be used to jog one’s own memory. Quite often we have checked something by using the search facility. Struggling to remember the name of the architectural salvage outlet where we had bought a door knocker on 9th April, we looked up ‘The Knocker’, and there it was – Ace Reclaim. Actually, I had remembered the Ace bit, which I thought rather impressive.  Unfortunately they were not open today so we couldn’t visit them for something to contain a rose that is straying across the main brick path.

There was, therefore, no excuse to go for a car ride instead of gardening. Boundary cornerWhen I had cut down the last of an invasive privet, I had finally reached the corner of the boundary under siege from next door. (My computer, or maybe WordPress itself, delights in deciding it knows better than I which words I wish to use. It changed the ‘finally’ in the last sentence to ‘fatally’. I do hope the machine is not prescient.) The foliage on the right of the photograph is to be repelled when necessary. The two edges of IKEA wardrobe sections roughly central to the picture mark my assessment of the boundary line, based on metal stakes stuck in the ground. The facing metal poles with worm-eaten wooden struts wired and ragged to them continue along the South side of the back drive. Once I round the compost heap and enter that stretch there are metres and metres of similar bits of wood, metal, and wire marking out territory, between a number of mature trunks of felled trees. Decisions will have to be made about a number of shrubs that line this drive, among which Blackberriesare blackberries coming through from the deserted garden, that are so scrumptious looking and such thick stemmed as to make me think they are cultivated. If anyone does move into the empty house we will need someone like the cartographic decision-makers of nineteenth century Europe, who drew lines across uncharted territory around the globe, to do the same for us.

Stepping stonesDandelion nailed to treeDuring recent weeks Jackie has been removing unnecessary composite paving stones from the mess that is the system of paths in the kitchen garden, and transferring them to her work area to use as stepping stones from there to the new shrubbery, rather like, but longer than, the system I had inserted at The Firs. I helped a little with that today.

It was possibly when prising one of these slabs from its original position that Jackie extracted her dandelion trophy. This had such a magnificent root that she was minded to nail it to one of the pillars of the wisteria arbour where she sometimes takes her rests. She pointed it out to me today. We were both under the erroneous impression that the countryside tradition of nailing moles, regarded as vermin, to fences was in order to keep others away. She thought her action might deter other dandelions. However, that is not the reason rows of moles are lined up like the heads of unpopular members of opposing factions in mediaeval England. They are there to demonstrate to the farmer that his freelance professional mole catcher has done his job. Maybe crows hung in trees could serve as a deterrent to others. There does not seem, however, any consensus on the reason for this practice.

StreamDamselfly 2Damselfly 1This afternoon I ambled down to Shorefield, and, after spending some time leaning on the railings of the bridge over the sun-dappled stream that runs alongside the holiday chalets, returned home. Damselflies flickered iridescent blue over the water seeming to reflect their hue, and coots, keeping well out of fleeting sight paddled in the ochre shadows. So quick were the insects that only when they took a rest in the sunlight was I able to focus on them. I couldn’t actually see this one when I pressed the shutter, but I had seen it land and hoped for the best.

Blackberries pickedBraeburn applesLater, I picked some of the blackberries. As they were mostly emerging from the top of the jungle, I had to teeter on top of the stepladder to reach them. Cleared patchA bird has already started on one of our three Braeburn apples, but we will probably need to buy some cookers anyway for blackberry and apple crumble.

Jackie worked all day on further clearing the patch she had begun yesterday. The exposed root in the picture is a euphorbia about to be clipped and discarded. These are attractive plants, but they self-seed and tend to crop up in the wrong places. Those in our garden have been given a free rein for a number of years, so they must be culled in order to free up what they have choked.

Seeking somewhere different for our dinner tonight, we tried the Rivaaz Indian restaurant in Milton Station Road. The initial disappointment at being informed that they do not serve alcohol, but that we could bring our own, was somewhat assuaged when I remembered we had parked opposite an Off-Licence. It was completely quashed when we noticed that both naga and phal were on the menu. The food was marvelous, and the service friendly, efficient, and unobtrusive. The lamb in my nagin was lean and tender, and Jackie thoroughly enjoyed her chicken jabajaba. Both meals were flavoursome. The rices were cooked to perfection, as was the parata and the mushroom and spinach side dish. We both drank Kingfisher, and neither of us could quite finish our meals.