Exhuming Queen Victoria

On a bright, sunny, morning I rambled around the garden, down the lane, along Roger’s footpath and back.

Garden from patio

From our patio can be seen a rhododendron, geranium palmatums, petunias, foxgloves, and fennel.

Garden from Phantom path

The centre of the Phantom Path gives a view towards that shown above. We can also see that the clematis Star of India and an unnamed white rose frolic together on the Gothic Arch.

Rose, red climber

This red rose, aptly named Altissimo, climbs between Elizabeth’s bed and the rose garden.

Garden back path

 a sentinel to the Back Path.


The morning sun burns out detail on the right hand side of Downton Lane, glinting on the back of a shade-seeking orange ladybird,

Backlit leaves

just filtering through shrubbery on the left.


This gate must have once led into a garden beyond it.


Roger is growing barley this year.

Christchurch bay, yacht, ship, barley

Across the left hand field a large vessel sedately traversed the horizon as yachts skimmed along a deep blue Christchurch Bay.

Clouds over DowntonClouds over Downton, rusting artefact

To my right clouds slid silently over Downton.

All I could hear were the strings of countless insects’ wings.


The pong of fermenting slurry filled my nostrils.

Sausage casserole cooking

Back home, a far more appetising aroma greeted me. Jackie was preparing a sausage casserole for Sam’s visit tomorrow. I suppose I can defer my gratification until then.

This afternoon we planted other flowers, such as heucheras and penstemons into the rose garden, offering some variation.

Rose Deep Secret

The rose Deep Secret has now revealed all.

During my childhood, we used to brighten our copper pennies by rubbing them on the bricks of the school wall. Old bricks, not modern paving ones that don’t crumble into dust on the application of friction. So, when Jackie unearthed a tiny coin encrusted with thick verdigris, I was off in search of an old brick. They are not hard to find in the garden of Old Post House. I cleaned enough to know what a treasure we had found, but, since we were now afraid of scrubbing off any more detail, Jackie finished the job with Hob Brite, a rather gentler abrasive.

We had exhumed a small coin, bearing, on the obverse, the somewhat pockmarked head of Queen Victoria; on the reverse, Britannia, the date 1893, and its denomination. So soon after the previous post, we had found a farthing. Serendipity or what? How long had that lain in the soil? Who had dropped it? We will never know. Farthing Victoria obverse

Farthing 1893 reverse

The previous posting featured a wren, which did not appear on the reverse until the pattern coin of Edward VIII (so called because it had not yet been approved by the time of his abdication in 1936). The little bird first replaced Britannia in 1937, during the reign of the father of Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI, who succeeded his older brother.

For tonight’s dinner, barbecue sauce flavoured the spare ribs; Jackie’s rice and green beans came with it. She drank Hoegaarden and I slurped Dao. This last verb was Jackie’s suggestion, when she pointed out that I had quaffed more than once recently. Not exactly couth, but there you have it.

P.S. Further research suggests that our coin is in fact bronze.

Woodland Settings

Mist veil

As I stepped out of our front door this morning I was attracted by a veil of mist hanging over distant trees. This determined a left turn and a walk across the field of brassica, through the woods to the road near Taddiford Farm, and an about turn back to home.Downton

Footpath normalFootpath filmFootpath vividFootpath B-WFrom the middle of the field I looked back to the strip of houses that is Downton. Our blue painted house is visible on the far left. Also in evidence is the Downton Service Station sign. Father Christmas, perched on the garage roof of ‘Badger’s Meadow’, surveyed the traffic on Christchurch Road. On my return, I had a long talk with Mark, the owner, who had moved here some years ago from Worcester Park.

On a whim, I photographed the same woodland scene on four different camera settings. The first was automatic, then came the positive film effect, then vivid, and finally black and white.

StreamTree shieldsCrossing a bridge over the stream, and seeking to create the impression of non-existent sunshine, I continued to play with my settings. So absorbed was I, that at one point I inadvertently retraced my steps earlier than I had intended. Fortunately this was soon corrected.

The more recently planted trees sported tubular shields, no doubt to protect them from nibbling by wildlife, probably of the cervine variety.

Woodland 4Woodland 6FungusSawn trunkLeaf carpetFootpathWoodland 1Woodland 2Woodland 3Woodland 5Woodland 7Woodland 8Woodland 9

Foresters had sawn others, some of which bore interesting fungus, lichen, or simply discolouration, and fallen leaves carpeted the paths, which were not particularly muddy.Misty trees

The mist still shrouded the more distant trees.

Ian went out for his walk just before the rain set in for the day. He returned looking like a drowned rat, which was interesting, given that we had just seen a real one disappearing into Scooby’s favourite corner of the garden.

New Forest images

One of my stocking presents was a copy of ‘New Forest’, Georgina Babey’s contribution to the Tempus Publishing Images of England series. This is a fascinating social history of the area through the medium of captioned photographs. I devoured this at opportune moments yesterday and today. The cover illustration is a detail from one showing ‘a steam engine transporting logs in Lyndhurst High Street during the First World War. The Steam engine is called Queen of the South and was owned by M. Slater of Eling. It is standing opposite the Stag Inn’. The buildings behind the transport are still there. One is now Honeyford’s butcher’s.

Yesterday Jackie roasted two turkeys, but we didn’t even finish one. With all the other goodies provided for yesterday’s lunch there was plenty left over for us to graze at will today. A delicious mixed meat and vegetable broth in the evening completed the day’s nourishment.


We are running out of storage space, so Jackie and I visited David Fergusson’s House Clearance shop in Highcliffe, where we bought three chests of drawers which will be delivered next week. There we met the fascinating proprietor who has an impressive knowledge of art. He is still waiting for that miraculous find, but clearly appreciates and values some of the items he collects. They do not all find their way into his shop. His home must be a treasure trove.

It is not now quite so scary a prospect to accommodate the belongings we then collected from Shelly and Ron’s afterwards. At their home we also met Anthony, their son, Jane their daughter, and her boyfriend Chris. Ron is recovering from his operation on his broken heel. We had an enjoyable chat with welcome mugs of coffee.Garden

CamelliaBee in tree peonyWeeping birchOur garden becomes more resplendent as the month proceeds. Another Camellia is in bloom, as is a tree peony offering shelter to a bee. The elegant weeping birch flickers with dangling new leaves.

DowntonThe SolentBonfire & Isle of WightRook & seagullAfter lunch I walked down Downton Lane, taking the footpath off to the right. From the stubbled field alongside, I could see the original hamlet of Downton stretched out along Christchurch Road. Enlarging the picture offers a glimpse of our pale blue washed house centre right. To the left The Solent sparkled in the distance, and the cloudy smoke from a bonfire blended well with the bulky form of the Isle of Wight.

A solitary rook vied with the seagulls for pickings from a recently ploughed field.

BluebellsWood anemoneGorseBluebell bankLandscapeLandscape 2Landscape 3I took the left turn alongside the bluebell wood which also contained wood anemones among many other wild flowers. After crossing the stream I optimistically diverged from the marked path, turned left through an opening in the barbed wire fence and circumperabulated a steep grassy field with clumps of gorse at its summit, looking down on a splendid bluebell bank beside the road.

It soon became apparent that there was no other egress, so I retraced my steps and returned home.

This evening Jackie fed Flo and me (and herself) on Pizza and penne bolognese sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Strawberry jelly and Kelly’s Cornish clotted cream ice cream. I finished the Isla Negra and Jackie drank a little more of her Hoegaarden.

As I post this, I am listening to the ticking of two clocks. One, keeping perfect time, is a battery operated modern one bought by Jackie in one of Morden’s ‘cheapie places’. The other, a splendid reproduction station waiting room clock was given to Jessica and me by Michael when he was seventeen. It still needs a little adjustment to its new environment as it loses a few minutes a day. This is the clock that survived being stolen with the rosewood wine table that stands beneath it.