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.

Getting The Measure Of The Kitchen

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Yesterday I was asked by the suppliers of our greenhouse whether I had any photographs they might use in their next brochure. Regular readers will know the answer. This morning I e-mailed them links to four posts.

Dale, from Crestwood Showrooms, visited at midday in order to measure our kitchen floor to accommodate the new appliances. It is sad that we will need to replace the existing tiles which will no longer fit. Having made his measurements, this very friendly and personable gentleman checked his figures and photographed the existing area. He chatted for a while, explaining just how the flooring would be synchronised with the carpentry and installation processes.

To the left of Dale in the first picture above can be seen the edge of the island on which the current hobs stand. His hand is above the kitchen sink which, along with everything else on that wall, is to be replaced. What should be apparent is the distance the water source is from the cooking area. On the other side of the dining table stands a kitchen cabinet and a set of IKEA shelves which will probably be brought into service elsewhere.

After lunch we motored into the forest.

Highland cattle

On the outskirts of Brockenhurst, a group of Highland cattle often seen wandering the streets and forested areas, were now confined to a field.

Along the Rhinefield and Boldrewood Ornamental Drive the recent high winds and the rains loosening roots have replenished the stock of arboreal casualties whose limbs and trunks now join those fallen earlier, to be left mouldering in the interests of ecology.

Today was one more of showers than sunshine, which did make for fascinating skies over the moorland and, later, at Milford on Sea where gulls played on the thermals

until the setting sun kissed the waves below.

This evening we dined on juicy chicken Kiev; crunchy carrots and runner beans; and creamy mashed potato. I drank Mendoza Beefsteak Malbec 2016.

“Are The Ponies Fat?”

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This morning Jackie drove me to Sears Barbers in Milford on Sea, where the affable Peter cut my hair as well as usual. We then continued into the forest.

Woodland 1

 

Woodland 2

Strong overhead sunlight dappled the autumn leaves carpet of the forest floor,

Woodland 3fallen tree 1Fallen tree 3Fallen tree 2

giving a spectral air to fallen trees

Tree root

and their ripped out roots.

Woodland with can

Even here, on the outskirts of Brockenhurst, cans can be casually discarded.

Pony and foal 1

On the crossroads in the village itself two ponies and a foal deliberated which way to turn.

Pony and foal 2

I walked around them to obtain better light, and the little one sought comfort and succour from its mother.

Ponies and foal

A young North American visitor stopped to ask me the way to The New Forest. I informed him that he was in it. He wondered where he could go for a day’s hike. I gave him some suggestions, one of which was that he should buy a map in the main street to which I directed him. He then asked “Are the ponies fat? Or perhaps pregnant?”. I suggested that the one he was looking at was probably pregnant, but also explained that because we had experienced such a mild winter they had found plenty of forage and were not as thin as they often were when the weather had been severe.

Ponies, foals, and cattle 1Ponies and foals 2Ponies and foal 1

As we emerged from the village we saw a large group of ponies, foals,

Cattle 1Cattle 2

and cattle grazing, flopping, and vying for shelter under the spreading branches of a mature oak.

Pony and flies

Possibly in an effort to shake off the persistent flies

Ponies 1

some of the horses shook themselves and strode frantically across the grass.

Ponies on road

Other ponies disrupted the traffic as they sought shade by the roadside.

Concrete mixers

On Hordle Lane as we made our way home we had the pleasure of watching two concrete mixers negotiating a safe passage before we could continue on our own. I expect the drivers knew there was a ditch on the left-hand side.

Elizabeth came to lunch and Jackie plied us with a plentiful array of cold meats, cheeses, and salads, with which I drank more of the malbec and the ladies drank sparkling water.

Cake counterCream tea 1

After this, we visited Braxton Gardens and scoffed scone cream teas.

It should come as no surprise that further sustenance later on was surplus to requirements.

Whilst we were sitting in the garden we received a telephone call from Matthew to say that he, Tess, and Poppy would be arriving later tonight so that they can be with us on my 75th birthday tomorrow.

Food And Drink In The Same Location

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It really felt like a spring day as we drove out to the forest this morning.

A pair of cyclists led us along the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.

At intervals I left the car and photographed the forest scenes.

The usual amount of fallen trees festooned the floor. I have mentioned before, that, apart from some which is sold to be fashioned into something artistic or useful, the timber is left to rot where it falls, as an aid to ecology.

Some of the stumps in particular have disintegrated before our eyes during the few years we have lived here.

Even close to midday, the sun is still low enough in the sky to cast long shadows across the carpet of dry autumn leaves.

Last year’s bracken has not yet shrunk in the presence of Spring’s burgeoning coils.

Beyond Boldre an arrogant cock pheasant strutted erect through the heather.

Further on, a group of ponies were celebrating the fact that, courtesy of the recent rain their food and drink were both available at the same location.

An apparently dead tree would seem to have fallen into the water. Actually the water had fallen around the tree, beyond which the white pony guzzled the gorse.

On our return home we took our main meal of the day at Holmsley Old Station Tea Rooms. I chose steak and ale pie with short crust pastry, carrots, peas, and chips. Jackie’s pick was Stationmaster’s Rarebit. She drank cappuccino. I drank sparkling water.

Katie’s Wake

Storm Katie particularly selected our corner of Hampshire to belabour throughout the night with winds of up to 105 m.p.h. Having heeded the forecast our intrepid Head Gardener brought down many of her pots and protected other parts of the garden. Nevertheless, tears sprang to her eyes when she witnessed the devastation this morning.

Cold frames blown down

The cold frames built last autumn had been smashed to pieces and scattered around the side and front of the house.

Daffodils blown down

One pot of daffodils had been blown from its perch on the front Gardener’s Rest.

Arch blown down 2Arch blown down 1

Two arches have been uprooted;

Broken lamp

that in the front has destroyed a solar lamp.

Broken pot 1

Other breakages include plant pots that can no doubt be replaced from Efford Recycling Centre.

Chairs blown down

Chairs

Plant stand blown down

and planters also took a dive.

The wind continued throughout the day, and rain interrupted the sunshine, so we decided to defer the recovery process until tomorrow, and drive out to see how the forest had fared.

Fallen tree 1StumpStump and fallen tree

This scene near Bolderwood demonstrated that the recent falls of forest giants will eventually merge into the landscape, just as their ancestors have done. Perhaps this rotting stump had been shattered by a wind as strong as that which had ripped the trunk off its neighbour.

Fallen tree 2Fallen tree 3

Fallen tree 5Fallen tree 4

Many other such corpses, recent, and ancient, litter the terrain.

Fallen tree clearance

The last of these trees had been cleared from the road that it had crossed.

Traffic on road

Variable traffic,

Runner on road

and a cheerful runner who had just seen a wonderful rainbow, enjoyed the bright light once the rain had stopped pelting down.

Donkeys 2

In Newtown, near Minstead, the dappled coats of donkeys blended with the sunlit tarmac.

Donkeys 1

When living there, we had watched the house in the centre of this picture being built.

Donkey baby

These two had left their basking baby while they wandered off.

Donkeys 3

Further on, we were obliged to stop and watch another trio able across the road they own.

Shattered tree

I have often photographed this tree, when whole, on Seamans Corner green;

Fallen branch

or this scene, further down the road, before Katie struck.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s choice chilli con carne and savoury rice. I drank more of the madiran, and The Cook didn’t.

The Dappled Trunk

This morning I could no longer put off changing the lightbulbs bought yesterday. The picture light which I can reach with the aid of our small stepladder was done then. Three more at ceiling height were a different proposition.

Derrick carrying stepladderDerrick with stepladder in hallA major task ensued, not the least for the photographer who had to get down on the floor whilst I was scaling the ladder. But first things first. The larger ladder, once discovered in the hall of the other side of the house where reside the unreachable electricity meters, had to be obtained, carried across the front of the building, and negotiated into our flat and through the hall corridor.

Derrick changing spotlight in bayDerrick changing kitchen spotlightThen came the scary bit. The spots in the bay and the kitchen are the highest, but the bayonet fitting bulb in the sitting room is actually the most daunting. This is because two hands are required. The first time I replaced this one the old article was very stiff and tended to throw me off balance when it yielded. Derrick changing sitting room lightbulbThat was managed from the platform of our smaller ladder. No way was I trying that again.

There is a lot of internal illumination in our flat, and it tends to fail with some regularity. So you see, if, to quote someone I once met, ‘all I ever [did] around here [was] change lightbulbs’, I’d be kept quite busy.

Before a salad lunch based on a Ferndene Farm shop pork pie, I walked through the underpass and along Malwood Farm and the stream. I had intended to cross the sandbagged ford, but this proved to be far too muddy, so I carried on along the watercourse, eventually returning the way I had come.

Blocked pathFallen tree blocking pathFallen treesFallen treeSun through shattered treeThe recent terrible arboreal toll necessitated searching out new footpaths not blocked by fallen trees.

It has been reported that three main areas of The New Forest have lost 300 memorable trees. If all we see around us have not been included the losses must be considerably greater.

Mossy rootsMalwood streamTradition has it that in England the  month of March ‘comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’. This March has come in like a lamb. The lion’s visit was in February.

This is why I ventured this way today. Apart from the ford mentioned above the terrain is less boggy and the stream not so full as often.

Sun and trees reflectedSunlight finds its way through the deciduous trees and sparkles in the tinkling water, dappling the surfaces around. My feet rustled the dried leaves. A helicopter chugged overhead. The farm dogs barked. A flapping in some bushes was followed by the splendid flash of a male pheasant as it flew off at my approach.

Pony track

Ponies, as always, have found their way past obstacles.

Dappled trunkOne particular trunk took me back to the early 1970s. Page 13 of Becky’s Book features a similar dappled effect on a tree and the fence beside it. I was inspired to make this drawing when gazing out of a children’s home window during a child care review. I was of course fully concentrating on the matter in hand, but took the memory home with me.

Later in the afternoon, idling on my laptop, I looked up Bing images for Castle Malwood Lodge. To my amazement, I discovered that 63, the vast majority of the photographs shown, were taken from my WordPress posts. They were of the house and garden; of Minstead and the forest around; of Elizabeth’s house in West End; even shots from the plane on the way back from Sigoules. Google’s tally was rather less, but it did include a photograph of Regent Street lights from fifty years ago, and Becky’s profile picture from her childhood. Jackie drew up a different Google set which also included my mug shot.

Yesterday’s liver and bacon casserole (recipe) provided our dinner this evening. A casserole surely does improve the next day. Even the Bergerac after three days was unblemished.

Confusing Exchange

Upper Drive bent tree

Here is one I made earlier.

I forgot to post this Upper Drive shot yesterday. Trees in the New Forest don’t just fall down. They grow into all kinds of unusual shapes, such as this one forming a perfect arch through which one can glimpse the A31.

Last night I began reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel ‘The House of the Seven Gables’.

After an early lunch today Jackie drove me to Donna-Marie’s in Poulner where I was given my quarterly haircut. Fortunately the weather is a little warmer at the moment. We then went on to Lidl in Totton for a shop. As is not unusual, although we had only gone there for milk, a trolley was requested. We managed to fill it.

As is well known a coin is required to free the supermarket trolley from its chain of companions. Inserting your £1 into the slot pushes out the locking key and you may take your wheeled contraption into the store. Having made your purchases and loaded your car you push your key into the last trolley in the line, out pops your £1, and the key remains in the other basket on wheels until someone else inserts another £1, and so on ad infinitum. Until, that is, one customer has difficulty understanding what he must do to obtain his trolley, consequently holds up the proceedings, and the person waiting to return his and collect £1, decides to confuse the issue even more, by suggesting that he swaps his trolley for the other gentleman’s £1.

Today, I was that helpful stranger. It seemed quite straightforward to me. But not to the struggling newcomer. He grasped my trolley, clearly wondering what was in the transaction for my benefit. Perhaps this was because he was more than reluctant to hand over his coin. There he was, one fist wrapped around the trolley handle, and the fingers and thumb of his other hand gripping £1 as if he had a wrench attached to his arm.

His companion, who had readily agreed to the exchange, tactfully informed me that he would not be happy until I tried to put the £1 he had given me into the slot occupied by my original coin. Of course it wouldn’t budge. I think it then became clear to him that what we were actually doing was swapping coins and when he had finished shopping, he would be able to receive his part of the bargain and collect my £1. Whether or not this was so, he released the coin he had been hanging on to, and allowed me to dash off with it before he changed his mind.

Just writing this out is doing my head in. Goodness knows what the encounter did to his. Or the reading to yours.

On our return down Upper Drive we witnessed the unusual sight of three donkeys foraging where I had wandered yesterday. Donkey 3Donkey 2Donkey 1Even ponies and deer are rare visitors to this small section of forest, so it was quite a surprise to see donkeys there.

Early this evening I took a clamber around the outside perimeter of the grounds. I have written before that the garden is surrounded by its own trees and shrubbery merged into the forest and bounded by a strong wire fence. The house having been built high up on the site of an Iron Age hill fort, the land beyond the fence drops sharply. I followed a path trodden by surer footed creatures than me, who did not have to travel hand over hand clinging to the fence on the left or leaning on a tree to the right taking a clockwise direction. Only once did I slither, slide, and career down the bank coming to an abrupt halt as my outstretched palms eagerly slapped into a welcome forest giant.

Reaching a point from which I could progress no further, I discovered where the deer gain ingress and egress. Broken fenceOvergrown rhododendrons and fallen trees have brought the boundary wire down to a level which perhaps I could, in my distant days as a second row forward, have leapt. When we next enjoy a clear morning light, I will make a photo shoot.Castle Malwood Lodge at dusk Finishing by circumperambulating the lawns I watched the sun sink behind the building. DaffodilsThe first daffodils are coming into bloom.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi (recipe), with spicy wild rice (turmeric, green cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon  and garam masala added to the boiled version). I drank Wolf Blass cabernet sauvignon 2013 and the chef didn’t.