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On another beautiful late summer sunny day we brunched at The Boat House Café in Lymington. I chose the Full English Breakfast with tea, while Jackie selected a baked potato generously filled with prawns, accompanied by a cappuccino. The food was good and the drinks enormous, but further visits would be happier when not on a scorching hot day in the height of the holiday season.
This was the view outside the eating house. Henrietta can be seen at her strawberry stall.
On the wall against which her sign is propped, can be seen a child’s shoe and a small punnet of the fruit. I asked this lovely lady what was the story behind this display. She explained that she was trying to draw attention to the lost item of footwear. She had originally placed a strawberry inside the shoe. Never one to pass up a photo opportunity, I asked her to do it again.
She obliged. I was not surprised that someone has loved her enough to adorn her wedding finger.
The quayside was very well populated; people were occupied
feeding the ducks,
or just sitting.
Jackie drove right past our house afterwards and headed off to the forest in search of ponies. As far as the eye could see the sun-blest, purple heather-carpeted moorland between Sway and Brockenhurst was devoid of ponies. We wondered why. It was then that my driver saw the road signs such as:
Maybe we were going to be in luck after all. But which way? We did an about turn and turned left in the direction of Brockenhurst. In the distance a line of parked vehicles came into view. We headed for them. Eventually we came to a track under a railway bridge from which a rather frantic neighing emanated. Jackie parked on the gravelled path and I walked in the direction of the sounds. Having moved under the bridge I came upon the round-up, known as The Drift.
This was an area penned off with very stout poles. An increasingly active and vociferous mass of equine flesh and hides was contained within its confines. Spectators of all ages lined the structure, leaning or sitting on the struts.
Seeing the handlers in the pen surrounded by heavy, heaving, horseflesh, hooves thudding on the impacted soil, I wasn’t surprised to read signs saying that anyone attending The Drift did so at their own risk. When I was absorbed in taking the last photograph above, I almost backed into a pony that had been freed.
A tap on my shoulder alerted me to the fact that if I stepped backwards I would encounter a hot branding iron hanging from the tree behind me. I had noticed a fire, and walked close to the heat of it, but I had not examined it closely enough to notice that it was heating an array of such implements.
These creatures were being given an annual health check. They were rounded up; had their condition inspected; branded; and given a tail trim. Any that had problems were returned to their owners on whom it was incumbent to resolve any problems before releasing them back into the forest. Those to be branded with their owners’ initials were either new to the forest, or had been born since the last annual event. I have mentioned before that the animals’ tails are cut in a particular way specific to the area in which they roam. This is the reason for the trim.
The gentleman in this picture was one of those tasked with trimming and branding inside a smaller enclosure into which the ponies were led in manageable groups. Managing involved prodding with a stick, slapping on the rear, and only occasionally shouting. The horses made far more noise than their carers. Interestingly, those animals which had been in the forest for several years, and therefore knew the ropes, were far less alarmed than the younger ones.
They also knew that, branded, brushed, and treated to a new collar they would, like those in this shot, be set free to worry the traffic and set off under the railway bridge to Brockenhurst for a good feed.
Once a few had been cajoled into the the treatment pen, a little space opened up in the main enclosure,
until newcomers filled it.
Occasionally the seething masses would divide enough for
and equine captives to steal the show.
The gentleman in the purple T-shirt on the left of the first picture in this series was my informant today. Further information can be obtained from this excellent website: http://www.newforest-life.com/New-Forest-Drift.html
This evening we dined on pork spare ribs in barbecue sauce with Jackie’s savoury rice and green beans, followed by Bakewell plaits and custard. I finished the syrah.