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.

No Deep End

Late this morning Jackie drove me to Birchfield Dental Practice in New Milton for a routine check. Mr Hefferen pronounced no treatment required. We continued on to brunch at Hockey’s Farm Shop. There is always a bit of a wait there, but everything is cooked from scratch and is of very good quality. And we are seldom in a hurry.

These donkeys dozing in the shade at South Gorley were not thinking of going anywhere fast.

The Fighting Cocks on Roger Penny Way at Godshill enjoyed its usual entourage of asinine attractions

for visitors with an array of cameras.

After a series of strokes one foal found a little grooming was in order.

This little chap had been performing the cartwheels that seem to be necessary for new babies, but steadfastly refused to repeat it for my camera.

Another was more interested in lunch, until becoming unplugged when sated.

Probably the youngest new arrival

flopped not far from its mother who was hungry herself.

This creature vainly sought shelter in a rather narrow gap.

Many forest pools, like this one across the road from the pub are drying up in this prolonged warm spell of weather.

Having stepped out of the car to photograph the area around the pub, I decided to walk along this rather uneven terrain for approximately half an hour. Despite the numerous warning signs along this road there is still hit and run appeal for witnesses involving a pony fatality further along.

Taking paths trampled by the animals,

I made a few diversions into the surrounding woodlands,

where a Red Bull can nestled among the buttercups.

When I’d just about had enough, the Modus in the car park of The Fighting Cocks still seemed far off. I became somewhat slower. Eventually I looked up and spotted Jackie in the car on the opposite side of the road. She revealed that she had had her binoculars on me and had liked the look of neither my gait nor my face. I was certainly pleased to see her.

Continuing the journey along Roger Penny Way by car, as usual we were wary of ponies stepping out. The group at the bottom of the hill would be bound to be followed by others. They were.

In order to avoid the bottleneck that is Lyndhurst, we took the Minstead route where sunlight illuminated these ferns.

Cattle and ponies, one suckling, shared pasturage at Boldrewood,

until the bovines decided the grass was greener on the other side.

This intrigued an approaching family of cyclists.

A solitary deer had no competition along Rhinefield Road.

The mother of this foal sporting a typical Mohican foraged behind the ferns, while her offspring was being photographed by a gentleman behind a tree, and another from a car window.

Ponies sharing the sheltered pool outside Brockenhurst with Highland cattle clearly see it as politic to allow the larger, hairy, beasts first paddle while they patiently wait their turn in the shade.

One poor unfortunate was not having a good day. Attempting to take a drink, it had been butted away by another equine, only to find itself nose to nose with a Volkswagen.

Normally reasonably full, this animal paddling pool currently has no deep end.

This evening we dined on Forest Tandoori Lamb jalfrezi, chicken shashlik, and pilau rice; Tesco’s vegetable wontons; and paratha fried in oil from a little shop in New Milton. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank an excellent Angelica Sur Malbec 2016 given to me for my birthday by Shelly and Ron.

Out Of Its Element

I began the day with a dead-heading session in the garden.

The mystery of yesterday’s lost clematis was solved on this less sunny morning. Today there was no bright backlighting fooling us with the strong red hues, and even giving a green hue to the Gothic arch. The plant is in fact Star of India. And yesterday we had been both perfectly sober.

This afternoon we drove to Ferndene Farm Shop to buy three more bags of compost and, naturally a few plants. We continued on into the forest.

The Highland cattle were back alongside Rhinefield Road outside Brockenhurst.

Jackie parked in Blackwater car park at the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and left me to walk along a footpath through the

Douglas firs which have their own explanatory carved wooden plaque and sculpted pine cone.

Apart from a couple at the picnic table; the occasional cyclist or car on Rhinefield Road; and the couple for whom I stepped aside as I returned to the car,

it was just me with the thrushes for company,

as I walked along the sanded footpath with its ferns, felled and fallen trees, and pine cones carpeting the floor.

I did imagine I had seen a deep sea fish somewhat out of it element, but it turned out to be the shallow roots of a once upright young forest giant.

I had managed 27 minutes unchaperoned walk, my speed rapidly decreasing towards the end.

We could easily forgive the pony fondly watching over her sleeping foal for blocking our path at Bashley.

This evening we dined on succulent chicken Kiev; Jackie’s savoury rice; crisp cauliflower and baby sweetcorn; and tender green beans. The Culinary Queen drank Blue Moon while I finished the Shiraz.

Multiple Occupation

Although a little drier than expected, today remained largely overcast. Just before lunch Jackie took me on a tour of what she has achieved during the last few days in the garden. It struck me that I have never really shown the packed multiple occupation of our beds.

While listening to the men’s Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and South Africa, I rectified that this afternoon.

The Kitchen Bed is faced by sweet peas, foxgloves and others beside the wall. Fuchsias, day lilies, antirrhinums, erigerons, ferns are all at home in the bed.

The Butler’s Sink beside the Patio contains petunias, foxgloves, geraniums, heuchera, and bidens;

one view of the bed includes a pink diagonal of fuchsia, geranium palmatum, and clematis.

Bees were investigating the orange poppy sharing the small triangular Wisteria Bed with day, lilies, fennel, and roses.

Geranium palmatums and fuchsias are among the occupants of the Dragon Bed.

Ferns, day lilies, and geranium palmatums, fuchsias, alliums, and more pack the Palm Bed.

Spirea goldflame, penstemon, bottle brush plants, day lilies, ferns, etc all wake in Margery’s Bed.

Youthful hot lips and an ageing rhododendron occupy the Cryptomeria Bed on the opposite side of the Phantom Path.

A pot containing fuchsia, geraniums, and others stands beneath the Westbrook Arbour

and above the West Bed where we find astilbe, pulmonaria, and lamium among others.

Erigerons, aruncus, lamiums, geraniums, fennel are among the residents of the Weeping Birch Bed.

Fuchsias and feverfew are found in Elizabeth’s Bed.

The Oval Bed has its share of Day Lilies.

The Rose Garden contains more than roses. Heucheras, lavender, and fennel are examples.

It is a year or two since we created the New Bed, but, like the thousand plus year old New Forest, it retains its name. Erigerons, solanum, clematis, and ferns are there maturing nicely.

It is hard to remember how overgrown with brambles and crowded with rocks and detritus was the back drive when we arrived. These previously non-existent borders now contain roses, poppies, hostas, geraniums, foxgloves, and viper’s bugloss among the many plants at home there.

This evening we dined on more of Jackie’s superb sausages braised in red wine; served with creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots, cauliflower and broccoli, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Cono Sur Bicicleta Reserva Pino Noir 2017.

Select Six

Much of the morning was spent trawling through twelve months of photographs, seeking a selection from several thousand of the New Forest from which to enter six images into the Everton Festival: three prints, and three electronic efforts. This was a daunting effort. How do you portray this particular forest? A pony portrait of course could have been produced anywhere. I managed to pick about sixty possibles.

The Assistant Photographer reduced these to 19. Now it is your turn. I would be grateful for any suggestions as to which should definitely be included/excluded.

Because I am running out of printer inks with which to make the prints we set off to Wessex Photo at Ringwood to collect these. But we didn’t get very far. As Jackie began reversing the Modus in the front drive, Helen and Bill drove in. It would have been rude not to have offered them coffee. So we did. And enjoyed a catch up conversation.

Afterwards we did travel to Ringwood and I made my purchases.

We diverted to North Gorley on our way home. There,

the greens were occupied equally by equine and bovine residents. Flies were beginning to plague the animals – cattle ignored them, ponies switched their tails; one pony paddled, another nursed its new-born foal; a bovine necking session was in progress.

This unnamed lane led us towards Ringwood.

Jackie’s perfect pork paprika; new potatoes, firm broccoli, and breaded mushrooms were what we dined on this evening. I finished the Carmenere. My Lady abstained because she had drunk her Hoegaarden on the patio beforehand.

Reflective Mood

It wasn’t until about 4 p.m. the afternoon that I realised on glancing through the window beside my desk that the sun had made a fleeting appearance as,

against the still indigo skies, it lit the pink rambling rose rising from the front trellis.

Its deeper pink companion soared above the porch, and the first of the Félicité Perpétue blooms which will drape themselves over the opposite fence has opened out.

I had spent the morning reading and responding to the letters of condolences it has taken me three months to complete. We posted these from Everton Post Office and drove on further into the forest.

Royden Lane took us to

Lower Sandy Down. On the left hand side of this shot stands

a large oak tree the bole of which is home to ferns, ivy, and mosses.

An unusual number of ponies grazed around Hatchet Pond, normally the realm of donkeys.

Stately swans disturbed the surface of the lake which mirrored their images.

A black headed gull was in an equally reflective mood.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s perfect pork paprika; boiled new potatoes; breaded mushrooms; and green beans. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Carmenere.

Not Quite Mid-May

Today’s tour of the garden began with

clematis Marie Boisselot in the Kitchen Bed which also contains an as yet small wisteria, clusters of ferns, Japanese maples, the now ubiquitous erigeron, and self seeded bronze fennel which will have to go when it outgrows it’s welcome.

Other clematises include Niobe, now rivalling the fading wisteria and the burgeoning rose Paul’s Scarlet for space above the Wisteria Arbour; and Doctor Ruppel, one of which is beginning its ascent up the arch facing the Westbrook Arbour.

At the Brick Path corner of the Dragon Bed a deep red peony prepares to top off the happy planting of phlox and geraniums.

At the far side of this bed the magnolia Vulcan is beginning to relish the light now permitted into its corner.

The pink rhododendron in the Palm Bed sits opposite the deeper variety in Margery’s Bed.

There are a number of vantage points along the Brick Path.

The yellow diurnal poppies alongside the Gazebo Path

can be seen slightly above the centre of this view through the Cryptomeria Bed.

Before Aaron left this morning he had mown the grass patch which is beginning to warrant the epithet lawn.

Rose Madame Alfred Carriere soars above the entrance to the Rose Garden; Jacqueline du Pré adds harmony; Laura Ford a splash of yellow beside Roserie de la Haie; and Gloriana a touch of majesty to the side fence.

Aquilegias dance with ferns in the South Bed;

weigela festoons the fence above them.

Three hawthorn trees, swathes of libertia, and carpets of erigeron give a distinctly white hue to the Back Drive borders.

These are glimpses of the garden in not quite mid-May.

While we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks on the patio a pair of pigeons settled down for the evening in the copper beech.

For our dinner we travelled around the world in 60 minutes. We enjoyed Jackie’s special fried rice with Japanese tempura prawns, Chinese pork spare ribs, Indian tandoori chicken, Belgian Hoegaarden beer and more of the Chilean Carmenere wine.