The Blue Coat

Suitably equipped for the fray

Jackie joined the queue at Tesco five minutes before opening time. She really felt for the woman in the blue coat.

The orderly social distancing exhibited outside the supermarket was somewhat belied by the few customers who reached past others to claim items they were afraid might disappear. Although we didn’t need any, Mrs Knight reported that toilet rolls were in stock.

Perhaps the fact that the fresh meat, fish, and deli counters were off limits enabled her to

feel relaxed about photographing sheep and lambs along Christchurch Road on her way home.

After watering the pots in the front garden this afternoon – the Head Gardener was to hose those at the back later – I took a trip to Honeylake Wood and back.

This involved walking along Christchurch Road past the closed Royal Oak pub, Downton Garage, Woods used car establishment, and a row of cottages, to the currently fallow field featuring a footpath to the wood.

Sandbags line the pub’s front porch, suggesting the management had not anticipated our current dry spell when the coronavirus closures were required.

This gentleman walking a couple of dogs

back to the kissing gate

was clearly complying with the request to keep canines under control.

Choosing to eschew the gate which others will have touched, I entered via a gap in the hedge beside the disused telephone box and the still active letter box.

I then walked along the edge of the field to the footpath.

Like most local fields this one is fenced by wind-sculpted trees.

The winding path through the wood

slopes down to a bridge over a stream. The photographs above indicate the fleeting nature of the shadow-casting sun. The bridge has been repaired since my last trip down here, but I did not lean on it for the same reason that I avoided the gate.

The banks of the stream were embroidered with gentle yellow primroses.

This evening we dined on chicken thighs of considerable size crisply roasted with potatoes and parsnips; Yorkshire puddings, carrots and spring greens, with which I drank Carinena El Zumbido Garnacha Syrah 2018. Jackie had finished her Hoegaarden while cooking.

Compost Soup

There is now some confusion about whether it is acceptable here to drive to an exercise location. Today I confined myself to our garden and the footpath across Roger Cobb’s farm on Downton Lane. This was once a regular walk – before my knee surgeries.

In the garden more tulips are opening

and daffodils continue to please.

The Cryptomeria Bed also contains cyclamen.

From the Weeping Birch Bed we enjoy various views.

Camellias crop up everywhere.

This one stands beside our eastern fence;

some bushes bear both blooms now turning to parchment and new buds on the way.

Shrubs, like this tree peony, pruned in autumn, are producing new shoots.

Soon the remodelled North Breeze house will be shielded from view.

Our house, however, will remain visible from the Heligan Path.

On Downton Lane the refuse bags were piled outside houses for collection a little later.

One household clearly needed more than one bottle bin – possibly to help them through the pandemic.

Grape hyacinths stood on a bank opposite

celandines and dandelions blending with primroses on the verges

like this one alongside Old Rode House.

Roger’s five-barred gate to the footpath was locked, but the kissing gate beside it was accessible. As far as I know this pleasant farmer is the only one in the area who really respects ramblers’ rights.

The grass strip along the centre is well stocked with wild lamium;

blackberry brambles are burgeoning with new shoots in the hedges

through which houses on Christchurch Road may be glimpsed.

The footpath is mostly dry, but the fields are rutted with rainwater runnels.

I did not venture across the tractor-scoured terrain which offered another view of the Downton dwellings mentioned earlier,

and others on Downton Lane.

While I was thus gadding about, Jackie was producing culinary recycling. Her finely chopped ingredients were boiled on the hob;

mashed in the Moulinex;

decanted into ice cream tubs;

labelled and placed in the freezer.

Here are her directions for the preparation of Compost Soup Base, handwritten on one of my sheets of scrap paper from 2009.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s toothsome sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potato; firm Brussels sprouts; tender runner beans: and crunchy carrots and cauliflower, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Médoc.

 

 

Planes Of Boats And Trains

The morning was bright and sunny; the afternoon began with a deluge and ended in photogenic light.

Nugget can regularly be seen from the kitchen window. Jackie photographed him from there, where his own personal feeder hangs.

“Where’s Nugget?” (59)

At the dry end of the afternoon we drove to Lymington Harbour where the Assistant Photographer photographed the general scene;

a view of the monument;

and me making my own efforts.

I only saw one gull – or was it a cormorant?

and very view people on the wet quayside.

A solitary rower brought his boat into harbour past all the moored yachts.

The planes of boats and trains formed geometric artwork with the upright moored masts and surrounding buildings.

Barely a ripple disturbed steady reflections.

Before the street lamps ignited

wisps of grey smoke drifted against the pink sky presaging a sunset that disappeared behind lowering clouds.

The bandstand was nicely silhouetted with its mast guard.

In a vain attempt to catch the sundown we drove on to Lymington and Keyhaven Nature Reserve from where

Jackie photographed clouds over the wetlands;

pools along a gravel footpath;

and distant Hurst Castle with its lighthouse.

I focussed on a gaggle of Canada geese.

For dinner this evening Jackie produced Hunter’s Chicken; crisp duchesse potatoes; and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Domaine de Sareval Valréas 2016.

 

 

“She’s Got A Baby”

Today’s thirty minute walk was along the stony seawall path of Keyhaven Harbour. Jackie drove me there and back and waited in the car park while I strode out and crawled back.

As I began to open the gate leading on to the mallow lined footpath I noticed a woman carefully following the ungainly swan walking ahead. I did not see the little legs behind the mother.

From the car Jackie yelled “she’s got a baby’. Looking at the container the woman was carrying, I wondered what my wife was talking about, especially as there wasn’t much activity in the transparent tub.

In order to obtain a view from Jackie’s perspective I slid along the front of the Modus and saw the little imprinted cygnet.

I exchanged greetings with a number of other walkers and cyclists availing themselves of this mallow-lined stony path leading to Lymington with its views of the harbours, the Isle of Wight, Hurst Castle and associated lighthouse. The gentleman at the rear of the group in the fifth of these pictures is awaiting a knee replacement, and asked me what to expect. I gave him the benefit of my experience.

I’m not sure what kind of duck this is with its babies bobbing about.

I passed more walkers on my return to the car park,

on the other side of which the cygnet was learning preening.

This evening we dined on minty lamb burgers with roasted mushrooms; creamy mashed potato; crisp cauliflower and carrots, and tender runner beans. I realise I have been regularly remiss in not mentioning the delicious aroma emanating from steaming bowls of perfectly cooked vegetables. Today my nostrils gave me a wake up call. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

A Nod To Little Gidding

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Today I scanned the final photographs of the Henley – Newark row/walk of July 2003. The last leg, from Nottingham to Newark was 25 miles in length.

Sam set off without James, and I trailed in his wake. It is hard to believe that I managed to keep within sight of him as he rowed along the River Trent, but these photographs would seem to prove it. Perhaps the cattle would bear witness.

As the rower moved into Farndon, James, Louisa, and Gemma set out to greet him and to follow him towards

Newark Castle station 7.03

Newark Castle, first passing the railway station;

to be greeted by his reception committee as he docked. Louisa, as requested, handed me two pints of beer – all for me.

Perhaps this was a lap of honour alongside the castle ruins. This 13th century castle was originally built for the Bishop of Lincoln. A Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, ‘in 1646 the garrison surrendered, but only after a direct command from Charles I. Parliament ordered the castle destroyed so it could never be held against them again, but fate took a hand; plague broke out in Newark town, and the destruction of the castle was halted.’ This quotation is taken from  http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=93 which contains a more complete history in very readable form.

So, what has all this to do with T.S. Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’? From this, the last of the poet’s Four Quartets, I have borrowed

‘What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from………….

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time’.

The reason is that I do not have the negatives of the last of my photographs as they are prints, which must have been produced by our friend Alison, or her sister, Rosemary, both of whom were there to send us on our way.

Sam took delivery of his boat at Henley where he and James set about preparing and stocking it for the journey. Note the black bin behind my son,

which I strapped on with the rather optimistic intention of collecting sponsorship money.

Pacific Pete left the mooring,

and we were under way. This was to be the last sound footpath I trod for the next eleven days.

This evening we dined on Thai inspired fish cakes from Tesco served on Jackie’s succulent bed of sautéed onions, peppers, leeks, mushrooms and manges touts; noodles; prawn toasts and spring rolls. The Culinary Queen drank her customary Hoegaarden and I drank more of the madiran.

P.S. See Mike’s bitaboutbritain comment below for a much fuller illustrated history of Newark Castle

 

 

“An Artist In My Greenhouse”

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This week we have enjoyed three fine days. Tomorrow with also be fine. Today it drizzled most of the time. This, however, did not phase John Jones, an artist friend who had planned to depict the garden and was duly delivered by Paul Clarke this morning.

John Jones 1John Jones 3John Jones 4

John happily became ensconced in the greenhouse where he drew until lunchtime. He didn’t seem to mind the cockerel following progress.

Jackie laid on a splendid lunch of cauliflower and stilton soup, crusty bread, cold meats salad, and cheese and biscuits.

John Jones 5John Jones 6John Jones 7John Jones 8John's painting

Afterwards John applied watercolour.

John Jones 9

Remembering what I was always prone to do when painting, I instructed the painter not to dip his brush in his tea.

“How exciting!” observed Jackie. “An artist in my greenhouse”.

John's drawing

Despite his difficult vantage point, John managed to produce excellent compositions in pencil,

John's watercolour

and in watercolour.

As, early this evening, we drove John to New Milton to catch the train to his home in Southampton, the rain had stopped and,

Sunburst over Christchurch Bay

Sunburst over woman on bench

especially across Christchurch Bay, the sun blazed in the sky.

Walkers on cliff path

Walkers strode along the cliff path at Milford on Sea.

Isle of Wight and beach huts

The Isle of Wight was in clear view.

Crumbling cliff

It seemed as if the crumbling edge is further approaching the pedestrian thoroughfare.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s fish and chips, pickled onions and gherkins. I finished the Cairanne.

P.S. Note Jackie’s reply to paolsoren in comments for the soup recipe

Holmsley Revisited

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Prompted by questions from Geoff Le Pard, that great storyteller at 

We found it close to

Holmsley Bog

Holmsley Bog.

Unbeknown to us I had photographed this area and the house on 17th October.

It lies beyond a stream spanned by a small road bridge. As we arrived, an egret stood in the shallow, but fast-moving water. By the time I had it in focus, the bird flapped smoothly and elegantly away.

As I walked towards the modern building, a small car with three female occupants approached me at a speed slow enough for me to wave it to a halt. I thanked the group for stopping and asked if they belonged to the house. The driver was the owner. I explained my project and asked her if this building had replaced Geoff’s old derelict. It had indeed. She told me she had bought the modern one and added an extension and a small garden. The address is 11, Holmsley Gate house. This amenable woman was quite happy for me to photograph as I wished. She continued her journey and left me to it. I thought this was rather a generous response. I focussed on the house in its setting;

Footpath

including the public track running alongside. Further study of an Ordnance Survey map (by Jackie) reveals that this way is the old railway line. The website geograph.org.uk confirms:

“Level crossing on disused Brockenhurst to Ringwood railway.

183587_15c93a1c

The wide yellow track is the former railway line. Crossing this at ground level is a tarmac minor road running from the A35 through Holmsley Inclosure towards Burley. The modern house, I speculate, was only permitted because there was a crossing keeper’s hut there before. For a better view of the house see SU2201 : Modern house near Holmsley Bog.”

one of the side walls with its log pile, and reflective windows revealing views of the landscape behind.

The roof of the extension had weathered attractively, its windows offering similar effects.

Oranges and avocado

Although the garden enjoyed the protection of high wire netting, three fresh oranges and an avocado had been tastefully placed on the stones outside, no doubt for the delectation of hungry ponies. Mostly they are only given carrots and apples. This was clearly an up-market establishment.

Intending to lunch at Holmsley Old Station Tea Rooms, we continued along Holmsley Passage. Today the weather was as dull and overcast as on our last visit, but the lane was attractive enough for us to determine to return on a better lit day.

Holmsley Station no longer serves a railway line. I have referred to Dr Beeching’s axe on several occasions in this blog. It is perhaps time to explain this, so I quote thus from Wikipedia: “The Beeching cuts (also Beeching Axe) were a reduction of route network and restructuring of the railways in Great Britain, according to a plan outlined in two reports, The Reshaping of British Railways (1963) and The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes (1965), written by Dr Richard Beeching and published by the British Railways Board.

The first report identified 2,363 stations and 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of railway line for closure, 55% of stations and 30% of route miles, with an objective of stemming the large losses being incurred during a period of increasing competition from road transport and reducing the rail subsidies necessary to keep the network running; the second identified a small number of major routes for significant investment. The 1963 report also recommended some less well publicised changes, including a switch to containerisation for rail freight.

Protests resulted in the saving of some stations and lines, but the majority were closed as planned and Beeching’s name remains associated with the mass closure of railways and the loss of many local services in the period that followed. A few of these routes have since reopened, some short sections have been preserved as Heritage Railways, while others been incorporated into the National Cycle Network or used for road schemes; others now are lost to construction, simply reverted to farm land, or remain derelict.”

That is perhaps an early example of how the profit motive has overridden the concept of service in our modern world.

The Tea Rooms have put to good use a sad reminder of a wonderfully meandering transport system that, in less frenetic days, we once enjoyed. The buildings have been preserved and refurbished; familiar signs are featured; and, both inside and out, railway paraphernalia are displayed.

The food and service are excellent, too.

Meringue confections

We carried away this evening’s dessert, in the form of delicious meringue confections that we couldn’t manage to consume with our lunch. Only when we laid these on the table did we realise that the green fruit were Kiwis. Now there is only one item of food with which I experience discomfort. Yes. It’s Kiwi fruit. It burns the roof of my mouth, which is more than any chili can achieve.  Jackie fished them out of my helping, and stuffed them into hers. She blew me a compensatory raspberry.

Before pud we enjoyed Jackie’s pasta arabbiata with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the pinot noir.