In The Rough

This morning we received an e-mail from our good blogging friend Lavinia Ross attaching a photograph of the cedar tree (Calocedrus decurrens) she has planted in remembrance of my son Michael. We are very touched by this.

Jackie nipped out to photograph the evidence of last night’s sub-zero temperature.

We have light frost on various leaves;

and thin ice on the Frond pond – well, cistern actually.

Plants like primulas

and wallflower Sugar Rush Purple Bicolour seem unscathed.

After lunch Jackie turned her lens on the front garden foragers. in the process discovering

a dunnock and

a second robin happily coexisting with Ron. Robins are notoriously territorial, the males fighting to the death to repel invaders. Two companionable examples must therefore be one male and one female. When Ron first came on the scene we did speculate that the bird could in fact be a Ronette. We now have a real identification problem.

Is this Ron or Ronette waiting for the sparrows to finish feeding;

and which is sharing pickings with the pigeon?

Later this afternoon we took a drive into the forest.

The sun was quite low over the Burley Golf Course where one couple were nicely silhouetted;

another apparently caught in the rough;

and ponies,

one of which lethargically turned to observe me, dozing or grazing.

On the opposite side of Burley Road trees, like Narcissus, admired themselves on the surface of a deepening pool.

Before we left home I had remembered that Elizabeth had given me a long walker’s stick for my birthday last year. This is intended to aid balance. I therefore decided to keep it in the car. I was tempted to leave the road at Bisterne Close and walk into the woods. As I set off Jackie reminded me of the stick. Well, at least I had got it into the car without prompting.

It was a great help in traversing the undulating forest floor with its soggy, shoe sucking, areas, yet lacking yesterday’s booby traps.

Moss-covered raised roots were easier to negotiate than yesterday’s bare snaking ones.

Winter’s long shadows stretched over the terrain

much of which was reasonably dry underfoot.

There were, of course, more reflective pools.

One long-limbed mighty oak needed only a wildcat steed to present a passing semblance of the Hindu goddess Durga.

Somehow she has retained her mighty arms whilst another lost one of hers some time ago.

Back in the car and further down the road, even at 3.30 p.m. ice shone on the waterlogged verge.

This evening we dined at The Smugglers Inn at Milford on Sea where Jackie enjoyed spinach and ricotta cannelloni followed by sticky toffee pudding and ice cream. I would have enjoyed my otherwise good sirloin steak, chips, onion rings, and fresh salad more had my steak knife been thrown away. My great and butter pudding and custard dessert was excellent. The service was friendly, speedy, and efficient. Mrs Knight drank Hop House Lager while I drank Doom Bar.

Encounter With Robin Hood

I spent the afternoon listening to the men’s Cricket World Cup match between West Indies and Bangladesh while scanning a set of prints from a trip to Sherwood Forest on 31st October 1999.

Jessica was a great fungi forager. I think she must have been carrying her trug for the purpose.

Emily enjoyed exploring the forest and its tree forms;

Until a later encounter Oliver was largely satisfied with his own bow and arrow.

He clutched them as Jessica helped him into a tree cave.

Bright sunshine set the forest alight.

Louisa took a turn at carrying Alice in a sling.

Here she leads the group with Michael.

Following Heidi, I also carried the sling for a while.

Different groupings wandered freely.

Here Michael and Emily take the lead.

Eventually the speculation about whether or not we would meet Robin Hood was satisfied by a lone archer whose bows Oliver was allowed to grasp.

Finally we met a cow masquerading as a tree trunk.

This evening we dined on toothsome Tai Fish cakes; creamy potatoes, butternut squash, and swede mash medley; crunchy carrots; tender runner beans; and succulent ratatouille, with which Jackie drank Blue Moon and I drank more of the Galodoro.

A Pannage Extension

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. REPEAT IF REQUIRED This morning we visited Lyndhurst in order to buy a couple of presents. Shirley Holms 3

In order to benefit from the gorgeous autumn light, we took a diversion

Shirley Holms 1

down Shirley Holms.

House in landscape

Across fields to our left we admired the situation of a house nestling on the hill

Horse and autumn leaves

and a chestnut horse blending into surrounding trees.

Cyclists and autumn leaves

A pair of cyclists rounding a bend,

Cyclist in Shirley Holms

soon to be followed by a solo rider, laboured up the undulating tarmac. Note the speed limit.

Forest floor

Long shadows were cast across the

Autumn leaves 2

forest floor

Trees in autumn 1

fast receiving

Autumn leaves 1

autumn leaves,

Autumn leaves 6

some of which clung to shady banks,

Autumn leaf

and stood proud at intervals.

Autumn leaves 4  

Ornamental trees animated a

Autumn leaves 5

splendid garden.

Having made successful purchases in Lyndhurst, we lunched there on Bertie’s excellent fish, chips, and mushy peas. We both drank tea which, rather unfortunately, resembled a dishcloth that needed boiling.

The Private Ear Clinic, this afternoon was based at Lymington Hospital. Our next visit was to this establishment where my left ear was relieved of the remains of its stubborn wax.

Trees in autumn 2

We then returned to the forest where, just outside Bramshaw,

Pigs 1

we came across a sounder of swine slobbering

Pig 3

among ditches

Pig 2

leaves

Pig 4

and mud.

Pigs on road 1

Occasionally with a loud snort they would trot across the road

Pigs on road 2

to investigate the pickings on the other side. The pigs are revelling in a month’s extension of the pannage, possibly because of our stretch of mild weather.

Pony on road 1

This particular spot was doubly hazardous for drivers, because ponies

Ponies on road

played the same leisurely game.

Pony on road 2

The speed limit in the forest is generally 40 m.p.h., but you would be well advised to reduce this on the serpentine roads. You never know what is around the next bend.

This evening we dined at Bartlett’s in the Church Hall at Bransgore. Jackie’s main meal was chicken tikka masala; mine was lamb madras. We take our own drinks. Jackie’s was Hoegaarden. I finished the madiran (WordPress, how many times must I tell you this is one word?).

I Was Set Up

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. THOSE IN GROUPS ACCESS GALLERIES THAT CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE.

Somewhat encouraged by the lack of adverse effects on my knackered knees after the long, flat, walk round Keyhaven and Lymington Nature Reserve, I decided to take the somewhat shorter, yet undulating, route through Honeylake Wood. At about halfway I ventured into the undergrowth, after which I turned back.

A pedestrian gate breaking a hedge serves as an entrance to the field leading to the wood.

Reflection of hedge

The hedge was reflected in the muddy verge beside Christchurch Road.

Oak tree

A bent and aged oak on one edge of the field bowed beneath the prevailing wind,

which even around mid-day bit into me as I crossed to the wood.

Honeylake Wood entrance

On my way in the leafy path offered welcoming shelter,

Honeylake Wood exit

while a sight of Downton’s cottages as I left it gave notice that home was near, if not in sight.

Forest floor

Often springy underfoot, the forest floor,

Squirrel

over which squirrels scampered,

Stream

was, especially near the stream, occasionally waterlogged.

The wind roared overhead. There was much evidence of broken trees,

Autumn leaf

and, although some autumn leaves had not yet reached the ground,

others glowed in the sunlight

which played among the trees.

The bridge had been so severely damaged as to deter anyone from leaning on the rickety rail; a sapling had been converted to an entrance arch.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic sausage casserole, creamy mashed potatoes, and crisp carrots, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. I drank Basson Shiraz 2014. The others didn’t drink their Kronenbourg 1664 until afterwards so that didn’t count.

A minute particle of my casserole splashed up from my plate and onto my grandfather shirt. Jackie and Ian swooped on me to supplement the stains and Becky grabbed the camera. I was set up, I swear it.

A New Audience

Horse chestnutA bright, warming, sun lit the horse chestnut candelabra in the garden this morning as I set off to walk the two A31 underpasses route this morning.  A cool caressing breeze offered welcome refreshment.   As the day went on it remained bright, but didn’t really warm up unless you were directly in the sun.

Forest floor

Fresh growth of all kinds is piercing the forest floor.  Near the edges of the woodland new spring flowers emerge daily. Bracken Young bracken, just two weeks ago crouched curled and cowering from the cold conditions, now stands proudly erect, flaunting its youth beside its withered forebears.

Clay pitted by ponies

In parts the ground is hard clay pitted by ponies’ hooves; in others the darkened soil warns of a quagmire beneath.

I nearly found my way between The Rufus Stone and Castle Malwood Farm without a hitch.  Not quite.  I am now recognising a few fallen trees and just about know which way to turn when I cross the stream. By the stream However, crossing the stream is only a first step.  What to do when you get to the other side is not always clear, and clambering over sleeping giants that once rose aloft gets more and more difficult as the months pass.

Castle Malwood Farm

We drove to Shelly and Ron’s home in Walkford for a barbecue lunch which extended into the evening and was shared with Helen and Bill and Jackie Ryder and Malcolm.  Ron presented us with skewers of sausages, swordfish, beef, and chicken tikka. Shelley's fruit flan Shelley provided an array of fresh tasty salads and a fruit flan that was so full and artistically presented that it wasn’t until it was sliced that I realised it had a base.  The barbecued items were tender and cooked to perfection; in other words to a correct even temperature, not burnt to a crisp one side and raw on the other.  And they didn’t taste of firelighters.  The various beverages included red and white wines and beers.  Cheese and biscuits and mints accompanied coffee.

As always at such gatherings, tales are told, jokes are shared, and there is much reminiscing.  A consequence of the forty year hiatus in my relationship with Jackie’s family is that we fill in the gaps in our histories; I have a completely new audience for my stories; and Bill has the opportunity to share his with someone who hasn’t heard them all before.  The musical activities of Jackie’s nephews and nieces led the conversation in the direction of musicians, which gave me an opening to speak of Tom, posted on 24th August last year, and tell of his A level in guilt quip, given on stage in Newark.

As we entered Minstead early in the evening a flock of excited sheep came streaming up the hill, various young farmers following in their wake.  They appeared to have escaped from somewhere.