On a dull, dreary, yet dry, finger-tingling morning Jackie and took a forest drive.
Golden gorse extended across the otherwise brindled bracken-layered moorland traversed by a solitary dog walker and flanking the eroding tarmac of Holmsley Passage.
I entered the woodland alongside Bisterne Close, passing a lattice of branches against the sky; a wildlife tepee built for sheltering small fauna and insects; a recently uprooted mossy tree; scattered bones upon the ground, on my way to
commune with a distant equine group, one pair of which were engaged in mutual grooming.
Back on the Close we noticed a recently fallen, sawn, arboreal giant, its golden core rings and fresh sawdust betraying its recent sectioning. This gold will not take long to turn grey, but many years to gradually disintegrate and return to the dust of the earth, eventually nourishing the next generations of oaks or beeches.
This afternoon I watched the ITV transmissions of the Six Nations rugby matches between Wales and Italy, and between England and France.
Dinner this evening consisted of succulent roast pork; crisp roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding; sage and onion stuffing; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower and broccoli, and tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Frappato-Syrah.
On this overcast, somewhat warmer afternoon Jackie drove me to Puttles Bridge and back.
From the carpark I crunched among the dropped pine cones and dried autumn leaves; thudded along the beaten track; slalomed around fallen, decaying, branches and tree trunks; and gingerly stepped over exposed, sometimes mossy, interwoven roots, alongside the still, silent, reflecting Ober Water.
I enjoyed a pleasant conversation with a friendly couple across the stream. They had been visiting their son at Southampton University.
Now the cattle, having been overwintering in their shelters, are free to introduce their calves to the moorland. These occupied the environs of Sway Road.
Later, I booked my Spring booster Covid vaccination.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potatoes with nutmeg; crunchy carrots; and tender broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, with which she finished the Rosé and I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.
On another bright-sunny-cool afternoon I took a tour of the garden
In the front crab apple blossom, and clematis Montana, the first accompanied by budding pink climbing roses, the second by hybrid bluebells.
I made a number of images from upstairs,
The views from the stable door and from the kitchen path towards the greenhouse were taken at ground level, as were
new rhododendrons and tulip.
Afterwards, Jackie drove me into the forest.
Golden gorse glows alongside Pound Lane where it reflects in a roadside pool.
The ancient bank with its mossy roots at the junction of Bennett’s Lane and Bisterne Close was striated by lengthy shadows.
A solitary pony slaked its thirst in a pool beside Wilverley Road,
on either side of which others cropped the dry grass.
For this evening’s dinner Becky added some chicken pieces to her perfect pork casserole and served it with more of her delicious savoury rice, and green beans, with which she and Jackie drank more of the Rosé, and I drank more of the red Ponce de León. Flo’s beverage was Kombucha Ginger and Lemon.
This afternoon Becky, Flo, and I visited Currys at Christchurch for Becky to buy her daughter a tablet.
Once the choice had been made and the two ladies needed to wait for the sale and paperwork to be completed I wandered out into the car park with my camera.
First I photographed the bright gorse bushes planted around the industrial estate, with the ubiquitous discarded face mask.
I then focussed on the posts and shadows in front of the store,
and the car body reflections.
We then drove on to Highcliffe Castle for refreshments. While Becky was
parking the car Flo and I looked down at the sea through trees casting long shadows.
Unfortunately the kitchen had closed and the establishment would only be open for another twenty minutes during which we could take drinks outside. Becky insisted on our staying inside because it was so cold outside. The only food available was a packet of crisps and the last piece of cake. I am not sure what the woman or her Basset Hound who followed my daughter and granddaughter into the tea rooms were able to obtain.
This evening we dined on second helpings of yesterday’s Red Chilli Takeaway with the same beverages.
After lunch we took two large bin bags of clothing and bric-a-brac to the Heart Foundation Charity Shop in New Milton; while we were at it we bought me a pair of shoes at Stephan Shoes; and while we were at it we bought two pairs for Jackie.
During the still lull between storms we took what will be our last forest drive for a few days.
The gorse on Hinchelsea Moor glowed bright gold.
Further along Brockenhurst Road I decamped and tried out my new shoes in
soggy, sucking, woodland terrain. The rippling stream running through reflected the trees overhead. The shoes stayed on my feet and I didn’t stray far.
Mostly I kept to the drier sections with their mosses, lichens, and bracket fungus on a giant oak.
On the left hand side as we approached the village a couple of bay ponies enjoyed their freedom to roam, while some of the field horses opposite, although fenced in, were comforted with rugs.
This evening we dined on tender roast duck breasts; crisp Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and parsnips; crunchy carrots; firm Brussels sprouts; mixed vegetables in piquant white sauce; and meaty gravy, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Signargues Côtes-du-Rhône Villages 2020.
This morning I worked on the next “A Knight’s Tale” post.
On this unseasonably balmy afternoon Jackie drove us up to the north of the forest, where
donkeys on the road outside Faraway Cottage caused a certain amount of traffic chaos.
My chauffeuse parked at Godshill Pit while I wandered among
dappled woodland with variously hued bracken and tree foliage.
Jackie also pictured spiky gorse, brown and green bracken; and, as I ambled along she produced an image for “Where’s Derrick?” (5)
As we passed a pair of Joggers on the road outside Hale, one, like me in my jacket, had found the day hotter than expected, prompting her to complete the peeling of her sweater.
This evening we dined on succulent pork chops served on a moist melange of leaks, peppers, and onions; boiled and roasted potatoes; flavoursome roast parsnips; crisp Yorkshire pudding, and tasty gravy with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the zinfandel.
Yesterday evening I reached a point past nine more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to “Nicholas Nickleby”. and scanned them today.
Keeping depicts such movement in ‘The animals were no sooner released than they trotted back to the stable they had just left’.
‘A female bounced into the room, and seizing Mr Squeers by the throat gave him two loud kisses’. When repeated further in the book these portraits will be most recognisable.
The three boys in the foreground of ‘Mrs Squeers stood at one of the desks, presiding over an immense basin of brimstone and treacle’ are recent arrivals. Keeping shows by the chubby, innocent, profile of one that they have not yet adopted the description, including the harelip, Charles Dickens gives to the others. The mixture of sulphur and molasses was commonly used as a cure-all at the time. Here it was mainly employed as an appetite suppressant.
‘When they were both touched up to their entire satisfaction, they went down-stairs in full state’
‘The timid country girl shrunk through the crowd that hurried up and down the streets, clinging closely to Ralph’ displays the artist’s mastery of perspective.
‘They stopped in front of a large old dingy house that appeared to have been uninhabited for years’ displays historically accurate buildings.
‘The poor soul was poring hard over a tattered book with the traces of recent tears still upon his face’ represents the portrait given in the book’s frontispiece.
‘Pinning him by the throat, Nicholas beat the ruffian until he roared for mercy’
‘Dingy, ill-plumed, drowsy flutterers, sent to get a livelihood in the streets’ is one of Mr Keeping’s text sandwiches.
Between showers we prepared a site for the new, as yet unopened, wooden bench.
Later this afternoon we drove to Everton Nurseries where Jackie bought some trailing petunias, and continued into the forest.
where I was tempted from the car by the sight of groups of ponies who had been much more in evidence today than yesterday.
Purple violets beneath a yellow gorse bush; scattered bluebells; and a fossilised hand caught my attention.
I thought I could discern at least two foals in the distance.
To reach them I needed to follow a track across the running stream created by the ponies above.
That reminds me. The pony in the foreground of the first picture in this gallery determinedly emerged in my direction and took up a position with splayed legs right in front of me. It had made me rather nervous. Fortunately missing my feet it released a powerful stream from its rear end. Naturally I lifted my lens enough for decency. This was still creating its own little puddle when its companion did exactly the same thing. Were they trying to tell me something?
This was quite an undulating landscape.
Climbing up to the next level I was rewarded by the sight of two foals.
As its mother wandered away the first of these rose to its feet, stretched its limbs, trotted after her, then felt safe enough to look me in the eye.
On our journey home through East Boldre we encountered a group of donkeys and their foals.
Perhaps attempting to arouse the attention of its comatose mother,
one excited youngster repeatedly ran rings round the gorse bushes, causing Jackie to exclaim: “He’s just found he’s got legs”.
This evening we dined on plump lemon chicken thighs; creamy mashed potatoes; spicy hot ratatouille; and firm cauliflower, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Trivento Reserve Malbec 2019.
After a light overnight frost this morning was sunshine-bright and somewhat chilly. I reached Florence at Fiveways in my weeding of the gravelled Gazebo Path,
while Jackie sat on her kneeling stool to continue her clearance of the Pond Bed.
Immediately after lunch we toured garden centres in search of a strong wooden bench to replace the Ace Reclaim bench which has rusted enough to become precarious to perch upon. Here we were to find evidence of reports that wooden furniture is in short supply because of Covid and Brexit import difficulties. Eventually we found one at Stewart’s outside Christchurch. This will be delivered tomorrow.
We diverted around the forest on our return home.
We were tempted by the fickle sun to stop and admire the gorse- and pony-dotted moorland from the high point of Burley Road outside Norley Wood. As soon as I left the car gloomy clouds rolled in and the sun was not to be seen again until we returned home.
However, a thirsty grey pony stood up to her knees in cold soup at the usual watering hole.
Once satisfied she departed the pool, and, hearing whinnying from beyond the gorse bushes, set off along a well trodden track leading to a circle of open grass, in answer to the call of a companionable bay.
Naturally I followed, if only to let the drinker know there was no escape from my lens.
Along the woodland trail I noticed crab apple blossom in abundance and a child’s solitary lost shoe.
We stopped for a drink at The Rising Sun and sat in the garden chatting and listening to other muted voices, melodious birdsong, inharmonious pop music from inside, and vehicles clattering over the cattle grid outside.
This evening we reprised yesterday’s meal with identical beverages.