In Their Element

In steady, heavy, rain this morning Jackie drove us to New Milton to collect my cleaning; to Ferndene Farm Shop for three bags of compost; and to Milford on Sea Pharmacy for a repeat prescription.

Now we were out, where could we visit next for a photoshoot but to Keyhaven in search of waterfowl?

Watched by a raindrop coated black-headed gull;

rapidly turning and darting, lifting heavily paddled feet in its stride, an egret was fishing for breakfast in the harbour.

Alongside the reed beds across the road a cormorant (?) would occasionally disappear beneath the surface, darting for its own sustenance.

Raindrops also glistened from mallards’ waterproofs.

Saltgrass Lane takes us from the harbour area to the salt flats beside Hurst spit. There is no speed limit on this road which is too narrow to permit parking at any time.

This is not a lane in which you would wish to meet an oncoming vehicle, such as this one which reversed some distance before reaching a passing space.

Active gulls and swans flapped, stretched, and flew across the flats;

another egret enjoyed successful fishing.

Fortunately, unusually, it was not raining in Manchester. I was therefore able to listen to the men’s Cricket World Cup match between England and Afghanistan at Old Trafford.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s Cumberland and caramelised onion sausages braised in red wine; creamy mashed medley of potato, swede and butternut squash; crunchy broccoli and cauliflower; and tender runner beans. I finished the Galodoro while the Culinary Queen drank Blue Moon.

Godwits Galore

This morning we drove to Ferndene Farm Shop for three bags of all Purpose compost.

Jackie explored the rows of plants on sale as she also bought some trailing lobelias, and

found time to encourage one of the resident pigs, which was labouring somewhat, to step up to the trough for a drink.

On our way home we took a short diversion through the forest. Like the New Forest itself it has been some time since the title ‘new’ was applicable to the first of these lanes; the second avoids the problem of nomenclature by not having any.

Ponies dotted around the moors en route to Burley.

As in the lanes above the foliage of Holmsley Passage bore an almost luminescent glow.

Late this afternoon Giles picked me up at home and drove me to the bird hide at Milford on Sea where we spent a pleasant hour in a very crowded cabin watching the birds.

One black headed gull was fascinated by his reflection in the shallow water;

others shared Hurst Pond with shelducks and swans.

For serious birders the highlight was 31 black tailed godwits, their long legs beneath the surface.

We think this might be a snipe, but it had its back to us so we could not discern the length of its beak.

A pied wagtail trotted along much nearer the hide.

Giles stayed on for dinner which consisted of roast lamb; mashed potato and swede; Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower; and tender runner beans, with rich gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and our friend and I chose Mora Vista Merlot Bonarda 2018.

“Let’s Scarper”

This afternoon we drove to Mudeford where

marauding gulls hadn’t yet given up scavenging from a fishing boat that had unloaded its catch. In an attempt to secure a better angle for photographing them I perched on the lip of a large container. What I hadn’t realised was that I would tip over onto the pool of water in the centre. I yelled a bit as I leaped off. This caused a couple seated on a nearby bench to move over for me. I expressed some hesitation about taking this lower seat on account of my knees. This prompted a discussion in which I acquainted the gentleman with what he was in for when his wait for his replacement was over.

A motor boat sped along the surface alongside the quay.

We drove on to the north west of the forest, taking this lane through Woodgreen, where

pairs of twins in a sheep field raced each other for their mother’s dugs.

The woodland at Hale Purlieu is owned by The National Trust. I wandered around it for a while, looking down over the neighbouring landscape occupied by a solitary white cow,

and noticed ants darting along their route across the criss-crossing tree roots beneath my feet.

This Red Bull can tossed onto a lane at Hale rested inches from the bluebells, stitchwort, and other wild flowers on the verges.

From my passenger seat I noticed that a quartet of deer were grazing among the ponies on the moors bordering Roger Penny Way. They occupied a slope beneath a ridge, rendering them out of sight when I disembarked to approach them. It was therefore with some trepidation that I gingerly crossed a dry ditch and made my way across pitted terrain, being unsure whether they would still be there when I was able to look further down. In fact they were still chomping away. Eventually, of course they got wind of me. Taking an alert pose I overheard their conversation in which they pointed out the interloper and discussed what to do. “Let’s scarper” cried one, and they rapidly disappeared into the landscape.

Ponies on the slopes ignored them.

New foals are becoming commonplace now. Here is one of today’s keeping up with its mother.

Back at home this evening we dined on cheese centred smoked mackerel fishcakes; creamy mashed potato; piquant cauliflower cheese; ratatouille, carrots and cabbage, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

Sweet Smell Of Success

On a dull, damp, afternoon we took the Angel Lane route to Milford on Sea to pick up a repeat prescription from the Pharmacy, then drove on to Keyhaven.

Low tide in the harbour revealed seaweed on which gulls preened and one cannibal crow scavenged. Boats tilted and buoys bobbed. Hazy distant views of Hurst Castle and its lighthouse could be discerned.

We left via Lymore Lane where we inhaled the sweet smell of success of oilseed rape farmers as we travelled alongside

their fields and the escapees brightening the verges.

Even greater success has been exhibited by The Wheel Inn at Bowling Green. When we first came to the area five years ago this old pub was so run down as to be totally uninviting. A couple of years ago the local community formed a committee which refurbished the building and created a thriving establishment where we stopped for a drink. An excellent review appears in The Lymington Times of 9th March: https://www.advertiserandtimes.co.uk/wheel-inn-review

Jackie photographed some of the covered salad plants grown by the volunteer gardener for use in the kitchen.

This evening we enjoyed our second sitting of Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent food, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank sparkling water.

Number 32

One of Aaron’s tasks today was to reinforce the

wobbly posts on the entrance to the Rose Garden,

cerinthes have proliferated by self-seeding.

The Oval Path curves round the bed beyond that entrance.

Shadows fall across the Gazebo and Brick Paths.

The yellow and orange diurnal poppies are preparing for my daily dead-heading routine.

The rejuvenated red Japanese maple rescued first by me and then by Aaron a couple of years ago blends well with honesty and the background camellia.

The eucalyptus enhances a number of views.

A spreading white spirea graces the Palm Bed.

Honesty, bluebells, daffodils, and a variety of daffodils add their points of colour.

Bees busy themselves gathering pollen from the crab apple blossom.

This afternoon we all drove to The Beachcomber at Barton on Sea. This had clearly been a most popular idea. The café itself was virtually empty, but the garden was packed out. We managed to find a table and wait for our drinks. A rather wearied staff member would come out with a tray and call the relevant number of the order.

I watched one young gull preening on a rooftop, while

a black headed gull seemed taken aback by the sight of

a most glamorous dog-walker.

Smaller birds, such as sparrows, hoped to find crumbs on the tables.

Bolder starlings emptied the plates of left-overs. When they carried off their prey they were lucky if it was not snatched by the marauding gulls. This group was feasting on the scraps of number 32.

This evening we dined on succulent roast lamb; crisp roast potatoes and parsnips; multicoloured carrots; green beans; Yorkshire pudding; sage and onion stuffing; piquant cauliflower cheese; mint sauce; redcurrant jelly; and flavoursome gravy. Jackie and Becky drank Western Cape Chenin Blanc 2018, Ian drank Kronenbourg, Louis drank water, and I drank Moravista Merlot Bonarda 2018.

Reflecting Over The Best Part Of Half A Century

Towards the end of yesterday afternoon Giles collected me from home and drove me to the bird hide at Milford on Sea. It is his task to lock up the accessible public facility at 5 p.m. or dusk, whichever is earlier. We spent a happy hour in each other’s company as I benefitted from my friend’s avian knowledge.

Alongside the stilted structure bird feeders hang from trees. A couple of sleek, well-fed, rats crouched poised to scoop up spillage. Note the hind toes clinging to a fallen branch for purchase while tiny hands clutch the spoils.

In the distance, against the backdrop of holiday homes, a variety of gulls and swans skimmed over the stream reflecting the bordering reeds.

Groups of swans sought rest, relaxation, and sustenance on the soggy terrain.

A pair of mallards dozed among the tufts; nearby a Brent goose investigated dining options.

I had forgotten my specs, so relied upon Giles to spot and direct me to this godwit wading amongst the teal.

I have John Knifton to thank for my being able to identify the teal from the luminous green flashes on their sunlit plumage.

When it was time for us to depart, Giles scaled a wooden fence and went Wombling to gather rubbish blown into the bird sanctuary.

It is the best part of half a century since I last photographed my friend reflected upside down in his glass chessboard while we were playing a game in 1973.

Yesterday evening Jackie produced perfect roast chicken, potatoes, and parsnips; Yorkshire pudding; sage and onion stuffing; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and rich red cabbage.

Much of today was spent on culling photographs and putting this post together.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak. We both enjoyed crisp battered haddock; chunky chips with intact peel; garden peas that, like lemmings, were dead set on diving off the plate and rolling off the table; and onion rings containing slices of onion rather than the usual mush. We shared a carafe of most potable Pino Grigio.

They Think It’s Spring

On another bright, almost balmy, morning, Jackie drove us out to Hatchet Pond and back.

Donkeys,

cattle,

and ponies, basked, dozed, chewed the cud, or cropped the grass on the approach to the pond. Eyes open or closed, they definitely think it’s spring.

Have the usual companions of the

sole cormorant on sentry duty

metamorphosed into a pair of swans gliding to and fro beside their posts?

Sedate gulls basked and preened on the opposite bank.

More ponies could be glimpsed among the still leafless trees within the nearby Rans Wood.

This evening we dined on rack of pork ribs in barbecue sauce, prawn toasts, aromatic spring rolls, and Jackie’s special savoury rice, with which she drank Hoegaarden, from which I abstained.