Gorse, Golf Course, Heath, And Woodland, Maintenance

Feeling rather dispirited by struggling in vain to carry out some tasks I have been happily managing before WP’s latest improvements, my mood was lifted by a drive into the forest.

Jackie drove us up Holmsley Passage

and across Burley Road where she parked the Modus so I could walk back and photograph

woodland with mossy roots, fallen trees, and reflecting, receding, winter pools;

and the gorse on the heath. As part of their general maintenance duties the forest ponies trim the golden shrubs and prepare paths through to

the grounds of Burley Golf Course where they carefully maintain the greens and suppress some of the rough.

From 29th of this month, when golf courses will be allowed to reopen, it would be wise for neither this pair of joggers nor me to venture onto this location.

I eventually rejoined Jackie in the car and she allowed me out along Bisterne Close where

I inspected the work of the equine forestry management crew.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s flavoursome chicken and leek (quippingly dubbed cockaleekie by the Culinary Queen) stewp and fresh crusty bread, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Mendoza Red Blend.

Out Of The Dark

On another unseasonably mild day, I wandered around the garden with my camera, picking





Camellia 1Camellia 2


Viburnum rhytidophyllum

viburnum rhytidophyllum,




and bergenia.

This afternoon we drove through the forest to Burley. On the way we stopped at a New Forest car park for a short walk with Scooby.

Ponies always gather round the parked cars because there is always a reasonable chance of hands offering titbits on the ends of arms extended from open windows. So it was today, until a family turned the tables and advanced on the ponies in great excitement.

Family tracking ponies 1Family tracking ponies 2Ponies leaving

It wasn’t long before the animals turned tail,

Ponies in landscape

only to return to their habitual patch of heathland when the coast was clear.

Gorse bush, man, and boy

A track, up which various walkers clambered, led down to a valley below.

Skyscape with poniesSkyscape with poolSkyscape with tree

Still an hour away from sunset, we were treated to some interesting skyscapes.

It was not yet 4.00 p.m. by the time we arrived in Burley, but the targeted tea rooms were closed. We therefore sought refreshment in the Burley Inn. Mine was a pint of Flack’s Double Drop.

Still not 5.00 p.m., we returned home in the dark. As we left the village and entered the less than broad, unlit roads across the forest, a stream of traffic approaching on our right, Jackie hit the brakes. Out of the dark, a black and grey pony appeared, in the Modus’s dipped headlights, ambling straight towards me on the passenger side. My chauffeuse barely had room to swerve around the beast to slip between that and the oncoming traffic.

Becky, two cars behind, was treated to a similar experience. This was our closest encounter yet.

This evening, Jackie, for our dinner, produced tender roast lamb, roast parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, perfect carrots and Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower cheese. Apple crumble would have followed had anyone left enough room for it. Becky and Ian drank rose and I finished the El Sotillo.


www.weather. That is what 50 m.p.h. winds have turned our wet and warm days into.  (Mr WordPress took my joke one stage further. I didn’t type http:// and he won’t let me erase it)

We went out for a drive this morning; first down to the clifftop over Hordle beach at Milford on Sea; then through the forest via Burley, Fritham, Lyndhurst, and Brockenhurst.

In the early part of the afternoon I watched the second televised Rugby League match between England and New Zealand. This reminded me why I had given up on it years ago.

Afterwards, I worked on the morning’s photos. Normally, I do very little in the processing, but today I wanted the results to reflect the mood of the day, so I converted most into black and white, and toned down the colour a little in the three that were not made into monochrome. This subduing was because the camera had produced slightly brighter colour than was available to the eye.


Jackie parked the car at Paddy’s Gap, so we could watch the mountainous seas pounding beneath us. I had a very difficult job prising the car door open against the gale, and when I emerged, the driving rain blurred my vision and, as can be seen, left its mark on the camera lens.


Car on roadRoadCars on roadA pair of lone joggers performed the involuntary dance of falling leaves, as they battled along the path. I swear the lighter one was lifted aloft.

Interestingly, the more we drove into the forest, the less the wind blew, but the rain was just as heavy and pools were beginning to develop on the grass and heathers. All cars had their headlights in operation, even at 11 a.m.

Perhaps we should not have been surprised than there was scarcely a pony in sight. Areas where we would expect to see many of them cropping the grass or molesting tourists in the car parks, bore no sign of life except the wind sending reluctant leaves, not yet ready for hibernation, spinning on the more slender twigs before spiralling downwards.

Most equines had no doubt repaired to the middle of the forest in search of shelter.

Birch and Heathland

Heathland 1Heathland 3

The outskirts of Fritham are normally well populated by shetland ponies.

Pony in landscape

Pony 1Pony 2

Today, just one, bedraggled, muddied, munched alone.

For dinner this evening, The Cook produced a tasty lasagna with a melange of fried Mediterranean vegetables, followed by Tesco’s chocolate eclairs. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Madiran.

Putting Readers In The Picture

Some of my more recent followers were rather shocked by yesterday’s post. Those who have read my offerings over a longer period will possibly have been prepared by ‘My Branch Of The Family Tree’. It may now be worth explaining that the production of ‘Becky’s Book of Seasons’ was one way of dealing with my grief. The whole piece is a metaphor for life’s ups and downs, and for the value of hope. This morning’s amble round the garden revealed a number of newcomers, such as; Cranesbill geranium

cranesbill geraniums,

Rhododendron 1

the first of the rhododendrons,

Rhododendron 2

with its entourage of white daffodils,

Flowering cherry

and a new flowering cherry.

Some plants are now even more profuse. These include:


flourishing forget-me-nots,

Onion flowers

undulating swathes of white onions that, until disillusioned by Jackie I thought were albino

Spanish bluebells

Spanish bluebells springing from the soil.


Tough little violas, somewhat chewed, have nevertheless survived the winter,


and the transported azalea is now in full bloom.

Stitches in handThis morning Jackie drove me to Hythe hospital for a physiotherapy appointment on my hand. A very careful, affable, and efficient young physiotherapist rejoicing in the name of Sapphire had the task of removing my plaster; examining the stitches; changing my dressing; writing down a couple of exercises for me; and altering the venue for my next appointment to Lymington which is much nearer. The stitches are not due to be removed for another week. Sapphire was pleasantly surprised by what she found, saying that I healed well, which was some consolation. One of the prescribed exercises involves making a fist with the injured hand. After three hours I could do so quite effectively. Bearing in mind that the top joint of the third finger has been incapable of bending ever since I broke it playing rugby about thirty five years ago, I think the next picture demonstrates this. It is to be hoped that the delicate shade of pink chosen for my nail varnish is appreciated.Fist in bandage

Out of consideration for my more squeamish readers, almost foregoing the wordplay of the thumbnail option, I have published a medium image of the stitches. Those who wish to inspect the decorative needlework, may wish to click on the image to enlarge it.

Gorse - Version 2

As we drove across the heathland on Beaulieu Road I felt like an Israelite following Moses across the Red Sea. On either side of the forest road waves of gorse billowed across the landscape sending golden spray crashing onto the division between them.

Stopping in Lymington on the way back, we sampled the set lunch menu at Lal Quilla. This was excellent. For £6.95 each we chose onion bhajis from a range of starters; prawn pasanda for Jackie, and prawn jalfrezi for me, each with pilau rice, from a choice of four main courses; and ice cream. The portions were the same quantity and as well cooked as we are accustomed to in the evenings. Jackie drank diet coke. My beverages were an interesting arrangement. The barrel ran out of Kingfisher whilst the waiter tried to pour me some. He held up a pint glass which was mostly filled with head, and offered me bottled Bangla or Cobra instead. I chose Bangla. Later, he brought me the Kingfisher, now settled to a good half pint. ‘Complimentary’, he said with a smile. This was more than I would have wished to drink, but it would have been churlish to refuse, so I didn’t.

I am not sure that I didn’t drop off to sleep this afternoon before Danni and Andy popped in for a visit, which was very welcome and enjoyable. Such are the geography and timetables of modern life that these casual social activities are generally a thing of the past, which is a shame.

This evening Jackie’s triple decker club sandwiches with sparkling water was more than ample sustenance.


This afternoon I walked the two underpasses route via the Sir Walter Tyrrell.

The wall of Yew Tree Cottage at Stoney Cross bore evidence of the season on which I had focussed last week in France, as did the row of logs laid out to keep cars at their distance.

I was to see many more mushrooms on my walk across the North side of the A31.  The heathland felt and sounded as if I were walking across a thick-piled Wilton carpet.  

Although still warm, it was a dull day on which holly and rowan berries provided the occasional welcome gleam.

As I tramped downhill towards the above-mentioned pub, I encountered two Eastern European gentlemen who didn’t have much English, but did know their mushrooms.  

I think at least the man with the basket did understand when I told them about Jessica’s avid interest in the foraging that they were undertaking.

This meeting reminded me of Anansi.  Sometime in the late 1980s I was facilitating a series of team building days with a staff group of residential social workers at varying levels in the hierarchy.  I very soon realised I had my work cut out because most of these people only met during handover periods; no two individuals shared the same nationality, gender, racial characteristics or sexual orientation; and there were 17 of them.

By the end of the first day it was all in danger of going horribly wrong.  Racking my brains overnight, I came up with the idea of the West African mythical storyteller, and Little Miss Muffet.

Abandoning the programme I had prepared earlier, I took a flip-chart and drew a spider hanging from a web on the large sheet of paper.  I asked the group members to tell us what they thought and felt when seeing this drawing.  As always, it took a minute or two for the first volunteer to tell us about her thoughts.  Slowly, people began to rush to tell theirs.  And eventually fear or reverence could be expressed.  Anansi, the spider, is loved for his storytelling; whereas it was a spider who ‘frightened Miss Muffet away’.

On another sheet of paper I portrayed a set of cricket stumps with a West Indian male wicket-keeper crouching behind them.  I went on to tell of Tony Pinder, the best keeper who ever received my bowling, and how he and his brother Winston, who, when I began playing club cricket in 1957 had been the first black people I had ever met.  I spoke of their influence on me, and, in particular, the father figure that Winston, known as Bunny, had struck.

I had their interest.  This waned momentarily when I invited them to take their turns at drawing anything relevant to their culture or history that they would like to tell us about.  That was scary.  However, the floodgates soon opened.  At the end of the day many people had not had time for a turn, but all wanted to spend the following, last, day finishing the task.  Many brought their own art materials.

Then came what, to me, was the greatest, and most satisfying, surprise.  A white Central European woman and a black African man both described mushroom gathering from their childhoods.  They realised that they had, after all, something in common.  I have always hoped that the team continued to build on the discoveries that emerged from these exercises.  Once we accept our differences and look beyond them, we are quite similar, really.

Helen sent me her pig pictures, one of which I inserted into yesterday’s post.

This evening Jackie fed us on her classic chicken jalfrezi with mushroom rice and Kingfisher beer.

‘There’s No Need For That To Be In The Road’

Being a firm adherent of the adage attached to Robert the Bruce: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again’, I set off this morning in search of Dave’s lakes which I had failed to find yesterday.  For those who don’t know the story, King Robert I of Scotland, their fourteenth century monarch who fought against England, wasn’t doing very well.  He was doing so badly in fact that he sought refuge in a cave.  Whilst sitting there, pondering his next move, he watched a spider struggling to attach the thread of its web to the wall.  Back and forth, up and down, went the arachnid in its attempt to secure its fly trap. Eventually the apparently hopeless task was achieved.  Inspired by this, King Robert continued his guerrilla warfare until, at Bannockburn in 1314, a resounding victory secured independent sovereignty for his nation. What is good for a spider and a king is good enough for me.  This time I took a map and continued on the path the other side of Forest Road past Andrew’s Mare car park.  There I was given encouragement by the number of dog walkers coming to and going from their vehicles.  They must be travelling somewhere for pet frolics.  I fell in with a couple who confirmed that I was headed in the right direction.  The woman, identifying her dogs for my benefit, described them rather uncomplimentarily as ‘idiot Saluki crosses’.  Salukis in LakeApparently all the exercise they take is chasing each other after sticks thrown into the large lake. Salukis After watching the canine cavorting for I while, and feeling somewhat satisfied to have got this far without mishap, I studied my Ordnance Survey map very hard, and decided I would attempt to descend to Acres Down before returning via Newtown. Heathland FootpathI selected my path and strode across the heath. Ditch Had I paid a little more attention to the contour lines I would have realised that the one I had chosen descended steeply to a ford and rose equally as steeply on the other side.  Ascending the flinty gravel surface put me in mind of the very scary unstable scree that had made me cop out of the final push up Cumbria’s Scap Fell many years ago.  Anyone who has a similar phobia of heights will know that it becomes much worse when children are involved.  On this occasion, Louisa, then very young, had slipped on the loose stones.  That was enough to paralyse me.  Louisa, with her far more intrepid mother, reached the top.  I didn’t.  This was, however, a much gentler slope and not so far above sea level. A stream was forded just after a stone memorial Dave had told me I would pass yesterday.Murray's memorial  But, as we know, I was nowhere near it then.  Finding Murray’s memorial filled me with confidence and a certain smug satisfaction. Admiral Murray was killed whilst hunting on Backley Plain on 17th September 1901.  If you ask me, Sir Walter Tyrrell has a lot to answer for.  It was he who, allegedly accidentally, shot William Rufus not far away, thus setting an unfortunate precedent.  The story is told in photographs of the Rufus Stone posted on 19th November last year.  That memorial is about three or four miles away on the other side of the A31. Seeking further information about Admiral Murray and his manner of passing all I could find was a notice in the New Zealand Herald of 23rd November 1901 stating that he had been killed in the New Forest and had had a distinguished naval career.  This may or may not suggest he was a New Zealander.  Our antipodean friends seem to be a little short of pressworthy material, judging by The National, whose quiz Jackie and her workmates were encouraged to attempt each week by  her native colleague Brent. She still regularly attempts this puzzle. Murray's PassageAt the top of the slope is that rare thing, a signpost, leading to Murray’s Passage.  Not much good to anyone approaching it, as I did, from the lakes. Skirting Stonard Wood, as the map told me, I could go for broke and turn right down to Acres Down just to prove I could do it, or I could quit whilst I was ahead and aim for Newtown.  I chose the latter.  Once I correctly turned left the footpaths seemed to have been deliberately arranged in a series of celtic knots just to confuse me. Heathland footpath divides Had I always taken the right fork I would have arrived at my intended point on the Forest Road, the crossroads leading to Acres Down and Newtown.  I did sometimes.  But not always. When I noticed a cairn I had passed yesterday I didn’t know whether to be pleased or not.  CairnThis could either mean everything had gone horribly wrong or I was on the right track.  As confirmed by a pair of familiar rowan trees a bit further along, it was a bit of both.  I did emerge more or less on Forest Road, but not at my targeted crossroads.  I arrived at the Forestry Commission gate at the path to the lakes that I had gone through too early yesterday, about fifty or sixty yards from the A31. Well, I wasn’t going back along the road to the Newtown crossroads, so I retraced my steps alongside the major road, continuing rather precariously after the footpath petered out by Little Chef.  This earned me a ship’s foghorn blast from a huge lorry.  I think that was rather unnecessary.  After all, the traffic was nowhere near as fast as usual, when the slipstream blows you off your feet, and I was wading through brambles at the time.  The speed restriction was because of an accident that had slowed things up.  An ambulance crew in  a lay-by were checking out two unhurt young Asians gazing wistfully at the bashed-in offside front wing of their sprauncy red car.  Don’t ask me what make it was.  Be satisfied that I even noticed the colour.  One medic emerged from some bushes carrying what must once have been a bright new, red, bumper.  ‘There’s no need for that to be in the road’, he said to me. Unbeknown to me Helen and Bill had passed me on the A31 on their way to Castle Malwood Lodge.  They drew level with me as I walked down Upper Drive.  This time they offered me a lift.  I declined, reasoning that I could probably make it across our lawn.  As we all walked into our flat together Jackie informed me that she had just sent me a text asking if I wanted a lift.  She knew that, after yesterday, there was no way I would ask for one, yet it was getting a little late.  Had that come earlier I could have done with it.  My left calf is complaining somewhat of overwork. My one-time-sister-and-brother-in-law stayed for a pleasant conversation about Lincoln and its environs, where they had been on holiday and once lived, and which I know quite well. This evening Jackie and I dined on her  marvellous mixed meat stew with no apparent trace of sausage, followed by gooseberry and rhubarb crumble and custard.


Lower DriveBeside many cattle grids are placed small pedestrian gates, for ease of crossing.  Most people seem to either drive or walk over the grids.  Mat’s little Jack Russell, Oddie, simply trips across them.  Flo’s Scooby, on the other hand, managed to slip and hurt his foot on one.  Our lower drive gate is so seldom used that the latch grows moss.

Today’s walk, starting by crossing the grid, was to Fritham where Jackie met me at The Royal Oak for a ploughman’s lunch and a pint of beer, and drove me back afterwards.

SheepThe sheep in the field alongside Furzey Gardens road were looking very shaggy this morning.  All but one unfortunate, who appeared to be masquerading as the sheepdog in the Specsavers advertisement, and consequently retained straggly bits of fleece.  Or maybe the shepherd, having somewhat unsuccessfully sheered just one, had decided to have his eyes tested.Badly shorn sheep

There were still some boggy patches across the heath on the North side of the A31.  So maybe sandals wasn’t a good idea. Stream crossing point But the ponies usually find a way through, and they know it is much more fun to ford a gravelly stream than to squelch through a soggy quagmire.  At one point I disturbed a dear little doe who scutted away from the gorse bushes before I had seen her.  Had she just lain doggo I would have missed her altogether.  But then, she didn’t know that.

AirplaneTaking a short cut across the heath near Fritham, and hearing the drone of a single propeller airplane, I looked aloft in time to see it disappear into the fleecy clouds.  Possibly the plane confused me, for it was soon after that that I realised the short cut wasn’t.  This required the unnecessary circumperambulation of several farms and contributed to my being slightly late for our rendezvous.  Had I not taken this minor diversion I possibly would not have met the smallest foal I have ever see. Ponies and foal He will no doubt grow up to be a Thelwell pony like his Mum.  A little later I was rather chuffed to be able unerringly to direct a car driver to the pub.

With less than a mile to go I found my way barred.  A cow had adopted the standard New Forest stance of head in hedge.  She stirred herself sufficiently to extract her tagged ears and fix me with a stony stare. Cow on road This necessitated a little rear negotiation on my part.  I shifted a bit sharpish as she twitched her tail and tap-danced her back legs.  She may have also moved her front legs, but I wasn’t looking at those.

It is just possible that my ‘poof redders’ may be tempted to inform me that you won’t find either ‘scutting’ or ‘circumperambulation’ in a dictionary.  As far as ‘scutting’ is concerned it seemed to me to be a perfectly good way of describing the bobbing of a deer’s scut, or rear end, as it romps away.  And why not describe a circular walk as a ‘circumperambulation’?  After all, sailors get away with circumnavigation.   I’m hoping the Oxford Dictionary scouts spotted that one when I first used it on 20th July last year.

This afternoon, having slumped a bit after our lunch, we stirred ourselves to visit a National Gardens Scheme open garden in Bartley. Aviemore front garden We were so pleased we did because we could not have anticipated the breathtaking display that greeted us in this comparatively small establishment in a village street.

CerintheAviemore back gardenHaving been planted with expert knowledge and care it is clear that this garden has been planned for all-year-round colour, with an eye for texture and shape.  So varied is the fare that I could identify only a fraction of the menu. Poppy and pond Trees have been carefully pruned; when one plant is over for the year, up pops its neighbour, like the poppy by the pond; variegated leaf adds to the palette;  and all kinds of artefact are used as containers.  Huchera potsButler sinks are filled with succulents and alpines.  One of these lies atop an old mangle.  Mata Hari lounges in a corner by the stream that flows through the bottom of the back garden. Lichen-covered chair A chair has faced the front garden pond long enough to harbour plentiful lichen.  Almost every tree or trellis has a resident clematis or other climber.Cabbages  Raised beds have been constructed for vegetables.

A tasteful, artistic, and skilled hand has planned the optimum use of the whole plot, a modest one that can be viewed on an epic scale.  I remember my surprise when I first saw the originals of some of William Blake’s engravings and realised how small were these monumental works. Azelias Shrubbery, AviemoreAviemore is not dissimilar.

I could go on and on about this home of Sandy and Alex Robinson and their eldest son, Gavin.  Perhaps the attached photographs may be more eloquent.

Helen and Bill’s champagne, Etienne Dumont 2012, was a slightly incongruous, but nevertheless delightful, accompaniment to our evening meal of fish and chips, mushy peas, pickled onions, gherkins, sliced bread and butter, and tomato sauce.

All Is Right With The World

This warm, bright, morning I walked, with a little diversion, the two underpasses route via Sir Walter Tyrrell that I had discovered three days ago.


Pony droppingsI took a different diagonal across the, in parts still waterlogged, heathland towards the inn, as usual following pony droppings as a guide.  Woodland near Rufus StoneWhen I saw the Rufus Stone through the trees on my right, I realised I had a fair chance of emerging from the forest at the Sir Walter Tyrrell. Oak near Sir Walter Tyrrell Indeed, I did arrive at a magnificent oak alongside the pub.  I have photographed it to e-mail to Berry for consideration for the Ancient Tree Hunt.  My sense of direction continued to be devoid of error.  This encouraged me to take a much wider diversion to Castle Malwood Farm. Fallen trees

Such paths as there were through the forest were often completely blocked by fallen trees, and had a tendency to dissolve into a shoe sucking quagmire. Trees in leafElegant treeThe freshly leaved and sometimes elegantly shaped trees glowed in the mid-morning sun as I made my way, not exactly unerringly, through the woodland.  Woodland near Castle Malwood FarmMy reluctance to accept that a stream I crossed was an extension of the one I had forded the first time I did this trip brought about a minor error of judgement. Stream near Castle Malwood Lodge Perhaps it was a less than somewhat minor mistake, for I completely overshot the farm and found myself confronted by scattered cottages.  Whilst I walked along the road passing them, I came across two gentlemen on bicycles labouring up the hill.  As I wondered whether they would be able to tell me where I was, the one in the lead stopped and asked me: ‘Are you local?’.  Rightly thinking this was likely to prove a marginally embarrassing exchange, ‘sort of’, I replied.  His friend sported white warpaint on his nose, rather like an Australian cricketer.

I recovered a certain amount of self respect when they asked me whether they could cycle to the Sir Walter Tyrrell from there.  I told them I had just walked it, but I wouldn’t recommend cycling it.  Having glanced at their steeds which were rather more thoroughbred than wild pony in nature, I told them about the fallen trees and pointed to the mud on my shoes.  I described the first barrier they would find, and off they went, quipping that they might soon turn around and come back to me.  This they did.  I now felt it fair enough for me to ask where I was.  I was 500 yards from a pub at Brook.  So I retraced my steps as far as the stream, and followed it, which is of course what I should have done in the first place.  I found the approaching drone of the A31 surprisingly comforting.

So there you are, my faithful doubters.  A 50% failure rate.  Everything back to normal.  All is right with the world.


Speedwell greeted me on the verge of Lower Drive as I less than speedily clambered up from the farm underpass.

After lunch a further trip to Cadnam Garden Centre was required.  This was to buy more hanging baskets and plants that any self respecting rabbit would reject if they were served up in their freshly growing salad bar.  French marigolds and alysum are examples.  Unfortunately alysum was off.

This evening’s feast was Jackie’s delicious chicken curry and savoury rice followed by syrup sponge and ice cream.  With this I finished off the Lussac St. Emilion we had brought back from The Firs yesterday.  Taking it away with us was on the instructions of Danni who said that her mother should not be tempted to imbibe for another week.

A Damsel In Distress

Another warm day meant we could admire Jackie’s flowering violas and tagetes seedlings whilst lunching in the garden.

On 5th March I had got hopelessly lost and therefore considerably delayed when looking for Ditchend Brook en route from Godshill to Frogham.  Studying the Ordnance Survey map afterwards I discovered the route of this waterway winding through the heath to the left of Roger Penny Way coming from Cadnam.  When Jackie suggested a trip to Frogham this seemed the day for an expedition along the stream.  She drove me to Ashley Walk car park and met me at the said village.  The footpath over the heathland from that point crosses the gorse-bound brook.  Eschewing a straight path that avoided the natural meanderings of the gravel bedded clear peat-coloured water, I threaded my usual way along the pony tracks sprinkled with dry droppings.  The animals clearly chose to wander within easy reach of their drink.

Had I not done so I would not have noticed two, hopefully successfully hatched, duck eggs  hidden in the bushes.

The stream descends gently from the height alongside Roger Penny Way to its end in a valley below.  In this fairly flat area, basking in the lazy, hazy summery afternoon, lay a number of cattle including the

rare Belted Galloway, or ‘Belties’, breed , contemplating the water and hoping for shelter from the scrubby trees.  

Beyond them stood many ponies.  A trio of these, abandoning their observation of two mallards swimming across a still wet pool, began leading the hopeful march towards me.  They were disappointed to discover I had nothing for them.  These poor creatures, most of whom are displaying bony ribs, have had a hard time of it this winter.

Soon after weaving my way among the livestock, I came to the beautiful goal that had eluded me on my previous visit, the brook that I had had to cross.  This time I knew not to expect a bridge.

The route from there was familiar to me.  Feeling confident, from Burnt Balls and Long Bottom I walked parallel to, but lower down than, Hampton Ridge as far as Chilly Hill.  At this point I checked with a cyclist that I was on the right track to turn and walk up to the ridge from where it was a gentle downhill stroll to Frogham.  The young woman, who was the only person I met on this idyllic afternoon trip, confirmed I was headed in the right direction.  I apologised for stopping her on an uphill stretch.  ‘Don’t worry’, she replied.  ‘I’ll be walking myself in a minute’.  Off she pedalled around a bend.  As I turned it myself I saw what she meant.  

There she was, pushing her steed up an almost perpendicular climb.  At the top she was crouched over the bike in some disarray.  She looked up, her hair dangling in her eyes, and looking somewhat flushed.  ‘Are you strong?’, she asked.  Well, I was certainly going to be, wasn’t I?  It’s not often a Knight comes across a damsel in distress.  Of course, I know nothing about bikes, but I have got a bit of brawn, so long as bending of neither of my two rugby shattered finger joints is required.  There was a thingy sticking out that should be flush with the frame.  It seemed to be in place for casing the brake or gear cables.  I had to place my palm around the sharp end of it and apply as much pressure as I could, trying not to give away the fact that I was in danger of administering the stigmata to myself.  Fortunately I was able to demonstrate that I was sufficiently strong, and the young lady was able to wobble off without discomfort to her lower limb.

Jackie arrived back at the Abbot’s Well car park at the same time as I did.  She had thoughtfully gone off to buy me a bottle of water, for which I was most grateful.  

Today has been a day of glowing gorse and a bank of pastel primroses.  On the Cadnam roundabout on the A31 cascades a bank of these latter plants that has attracted us every time we have passed them.  This afternoon Jackie parked at a safe distance and I took my chances among the traffic to walk back and photograph them.

Dinner was Jackie’s chilli con carne with which I drank Piccini chianti reserva 2009 and she didn’t.

A Fortuitous Teaspoon

Flurries of snow occasionally accompanied me as I walked this morning to the Royal Oak at Fritham, where Jackie met me for lunch, then drove me back home via Fordingbridge, in time for the kick off of the Wales versus Italy rugby match on television.

Ponies on heath 2.13On the other side of the A31, I eschewed the cycle track, and, taking some guidance from telegraph poles I had noticed two days ago, struck out across the heath, following pony trails. Icy heath 2.13 The rumpled mud across the flinty terrain was still hard, and ice still crackled underfoot, which was just as well in some spots.  When water was trickling downhill it was rather marshy. Otherwise bracken and desiccated droppings provided a soft carpet.  I passed some groups of ponies on the open stretch, and soon after I reached the road to Fritham a string of them decided to cross the road and held up the traffic.  Having walked by the side of the road for a while, I too crossed over and took a diagonal towards Fritham.

The plateau at the top was rather breezy and snow was more consistent, although not enough to settle.  Concrete strips on this flat area, seeming to go nowhere, are all that is left of a Second World War aerodrome.  I was struck by how much narrower these landing areas are than those of today.  Two days ago I scoured the hoofprints for a representation of the Olympic rings.  Today I had forgotten about this. Hoofprint Olympic rings 2.13 Suddenly I looked down and there it was.  That seems always to be the way.  In the 1970s I occasionally cycled to work in Harrow Road from our flat in Soho.  One day one of the tyres was punctured.  I didn’t have a suitable lever.  Whilst I was bent over struggling to remove the tyre with my fingers, I looked down into the gutter.  There was a teaspoon.  In a central London street.  Just the job.

Fritham, hill to Royal Oak 2.13I would like to be able to say that I did not take a wrong turning in the sprawling village, thus adding an unnecessary mile to my journey, which in any case ended at the top of a hill.  Unfortunately I cannot.  I therefore arrived half an hour late, subjecting Jackie to the embarrassment of trying to keep a table in a pub which was heaving with adults in walking gear, their children, and soggy panting dogs, many of whom had nowhere to sit.

We each ate a Ploughman’s lunch.  Jackie had Peroni and I drank Ringwood’s Best.  The return drive, mostly on B roads, was picturesque.

The first rugby match, in very wet conditions, was naturally a bit scrappy.  Wales won.  A totally different game at a dry Twickenham made for a frighteningly physical fast-paced contest.  For the first three quarters of the game France were unrecognisable from the team that had lost their first two matches, but they fell away after some key players were substituted.  England won by ten points.

Our evening meal was Jackie’s rich liver casserole accompanied by Montpierre reserve sauvignon blanc 2012 for her and Saint Emilion grand cru 2010 for me.