This morning we drove back to Highcliffe to collect a hall table we had bought from a hospice shop yesterday. Jackie then drove up to Highcliffe Castle and esconced herself with coffee and scones whilst I went for a walk along the beach.
I followed a path from the castle grounds to the beach and walked to Friars cliff where I joined the Christchurch Coastal Walk back to my starting point. After a short tour of the grounds I found Jackie in the tea rooms, by which time I was dripping all over the place.
The journey from Minstead had been very pleasant and quite sunny. The overnight rain had left much of the forest waterlogged and pools on the roads. Each passing vehicle threw up showers of rainwater which had not yet drained away. As we drove into Highcliffe the sky darkened significantly, and as I reached the beach the rain began to plummet.
Although there is an open path from the castle grounds to the beach below, there is a wire mesh fence otherwise surrounding them. I was intrigued to see a fresh posy affixed to the mesh, through which the sealine was visible. Was there a story there? Later, on the Christchurch Walk, just as high above the beach, someone had discarded a single stem red rose. Was there a connection?
The more I burnt my boats and progressed along the almost unoccupied shingle, the faster drove the more or less horizontal stinging rain and the biting wind. As the tide was ebbing, it soon revealed that there was a sandy beach of which I had yesterday been unaware. Pebbles were in parts covered with various forms of seaweed. Shore birds were scavenging among the still sea-wet shingle and weed. Crows seemed to find something worth picking over. A group of birds I took to be some kind of sandpiper played a little game with me. They trotted along ahead of me until I got too close, thumbed their beaks at me, flew off, descended onto the sand to continue their foraging a little further on, and repeated the whole process.
When I tired of the game and the conditions I decided to join a gentleman who was sheltering against a concave sea wall. He leant whilst his two labrador-looking dogs scampered in the pools. I continued walking but I was at least gaining some respite from the elements. His dogs ignored his calling them off when they jumped up and sniffed around me. My instructions to them to disappear smartish were more successful.
Rows of beach huts at Friars cliff were padlocked for the winter. On the Christchurch Walk lies the Steamers Point information centre. Someone with a sense of humour of which I greatly approve, has placed an ammonite in its rock with a clear reference to Ammon, the ancient Egyptian ram-headed god. Is that a lamb by it’s side?
Highcliffe Castle is a largely modern renovation of a building which was rendered uninhabitable by fires in the 1960s. Because it is mostly built of medieaval French masonry and stained glass, shipped over for Lord Stuart de Rothesay, it looks far older than its 180 years. I felt far too bedraggled after my drenching to visit the building or the exhibition which it housed. This will be undertaken at a later date.
In the flat at Morden Jackie had availed herself of the small half-freezer and my little Ryman’s filing cabinet, which had stood in the tiny hall, to deposit her handbag and car keys on entering. Because we now have enough room to place these items in more suitable areas, she was without an appropriate receptacle. In the Oakhaven Hospice Shop she had spotted a fine serpentine table which would do the trick, but yesterday we had no room for it in the car. It is now enhancing, and filling more of, our hall space.
The sky was clear, and the sun shone throughout the afternoon, whilst I changed into dry clothes and put the heating on.
This evening Jackie produced an absolutely delicious chilli con carne followed by an excellent unburnt bread and butter pudding. I drank more of the Cahors 2010, whilst she drank Hoegaarden.