I Didn’t Leave The Car

On a grey overcast morning, after Jackie shopped at Nisa Local in Stopples Lane, we took a forest drive on which I remained in the car while producing pictures of the journey. This was the first time I had left the house since my operation on 25th.

Nisa is fundamentally a refurbished subsidiary of the previous Coop shop. It is no longer a cooperative but happy to sell produce of the Coop. I’m sure there is some logical process to this.

Apart from having removed the useful hole in the wall cash machine, and changing the frontage, the outlet looks pretty similar to me, although as I said I remained in the vehicle while a gentleman leant on the railings while he enjoyed a phone conversation.

A determined cyclist made his way up the steeply undulating Holmsley Passage.

Further down we passed a large rambling wild rose and a damp moorland landscape bearing cotton grass.

From my passenger seat I enjoyed the sight of splendid magnolia blooms in someone’s garden; wild woodbine, rowan berries, and bramble blossom; and a five barred gate to an upland field.

Ponies, foals, and cattle had begun to gather sheltering along Forest Road, causing chaos by hindering the traffic.

The powerfully heady scent of privet rising above the hedgerow along Beckley Common Road permeated the air around and within our car.

This evening we all dined on King’s House Chinese takeaway fare, the portions providing second helpings for tomorrow.

Equine, Cervine, Bovine, Road Users

We spent the morning in Southampton General Hospital in order for me to have everything tested to see if I was fit for a general anaesthetic for the biopsy set for Tuesday 25th.

Bodily fluids were extracted; internal and external structures and organs were examined; chest hair was shaved to provide points for the application of electrodes; heart and lungs were listened to; surprise was once more expressed at my “perfect blood pressure” (the doctor was 26 and said it was the same as hers) and the paucity of any regular medication; DNA swabs were taken; height and weight measured; family history, including everyone relevant, and all operations under anaesthetic in my own life, beginning with tonsillectomy in 1947, was closely examined and documented. I can only assume I passed so I won’t feel anything on Tuesday.

After lunch we took a forest drive.

Anther photographer watched ponies and a foal on Holmsley Passage. Enlarging the first picture in this gallery will reveal tufts of cotton grass which speckles the boggy moorland sections at this time; the leaves under the rippling stream and the pool on the verge indicate that this terrain has the perfect conditions for its growth.

Further along the Passage a young stag crossed the road and disappeared into the bracken. Note the temporary repairs to the nibbled edges. of the tarmac.

Ponies are beginning to shelter under the trees along Forest Road in anticipation of a further influx of flies.

While I was photographing these ponies, bellowing and thudding calves began running up the road in search of their parents, some of whom accompanied them back down again.

This evening we dined on a meaty pork rib rack in barbecue sauce; wholesome mushroom rice; creamy mashed potato and swede; tender runner beans and spinach, with which I drank more of the Alentejano.


On another day of unrelenting fine drizzle Jackie and I deposited the next carload of garden refuse into the local dump now termed the Efford Recycling Centre.

Potholes: Roads in England and Wales at ‘breaking point’

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Large pothole in foreground

By Elizabeth Joyce and PA Media

BBC News

Roads in England and Wales are at “breaking point” due to potholes, with repairs at an eight-year high, according to a new report.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) said councils were expected to fix two million potholes in the current financial year.

That is up 43% on the previous year and the highest annual total since 2015-16.

Ministers highlighted their pledge to provide £8.3bn of extra funding over 11 years for road improvements in England.

The AIA’s annual report found that 47% of local road miles were rated as being in a good condition, with 36% adequate and 17% poor.

The survey also found that average highway maintenance budgets increased by 2.3% in the 2023-24 financial year compared with the previous 12 months.

But the impact of rising costs due to inflation meant local authorities “effectively experienced a real-terms cut”.

Car driving past a sign saying Welcome to Pot Hole City
Image caption, A sign on the Daventry to Long Buckby road claims the town should be twinned with the Grand Canyon

Meanwhile, the amount needed to fix the backlog of local road repairs has reached a record £16.3bn, up 16% from £14bn a year ago.

AIA chairman Rick Green said: “Local authorities have a bit more money to spend this year but the impact of rising costs due to inflation means they have actually been able to do less with it.

“Couple this with the effects of the extreme weather we are increasingly facing, and the result is that the rate at which local roads are suffering is accelerating towards breaking point.”

Depending on their size, potholes can cause significant damage to vehicles and pose a danger motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

Although small potholes rarely cause major accidents, if a vehicle hits a lot of them over time, it can lead to damage to the tyres, suspension and steering system.

In Daventry, Northamptonshire, signs have appeared from an apparently fed-up driver welcoming people to “Pot Hole City” and “Pot Holy Island”.

While on the Isle of Man, a woman has planted daffodils in potholes, hoping the “guerrilla gardening” will hammer home the problem.

In October 2023, the government announced it would provide the £8.3bn of extra funding for local road improvements.

This was part of the Network North strategy to use money saved by scrapping the planned extension of HS2 north of Birmingham.

Mr Green said: “There’s still a mountain to climb when it comes to fixing our local roads.

“While it’s great that English local authorities should be getting more money from the government through its Network North funding, it’s clearly not going to be enough to halt the decline.”

AA president Edmund King added: “Our breakdown data shows that 2023 was the worst year for potholes for five years.

“Arguably the road network is a local council’s biggest asset, but not enough planned investment and repairs are being made to make streets safer and smoother for drivers and those on two wheels.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said the £8.3bn spending pledge was evidence the government was “taking decisive action to resurface roads and fix potholes”.

They added: “In addition, we have made £150m available for local authorities right now meaning funding for most authorities has increased by almost a third compared to last year, with a further £150m to follow in the coming financial year.”

The above is a current item from BBC News.

My regular readers will be aware of the number of hazardous holes we now negotiate daily.

Here is a small selection each no more than a short distance from our home – only those where it was possible for Jackie safely to stop and let me out. Where the edges of the tarmac are nibbled away it becomes hazardous for drivers to pass each other in opposing directions when one will need to crash a wheel over a crater of varying depths – our road surface waters have subsided somewhat at the moment but sometimes they have covered the holes making them invisible. Our local does its best to patch roads that really need resurfacing. Gravelled repairs soon wash out onto the tarmac.

A friend of ours recently drove the fifth car that damaged a wheel at the same spot in less than an hour.

While I was focussed firmly on potholes, Jackie photographed fleeting deer disappearing into the woodland flanking Holmsley Passage, and raindrops dripping from thorns.

Becky and our Grandfamily returned from their trip to Scotland yesterday evening and Ian joined us later so we were a full household able to enjoy Jackie’s wholesome chicken and leak pie; roast potatoes; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower and broccoli, and meaty gravy. The Culinary Queen drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc, Ian drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of La P’tite Pierre.

Thatching With Cider

After a shop at Tesco this dreary grey morning Jackie and I drove up to Hockey’s Farmyard Shop for lunch.

A few ponies foraged on the moorland flanking Holmsley Passage. while a familiar pair harnessed to their trap trotted down the hill.

Well before noon weekend traffic illuminated headlights along the Burley Road at the top of the Passage.

Thatching had been begun at The Elm Tree on Hightown Road and some wit had chosen to place a banner advertising Thatchers cider across the work. (access the gallery with a click on any image for enlargements) The thatchers themselves had clearly taken Sunday off but the handwritten notice proclaimed that the pub remained open. Soon after the new owner took over this establishment last summer the ground floor was flooded. The local residents set to and participated in the clearance work.

While I photographed the thatching Jackie focussed on a mossy roof.

As usual a number of donkeys abounded in this northern part of the forest. Jackie produced the first of these images at Ibsley, where I photographed the third,

and another trimming a hedge on

Blissford Hill where two clusters of the currently ubiquitous catkins can be seen.

As we joined Roger Penny Way it seems scraps of a metal fence have been blown up a bank.

On our way back down this road a troop of ponies ambled across it.

Ian returned to Southbourne for work this evening and was sent home with a doggie bag prepared by the ladies as he was unable to stay for dinner which consisted of Jackie’s wholesome cottage pie; crunchy carrots; tender runner beans and stem broccoli, with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Saint-Chinian Langudoc- Roussilon 2021.

Fords And Headlights

Steady rain fell throughout the morning from the very early hours, subsiding into slight drizzle seeping from the antique pewter charger suspended overhead as we ventured out on a forest drive.

Vehicles plashed through

the swift flowing water over the ford at Holmsley Passage, now clad

in autumnal colour, as depicted by both me and the Assistant Photographer/Chauffeuse.

A small dog was less squeamish than its companions over getting its feet wet while negotiating pools across the former railway track converted to footpath.

There was much scope for reflection on the rippling surface of pools alongside Burley Road.

This flood at Linwood consists of just one of the sets of spreading gutters that have joined across the central camber of the roads.

Headlights approached us from every direction.

The Canadian flag flew alongside the Union Jack at the Bolderwood War Memorial to our loyal allies who lost their lives far away from home in WW2.

This evening we all dined on tender roast pork with crisp crackling; firm sage and onion stuffing; boiled potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts, meaty gravy, apple sauce and redcurrant jelly, with which Jackie drank Zesty and I drank more of the Shiraz.

A More Pleasantly Changeable Day

This silence-still, sun-bright, blue-sky, scudding-cloud, dappled-forest, dripping-leaved, clattering-chestnuts, wet-roads, reflecting-gutters, swimming-sward, morning had turned overcast by the time we emerged, brunch-sated, from Lakeview Café on our return home.

Sun-flecked tarmac and tree trunks along wet-bracken-flanked Holmsley Passage heard whispering, dripping, earthbound leaves carpeting the forest floor alongside emerging mushrooms and bouncing sweet chestnut shells bursting with fruit.

With golfing apparently rained off, a group of ponies tended the lush greens of Burley golf course.

On the opposite side of the road a solitary pony worked over the outfield beside a cluster of further mushrooms.

Leaves slowly drifted into the reflecting verges of Forest Road;

on the sunny side of which a curly haired grazing foal cast its shadow;

further along a trio of darker equines suddenly decided to cross to the other side.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s wholesome chicken and vegetable stewp with fresh crusty baguettes followed by orange trifle, with which she drank more of the Zesty and I drank more of the Côtes du Rhône.

Back On The Road

A soft breeze gently ruffled the still air this morning as we set off for a short forest drive culminating in brunch at the Lakeview Café.

Steam rose from the warmed wet tarmac of Holmsley Passage dappled by sunlight licking the browning bracken.

The winterbourne pool along Bisterne Close, so recently devoid of water, now reflected cotton clouds, overhead lines, spent yellow iris leaves, and a nearby gate.

The weather was now once more sultry enough to summon flies to pester ponies

already seeking shade from trees stippling hide and branch.

Hidden behind New Lane near New Milton are the manmade Orchard Fishing Lakes, permit holders of which enjoy the proximity of Lakeview Café which serves freshly cooked excellent quality food at most reasonable prices.

On such a lovely day enjoying warm sunshine filtered by scudding clouds, it was hardly surprising that soon after midday this family run business was packed out inside with room for other diners to bask comfortably at tables outside while watching the fishers’ quiet repose.

All ingredients, especially the real meaty beef burger, homemade coleslaw, and plentiful fresh salad in my gourmet burger choice, even on such a busy day, were of excellent quality, and strong cutlery was up to the job of cutting the food..

Jackie’s tuna panini was equally perfectly prepared and presented.

Including Jackie’s coffee, this meal set me back £21 to which I added a £3 tip.

Naturally we were warned of a wait, which did not bother us, so Jackie investigated the reading matter; the cakes and crisps to which, should we need anything else after our main courses, we could serve ourselves; and the ever changing artwork on the walls.

In the meantime I observed today’s other customers which included obvious retirees, visiting families, and local people, all contributing to the cheerful ambience generated by the efficient, friendly, and helpful staff.

As I have been off my fodder this week, the brunch was more than enough to satisfy me for the day, so I didn’t join the rest of the family as they enjoyed another of Jackie’s chicken and vegetable soups this evening.

Not Summer

Although the rain largely kept away today, the weather remained unseasonably cold and overcast as, after purchasing provisions at Ferndene Farm Shop, Jackie and I took a brief drive along Holmsley Passage and back.

Cyclists and dog walkers travelled along the disused railway track; walkers and ponies graced the moorland; and one runner jogged down the hill.

Ponies in particular foraged unconcerned with what went on around them, where

heather purpled the landscape despite the

glowering skies silhouetting the tree line.

The almost dried up stream beneath the road once more ripples, flows, and nurtures weeds.

On Burley Road a pony defied the traffic to encroach upon its companion foal.

Whatever the season is it is definitely not summer.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’ s fusilli pasta bake containing bacon, boiled eggs, and various vegetables, accompanied by baked gammon, with which she drank more os the rosé and I drank La Vieille Ferme vin rouge, 2021.

Singing Sigma’s Praises

It was this mystery car we followed along the A35 on our morning forest drive that set the theme today. This is the full scene that I photographed through the windscreen as Jackie drove along, and its later crop.

I have been very happy with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II which was already second hand when I bought it from Jessops about 8 years ago, but it lacked a 35 mm lens. When, a year or so later, I decided to remedy that shortage, the sales assistant at the extremely reliable Wessex Photos offered the opinion that if I paid a little more for the compatible Sigma version I would be pleasantly surprised. She was not wrong. I have purchased two more different focal length models since, but today, by offering similar pairings, I want to show what can be achieved with the first little miracle.

When we reach the top of Holmsley Passage at the junction with Burley Road we have a choice of crossing over, or turning left or right to continue our meandering.

Today a string of cyclists gathered at this point. When we reached them they seemed to be still debating. We drew alongside them and I explained that we were waiting to see I which direction they would be going.

They were intending to turn left. “Right then, we will go straight across”, said I, causing general amusement. This shot from the open passenger window required no crop.

Our route then took us into Bisterne Close, where I produced several couplets, as follows:

The horse drawn trap was entering the close ahead of us.

Soon after we waved our way past them we came across a group of ponies. Jackie parked in the gravel drive so we would not hinder the horses, although in fact they must have turned off because we did not see them again. However, I was able to add to my collection.

The foal in this one was not readily apparent in the full scene;

here I wanted to catch the tail swish;

then a closer look at the foal;


and still closer.

Heather among the ferns along Holmsley Passage is turning purple;

groups of visitors were making their way up the hill towards the open stretch.

Nearer home, more groups of ponies and foals lined either side of Holmsley Road:

I just caught one of the youngsters lifting a leg;

there are two foals in this shot but I picked this one;

and then another scratch;

and finally this group containing two sprawling infants.

You may remember that I am being forced to operate the normal galleries, as opposed to the Tiled ones. This means that WordPress choose their own crops. Consequently they have messed with some of mine. Accessing each of the galleries of two with a click on either picture should demonstrate both this and my own intention.

This evening we all dined on Chicken & Bacon Melt and Magnificent Meat Feast pizzas with plenty of fresh salad; Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Shiraz.

The Early Ponies Catch The Shade

I headed off the worst of the rising heat with an early dead heading session this morning, before Jackie and I set off for a sultry forest drive.

Beside dappled Holmsley Passage a splendid stand of Foxgloves could be spied through the trees. I wonder whether that ice warning sign will now be redundant.

The driver of ponies and trap on the equally brindled Bisterne Close pulled over for Jackie to drive past.

Marbled banks sloped on either side of Beechwood Lane where rooftop chimneys were discerned among lush undergrowth and a mossy log decayed on the verge.

Shade at the corner of Burley Lawn is at a premium on such a day.

A pair of ponies spooked by passing traffic risked losing their spot when they nipped across Chapel Lane and took their chances on the streaked tarmac.

Another troop, including a foal, heading for shelter were to be disappointed,

and forced to wait in the hope of chances of returns.

Further along stippled Chapel Lane cattle made do with the verge, occasionally spilling over to upset tourist traffic.

In addition to continuing his meticulous clearance of the gravel paths,

Martin this morning loaded his van with the bulk of the garden rubbish and took it away for us. He will do the same next week.

With the help of Wayback Machine I reinserted three missing pictures and added a header to the following post:

This evening we dined on Jackie’s first class beef and onion pie; potatoes sautéed with onions; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; firm Brussels sprouts; tender green beans; horseradish sauce, and meaty gravy, with which the Culinary Queen drank more of the Blume and I finished the Malbec.