“National Block The Road Day”

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On another gloriously warm day on which soft cerulean skies swept the landscape, Jackie drove us to Nomansland and back via Hockey’s Farm shop where we happily brunched.

Accompanied by the odd sheep, dozy donkeys diced with death on Roger Penny Way, a major route through the forest on which annual animal deaths often reach three figures.

By the time we reached them two silhouetted equestriennes, moving onto the village green, left the road at Nomansland, where Jackie parked and

I wandered into the forest where sunlight streaked through the trees, backlighting bracken and splashing shadows across the leaf strewn floor through which thrust fungi, some nibbled by unknown fauna.

Grazing ponies desultorily lifted their heads to inspect me, then continued the important business of consuming the 1% of their body weights each day. It really is a wonder that they have time for anything else.

Accompanied by a cyclist, another young lady riding one horse and leading another was our next middle of the road encounter; round the next corner we waited for a couple in a horse-drawn cart to be finished with their lane.

The road to North Gorley, however, belonged to a group of cattle and their calves. Having watched, first an amused cyclist, then a motorist, engage in a slalom around the bovine impediment, Jackie announced that it was “National block the road day” and took her turn through the barrier.

Jacqueline has come to stay for the weekend so she can visit Mum. She brought  positive report on progress and joined us for dinner. For this, Jackie produced succulent roast chicken: sautéed potatoes and onions; crisp Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli; with tasty gravy. My wife drank Hoegaarden, my sister drank Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017, and I drank more of the Minervois.

 

Far Too Fast For Me

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The day was as radiant as yesterday had been dismal. At lunchtime we brunched at the Walkford Diner which now has sautéed potatoes and onions to be added to any of the standard meals. Naturally we added some to our All Day Breakfasts. We continued on into the forest, where

Thatchers Lane’s hedgerows bore many holly berries and a curved tree stem that Jackie termed “nature’s bench”.

High on Thorney Hill, two horses grazed in a sun-kissed field. As so often happens, first the white one, then its companion made a beeline for me as I stood observing them.

Somewhere about this point the name changes to Braggers. Here heavier workhorses, one sleeping under a tree, occupied another field. Sun streaked across grass and tarmac.

A staggered crossroads soon takes us into Fish Street where a young equestrienne ambling along in front of us was considerate enough to pull over to facilitate our passage. The early Christmas decorations suspended overhead were red painted pine cones.

On the approach to Bashley a solitary Gloucester Old Spot sow sped into the trees. She was far too fast for me, so I focussed on Autumn colour instead.

Tree work at the roundabout on the corner of Bashley Common Road and Sway Road, requiring 4 – Way Traffic Control, provided plenty of opportunity for me to poke my lens out of my stationary window and photograph roadside rose hips. Needless to say, fans of Hampshire’s roads will not be surprised that, of the four affected ways, only ours was subjected to the long tailback.

Elizabeth is spending a week with friends in Edinburgh. Jackie and I dined on the Culinary Queen’s excellent chilli con carne and savoury rice with which I drank Chateau Pinenc Minervois 2017.

 

Dougal

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This afternoon Jackie and I took a drive around the East of the forest.

Out of Lymington we turned into Snooks Lane, where we passed a white field horse.

Naturally we explored Pilley a little more. This time a couple of cows showing a partiality for stinging nettles occupied Holly Lane. A cyclist drew up alongside our waiting car. She managed to negotiate her way past the bovine blockage.

The buttressing and thatched roof suggested some age to the white houses on the far side  of the green beside the lake I have often featured.

The surrounding woodland adds to the charm of the scene.

Passing another field accommodating a very sturdy working horse, we back-tracked to photograph the back-lit animal in a bucolic scene. As so often, as soon as my intended subject spied me leaning on a five-barred gate he trotted over to make my acquaintance, coming to rest against a possibly electrified barrier. We settled for a portrait.

It was at Shirley Holms that we met Magic Roundabout’s Dougal masquerading as a Thelwell pony.

Dougal wears a reflective collar intended to alert motorists at night should he venture on to the road. Someone had hung one of these on a post at the cattle grid at the end of this road. Drivers in the dark may imagine the post is our little character. I hope the neckwear’s  owner has not met an untimely end.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb beef pie; luscious gravy; new potatoes; crisp carrots; Brussels sprouts; and red cabbage. Jackie drank Hoegaarden; Elizabeth, Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017; and I finished the Malbec.

 

Who’s The Daddy?

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As soon as the shops were open this morning we set off on a slipper hunt for my hospital stay. We found a pair immediately at Stephan Shoes in New Milton. We then travelled to the Community Centre in Milford on Sea, where I might have left my blog card case the other day. There was no-one in the office. Next port of call was Peacock’s Computers who had not yet received a dongle they had ordered for my MacBook. I was also unable to send e-mails and left the machine for James to solve the problem.

Ah, well, I had bought the slippers, and James did solve the problem later.

Whilst I was occupied with the computer Jackie waited for me in the car park behind the High Street. I walked the long way round: past the war memorial and through the graveyard of the parish church of St Thomas the Apostle. Pigeons and other birds occasionally perched on the gravestones, and candelabra lit the chestnut trees.

We then took a drive through the forest. Sun-dappled lanes through which we traversed included Barnes; Undershore, where we happily negotiated motor cars and cyclists; and Shirley Holms alongside which field horses enhanced the terraced landscape.

The more open stretches of Shirley Holms were alive with grazing ponies. I focussed on a family group. The smallest foal clung steadfastly to its chestnut mother. A larger, very similar, junior wandered a little further afield from his white (grey) parent. It seemed to me that the grey coloured adult more attached to these last two was probably a stallion, suggesting that there was no need to ask “who’s the daddy?”. A woman on horseback approached us from further down the slope.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb pasta arrabbiata with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

 

The Spanish Invasion


Strong winds and heavy rain rampaged through the morning, keeping me occupied with administration and ironing, while Jackie did the shopping.

Just two of the administrative events are worthy of note. It is rather more complicated than I would have thought to close a French bank account which is in credit with no unpaid cheques outstanding. This has been exacerbated by what turned out to be a standard letter contradicting what I had been advised on the telephone. Phone calls and letters have been involved. I was advised to ignore the latest letter. I should be receiving a statement and a transfer of funds soon. We’ll see.

A further telephone call related to the setting up of a funeral plan. Well, you never know.

Soon after lunch the rain ceased and an assertive sun shouldered the dismal clouds aside, sending us off in search of bluebells.

Opposite the shadowy woodland of Shirley Holms

Doves on roof

Jackie spotted a pair of white doves on a farmhouse roof.

Bluebells and hellebores

In 1588 the Spanish Armada failed in their attempt to conquer England. A peaceful invasion is, however under way in the form of their national bluebells. These in our garden are bigger, stronger, and lighter in colour than

the English ones that still line the hedgerows and stock the woodlands of Boldre and other parts of the forest.

Muddy tracks have been left by the recent rain, but it is now warm enough for horses in fields to discard their rugs.

As we drove through East End the leader of a trio of three cows fixed our Modus with a stare and bellowed instructions to get out of the way.

An egret occupied the beach at Tanners Lane against the backdrop of rape fields on the Isle of Wight.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak. Jackie enjoyed an excellent beef burger in sourdough bread with French fries and salad. My equally good meal was superbly cooked haddock, chips and peas. My heap of chunky chips with skins was extremely daunting and Jackie couldn’t finish her fries. She drank Amstell and I drank Malbec.

 

“It’s Their Road, Not Mine”

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Eucalyptus shadow

We enjoyed another splendidly sunny summer’s day. In the garden the eucalyptus cast its welcome shadow across the grass;

while tulips, daffodils, wallflowers, and cowslips glowed in the sunshine.

At lunchtime I received a date for my first knee replacement. It is 18th May. I have never heard of anything so fast. This afternoon I undertook the blood test for the hip replacement check. Jackie having driven me to Lymington Hospital for the latter, we continued into the forest.

The primrose bank alongside the stream in Royden Lane was also streaked with shadows. A pair of cyclists happily rode by at an opportune moment.

Horses in field

I imagine the hay heaped in the field opposite was essential food for the horses a week or so ago. Now the grass is coming through again.

This land may have dried out now, but parts of the forest, like this area outside Brockenhurst, were still waterlogged. Instead of shadows we were treated to reflections of trees, some of which had fallen. After such wet periods as the terrain has recently endured, there are always more fallen trees. Often the roots rot and the giants topple.

Two ponies, dozing under a railway arch may, perhaps, two or three weeks ago have used this shelter as an umbrella; today it was a parasol. A pair of cyclists skirted the animals in order not to disturb them. “It’s their road, not mine”, said the leading woman.

Orange berberis flamed in the hedgerows outside Exbury Gardens, while white wood anemones, yellow celandines, and little violets festooned the banks of a dry ditch opposite.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak. Jackie enjoyed a huge portion of chicken tandoori, while I tucked into an excellent rib eye steak cooked exactly as I asked. Jackie’s drink was Amstell, mine was a rather good Argentinian Malbec.

 

 

Creating A Splash

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Today was another wet one. The New Forest is so waterlogged as to promote empathy for those unfortunates who chose to come here for the Easter holidays.

Lymington Plant Centre has clearly seen better days. Perhaps the daffodils that line Pitmore Road outside it had once come from stock.

Roads and paths were reduced to watercourses; bedraggled horses churned up mud to droop at their hay troughs; cattle grids overflowed.

Armstrong Lane in Brockenhurst was just one flooded thoroughfare.  Trees were reflected in the normally dry terrain on the other side of Burley Road.

Their mirrors joined up with the River Weir and another stream to swell the fast flowing water across the ford.

Jackie took one look at two boys cycling through the torrent  and decided to turn the Modus around and find another route.

She waited whilst I photographed other ambitious drivers,

then drove on the the aptly named Waters Green over which a raucus jackdaw chorus performed for the benefit of soggy ponies, one of whom still sported its curlers.

A fine looking chestnut was occupied clipping a hedge.

This evening we dined once more on Jackie’s splendid lamb biriani with black lentil dhal. I consumed more of the 16 Little Black Pigs.