History Group

Hungerford Cottage 1.13

The early morning light, as I began walking the London Minstead/Shave Wood loop, gave Hungerford Cottage, in its setting, an idyllic appearance. Backlit ponies being led 1.13 On Seamans Lane I was approached by a woman, against the light, leading two ponies of clearly dissimilar varieties.  I believe I had seen part of this group on 8th December.  The difference was that this time the larger horse was a foal, and the Shetland pony had, that time, borne a little girl.

Further along, attached to a hedge, I spotted yet another pair of gloves (see post of 3rd January). Gloves on hedge 1.13 These, I left in situ.  The sky soon clouded over, as if someone had replaced a clear electric light bulb with a pearl one.

After I spent an afternoon clue writing Jackie produced a delicious meal of slow roasted pork belly which we ate in time for her to drive me down to Minstead Hall for my introduction to the Minstead History Group, following which she came and collected me.  This was an unstructured and somewhat loose meeting to which we had been asked to bring, in one e-mail an object of local history interest, and in another a favourite object of our own, and talk about it.  I was rash enough to bring both and to compound this by asking for clarification as to which had been required.  Like the army ‘volunteer’ who gets to clean the latrines, I was asked to start.  Having brought the portrait of Jackie, the subject of my post of 15th July 2012; and a photograph of the alleged Grinling Gibbons mantelpiece described on 9th December, I decided to start with the mantelpiece.  No-one could verify the claim of Jeanie that this was the work of Gibbons, although all were intrigued with the problem and enjoyed the story of my knocking on doors in an attempt to discover the origin of Seamans.  Neither did anyone know the history of that name, even those who had lived there for many years.  In fact I got applause for my presentation, but the fact that I had also brought a personal favourite was forgotten.  I judged it impolitic to remind people.  Only three others had brought beloved objects which were all fascinating, although not of local historic interest.  Those were well received and Jill and Steve discovered, through bringing mementos of their antecedents that they both had origins in Hinton Martell in Dorset.

A number of those present had lived in or around Minstead all their lives.  Others, like me and Jill, had settled there from other parts of England.  The fact that Jill didn’t grow up here made the link with Steve all the more remarkable.  Tom Penny, a ninety three year old retired farmer was there with his daughter Jane.  After the presentations, Tom very soon became the focus of attention.  He is lucid, intelligent, and with a lifetime’s knowledge of the village and its denizens.  People were particularly intrigued at his description of the second wife of the squire of the 1940s.  He used to deliver milk to the grand house and would be summoned to her presence.  In his opinion she can only have washed about once a week, for fear of removing the paint that was so caked on her face as to obliterate all wrinkles.  Oz, who is a leading member is keen that someone should write down Tom’s words, although he is aware of the difficulty of this task.

Almost A Local

Red dawn 12.12

Today’s dawning put me in mind of the old adage: ‘Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning shepherd’s warning’.Frosty forest 12.12  This was a morning of heavy frost, frozen pools, and slippery tarmac.

I walked to Lyndhurst via the A337 and back by way of Emery Down.  The purpose of my trip was to collect my eye ointment.  Jackie had taken the prescription in yesterday and so diverted herself making other purchases in the chemist that she forgot to wait and collect it.

As I crossed the cattle grid to our lower drive the sudden swish of fallen leaves alerted me to the starting, leaping, and bounding off in unison of three startled deer who disappeared deep into the forest.  Their superbly synchronised scuts and elegant rear limbs would have graced an Olympic swimming pool.  Four unperturbed ponies nonchalently continued chomping at the bracken, gently rustling the foliage underfoot.  Their inelegant legs were matted with dried mud.Hungerford cottage 12.12

The building pointed out by Lindsey yesterday as having been the Post Office is Hungerford Cottage which lies on Running Hill shortly before Seamans Corner.  Villages throughout Britain have, in recent decades, lost their Post Offices.  Another example is Upper Dicker in East Sussex, home of the Village Shop run by Tess Flower posted on 12th May.  That shop once included a Post Office counter which, despite much local objection, was withdrawn about three years ago.  Incredibly this was just after Tess, as a recent subpostmistress, had been sent on a training course by the Post Office decision makers.

Ice pattern 12.12

When a small car containing two women who asked me directions stopped in Lyndurst road I was rather pleased to be able to point the way to Minstead Lodge in Seamans Lane.

Four more ponies, which I have seen before, were grazing by the twig circle I noticed two days ago.Ponies by twig circle 12.12  I reflected that these animals are often seen at this site.  I then remembered that last night, driving back in the dark, I had recognised the pony from outside Perry Farm just a bit further up the road than usual.  Arriving at Seamans Corner two and a half hours after I had passed the first quartet of ponies, I saw that three of them had made it this far down Running Hill.  I now begin to understand how Jeanie, who I met on the 30th November, recognises photographs of her ponies.  They seem to have their own preferred or allocated territories and, contrary to my uneducated original impression, they do not all look alike.  Obviously they have different colouring, bearing different shades of white; and browns ranging from ochre to chocolate; with white, golden, black, or brown manes.

I am beginning to know my equine neighbours; those streets that do have names; the names of some buildings I pass; even one or two actual people.  Hey, I’m almost a local.

This evening’s meal consisted of Jackie’s succulent cottage pie followed by apple crumble.  I finished the McGuigan Estate shiraz and Jackie didn’t.