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.

 

On The Turn

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Anyone who had imagined that the long-running saga of the British Gas electricity bill had reached its conclusion will have been under the same misapprehension as me. Here is a brief recap. I had paid the delayed bill over the phone on 11th January. On 21st I received the next bill, including the paid amount. I was told the payment hadn’t gone through because of a problem in their system. I paid it again. Today I received a reminder for the first amount. I telephoned once more; said I knew my views would make no difference, but that they would make me feel better; then gave my views.

Afterwards I continued my scanning of the colour negatives from Henley to Newark trip of July 2003.

Grasses and wild flowers still covered the footpaths, and I was treated to what I believe was my first sight of a damselfly.

Sheep and fields of grass occupied the landscape on the opposite bank of the Oxford Canal,

Garden with 4X4 and phone box 7.03

which seemed an unlikely resting place for an iconic red telephone box.

 

I caught up with Pacific Pete at the Braunston Turn Bridges. theoxfordcanal.co.uk website informs me that this section of the waterway, which shares its route with the Grand Union Canal Main Line as far as Napton Junction, is ‘one of the few places on the entire stretch of the Oxford Canal where there is narrow boat access to another river or canal. It is worth noting from the point of view of use by cyclists and walkers that the towpath really deteriorates very soon after Braunston Turn Bridges. In fact this section of the canal has hardly any towpath in some places and is a real mess suffering from collapse, potholes, mud, nettles and brambles. It can be all but impassable in places if there has been any sort of recent wet weather.’

Unfortunately, I didn’t know this.

According to Wikipedia, ‘The Horseley Ironworks (sometimes spelled Horsley and Iron Works) was a major ironworks in the Tipton area in the county of Staffordshire, now the West Midlands, England.

Founded by Aaron Manby,[1] it is most famous for constructing the first iron steamer, The Aaron Manby, in 1821.[2][3] The boat was assembled at Rotherhithe. She was only the first of a number of steamboats built on the “knock-down” principle. The ironworks have also been responsible for the manufacture of numerous canal and railway bridges of the 19th century.

The ironworks were built near the Toll End Communication Canal[4] on the Horseley estate, which had been sold by their owner at the turn of the 19th century[5] due to demand from engineers wishing to profit on the construction of the BCN Main Line through the estate. The date when the ironworks were constructed is unknown but is believed to have been by 1815.[5] Industry in the area prospered and the location retained the name of the Horseley estate as shown in an 1822 survey of the area.[6]

With the increasing popularity of canals, the ironworks quickly became popular for manufacturing canal bridges, mainly in the local vicinity.[7]Canal bridges made by the ironworks include the Engine Arm Aqueduct (1825), two roving bridges at Smethwick Junction (1828),[8][9] Galton Bridge (1829), and Braunston Towpath Bridges (1830).[10][11] By the end of the canal construction era, Horseley Ironworks had emerged as one of the most prolific manufacturers of canal bridges in the West Midlands region,[5] especially in Birmingham.[12] This was a result of their signature bridge design which had become popular amongst canal constructors. The design has been replicated more recently, for example in Birmingham during the regeneration of Gas Street Basin where Worcester Bar is linked to Gas Street.[13]

Horseley Ironworks were also responsible for manufacturing in the railway industry. Railway bridges constructed included that of the viaduct for the London and Birmingham to Holyhead railway at Shifnal, Shropshire which was cast in 1848.[14] As well as manufacturing bridges, they also produced locomotives.[15]

The company also manufactued construction steelwork for the pier of Ryde, the Palace Theatre in London, Rugby railway station, a seaplane hangar in Las Palmas and the Dome of Discovery at the 1951 Festival of Britain.[16]

People who have worked for the iron foundry include Charles Manby, the son of Aaron Manby, James Thomson,[17] William Johnson[18]and Richard Roberts.[19]

The firm moved in 1865 to a site on the now defunct Dixon’s Branch, off the BCN New Main Line (Island Line), near the South Staffordshire Railway line. The factory survived under a succession of owners until 1991, when it was closed down and subsequently redeveloped as a housing estate.[4]

I managed to keep up with Sam and James in the boat whilst, having passed under the elegant bridge from the time of Queen Victoria’s predecessor, King William IV, they negotiated their way through a narrowboat-congested area to the next flight of locks. As can be seen, there was barely room for the lengthy ocean-going oars.

Sam rowing

Eventually the rower was once more under way.

After this, I had to find my way up and down various hilly areas, where I was surprised in the darkness by the only badger I have ever seen alive. I was amazed at how fast it could run. It was fortunate that the creature took off in the opposite direction, because running anywhere, by that time, was quite beyond me.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s perky cod, parsley flavoured fish cakes and crisp chips plated up with pickled Freshona gherkins and Garner’s onions. We both drank Pedro Jimenez Coquimbo 2016.

 

120 Animal Casualties

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This morning a couple of administrative problems fell into place. Although I couldn’t get through to Lymington Hospital on the subject of my ophthalmic appointment, my GP’s secretary managed to confirm that the date for later this month still stands. I also received a new contract and a bill for the last five months electricity supply from British Gas. I still needed to phone them to clarify the figures which seemed to be at odds with the contract. I paid the amount shown.

Despite the day being overcast, we went for a drive in the forest.

Daffodils

Very early blooming daffodils had pierced the sward on a green outside Winkton.

Low grunts and high-pitched squeals alerted us  to an extensive pig farm alongside

Anna Lane

the frighteningly narrow and winding Anna Lane,

on the other side of which lay a field of muted stubble.

Pool

Much of the roadside land at North Gorley – and elsewhere – was waterlogged and nurturing pondweed.

Hyde Lane outside Ringwood is home to a fascinating old barn that is probably not as ancient as it looks. To my mind its structure simply follows the timbering and brickwork of several centuries earlier. But then, I am no expert.

Sheep in field

Further down the lane sheep grazed in a field.

Greenfinch on hedge

A flash of green before she landed on the hedge surrounding the pasturage suggested to us that we were observing a female greenfinch. If you can spot it, do you think we are right?

In Ringwood where I purchased some paper and batteries from Wessex photographic, and we lunched at the excellent Aroma café.

Outside The Fighting Cocks pub at Godshill, we noted that the total for animal casualties in 2017 was 120.

Pony on road

A few yards further on, we encountered a nonchalant pony making its leisurely way towards us.

Pony crossing road

Others crossed the road at will. The headlights of the car on the hill demonstrate how murky was the afternoon.

Landscape 1

We stopped for me to photograph this effect from the top of Deadman Hill.

Ponies 1Ponies 2Ponies 3Ponies 4

I crossed to the other side of the road and experienced a pulsating, thudding, reverberation, emanating from the turf. Suddenly a string of very frisky ponies came tearing up the slope and into sight. Now, these animals are very rarely seen on the move, as they spend their days dozing and eating grass. I don’t mind admitting I was a little disconcerted. I didn’t really want a hoof with all the tonnage it supports landing on my foot.

Pony on Deadman Hill

It was something of a relief when the leader came to a standstill and calmly surveyed the valley below.

Chicken and black bean sauce

This evening we dined on Jackie’s choice chicken and black bean sauce with vegetable won ton starters. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

 

 

The Round Up

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With some assistance from the Head Gardener, I made more encouraging progress on weeding the Back Drive this afternoon.

Later, Becky and Ian arrived to stay for a few days.

In my post Quads, of 3rd March, I wrote ‘Louisa has fond memories of sleeping on the sofa so she could set the alarm to go off at 5 a.m. without disturbing the rest of us. She would then go to the farm next door, round up the cattle on the farmer’s quad bike, assist with the milking, and bring back warm milk for breakfast.’

I must have risen with her on 22nd August 1992, because I have now found negatives to prove it.

Louisa and Geoff Carruthers rounding up cow 1

They show Louisa, guided by farmer Geoff Carruthers, rounding up a recalcitrant cow;

Louisa driving the quad,

and Louisa rounding up on her own. Not a moment too soon for the cow in the header picture.

View from Towcett 8.92

The farm was at Towcett, near Penrith. This was a view from our holiday cottage.

This evening Jackie produced a fine roast lamb dinner for the four of us. In addition to tender lamb and tasty gravy we enjoyed roast potatoes and parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, spring greens, and cauliflower. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and Ian and I drank an enjoyable Corbieres.2015.

During our conversation we learned that Matthew has recorded all 30 episodes of the classic TV comedy series ‘Steptoe and Son’ from the 1960s and ’70s. This hed me exploring YouTube. Here is an act of extreme dirtiness:

Heroes From Across The Pond

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This morning we carried bags of rubble from the fireplace work, neatly stacked by Barry and Owen, to the Efford Recycling Centre. In the car, of course. It is a sign of the times that what we could previously have placed in the dump’s large skip free of charge today cost us £12.50. One more public service commercialised by outsourcing to a private company. It seems that less and less is covered by our Council tax rates.

Afterwards we headed into the forest and investigated Horseshoe Bottom. This idyllic bowl is frequented by dog walkers and basking ponies.

Black dog and owner

As we prepared to leave the car, a large black dog, complete with owner, bounded up the ridge surrounding the vehicles. As soon as it reached the grass, the animal crouched for a crap. The owner, hands firmly in his jacket pockets, turned his back and set off across the lovely terrain. The dog, now relieved, joined him. It was only as I stepped over the ridge that I realised that there was a row of similar turds requiring negotiation. Clearly numerous eager hounds had sought similar immediate convenience.

Landscape with ponies, discarded bag and dog shit

In order to spare my readers’ sensitivities, I have not photographed the fresher excreta, but this shot shows a sun bleached deposit and a discarded snack packet.

One particular pair of ponies stayed together, moving to a safe distance at the sight of my camera lens.

A grey,

and a representative of a miniature breed kept their own individual company.

Ponies 5

I was some distance from the first couple when they lurched awkwardly to the ground to lie in the sun and scratch their backs.

Jackie on Horseshoe Bottom 1

It was then that I noticed Jackie had left the car and was setting off gingerly down the slope.

Jackie and crow

She kept her eyes on the crows,

Jackie and pony

but steadfastly ignored a pony’s request to have its tummy tickled.

I wondered where she was off to.

Jackie, pony and crow

She had decided to investigate what she thought was a stream at the bottom of the slope. It turned out contain fresh grass and a small pool. She thought the must be a winterbourne, which only fills after wet weather. Some areas are drying out now.

Bright sunshine set the gorse a-glowing.

Pony 8

Towards midday a number of ponies sat down and dozed.

On the outskirts of Burley, a pair of chestnuts bringing up the tail, a string of others queued patiently outside a house from which, they no doubt knew, a householder would soon emerge with lunch.

At Holmsley we diverted to:

New Forest Airfields Memorial sign

New Forest Airfields map

An engraved map shows the location of the commemorated institutions.

The sensitively designed memorial contains a number of dedicated benches where visitors can reflect in peace,

Memorial plaques

and affixed to the railings are individual and group plaques of remembrance. That of Captain Darrell R. Lindsey stands alongside one for other members of the USAAF.

For anyone who does not quite understand today’s title, ‘the pond’ is an affectionate name for the Atlantic Ocean which lies between USA and UK.

Raptor

It was perhaps appropriate that Jackie noticed a bird of prey circling overhead.

The gorse pictured above is one reminder that Susan Hill’s “yellow season” has arrived. Daffodils decorating the verges such as those along Beckley Common Road is another.

This evening we dined on roast lamb, Yorkshire pudding, tasty gravy, new potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and green beans, followed by apricot lattice flan. I finished the shiraz while Jackie drank sparkling water. Milford on sea still has a greengrocers. The quality of today’s vegetables shows the freshness of the shop’s produce.

Flying Off Into The Sunset

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This afternoon we drove to Lymington and to Molly’s Den in Old Milton for some successful Christmas shopping.

Trafficator

During my early motoring days many cars were still fitted with trafficators like this one (photo from Wikipedia). There was one on either side of the car. These would click up to indicate in which direction the driver was intending to turn. If it didn’t work you had to use hand signals and hope the driver behind understood what you were doing.

Veteran car

This car we followed along the road used one of these to indicate turning left.

When we emerged from the antiques emporium the late, lowering sun burnished bracken and ponies alike. The last of the creatures in this set of pictures yanked away at brambles and gorse as a variation on the customary diet of grass.

Later still the warm rays drew mist from the dampened terrain;

Sunset with plane

and finally, a passenger plane seemingly leaving Southampton airport, flew off into the sunset.

Back at home we dined on roast duck, boiled and mashed potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and spinach, followed by steamed syrup pudding and Cornish ice cream. I finished the shiraz.

Before Gaeddren

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A wet day has its compensations. Firstly, it waters Jackie’s newest planting well. Secondly, it forces her to take a rest. And thirdly? It enables me to delve into my photographic archives and scan samples to my Apple. Today I returned to the colour negatives of the 1983 holiday in North Wales.

Becky 1983 1

Here is Becky outside the farmhouse where we stayed, in the fields of which

Matthew, Becky, Sam, and cows 1983 2Matthew, Becky, Sam and cow 1983 1

she joined Matthew, Sam, and several obliging cows.

Slate mine disused 1983 1Clouds over slate mine disused 1983 1Clouds over disused slate mine 2

Here are some more photos of the disused slate mine, converted to black and white images.

Sam 1983 1

Sam turns to spur me on up the track beside the house,

Landscape 1983 2

beneath which patchwork quilted landscapes are draped.

As has been mentioned before, this holiday was taken before our friends Ann and Don had completed the refurbishment and conversion of Gaeddren, their house in Cerrigydrudion where we were to enjoy further good times in North Wales.

Scrap metal 1983 1Scrap metal 1983 2Scrap metal 1983 3 Scrap metal 1983 4

On this occasion, somewhere near the village, we came across a scrap metal yard, where dead cars of varying hues rusted away among the corpses of domestic appliances.

This evening, for dinner, Jackie produced chicken marinaded in honey and mustard; sweet potato, crisp carrots and cauliflower; and a juicy melange of onions, leeks,tomatoes, and peppers; accompanied by a slice of egg paratha brought back from Lal Quilla yesterday. A egg custard tart was to follow. The Cook drank Hoegaarden and I finished the fleurie.