It was all go at Castle Malwood Lodge this morning. Virtually simultaneously we were descended upon by Autoglass to replace the windscreen; by someone else to fix the intercom system, including ours and Steve’s at number eight who had left his keys with us; and by a surveyor to inspect what I think is imperceptible damage to the ceiling as a result of the leak from upstairs.
Ever chivalrous, I left Jackie to it and went for a walk. I had decided to investigate a footpath I had noticed behind the cottages at the foot of the hill into Minstead. It now seemed dry enough to see where it led. I thought London Minstead likely. As I reached the turn-off I met Gladys and Dave who confirmed my speculation and said they were going that way to Hazel Hill Farm to buy eggs. They led the way.
Dave told me that if I walked on further there was a path that led through the forest and came out near our gate. At the far end of London Minstead a right angled bend takes you to the Cadnam/Lyndhurst road. To the left of this is a gravel path marked ‘No access. Suter’s Cottage only’. This was the road to take. I took it. It stops at Suter’s Cottage, beyond which is a field containing a mare with her foal. There are many such little families around at the moment.
I walked straight past the idyllic home in its sylvan setting and into the forest. There was no more footpath. However, I am now quite good at clambering over fallen trees into the unknown, and avoiding twisting my ankles on the hardened lips of pitted clay cups stamped out by ponies’ hooves.
Having a pretty good idea of the direction in which I wanted to go, I nevertheless zigzagged all over the place, surmounting the above-mentioned obstacles and living branches, especially of hollies. My ears told me that somewhere ahead lay the A31, and that there was at least one horse or pony over to my left. I decided to go as straight as possible. Then I saw the flash of pink through the trees on the left. That might be a guide of some sort. So I diverted left. The colour came from a plastic bucket in a field. Two parallel fences and a few trees separated me from the field and the rows of houses beyond that.
I should probably have ignored the bucket. Instead, I kept as close to the fences as I could. A considerable amount of zigzagging was required. Eventually I espied the back of a cottage that I thought might be Hungerford, and decided to make my way round to that. It was the very same, and I soon found myself on the shaded tarmac of Running Hill. Had I not been diverted by the bucket, and had I held my nerve, I would no doubt have left the forest just where Dave had said I would.
It is now so hot that Jackie’s garden pots need to be watered twice a day. I was to feel great relief that I had taken an early walk as we set off in the car to Totton in the afternoon for a shop at Lidl and Asda. The chillers in Asda were most welcome.
Some days ago Jackie told me the story of the ladybird. When Flo was about three years old, Becky had taken her to a garden centre to buy her grannie a present. She bought one, wrapped it, and full of expectation, handed it over. ‘Oh, that’s beautiful’, exclaimed Jackie as she opened it. With her arms thrust behind her, as was her wont, little Flo asked: ‘Is it very, very beautiful?’. Of course it was. The present was a stick to plant among the garden flowers with a plastic ladybird attached to the top. Jackie told me the story with regret, for the gift was now rather disintegrated, and had been lost in her move.
Yesterday, my birthday, was not long after Jackie’s. She was given her presents before I had mine. Flo presented a small parcel. ‘Is it very, very beautiful?’, asked Jackie. This delighted our granddaughter, because Jackie then unwrapped a small ladybird on a little stick.
The new creature now has a special place in the garden.
This evening we took Elizabeth to The Plough Inn at Tiptoe. I ate a wonderful fish pie; Jackie’s choice was cajun chicken; and Elizabeth chose liver and bacon. All lived up to expectations, as did the crumble and creme brûlée to follow. Doom Bar and Becks were the draft beers we drank.