The Litter Nest

Tree topsWoodland 1Woodland 2Bunting rope My first walk today was through the woodland. After a while, I diverged from the footpath, and, although I kept it vaguely to my left, found it difficult to regain until I noticed a rope with strips of coloured cloth lying on the ground and leading off in the right direction. I had seen the other end of this a couple of days ago, so I followed it with success, and returned home in time for Jackie to drive Becky and me to Emsworth, so our daughter could keep an appointment in Havant and I could take a further amble around the quay.

From North Road I took the path through St James’s Churchyard to the A259 which I crossed and turned into Bath Road. I followed this alongside the Mill Pond as far as the Sailing Club and walked around the pond, along Fisherman’s Walk and down the jetty. This occupied me until the light changed as the dazzling sun gradually made way for the gentler moon. It had grown dark by the time my chauffeuse and Becky picked me up again at the corner of Bath Road. St James's Church Bath RoadGulls on Mill Pond 0-0-0-x773-mute-swan-litter-nest-12.05.13                               I had hoped to photograph the ‘litter nest’ which, for the last three years has been found beneath the bridge over the pond at that point. It was no longer there, so I have used Rosemary Hampton’s illustration from 2013. Becky told me the story. The nest, made from assorted pieces of litter, has been home to a pair of mute swans and their intended progeny. There has been much local concern at the failure to thrive of eggs that have been laid there, because the nest has regularly become waterlogged. This year, for example, of a clutch of six, only one has survived. It is seen in the foreground of this photograph I took today:                                                                                                          Waterfowl with young swan Conservationists have cleared away the nest and will place a nesting raft on the site. Any home built on it will float on the rising waters.   Gulls being fed 1Gulls being fed                                                                     In the bright afternoon sunshine seagulls squabbled over food that was being thrown to the waterfowl, by numerous walkers along the banks. Ducks, swans, gulls and coots played, paddled, drank, and fished in the pond.                                                                      Tree by Mill Pond Quayside Fisherman's Walk Swan stretchingOne-legged swanSwan dance Egret The tide was out on the far side of the well populated Fisherman’s Walk and under the jetty. Water dripped from their beaks as swans waddled, paddled, and slaked their thirst among coots, egrets and other wading birds among the silt and shallow stretches. One flapped its wings; another managed admirably on its one leg; and a seemingly inseparable pair formed curving patterns as they danced along. Boat and swansBoats

Pleasure boats lay apparently stranded.

Couple on jetty

A gentleman on the jetty pointed out godwits to his female companion.

Geese in skyGeese on water

Honking of geese at times filled the skies, at others dominated strips of water.


Jackie produced a splendid penne bolognese, with which she and Ian drank Peroni, for our evening meal. I finished the Cotes du Rhone Villages.

The Reluctant Recliner

On another unseasonably warm, mostly overcast, day, Jackie drove Becky and me to Emsworth and back, so that our daughter, who, with her family is still with us, could keep an appointment. I wandered around the town, walking down Queen Street to Slipper Mill Pond, then back up the hill and round to the harbour and the Mill Pond.Dolphin Quay 1Dolphin Quay 2Reflected mastsHullBoat buffersCoot 1Coot 2Egret
First I came to Dolphin Quay, from which I took the footpath along the pond and watched gulls, an egret, and coots scratching around in the silt, or paddling in the shallow pools.
The tide was out in the Slipper Pond and the harbour, but the Mill Pond provided a good swimming area for various water fowl, such as elegant swans; further coots, one of which admired its reflection in a film of water on the concrete; and mallards parading in their colourful mating regalia.GullsMill PondMallardsEmsworth harbour boats ang gullsThe Oyster Trail signThe Oyster Trail
Between the harbour and the Mill Pond runs The Fisherman’s Walk, part of The Oyster Trail which is described on an encased information board.
On our journey back to Downton, I bent my head downwards at some point. Knowing my propensity for falling asleep in the passenger seat, Becky, behind me, assumed this is what I had done. She went on to recount an occasion when, in 2007, she had driven me and Flo back to London from a trip to Newark. Apparently I had nodded off in the front seat and Becky directed Flo, who sat behind me, very, very, gradually to turn the wheel at the side of the chair so that I could adopt a fully reclined position. This had to be done inches at a time in order to effect a smooth drop so that I would not be woken. ‘Mum, Mum’, our granddaughter would whisper at intervals in order to indicate the inefficacy of the exercise. Flo was enjoined to continue until the seat was prone. I remained fully erect, unsupported, and fast asleep with my chin on my chest. Flo then was instructed to reverse the process. Keeping the necessary silence must have severely tested both mother and daughter.
This evening, before the Emsworth family returned home, we dined on Jackie’s superb chicken jalfrezi (recipe), egg korma, savoury rice, and paratas; followed by a choice sweets, mine being egg custard. I drank Reserve des Tuguets Madiran 2010. and Jackie drank Hoegaarden. The others chose sparkling water.

The Shredder

A little cooler than yesterday, we nevertheless had a bright, clear day with intermittent clouds scudding across the sky.

Helen and Bill visited this morning bearing champagne and pinks in celebration of the birthday on which Jackie has reached her official extended retirement age.

Late in the afternoon I walked to Imperial China.  Not the real one, Ian will be relieved to know.  The restaurant in Lyndhurst where I was to meet Jackie for her birthday meal.


Daisies are now seriously rivalling the taller buttercups in the fields and verges of Minstead; and, whichever you plump for, the blossom or the month, May is out.May

I took the route up Mill Lane and via Pikes Hill. Oak by Mill Lake An aged oak that bears a warning sign about the depth of the Mill lake must, if not already plotted, be a candidate for The Woodland Trust Ancient Tree registration.

Mill Lane

As I walked the lanes and tracks in the splendid light, I reflected on the fact that it is almost 48 years since Jackie and I first met.  As we embark upon old age together we have an inestimable blessing in that, despite having been reunited comparatively recently after spending most of our lives apart, we have memories of our early years together.  Unlike most people who come together later in life, we have no need to imagine the younger versions of each other.  We knew them.

In the restaurant we shared a joke with the waitress who assumed that the T’sing tao beer would be mine and the sauvignon blanc Jackie’s.  Next to us were a silent couple, a generation apart in age.  In what seemed to me a role reversal the woman in her eighties spent the whole time reading from a mobile device, while the younger man we assumed to be her son ate his meal without a word.

A rowdy birthday party group more than made up for this.  Why is it that such crowds always seem to have imbibed a good few drinks before they arrive, and always bring along at least one cackling chicken and a couple of laughing hyenas?

We have noticed before that it is very easy to miss the shredding of the duck, done at your table and with a sleight of hand that would qualify the prestidigitator for The Magic Circle. Shredding duck Even being prepared for this performance, I only just got my camera out in time.

We did of course enjoy the meal and the company.


Sunlight across lawn 2.13Shafts of sunlight from across the frosted lawn early this morning signalled the glorious day we were to have.  As I walked through Minstead joyous church bells vied with celebratory birdsong for attention.  The solitary crowing cock barely competed.

Berry stopped her car and got out for a chat.  She has been engaged in rescuing a pony.  This creature, now billeted with her own two, disappeared last summer and has been sought ever since.  He turned up recently in a very sorry state, really thin, and not eating much.  Apparently he is not a good forager and has just spent an awful winter trying to do just that.

Ponies 2.13Just past Football Green, on the right, there is a rough road going uphill past a large imposing building.  Ignoring the ‘No Through Road’ sign, I took that route.  Williams Hill House is the big one.  There are also two farms, one of which is called Mill Lane Farm.  Eventually the road peters out into a wide footpath.  Mill Lane path 2.13This is very churned up.  Walking down it I was puzzled to see two bridged streams in quick succession running under it.  I also had to battle with the mud-suction for possession of my walking boots.  Having run down to the streams the path then rose and turned round to the right revealing a most idyllic sight.  Perched atop a wooded bank was a group of old brick buildings having undergone recent renovation.  Mill pond 2.13The bank sloped down to a wide and deep millpond whose clear waters reflected the surrounding trees.

I considered that if it were possible to continue the way I was going I might emerge somewhere in the vicinity of Emery Down.  As I wasn’t sure, I was rather relieved to see the sunlit steam of human exhalation billowing like tobacco smoke from the leafy bank.  A woolly-hatted bearded head, and then an athletic looking body, rose into view. Robert 2.13 I was looking up at Robert, with whom a long chat ensued.  Robert had spent twenty years turning the buildings into a most attractive home.  He explained that the mill itself was no longer in existence.  He also confirmed that if I continued up the slippery path, I would soon reach a road which, turning right would bring me to Emery Down.

Emery Down almshouses 2.13Some time later I was in Emery Down, from where I took my usual route back home.  In that village there is a rather beautiful collection of almshouses, a banner on the railings of which announces a refurbishment project for 2013.

Crocuses 2.13Apple and spring bulbs, The Down House 2.13After lunch we joined Elizabeth and Mum at The Down House in Itchen Abbas.  This is a large private house that was open today under the National Gardens Scheme.  The organisation enables home owners to display their gardens to the public on two or three days a year.  The small entrance fees are donated to various charities.  Jackie and Mark Porter, the owners, had a splendid day.  Parking was well organised and catering was excellent. Down House garden (2) 2.13Down House garden 2.13 The garden was very well laid out, the woodland walk being at its best at this time.

Candle, The Hampshire Bowman 2.13In the evening, Elizabeth, Jackie and I dined at ‘The Hampshire Bowman’, at Dundridge, near Bishop’s Waltham.  This is reached by following a long winding single track road perhaps a couple of miles long.  I had been to this real ale pub once before for a drink with Paul Newsted. Tonight  we chose to sit close to the log fire.  The mantelpiece contained a row of candles in their brass sticks.  As the barman lit them before transferring them to tables, he told us why the one on the left hand end burnt down quicker than the others and produced nobbly stalactites.  It was in the direct line of a draft between two doors, so the flame was always flickering with interesting results.  A small boy, on leaving the pub, couldn’t resist peeling off some of the nobbly bits.

Proud of its range of beers, the establishment only reluctantly serves the odd lager.  Fortunately for Jackie, there was Becks on offer.  Elizabeth and I drank Wallops Wood.  Jackie and I consumed excellent mushroom soup.  The very good main courses were roast chicken for Elizabeth; roast lamb for me; and fish and chips for Jackie.  Blackberry and apple crumble; sticky toffee pudding; and bread and butter pudding, were all equally delicious.

An ageing lurcher, to no avail, sat hopefully under our table.