Traffic jams are a rarity in The New Forest. This summer we can expect many more on account of Covid-induced staycations. We learned this on our way to Helen and Bill’s at Fordingbridge this morning as we took the direct route through Ringwood to give Bill his birthday presents. We stayed and chatted for a while with sister and brother-in-law and our niece Rachel before returning home through the forest where we spent an equally lengthy period driving in circles around bewildering diversions.

As a bonus Helen and Bill gave me my birthday presents that they had not yet been able to deliver.

Soon after leaving Walkford on the Ringwood Road, queuing to cross the A35, I had plenty of opportunity to photograph the roadside verges. It was clear that vast numbers were travelling between Bournemouth and Southampton. This was underlined when it took 45 minutes to traverse the major roundabout feeding the A31 – ten times what would normally be expected. Much impatient graunching of handbrakes and honking of horns rent the air. Once more I enjoyed leisure to focus on the

varied verge-flora, discarded food packaging, municipal hanging baskets, and streaming traffic. Once past the roundabout we experienced a smooth run to our destination whilst pitying drivers “creeping like snail unwillingly” to the blockage from the Salisbury direction.

On our return journey we found ourselves fairly frequently at the top of Blissford Hill, where outside The Foresters Arms donkeys gathered as they often do.

Three proud mothers guarded their foals; another’s time had not yet come. Another relied on vehicles to skirt her offspring occupying the tarmac.

Ponies at North Gorley grazed among buttercups.

In order to avoid Lyndhurst we took a lane through Midhurst, along which I had regularly walked miles in my more able-bodied days.

This evening we dined on another excellent takeaway meal from Red Chilli. My choice was Tandoori King Prawn Naga, special fried rice, and plain paratha, accompanied by Paarl Shiraz 2020; Jackie’s was sag chicken, sag bhaji, and sag ponir, with which she finished the Sauvignon Blanc.