Harbingers Of Spring

With a weak sun periodically lifting the grey of the day, after a shop at Tesco Jackie and I drove into the forest, where we found reflecting pools continuing along the lanes and verges,

such as those of Bisterne Close;

Forest Road, where one rather bewildered gull looked bemused as a flock of others took off when we arrived;

and Beckley Common Road, along which the worst potholes have actually recently been filled.

This latter road also harbours discarded wheelbarrows beside mossy roots like those on the bank at the other end of

Bennets Lane from

The White Buck pub.

Another wrecked van has been dumped on the path to a house off Molsley Passage. I hope the residents take comfort from the

golden gorse landscape they can look out on.

Currently the ubiquitous blackthorn rivals the splendour of the gorse.

Although we are certainly seeing harbingers of spring, ponies like this one on Bisterne Close are retaining their shaggy winter coats.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s tasty penne Bolognese with Parmesan cheese. I added Scotch Bonnet sauce to mine. The Culinary Queen and Ian both drank Blue Moon and I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

A Roll In The Leaves

On another sunny, bright, and cold day a brisk morning foray into a garden somewhat

iced up, as on the surface of this water-filled trug,

revealed our model pig celebrating his escape from crushing by the recently fallen tree by casting his shadows across the patio paving.

On the rooftop, the jackdaws are vociferously laying their customary claim to nesting rights in the disused chimney pots.

This afternoon we took a forest drive to Bisterne Close and back.

The decorated post box in Wootton Road now celebrates New Year.

The water-filled woodland as we turn into the close reflected the low sun peering through the trees.

The woodland floor is now dry enough to crackle the leaves, yet still fresh enough for mossy roots.

Ponies wandered freely;

one enjoyed a roll in the leaves, rising in the usually ungainly fashion and wandering off, oblivious of the coat of leaves it now wore.

I spotted Jackie photographing the woodland some distance off and only later realised that she was intrigued by wondering how this hollowed trunk could remain standing.

More sunlight reflections bounced from the icy surface of the close’s seasonal pool.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s tasty beef pie; boiled new potatoes; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower and broccoli, and thick, meaty, gravy with which the Culinary Queen finished the Spanish rosado and I drank Carménère Reserva Privada 2022

Woodland Ponies

On this first dry day for a while I was able to tramp among ponies

reappearing in the woodland, through which the sun occasionally filtered, dappling the trees. Recent rains have kept the mossy roots shining bright. The tepees of branches are human structures for the benefit of insects and other wildlife.

This evening we all dined on racks of spare ribs in barbecue sauce on a bed of Jackie’s colourful savoury rice, with tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the shiraz.

Hale Purlieu And Godshill

Yesterday having been Bill’s 90th Birthday, Helen hosted open house today, so, carrying gifts, Jackie and I visited for a short time in the afternoon where we also met John, Stephanie, Billy, Max, and Rory; David and Jenny; and, briefly, Rachel. Helen provided plentiful snacks and a variety of beverages.

We retuned home through the forest via Hale, where cattle were in the

process of leaving the green and following walkers down the rocky sward of the hill.

Further on along the Purlieu ponies on the march rustled and thudded

in the woodland, or, with frisky foals, clopped along the tarmac flanked by mossy roots on raised banks and sculptural piles of similarly greened logs.

On the approach to Godshill we encountered another mare and foal. Note the wooden posts intended to deter drivers from parking on the verges.

We arrived home in time to see the last set of the Wimbledon Men’s tennis final between Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokavic.

Then we all dined on Jackie’s lemon chicken and savoury rice with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Passamano Frappato Syrah 2021.

Equine Siesta

This afternoon we took a drive out to Pilley, first to book a table at Fleur de Lys, then to have another look at the new foal. The pub was no longer serving meals and would close again in two weeks until new management took over; there was no pony in sight in the village. So we were doubly disappointed yet counted our blessings for having seen the new foal yesterday.

We turned to the Red Lion to make our evening booking.

We drove on to Holmsley, where we felt sure we would see some wild life. This was not to be, and confirmed our growing feeling that ponies at least enjoy a siesta on either side of our lunchtime.

Although some could be seen on distant moorland through the trees alongside Bisterne Close, trilling birdsong was the only sign of life in the woodland.

I wandered among shade-patterned and nibbled trunks with mossy roots;

fallen tree remnants with peeling bark;

decaying branches contributing to the ecology;

and a teepee erected as a shelter for small creatures of all kinds.

The seasonal pond now sports flowing kingcups and iris shoots.

By the time we returned home via Holmsley Passage the previously empty gorse landscapes were populated by grazing ponies, others of

which foraged among grasses on the lower slopes.

The postbox outside the cottage on Wootton Road is ready for the weekend’s Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla.

This evening we all dined on excellent fare with friendly service at the aforementioned Red Lion at Pilley where Flo and I enjoyed battered haddock, chips, and peas; Jackie, Cajun chicken burger, chips, and salad; and Dillon steak and ale pie; we all shared onion rings. Jackie and Dillon drank Peroni; Flo, Apple juice; and I, Ringwoods forty-niner. We then returned home for Flo’s delicious banana cake and clotted cream.

Ecological Duties

Much of my day was spent on time consuming administration involving e-mails, phone calls, and research concerning blogs, electricity consumption, and on line banking..

Later, after making purchases at Ferndene Farm Shop Jackie drove me briefly round the forest.

Irises have pierced the ground beneath the surface of the reflecting Winterborne pool upon which camellia blooms have mysteriously arrived alongside Bisterne Close. How did the flowers get there?

Mossy tree roots hold firm on the corner of Bisterne Close and

Bennetts Lane, opposite which a tree, toppled

and sawn up a few years ago is steadily carrying out its ecological duties by degenerating into dust to replenish the soil.

A pair of ponies foraged between burnt gorse stems and golden gorse alongside Holmsley Passage.

This evening Jackie and I enjoyed second helpings of yesterday’s Red Chilli takeaway accompanied by Hoegaarden and the last of the Malbec, while Flo and Dillon consumed Ferndene sausages, carrots, mashed potato and broccoli, and Ellie was happy with Mashed potato and mango chutney juice.

Shadow-Streaked Woodland

Although still cold, today was brighter and sunnier, casting long shadows early this afternoon, so we took a short forest drive after lunch.

Tempting me out of the car, a trio of ponies grazed or snoozed on the moorland outside Sway.

I then tramped over the shadow-streaked woodland floor featuring meandering fingers of mossy roots carpeted with golden, glinting, leaves on the approach to Bisterne Close.

This area has its share of decaying trees gradually returning to the soil;

and of scooped out bowls of winterbourne pools reflecting now skeletal trees on their surface on which float fallen leaves slowly descending like rocking canoes onto their clear beds.

Although the anonymous knitter of Pilley Street appears to have stopped decorating her letter box with the death of Queen Elizabeth, the group in Tiptoe Road are continuing their work.

This Christmas offering was rather windswept when I photographed it on our way home.

This evening we dined on tender roast lamb; crisp Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes, some softer ones being sweet; crunchy carrots; firm broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, and meaty gravy with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden, I drank more of the Gran Selone, and Flo and Dillon drank fruit juice cordial.

A Damp Drive

On another day of gales, gloom, and bursts of weak sunshine our brief forest drive took us along

Bisterne Close,

with its glistening autumn leaves soaking on soggy verges;

its mossy rooted and speckled lichen coated trees;

other one-eyed specimens with fanged exposed roots rising from ancient hedgerows;

a Magnum mushroom;

and bedraggled ponies wandering across into the woodland.

On the outskirts of Burley I disturbed a herd of fearful deer who didn’t know which way to run.

A so often when we dine beneath heavy rain beating on our Velux window overhead with gale force winds gusting outside, we blessed Barry for sealing our kitchen extension roof after several others had failed. Tonight’s meal consisted of pork spare ribs in sweet barbecue sauce with Jackie’s flavoursome savoury rice and tender green beans, accompanied by more of the Cabernet Sauvignon for her, and of the Bordeaux for me.

Alfresco Dining

Much of this sunny morning was spent reminiscing with Becky.

Jackie and I lunched at our normal time. We then joined the others for theirs at The Beachcomber Café, Barton on Sea.

Flo took this photograph on the approach to the café.

Jackie and I enjoyed drinks while the others were impressed with the quality of the food served. Because the albeit extensive establishment was so full we had to dine alfresco and wait in line for that. The service of this family-run business was nevertheless friendly and efficient. As can be seen, Ian occupied himself with Sudokus, while Becky and Flo conversed happily. The final picture in this gallery is our granddaughter’s.

She also photographed me reacting to the apparent seizing up of my shutter while I was trying to capture

shadows of other diners. Fortunately the problem was resolved before they departed.

When we had finished at Beachcomber the others drove back to the house while Jackie and I continued into the forest. Foraging ponies grazed on the soggy turf or tore at hollies on Honey Lane.

The ford across Forest Road flowed faster than we have seen it before.

This mossy bank beside it looked decidedly damp.

Just outside Burley a bay pony also dined alfresco on the contents of a garden refuse sack.

For this evening’s meal Jackie produced roast lamb; sage and onion stuffing; Jersey Royal boiled potatoes; crunchy carrots; firm Brussels sprouts; tender runner beans, and meaty gravy, with which she, Becky and Ian drank Portuguese Rosé, Flo drank Apple and Mango juice, and I drank more of the Monastrell.

A Huge Pat Of Rooted Soil

Power was returned to Elizabeth’s home during the night. After lunch she returned to sort things out then join us for dinner before settling back into Burnt House Lane.

Our storms seem to be over, and we enjoyed a much brighter afternoon when we shopped at Ferndene then continued on a forest drive.

Along Lyndhurst Road

A newly broken tree prompted me to disembark beneath Lucy Hill and explore this microcosm of forest ecology. Storm Franklin could not uproot this small oak, but it was strong enough to shatter the trunk and leave it standing where it will stay until it gradually disintegrates.

Previous skeletal remains are never far from each new casualty

gradually returning to the soil from whence it sprang years before.

Another giant, clearly hollowed with age has received it last push to crash to the ground, breaking up already dead timber.

The mossy roots and sturdy trunk of this large oak seem firm enough, but one long branch now leans against it.

Shadows fell across the slopes of the hill.

Further along the road, also bearing shadows on its verges

a really massive fallen oak must have blocked the thoroughfare until really heavy vehicles left their tracks in the churned up mud. Trees still standing were reflected in the overnight rain pool beside the huge pat of rooted soil.

On our way home a pair of ponies crossed from the sunlit side of Rhinefield Road onto the more shady area.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s tasty sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potatoes; firm Brussels sprouts; and crunchy carrots and cauliflower, followed by mixed fruit crumble and ice cream. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden, Elizabeth finished the Toscana, and I drank more of the Douro.