We are experiencing a little colder spell at the moment, and, this morning drove out to the forest in bright, crisp, sunshine


At the top of Mead End Road, on the outskirts of Sway, lies Boundary car park, leading to a wooded area

Ponies in landscape

overlooking moorland on which, today I spotted just two distant ponies – a grey and a chestnut.

Reflections in pool

Flecks of ice still lay on the reflecting surfaces of recent pools

and crusted the muddy paths trodden by the horses

on their way down the slopes.

Horse riders

One pair of riders chose to keep their mounts on the road.

The lengthy log stacks, with the application of saw cuts, splits, lichen, fungi, moss, ivy, and painted lettering, contain much abstract potential.

Tree stump

This two-faced stump looks both jubilant and resigned at having evaded the final felling.

Reflections in pool 1

Reflections in waterlogged terrain, such as this at Wootton enhance much of the forest floor.

At this point an extended area sported the silvered flounces of a can-can skirt.

This evening we came back for a second sitting of Jackie’s splendid pasta arrabbiata with which I drank Reserve des Tuguets Madiran 2014.



Home Delivery


This morning I checked with Owen the chimney sweep that the 20″ swan’s nest baskets available at Gordleton Barn would not be too wide for our chimney, and that Streets ironmongers in Brockenhurst could supply smaller ones if necessary. Jackie and I therefore made a further visit to the barn. Unfortunately Richard’s offerings were too deep.

Cartwheel hub

In order not to have a wasted journey I photographed the hub of the cartwheel that decorates the front of the shop.


In the muddy field alongside Hordle Lane on our way out, my driver, who has eyes everywhere, spotted a group of cock pheasants engaged in a stag party.

Electric Fence warning

This particular farmer is not rambler friendly, but at least he has attached a warning notice to a newly erected electric fence. That is the yellow blob in the foreground above.

Streets ironmongers 1

From Gordleton, we proceeded to Brockenhurst and Streets, Jackie’s favourite kind of shop. (Yes, that is our car in need of a wash, but it will only become filthy again on one trip around the wet, salted, roads.)

The windows, alone, are most enticing.

There we bought an iron grate of the correct size, and ordered a house name sign.

The burnt gorse and waterlogged terrain near Sway offered yet another scene that would have inspired Paul Nash’s war paintings.

Snowdrops in river

At Flexford, the Avon tributary that flows through the grounds of Gordleton Mill was overflowing so as to provide snowdrops with more liquid refreshment than they would probably have liked.

The stream rushed over and around the banks, swirling around trees and shrubs, and even threatening to bath the horse on higher ground. Fresh green catkins were suspended safely out of reach of the spate.

Sheep by River Avon

Sheep on a hillside seemed to be out of harm’s way.

Derrick photographing

I was rash enough to leave my Canon SX700 HS in the car. Jackie therefore amused herself by taking photographs of me photographing the scene,

Derrick talking to woman

and speaking to a woman whose job it was to look after the horses. She carried what I took to be a sack of feed. She confirmed that the river was much higher than usual, and that the land was considerably waterlogged.

Wondering what the Isle of Wight might look like in this rainy weather, we diverted to the coast before returning home. The island was invisible, but the horizon on the edge of the fields presented interesting layers of mist.

Our route up Downton Lane was temporarily blocked by the delivery  of two mobile homes to Shorefield Caravan Park. This convoy of very long container trucks was led by a brightly lit escort.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi of which many an Indian chef would be proud; her flavoursome pilau rice with added egg and mushrooms; and vegetable samosas. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Chateau Les Croisille Cahors 2011. This smooth. full bodied, wine was a gift from Shelly and \Ron.



Phonebox and postbox

This morning I walked around the perimeter of the field by the disused phonebox and in service postbox, through Honeylake Wood,

Footpath 3

and back across the slender ribbon footpath that will soon be obscured by the farmer’s crops.


Oak trees are among the latest to bear leaves, but those beyond the field are beginning to burgeon.

The occasional light aircraft droned overhead; my feet rustled the driest surface that I have experienced through the wood; and harsh squawks of pheasants lent dissonance to the sweeter notes of smaller birds. Otherwise, all was quiet.

Moss-covered trunk

Water in the downward sloping ditch often reaches this moss-covered trunk.


Celandines carpet its somewhat dehydrated banks,

Footpath 2

and the normally sodden undulating footpath leading up to the bridge over the stream had no inclination to inhale my shoes.

Fallen birch

Smaller trees, like this birch, have been left straddling the path

Footpath 1Private Keep Out

from which ramblers are not encouraged to stray.

Tree bent by wind

As readers will know, we are not far from the sea. Many unsheltered trees are bent into shape by the force of the prevailing winds.

This evening we dined at Lymington’s Lal Quilla where, although it was very busy, we received the usual warm welcome and excellent food. My choice was lamb Taba Shashlik Jalfrezi with pilau rice and a share of onion bhaji and egg paratha. We both drank Kingfisher.

High Street night sky

The sun was just thinking about setting as we emerged into the High Street.


Soggy Wootton Heath

Fairly early this morning, before the warming sun had completed the thaw of the overnight frost, we took a drive out in the forest, stopping for a photoshoot on Wootton Heath.

Frost on grass 1Frost on grass 2

Spiky icing pricked up the grass;

Ice, frost, and mud

Ice, perhaps indicating footprints, still lay in the churned up mud pools;


and sunlight glittered on the unfrozen temporary lakes.

Wootton Heath 1

Wootton Heath 2

The monochrome effects are the result of shooting into the sun, the direct rays of which gave a glow to the shrubs and trees, and revealed the green sward beneath the pools.

Tree, pool, and frosty field

Trees, mud, and pools 1

These shots show pools just behind the lichen-laden trees. Further back, beyond the dogwood, lies a frosted field, seen in the first.

Ponies 1

The muddy soil is churned up by ponies, such as these two, apparently asleep. They must be asleep, otherwise they would be chomping grass.


Hello! The one on the right has woken, and, attracted by the prospect of Jackie in the Modus possibly being daft enough to feed it, walked over to the car and waited patiently.

Ponies 2Ponies 3

I, on the other hand, crossed the road and focussed on other grazers seeking out the drier parts of the soggy terrain.

Ponies 4

Soon, a clattering turning to a thud beside me announced the arrival of the hopeful horse which had crossed to see if the grass was greener on the other side. The clatter was made by hooves on the tarmac, and the thud, from the heavy weight landing on the turf, fortunately not on my feet. Is that frost on the top of the tail of its new companion?

This evening we dined on Jackie’s sublime chili con carne, wild rice and green peas. The Cook finished the sauvignon blanc, whilst I drank Chateau Le Tertre Graves de Vayres 2014.

Late Afternoon

Trees and shrubsClouds over Barton Common

This afternoon Jackie dropped me in the Barton Common car park as she drove off to the Beachcomber Cafe where I was to meet her, Becky, and Ian, after they had partaken of coffee and cakes whilst I floundered through the mud.


A bridge has now been placed over the stream running through the common,

Footpath waterlogged

where the footpaths are waterlogged,

Footpath muddy

or so muddy as to make me fear that my walking shoes were in danger of being sucked off.

Clouds, sea, puddle

At one point a pool reflected the sunlight over Christchurch Bay.

Bench in scrub

The more open areas are populated with numerous memorial benches.


Before threading my way through the kissing gate leading to the golf course, I encountered a rather soggy group of ponies chomping the grass,


or chewing lichen off the gnarled tree branches. This pony’s collar is reflective and a crucial aid to motorists at night. Although the common is securely fenced, you can never rule out the possibility of these animals finding their way on to the road.

Seascape 1

Once through the gate, I took the footpath alongside the course down to the clifftop.

Clifftop 2

Surfers walkingClifftop 1

More of the footpath has been eroded in the year since my last walk along this way.

Sea and clouds 1Sea and clouds 3Sea and clouds 4Sea and clouds 5

On the final stretch of my journey, I monitored the late afternoon sun peeking through the yellowing clouds.

This evening we dined on Becky’s brilliant beef burgers and weird wedges with garlic and herbs. These burgers are built with layers of salad, mayonnaise, cheese, and pickles. I drank more of the El Solitto, Jackie drank Hoegaarden, Ian drank San Miguel beer, and Becky drank Lyme Bay strawberry wine.

A Painting

Jackie read out a salutary item for me from BBC News this morning.Mud-sucked shoe 10.12 My regular followers will know of my penchant for becoming stuck in the mud. She therefore thought I should take note of the couple in their late sixties who ventured into The New Forest not far from us. Twenty firefighters using specialist equipment were employed in freeing them when they ‘found themselves stuck in a bog near Burley. They were lucky to have a mobile phone and a signal’. ‘Phone Signal Saves Couple In Bog’, was the headline.

It was quite a pleasant morning when we set off in the hopes that the ailing car would reach Wells Garage in Ringwood. Tony, at the garage had said they were fully booked and one man short today, but we could bring the Modus in and they would do what they could. We made it to the garage, where he kept the vehicle and gave us a courtesy car.


John had lit a bonfire down the slope to the south east corner of the garden. Masking the trees, the smoke from this blended well with the clouds and patches of blue sky above. It wasn’t long before the rain set in and the blue disappeared.

We spent the rest of the morning at Helen and Bill’s, where we had coffee and a good salad lunch. By the time we returned home the roads were just as water-covered as at any other time recently.

This afternoon I finished reading Margaret Forster’s absorbing novel ‘Keeping the World Away’. I have focussed before on transitional objects. In a sense, Forster uses one in her novel. Passing from one woman to another over the period of a century, in a variety of circumstances, is a presumably imagined painting by Gwen John. A number of women are involved and their lives sometimes overlap quite apart from the connection with a real work of art.

A Corner of the Artist's roomJohn was essentially a portrait painter. Our author has chosen to weave her tale around a rare exception,  ‘A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris’, of which the work carrying her story is said to be a previous version.

The writer invites us into the minds of her characters, in particular their emotional lives, including their sexuality and their responses to Gwen John’s masterpiece. She is particularly skilled in this, as she is in story-telling. I will not reveal the ending of the book, which I would recommend for your reading pleasure, but I can say that Gwen’s childhood is the starting point. I think this version of the gestation and creation of the painting itself is probably imagined, linked as it is with the artist’s waning affair with Auguste Rodin, because it is at odds with the creator’s own comments. Nevertheless, it is credible and keeps us intrigued.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s excellent chilli con carne (recipe) with wild rice and peas. Strawberry jelly and evaporated milk was to follow. I drank some La Patrie Cahors 2012 malbec.

A Screwdriver Comes In Handy

Just as I was about to set off for this morning’s walk, an alarming drip, drip, dripping sound disturbed the living room peace.  The light grey carpet then began to develop a spreading dark patch.  Peering up at the ceiling we were able to discern globules of water.  It was fairly obvious that this would be emanating from the flat above.  But which was the flat above?  I really didn’t know.  I described the rabbit warren of buildings between Gerard Street and Horse and Dolphin Yard in my post of 17th October last year.  That is fairly straightforward compared with Castle Malwood Lodge which has far more corridors and landings.  Our bathroom, for example, is beneath the main staircase.

I found my way to number 9, which looked a likely prospect. Not even that was a certainty.  Some time after I had rung the bell, the sound of a slight stirring came just in time to prevent me from turning away wondering what to do next. A muffled voice addressed me from within and we established that this was the correct flat.   A small space then appeared between the door jamb and the knuckles of fingers holding the door.  Above the fingers, roughly in the right place, was a bare shoulder; and above this a cheek containing an eye and topped by a section of turbaned towel.  This was Chris.  She undertook to go back and research the problem, which clearly must have been connected with her ablutions.  I waited outside for at least five minutes, then rang again.  Chris, now fully clad, had the confidence fully to emerge, and explained that there was an airlock in her system which, for the first time, had caused water to flood onto the floor.  She would ring the agent.  When I returned to our flat the problem had ceased.Ceiling 3.13  There was no harm done.

It is not generally known that, ever since Louisa’s bedroom floor in Newark was sanded, when she was in her teens, I have been something of an expert in dealing with leaking ceilings.

John Parlett, a plasterer who lived nearby, dramatically came to the rescue when water began to pour into our living room.  I was in London at the time, but Jessica sought John’s help.  What had happened was that the man who had sanded the floor had managed to slice into the radiator.  This remained unnoticed long enough for it to damage the ceiling below.  John grabbed a screwdriver, climbed a stepladder, and punctured a hole in the plaster.  This enabled the water to pour straight into the bucket underneath rather than fill the cavity above.  Had he not done this the ceiling would have come down.

It was fortunate for the staff and owners of Crocker’s Folly that I remembered this technique when they had their leak.  Crocker’s Folly was a pub in Aberdeen Place, off Edgware Road in the Paddington area of London.  It was a very grand building in decline.  The ceiling was far more ornate than ours.  Water was pouring into buckets that were constantly being replaced.  I got a few Brownie points for the tip I gave them.

Thus was this disaster averted.  Not so the very first one this rather doomed building witnessed.  Crocker was a businessman who built the place as a luxury hotel intended to serve Marylebone Station which was about to be constructed.  He had been unreliably informed that the station would be in that vicinity.  When it was actually erected very near Baker Street instead, the poor man was ruined, and threw himself out of a top floor window.  Someone else must have named it.  In my most recent years in the area this establishment regularly changed hands.  No-one made a go of it, and as far as I know, it remains boarded up.

After a salad lunch I walked the outline of a Sellotape dispenser: down to the pub, up to the church, down the footpath to the ford, and back via the phone box.  Noticing two couples, not exactly dressed for mudlarking, walking through the gate to the footpath, I warned them of the conditions and guided them through to the ford.  One of the gentleman asked me if I would care to lie across the mud for them to walk over.

Audrey was tying a yellow ribbon around what I took to be a fruit tree of some sort in her garden.  She said she hadn’t got an old oak one so was using this instead.  I thought it politic not to ask why.

Jackie has rigged up a birdfeeder and a wren box given to us by Michael; and created a protective, hopefully deer-proof cage for plants.  Garden cage 3.13I proudly brought Gladys round to see the work.  She was genuinely thrilled.  She told me that a wee dog was buried near Jackie’s bird station, so she might find some bones.

We are now off to Leatherhead to see Pat O’Connel’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Gondoliers’.  Perhaps a fitting sequel to this morning’s drama.  If there is any further excitement today, I will report on it tomorrow.