Now we are back in full lockdown I took a walk along Christchurch Road to the
field leading to Honeylake Wood.
So far so good. I was not quite the only walker leaving footprints on the muddy track leading to
the leaf-laden undulating path down to the bridge
over the fast running stream. Reaching the bridge was the trickiest bit. As I slithered down the muddy slopes I grasped at branches rather too flexible in order to keep my balance, hoping they would hold and not dump me in the morass.
On the way down I was able to take in the surrounding woodland.
Soon I was on the upward, firmer, track,
bordered by undergrowth containing mossy logs, a discarded welly,
and bracken-covered woodland.
At the top of this slope I turned for home – just carrying myself and the camera was all I could manage, let alone use it, as, head down and gasping, I retraced my steps and staggered home, aware that I had seriously overdone it. I collapsed into a chair and rested for quite a while.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata with which she drank more of the Rosé and I drank more of the Malbec.
This afternoon we both collected our new specs from Boots, then drove into the dreary, drizzly forest.
Along Undershore there stood an example of the broken trees on soggy terrain that currently proliferate in the woodlands.
There wasn’t much sign of life until we came across cattle wandering along Sowley Lane.
Owner’s tags, as always, adorned their ears as they stared us out.
Several calves were left to their own devices, although by and large they stuck to the verges. One chewed its tail;
tried on a new necklace;
and indulged in a bit of grooming.
One seated adult turned her clarty back on the proceedings;
another had dried her hide after a mud bath.
Crowds of crows took to the air overhead.
Ponies on the corner of St Leonards Road were equally mud-caked;
one somnolent group dozed beside
a weedy winding winterbourne stream swiftly swirling,
sweeping loose leaves and flexing fixeded grasses while surging to a tunnel under the road.
As may be imagined from its name, such a watercourse flows only during the winter months.
The terrain at this junction between St Leonards Road and that to East Boldre becomes a similar pool during very wet weather. Today a passing cyclist was reflected in it.
He clearly had no use for his steering bars as his hands were otherwise engaged. I hoped he was the only one going round the bend.
This evening we dined on belly of pork, roasted long and slow in order to drain away the fat; firm roast potatoes and parsnips; crunchy carrots and tender cabbage, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Carenina El Zumbido Garnacha Syrah 2018.
On another cold and bright morning we drove into the forest by way of Brockenhurst.
From the Hinchelsea car park I photographed a somewhat misty moorland landscape.
The winterbourne pool just outside the town had iced over,
as had some of the terrain
leading to further distant scenes.
where bracken provides burnished autumn colour,
crosses Ober Water with its clear reflections. Jackie parked nearby to enable me to wander around the
frosted banks. She moved on the the
car park where she noticed a sign indicating the Ober Water Trail. Naturally I walked along this. It is marked by very helpful posts bearing colour coded strips – red for one and a half miles and yellow for one mile. I took the yellow option, giving me a two mile total. The track was mostly flat with occasional variety provided by
Along the way I enjoyed sunlit views of red-brown bracken and autumn leaves, some decorating sawn off stumps; fallen lumber logs; backlit foliage; and tree shadows stretching across the forest floor.
The trail clearly runs alongside the eponymous water, but one needed to go off piste to see it. I am not yet ready for that, since this was in itself my longest post-operative trek.
The yellow marker disappears from the post at a bridge crossing the now visible stream.
On reaching the bridge I noticed an equestrian quartet approaching.
Realising they would be crossing the river by this route, I crossed first and stood, poised, to one side,
ready to tracked their clattering over the planks and
gentle thudding off into the forest.
Leaning on the bridge, I took one last look at the water before retracing my steps.
The sight of Jackie’s Modus in the car park had a rather similar impact as that of Big Ben coming up to the end of a London marathon. Either is welcome, but you know you are going to be hard put to make it.
Those who have been concerned about Nugget’s apparent absence will be pleased to know that, although not photographed, he was about this morning. From the comfort of my passenger seat I did, however, spot
one of his relatives. Can you spot him?
This evening we dined on a second helping of the Chinese Takeaway with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Minervois.
Jackie was up in the dark this morning, in time to photograph
our first smattering of snow before the rain washed it away.
This afternoon we drove to Crestwood in Lymington to complete the paperwork and pay a deposit on our new sitting room flooring which will be laid after Christmas. We continued on to the north of the forest by way of
Roger Penny Way where
the gloom could not conceal the burnished gold of bracken
and autumn leaves.
Among the fallen trees
a skeletal cervine spectre remained tethered beside a moss-coated log.
Blissford Hill was not the only thoroughfare becoming waterlogged enough for arboreal reflection.
The pannage season has been extended. Pigs dashed towards us on
Hyde Hill where Jackie parked the Modus ahead of the
billowing sounder, too fast for me to keep up with.
Suddenly they dashed off piste and disappeared into a soggy field.
I needed to wade through sucking mud to reach the gate.
A somewhat perplexed freckled Shetland pony, sharing its field with
two be-rugged horses and an oak tree, observed the porcine proceedings.
Many thatched cottages, like this one at North Gorley, were able to admire their coiffure in their weedy green pools.
Since our dinner was being slow-roasted while we were out, I had no qualms that I might have been eating the shoulder of one today’s snuffling pigs with crispy crackling, Yorkshire pudding, creamy mashed potatoes, crunchy carrots, and tender cabbage with most tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Fleurie.
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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
overlooking moorland on which, today I spotted just two distant ponies – a grey and a chestnut.
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.
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.
This two-faced stump looks both jubilant and resigned at having evaded the final felling.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 on a hillside seemed to be out of harm’s way.
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,
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.
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This morning I walked around the perimeter of the field by the disused phonebox and in service postbox, through Honeylake Wood,
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.
Water in the downward sloping ditch often reaches this moss-covered trunk.
Celandines carpet its somewhat dehydrated banks,
and the normally sodden undulating footpath leading up to the bridge over the stream had no inclination to inhale my shoes.
Smaller trees, like this birch, have been left straddling the path
from which ramblers are not encouraged to stray.
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.
The sun was just thinking about setting as we emerged into the High Street.
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.
Spiky icing pricked up the grass;
Ice, perhaps indicating footprints, still lay in the churned up mud pools;
and sunlight glittered on the unfrozen temporary lakes.
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.
These shots show pools just behind the lichen-laden trees. Further back, beyond the dogwood, lies a frosted field, seen in the first.
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.
I, on the other hand, crossed the road and focussed on other grazers seeking out the drier parts of the soggy terrain.
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.
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,
where the footpaths are waterlogged,
or so muddy as to make me fear that my walking shoes were in danger of being sucked off.
At one point a pool reflected the sunlight over Christchurch Bay.
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.
Once through the gate, I took the footpath alongside the course down to the clifftop.
More of the footpath has been eroded in the year since my last walk along this way.
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.
Jackie read out a salutary item for me from BBC News this morning. 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. John 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.