The First Foal

We took an early morning trip into the forest today.

A favourite route takes us through Holmesley Passage which links the A35 with the Burley Road.

Each time we drive along this slender, serpentine, disintegrating rat run we wonder if it will be our last – so rapidly is the tarmac crumbling.

Nevertheless, the landscapes it affords, with its resident ponies and cattle, makes the risk of winding up in a ditch worthwhile. The intrepid creature in the last of this set of photographs has sunk up to its knees in soggy turf.

On Bisterne Close, Burley, we encountered our first foal of the season. Already steady on its feet, just two or three days ago this infant would, having emerged unaided from its mother’s womb, have immediately, in ungainly fashion, tottered to its feet on the end of stick legs, and maybe wobbled a bit on its first visit to the milk bar.

The couple walking down the lane told me they had seen the new-born the day before and thought it could not have been much more than a day or so.

It had been the first of the year for this horse rider, too. She confirmed the newness.

At the junction of Bisterne Close and Bennets Lane a tree, probably precariously placed in the recent windy weather, had been felled.

It was in Bennets Lane that we came across Abbotsfield garden open today as part of the National Gardens Scheme in which approved gardens are open to the public for an entrance fee donated to charity.

For me, the highlights were a splendid display of tulips in most of the beds.

I was also impressed by the erythronium pagodas.

Jackie was disappointed that there was no scent to an unknown shrub, but she did enjoy the cherry blossom.

The garden views included magnolias and Japanese maples.

The honesty in Abbotsfield was of the white variety.

I probably didn’t need to be enjoined to be careful, but this was a helpful sign placed at ground level.

This evening we dined on zesty lemon and herb chicken, creamy mushroom risotto, spicy ratatouille, crunchy carrots, and tender mangoes touts and green beans. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I enjoyed Toro Loco Superior Organico 2017, given to me for Christmas by Shelly and Ron.

That’s One I Made Earlier

The Milford Conservation Volunteers have developed a Wildlife Garden Project. LeafletsGiles's gardenGiles's garden 2This morning, as we travelled to Studland Drive, couples were seen walking all over the village clutching brochures which gave them admission to 25 gardens in the small coastal town. One of these was the home of our old friend Giles Darvill, coordinator of the project. Giles himself has, in sixteen years, transformed a garden, except for a few extant mature trees, fully laid to lawn, into a haven for insects, birds and small animals. The local badger is not particularly welcome, as it eats hedgehogs. We were there to take the first 90 minute stint on the ‘door’. One of our tasks was the distribution of leaflets.

Giles and visitorsGiles and visitors 2Giles’s garden, not manicured enough to pass muster for the National Gardens Scheme, is nevertheless truly inspirational, and drew a steady stream of visitors.Long grass

Viper's buglossDead woodThe gardener has provided several useful notices, like that placed in front of the viper’s bugloss, a favourite of bees, giving informative ideas about installations to encourage various fauna.

Hibernating and nesting messDead wood provides hibernation and nesting facilities for insects, whilst heaps of branches provide something similar for other small creatures. Creepy crawlies and bees are at home in the long grass.

PondTranslucent blue damselflies flitted and hovered above the small pond bearing artefacts from our friend’s yachting activities. Other, smaller, containers of water are strategically placed around the delightful creation. One small pan contained two large pebbles. Pan of waterRealising that they would be for a particular purpose I asked Giles what this was. His answer was ‘mice’. These would be the field variety, such as the one I saw climbing and swaying on our poppies this morning.

Aesop’s crow had to work out how to bring the water in the pitcher to the level at which it could access it to drink. Giles’s mice have no need to scratch their heads for a solution.

Stone and wood installationCotoneaster stemBird feederThe garden also contains many examples of its owner’s penchant for creating sculptural effects from found stone and wood. He has, for example, simply planted a cotoneaster stem to make its meandering way skywards.

I have mentioned before that Old Post House is decorated with a number of pieces of Giles’s stained glass. So is his own home. When we admired a bird feeder featuring one, he said ‘I made that last night’.

Pony and trapBack home this afternoon, I walked down to the postbox and back, meeting a pony trotting up the hill drawing a trap and its occupants.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak, our neighbours. I enjoyed roast pork followed by blueberry cheesecake and ice cream; Jackie’s choice was mushroom stroganoff with ice cream to follow. She drank Becks. Doom Bar was off, so I settled for Ringwood Best.

 

Cock Of The Walk

The Scrabble controversy featured on 29th May continues apace.  A multinational petition has been embarked upon on Facebook.  Old stagers are leaving in droves.  The UK’s Daily Mail has even taken up the cause.  Mattel don’t seem to be able to sell their advertising space, because the only ads that do currently feature are those inviting players to ‘play without interruption’ by buying ad-free packages.  How cynical can you get?

For some time now Jackie has been feeding not only the garden’s bird population, but also a fattening bushy tailed rodent. Squirrel baffle Consequently she has placed a squirrel baffle on the feeder post.  The idea is that he shins up the post, bangs his head on the concave perspex dome, drops down again, staggers to his feet, shakes his head like a silent movie character, and shoots across the garden to his refuge in a distant silver birch.  This morning he did seem somewhat confused as he sat on the doorstep scratching his head and eyeing his chomping rivals with the longing expression of a Tiny Tim gazing into a butcher’s shop window at Christmastime; his empty paws then going through the motions of clutching at the food.

MacPenny's garden

MacPenny’s garden nursery in Bransgore has a much longer history than that of Aviemore which I featured yesterday.  The small outlet bought from Marcia Ashley-Corbett by Douglas Lowndes in 1934 has been developed and stayed in his family ever since. MacPenny's garden 3 The exhausted gravel pit added in 1951 has become a magnificent eight acre mature garden, dubbed by Jackie ‘a garden down a hole’.  With eight acres and a team of staff you can do so much more than in Aviemore, and the Lowndes have.  The rhododendron and Azelia season was a good time to visit. MacPenny's garden 2 Numerous other plants abounded and many trees towered above us on our trip today.  Shade-loving varieties were in their element. Petals and leaves Rustic footpaths and steps made out of logs take visitors through what is another National Gardens Scheme attraction, this one open all the year round. Aquilegia No doubt the prolific plant nursery that hosts this feature has a reciprocal arrangement with the reclaimed gravel pit.  MagnoliaThe stock looked good enough to have possibly supplied Aviemore.Hosta leavesFir's new growth

MacPenny's gardenerA couple of gardeners working in the lower level shrubberies, pruning and resetting edging, told us that during the winter we would have been up to our waists in water.  The area still looked magnificent, with more, in the shape of normally marginal yellow irises, to come.  The soaking they must have had was clearly beneficial.

On our departure those leaving the car park were treated to a strutting performance by the resident faverolles cockerel as he led his harem across the gravel, past the potted plants, to the safety of a scratching area.Cockerel and hens

He made sure his hens had a clear passage as he signalled to all visitors to keep their distance.  He must have known what we were having for dinner.

Jackie produced chicken jalfrezi and a milder curried chicken with savoury rice followed by sticky toffee pudding for our evening meal.  I finished the Chateauneuf du Pape.

Aviemore

Lower DriveBeside many cattle grids are placed small pedestrian gates, for ease of crossing.  Most people seem to either drive or walk over the grids.  Mat’s little Jack Russell, Oddie, simply trips across them.  Flo’s Scooby, on the other hand, managed to slip and hurt his foot on one.  Our lower drive gate is so seldom used that the latch grows moss.

Today’s walk, starting by crossing the grid, was to Fritham where Jackie met me at The Royal Oak for a ploughman’s lunch and a pint of beer, and drove me back afterwards.

SheepThe sheep in the field alongside Furzey Gardens road were looking very shaggy this morning.  All but one unfortunate, who appeared to be masquerading as the sheepdog in the Specsavers advertisement, and consequently retained straggly bits of fleece.  Or maybe the shepherd, having somewhat unsuccessfully sheered just one, had decided to have his eyes tested.Badly shorn sheep

There were still some boggy patches across the heath on the North side of the A31.  So maybe sandals wasn’t a good idea. Stream crossing point But the ponies usually find a way through, and they know it is much more fun to ford a gravelly stream than to squelch through a soggy quagmire.  At one point I disturbed a dear little doe who scutted away from the gorse bushes before I had seen her.  Had she just lain doggo I would have missed her altogether.  But then, she didn’t know that.

AirplaneTaking a short cut across the heath near Fritham, and hearing the drone of a single propeller airplane, I looked aloft in time to see it disappear into the fleecy clouds.  Possibly the plane confused me, for it was soon after that that I realised the short cut wasn’t.  This required the unnecessary circumperambulation of several farms and contributed to my being slightly late for our rendezvous.  Had I not taken this minor diversion I possibly would not have met the smallest foal I have ever see. Ponies and foal He will no doubt grow up to be a Thelwell pony like his Mum.  A little later I was rather chuffed to be able unerringly to direct a car driver to the pub.

With less than a mile to go I found my way barred.  A cow had adopted the standard New Forest stance of head in hedge.  She stirred herself sufficiently to extract her tagged ears and fix me with a stony stare. Cow on road This necessitated a little rear negotiation on my part.  I shifted a bit sharpish as she twitched her tail and tap-danced her back legs.  She may have also moved her front legs, but I wasn’t looking at those.

It is just possible that my ‘poof redders’ may be tempted to inform me that you won’t find either ‘scutting’ or ‘circumperambulation’ in a dictionary.  As far as ‘scutting’ is concerned it seemed to me to be a perfectly good way of describing the bobbing of a deer’s scut, or rear end, as it romps away.  And why not describe a circular walk as a ‘circumperambulation’?  After all, sailors get away with circumnavigation.   I’m hoping the Oxford Dictionary scouts spotted that one when I first used it on 20th July last year.

This afternoon, having slumped a bit after our lunch, we stirred ourselves to visit a National Gardens Scheme open garden in Bartley. Aviemore front garden We were so pleased we did because we could not have anticipated the breathtaking display that greeted us in this comparatively small establishment in a village street.

CerintheAviemore back gardenHaving been planted with expert knowledge and care it is clear that this garden has been planned for all-year-round colour, with an eye for texture and shape.  So varied is the fare that I could identify only a fraction of the menu. Poppy and pond Trees have been carefully pruned; when one plant is over for the year, up pops its neighbour, like the poppy by the pond; variegated leaf adds to the palette;  and all kinds of artefact are used as containers.  Huchera potsButler sinks are filled with succulents and alpines.  One of these lies atop an old mangle.  Mata Hari lounges in a corner by the stream that flows through the bottom of the back garden. Lichen-covered chair A chair has faced the front garden pond long enough to harbour plentiful lichen.  Almost every tree or trellis has a resident clematis or other climber.Cabbages  Raised beds have been constructed for vegetables.

A tasteful, artistic, and skilled hand has planned the optimum use of the whole plot, a modest one that can be viewed on an epic scale.  I remember my surprise when I first saw the originals of some of William Blake’s engravings and realised how small were these monumental works. Azelias Shrubbery, AviemoreAviemore is not dissimilar.

I could go on and on about this home of Sandy and Alex Robinson and their eldest son, Gavin.  Perhaps the attached photographs may be more eloquent.

Helen and Bill’s champagne, Etienne Dumont 2012, was a slightly incongruous, but nevertheless delightful, accompaniment to our evening meal of fish and chips, mushy peas, pickled onions, gherkins, sliced bread and butter, and tomato sauce.

Renovations

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.