Spectral Ponies


This morning we brunched in a very crowded Otter Nurseries restaurant before driving to Emery Down, Bolderwood, and back home.

Thatched house

As with many New Forest villages, the approach to Emery Down from Swan Green is quintessentially English.

Thatched house

We have a row of tiny thatched cottages in which I could not stand upright, and a larger thatched house, opposite the green

Emery Down approach

flanking the uphill stretch of an undulating road, one of the warning signs of which bears the image of a pony. Level with the gate in this picture is a cattle grid. Both gate and grid are designed to keep those ponies on the far side.

Thatched house garden

The garden of the house benefits from our Indian summer;

no self-respecting one in this area, except, that is, for ours, is without its bank of nerines,

Roses and nerines

not all accompanied by pink shrub roses.

Turning left in Emery Down the forest road goes through Bolderwood. On its verges Jackie parked with her puzzle book whilst I wandered among the trees,

the leaves of which were beginning to turn rich gold and deep red.


This is also the season for mushrooms to force their way through the forest floor.

Throughout the woods can be seen shattered trunks and hollowed sawn logs from fallen trees.

At Bolderwood silent spectral ponies emerged from the shadows to graze their way across to the greener grass on the other side.

Sunlight played on the road on our return.

This evening we dined on spicy pizza and salad, followed by profiterols. I drank Basson shiraz 2014.


‘You Know What You’ve Got’

My sinus pain was so acute this morning that I hadn’t much idea of doing anything that required getting out of a chair.  After all, I’d already got out of bed.  Jackie, however, visited the GP surgery for advice and medication.  A combination of this and another glowing autumn day made me think I really ought to get outside.

She bought me a copy of New Forest Post, a newspaper that is sold for 20p, which reminded me of an ‘Independent’ cryptic crossword clue that I had rather liked.  The subsidiary indication for the letter i was ‘what you can buy for 20p’.  That is the price of the truncated version of the newspaper which is named ‘i’.


Maple leavesFar more significant for today, however, was an advertisement for Exbury Gardens which is staying open another week and boasts considerable autumn colour.  So Jackie drove us off after lunch in search of splendid foliage. John blowing leavesJohn blowing leaves 2 We didn’t have far to go to find it, because now is the time for John to gather up the leaves in our garden.  Next week’s sweepings stubbornly clung to the trees above his head.


On the way to Exbury, where the house we short-listed is still for sale, we passed through Beaulieu, the river of which was reported by the newspaper to have overflown its banks.  We wondered whether this would have caused any traffic problems.  Although the surrounding forest is now being swamped by its winter pools, the river seems to have subsided.  We were, however, held up on the way back by tree clearances necessitated by the storm of a fortnight ago.


Jackie on pathExbury Gardens seemed to be devoid of arboreal corpses, although we could hear machinery operating in parts we didn’t visit.Trees and shrubs  Two days ago I Maples and rohododendronsspoke of the lack of red trees in the forest.  Now I know where they all are.  Created in the 1920s, the gardens extend over 200 acres of natural beauty, and are world-famous for their collections of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, rare trees, and shrubs.  The colours of these latter plants were quite spectacular, whether seen individually or laid side by side as in a painter’s palette.

Many of the trees here I have never seen before.  It is helpful that they have labels attached for our information. Lichen onmahogany barked cherry That describing the mahogany barked cherry tree was suspended by a copper wire complementing the stripes around the fresher sections of bark which hosted bright green lichen.Path beneath pines

Maple leaves on groundRed maple leaves on ground

No Persian carpet could rival those provided by the maples and the pines.

Some of the shrubs, for example the Clerodendrum trichotomums, are clearly grown for their fascinating berries.

Clerodendrum trichtomum

In the Five Arrows Gallery was a fine display of Nerines, of which the gardens have a splendid selection for sale.

Nerines exhibition

Pampas grasses and trees

Whether it was the air, the exercise, or the combination of Sudofed and Ibuprofen, I did feel somewhat better by the time we returned home.  It doesn’t really matter which it was, does it?  Notoriously resistant to taking anything for a headache, I am mellowing somewhat in my old age.  This would please my one-time Deputy, Carol Elstub, who once tried to persuade me to take paracetamol.  I said I didn’t like to take anything because if it made me better I wouldn’t know whether I still had whatever it was.  ‘You see’, I said, ‘I like to know what I’ve got’.  ‘You know what you’ve got’, she replied, ‘you’ve got a headache’.  There was no answer to that really.

This evening Jackie fed us on her Moroccan pork, couscous, runner beans and cauliflower; followed by bread pudding and custard.  And very good it all was, too.

The Workhouse

We enjoyed another beautifully balmy Indian summer day for our trip to Christchurch’s Red House Museum.

Operated by volunteers there are sections devoted to learning about The Victorians and the twentieth century; and archeological finds going back to neolithic times.  A small garden is as informative as the rooms inside.  In particular we are told the benefits provided by various plants to the ecology. There is a plentifully stocked herb garden and another for roses.

The teenage tyrant Noah Claypole, in Charles Dickens’s ‘Oliver Twist’, named the eponymous hero ‘Work’us’, because the boy had spent his first nine years in a workhouse.  Oliver would no doubt have recognised this 1764 Georgian building in its original incarnation, for it was built as a workhouse:The Red House as aWorkhouse

The separate women’s section of this building is no longer in existence.  The rose garden is planted where it stood.  NerinesSome of the roses were still in bloom this afternoon, as were a fine crop of nerines.


A fly basked on a catalpa leaf.  Bug hotelPerhaps it had just checked out of the bug hotel in the woodland walk..

CartwheelElsewhere in the garden one or two cartwheels that have seen better days are distributed for rustic effect.

As one wanders from room to room of this imaginatively laid out, not terribly extensive, town garden, various glimpses of the Priory Church can be had through the sometimes decorative foliage.Archway

A small figure of St Francis of Assisi stands in a niche in the rear entrance archway.St FrancisPriory Church

Once inside, we were warmly welcomed; informed, as I took out my wallet, that the tour was free; and given a brief explanation of the layout.  Donations were invited, but not until we had been satisfied.

The Meet the Victorians exhibition uses modern materials and artwork to take us through different aspects of the life of that era.  Original objects are on display with a timeline of a typical workhouse day.

Arthur Romney Green was a local craftsman making furniture in the 1930s.  1935 roomThe 1935 room contains model figures with real pieces of his work in a setting typical of the time.  I imagine this family were better off than many. Note the Clarice Cliff tea set.

One can only make a selection of the artefacts and other items on display.  I have chosen one or two that have some meaning for me.

Box mangle

Being confronted by the huge box mangle I experienced a sense of relief that it hadn’t been in our mother’s kitchen when I experimented on Chris’s finger.  When we were very young Mum had no washing machine, and so washed everything by hand.  She did, however, have a wooden mangle.  Sheets, in particular, were placed between two rollers, and you turned a handle in order to squeeze and therefore rinse them.  One day Chris left his finger in as I turned the handle.  Fortunately his bones must have been still soft enough to be re-inflated.  The museum exhibit looked a bit more heavy duty than our version.

Tram model

The model tram on a window sill reminded me of those I travelled on as a child down Wimbledon Broadway.  After trams and trolleybuses, it was the Routemaster modelRoutemaster, a model of one of which lay in a cabinet, that became London Transport’s bus of choice from 1954 until the last one was taken out of service in 2005.  In our more safety-conscious age, it is no longer considered appropriate to have an open doorway, from which the tardy or the daring can jump on or off a public service vehicle.  I discovered that you can still hire out a Routemaster for special events on 31st August, when Anne’s car was blocked in by a pair of them that had been hired for a wedding party.

It is probably well known that one task given to adult workhouse residents was the very painful one of picking oakum. Fusee chain Much smaller, more flexible, fingers were needed to make fusee chains for clocks and watches.  Young girls had that job.  Most of them consequently suffered from damaged eyesight.

A neighbouring case to the one that held the chain contained early writing implements. Pens steel nibbed The steel-nibbed pens reminded me of those with which I had learned to write at primary school.  Desks had notches for ink wells into which we dipped our pens.  One summer I injured my right hand.  I don’t remember how, but I most certainly do remember being made to write with my left hand until the other one recovered.  I am of course not alone in having, during that era, had to go through that particular form of educational torture.  Nor of the others mentioned on 1st November last year, when I attempted to entertain with tales of my primary school years.

The Southwell Workhouse museum is in stark contrast to the one we visited today.  Opened by the National Trust earlier this century, it is the most complete workhouse in existence.  The buildings and exercise yards are intact and, with one exception, completely bare and unfurnished.  Visitors are given a dramatised audio commentary with which to absorb the ambience of the housing of the poor in times gone by.  It is very effective.  The exception is the floor that was used as a women’s refuge in the 1970s.  That is furnished as it was then with objects that had been provided by various charities, and largely consisted of other people’s cast offs.  I well remember an identical kitchen cabinet with a drop-down shelf to that that had been my mother’s pride and joy in the 1950s.

The rows of cast iron single bedsteads were rather depressing, especially when reflecting on why the residents lived there.

Fish and chips, mushy peas, and Stelle d’Italia Prosecco provided our evening sustenance.