Bad Hair Day

This afternoon Jackie drove me to Eyeworth Pond and back to watch the birds.

Golden gorse glowed in the sunshine on Hinchelsea Moor and many others.

The deciduous trees, like this oak, are all filling with foliage.

Walkers along the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive

gave scale to the giant redwoods.

Mandarin ducks are not native to UK, but we now have a feral population which originates from escapees from collections. These two males brightened an otherwise dull Eyeworth Pond.

Birders tend to place nuts and other food on the posts of the gate to the woodland footpath. A moss-covered log has recently been added. The blue tits, a coal tit, a nuthatch, chaffinches and sparrows were extremely busy today swooping to pick up and dart off with nutriment for the babies in their nearby nests.

A pair of sparrows left a tardy chaffinch on the ground beneath the post upon which they filled their beaks, debating who should set off first. Although not up to his flying bird sequence the last of these pictures is a nod to Tootlepedal.

Alongside Cadnam Lane a couple of pigs have joined

the grazing ponies and recumbent cattle now fertilising the greens alongside Cadnam Lane

One pony demonstrated its ungainly rise from the ground;

a small Shetland was definitely having a bad hair day.

This evening we dined on succulent chicken Kiev; Lyonnaise potatoes with lashings of onions; red cabbage cooked with butter and red wine; and crunchy carrots and cauliflower. Jackie finished the Sauvignion Blanc, while I drank the last of the Carménere.

Breathing Pace


No, there is no letter missing from the title. All will be revealed to those who have the perseverance to make it through the bumper morning’s photographic haul.

Although Jackie is far from well, she was determined on a lengthy forest drive on this clear, crisp, morning. Each time I tried to convince her that I had enough pictures, she refused to turn back for home.

Just around the corner in Hordle Lane, gaps in the hedge brought us into eye contact with sheep who have adopted the colouring of the stubble they have been sent to nibble, and the soil they are revealing.

Horse and rider 1

Our first stop was at Wootton, where the breath of a ridden horse wafted against the arboreal backdrop.

Ponies 1

From there we parked on a gravel path beside a group of ponies. While my eyes were fixed on these, Jackie became highly excited by a herd of deer bouncing through the bracken. They were about to cross the road.  I abandoned the horses and rushed to the tarmac where

Deer crossing road

I was fortunate enough to hit my cervine  target.

Ponies 2

My luck held when I returned to the ponies,

Ponies 3

where one, ignored by its drowsy companions, showed two clean pairs of heels in rolling over for a scratch,

Ponies 4

then clambered to its feet.

A little further along Wootton Road I spent some time exploring the stream,

partly iced over and penetrating still frosted landscape.


Negotiating networks of roots, and taking advantage of the apparent firmness of

Ice on grass

frozen terrain,

I was able to explore areas that had been too muddy to venture into in the past. Mind you, I did manage to fill my left shoe with freezing water, and make the rest of the trip in a more than adequate ice-pack.

Frozen hat

A frozen hat hanging over the stream had me wondering whether the owner had got a bit wet.

It hung beside one of the many tyre swings that I have spotted in the forest. Had there been a mishap?


Eventually, glancing back at the more open landscape,

Jackie's puzzle book

I joined Jackie, patiently waiting in the car with her puzzle book.

Landscape 2

We moved on to Helen’s favourite view, from the Picket Post car park near Ringwood.

Walker 1

I walked out along the ridge around a deep valley, where I noticed a gentleman looking down the hillside.

Walkers and dog

He was waiting for female and canine companions.

Frost on ridge 1

Frost still lay in the sunless sides of the slope,

Hillside 1

whereas it had melted on others.

A beribboned tree provided me with a mystery. My solution is that an enterprising wedding photographer led the bride and groom to this spot for some romantic images. That’s what I might have done, anyway.

Leaving this landscape behind us

Bird watchers

we progressed to Eyeworth Pond where twitchers were out in force.

Someone had hung a number of feeders on the trees, and placed seed on the barrier to the footpath. They attracted, among others, blue tits, nuthatches, robins, and blackbirds.


Was this a sparrow hiding in the holly?

Numerous ducks paddled on the lake,

Frosted landscape

and the area bore its own frosted landscape.

Here, I did manage to miss a tree root and take a tumble. Never mind, the camera was safe.

Before leaving Fritham I failed to interest a pair of dozing donkeys in conversation.

It was then I noticed a phenomenon that should not have surprised me. The breath of the slumbering equine creatures came at very slow intervals and was feeble in its ascent into the ether. One could not hold up its head. The exhalation was nothing like that emitted by the exercising horse at the beginning of this saga. Makes sense really.

This evening Jackie produced a dinner of tender roast lamb, perfect roast potatoes, and crisp carrots with green beans, followed by spicy rice pudding. She drank sparkling water and I began an excellent bottle of Barolo 2012, given to me for Christmas by Helen and Bill.


Cherry blossom

Pausing to admire one of the freshly flowering cherries in the front garden, we took an early morning drive through forest to Eyeworth Pond and back.

Pony behind burnt stalks

Sometimes the heathland, after the burning of the gorse, can appear like a Paul Nash landscape. So it was today. As we approached Burley, I spotted a pony appearing to be boxed in behind the stalk stubble.

The Driver obligingly turned round and drove into a carpark we had just passed, so I could  walk back and take the photograph.

Horse, Fynn in box

In the carpark stood a horse box. Peering through its barred window was a far more elegant relative of the pony. It was clearly his portrait on the side of the transport vehicle.

This was Fynn, representing the first piece of synchronicity afforded by this pit stop. He was also involved in the second, which follows:

An exchange between Bruce, Paul, and me, following my ‘Down The Lane’ post, concerning why a gentleman might have changed his trousers, reminded me of the story of the catch, another occurrence in a cricket match which I featured in ‘Six Leg Byes’. What happened was that Keith Boyce, a phenomenal West Indian Test player, hit a skier (a ball going straight up in the air) off my bowling. Everyone stood in anticipation, watching the poor man standing underneath it, as the ball began its rapid descent. The fielder safely took the catch, then turned in my direction and cried ‘can I change my trousers now?’. Neither of us could have imagined that I would recycle that joke fifty years later.

Now, what has this to do with Fynn?

Horse, Fynn amd mare 1

Well, this superbly turned out thoroughbred animal had a plaited tail of which Judy Garland would have been proud.


His companion mare’s appendage sported an attractive binding.

One of the two very friendly women about to ride out across the moor explained the plait. This was in order that her steed did not discolour his tail if he pooped in the van. I can only assume that the mare’s different precaution was either because she was more genteel, or because she possessed a less contrasting colour.

Horses and riders 1Horses and riders 2

Before taking their farewell of us, the ladies removed the constraints so the horses’ fly whisks could still be employed.

Landscape 1Landscape 2

The undulating slopes on the road up to Fritham present typically idyllic New Forest landscapes, seen at their best on such a spring morning.

Eyeworth Pond

Eyeworth Pond lies at the top of the hill, past The Royal Oak pub.

Never before had we had it to ourselves, but here, we were alone with the stillness and the birds, whose continuous sweet song and occasional less musical honks and quacks, filled the air.


Small birds, such as chaffinches,


and nuthatches flitted to and fro, occasionally perching long enough for me to photograph them.

Canada goose

No British stretch of water is now without its Canada geese;

Muscovy Duck

I have, however, never seen Muscovy duck before, yet here was one, gliding about in stately fashion.

Mallards on Eyeworth Pond


Mallards, on the other hand, are ubiquitous. It was Jackie who noticed that only the drakes were abroad, and wondered where all the ladies were.

Mallards three

Suddenly a pair appeared, and, it seemed, every drake on the lake set off in pursuit, until the quarry escaped sharpish.

On our way home we called at Mole Country Supplies where we purchased three more bags of Landscape Bark, some rat bait and a tube in which to place it. We have always known there were rats in the abandoned garden, but it was not until last night that we watched a gang of them scampering in staccato mood past our kitchen window.

This afternoon we set the application.

Jackie’s super sausage casserole, new potatoes, runner beans, carrots and cauliflower, followed by lemon meringue pie constituted our dinner this evening. The Cook drank water, and I drank La Croix des Celestins fleurie 2014.

The Nuthatch

Jackie's side gardenBack down to earth after yesterday’s Mottisfont display, we were nevertheless delighted to note the progression of Jackie’s south side garden, begun some time after the kitchen one. Verbena and marigolds With few exceptions, her plants are benefitting from her love and attention, and the warmer weather.

Jackie was running out of certain specific items of bird food.  They now take precedence over shopping for human nutriment.  So we had to go to In-eXcess near Poulner on the A31 for replenishments.  While she bought the avian fodder and sat with her newspaper in the establishment’s cafe waiting for me, I walked a loop taking in Hangersley, Linford, and Shobley.  Horses in pastureThis consisted of sometimes steeply undulating lanes, harbouring idyllic homes, and offering views of sweeping woodland and hillside pasturage.  Bramble blossomThe thick hedgerows are decked with dog rose, bramble blossom, and honeysuckle, attracting much insect life.

Honeysuckle hedgerow

As I vainly wafted my ordnance survey map and watched horses switching their tails, I discovered why they are equipped with fly sheets.

margritti-this-is-not-a-pipeThe Surrealist artist Rene Magritte’s 1929 painting, ‘The Treachery of Images’ is of a pipe beneath which is the phrase ‘this is not a pipe’.  The philosopher was correct.  It was not actually a pipe, but the image of one.

Hoverfly on dogroseSimilarly, the insect that alighted on the dog rose, was not what it looks like.  This was a harmless individual that masquerades as something else much more harmful, no doubt to scare off the opposition.  Not a bee, not a wasp, it was a hoverfly.

Whilst she was preparing our dinner of delicious sausage, bacon, and liver casserole, Jackie was startled by a thud from outside, as of a bird hitting glass.  Nuthatch on matShe looked outside and saw a nuthatch on the welcome mat, with  metaphoric stars in a speech bubble above its dazed head.  It was then her turn to bang on a window as she came round outside the sitting room and I handed her the camera. Nuthatch on blind On her return her little friend had recovered sufficiently to fly, but was disoriented enough to be perched at the top of the kitchen window blind.  I don’t think it still had limited vision.  It soon disappeared.

The aforementioned casserole was enjoyed with potato, carrot and swede mash; cauliflower; and, by me, the last of the Terres de Galets.

Furzey Gardens

Early this morning I walked down to the village shop, returning via the church footpath and The Splash. Churchyard cow parsley The snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils have made way in the churchyard for cow parsley.

On my return I had a chat with Gladys and Dave in the garden.  John, otherwise known as Sisyphus (see 19th March post), was just arriving for his day’s gardening.  Nodding in the direction of Jackie who was sitting outside our kitchen door, Dave said she was about to be upset because John would start the day’s lawn mowing.  ‘Oh no’, said I, ‘she loves it.  We are going to Furzey Gardens this afternoon.  She cannot go out in the morning he visits because she gives him coffee at eleven o’clock’.  Gladys responded that she provides his one o’clock cup of tea.  ‘He also brings his own flask’, added Dave.  I was still laughing when I returned to our flat and told Jackie this.  She  quipped that he was like Six Dinner Sid.  Sid is a cat,  the hero of a story told by Inga Moore (2004).  He visits six homes in turn, all of which provide him with a dinner.

Nuthatch female

It is just as well there are no cats, either resident or visiting, in our building, because we are really getting to know our nuthatch family.  Dad has been visiting the feeding station for some time now; having a scoff and a few words with Jackie; then, sated, flying off with some food in his beak.  Now he just feeds himself.  Mum has presumably been sitting on a nest somewhere nearby, but definitely not in the tree to which Dad has been flying as a decoy.  The eggs must have hatched and the juveniles grown up a bit, for she has now emerged and taken her place on the finial of the pole, surveying her offspring’s fearless adventures.

Nuthatch juvenileThe younger bird has not learned to be afraid, and consequently skips around beneath our feet.  He nipped up the steps as Jackie stood watching amazed, and, skirting her trainers, explored the stonework, no doubt seeking insects.

In order for John to prune the hedges around Jackie’s hanging baskets and bird feeders, she has had to move them inside for the day.  The fliers zooming in for nosh were somewhat confused by this.  They swooped, they saw, they scarpered.  ‘Where’, you could see them thinking, ‘has it gone?  I know I left it here’.

Rhododendrons at Furzey gardens

The trip to Furzey Gardens was the culmination of three consecutive days of horticultural feasting.  Aviemore provided breathtaking beauty in a compact, packed, area;  MacPenny’s offered maturity in a large space; Furzey is endlessly stunning in acres of rolling woodland.  RhododendronsBerry had told me this was the time to come because of the rhododendrons.  We have magnificent species in our garden, but nothing could have prepared me for this dazzling array set off at its best on a gloriously sunny day.

Created in 1922 the house and garden remained in the Dalrymple family until the 1960s when it was bought by the charity that now runs it in partnership with the Minstead Training project.

House and shrubbery

Numerous paths take the visitor on a magical tour of shrubberies filled with the most unusual bushes, trees, and plants, collected from all over the world. EnkianthusShrubbery and building There are thatched buildings dotted about, many of which have liitle doors set for fairies.  A child’s note accompanied by a wilting bunch of wild flowers lay on a spar of wood.  A play area contains climbing structures, swings, and even a disused rowing boat that looks as if it had been stranded when the waters of the winter subsided.Gunnera Candelabra primulas A number of plants such as the enormous gunnera or the abundant, healthy, candelabra primulas, provide evidence of the boggy nature of some of the forest soil.Bridge over pond Flower bed There is a substantial pond. Pergola seat A wisteria Elizabeth would be proud of, festoons a rustic pergola and seat. Alpacas The alpacas featured on the 30th March can be seen in the distance in a meadow of wild flowers accessible only to staff and students.  Jackie in gardensThere is still much to be done to restore parts of this amazing treasure to its former glory, and inroads are definitely being made. Child in Furzey Gardens I am not sure how much of the uncultivated area is to remain wild, but I hope a reasonable amount.  The original house is now a place of retreat.

At Chelsea in 2012, the Minstead Training Project carried off gold for the Show Garden.  It is in the process of being brought back to its roots in Furzey Gardens.

This evening we dined on belly of pork roasted long and slow by Jackie.  I drank half a bottle of the Blason des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape 2011, a really excellent wine she bought me for Christmas.

Meetings With Remarkable Trees

As I prepared our morning coffee in the kitchen, watching the early nuthatch enjoying his breakfast, ‘The Red Baron’ swooped, like a kamikaze pilot, with deadly aim.  The robin’s beak would have been buried in the side of his enemy, had not the milder creature taken off sharpish.

A baby rabbit sat on the grass outside the kitchen door, contemplating Jackie’s new planting, scuttling under the robin’s hedge at the sight of her, probably having thought she was Mr. McGregor.  This means we will need to put netting over the anti-deer railings, buried, according to Matthew, to a depth of six inches.  Later in the day Jackie dismantled her elegant railing structure, lifted the bricks at the bottom, and disturbed half a dozen ants’ nests.  Which, especially as that meant a trip to buy ant powder, was dispiriting.  After going off for the deterrent, she didn’t much feel like starting on the reinforcement today, which, as I would have to do the digging, didn’t exactly fill me with dismay.  So I put everything back as it was, well dusted with powder, ready for the job to be done tomorrow.

In ‘Our Shrinking World’, published on 28th April, I wrongly attributed a picture taken by Elizabeth about ten years ago.  Today I corrected this and took the opportunity to amend the text.

Berry measuring oak tree

On this glorious morning I went on a Woodland Trust Ancient Tree Hunt expedition with Berry.  When she asked me the date, and I replied that it was the first of May, she cried ‘rabbits’,  so I told her what Jackie had seen earlier.  All within half a mile of our homes we plotted five oak trees and a beech, all of which Berry will submit to the Trust for verification.  I took most of the photographs which will accompany details of Berry’s discoveries. Beech tree Oak tree 3Three oaks were within a stone’s throw of each other in the approach to Castle Malwood Farm, on the other side of the underpass.  Two more were at Seamans Corner. The beech was alongside our Upper Drive.

To qualify for this national collection trees must be of a certain age, assessed by their girth; or have some other remarkable feature.  One, for example, that we didn’t have time for today, is an oak tree growing out of a beech.  There is no hurry, for it is not going anywhere.

Oak tree 5We have to plot a precise grid reference; measure the girth of the tree at the lowest point; and indicate the height at which the measurement was taken.  The tree has to be named, and described in some detail.  There are terms such as ‘maiden’ or ‘pollard’ which aficionados recognise as descriptive of the treatment or otherwise of the growth.  I’m not quite sure I have grasped their true significance.  Details of the condition of the trunk and branches, such as any dead wood on or beneath the tree, or any holes therein.  Moss, lichen, ivy, fungi, and honeysuckle were all noted; as were any particular points of interest,Oak tree 5 (2) such as the beauty of the shape of the oak outside Eugenia Cottage.  The tree does of course have to be named, and we need to say whether it is alive or dead, standing or fallen.

Pipes and gravelBerry was amused at my tendency to go off on a tangent and take photographs of such as a couple of pipes lying on gravel because I liked the symphonic colour.  This diversion tended to puzzle John Turpin when we were taking the pictures for ‘The Magnificent Seven’.

Near the farm, the cry of a buzzard alerted us to the sight of two crows chasing it off.

Today’s title has been borrowed from the BBC television series and Thomas Pakenham’s book of photographs.

Our dinner was Jackie’s liver and bacon casserole, complemented, in my case, by Piccini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo riserva 2010.  The meal was completed by sticky toffee pudding with custard for me, and cream for Jackie.

The £2.00 Pint

Yesterday I received John Green’s package of comments on what is likely to be my last Listener Crossword.  They were largely positive and some complimentary.  John is the very thorough checker of the entries for this, the pinnacle of crosswords.  Having performed this free service for many years, John provides statistics, both personal and general, of such as numbers of entries, successful and otherwise.  He describes common and individual errors, and sends his handwritten extracts from solvers’ letters to the setters.  These days I am more inclined to post a blog than set a crossword.Nuthatch & marsh or willow tits

As I watched the birds this morning, wagtails trotted across the lawns; alongside the feeder station a blackbird, preferring fresh kill, dragged an unresisting worm from the sward; and a nuthatch elbowed a couple of willow tits off its chosen breakfast dish.  The two smaller birds perched on the wrought iron holders, awaiting their second sitting.  A large black corvine creature strutted about for a bit, then, in cumbersome flight, lumbered, airborne, into the forest trees.

The Shave Wood loop was today’s walk.Anne's house  Anne’s house on the way through Minstead which I imagine has for many years been in desperate need of refurbishment, is now looking quite trim.

CelandinesAlthough absent from the roads through the forest itself, the verges of those leading to it are rich in daises, and, seeming to have been blown from the glowing gorse bushes nearby, celandines and dandelions.Metamorphosing tree  Yet another fallen tree is metamorphosing into a primeval creature.

I had a pleasant conversation with a young woman riding a horse along the verge passing Hazel Hill car park.  Seeing someone emerge from the only vehicle parked there and walk into the forest, I followed, thinking I might learn a footpath skirting London Minstead.  It was a small family who seemed to be setting up camp.  I rather hoped the pile of wood being collected was not for building a fire.

As I passed Hazel Hill Farm a cacophony of cackling and clattering emanated from the hen coop.  Wondering what had caused it I peered over the fence just in time to witness a guilty looking crow winging off.

Ponies - Seamans Corner

Back at Seamans Corner ponies were gathered grazing on the first fresh green grass they can have tasted for months.

Before our evening meal Jackie and I visited the Trusty for one drink each.  A pint of Doom Bar (£3.95) and a small bottle of Peroni (£3.50) cost £7.45.  Yes, £7.45 for two drinks.  We then reminisced over the time, probably in the 1980s, when we began to wonder how long it would be before you didn’t get any change out of £2.00 for a pint of beer; and, not much later, when would £5.00 be inadequate for a round of two drinks?  Unless you happen to live near a Wetherspoons the £2.00 pint is long gone.  How can that chain do it?

On our return, to accompany Jackie’s succulent roast pork dinner, she drank Hoegaarden and I had Carta Rosa gran reserva 2005.