The Bit Between Her Teeth

Each morning at dawn, as I work on my laptop, I watch pigeons

sizing each other up on the telephone cables,

or atop the blighted oak on the opposite side of Christchurch Road.

Later in the morning, Jackie walked into the garden to bring back photographs of her cyclamens lining the Head Gardener’s Walk.

Having got the bit between her teeth she continued with daffodils,

with camellias,

and with hellebores.

Our sister in law, Frances, came over for a visit this afternoon. This was very supportive.

Later, Sam joined us from Australia. We enjoyed fond reminiscences punctuating our shared sadness.

We dined on Jackie’s splendid cottage pie, crisp carrots and cauliflower; tender cabbage, leaks, and runner beans. I managed a small portion.

Rosie Lea

This afternoon Jackie drove Becky and me on a recce through the waterlogged forest. On another reasonably warm day, we enjoyed a little sunshine and a lot of showers.

The first stop was near Wootton Bridge on the way to Brockenhurst.

Pool in forest 1Pool in forest 2Pool in forest 3

There we encountered expanding pools of water on the forest floor,

Pool in forest 4Trees and pool 1Trees and pool 2

Stream in forest 1

a swollen stream,

Forest trees 1Trees in forest 2

intermittent sunshine,


and moody clouds above.

Becky, red coat in forest

Becky’s red coat brightened the landscape a bit.

Pony 1

Soon after we continued our journey, I spotted a pony mother and child foraging by the roadside, and prevailed upon my driver to stop. As I emerged from the car, my potential subject, completely oblivious of oncoming traffic, stepped into the road and made a beeline for me. Wary of the ticks these creatures carry, I returned to the passenger seat.

Pony at back window

Becky photographed our friend through the back window.

Pony at passenger window

The beast then walked round to my door and I took over the camera.

Pony holding up traffic

Our continuing progress was then briefly impeded by another pony in the road.

Oak tree

Eventually we arrived at Brockenhurst where the sun now shone on oaks


and lichen alike.

Tea cups

It was time for Rosie. A cup of, that is.

For those readers unfamiliar with Cockney Rhyming slang, tea is Rosie Lea, truncated by omitting the second word.

Rosie Lea's

The proprietors of Rosie Lea’s have chosen the full version in naming their tea shop which won the 2014 Hampshire Food and Drink Awards best tea/coffee shop and customer service awards. Incidentally the Bakehouse, that had the queue across the road yesterday, was the best baker. This photograph also doubles as a selfie for Jackie and me.

Tea and cakes

The cups and saucers in the cabinet photographed above are those used to serve tea in this establishment which also plays ’50s pop music for the customers.

Sway Tower at sunset

Shortly before sunset we returned via Sway Tower, otherwise known as Peterson’s Folly.

Sway Tower trial at sunset

Before building his monument, Judge Peterson erected a trial model, which is shown to the right of this picture.


Sunset was in its prime above Christchurch Road when we arrived home.

We will be eating rather late this evening. This is because Becky and Ian went out earlier and have been held up in traffic. But, fear not. I know what we will be having so I am able to include it and submit this post in reasonable time. It is beef hotpot, carrots, green beans, and cabbage, followed by profiteroles. I will drink more El Sotillo, Jackie will imbibe Hoegaarden, and I expect Ian will have a beer and Becky rose wine. The food will, of course, be cooked to perfection.


Clouds Yesterday evening’s volcanic skies, casting an ochre glow on everything beneath them, delivered just a few heavy drops of the promised overnight rain. Ushering in the month of July, today was even hotter and more humid, yet largely overcast. Red Admiral pn hebe My early task was the dead-heading of roses, and lifting soil-filled window boxes onto the head gardener’s work table for planting. A lone Red Admiral butterfly struggled to slake its thirst on a hebe that the bees claimed as their own. Horses and oak I then walked to the paddock in Hordle Lane and back. Three horses, tails twitching to deter the flies, now sheltered under their favourite oak. One of these animals availed itself of a companion’s flickering switch, apparently to pick the insects out of its nostrils. Mallow

Small mallows now mingle with other plants in the hedgerow,

Footpath obscured

which bears evidence of one of the ways in which farmers obscure ramblers’ footpaths. Look hard, and you may see the Footpath sign that, last year, I could not find until winter.

This afternoon, Jackie found incriminating evidence on our back drive. In accordance with all crime scene investigations, forensics, in the form of me and my camera, were sent in to examine the remains.

A fine fishing line, attached to two square spools, led across the gravel from a gap in the north hedge, and disappeared through a hole in the fence belonging to number five Downton Lane. Doubling as Agent Gibbs, on loan from the American crime drama series NCSI (Navy Crime Scene Investigation), and suspecting that I knew where the trailing twine belonged, I questioned Karen from the Care Home. She had an idea that the owners, who were out at the moment, were residents. A most cooperative witness, she removed the lines from our drive, and pulled, at some length, the rest of them, containing hooks and bait, back through the fence. She identified them as crab lines. This seemed useful information, not to be regarded as tampering with the evidence.

Fishing line on back drive 1Fishing line on back drive 2Fishing line on back drive 3

Now, all you sleuths, equipped with this forensic record, and the knowledge that splendid white ducks are kept in the garden of the Care Home, and that a marauding black cat lives at Number 5, you must piece together the story for presentation in court. I am confident this this will not be beyond the capacity of that great story-teller, Bruce Goodman, at

Window boxes

Later this afternoon, once Jackie had worked her magic on them, I carried the flower-filled window boxes to the front garden wall, where I placed them as directed.

Tesco’s Oriental Kitchen, in the form of their Meal for Two, Menu A, provided tonight’s dinner. This consisted of prawn crackers, spring rolls, chicken & cashew nuts, sweet and sour chicken, and egg fried rice. I microwaved the two chicken dishes whilst Jackie, eschewing the cooking directions on the box, fried the spring rolls and then, adding a mangled egg, the rice. She drank Hoegaarden and I imbibed a little more of the cabernet sauvignon. My lady pronounced the meal acceptable. Naturally I agreed.


Our daughter Becky is convinced that I bear a resemblance to Worzel Gummidge. As I scanned yesterday’s photograph of four year old Louisa I wondered what the wit would have to say about it. This was her Facebook observation: ‘How clever of you to include a portrait of yourself in the photo of Louisa!’

Horse and oak

Managing a slightly brisker pace than my slow trudging of late, I walked up Hordle Lane and back, to the paddock, where a weak sun dappled horse and oak alike.

Honeysuckle and lichen

Honeysuckle blended beautifully with lichen in the hedgerows,

Dog roses

where pink dog roses bloomed,

Hoverfly on cow parsleyBee on ow parsley

and hoverflies on cow parsley masqueraded as the bees filling their thighs with the tinge of buttercups.

Barley field and lorry

Through a gap in a hedge, on the far side of the barley field, a lorry, its rear resembling the buttercup, the honeysuckle, the lichen, and the bee’s thighs; its sides reflecting the blue of the sky, sped along Christchurch Road. White petals in the hedgerow carried the colour of the cotton clouds.

This afternoon, using the brick pile as a saw horse, I filled a wheelbarrow with logs cut from the last heavy branches of the sycamore tree. Then, with a break provided by a welcome visit from Shelly, I continued in the role of under-gardener. This involved the usual collecting up of the head gardener’s pruning and weeding; digging out some invasive geranium palmatums for her to transplant onto the northern verge of the back drive; and excavating two homes in the rose garden, one for Rosa Gallica, and another for Deep Secret. Rosa Gallica, Deep Secret and pansies.Rosa had shared her nursery pot with some yellow pansies. It seemed a bit churlish to make them part company, so we didn’t.

This evening Jackie’s superb egg fried rice and green beans accompanied Mr. Lidl’s plentiful spicy pork rib rack on our dinner plates. Victoria sponge was to follow. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I quaffed Torre de Ferro Dao 2013.

Perhaps I Am Ready For A Bus Pass

When we arrived in Downton last year, the garden was so overgrown that, by the time we began to tidy up some of the shrubbery, many blooms had died off and we didn’t know what we were working on. We did, however, leave enough in the ground to give them chance to display their wares this year.Unidentified shrub

One such is this shrub that we have not been able to identify. Any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated. (Jackie has now discovered that this is a lonicera tatarica – Tartarian honeysuckle – from Siberia)


Our small yellow poppies have now come out to play with their orange companions.


The weaver has completed the erigeron carpet outside the patio doors.

Clematis Montana

The clematis Montana we retrained last year up the tall dead tree trunk, has thrived and begun to bloom.

I have been advised against gardening until my stitches are removed on 5th May. This means that the head gardener has to continue for another week without an under-gardener. One of the many tasks she is working her way through is defining the edges of what we magnanimously call the lawn. This is what the currently untidied section looked like this morning:Lawn edge untidied

and this is the corner she has trimmed:Lawn edge tidied

The task involves defining the edge with a spade, forming a small trench by tossing up some of the stubborn soil, and moving self seeded plants, such as the Japanese anemones, to other areas which need them.

Lock-up 1Lock-up - Version 2Jackie was spending the afternoon with her sisters in Christchurch, and my knee was improved enough for me to think I might manage the half mile walk up Downton Lane. She therefore drove me to the green at Milford on Sea, where I intended to sit for a while and return by bus to the bottom of the lane. On the edge of the green is a lock-up somewhat overgrown with ivy. I photographed the whole scene in colour, in order to show the pink blossom in the background. However, inspired by, I then produced a black and white image that that inspirational photographer in the obvious and hidden series would no doubt have given a suitably cryptic title.

After this, an inspection of the bus timetable revealed that there was one due in two minutes, and thereafter not another for two hours. I took the earlier transport. Never having used this local facility before, I had no freedom pass, and therefore had to pay for the short journey which would normally have taken no time at all. Perhaps I should apply for a free service.


I managed the walk and noticed that the oaks stretching across the lane to meet the opposite pines are now coming into leaf.

This evening we had a surprise visit from our friend Anne who lives in Athens. We all dined at Lal Quilla, and had an enjoyable time catching up with each other. Jackie and I drank Kingfisher. Anne’s choice was the house white wine.

A Footpath, A Carpet, And An Oak


DitchThis morning I encased my right knee in a crepe bandage and hobbled along Hordle Lane to the footpath alongside Apple Court Garden and back.

Now the leg has toothache. That’s it. My rambling will be  done in my head until further notice.

The ditches are now pretty full, and pools still lie on the fields, although the tarmac no longer carries water.

As you walk along almost any lane in this area between the sea and the New Forest, each step provides a different view of the landscape. I have shown before how the wind sweeping across it tends to shape the direction of trees, particularly those in open spaces. The bent oak in the next three photographs demonstrates this point.Landscape with bent oak 1Landscape with bent oak 2Landscape with bent oak 3Snowdrops 1Snowdrops 2Snowdrops 3Snowdrops 4

Footpath 2Footpath 3A thick pile white and green carpet lines the roadside alongside Apple Court Garden. Upon closer examination you discover that the woven woollen strands that form this covering are aptly named snowdrops threaded through the mulch of the undergrowth.

The footpath between the nursery and the neighbouring garden, with its greenhouse and birches, was rather waterlogged.Footpath 1Greenhouse and trees

Jackie produced two different rice dishes, each of which was a meal in itself, for our dinner this evening. These were special fried, and mushroom versions. They were, however, accompanied by a rack of pork ribs marinaded in barbecue sauce, and followed by syrup sponge and custard. My lady drank Hoegaarden and i continued with the Bordeaux.

A Blighted Oak

This morning began with an hilarious exchange with Becky who corrected our ageing memories over the Apple Juice story.  This necessitated amendments in the form of a postscript.
Oak landscape
The very heavy rain kindly desisted as I walked the two fords Q later on.  The sun put in enough of an appearance to set twinkling the streams running downhill in the ditches, and on the tarmac and verges into Minstead. The blustery wind had not given up.  Its thrumming blended well with the tinkling of water on gravel.
Ripple on poolStream foamingWater ripples on concreteSilently dripping from branches above, the rainwater described expanding ripples on the pools beneath, and the torrents pouring under the concrete surfaces of the fords swirled and bubbled, far too fast for me to get a shot in focus.  The roughness of the aggregate’s texture produced a criss-cross effect as it disturbed the flow of water upon it.
Minstead’s drains are not yet clogged up, but they will be, and the downhill streams will then proliferate.
Oak blasted - Adam or EveI am not sure whether it is Adam or Eve that has lost a large limb to the winds.  This bough would certainly have blocked the road until removed by the foresters.
Heaps of crumbled tarmac have been laid across Primrose and Champion‘s gateway in an effort to make their winter feeding a less soggy affair.
Vociferous rooks filled the sky and a silent squirrel sped across the road in front of me on the approach to Running Hill.  As I walked up it, tall beeches swaying aloft creaked alarmingly.
This evening we dined on one of their very reasonably priced and excellent set meals and T’sing Tao beer in the friendly atmosphere of Totton’s Family House Chinese restaurant.

They Do Pick Their Moments

Unerringly, this morning, I picked my way from the farm underpass to the Sir Walter Tyrrell and back, using a different route each time.  Almost.

I was on a mission to measure the oak I had found recently.  Berry had replied to my e-mail by asking me how many hugs it was.  A hug is apparently a metre, give or take a bit of wingspan.  So off I went and, in full view of anyone who happened to pass, ignoring the bramble growing up the trunk, tenderly grasped the bark.  Untangling myself each time, I did this three and a bit times before reaching the point at which I had begun.  Unfortunately this means I have not found my first ancient tree.  An oak, to qualify, must be 4.5 metres in girth, and my arms are not long enough for three and a bit hugs to stretch to that.  My one consolation is that there were no witnesses to my act of dendrolatry.

Fallen tree bridging stream

Fallen tree signpostOn my outward journey I was less confident than I expected to be on the way back, because I have not made the trip in that direction before, and even fallen trees and streams, which I am beginning to try to use as markers, look rather different the other way round. Actually, enough of one or two of the dead trees remain upright to serve as rather good milestones.

The day was changeable, the occasional sun brightening the view. Muddy shoes The recent rain, however, has made everything soggy again.  I set off on clay, which meant it was still hard underfoot, pitted with small round cups of water pressed into the surface by the feet of ponies.  I could step on the rims.   Where there was no clay, I was soon sinking halfway up my shins in shoe-snatching mud.  Sometimes I could skirt round these patches, but that wasn’t always possible.

Forest en route to Sir Walter Tyrrell

Every now and then I fancied I heard a chuckling in the woods. If I peered through the trees I would see shadowy light brown figures dart across the way, and on one occasion a still, erect, creature that gazed in my direction, then, with all the stateliness of the high-stepping horses of the guardsmen of two days ago, strode off with its entourage in tow. My mockers were an enormous mottled white stag and three dingy little does.  Maybe they weren’t making fun of me.  Maybe they were just rustling the leaves.

Fallen tree roots

Taking a diversion around a fallen tree, an unmoving flash of colour caught my eye, and I went to investigate what turned out to be possible remnants of an orgy.  Discarded clothesSeveral sets of discarded clothing were arrayed on another prone trunk.  Perhaps some optimists had hung them out to dry, and couldn’t get back through the surrounding quagmire tio retrieve them.

Now I have to explain the one word second sentence of this post, that flouts all the rules of grammar.  I did not mean to indicate that I didn’t quite manage the walk.  Far from it. It was extended a wee bit.  This is because what I do mean is my return trip wasn’t exactly totally devoid of error.

Forest scene near Rufus Stone

Stream and woodlandSaufiene picked a rather less than convenient moment to telephone me from France.  I have to answer my mobile within three rings.  This was rather difficult when it was in my jacket pocket and I had one foot in the water and the other half way up the bank of the stream I was intent on crossing.  I did manage to answer the call and fortunately the Frenchman didn’t ask me where I was.  I mention this here because I would like to blame him for what happened next.  Yes, he did distract me, but it wasn’t his fault that once across the stream I forgot I had forded it and followed it dutifully, according to my newly discovered rule of thumb.  In the wrong direction.  It wasn’t until I glimpsed through the trees the cottages on the outskirts of the village of Brook that I realised my slight mistake.  So back I went along the brook, seeking the ford by Castle Malwood Farm.  The truth is, I cannot pretend Sofiene put me off.  I’d have gone the wrong way anyway.

Now it is all very well following a stream until you come to a fork in it that you don’t recall having seen before. Fork in stream It is especially inadvisable to take the wrong fork, which is of course what I did.  I never did find the ford, but I found the roar of the A31 an increasingly friendly sound.  I was soon walking under it and up the steep climb to home.  Elizabeth chose to present me with the second inconveniently timed call of the morning as I was ascending the almost perpendicular stretch of this.

Lyndhurst’s Passage to India provided our evening meal with which Jackie and I both drank Kingfisher.  We had to drive out there and sit down in the restaurant of course.

All Is Right With The World

This warm, bright, morning I walked, with a little diversion, the two underpasses route via Sir Walter Tyrrell that I had discovered three days ago.


Pony droppingsI took a different diagonal across the, in parts still waterlogged, heathland towards the inn, as usual following pony droppings as a guide.  Woodland near Rufus StoneWhen I saw the Rufus Stone through the trees on my right, I realised I had a fair chance of emerging from the forest at the Sir Walter Tyrrell. Oak near Sir Walter Tyrrell Indeed, I did arrive at a magnificent oak alongside the pub.  I have photographed it to e-mail to Berry for consideration for the Ancient Tree Hunt.  My sense of direction continued to be devoid of error.  This encouraged me to take a much wider diversion to Castle Malwood Farm. Fallen trees

Such paths as there were through the forest were often completely blocked by fallen trees, and had a tendency to dissolve into a shoe sucking quagmire. Trees in leafElegant treeThe freshly leaved and sometimes elegantly shaped trees glowed in the mid-morning sun as I made my way, not exactly unerringly, through the woodland.  Woodland near Castle Malwood FarmMy reluctance to accept that a stream I crossed was an extension of the one I had forded the first time I did this trip brought about a minor error of judgement. Stream near Castle Malwood Lodge Perhaps it was a less than somewhat minor mistake, for I completely overshot the farm and found myself confronted by scattered cottages.  Whilst I walked along the road passing them, I came across two gentlemen on bicycles labouring up the hill.  As I wondered whether they would be able to tell me where I was, the one in the lead stopped and asked me: ‘Are you local?’.  Rightly thinking this was likely to prove a marginally embarrassing exchange, ‘sort of’, I replied.  His friend sported white warpaint on his nose, rather like an Australian cricketer.

I recovered a certain amount of self respect when they asked me whether they could cycle to the Sir Walter Tyrrell from there.  I told them I had just walked it, but I wouldn’t recommend cycling it.  Having glanced at their steeds which were rather more thoroughbred than wild pony in nature, I told them about the fallen trees and pointed to the mud on my shoes.  I described the first barrier they would find, and off they went, quipping that they might soon turn around and come back to me.  This they did.  I now felt it fair enough for me to ask where I was.  I was 500 yards from a pub at Brook.  So I retraced my steps as far as the stream, and followed it, which is of course what I should have done in the first place.  I found the approaching drone of the A31 surprisingly comforting.

So there you are, my faithful doubters.  A 50% failure rate.  Everything back to normal.  All is right with the world.


Speedwell greeted me on the verge of Lower Drive as I less than speedily clambered up from the farm underpass.

After lunch a further trip to Cadnam Garden Centre was required.  This was to buy more hanging baskets and plants that any self respecting rabbit would reject if they were served up in their freshly growing salad bar.  French marigolds and alysum are examples.  Unfortunately alysum was off.

This evening’s feast was Jackie’s delicious chicken curry and savoury rice followed by syrup sponge and ice cream.  With this I finished off the Lussac St. Emilion we had brought back from The Firs yesterday.  Taking it away with us was on the instructions of Danni who said that her mother should not be tempted to imbibe for another week.

No Respite

Last night Flo went out in the dark to attempt to photograph deer on the lawn.  They barked at her.Tree horizon 12.12

On another wet and windy morning I popped into the shop on my way to Football Green, took the back road up to Bull Lane, right into Seamans Lane, and back home via upper drive.  Anne, a customer in the shop, on learning that there was an increase in the price of what she was buying, said: ‘Everything goes up.  Nothing comes down’.  ‘Except the rain’, was the reply I couldn’t resist.  Strangely enough this didn’t get a laugh.  She wondered when it would ever stop.  It is Anne whose village garden is waterlogged.

Along Lyndhurst Road long wiggly lichen-clad oak limbs bounced up and down in the blustery wind. Lichen-clad oaks 12.12 Given that they host such slow-growing organisms these branches must be resilient enough to have withstood such blasts in the past.  Many of these branches, fallen with the parasites still clinging to them, litter the forest.

In a field along the back road a dripping jacketed horse pressed against bare deciduous trees.Horse sheltering 12.12  There was no chance they would keep the rain off, but they may have provided a windbreak.

The fastening securing the tarpaulin covering stacks of hay in a soggy farmyard was severely tested. Farmyard tarpaulin 12.12 It was the sound of its flapping that drew me to peer over the tubular metal gate to see the cattle chewing away under shelter.  Raindrops hit the tops of the bars of the gate, slid round the tubes, reformed on the undersides, dropped to the next bar, and eventually reached to the ground.  A bit like A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh bouncing, limb to limb, down his tree in E. H. Shepard’s delightful drawing.

In Seamans Lane Martin, driving for a change, stopped to ask me if I was OK walking.  He fully understood my desire to continued being drenched.

Kalu on edge of table 12.12Kalu (see 28th) is maturing nicely.  This afternoon, on encountering the edge of a table, he would back away.  Like Robert The Bruce’s spider he wouldn’t give up.  Time and again he walked forward, reached the precipice, backed away, and repeated the process, until Flo put him on the floor, to explore in safety.Kalu backing away 12.12  He now does this adventurously and without complaint.

This evening we revisited last night’s meal.  It was still delicious.  I drank Campo Viejo rioja 2010, followed by a glass of Fortnum and Mason’s late bottled vintage port 2007, sent to us by Wolf and Luci.  Jackie’s choice of accompaniment was Peroni.

Afterwards, watching ‘Jurassic Park’, Flo thought it prudent to turn Kalu off.