An Arboreal Charnel House

Although still breezy and somewhat nippy, our morning’s weather was much brighter.

Accompanied by chirruping small birds, the screeching of the greenfinch, the cooing of doves, the repeated mating plea of a wood pigeon, and the gentle buzzing of the bees,

Jackie continued her various plantings such as those in tubs, stone urns, box containers and hanging baskets;

I picked up fallen debris then went round the bend, almost completing the task of clearing the Heligan Path of weeds.

My next task will be recovering the overgrown footpath leading to the chair in the Weeping Birch Bed. I assure you there is one there.

At one point the Head Gardener popped out to Ferndene Farm Shop and returned with more compost. This enabled her to replace some older material

and use it, to the consternation of a few owls – one of which was given a dry shampoo – to refresh the soil-leaking stumpery.

After lunch we took a trip to the north of the forest.

We stopped on Cadnam Lane to admire the group of Shetland ponies with their big grey companion. By the time I had changed my lens and emerged from the car, they were all setting off into the distance. They were not going to play ball today.

The soft toys attached to a gate and railings are looking pretty soggy now.

Further along we encountered a trio of what Jackie termed “deliciously disgusting” sows.

Wherever we drive in the New Forest at the moment it increasingly bears the look of an arboreal charnel house.

On the approach to Bramshaw I disembarked and made some images that could have been found almost anywhere in our National Park, committed as its management is to maintaining the natural ecology.

The most recently sawn trunk and branches had clearly fallen across the road, for its trunk and branches have been cut up on opposite sides.

A sturdy oak supports another tree that has been ripped asunder.

One decaying trunk has taken on the persona of an almost toothless old man of the woods.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s flavoursome sausage casserole; boiled potatoes; firm carrots; and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Shiraz.

The Barber’s Pole

By this morning I had passed another eight of Charles Keeping’s illustrations on my journey through ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ by Charles Dickens. I therefore scanned them.

In ‘The Honourable Elijah Pogram fled with such precipitation that he forgot his umbrella was up’, the artist manages to convey the lurch backwards that such a sudden stoppage would generate.

‘The old churches, roofs, and darkened chimney stacks of home’

‘This is kind indeed!’ said Tom, bending down to shake hands with her’, displays Keeping’s mastery of perspective, partly by means of stepping out of the frame.

‘On he went, looking up all the streets he came near’, shows a typical Keeping street scene.

‘He went every morning to a barber’s shop to get shaved’ features a barber’s pole of the design contemporary with Charles Dickens. The history and a modern illustration of such a red and white U.K. motif is featured in my post ‘Reprising Ice Cream Selection’. I understand that these colours are red, white, and blue in America.

‘It was a perfect treat to Tom to see her with her brows knit, and her rosy lips pursed up, kneading away at the crust’

‘Down among the steam-boats on a bright morning’ displays a rich range of human features.

‘ ‘Could you cut a man’s throat with such a thing as this?’ ‘ has us wondering what Jonas has in mind.

This afternoon, as part of my progress in weeding the Gazebo Path, the Head Gardener agreed that we should

leave the forget-me-nots where they are,

yet thin out ivy choking one owl, threatening another, and keeping the ornamental tortoise in hibernation.

I am making some sort of progress.

This evening we dined on oven battered cod and chips; garden peas; pickled onions and gherkins, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Calvet Prestige Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux 2018.

Surviving The Cold Weather

Having progressed comfortably past the halfway point in Charles Dickens’s ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, this morning I scanned the next six of Charles Keeping’s imaginative and skilful illustrations.

In ‘Mrs Hominy stalked in again; very erect, in proof of her aristocratic blood’ the artist perfectly displays her haughtiness.

‘Three or four meagre dogs; some long-legged pigs; some children, nearly naked; were all the living things he saw’ sprawls across a splendid two page spread.

Two more leaves are partially occupied by ‘In a moment the stick was spinning harmlessly in the air, and Jonas himself lay sprawled in the ditch’, thus depicting a sense of distance.

Mrs Gamp, being ‘Only a little screwed’, i.e. somewhat inebriated as usual, clearly afforded her young witnesses a sneaky source of amusement.

‘He stood at his shop-door in even-tide’ is one of Keeping’s authentic period street scenes.

‘That fiery animal confined himself almost entirely to his hind legs in displaying his paces’ bursting out of the text shows the horse’s stubbornly combative nature. The artist faithfully demonstrates the driver’s diminutive stature.

The day remained cold with occasional sunny periods, one of which lasted for only the first of the photographs I produced on a walk around the garden this afternoon.

This was a fanning euphorbia providing shadows; we have a plethora of primroses and pansies, some of which are now planted in an owl flown in from Mum’s garden. The other ornamental raptor pictured is the Head Gardener’s latest purchase. Later daffodils continue to bloom, as do tulips and camellias. Honesty is widespread; spirea sprays forth; fritillaries flourish. I think it is safe to say that the garden is surviving the cold weather.

This evening we dined alfresco at The Lamb Inn, Nomansland. I will report on. that tomorrow.

The Hunt Is On

Before the family arrived, Jackie planted eggs, and I swept the paths.

Soon after Danni, Andy, and Ella arrived this morning we were joined by Elizabeth.

As an indication of how long it has been since they were last able to visit, our niece and nephew-in-law brought their Christmas present to us –

a stained glass kingfisher which was immediately pinned to the patio kitchen wall.

Soon afterwards, armed with a little basket Jackie had made, Ella gleefully ordered her parents and grandmother around the garden on an Easter egg foray.

Danni carried the photographic clues I had produced yesterday. Apart from the last, each find sported a clue to the next one.

The last package was tucked inside my waistcoat and bore a little white lamb which then accompanied Ella on her travels. The first three of these photographs were Jackie’s; the next one, Danni’s.

Our visitors stayed for a buffet lunch. Ella had her own little table photographed by me and by her mother.

We have not yet finalised the positions for the new water features which fascinated our great-niece.

With the two images featured above, Danni e-mailed this last picture upon their arrival at home. Part of the message read:  ‘Ella did not stop chatting all the way home about the owls, the dragon, the ladies [sculptures], Uncle Derrick, Aunty Jacquie and CHOCOLATE!’.

Elizabeth left after lunch with the others, and returned for this evening’s roast lamb (not Ella’s) dinner, including crisp roast potatoes, parsnips, and Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots; tender cabbage; firm broccoli, and meaty gravy with which Jackie drank Peroni and my sister and I drank more of the Dao.

Preparing For The Hunt

Ella is bringing her family for a garden visit tomorrow, Easter Sunday.

An Easter egg hunt will, of course, be in order. We prepared the clues for this today. Jackie determined the nine different locations and photographed them.

I printed each one, in which a prominent feature will bear the trophy. They will be numbered in an order which will promote the maximum running from one end to another. Parental assistance is encouraged, but preliminary peeks are not permitted. Naturally the spoils will not be put in place until tomorrow.

Later this afternoon, Jackie clipped a few plants and hung some decorations; I gathered up clippings, fallen twigs, and other likely impediments, including a fossilised rodent of small size.

This evening we dined on tasty pork chops; crisp roast potatoes; and firm carrots and Brussels sprouts, with meaty gravy. I drank Ribeiro Santo Dao red wine 2019 and Jackie abstained.

Home For Dinner?

In my post ‘Not Done With Pickwick’ I featured Frank Reynolds’s colour plates from Hodder & Stoughton’s publication. For a similar reason I scanned a batch of this artist’s work on ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’.

My copy is the limited edition of 1913, signed by the artist: No. 112 of 350. This is not what booksellers would call a fine example.

Although it is vellum bound, it lacks its silk ties and is rather grubby and a bit warped on the outside. These end-papers would probably have been repeated at the back of the book, but seem to have been replaced by blank sheets at a later date. The illustrations are pristine and remain protected by the original tissue.

‘THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP’

‘KIT’

‘DICK SWIVELLER’

‘QUILP’S WHARF’

‘DICK SWIVELLER AND SOPHY WACKLES’

‘KIT AND HIS MOTHER”

‘SAMPSON BRASS AND QUILP’

‘MESSRS CODLIN AND SHORT’

‘LITTLE NELL’

Frank Reynolds’s exquisite paintings speak for themselves. Clicking on each of these individual illustrations will reveal the lines of text to which they apply.

I paused here so that we could go for a forest drive, and will take up the task again tomorrow.

We began with a visit to Shallowmead Garden Centre where Jackie had seen an owl on her last visit that she could not resist. She just had to go back and buy it. For some reason she came out of the shop with three.

Cattle on the road slightly impeded our departure from Norleywood.

Several calves crossed a stream to join the adults and they all set off down the road, making me hope any driver coming round the bend would have their wits about them.

Donkeys on the road approaching East End tempted me out of the car.

This enabled me to investigate the woodland with its reflective pools;

its mossy banks, fallen trees, and fungus on a mossy stump.

Bare branches were silhouetted against the changing skies;

catkins swung from others.

While I was occupied with this, Jackie noticed that the donkeys may have been returning home for dinner.

The skies, constantly changing, beamed over Beaulieu.

This evening we dined on more of Jackie’s flavoursome sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots, and firm Brussels sprouts, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

Cold Soup

Jackie took advantage of the early morning sunlight to photograph

a variety of colourful daffodils;

a striking range of hellebores;

a bee probing pulmonaria;

my dwarf azalea, still thriving after twenty years and several moves;

pale yellow primroses

and their brighter primula relatives;

mahonias,

companula,

wood anemones,

summer snowflakes;

and burgeoning tulips blending with light blue pansies.

When Jackie delivered my muddy red jacket to White’s cleaners last week she was diverted by the purchase of a weighty brass owl, now perched on a lurching post. Its relatives may be glimpsed throughout the beds.

We collected the dry cleaning this afternoon and went on to visit Mum, who, although not quite aware of the global nature of the pandemic, is certainly fully au fait with the precautions at Woodpeckers and the reason for them. Conversation included Spanish flu and the death of Mum’s aunt Holly.

We were required to wash our hands on arrival when our temperatures were taken and pronounced perfect.

As we approached Brockenhurst we spotted a contented pony enjoying the now familiar New Forest vichyssoise soup.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent cottage pie; crisp Yorkshire pudding, sweet potatoes, cauliflower carrots, and broccoli: and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Marlborough Pinot Noir 2016.

Back Gardening

Yesterday evening we watched the second episode of series 3 of The Crown, which contained more scenes and dialogue stretching credulity/

Opposite the field occupied by our gimlet-eyed equine friend on South Sway Lane are heaped bags of free horse manure.

We brought one back on 20th and I tipped it out onto the most recent garden compost bin.

Today I added two more.

This of course may not seem much of an effort but the enforced dereliction of my Under Gardener duties consequent upon two knee replacements has ensured that this is the first decent task I have carried out in two years. It involves lifting the savoury material from the back of the Modus, transporting the individual bags to the back drive, lifting each one, turning it topsy-turvy, dropping the contents falling in a solid bag-shape, and raking it level.

It is early days, but it feels as if I am back gardening.

Wherever we look in the garden today we see daffodils, snowdrops, hellebores, and other spring blooms – and an owl or two.

This afternoon I watched the Six Nations rugby internationals between Scotland and Italy, and between Wales and France.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s roast lamb; sage and onion stuffing; crisp roast potatoes; crunchy carrots; tender cabbage; soft butternut squash; and Coleman’s mint sauce with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Concha y Toro Casilliero del Diablo Shiraz 2017.

Witchcraft With Acorns

The light today was gloomy and the slate-grey overhead colander-canopy constantly leaked drizzle.

Jackie reported that this morning while Muggle tweeted in her ear she realised that there was another exchange of battle cries between

Nugget and someone else who occupied the garden of No 5 Downton Lane. There are now three robins setting out their territory. Later, when Jackie tried to engage Nugget in conversation while he was perched on the rose garden fence, he turned his back on her. “Aren’t you talking to me?”, she asked. He peered over his shoulder, fixed her witheringly,  and turned away again.

“Where’s Nugget?” (41).

Given the date, we thought a trip to Burley, the village of witches, might be order.

In Everton Road the New Zealand flag fluttered limply at half mast. This was clearly in mourning for the All Blacks’ defeat by England last Saturday in the Rugby World Cup Semi Final. The New Zealanders have been the acknowledged best team in the world throughout my lifetime. Three times world champions, they had not lost any match in the tournament for twelve years.

Nearby a cross-eyed pumpkin face sat on a wall.

Despite the dismal drizzle Holmsley Passage managed to put on a bright face,

even though someone had dumped a sofa on the verge.

Jackie photographed me as I wandered along for a while.

Landscapes on the moorland section were misted by dripping precipitation.

At Burley a pair of guinea fowl created their own mix of havoc, amusement, and trepidation, as they wandered back and forth across the through road.

One young lady crouching with her mobile phone graphically expressed her concern as they stepped off the kerb;

two young cyclists seemed a bit bemused.

While I concentrated on these two, Jackie observed a chicken eating an ice cream.

Shop windows venerated the season;

we both pictured The Mall,

guarded by a pumpkin witch.

 

All the little shops in this small street sported suitable  adornments.

Jackie entered a gift shop in search of stocking fillers. She emerged with two owls, which, if Orlaith got her sums right, makes the current garden total 93.

This evening we dined at The Wheel at Bowling Green. Jackie enjoyed tempura prawn starters followed by a rack of ribs, fries, onion rings, and plentiful fresh salad; my choice was equally good breaded whitebait, salad and toast followed by rib-eye steak, chips, mushroom, tomato, and peas. Mrs Knight drank Kaltenberg and I drank Malbec.

 

 

Meet Muggle

Weather-wise this was a gloomy, but largely dry, day which Jackie began by photographing

her now completed work on preparing the New Bed for winter.

Her lens also produced images of the stumpery;

roses including Super Elfin still scaling the Gothic arch;

Mum in a million,

Absolutely Fabulous,

and Just Joey gracing the Rose Garden;

and Doris Tysterman embellishing the back drive,

the borders of which cheer us still.

 

The textures of ferns and grasses appeal to hot lips in Margery’s Bed, which displays autumn colour,

while hebes are blooming early – or is it another late flowering?

Camellias have produced buds already,

while the patio planting does not yet appear to be on the way out.

 

Dahlias still thrive,

as do numerous fuchsias, including Hawksmoor,

Army Nurse,

Chequerboard,

and others.

A blue salvia survives. It is hardy enough not to need a place on

the new shelving that has increased the number of cuttings that can be overwintered in the greenhouse.

One of Jackie’s first tasks was to fix up a nesting box for Nugget’s rival.

Although showing considerable interest in the proceedings this little fellow didn’t keep still long enough for many photographs. He can be seen in the centre of this picture. Our very good blogging friend, Uma, has named him Muggle, on the grounds that Nugget is certainly magical but he must be more earthbound. Therefore, meet Muggle.

Nugget, of course, takes a dim view of this. He made his feelings known when he cocked his head from the top of the Rose Garden fence, muttering “what do you think you are doing”.

“Where’s Nugget?” (40)

This evening we dined on flavoursome pork cutlets; breaded chicken;  crisp roast potatoes, including the sweet variety; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; and tender runner beans, with tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Fronton 2017.