“He’s Escaped Pannage”

On another wet and gloomy morning we drove to Setley Ridge Garden Centre to buy a present for Helen, whose birthday it is today.

Is there anything more dismal than a popular garden centre, normally thriving at weekends, to have hidden this sign beneath an empty display unit? Having done their best to beat Covid-19 and continuous rain the staff have succumbed

to closure, although they are hoping to reopen on 1st March.

Keeping to the safe side of the alarmed rope barrier, I recorded the bedraggled outlet while Jackie bought some replacement provisions in the farm shop. She then dropped me at home and toured other garden centres with a little more success.

This drier, warmer, still gloomy, afternoon we drove to Helen and Bill’s intending to leave presents and a card and run away. Happily, we were spotted and enjoyed a pleasant conversation with them and Rachel from over the front garden wall.

On our return journey, Jackie parked the Modus beside Roger Penny Way in order for me to commune with

sustenance-seeking donkeys and ponies.

At one point we were all distracted by thudding hooves as an equestrienne galloped across the somewhat sodden sward.

The pannage season which starts in the autumn and was this year extended to December is the period when ring-nosed pigs are freed to wallow in the mud in search of acorns and other mast which are poisonous to ponies. This little porker was seen and heard sploshing and snorting with glee, prompting Jackie to pronounce: “He’s escaped pannage”.

This evening we dined on Mr Chan’s excellent Hordle Chinese Take Away with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Dao.

Godwits Galore

This morning we drove to Ferndene Farm Shop for three bags of all Purpose compost.

Jackie explored the rows of plants on sale as she also bought some trailing lobelias, and

found time to encourage one of the resident pigs, which was labouring somewhat, to step up to the trough for a drink.

On our way home we took a short diversion through the forest. Like the New Forest itself it has been some time since the title ‘new’ was applicable to the first of these lanes; the second avoids the problem of nomenclature by not having any.

Ponies dotted around the moors en route to Burley.

As in the lanes above the foliage of Holmsley Passage bore an almost luminescent glow.

Late this afternoon Giles picked me up at home and drove me to the bird hide at Milford on Sea where we spent a pleasant hour in a very crowded cabin watching the birds.

One black headed gull was fascinated by his reflection in the shallow water;

others shared Hurst Pond with shelducks and swans.

For serious birders the highlight was 31 black tailed godwits, their long legs beneath the surface.

We think this might be a snipe, but it had its back to us so we could not discern the length of its beak.

A pied wagtail trotted along much nearer the hide.

Giles stayed on for dinner which consisted of roast lamb; mashed potato and swede; Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower; and tender runner beans, with rich gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and our friend and I chose Mora Vista Merlot Bonarda 2018.

“Get Off My Drive”

On the afternoon of this very dull day, Jackie drove me into the forest.

The stretch of Highland Water outside Brockenhurst is beginning to replenish itself, but there is a way to go before the banks are lapped again.

Unusually, more cattle than ponies cropped the surrounding sward. The neat cuts of the equine tails provide evidence that their owners have experience the annual Drift. As I wandered among the animals I thought how much pigs at pannage would enjoy the acorns that littered the ground.

On the outskirts of the village, where there was no mast, a pig with piglets, one of which looked like the porcine equivalent of a teenager, scrabbled about among roadside gravel, until the resident of Clava Cottage emerged with a hockey stick that he waved in their direction, exclaiming “come on you lot. Get off my drive”. The majority of the swine dashed into the stables next door, leaving one little piggie behind. It didn’t seem to notice.

This evening the three of us dined on the Walhampton Arms Carvery. Trying not to think of piglets our meat was gammon and turkey with all the trimmings. Elizabeth and I both drank Nueve  Vidas Merlot 2016 while Jackie drank Diet Coke.

‘You Haven’t Closed The Door’

Jackie Ryder, who is, I gather, something of an expert, recommended the Cuckoo Inn, lying near the far end of Lyburn Road, as the perfect country pub.  We therefore decided to try it out today.  Before arriving at Nomansland, we took a trip to Burley Street to have a look at a house.  5 The BarracksThe owner kindly invited me into the back garden to photograph what she said was the best view.  It just happened that she was outside with the estate agent as I wandered down the gravel lane.

You never know, we may need to be looking elsewhere than at our few favourite possible abodes.

The barman at the Cuckoo Inn told us it was an alcohol based pub, which meant they weren’t serving food other than Wiltshire pasties, but a chippy visited on Friday nights. The Cuckoo InnThe pub was attractive, with its multiple small, snug, rooms.  It served a range of beers and ciders.  The barman, who recommended The King’s Head at Redlynch for the meal we were seeking, was very open and friendly. He confirmed what we had read on website reviews, that they were seeking renegotiation of the lease from ‘the estate’. The reviewer had, last November regretted the death of the previous landlord.  Jackie found the strong lingering scent of last night’s beer more attractive than I did.   We had determined to make lunch our main meal of the day, so didn’t stay, but went on to Redlynch.  On our return, the sun had put in an appearance and there was a troop of cyclists drinking in the garden.  All this made the establishment, originally virtually empty, look more inviting.  We passed a number of posters informing us that the famous Cuckoo Inn was to host a forthcoming beer festival.

The Kings Head was very well cared for; large, clean, and very friendly, with carefully tended hanging baskets and window boxes.  The Kings HeadThe food was fairly standard pub fare, reasonably cooked.  I had the pie of the day, being chicken, ham, and mushroom.  The herbs, which were the dominant taste, were not mentioned on the board.  It, and the accompanying vegetables, were perfectly well cooked.  Jackie’s choice was macaroni cheese, which she enjoyed, as she did her small creme brûlée that followed. Only one other couple was dining when we arrived.  Our main course took three quarters of an hour, and Jackie’s sweet, fifteen minutes, to reach our table.

The same diminutive elderly gentleman delivered small barrels of beer, two at a time, stacked on his sack barrow, from his open-sided van, to each of these hostelries.  He could just about see over the top of what he was pushing.  He certainly seemed fit enough for the task.

Jackie chose our table because it was near a door kept open by a doorstop, and she sought the breeze.  A couple with two young children entered.  The woman bent down, removed the doorstop, ordered at the bar, and, closing the door behind her, led the family into the garden where they settled down at a picnic table.  After a decent interval the barmaid reopened the door, and replaced its stopper.  Some time later, the woman and child came back into the bar. After placing another order they left for the garden again.  The little girl said: ‘You haven’t closed the door’.  This led us to speculate about who actually made the decisions in this, probably grandparent, relationship.

PigsJackie drove us East, directly across the forest from The Lamb Inn.  On this brief trip the pleasant lanes were frequented by pigs, cattle, ponies, and donkeys.  The snuffling and gobbling pigs do make a row in comparison with the other silent herbivores. Beyond Newbridge, we discovered a road running under the M27, which could be useful access for anywhere north of it.  We were stopped at temporary traffic lights because men were working on underside of the bridge.  This struck me as a rather ear-shattering occupation.

A crisp salad with firm, delicious Huntsman’s Pie from Ferndene Farm Shop sufficed for our evening repast.