The Toughest Terrain Yet

This afternoon Jackie deposited me

outside The Rising Sun at Bashley, whence I crossed the road and entered the

heathland with its ubiquitous ponies

and golden gorse bound for a leisurely walk..

We have driven past this spot on countless occasions, yet I was taken aback by the

pitted hoof prints that would seriously impede my progress. Those in the pictures above were largely dry, yet most upsetting for my balance. Others were still soggy enough to suck at my shoes.

After a while I abandoned the idea of stumbling towards a little wooden bridge straddling a small flowing stream. Leaving the morass was more than somewhat difficult.

A thin band of woodland stood between the green stretch and the heath.

In parts it was soggy enough for shallow pools to reflect the trees.

Having taken a wide diversion to avoid the little bridge

I tried the pony track which was much more treacherous than it looks here.

I did not venture as far as the distant walkers at its far end.

 

 

In whichever direction I looked such walkers as there were were almost imperceptible,

until they returned to their cars.

Had I taken note of this area of mud, pools, and reflection beside the road, I may not have been surprised by the toughest terrain I have yet tackled since my knee replacements.

This pony chomping hay among the shadows wasn’t far from the car and my refuge.

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

 

Keeping Their Distance

In recent days goldfinches have joined the ranks of birds swooping on the feeders.

We think we may be harbouring an extra long tailed variety.

Mum’s care home is now in total lockdown. Several of us telephoned her in turn.

I believe that is now widespread. Jackie photographed this conversation through a  window at Barton on Sea. The son had left flowers at the door.

The cliff top grassed area was as crowded as any other spring Sunday afternoon, except that all the groups appeared to be keeping their distance from others.

Mudeford harbour was even more crowded, yet people picnicked

and played;

walked dogs;

and occupied benches in company

or in solitude.

Gulls simply winged it overhead or

over the shore at low tide,

while a pack of motor cyclists came along for the ride.

Turning inland,

on Braggers Lane

a jogger maintained his solitude.

Across the landscape in a roughly central position stands All Saints Church, Thorney Hill.

Pools still line Forest Road near Holmsley,

where ponies ponder,

graze,

and reflect.

Early this evening Jackie nipped out to photograph Elusive Eric the pheasant, who evaded her, so she settled for

primroses,

cyclamen,

the Cryptomeria Bed,

the Dragon Bed,

 daffodils and wood anemones.

This evening we dined on succulent duck breasts roasted with new potatoes; with crunchy cauliflower, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the El Zumbado Garnacha Syrah, this time 2018 vintage.

 

Avian Pairs

Today was bright and sunny, if a little chilly.

Because this was the weekend, there was a little more humanity on the forest roads, mainly in the form of

family groups of walkers like these on St Leonards Road,

and cyclists in pairs or singly, like this one on Sowley Lane.

We had planned to visit the beach at the end of Tanners Lane, but thought better of it when we met a row of parked cars near the entrance. Clearly the shingle would be crowded. Jackie backed up a long way before reaching a turning space.

The narrow track leading solely to the beach beside the Solent is one of our ancient thoroughfares that is bordered by

high banks and deep ditches, centuries of erosion having exposed gnarled roots. This verge is on the side edged by fields;

the opposite side flanks gardens, like this one, the top of which is fenced against the road above, from which we can look down on the cottage below.

Blackthorn blossom blooms beneath the bank.

 

Donkeys dined in ditches,

along the verges,

and up the banks.

Sometimes, like the man with the red flag during the early years of motor traffic, they kept the speed down by leading from the front. The passenger in this car was doing what I do, and photographing the donkey.

Sowley Lane is flanked by fields, one of which bears the first coat of bright yellow pigment that will develop into oil seed rape.

A pheasant courtship was taking place in the next field.

I turned my attention to ponies on the verges, one of which animals bore uncomfortable looking red eyes.

A pair of mallards waddled past as I approached another along the dappled road.

A cyclist approached as the two ducks neared the original pony now being joined by another.

The drake and his mate crossed the road as I attempted to come a bit closer.

They slipped into the water-filled ditch. As I pointed my lens they took flight. I just about managed to catch one of them.

One pony crossed back across the road and left its companion to

have an energetic scratch.

We returned home via Lisle Court Road which featured a sun-spotted thatched cottage,

with a neighbouring iconic red telephone box having undergone a makeover.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic chicken jalfrezi; savoury rice, palak paneer, onion bahjis, and plain paratha, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the El Zumbido Garnacha, Syrah.

Hardy’s Landscape

Today’s weather was dry and largely overcast.

This afternoon, isolated in our Modus, we took a drive into the forest. No other humans were about when I disembarked with my camera.

A pedestrian was approaching in the distance when we were beset by donkeys on the road through South Gorley. I photographed the obstinate brindled obstacles through the windscreen.

Persistent ponies pastured as best they could on the muddy greens at North Gorley.

One, in particular, took its grass in a still wet ditch.

All their legs bore wet or dry mud.

Further along the road at Ibsley a solitary grey cast a spotlight on its field, while

a bay collected bramble neckwear as it foraged around

slices of a a gradually decomposing sawn tree trunk.

Bare branches blended against the sky.

On the road to Appleslade I was reminded that I have been remiss in not, like Thomas Hardy, treating the forest landscape as a character worthy of its own place in  narrative. I made a start on putting this right.

Beyond Linwood the road continues uphill in preparation for crossing under the A31.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy chicken jalfrezi, savoury rice, palak paneer, and onion bahjji, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the El Zumbido Garnach Syrah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chase

Today, albeit cool, was bright and sunny throughout.

Jackie, once again this morning, found basic items in short or absent supply in the shops. Without compunction she acquired the last two bottles of Hoegaarden.

This afternoon we went for a drive in the forest.

What is usually a fairly shallow pool on the road from Beaulieu to Lepe now laps at the trunks of the trees reflected in it.

We parked alongside the shallows outside Lepe beach looking across to

the Isle of Wight, against which

swept a speedy yacht.

We could see beach huts but didn’t know their location.

We did recognise the Red Funnel ferry on its departure.

Jackie photographed me photographing the Island.

Brent geese gathered and engaged in

pairing up,

sometimes after enjoying the chase.

Ponies grazed at East End –

in the drying ditch,

among the daisies on the moorland,

and on the road ahead. Having hove into view, the cyclist in this last shot, as he passed me said he hoped he hadn’t spoiled that for me. “No,’ I replied, “you made it.”

One of the llamas further down the road basked in the late afternoon sun,

the other smirked in the shadows.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic cottage pie; crisp carrots, cauliflower, broccoli; and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Merlot.

 

 

An Up And Down Morning

Early on a morning of sunshine and showers Jackie drove us into the forest to take advantage of the dramatic light.

Encouraged by my undulating walk yesterday I was tempted to disembark at the top of

Holmsley Passage

and walk down the much steeper slope. At first I kept to the tarmac because of the muddy and pitted state of the nibbled edges. The road was quite busy so this didn’t seem to be a well advised procedure.

I therefore climbed the bank and threaded my way along the pony track.

The landscapes, rich in gorse and last year’s bracken, with still skeletal trees standing against the

fluid clouds bleeding across broad sheets of blue watercolour paper.

As I turned the bend leading down to the modern building on the left I saw what Jackie was up to. She had been tracking my descent from the

outset on the road surface (you will need to biggify this one to spot me),

and progressing along the verge.

From this point I photographed trees on the other side of the hill,

and after reaching the car, a couple of grazing ponies.

Jackie photographed a mobile signal mast masquerading as a spiky tree.

Yesterday’s pair of work trousers became rather muddy. I had therefore put them in the laundry basket and taken a clean pair for today.

On any other day this might have been a sensible move.

Today, unfortunately, I chose to stop at the junction between Gorley Road and

Snails Lane in order to photograph

the flooded road.

As I stepped backwards across the soggy surface of the lane in order to ensure that the Flood sign appeared in the picture I trod on a loose rock that slid backwards taking me with it.

There is a moment in a fall when it is politic to stop resisting and let yourself fall gracefully. That is how I found myself seated in moist gravelly mire with gritty bits in it, As I began to turn over, wondering just how I would manage to heave myself to my feet, a small van came spraying through the flood.  This seemed to be the moment to remain stationary and present an aged and infirm front.

The friendly young driver wound down his window, asked whether we needed help, and upon receiving an affirmative response, leaped from his cab. He and Jackie each took an arm and hoisted me upright.

By now Mrs Knight was regretting that her panic had prevented her from photographing the moment. She made up for it with this shot of

my rear and the offending rock;

and these of my jacket

and trousers.

My head, it seems, was in need of the attentions of “The Horse Whisperer”.There’s not much that can be done about my second row forward’s cauliflower ear.

We weren’t that far from Hockey’s Farm Shop. I cleaned up as best I could with the cold water in their loo. Naturally we had to reward both them and ourselves by brunching there. I sat on a hessian shopping bag in order to avoid making their seats soggy. After a good meal we returned home where I changed my trousers.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata with which she drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc, and I finished the Cabernet-Carmenere.

 

Emulating The Squirrel

The first couple of hours this morning were bright and breezy. After that the skies clouded over and the atmosphere gained weight. Later in the afternoon rain resumed its descent.

We therefore drove out to the forest soon after 10 a.m., First visiting

the pony, Gimlet who left off chewing his breakfast hay to crunch the carrot I offered.

She was quite impressed that I had successfully employed the Sue W. flat hand technique.

Before leaving home I had printed a couple of large copies of the photographs of Anne and her steed taken a few days ago. We delivered these to her place of work at Kitchen Makers. She was very pleased.

We continued on to Pilley Hill, the verges of which were awash with several varieties of daffodil.

The 11th century pub Fleur de Lys is in the background of this image.

The owners of a recently sold house at Norley Wood had engaged a group of asinine hedge clippers.

Richard Adams, in ‘Watership Down’ describes how rabbits become road kill when they freeze in the glare of car headlights.

Fortunately for this creature cutting the grass it was daytime and our headlights were extinguished.

Other examples of small creatures meeting their death on the country roads are pheasants who seem to wait for vehicles to arrive then dash across in a game of chicken.

Young squirrels, who can’t possibly reach maturity will leg it in front of the car in an effort to outrun it.

Ponies and donkeys, not usually the most energetic animals, normally just stand stolidly in the road. Today we met a group attempting to emulate the squirrel.

As we turned from Norley Wood Road down the hill towards East End, a trio of ponies ambled out of Broomhill and trotted off towards a drove of donkeys already in occupation.

After taking a slight diversion to see how the neighbouring alpacas were doing

these animals picked up their heels and set a pace which had their smaller cousins racing on ahead.

A pair of more nonchalant donkeys emerged from the field on the left. They simply stepped aside for us.

Others kept up the pace

despite oncoming traffic. Eventually we managed to pass them without a collision.

This afternoon, while photographing Nugget at his trough,

Jackie became concerned about an apparently ailing blue tit curled up,

gasping, clinging to a feeder for upwards of half an hour.

Eventually it raised its head and seized a suet pellet.

Soon it decanted to the wisteria, from which it subsequently disappeared.

This evening we dined on succulent roast duck breasts, boiled potatoes, crisp Yorkshire pudding, crunchy carrots, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, with tender runner beans. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Lacaze Cabernet-Carmenere 2017.