No Discount For Amusing Dog

This afternoon, with Elizabeth and her friend, Cathy, we visited Spinners Garden in Pilley, open in aid of the National Gardens Scheme. Jackie and I had visited four or five years ago when the steep slopes and terraces of this wonderful, well established, venue were of no consequence. Not so today.

The long downward path between splendid varieties of rhododendron and camellia was more than I could manage without continuous pauses.

As soon as possible I sat on the edge of a decking platform and photographed a tree peony, a very large magnolia that had suffered from the attention of the recent Storm Hannah, and the neighbouring landscape.

I watched others, including Elizabeth and Cathy who had made their way down the sloping lawn to a pool with a wooden bridge at the bottom.

I did my best to avoid the attentions of the owner’s dog, keen to have his ball thrown for him. This was something else I had forgotten from our earlier visit. There was unfortunately no discount for amusing him. Cathy had the right idea. Her throw was so powerful that the ball landed in the pool. The owner had a spare to hand.

Jackie photographed the other three of us after we had taken refreshments on the patio. She then went up to the street to collect the car and bring it down for me – this at the suggestion of a member of the team.

There is a very attractive woodland walk up to the highest level which I was unable to contemplate on this occasion. Before entering the Modus, while my Chauffeuse waited patiently, I photographed this terraced scene rising from a pool containing yellow irises;

and other visitors climbing the path to the top.

With a last look at the beds at the bottom of the entrance road, I entered my waiting carriage.

Elizabeth joined us for dinner this evening, for which, after an amuse bouche of tasty spinach soup, Jackie produced her choice chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice, followed by apricot crumble and custard. My sister and I drank more of the Pinot Noir while The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden.

Vichyssoise Pour Les Poneys

Although it was to brighten up in the evening, the skies were overcast when we went for a drive in the forest this afternoon.

We stopped at East Boldre to watch this chestnut pony slaking its thirst, as we thought, at one of the pools formed over waterlogged vegetation. This was taking some time. Slowly it dawned on me that the animal was in fact dining on its favourite vegetation. Occasionally coming up for air, liquid streamed from its muzzle as it chomped on the green stuff. This, it seemed, was vichyssoise for the ponies.

Opposite the corner of the East Boldre road and St Leonards Road stands what looks like a refurbished historic thatched house. In fact, Tom Whiteley Bespoke Homes has spent just a few months building this from scratch. We thought the brick extension, contemporary with the rest of the job, was a stroke of genius.

The corner opposite this house also bears an extensive covering of water. Another bay enjoyed its own helping of the soup.

Elizabeth joined us for dinner which consisted of Jackie’s delicious sausage casserole; creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; and tender green beans. Before that we enjoyed her vegetable soup with croutons. Elizabeth drank Beck’s Blue; Jackie drank Hoegaarden; and I drank Juicy Assemblage 2017.

Always A Drop To Drink

Today was milder and wetter. Last autumn, Jackie had planted up a pair of tubs for Mum’s garden. Now the intended recipient occupies a care home, one of these graces the garden of her empty bungalow. The other stands in front of the trellis adorning our garage door.

We took a short trip to the East of the forest, where, at East End the stunning golden mimosa tree is in full bloom;

a pigeon looks down on it from a nearby naked oak.

The corner of St Leonard’s Road and the road to East Boldre is as waterlogged as always once we have experienced considerable rainfall. Water overflows onto the road and vehicles spray as they pass.

At East Boldre a chestnut pony, ankle-deep in another pool, slakes its thirst. Today it can be said that there was water, water, everywhere, and always a drop to drink.

This evening we dined on tangy lemon chicken; creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots; and tender peas.

The Drove

On yet another warm and sunny afternoon, Jackie drove me to Milford on Sea where Peter, of Sears Barbers, cut my hair. Afterwards we took a trip into the forest.

Despite the record high temperatures for February that we have recently experienced, there remain many waterlogged areas offering reflective surfaces. These examples lay on the high water plain at Norleywood, East End, and Pilley.

All provide temporary residences for mallards.

Anyone in a hurry on the B3055 from Hatchet Pond to Brockenhurst later this afternoon would have been very disappointed and either found a new route or joined in the fun. We passed a quite substantial herd of determined, plodding, cattle; calves in tow; trooping across the moor, arriving on and beside the road, set on course for somewhere ahead. Imagining that a parking space some distance further on would give us a good vantage point for photography, Jackie drove on until we came to one. Initially we needed my wife’s binoculars and my long lens to confirm that the dots in the distance were still on the move.

A young woman in a pink jumper had the same idea. She, of course, used a mobile device – until the cattle took an interest and she settled for discretion.

It took this labouring drove surprisingly little time to catch us up, and continue disrupting the traffic as they passed,

into the hazy evening sun en route to

disappearing into the woodland beside Stockley Cottage.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb cottage pie with most flavoursome gravy, crunchy carrots, tender runner beans, cabbage, and leeks.

Talking Heads

I may have mentioned that my Canon 70-300mm lens became stuck just before Christmas, and I took it into Wessex Photographic in Ringwood for a quotation. This has come back. The cost is £70 more than a second-hand one the store had in stock. That being a no-brainer, Jackie drove me to replace my older second-hand model with a newer one.

Afterwards we brunched in Café Aroma, and, through their crystal clear plate glass window, I tried out this newly acquired piece of equipment, by photographing

passers-by.

One gentleman vaped outside the smokers’ shelter,

through the transparent sheet of which I photographed some talking heads.

Suitably sated, we continued into the forest where a light frost still lay in patches. Perhaps because we are so near the coast we haven’t yet experienced this.

At North Gorley a saturated area of turf wore white patches beside a pool covered in semi-melted ice. Reflections rested undisturbed on the otherwise limpid surface.

As the leisurely grazing sheep discovered on Cadnam Lane, frost lingered beside the hedges. Perhaps the equine droppings among the ovine diners had been left by

the string of stubby ponies following their relatively gigantic grey leader down the road. One forlorn little fellow just couldn’t keep up,

until its companions paused for refreshments.

A motley array of cuddly creatures clambered over a farm gate in an endeavour to escape the peacocks within.

On our way home we noticed that The Bell at Bank has a rather cheeky event coming up on 25th January

Jackie said she felt like another Christmas dinner today, so she produced roast chicken; Yorkshire pudding; roast potatoes and parsnips; moist bread sauce; firm sage and onion stuffing; and crunchy carrots and cauliflower. Becky drank Diet Coke, and I drank Famille Perrin Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2016. Ian wasn’t feeling well. Maybe he will eat later.

Lens Test

I received a telephone call a day or so ago to tell me that the blood taken in Wednesday’s test had clotted, so we would have to return to New Hall hospital for a repeat. There was only one possible slot for this – today at 11.30 a.m. Jackie duly drove me there to have another extraction. Apart from a miscommunication about the timing (the sample had to be taken immediately before a courier sped off to London with it) this was all very straightforward.

As usual we diverted through the forest on our way home.

The parasitic balls clinging to an avenue of trees in Hale

are clusters of mistletoe enticingly dangling out of reach of would-be Christmas decorators.

The first three of these photographs were taken with my Canon SX700 HS; the last two with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II with the SIGMA 105mm Macro.

The smaller camera is preferable for wider shots – better if you can see what you are doing. It must be twelve months ago that I managed to crack the screen, with the result that this,

taken with the larger camera, is what I see when focussing on the wall opposite. As Jackie says, it is not just a point and shoot, but rather a point, shoot, and hope. Even the chevron shape of the crack is somewhat flattened.

Ditches, rivulets, and pools are now filling up nicely throughout the forest.

I used the 105mm lens for these shots of a grazing foal reflecting on a ditch alongside Roger Penny Way. First, as I approached the subject, I used the full range of the lens;

then, as I neared the young pony, switched to .45m – infinity.

On the other side of Roger Penny Way, I noticed another, adult, pony reflected in a speeding pool in the distant landscape. This image was produced with the full range of the above camera.

Here is the same scene seen with the SIGMA 105-600 mm at full range.

To our right of this animal were two more visible beyond now naked trees, taken with the same equipment.

The larger lens, set at 105mm, caught the first furry coated creature having crossed the ditch, probably without lifting its muzzle from its meal.

This evening we dined on firm pork chops; creamy mashed potato and swede; crunchy carrots and Brussels sprouts with which I drank Saint-Chinian 2017

 

A Crocodile Crossing

Jackie and I went for a drive in the forest this morning, while Elizabeth took it easy at home. Once again we were fortunate to have ventured out during the short spell of sunshine we were to experience today.

Even as noon approached shadows were long on the approach to Wilverley Plain.

The deciduous oaks still bear most of their golden foliage,

some of which, having floated down on the breeze. glowed among damp grasses rapidly

becoming waterlogged in parts, reflecting surrounding trees and skies.

The large pond beside the telephone box just outside Brockenhurst has been bone dry all summer. It has now filled up again, mirroring gnarled naked arboreal displays and nearby homes.

Three russet ponies kept down the grass near the local postbox propped up by a slightly slanting pedestal.

The two apparently sharing a patch of sward were not as close as it might appear. The darker haired individual, which momentarily lifted its head as I lifted my camera,

firmly nudged the other with its albeit velvety muzzle, indicating it should keep its distance. This was definitely not foreplay.

Having worked up a thirst they crossed the gravel drive to the houses, passed the telephone box, and fleetingly slaked their thirst.

Quite suddenly they turned away and wandered back into the forest.

At the entrance to the village we were held up by teaching staff shepherding a crocodile of children across the road.

We enjoyed an excellent lunch at Holmsley Old Station Tea Rooms. My meal consisted of a well-filled steak and ale pie containing slivers of rosemary, served with chips, fresh vegetables and tasty gravy; Jackie’s was a jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw accompanied by an excellent salad. She drank coffee and I drank sparkling water.

We thought it best to wait for an equestrienne struggling to contain a skittish trotting pony, mane flying, to emerge from Thatchers Lane before we entered that narrow track on our way home.

Later this afternoon Elizabeth returned to Pilley for further work on moving in. On her way back this evening she collected our dinner of cod and chips from Mr Pink’s. My sister and I  finished the Cotes du Rhone and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.