A Game Of Peep-Bo

Sunrise 1Sunrise 2

As I put out the bin bags at dawn this morning, the smoking fire further East down Christchurch Road revealed itself to be a blazing sun emerging to presage the splendid day we were to enjoy.

A little later, a crouching figure was seen to dart across to my desk and scamper back again. This was Flo, having risen surprisingly early to commandeer my camera for the next hour or so. Ladybird

She must have got the bug yesterday for she was to produce some even more successful pictures of our garden birds.

Here is a selection of her work:Thrush

A thrush on the rooftop projected its shadow into the ether. How this shot was achieved will be revealed tomorrow, for the benefit of those who haven’t worked it out.Female house sparrow

She captured house sparrows, both female

Male house sparrow 1Male house sparrow 3

and male.

Collared dove

The collared dove had found a new perch.

Jay 1Jay 2Jay 3Jay 4

Flo interrupted a jay’s breakfast, but it carried on regardless.

Female greenfinch 1Female greenfinch 2

A female greenfinch continued with hers

Male greenfinch

while her consort launched himself from the feeder.


A blackbird ignored the spider’s web beneath it.


Starlings are notoriously greedy beasts. Alone they must wait their turn at the trough.

Robin 1Robin 2Robin 3Robin 4Robin 5

An inquisitive robin removed its head from the feeder, straightened up, and engaged in a game of peep-bo.


Finally a jackdaw snaffled two peanuts

Jackdaw's tail

and, of course, flew off at the sight of the camera.

When the Canon SX700 HS was returned to me I took a hobble down the garden and a few yards into Downton Lane.


Our honesty is now in flower,


as is the epimedium


and the skimmia at the entrance to the back drive.

The lane itself has a profusion of









Grape hyacinths

and grape hyacinths.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb chicken jalfrezi (recipe), boiled egg curry, egg fried rice (recipe), and paratas. Jackie, Ian, and I drank Kingfisher; Becky drank rose; and Flo, J2O.

In The Verges

Today was sunny and warmer. I made my way this morning down to Roger’s footpath and back. This was more of a hobble than a ramble, but the swelling on the knee has subsided and I have left off the Ibuprofen.

To be found in the verges of Downton Lane are:Crocuses





More celandinesDaffodil

DaffodilsGrape hyacinth

Grape HyacinthsBudweiser can

and drink cans, like this one from Budweiser which will soon be nestling in ladies’ bedstraw.Celandine blue

We have blue celandines in the garden, whereNew bed

Jackie has continued work on the new bed,Chain

and we have erected a plastic chain to enhance the barrier at the end of the drive. This seems at least to have deterred a plumber’s van.


When the tits give them a chance, chaffinches are now visiting the bird feeders.

This afternoon Jackie drove us to Lymington Hospital for my pre-assessment to see whether I am fit for surgery for the fasciectomy. After completion of a questionnaire, checking of blood pressure and pulse rate; measuring height and weight and calculating BMI; taking swabs from nostrils and groin to check for MRSA; applying an ECG; taking blood tests; and anything else I might have forgotten, it seems that I am. The operation should take place some time in April.

Elizabeth came for a visit and, later, we drove off to Lymington’s Lal Quilla in our separate cars, and enjoyed the usual excellent meal and friendly service, including a chat with the chef who really loves his work. My meal was king prawn naga and special fried rice. We all had onion bhajis for starters and drank Kingfisher.


The gloriously sunny weather that has welcomed us to Downton continued today.

I took a walk up Hordle Lane alongside the extensive rape fields that glowed beneath the cloudless blue skies. A footpath on the left led around one field and through another. At first the fields were on my left. Horses lazed in a paddock on my right. Further footpaths put the rape on the right and woods on my left.

Bluebells enlivened the forest floor through which they had penetrated as they sprung from their hibernating bulbs.

Naturally I took a path through the woods where primroses were equally abundant. This wound around a bit, but I could hear the roar of what I hoped was Christchurch Road, distant on my left. Some of the time. Otherwise I heard the cawing of rooks, the humming of various insects, and cackling of hens and geese. A bleating and baaing  led me along another track in the hope I might see some lambs.

I was not disappointed. They littered wide open grassland to my left. Farmland to the right contained Shetland ponies and black sheep, one of which was a magnificent three-horned ram that took to its heels at the sight of my camera. Maybe I’ll catch it next time.
The wide track through Peter’s farm took me to Lower Ashley Lane, where I turned left to the junction with Lymington Road, a section of Christchurch Road. I returned home along this undulating, winding busy thoroughfare lacking a footpath. I had to be rather vigilant.
This afternoon we took delivery of Flo’s wardrobe from Oakhaven Hospice Trust. The men took it upstairs and our granddaughter manoeuvred it into its alcove.

Flo took some rather lovely photographs of the garden.                                                    This one she entitled ‘Spring’.

My manly tasks today were helping Jackie to put up more curtain rails, then to add to the skip pile. Anyone from Globe Removals may wish to skip what follows. Their stalwart men moved four dismantled IKEA wardrobes, all carefully marked up by Michael, from his Wimbledon house to storage; out of storage; and into our garage ready for us to reassemble. They are too tall for our ceilings, which is why we bought another from Oakhaven Hospice Trust. We have been unable to give them away. This afternoon I began humping the extremely heavy sections from garage to garden heap. I didn’t finish the job. But there is a lot more room in the garage.
This evening Jackie drove to the Hordle Chinese Takeaway in Stopples Lane and returned with a plentiful feast on which we dined with Flo. I drank Spitfire ale.

A Somewhat Abortive Trip

Soon after dawn the strong sun we were to enjoy in a clear blue sky for the rest of today drew up enough moisture from the soggy forest virtually to obscure it from our dining room windows.
Later I walked down to the village shop for stamps, diverting to give Alan, whose work of yesterday is now complete, his prints.
At Seamans Corner I met the postman I wrote about on 2nd February. we had a chat, and this time I photographed him.
I returned via All Saints church, the footpath, The Splash, and Furzey Gardens. All Saints churchyardThe churchyard is now resplendent with daffodils and crocuses.All Saints churchyard logs A heap of ash and several neat piles of logs is all that is left of the fallen yew.
For the first couple of hours this afternoon, I dealt with administration, such as arranging for removals, cleaning, checkout, inventory, and other stuff too boring to mention.
PrimrosesFor a break this afternoon, we drove to Exbury Gardens to walk the Camellia Walk. It was closed. The barmaid at The Royal Oak on Beaulieu Hilltop where we eventually settled for a drink told us they would open in two days time. We also missed the buzzard. This bird of prey was scavenging at the roadside when we passed. We disturbed it and it flew off to a tree. Jackie parked and I got out of the car, camera in hand. It flew off. I settled for a shot of the primroses on the forest verge.
Fawley power stationPonies & Fawley power stationPony & Fawley power station
Pony backlit
Pony brown backlit
Pony brown backlit 2
The above mentioned hostelry lies, according to the young woman who served us, ‘in the middle of nowhere’ on the edge of a heath with the steaming towers of Fawley power station in the background. Ponies feeding at decent intervals on the still boggy terrain caught the rays of the lowering sun.
Sunset through treeThere was a notice in the foyer of the pub asking patrons to consider the neighbours and leave quietly. Since the power station seemed to be the nearest neighbour we thought someone was probably having a laugh.
We decided that this would be the evening when we would try the ultimate test of our new neighbourhood, which is the Indian restaurant, in this case the Zaika in Milford on Sea. On the drive from Beaulieu we watched the sun go down and make way for the moon. At first a strong glow in a still blue sky, as the orb sank down beneath the horizon, it streaked the blue with bright yellow and pastel pink shades reflected in the Beaulieu River, lakes,  and the many pools scattered on the heath.
SunsetSunset 2Sunset 3Sunset & reflections
Whilst not really a match for Ringwood’s Curry Garden, the Zaika was good enough. The service was particularly merit-worthy, being friendly and unobtrusive, and the food was reasonably good. We both drank Kingfisher.
Driving back to Minstead we were beset by a sea mist reducing visibility to that we had woken up to.

She Does Make Exceedingly Good Books

Azalia and pieris shrubbery Azalia and pieris shrubbery (2) Azalia

On another glorious day, I had a wander around the garden of the Lodge, the shrubberies of which are now blooming splendidly.  Jackie had spent the morning attending to her little garden on our kitchen corner, after which we drove to The Firs to put in a stint there.

M27 trees

In less than a week the trees lining the M27 have burst into leaf.

Jackie and I and Danni worked on the beds.  My task was to mix topsoil, all-purpose compost, and farm compost and apply this as top dressing to weeded beds.  In preparation for this the grass edges were trimmed and weeding carried out.

We continue to be pleased with the fruits of last year’s work, if only because the really heavy work has all been done. Epimedium and primroses There are examples of serendipity, usually created by self-seeded primroses, such as their coordination with epimedium, or their contrast with forget-me-nots. Tulips And there are happy results of planting, such as the numerous tulips planted everywhere.

I was particularly pleased with those  I had bought at last year’s Bishop’s Waltham Garden Fair.

Tulips from Bishop's Waltham Garden FairThey have all come up again, in a bed which didn’t exist a month or so before they were planted.

Derrick and Jackie

Danni took the opportunity to photograph Jackie and me taking a break.

Elizabeth bookbindingElizabeth's booksElizabeth's Fly By Night

While the serfs slaved, the lady of the manor sat in the shade making beautiful little books for the planned summer exhibition.  In fairness to Elizabeth, who normally gets stuck in with the rest of us, she is recovering from a general anaesthetic and minor ENT operation and, like Mr. Kipling and his cakes, she ‘does make exceedingly good’ books.

Danni made an excellent sausage casserole meal which we enjoyed with the assistance of red wines and, of course, for she who will be nameless, Hoegaarden.  A delightful Berry Bliss from the Co-op was for afters.

The low sun was blinding along the motorway as we drove west to home. As is now quite common a handful of deer dashed across the road in front of us in the vicinity of Shave Wood.

When she had finished driving and we settled back home, I poured Jackie a complimentary.  Others would call this a Bailey’s.  We have renamed it in line with the custom of many local Indian restaurants who offer us a complimentary drink, usually a Bailey’s, after our meal.

A Damsel In Distress

Another warm day meant we could admire Jackie’s flowering violas and tagetes seedlings whilst lunching in the garden.

On 5th March I had got hopelessly lost and therefore considerably delayed when looking for Ditchend Brook en route from Godshill to Frogham.  Studying the Ordnance Survey map afterwards I discovered the route of this waterway winding through the heath to the left of Roger Penny Way coming from Cadnam.  When Jackie suggested a trip to Frogham this seemed the day for an expedition along the stream.  She drove me to Ashley Walk car park and met me at the said village.  The footpath over the heathland from that point crosses the gorse-bound brook.  Eschewing a straight path that avoided the natural meanderings of the gravel bedded clear peat-coloured water, I threaded my usual way along the pony tracks sprinkled with dry droppings.  The animals clearly chose to wander within easy reach of their drink.

Had I not done so I would not have noticed two, hopefully successfully hatched, duck eggs  hidden in the bushes.

The stream descends gently from the height alongside Roger Penny Way to its end in a valley below.  In this fairly flat area, basking in the lazy, hazy summery afternoon, lay a number of cattle including the

rare Belted Galloway, or ‘Belties’, breed , contemplating the water and hoping for shelter from the scrubby trees.  

Beyond them stood many ponies.  A trio of these, abandoning their observation of two mallards swimming across a still wet pool, began leading the hopeful march towards me.  They were disappointed to discover I had nothing for them.  These poor creatures, most of whom are displaying bony ribs, have had a hard time of it this winter.

Soon after weaving my way among the livestock, I came to the beautiful goal that had eluded me on my previous visit, the brook that I had had to cross.  This time I knew not to expect a bridge.

The route from there was familiar to me.  Feeling confident, from Burnt Balls and Long Bottom I walked parallel to, but lower down than, Hampton Ridge as far as Chilly Hill.  At this point I checked with a cyclist that I was on the right track to turn and walk up to the ridge from where it was a gentle downhill stroll to Frogham.  The young woman, who was the only person I met on this idyllic afternoon trip, confirmed I was headed in the right direction.  I apologised for stopping her on an uphill stretch.  ‘Don’t worry’, she replied.  ‘I’ll be walking myself in a minute’.  Off she pedalled around a bend.  As I turned it myself I saw what she meant.  

There she was, pushing her steed up an almost perpendicular climb.  At the top she was crouched over the bike in some disarray.  She looked up, her hair dangling in her eyes, and looking somewhat flushed.  ‘Are you strong?’, she asked.  Well, I was certainly going to be, wasn’t I?  It’s not often a Knight comes across a damsel in distress.  Of course, I know nothing about bikes, but I have got a bit of brawn, so long as bending of neither of my two rugby shattered finger joints is required.  There was a thingy sticking out that should be flush with the frame.  It seemed to be in place for casing the brake or gear cables.  I had to place my palm around the sharp end of it and apply as much pressure as I could, trying not to give away the fact that I was in danger of administering the stigmata to myself.  Fortunately I was able to demonstrate that I was sufficiently strong, and the young lady was able to wobble off without discomfort to her lower limb.

Jackie arrived back at the Abbot’s Well car park at the same time as I did.  She had thoughtfully gone off to buy me a bottle of water, for which I was most grateful.  

Today has been a day of glowing gorse and a bank of pastel primroses.  On the Cadnam roundabout on the A31 cascades a bank of these latter plants that has attracted us every time we have passed them.  This afternoon Jackie parked at a safe distance and I took my chances among the traffic to walk back and photograph them.

Dinner was Jackie’s chilli con carne with which I drank Piccini chianti reserva 2009 and she didn’t.

Spring Is In The Air

PrimrosesMat, Oddie and I walked the ford loop via the churchyard path.  Primroses are now abounding in the hedgerows and daffodils mirror the lichen on the gravestones.

Churchyard daffodils

The Herdwick lambs were arousing the interest of a couple of neighbours.  One is quite black, the other pure white.  The farmer explained that Herdwicks normally ‘throw’ black lambs.  A white one is very unusual.

The Furzey Gardens alpacas normally pretty well ignore me when I pass. Alpacas Today they showed a great deal of attention.  It wasn’t until later that I realised they must have picked up Oddie’s scent, which is often not too savoury.

This afternoon there was a definite sense of spring in the air.  The sun shone and the garden birds flitted and swooped about.  I am beginning the recognise the languid loping line of the various tits aiming for the feeder.  I was able to stand very close without frightening them away.  It is amusing how they make for the shrubbery behind their food; perch there until they are sure it is safe to dive for the seeds, nuts, or fat balls; grab a morsel and flit away. Long tailed tit Indeed, one particular long tailed tit seemed less timid than a robin I startled.  Interestingly, there seem now to be three robins vying for territory.  We wonder which one will win out.

While Mat, Jackie and I played Scrabble this afternoon, we watched a number of large rabbits bounding and chasing each other across the lawns.

Later, Becky, Flo, and Ian joined us and we all dined on Jackie’s shepherd’s pie followed by Sainsbury’s sticky toffe pudding and custard.  Jackie drank Latitude 35 degrees S; Tess and I drank two different red wines; Ian had Peroni; and Mat, Becky and Flo abstained.