The Head Gardener Was On Hand

Apparently yesterday’s weather was simply a precursor of Storm Dudley, due today. As the wind began to pick up this morning, we took a walk round the garden.

I had begun with four views from overhead, the last two of which featured camellias,

now quite abundant, and

beginning to drop blooms to soften the gravel paths.

Both bergenia and snowdrops are becoming widespread.

Pale blue irises reticulata; golden daffodils including têtes-à-têtes; white osteospermum; sprawling blue vinca; pale yellow primroses; and rich red cyclamen add their splashes of colour.

The strong sweet scents of Daphnes Odorata and Jacqueline Postill pervade the air.

The Head Gardener was on hand helping hanging hellebores hold heads high.

Dudley is tipped to be less fierce than Storm Eunice, due to arrive in UK on Friday, bringing us gusts of 85 mph.

This evening we dined on baked gammon; boiled potatoes; crunchy carrots; tender runner beans; and a mélange of fresh vegetables in a piquant cheese sauce, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Merlot.

Eggshells

Martin spent the morning tidying the back drive beds. He applied his painstaking effort to cutting back excessive growth and cleaning the brick edging. He chopped the refuse and added it to the compost.

Two robins who we think are a grandson of Nugget and his female partner have been attracted by the work. Longer term readers will be familiar with our late tame robin and the occasional challenges to find him. Hopefully we are starting a new “Where’s Nugget’s grandson?” with these two, the first being No. 1 and the other No. 2. You may need to enlarge the images.

While all this activity was going on a big bumble bee slept away the morning on a blooming bergenia.

Hellebores and violas are also in bloom.

Owls and burnished Lanarth White hydrangea basked in the warm sunlight.

Snowdrops are now in flower throughout the garden

and on the kitchen table.

Another flower arrangement of Jackie’s consisted of a clutch of hard boiled eggs which took us back to our youth when most eggshells were white. Even in our early adulthood it was the brown shell that was unusual. Until someone decided that brown ones were considered more healthy. It seems that Tesco is in the vanguard of reversing the trend.

At mid afternoon we purchased a few items at Ferndene Farm Shop then took a short forest drive.

Sunlight picked out distant slopes beyond Burley Road and its moorland. The ponies in these landscapes showed interest when I disembarked from the Modus, but turned their backs when they realised I was not carrying food for them.

On the approach to Bisterne Close a field horse looked wistfully across the lane at a pair of

pony cousins enjoying their freedom.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome cottage pie; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; firm Brussels sprouts; and tasty gravy, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Azinhaga de Ouro Reserva 2019.

Along The Lanes

The third Test Match between India and England finished very early on this, the second, day, giving me the opportunity to stop watching Channel 4 and for Jackie to take me on a forest drive after purchasing primulas and violas from Ferndene Farm Shop.

She parked on an un-waterlogged section of the verges while I walked olong photographing

still naked oak branches against the sky;

swathes of snowdrops in the woodland, wet enough to harbour

reflective pools; as did the

soggy verges.

Fallen trees among the snowdrops bore moss, holly, and ivy leaves.

I returned to the car and we continued to Anna Lane,

on one side of which two New Forest ponies were penned in a field, perhaps for someone to train for riding;

and on the other side sprawled a lengthy pig farm.

Finally, a splendidly sculptural oak stump stands at a bend on Bennet’s Lane.

This evening we dined on well roasted chicken thighs, crisp roast potatoes, parsnips, Yorkshire puddings, and sage and onion stuffing; flavoursome Brussels sprouts and carrots, with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Shiraz. Bakewell tart and vanilla ice cream was to follow,

Cutting Out The Middle Man?

Early this morning, Jackie photographed the first welcoming dawn we have experienced for a while.

The sunshine lived up to its promise as I wandered around photographing clumps of cheerful snowdrops; bunches of daffodils including tete-a-tetes; bright cyclamen; a variety of abundant hellebores which retained raindrops; and prolific shrubs such as camellias and viburnum. To make room for these images I have begun thinning out some 35,000 photographs in my Mac photo collection.

While I was enjoying myself drafting this post Jackie worked to unblock the shower drain. This afternoon we visited Streets in Brockenhurst to buy cleaning materials, and returned by a slightly circuitous route.

Much of the forest, like this area near Woodfidley, is still waterlogged. Reflective pools bear fallen trees. Still-standing oaks dip mossy toes into clear, still, surface water.

We stopped again at East End to photograph a pony busy trimming a prickly hedge.

Across the road two somewhat battle-scarred bays stood beside East Boldre allotments land. A notice informed visitors that the ponies inside were meant to be there and asked that they should not be fed. Was this, I wondered, a method of cutting out the compost middle man?

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic cottage pie served with tasty gravy; flavoursome broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and carrots. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017.

Late Afternoon Sun

An early end to the Test match and rain falling for most of the day prompted me to read eight more chapters of ‘Little Dorrit’, and consequently to scan eight more of Charles Keeping’s excellent illustrations.

‘Mrs Sparkler began to wonder how long the master-mind meant to stay’ is another two page spread.

‘Lying in the bath was the body of a heavily-made man’ sandwiches the text between the ends of the bath.

‘Mr Clennam, I think this is the gentleman I was mentioning’

”Young John surveyed him with a fixed look of indignant reproach’

‘Arthur turned his eye upon the impudent and wicked face’ which we now all recognise.

‘The gate jarred heavily and hopelessly upon her’

‘She staggered for a moment, as if she would have fallen’

For ‘The old house collapsed and fell’, the artist had no need to draw the building – he simply produced the effect.

Late in the afternoon, the sun emerged and drew us into a forest drive.

All along Sowley Lane

shaggy ponies tore at the hedges for sustenance;

colourful cock pheasants played Chicken crossing the road;

and snowdrops scaled the banks of the verges.

The pink-tinged water of the lake now surrounded bordering grasses;

and similar tints touched the puddle reflecting a gate above it.

Sunset. was arriving over St Leonard’s Grange

and lingered slowly for a while on our return journey.

This evening we dined on oven fish and chips; green peas; pickled onions and gherkins, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Garnacha.

Finishing Touches

On another gloomy wet morning Jackie photographed a selection of our current garden blooms, some decorated with pearls of rainwater.

Here we have sarcocca Hoskeriana, cyclamen, daffodil, iris reticulata Katharine Hodgkin, snowdrops, hellebore, camellia, daphne odorata marginata, and crocus.

Barry, of New Forest Chimney Sweeping & Repairs, then visited to extend the

downpipe across the kitchen extension roof to the guttering.

With our friend reflected in the Velux window he and I enjoyed a very pleasant conversation.

Five chapters further on in ‘Little Dorrit’ prompts a scan of five more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to this novel of Charles Dickens.

‘Mr Pancks requested Mr Rugg to take a good strong turn at the handle’ of the street pump, which were common sources of water for residents in the mid-nineteenth century. https://johnsnow.matrix.msu.edu/work.php?id=15-78-80 carries a long entry on “The Broad Street Pump: An episode in the cholera epidemic of 1854”.

in ‘My dear soul, you are my only comfort’, we recognise the earlier profile of the magnificent Mrs Merdle.

‘The three expensive Miss Tite Barnacles’ are somewhat less than delightful.

The jubilation of ‘The Collegians cheered him very heartily’ has the artist throwing his hats through the text.

‘The little procession moved slowly through the gate’ demanded the span of a two page spread. No doubt readers will recognise earlier acquaintances.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s savoury pilau rice topped with a five egg omelette served with both tempura and hot and spicy prawns with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Réserve de Bonpas.

Nature’s Palettes

On a bright and sunny afternoon we drove to the Parish Church of St John the Baptist on Church Lane, Boldre, where we met Elizabeth for a wander round the cemetery. These two images are Jackie’s.

She also pictured largely lichen-covered arboreal delights, and

various gravestones and crosses,

including the Burton family memorial to father, mother, and five year old son. Col. William Henry Burton (late Madras), according to the London Gazette, retired on an Indian pension and extra annuity in December 1890.

She finally focussed on the Chisman Brothers’ lichen-splashed memorial bench. Cecil died suddenly aged 40. I don’t know about William.

I, too, focussed on various flora;

on general views; on individual lichen and moss layered stones;

and on the House family monument of which Jackie had featured the semi-profiled lilies.

We still cannot make out the identity of either this little girl photographed on our last visit or the person watched over by this spotted angel.

Nature has converted wood and stone into palettes on which to apply her own gentle hues.

Unfortunately I have to report that, despite the warning sign, dumping even occurs on hallowed ground.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s creative cottage pie flavoured with cumin and thyme, and topped with potato and parsnip slices; flavoursome Brussels sprouts; crunchy carrots and meaty gravy with which she finished the Sauvignon Blanc and I drank Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017.

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.

“Did Someone Mention Carrots?”

Although Dennis kept the wind up throughout the night and the morning, the rain desisted and some of the rainwater subsided.

The swirling skirts of the weeping birch gave testimony to the strong breezes.

Aaron had cleared up much of the garden debris yesterday, and no further untidiness manifested itself. Daffodils, snowdrops, camellias, and more, have survived.

With followers like mine it was clear what our afternoon’s drive should entail. We dutifully made our way to South Sway Lane and our equine friend in the sodden field.

Much of the water had returned to the river and the pony was happily once more chomping on grass,

taking time to polish her hooves

and drink from the normal stream.

I must admit to feeling somewhat rejected as she determinedly pursued her grazing.

It was when Jackie called to ask me if I had the carrot that the mood changed. The animal lifted her head, whinnied “did someone mention carrots?”, and trotted over to the barbed wire fence.

She was quick to relieve my outstretched palm of an extra-long Tesco’s finest root vegetable.

Far too quick for the Assistant Photographer who hadn’t enough time to focus her camera and had to settle for my subsequent question about the subject’s satisfaction with her meal.

We returned home through driving rain.

This evening we dined on succulent fillet steaks, luscious ratatouille, and crisp potato wedges coated in herbs and garlic. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Patrick Chodot Fleurie 2018.

Comparatively Unscathed

Jackie produced a few photographs of dawn this morning.

Although the skies would darken with rain squalls and the windspeed increase at intervals after lunch the morning was brighter and the speed 45 m.p.h.

I toured the garden investigating what turned out to be very little damage.

The patio planters in front of the French windows were unscathed;

a few pots, like this one on the Kitchen Path,

and this beneath the clematis Cirrhosa Freckles, had toppled;

a few slender branches had been ripped from the copper beech and the weeping birch;

the already disintegrating rose arch had lost a piece of its top;

the back drive gate had shed some of its screen;

empty compost bags had been blown about a bit;

but many areas, such as the Shady Path were unscathed.

Nugget’s Wisteria Arbour was intact. “Where’s Nugget?” (67)

This afternoon the weather alternated between dark sleet showers and bursts of sunshine during which

darting blue tits took what opportunities they could to grab a peck

between those squabbling sparrow trapeze artists swinging on the swaying feeders

from which they spilled more than they consumed.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata plentifully packed with peppers, mushrooms, onions and garlic. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.