Walking Better

This morning I reduced the codeine element of my pain relief and toured the garden with my camera.

I was walking better as I wandered around making these images.

Much of the rest of the morning was occupied with mutually supportive family telephone conversations.

This afternoon we took a drive into the forest.

A chestnut pony cropping the verge at North Gorley had clearly been indulging in a mud bath.

Not far away, we passed a distant field of young stags,

on one side of which perched a watching raptor. I am relying on John Knifton to identify this bird. (See Quercus’s comment below – a buzzard)

I can identify the pair of mallards rooting on the soggy terrain beside grazing ponies.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s cod, chips, and pea fritter with Garner’s pickled onions.

Three Young Stags

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE IN A GROUP TO ACCESS ITS GALLERY, INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF WHICH CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE BY SCROLLING DOWN AND CHECKING BOX AT BOTTOM RIGHT

On this very grey morning Jackie and I took another trip to Burley for the second birthday present. This time we were successful. As for yesterday’s gift, I cannot be more specific, or publish a photograph. After all, I never know who’s reading this.

As we returned along Mill Lane I was struck by how well a pony and foal blended with the wall of the farm building behind them. There were, in fact, two mares and two foals. The youngsters have reached the stage when their tails are growing and they are able to sport splendid Mohican haircuts.

On the far side of a field further down the lane, three young stags seemed not too perturbed by my distant lens.

Elizabeth is spending another night with Mum, who has a chest infection. Jackie and I dined on her flavoursome beef in red wine with onions, peppers, and mushrooms; served with creamy mashed potato, crunchy carrots, and our own runner beans. I drank Patrick Chodot Fleurie 2016. The Culinary Queen had consumed her Becks Blue on the patio beforehand.

A Stag Party

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE IN A GROUP TO ACCESS ITS GALLERY, ANY MEMBER OF WHICH CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE BY SCROLLING DOWN AND CHECKING BOX AT BOTTOM RIGHT.

Becky and Ian returned this morning to their home at Emsworth. This afternoon Jackie drove Flo, Dillon and me out for a drive in the forest.

On the way to Beaulieu, Flo spotted a row of antlers among the gorse on the moors. They belonged to a string of stags. Jackie turned the car round and returned to the spot, where the animals still congregated. As long as we stood still and kept our distance, cervine curiosity kept them interested. When I edged forward, slowly at first they turned tail and suddenly rushed back into the golden covert.

In the foreground of this landscape are some of the many pools springing all over the forest at the moment.

As we approached Beaulieu an obliging pony put on a display of disrupting the traffic for our family visitors.

We visited The Yachtsman’s Bar at Buckler’s Hard for refreshments.

A number of yachts and motorboats were moored in the harbour.

Helicopter over Isle of Wight

We made a small diversion down to the beach at Tanner’s Lane where  we watched a helicopter flying across the Isle of Wight.

The next stop was at Lyndhurst where, in the churchyard of St Michael & All Angels, Flo and Dillon were shown the grave of Mrs Reginald Hargreaves, otherwise known to the world as Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Dillon produced these selfies, while I photographed the stone commemorating Anne Frances Cockerell which I suspect was that of a 23 year old who probably died in childbirth, leaving her husband to live on into the next century.

I also photographed roofs of the Crown Hotel and adjacent buildings,

while Flo crouched to focus on the street below, before she and I photographed each other.

The next grave to be visited was that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, complete with pipe. It was Flo who captured these images whilst I focussed on her and Dillon.

This was in the graveyard of

Minstead Parish Church. Only the first, vertical, picture of these last seven is mine. The others are Flo’s. The list of rectors, beginning in the thirteenth century, bears out the age of the shattered, regenerated, yew tree to the left of the last photograph, said to be at least 700 years old.

Back home, we dined on Mr Pink’s fish and chips with mushy peas, pickled onions, and gherkins.

Pumpkins And Pizzas

Wollaton Hall

Wollaton Hall is an Elizabethan country house of the 1580s standing on a small but prominent hill in Wollaton Park, Nottingham, England. The house is now Nottingham Natural History Museum, with Nottingham Industrial Museum in the out-buildings. Its additional interest for us is that Noel Gervis Pearson, a great great grandfather of Louisa’s two children donated a butterfly collection to the museum sometime in the early twentieth century.

Wollaton Deer Park 1Wollaton Deer Park 2

Louisa, Jessica, Imogen, and I spent a gloriously mild and sunny morning and early afternoon wandering the deer park and visiting the house.

Louisa, Jessica, and Imogen

StagDeer (1)

Noticing the stags basking in the sunshine, and the does caring for their offspring under the trees, Louisa observed, in a telling fashion, that they were carrying out traditional male and female roles.

Louisa, Jessica, and Imogen (2)

In our attempts to approach the young cervine family, we reached a very boggy stretch. The girls thought it would be quite fun to see Grandpa clambering along the logs. Grandpa didn’t think so. He wasn’t wearing sensible footwear. He took the long way round.

Water birds

There has to be a lake in a country house garden. This one attracted many water fowl.

Photographing stagStanding stag 1Standing stag 2Standing stag 3

On the approach to the house, a large, grazing, stag attracted numerous lenses.

In the building, the girls spent a pleasant time hunting out exhibits and completing a linked Halloween quiz. I thought expecting them to work out an anagram of CAULDRON was a bit tough. Easy peasy for Mordred, of course.

Jessica and Imogen carving pumpkinsImogen carving pumpkin 1Jessica carving pumpkinJessica carving pumpkin 2Imogen's hands

After lunch, it was time to carve the pumpkins. Using templates from a book, Jessica produced a more than creditable ghost, but Imogen’s went ‘a bit wrong’. She had a most impressive stab at an ancient mummy, the most complex design of all; then recognising that she had bitten off more than she could chew, she made her own drawing for the other side of the pumpkin. This time, Louisa cut out the necessary sections.

Pumpkins

For dinner, we travelled by bus to Pizza Express in Nottingham. This outlet has come on apace since the first one was opened in Soho’s Wardour Street in 1965. There were a number of entertaining activities for the children to complete whist waiting for their food. One of these was the creation of their own Halloween masks.

Jessica and Imogen maskedDerrick and Louisa masked

After Jessica and Imogen were photographed wearing theirs, Louisa and I had to borrow them.

Pizza

My choice of pizza was American Hottest Romana.

On leaving the restaurant, we discovered there was a 25 minute wait for the next bus, so we caught a cab back. This impressed Imogen who kept saying she had never been in a taxi before.

That’s What Wellies Are For

Tie box 2David and Jen also gave us wine and stilton for Christmas this year.  It was therefore appropriate that their box should take the tie overflow (see yesterday’s post).  But who wears ties these days?

Once again we were waterlogged.  Knowing, when I set out to walk the Emery Down loop via Mill Lane, that I would encounter an otherwise impassable road and some pretty soggy footpaths, I wore my Wellington boots.  These, as we shall see, came in handy.

Audrey feeding Primrose and ChampionSporting yellow-rimmed dark glasses, Audrey was gamely trying to ensure that her ponies, Primrose and Champion, enjoyed a feed of dry hay.  When I passed them on my return, a little over two hours later, Primrose was stuffing the last of it inside her.  Champion, who was now showing little interest was probably already stuffed.

Car sending up sprayThe pool that was Lyndhurst Road at the point at which I had once, un-wellied, turned back, was full to spraying.  Some vehicles slowed down to a snail’s pace, others went tearing through showering all about them.  I wonder whether a snail could actually have made it through.

AntlersAs I neared the highest part of Mill Lane, a trail of bobbing antlers glided silently past, just beneath the brow of the hillside slope.  On the far side of the field they gathered into seminar formation. White stag and companions I became quite excited when, changing my angle of vision, I realised that the course facilitator of this stag party was the legendary white one.  I rather blew it when I got a bit too close and they elegantly pranced off with the poise of Kate Moss on the catwalk.

Walking past the Mill Pool I encountered a young man pushing a wheelbarrow down the muddy track towards me.  Once I had realised that this was not Robert (see 17th February), I carried on a conversation with Barry, who had been given the night off by his wife.  Barry was not surprised that the brief respite we had had from the rain ended as we stopped to speak.  You see, his wheelbarrow contained his fishing gear and his tent, so, of course it was bound to rain.  There must be worse ways of spending a night, but offhand I can’t think of one.

Footpath warning to walkersAs I neared Emery Down I rather rashly took a diversion onto a footpath.  Well, if truth be told, I needed a pee, and reckoned no-one else would be daft enough to venture onto it on such a day.  There I saw a sign which gave me some insight into the farmer’s perspective on the availability of ramblers’ footpaths controversy.

Throughout my walk I found myself seeking out the puddles on the road, so that I could walk through them and clean off some of the mud from the more cloying footpaths.  I began to feel like a three year old trying out his new footwear and stamping in the pools sending up his equivalent of the car spray mentioned earlier.  Many a time have I offered a remonstrating parent the opinion that ‘that’s what wellies are for’.

On my return I decanted a few more items into the garage, then rang the Apple Help Line.  This required two calls of approximately an hour’s duration, one of which required me to spend some time listening to music which I completely failed to categorise.  I expect it is up to the minute.  I was guided to downloading the relevant software.  James and Joseph, the two young advisers could not have been more helpful.  Unfortunately the problem, even after half an hour’s downloading, remains.  I expect I will have to talk to Epson, who make the scanner.  Another day.

This evening we both ate more delicious Chilli con carne; I drank more zinfandel, and Jackie abstained.

Carry On Walking

Deadmans Hill view 3.13It was such a glorious day that we decided to set off early to find some of the wonderful locations we had stumbled on yesterday.  Jackie drove me as far as Deadman Hill on Roger Penny Way, with an agreement to meet in Frogham carpark after two hours.  Cattle from Ashley Walk 3.13Shortly before I reached Ashley Walk on Godshill Ridge, Jackie, who had driven on to Frogham, drove back, passing me.  She paused to explain that she was going home for her phone in case we needed it.  That, as we will see, was a fruitless exercise.

As usual, generations of thoughtful ponies had prepared my passage across the heath.  Gliding along on layers of bracken stalks and desiccated droppings, my walking boots felt like carpet slippers.  The fresher excreta was best avoided, especially as it was above that that the numerous clouds of midges gathered.  These flying ticklers reminded me of those by the River Wandle in Morden described on 2nd November last year.  On the approach to Godshill a large pool of water had not yet dried up.  A short, fat, hairy pony, reminding me of Ernie Wise, was drinking from it.  As I neared the animal it raised its snout, turned, and lumbered towards me in an amorous manner, with green matter hanging from flaring nostrils and liquid dripping from its whiskers.  The green matter, fortunately, was pondweed.  I wasn’t sure about the liquid, but as it was nuzzled onto my suit jacket sleeve, I rather hoped it was water.

Daffodils 3.13Roadside daffodils were now in bloom.  What a difference a day makes. Well Lane, Godshill 3.13 Soon after spotting some of these in Godshill, I was tempted by the entrance to Well Lane, which sported a footpath sign, to depart from my planned route which did not include leaving the beaten track.  It was a mixed blessing that I did so.  Labouring up the steep rise ahead of me were an elderly man and his ageing dog.  This was Peter Trim.  Peter had lived there for twenty six years, all but the last he had spent guiding walkers.  He knew these forest areas like the back of his hand.  Which was just as well for me.  He described the route I should take to reach Frogham.  Initially it involved two stiles and a bridge over a stream.  Fields had to be crossed.  When I had finished speaking with him I got some of it right.

Peter Trim's garage 3.13This friendly widower pointed out his garage to me.  I had walked past it without noticing it, largely because I was watching him climb the slope.  That was an omission.  The facade of this structure is covered in small paintings Peter has produced, each one having some significance for him.  He described many of these for me.  The Riding for Disabled logo represents his years as a volunteer for that organisation.   One more worth singling out is that of the rear ends of four ponies, showing the cuts of their tails, each kind indicating a different territory, as an aid to identification.  This is midway on the right side of the gallery.  The dog hobbled across the front as I was taking the photograph.  Peter urged it to remove itself.  I asked him to let it be, as it would add to the ambience.

Since he arrived in Well Lane Peter has never wanted to be anywhere else.  A sweep of his arm took in the whole of the valley below, where much wartime preparation had taken place.  He recited much, but all I’ve managed to take in is testing of bouncing bombs in the Second World War, and Boer War rifle practice.  Someday a visit with a notebook might pay dividends.  I’m sure this man would be amenable.

Almost as soon as I had taken my leave of Peter I realised the value of his guidance.  Just a few yards down the lane, building materials and a wire fence blocked the path.  I could just ease myself past the obstacle, reach a gate I needed to open, and cross the first stile. Sheepfield 3.13 I was now on farmland.  Across the stream there was a sheepfield to the right, its flock grazing in the sunlight.  As I traversed the bridge I was rewarded with a rare sight indeed. Stags 3.13 Trooping in single file from a copse onto the field to the left was a stately parade of magnificent stags.  A small rabbit hopped over to meet them.  He didn’t stay long.  Maybe he’d had in mind a comparison of scuts, and realised theirs were bigger than his.  In any group there is always a straggler.  This was no exception.  As the rabbit reached the trees, the lagging member trotted down from the bank.

Stepping stones 3.13The final stile opened onto a still very muddy area.  In contrast to yesterday’s farmer who had ensured only the most intrepid wayfarers would enter his land, this owner had laid a series of helpful stepping stones.

Consulting my Ordnance Survey map I turned right onto the minor road ahead.  So far, so good. Hart Hill 3.13 Then I turned left too early and found myself on Hart Hill.  A string of ponies were making their way to a gorse bush above me as I realised I shouldn’t be up there and turned back to the junction at which I should have gone straight on.  A woman was standing in her garden on a bend in the road.  She told me I was well on my way to Frogham, I had to go straight on, cross the brook, turn right and walk up over a ridge which she indicated on the distant horizon.  As I continued a car stopped and the driver asked me for directions.  I ask you!   She asked me for directions!  Although I was a bit dubious about it, she decided to go straight on.  Soon she turned around, stopped, and got out her mobile phone.  I quickly realised why.  The road had ended.  It now became a scarcely trodden footpath.  I carried on, seeking the brook.  All that remotely resembled a brook was a ditch alongside the footpath and a few little streams that were now not much more than mudholes, running across the path into it.  Eventually, the path becoming less and less well travelled, my nerve cracked, and I reversed my steps to the helpful woman’s house.  By now I had to negotiate my way among a large group of ponies lolling about all over the road.  Rounding a bend I met a really evil-looking black and white terrier of some sort.  It guarded the gate to a property.  As far as I was concerned it was on the wrong side of the closed gate.  Silently waiting for me to come alongside its home, it let out savage war cries and rushed, snapping, at my legs.  I had to kick out a bit.

The helpful woman was not at home.  I decided to go back and have another go.  This time a driver, getting into a van told me there was no way through to Frogham using that lady’s directions.  His advice was to go back the way I had come and look for a footpath on my left.  I found it.  There, facing me, were the stepping stones I had crossed earlier.  That wasn’t going to be any use, so I went on to Newgrounds where I met another woman who confirmed the first woman’s directions.  She said it would take me about an hour and a quarter.  Now, since Jackie would be expecting me in the Frogham carpark at that very moment, that was a bit awkward.  But we both had our mobile phones, and Jackie was very patient and had Miranda Hart to entertain her, and it was a good hour to lunchtime, so all would be well.

Ah.  No signal.  Try again.  I had a signal but she didn’t.  I left a message.  I did that several times in the next three quarters of an hour.  What I didn’t know was that she was doing the same, and had even driven off to find a signal, to no avail.

Before setting off yet again, I had a really good look at the map, and, there, clearly marked, not very many yards from where I’d turned back, was Ditchend Brook. Ditchend Brook 3.13 I reached it in double quick time, especially when, as anticipated, I had to encounter the terrible terrier again.  This time he had brought his little mate along.  Warding off two snapping, snarling dogs is a bit more difficult.   I had not received instructions about how to cross the lovely cool rivulet with clear water running over an albeit shallow stony bed.  Of course I had to walk across it.  Which, trousers hoisted, I did.

This was hopeful.  Just turn right, up and over the heath, and Frogham and Jackie await.  Ah.  But, which of the numerous tracks criss-crossing the heath would be the right one? Long Bottom 3.13 Burnt Balls 3.13I rather liked the look of one which skirted areas marked as Burnt Balls and Long Bottom.  Hopefully it would lead to Hampton Ridge, which runs down to Frogham.  Hampton Ridge view 3.13Paying attention to the contour lines on the map, I should stay along the bottom edge of that ridge, otherwise I’d end up on Thompson’s Castle.  Since my Thompson family live on Mapperley Top near Nottingham, I didn’t think there would be much point in that.

Hampton Ridge is a wide thoroughfare.  Once on there it was downhill all the way.  Jackie was waiting.  I was three quarters of an hour late.  From her vantage point, not having any idea of the direction I would be taking, she had actually spotted me coming down from the ridge, and jumped up and down waving her arms in the air.  Sadly, I didn’t notice.The Fighting Cocks 3.13

As we settled down to lunch at the Fighting Cocks pub in Godshill, Jackie commented that, what with Burnt Balls, Long Bottom, and Fighting Cocks, it had been rather a ‘Carry On’ walk.  Her quip refers to the scurrilous series of films throughout the 1960s, all entitled  ‘Carry On……………’.  They were notorious for their suggestive scenarios and double entendre dialogue.  Well, whichever way you look at it, this morning’s effort had been a bit of a carry on.

Whitebait and pate starters 3.13The lunch was amazing.  We took the pensioners’ special, two items for £7.95.  We both chose starters, pate for Jackie and whitebait for me; and each had haddock chips and peas to follow.  The starters alone were a meal in themselves.  All homemade and very well cooked.  Peroni and Otter Ale were drunk.

Aldi’s pork spare ribs were almost as good as Jackie’s special fried rice which combined for our evening meal.  I finished the Saint Emilion while Jackie savoured Hoegaarden.