After The Rain 2

On a crisp, bright morning with a cloudless blue sky, we took a drive around the New Forest.

Lacking a leaf canopy, the treetop roof, like our kitchen skylight, leaked onto the forest floor.

Reflections in pool 1Reflections on pool 2Reflections in pool 3Reflections in pool 4Reflections in pools 6Reflections on pool 8Reflections in pool 8

These scenes, photographed at Brownhills near Wootton Heath, were repeated throughout our journey. Branches are traced on the surface of pools reflecting various hues of blue contrasting with the seepage from the reddened soil and the

Forest floor 2

fallen leaves. It was possible to ignore the soggy refuse littered about.

Redlands stones

Redlands house name on stone was also reflected in nature’s mirror.

Ponies generally remain deeper in the forest during heavy rain. Today they were everywhere in the forest and on the heathland.

Ponies 2Ponies 3

On Whitefield Moor two members of a basking group appeared to lack the energy to support the weight of their heads. The most likely explanation is that these creatures, usually pretty scrawny by this time of the year, have been eating as if it were Christmas for some months now.

Pony preening

A giant, preening, swan, upon closer inspection turned out to be an itchy pony

Ponies 1

that tail-twitched off after gaining some relief.

Firs 1

The magnificent upright redwood firs of the Rhinefield arboretum burned in the sunlight.

Cattle on road 1Cattle on road 2Cattle on road 3Cattle on road 4

A group of mud-caked, yellow-tagged, curly haired cattle, as they ambled along the road hugging the wall of a thatched cottage at East Boldre, successfully delayed traffic for a while.

The yellow tags on these creatures’ ears denote ownership by the commoners who are entitled to allow their animals to roam free. I have never seen these beasts released from their byres this early in the year.

This evening we dined at Dynasty in Brockenhurst. I enjoyed a king prawn jalfrezi; Jackie’s choice was paneer chaslick ; we shared an egg paratha, special fried rice, and sag paneer; and both drank Kingfisher.

Before And After: The Dragon Bed And The Head Gardener’s Walk

Front garden planting

Here is today’s photograph of Jackie’s up to date planting of the front garden featured yesterday. The gravelly soil has been supplemented by earth dug out from around the corner.

Cleared area

When we cleared an area rampant with bramble beneath a ficus so leggy that its limbs sought comfort in the neighbouring fir, holly, and bay trees, we revealed choked camellias and other plants cowering against our neighbours’ fence. This photograph is from 19th May 2014.

Stepping stones

The thought then was that we would create a further bed with stepping stones for access. These were dropped into place by 27th July.

Jackie walking by her path

Two days later, a serpentine path was taking shape. We had levelled the soil and countersunk these concrete panels scavenged from other parts of the garden.

Stones in path

In order to achieve the sinuous shape we created triangle spaces filled with stones found in the flower beds.

Path round fir tree

What was now named The Head Gardener’s Walk wound round the fir tree.

Beach stones in path

A trip to Milford on Sea on 31st July was required to complete the insertion of pebbles. A hip young gentleman would have been proud of the effect of the weighing down of my voluminous work trouser pockets as I clambered from the beach to the car.

Head gardener's path

By 24th February 2015 the Dragon’s Bed, created in the cleared space, was becoming established.

Dragon's bed

 This is what it looked like four days ago;

Head Gardener's Walk

and the Head Gardener’s Walk yesterday.

This evening we dined on the milder dishes from Hordle Chinese Take Away. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I finished the malbec first opened five days ago.

A Little D.I.Y. And A Lot Of Creativity

Clematis texansis Duchess of AlbanyThe clematis texansis Duchess of Albany that Jackie planted in the kitchen garden is now blooming. Hardy fuchsia

One side of the back drive is lined with hardy fuchsias.Window boxes on front wall

The window boxes on the front wall have survived hurricane Bertha.Golden holly

The golden holly I hacked down in the spring because of the number of sports it sported has revived splendidly.

It may not have escaped the notice of my regular readers that I am not exactly a dab hand at D.I.Y. But I do rate a little higher than whoever did most of the work on our house. Near the kitchen sink there is a pair of hooks on a roughly hewn piece of wood on which we have hung our tea towels. Wall behind teatowel hooksYesterday, never in our time having borne more than three light pieces of cloth, it fell off the wall. We then discovered that it had simply been stuck to the plaster. More than once, by the look of it. I therefore had the task of screwing the makeshift object into place. This involved inspecting my drill-bits and working out which ones were for wood, which for softer masonry, and which for strong brick and breeze block. Teatowel hooksI only made one minor error in selection. Suitable holes had to be drilled, rawlplugs inserted and screws fixed in place. Should anyone feel inclined to point out the extra hole bottom right, please note that was already there. Maybe someone had first attempted to screw the fixture into position, and found it a little difficult. As will be seen, it is not a pretty structure, and there is a certain amount of making good required. It will, however, be a long time before we begin to tackle the major task of decorating the house, so we will live with that. Even though she was in fear of a crooked fixture, the practical member of our team was able to tear herself away and leave me to it, probably because the attraction of helping Flo identify some of her jewellery-making materials was too strong.Jackie and Flo sorting jewellery Second-hand stones from Jackie’s necklaces and bracelets were being recycled for Flo’s enterprise. The highlight of Jackie removing beads from necklaceFlo sorting beadsthat activity was when our granddaughter, having applied all the necessary tests, proclaimed that the Russian amber (not from the glass necklace being dismantled in the photograph above) given to Jackie by a house-guest some years ago was plastic.

Blackberry and apple crumbleLater, Flo and I picked the main ingredients for tonight’s dessert which was blackberry and apple crumble, served with custard, evap, or Elmlea faux cream; or any combination therefrom. Our main course was Jackie’s classic sausage casserole (recipe) with crisp roast potatoes and crunchy carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. Jackie drank water, Flo drank apple juice, and I drank Isla Negra cabernet sauvignon 2013.

A Rose For Retirement

HaircutBeach stones in pathEarly this morning Jackie resumed a task she had first undertaken more than forty years ago. She cut my hair, thus putting Donna-Marie out of business. Its colour was rather different first time round. The dark bit must be a trick of the light.

After this I placed the beach stones between the slabs in yesterday’s path. There were still not quite enough, and they put those found in the garden somewhat into the shade, so we will probably need a few more, even after I picked up some interesting pieces of flint on my later walk, and inserted them in place on my return.

During a break, Jackie has managed to identify two of the plants that had us beaten. The first is the white flower, libertia, depicted on 28th April; the second had been identified by Tess, but we couldn’t remember the name of the hebe salicifolia koromiko. Like our daughter in law, and so many of our garden treasures, these are both natives of New Zealand.

Dug up pathPaving from kitchen gardenWall round compost stage 1The day’s major joint task was to start on clearing the kitchen garden in preparation for its transformation into a rose bower. Largely hidden beneath the greenery lie treacherously uneven criss-crossing paths in all sorts of material, mostly brick, stone, and concrete, covering ancient layers of gravel. Any speculation about the evolution of this ankle-twisting surface would be fruitless. This, we have decided, will be the one area where we abandon what we find previously laid down, level it all off, and start from scratch with a sheet of squared paper.

I have begun piling up the paving, apart from the concrete slabs Jackie has snaffled to build a wall with which to restrain the compost.

Shady bedRetirement roseJackie has planted up what was the rather barren shady bed opposite the pale blue Ace Reclaim bench. The red rose in the container beneath the Gardman arch was given to her by her work colleagues when she retired from Merton Social Services Department two years ago. It has survived several moves, including overwintering at Shelly and Ron’s.

Mare's tailsLater this afternoon, I walked down to Shorefield stream and back.New Forest Tour bus The field opposite the entrance to the Country Park has a fine crop of mare’s tails. The New Forest Tour bus stops at the zebra crossing leading down to the chalets beyond the stream.

Pigeon on cableI had been hoping to photograph some coots today, but there were none in evidence.Small tortoiseshell male butterfly I did, however, watch a pigeon doing a high-wire act, and a male small tortoiseshell butterfly sunning itself on a buddleia.Red Admiral male butterfly Our butterflies, like this male Red Admiral prefer basking on our paving stones to perching on our version of that plant.

We dined on refreshing salad again this evening, followed by strawberries and evap (for the uninitiated this is a family term for evaporated milk) on a bed of Tesco’s raspberry twirl cheesecake. The cheesecake was reduced in price because it was pushing its sell-by date; the evap was reduced in fat content, because it is less likely to fatten the consumer. I drank more of the French cotes du Rhone and Jackie her Belgian beer (Hoegaarden in case you’ve forgotten).

‘Have You Had A Fall Or Something?’

RufustonWe have found Rufuston on the agent’s website.  It is still intriguing.  Were we to pursue it, us oldies would need to install a lift; more double glazing; and at least one more loo.  The house is on four floors, with stunning views across the forest at the back, but the noisy A31 at the front.

I passed the building whilst taking the Matthew and Oddie walk this morning.  Running HillWhen I set out light rain was falling, causing everything to glitter in the sunshine.  By the time I reached what I have been calling Bournemouth Road, but which Jackie’s research has revealed to be Forest Road, the rain was becoming steadier, until it became a torrent well before I approached the bottle bank.  I could not summon a lift home because I had left my phone on charge.

Diving for shelter into the trees, I managed to spear my forehead on a dead holly branch.  I regard this as serendipity, because had I not dropped my head a little I would not have noticed what I take to be ponies’ teeth marks on the bark.  These reminded me of some  mediaeval paving stones I bought in an architectural salvage store in Carlisle in the late 1980s.  Hiring a van, I transported them to Lindum House, around which I made a footpath.  These stones, some of which were so worn as to be concave, contained hand-made chisel marks on the undersides.  Turning the concave ones upside down and filling the sockets with sand, a reasonably level path was produced, leaving the chisel marks in full view.

Ponies' teethmarks

My attempt to photograph the holly bark wasn’t completely in focus, but that of the branch was completely hopeless.  Maybe I wasn’t seeing straight.

Tramping along the wide Forest Road, I was greeted by a young man who stopped his car on the other side of the road. He wondered whether I was ok.  I must have looked a bit puzzled, because, when I said I was, he asked: ‘Have you had a fall, or something?’.  I smiled and said: ‘Oh, I just walked into a tree’.  I’m not sure this was any less of an alarming prospect for my good Samaritan, for he persisted.  Eventually he was satisfied I was unharmed.

When you think about it, it was quite reasonable for the couple, with a toddler in a car seat at the back, to have stopped.  I may well have done the same had I seen an elderly gent in an open-necked short-sleeved shirt, summer trousers, and sandals sans socks, striding through the heather by the side of an unpopulated road, in the pouring rain, with blood seeping into his right eyebrow.

Derrick's cutI hadn’t realised I was bleeding until I returned home and dripped (water) into the flat.  Soon after I had dried out and changed my clothing the sun came out and beamed at me. Probably at everyone else as well, but it did seem to be rather amused.

Imperial China in Lyndhurst High Street provided our evening repast, and very good it was too.  We chose their set meal B, which, as usual, was plentiful, varied, and crisply cooked.  We both drank Tsing Tao beer.  The waiting staff there are all amazing.  Remaining friendly, and sometimes humorous, they work at a rate of knots.  Seeing the young men in particular glide through the restaurant propelling trays of steaming sizzling options, deftly avoiding any customers taking their places, reminded me of Jeremy Guscott, England’s finest rugby centre of the 1980s and ’90s, and perhaps of any age.