Lunch At Steff’s Kitchen

Late this morning Jackie drove us to Fairweather’s Garden Centre in Beaulieu where we met Danni, Andy, Ella, and Elizabeth for lunch in Steff’s Kitchen.

The various trees in pools on the road from Brockenhurst were thoroughly irrigated.

Beaulieu Lake was also very full, to the satisfaction of the numerous swans.

Ella enjoyed playing games with her Dad, in particular practising her pointing,

which she also did with me.

We exchanged Christmas presents which, had we been well enough, was planned to have taken place on New Year’s Day. Later, Danni e-mailed photographs of our great niece playing with the one we had given her. I will publish those tomorrow.

Even when Ella had pinched a chip from Andy she worked hard to place it in her bowl before eating it.

Elizabeth and I both chose roast beef dinners; Jackie selected soup and a sandwich; Andy chose something and chips;

Danni enjoyed a potato tortilla.

Ginormous cakes, carrot for Danni,

and Victoria sponge for Jackie, needed to be shared out a bit.

Danni gave Elizabeth a taste of hers,

some of which found its way to Ella’s cheeks.

I was treated to more of this, and to half of Jackie’s.

After a tour round the well stocked shop we all drove to Elizabeth’s for another hour or so of enjoyable conversation.

As we drove along Lyndhurst Road out of Beaulieu,

a bright sun was making determined efforts to climb above scudding clouds.

There are a considerable number of Shetland ponies about at the moment. I counted eighteen along Pilley Street grazing n the green.

As I wandered among them, they took to the road

in order to sample fresh fodder further along.

It was close to sunset when we arrived home, so we drove on to

Barton on Sea to witness it.

This evening we dined on sandwiches and salad. Mine was ham and Jackie’s was peanut butter.

 

 

Hatchet Pond At Dusk

Today’s Christmas rose is this peach one from the patio bed.

The neighbouring clematis Cirrhosa Freckles festoons the grateful gazebo.

The now solitary pigeon still perches praying for the return of its deceased mate.

Nugget now spends much of his time outside the stable door where he enjoys sole use of the feeder by the house which is too close for other birds to risk.

“Where’s Nugget?” (56)

“Here I am”, he says.

While Jackie worked on the Christmas decorations I finished the cards which we posted later in

a suitably capped pillar box

at Everton Post Office.

By dusk we had arrived at Hatchet Pond

where other photographers focussed on ducks and swans.

Oh, dear. I seem to have pressed publish prematurely. Tonight we will dine on Jackie’s superb Shepherds pie with carrots, cauliflower and runner beans which will no doubt be perfectly cooked. I will drink Patrick Chodot Fleurie and Jackie will drink more of the Sauvignon Blanc.

“What Are The Effing Chances…..?”

Our forest trip on another bright and sunny day began with

scraping ice off the car.

In a field beside an unnamed lane near Gorley Common

a sleeping pony stood characteristically with one rear foot bent was not the only backlit equine the we were to see.

Ogdens North lies alongside an unmarked muddy lane labeled NO THROUGH ROAD which culminates in a running stream of clear water.

The splendid hillside landscapes were beautifully lit when we arrived there shortly before lunch.

Autumn colour greeted our approach to the lane at the end which I disembarked and clambered over the rough terrain with its

fallen logs slowly rotting into the soil from which it sprang,

and muddy tracks tramped by hoofs of the ponies I was to walk among.

I watched thirst being slaked

by strings of ponies descending the grass covered rocky banks

onto the gravelly stream bed

to drink and dribble crystal clear water.

As I stood, like the ponies, watching an apparently amphibious cross the stream, Jackie also observed the oncoming vehicle with more alarming feelings. It was undoubtedly heading in her direction requiring her to back up the muddy path pictured above. This forced her to abandon focussing on

the pony on the bridge if favour of a snatched shot. “What”, she exclaimed, as she began reversing, “are the effing chances…..?.

The tractor tucked into the side of the road. A large Waitrose delivery van then proceeded down the hill. “What”, she repeated, somewhat increasing the decibels, “are the effing chances….?  The unfortunate driver had taken a wrong turning.

I photographed a few more reflecting ponies before ascending the slope to rejoin Jackie.

Neighbouring field horses enjoyed the warmth of their rugs and breakfasts of bags of hay.

We brunched at Hockey’s farm shop then drove home in time for me to begin drafting this post before Giles collected me and transported me to the bird hide at Milford on Sea.

There we encountered gaggles of winter visiting Brent geese;

a flapping cormorant;

drinking swans;

a wandering little egret;

and the ubiquitous gulls.

As we departed sunset approached, producing vibrant reds and yellows, with pastel tinges

enshrouding the Isle of White and The Needles;

and festooning windows opposite.

Giles had also been out to lunch, so when he stayed on for dinner we all enjoyed pizza and cold meats with fresh salad.

 

 

 

 

Flying Gulls

Last night I watched the recorded rugby World Cup match between Japan and Samoa; this morning those between New Zealand and Namibia, and between France and Tonga.

I then photographed some examples of our

nasturtiums, blooming until the first frost;

our generous begonias;

our varied dahlias;

our honesty seed pod medallions;

our hardier clematises such as this Polish Spirit;

and our roving Japanese anemones.

Nugget busied himself with his war cries up aloft

Early this evening we drove to Mudeford to catch the sunset.

While the sun was still well above the horizon, the meeting of the two currents between the quay and the Isle of Wight through up violent spray;

gulls glided overhead,

or perched on gravel.

A trio of elegant swans slaked their thirst in the

rippling water of the harbour.

A silhouetted couple left their bench and paused to study their photographs.

Another gentleman stood alongside another seat as the skies glowed gold

then dipped into a pastel palette when a bank of low cloud screened the sun

 

 

from silhouetted flying seabirds.

Later this evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious lamb jalfrezi and savoury rice topped with an omelette. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Brouilly.

The Watchers On The Shore

Today’s weather was once more clear, bright, sunny, and cooler.

Bees continued collecting nectar throughout the garden. On my walk around I captured them on bidens, and on the more mature blooms of Festive Jewel.

Crisp young examples of the latter await their turn at contributing to the queen’s larder.

Tomatoes continue to ripen in readiness for ours.

It is a good thing I was not using film in my attempts to catch the myriad of fluttering snowflakes in the form of Small White butterflies while they swirled through the air. I settled for those landing on a poppy head and on a verbena bonarensis. Another took pity on me and perched on a petunia.

Orange crocosmia Emily Mckenzie brightens the Dead End Path and pink sweet peas dance in the Weeping Birch Bed.

Our Bishop of Llandaff in the New Bed was eaten by a vole a couple of years ago. Its deeper red companion has survived.

Another plant that has proved impossible to grow in the various beds tried by the Head Gardener is the gaura. This one is thriving in a pot.

Lady Emma Hamilton produces multiple flushes.

Rows of small begonias sparkle on the borders of beds like these alongside the Heligan Path.

Nugget darted in and out nearby. I am beginning to wonder whether he associates the click of the camera with the clink of a trowel.

One of the pictures above should provide a clue to today’s “Where’s Nugget?” (9)

Late this afternoon we took drive into the forest.

The only sign of life on Hatchet Pond was this pair of swans.

The others must have heard that members of an excited family were feeding the birds beside the nearby Beaulieu River.

Kite surfers and sailboarders struggled on the Solent at the end of Tanners Lane, where they were watched by a young man on the shore. I suppose I made it two watchers so I could legitimately borrow the title of Stan Barstow’s novel.

This evening we dined on Lidl’s rack of pork spare ribs in barbecue sauce; the Culinary Queen’s flavoursome mushroom rice; and the Head Gardener’s tender runner beans, with which Jackie drank Belgium’s Hoegaarden and I finished Tesco’s finest Chilean Malbec.

In Their Element

In steady, heavy, rain this morning Jackie drove us to New Milton to collect my cleaning; to Ferndene Farm Shop for three bags of compost; and to Milford on Sea Pharmacy for a repeat prescription.

Now we were out, where could we visit next for a photoshoot but to Keyhaven in search of waterfowl?

Watched by a raindrop coated black-headed gull;

rapidly turning and darting, lifting heavily paddled feet in its stride, an egret was fishing for breakfast in the harbour.

Alongside the reed beds across the road a cormorant (?) would occasionally disappear beneath the surface, darting for its own sustenance.

Raindrops also glistened from mallards’ waterproofs.

Saltgrass Lane takes us from the harbour area to the salt flats beside Hurst spit. There is no speed limit on this road which is too narrow to permit parking at any time.

This is not a lane in which you would wish to meet an oncoming vehicle, such as this one which reversed some distance before reaching a passing space.

Active gulls and swans flapped, stretched, and flew across the flats;

another egret enjoyed successful fishing.

Fortunately, unusually, it was not raining in Manchester. I was therefore able to listen to the men’s Cricket World Cup match between England and Afghanistan at Old Trafford.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s Cumberland and caramelised onion sausages braised in red wine; creamy mashed medley of potato, swede and butternut squash; crunchy broccoli and cauliflower; and tender runner beans. I finished the Galodoro while the Culinary Queen drank Blue Moon.

Reflective Mood

It wasn’t until about 4 p.m. the afternoon that I realised on glancing through the window beside my desk that the sun had made a fleeting appearance as,

against the still indigo skies, it lit the pink rambling rose rising from the front trellis.

Its deeper pink companion soared above the porch, and the first of the Félicité Perpétue blooms which will drape themselves over the opposite fence has opened out.

I had spent the morning reading and responding to the letters of condolences it has taken me three months to complete. We posted these from Everton Post Office and drove on further into the forest.

Royden Lane took us to

Lower Sandy Down. On the left hand side of this shot stands

a large oak tree the bole of which is home to ferns, ivy, and mosses.

An unusual number of ponies grazed around Hatchet Pond, normally the realm of donkeys.

Stately swans disturbed the surface of the lake which mirrored their images.

A black headed gull was in an equally reflective mood.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s perfect pork paprika; boiled new potatoes; breaded mushrooms; and green beans. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Carmenere.