It was just as cold this morning, signalling the end of British Summertime, but without the sunshine.  I walked to the municipal dump, the first stretch, as far as the initial roundabout, being a repeat of yesterday’s journey.  At the roundabout I went straight on up Botley Road, eventually arriving at Shamblehurst Road.  Jackie, who was to meet me there with the already loaded car, passed me a minute or two before I reached the dump.  So, we thought that was pretty good timing.

Glove on barbed wire 10.12

As I entered Telegraph Woods I couldn’t miss a child’s glove hanging from the barbed wire fence by the entry gate in Telegraph Road.  I reflected that some unfortunate, possibly sobbing, had travelled home with tingling fingers.  If this were an infant in a buggy that would be a much more painful experience than that suffered by one striding along in warming exercise.

After Ruby’s owner had been unsuccessful in stopping his dog from tearing down the slope and bashing her head on my shin, the walk through the wood was silent and solitary.  The distant monotonous drone of the M27 provided a trance-inducing backing to the crackling of my footsteps, and rustling of leaves disturbed by the scurrying of magpies and the scampering of squirrels; these last laying up winter stores such as the contents of the chestnut shells strewn about the paths and undergrowth.

Traversing the M27 by way of the bridge on Botley Road was almost surrealistic.  Steady streams of traffic whoosh whooshed past my right shoulder, while others with regular whoomphs rushed at me from my left.  The volleys from the left would disappear beneath my feet, yet my brain was not registering the height distance separating the motorway from the road I was walking on.  As I looked straight ahead, it was my peripheral vision picking up these moving stimuli, registering vehicles as if on my level which were in fact many feet beneath me, giving me momentary disorientation.  The experience was akin to having your brain blasted by exciting film extracts shooting across a multiplex cinema screen from all directions in a trailer which gives you a series of fast-moving images and deafening sound in an excessive sensory overload.  And it was windy.

After unloading the first batch of bags of garden refuse, we drove back to The Firs, pruned a cotinus, loaded up the rest of the autumn debris, returned to the dump, and unloaded it. Having lunched in the kitchen we repaired to the garden room for coffee and our regular entertainment provided by the wildlife overwintering in this country. Then we witnessed the solution to one of the garden’s many conundrums.  Last weekend Elizabeth bought about a dozen bags of horse compost which we stacked up beside what is left of the bracken variety.  When we arrived yesterday it was apparent that something had been tearing holes in these strong plastic bags.  We could only imagine foxes had been the perpetrators, but what on earth could they find of interest in horse manure?  Today, as we watched, a jay flew down, trotted up to the bags and began stabbing away at them and their contents.

This evening we finished off Jackie’s chicken curry and shared three quarters of a bottle of McGuigan’s bin 156 Chardonnay 1911, before returning to Morden.

Out In The Cold

This morning we awoke to bright blue clear skies and a much lower temperature.  I walked through Telegraph Woods, round the Ageas Bowl, into Botley Road, and, believe it or not, found my way to Jessops to collect some ink cartridges I had ordered last week.

It was cold enough to tighten the skin on my cheeks and the backs of my hands, and set my fingertips tingling.  I do have some excellent leather gloves that Becky bought me many years ago, but I tend not to wear them when out walking.  This is because I discovered in my teens that once I have been tramping for half an hour my circulation combats even freezing cold, and my hands are as warm as if covered in fleecy lining.  I have, of course, never tested this in Canada or Siberia.  Flickering leaves desperately clinging to buffeted branches in the woods lent a liquid lambency to the sunlight slipping through the trees which provided enough shade to cause an even greater fall in the temperature.  This reminded me of the density of the much more expansive Stapleford Woods near Newark through which I often ran on my twenty mile Sunday morning outings.  Particularly in the winter, when the road through never shed the early morning frost or snow,  the temperature would plummet as I entered this stretch.  This phenomenon was much more welcome in the heat of the summer.

I returned via Botley and Telegraph Roads.  Traffic on the M27, which I crossed by road bridge, was really hotting up, and Jackie and Elizabeth were chatting over coffee in the conservatory.  When seated in this garden room now, we have to take all dead leaves off the plants and collect up fallen petals.  That way we have a continuing fine floral display.

After lunch Elizabeth went shopping for presents; I heavily pruned two buddleias and bagged up their debris; and Jackie shopped for an evening meal.  Jackie and I then drove to the dump with a car full of garden refuse bags.  The dump had closed fifteen minutes before we arrived.  Stopping off at In-Excess for bird food we returned to The Firs.  Jackie waited for me to open the door.  ‘Haven’t you got your keys?’, I asked.  ‘No’, she replied.  ‘haven’t you got yours?’.  ‘No’, said I.  ‘Don’t you keep them on the same ring as your car and all your other keys?’    I’m sure you know the answer.  Well, Elizabeth wasn’t back, so we couldn’t get in.  By this time Jackie was rather cold, so she suggested we drove to Haskins Garden Centre and had a coffee in their restaurant.  So, off we went.  Haskins was open and thriving.  But their restaurant wasn’t.  Killing time by one partner wandering round inspecting potential gifts from a place where she wouldn’t normally look for them, and trying out perfumes not to her taste, whilst her companion hangs around glassy eyed is not really to be recommended.  But we did it until we were bored enough to venture back to The Firs.  Still no Elizabeth as we drove in one drive entrance, wondering what would be on offer on the car radio.  However, before the handbrake was off, my darling sister drove in the other side.

By now the leaden indigo of the recently clouded sky, tinged with the pink glow of sunset made us think we would not be surprised to see snow tomorrow.

When Jackie eventually gained access to The Firs she made an excellent chicken dopiaza which we ate accompanied by Kingfisher since 1857, in her case and Montpierre Reserve Fitou 2010 in the case of Elizabeth and me. We then repaired to the sitting room for a gawp, which is explained in my post of 2nd June.  Since this is carried out in various stages of somnolence I am posting this episode before it actually took place.  I may not be in a fit state afterwards.

Cleaning The Dog

This was a two walk day.  In the morning I took Michael and Emily through Telegraph Woods to The Ageas Bowl, the Hampshire County Cricket Ground, and back via a circular route.  We actually walked into the cricket stadium and admired the pitch and surrounding areas.  We were less welcome when we stood beside the golf course behind the county ground.  We were rebuked for talking, because ‘this is a golf club’.  In fact these golfers did help to solve a conundrum.  Golf balls are often discovered in the garden at The Firs.  One was actually found last night.  Where were they all coming from?  Could this course have been the source?  Could anyone drive the ball that far?  Unlikely.   So who would find them and bring them back?  Michael had once seen a fox carrying a tennis ball.  That must be it.  Foxes had been seen in Elizabeth’s garden.  They were the culprits.

Elizabeth collected Mum to bring her for lunch, and we spent a soporific couple of hours in the sunshine.  After Mum’s return home the rest of us were driven by Michael to Stockbridge. This is an historic village full of elegant buildings and tasteful shops with a stream running down the high street. Ducks, Stockbridge 9.12 Like the stream at Mottisfont, this had ducks swimming on the surface, occasionally diving for food; and trout lurking in the shadows against the current, ready, like whales with plankton, to snap up smaller prey.  Taking a route through two shops we came to a riverside walk which led to Common Marsh, an open space alongside a stream, owned by The National Trust.  Children and dogs alike frolicked in the cool, clear, water.  In fact some owners were encouraging their animals to enter the stream, even, in one case, to the extent of offering a helping foot.  One man was throwing a tennis ball into the water and exhorting his dogs to go in and fetch it.  One of these searched the marshy area for an easier vantage point, and stood there wondering whether to take the plunge or not.  His companion had no such hesitation and was soon swimming to the bank with its trophy; climbing to comparatively dry ground; and showering everyone not nimble enough to avoid it with spray as it shook itself clear of water.

Back at The Firs we dined off the week’s leftovers.  I ate Jackie’s Shepherd’s Pie, and the others had my Chicken and Egg Jalfrezi and Sausage and Bacon Casserole.  Red wines and Budweiser were drunk sparingly before Michael drove Emily back to Croydon.

From Lattice To Web

I began this extremely hot cloudless day with a walk through Telegraph Woods.  Alongside Telegraph Road, into which Beacon Road forms a T junction, lies this ancient elevated woodland.  I believe the name comes from the fact that the fire beacons prepared as a warning against the Spanish armada (see 7th. July post) were superseded by the telegraph system.  There is, however, alleged to be the remains of an armada beacon surrounded by Douglas firs just inside the woods. Even older remains are said to be those of an Iron Age hill fort. Using the steps set into parts of the very steep terrain one could believe it would have been difficult to penetrate.

Hearing a rhythmic rustling I looked up into an extremely tall beech tree in time to see, descending in stately fashion down the trunk, a curled up leaf looking like one of the caterpillars that did a trapeze act from the leaves of the lime trees that lined the Stanton Road of my childhood.  These creatures only had feet at the beginning and end of their lengths and therefore formed a series of arches as they rolled down the trunks.  Are there any entomologists out there who can identify them?

Given that woodland once extended to the very boundary of Elizabeth’s home and that today’s deer may have a collective historical memory it is perhaps not unusual that in some years her garden has been invaded by ungulates devouring her spring shoots.  I was nevertheless surprised to see a fossilised stag embedded at the foot of a tree.

I walked through the woods to Hampshire County Cricket Club’s Ageas Bowl.  At the back of the cricket ground lies what looks to be a very serious golf course.  Some golfers were already out playing, or dragging their caddies into position. Others were gathering for the fray.  Some riding in golfing cars, which must have a name I don’t know; others with bags of clubs slung over their shoulders, or carried on wheels.  What they all had in common was an air of material comfort.   From the central mound in the wood there is an amazing view through the trees onto the rolling landscape and beautifully tended greens.

I finished off a new edge to a bed this morning, then had a coffee with Elizabeth.  We got talking about how far photography has come in the years since the second third of the nineteenth century.  I often wonder what William Henry Fox Talbot in particular would think if he knew that photographs produced with the press of a button could, through the intermediary of a bit of wire and a box you plug into a wall, be immediately transmitted around the world and instantaneously printed. In 1835, when he obtained his tiny grey picture, just over an inch square, with his own little wooden camera obscura, of a latticed window at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, little could he have known what would be done with a thumbnail in today’s computer.  Fox Talbot referred to his cameras as ‘mousetraps’, which is indeed what they look like.  For many years to come, sending photographs to others had to be carried by ‘snail mail’ or personal delivery in gradually developing forms of transport.  Now we have the world wide web.

My header photograph today comes from the municipal dump where Elizabeth and I took the garden refuse left over from the weekend’s bonfires.  We decided on this over lunch, for which, fortuitously, I ate a Sainsbury’s latticed pork pie.  Bonfires, now that we have long sunny days at last, have been upsetting the neighbours.  Instead of burning our pruned material we bagged it up and took it to the recycling centre.  It needed two trips and the first thing we saw as we re-entered the drive after the second was one we had left behind.

The sun was so strong that it appeared to be burning the colour out of Cotinus leaves.

For our evening meal Elizabeth and I drove out to The Phoenix in Twyford where we had good basic pub food in a cask ale establishment.  I had faggots, chips and peas augmented by one of Elizabeth’s sausages, which still left her with two.  My starter of stilton and broccoli soup was excellent.  We both took a chance on Punter beer, which paid off.  Noticing two Stanton Road lime trees, I was disappointed to find no caterpillars.