Heron In Flight


This morning I printed yesterday’s random header picture for our friend Mary. We posted it this afternoon.

After lunch Jackie and I took two orange bags of garden pruning and clippings, along with some metal and plastic rubbish, to the Efford Recycling Centre, and drove on to see how the thatching at East End was coming along.

Thatching 1

Here is a rear view which shows the L-shaped structure of the large building. The extensive scaffolding is an indication of the size of the project.

Much of the work has been completed to a very high standard. I was informed by the thatcher with whom I spoke, that the ridging that is to feature where tufts currently stand proud, will take longer than the four weeks currently expended.

We drove home via East Boldre, where, as usual, a heron was disturbed by the sight of my camera. I panned it as it took to the air, rising from a lingering, although drier, pool, past the gorse blending with its sharp beak, and up into the cloudy skies.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s toothsome cottage pie, piquant cauliflower cheese, spring greens, and crisp carrots and cauliflower. with divine gravy. Ian drank Peroni, and I drank Corbieres 2015.


Scooby, not wishing to be left out, would like readers to know that his evening repast was Tesco Tender Paté with chicken, mixed lovingly with James Wellbeloved Chicken & Turkey Kibble Complete. His dessert was the bone from our previous roast lamb dinner with generous bits of meat attached. His beverage was Adam’s ale. This information was provided by his Mummy, Becky. 15 in September, he’s quite elderly now, and needs to collapse in his bed after a meal.

An English Country Churchyard


After dinner yesterday evening we popped down to Barton on Sea to view the sunset.

This morning we drove around the forest.

The thatcher I spoke to at East End, where the albeit somnolent donkeys were having fun with the traffic,

replied that the project was “beginning to take shape”.

Jackie on tree seat

Our next stop was at St Mary’s Church at South Baddesley, outside which Jackie sat on a seat cut into a very large tree stump.

Ken Allen gateposts

Gateway and church

Alongside the church stretches a patch of uncultivated land accessed from an open gateway dedicated to Ken Allen 1918 – 2005.

Path from church to playground 1

From here a  path leads down


to a playground beyond a locked five-barred gate. I was unable to gain any information about Mr Allen or the leisure area that I speculated must be related to him.

It was quite refreshing to discover that the Victorian church itself was unlocked and welcoming. I found the stained glass windows particularly attractive.

Cap on pew

Hanging on the edge of a pew was a gentleman’s cloth cap. If it is yours it awaits your collection.

Primroses, English bluebells, and other wild flowers wandered, as did I, among the gravestones in this English country churchyard.

Angel gravestone sculpture

Most of the stones were quite simple, but there was one angel and child,

and the amazing resting place of Admiral of the Fleet George Rose Sartorius, GCB, Count de Penhafirme who died on 13th April 1885 in his 95th year. This was 70 years after he had served with Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar.

Admiral Sartorius's grave 2 – Version 2

What is particularly astonishing is the knowledge that the credible articulated linked anchor chain winding around the cross was carved from stone.

After lunch Jackie continued working her magic in the garden where I did a bit of clearing up and repelled some invading brambles along the back drive.

This evening we enjoyed our second serving of Mr Chatty Man Chan’s Chinese Take Away with which I finished the madiran. Jackie didn’t imbibe because she had drunk her Hoegaarden in the Rose Garden where we had a drink first.

P.S. Bruce Goodman, in his comment below, has provided a link to Ken Allen, which, incidentally explains that the playground I noticed is attached to a school. This is no doubt why the entrance would be locked during the Easter holidays.

Progress Of The Thatchers


Jackie tying up roses

During the morning and part of the afternoon work continued in the garden, mostly in the Rose Garden, although I did also partly composite the Oval Bed.

In the front, the Prunus Amanogawa,

and the crab apples are blossoming.

Hoverfly on euphorbia



and our crinkly little orange poppies are appearing everywhere.

This afternoon we drove to Redcliffe Garden Centre in Bashley to buy some metal stakes for holding the log in place in Jackie’s most recent attempt to keep out the big beast. We continued on into the forest, and on our return bought some stone from Otter Nurseries.


The bank leading up to the Church of St John the Baptist at Boldre now wears a blanket of bluebells and dandelions,


alongside those of primroses.

Thatching progress 1

The thatching at East End, on an L-shaped building much more extensive than the front elevation shows,

continues apace; nevertheless I am informed that, weather permitting, this very large job is expected to take five weeks.

This evening we dined on Mr. Pink’s fish, chips, and pea fritters, with pickled onions and gherkins. I drank more of the Bordeaux.

P.S. In a comment below, Quercus Community has provided this informative link on thatching: http://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/longstraw/longstraw.htm

Little Donkey


We began this sunny day with a trip to the bank in New Milton, followed by one to Mole Country Stores just outside Lymington.

Tree shadows

The shadows of trees were cast on the woodland bank beside the store.

The woman serving us cautioned me to watch for the stampede of staff who, having heard Wendy’s horn, would be dashing out for cake from the popular mobile caterer. We hoped that the poison we were buying would prove as appetising to the rats still coming in from North Breeze, the empty house next door. Whatever is tearing a hole in the Rose Garden fence is of course rather larger than a rat. Either a badger or a fox. Later in the day we put down the bait in its specially designed containers.

Having made our purchase, we drove on to East End to see how the thatching by

New Forest Master Thatchers

was coming along.

I had a pleasant conversation whilst looking up at one of the men perched on his scaffolding. He remembered my having photographed the unloading of the reeds, and was more than happy to have their progress recorded on the blog.

The pair of donkeys across the road were today joined by a younger member of the family. They were liberally bedecked with petals of the blackthorn that lines the hedgerows and provides them with sustenance. The field of rape beyond the hedge failed to blind them to the task of trimming the hedges.

A little further up the road, near the chickens, a younger foal adhered to its mother

Donkey and foal on road 1

until she imparted its first instruction in the art of claiming the road

Donkey foal on road

and the game of disrupting the traffic.

It seemed as if the further we ventured the smaller became the little donkeys. At East Boldre mothers and babies clung together as somnolent fathers dozed along the winding road. One of the more venturesome foals was quick to trot to his mother at the sight of me and my camera.

Just like human babies these tiny tots can fall asleep anywhere in positions of which their parents may well be envious.

It is possible that this will remind anyone of a certain age of

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious lamb jalfrezi, savoury rice, vegetable samosas, and spicy paneer. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Bergerac.

On The Road To Brockenhurst


Jackie and I began the day with a drive in the forest, in order to see how the thatching at East End was progressing.

Ford 1Ford 2Ford 3

A shallow stream ran over the ford at Norleywood, enhancing the beauty of the shadows on the road ahead.

Donkeys 1

A pair of donkeys breakfasted on the hedgerows opposite the house

Thatching 3

on which the skilled roofing work had commenced.

Donkey 1

As is their wont, one of these creatures crept, silently, up behind me to see if I had any carrots. I am mean enough to disappoint them, however, feeding them is not advised by the verderers, unless you want to catch Weill’s disease.

Donkeys and ModusDonkey and ModusDonkey 2

Jackie had driven further up the road to turn round, by which time the donkeys really had claimed the road.

Donkeys 2The other two large lorries were still parked outside the neighbouring house. One was being loaded with soil dug out from the garden.

Shetland pony 1Chickens and Shetland pony 1Chickens and Shetland pony 2

High above the chicken range a solitary Thelwell child’s pony also enjoyed its morning meal.

Chickens and cockerel 1

Chickens 1Cockerel and chickens 1Chickens 2Chickens 3Chicken 1Chicken 2

The chickens cooed and clucked around their chook house,

Crow and chickens

sharing their repast with crows,

Ducks and chicken


Ducks and hen pheasantPheasant henPheasant cock 1

and pheasants, which were freer to roam.

Llama 2

One of the llamas sat with a silly grin on its face

Llama 1

as another gurned at me.


A trio of cyclists paused at the road junction to take their bearings.

Cyclists 1Cyclists 2Cyclists 3Cyclists 5Cyclists 6

They were small fry compared with those who were to limit our progress on the road to Brockenhurst.

Cyclists 4

As we approached that village, Jackie expressed the wish that they would not be going our way. No such luck.

This afternoon we continued, focussing on the rose and front gardens, preparing for an alfresco summer.

This evening we dined on shepherd’s pie topped with layers of cheddar cheese and mushrooms; crisp carrots, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and runner beans. Jackie finished the Cotes de Gascoigne and I drank more of the shiraz.

A Christmas Rehearsal

On a dull, blustery, yet mild, morning I took a stroll along Hordle Lane to Apple Court House and back. Bordering the drive to the house bergenia and primulas are blooming, on this, our shortest day of the year.BergeniaPrimulasThatched roofOwl decoy

A motionless long-eared owl, no doubt on the lookout for small mammals, perches atop the newly, beautifully, thatched roof of a house on which Hallmark builders have been working for a week or so. Thatching is one of the country crafts still thriving in England. It is the practise of builders to place a decoy, usually of the avian variety, in order to deter other birds from grubbing around for insects, or nicking material for their nests.

Doing a little Googling in a rather unsuccessful attempt to check my facts, I found, which is not unusual, one of my own photographs on an information site. Just as my introduction to the owl above is one of my sad little jokes, so was that picture. Instead of describing a genuine decoy as a live creature, I likened a living pigeon to a thatcher’s creation.

Another of my photos, also used, portrays the skeletons of decoy ducks that have themselves lost their plumage to scavengers. I wonder how long it will take for my owl to grace a twitcher’s website. My Lesser Antillean Bullfinch does, after all, with my permission, grace Fatbirder’s Barbados page.

This afternoon we drove to Helen and Bill’s home in Poulner for a Christmas dinner with them and Shelley and Ron. We enjoyed a superb roast venison meal with roast potatoes and parsnips; and a full range of vegetables cooked by Helen. The gravy was delicious. Iced Christmas pudding and sherry trifle were the sweets, followed by cheese and biscuits, coffee and mints. My choice from the available beverages was a very good malbec. Apparently venison was, in earlier times, a traditional Christmas roast. In Dickens’s time, as described in ‘A Christmas Carol’,  goose was the festive meat. One topic of our conversation centred on the even earlier, Tudor, practice of stuffing smaller birds inside larger ones. A swan, we believed, would contain a goose, which held a chicken, into which a duck would be pressed, and that in turn would house a quail; thus forming something like a set of culinary Russian dolls. Obviously only the very rich could afford such a banquet.

An exchange of presents, thus forming a Christmas rehearsal, took place afterwards. As was normal in the Rivett household in which the sisters had grown up, Helen followed their father’s practice of providing a large plastic bag for ‘herk’. This was a word he had coined for discarded wrapping paper that otherwise would have been flung excitedly to all corners of the living room.

Later, we took a break in our session of The Name Game, to squeeze in tea or more coffee and delicious homemade mince pies and/or shortbread. In this game one person represents a character that may or may not be human, real, or fictional. The others, within 20 questions, each of which must be answerable by ‘yes’ or ‘no’, must guess the identity. I might, when I was Arsene Wenger, not have misled my questioners had I known his true nationality. But they didn’t hold it against me. This was fun, as was the whole event.

Water was the only sustenance required when Jackie and I returned home.

P.S. Later this evening, Jackie did some further Googling on the subject of the owl, There doesn’t seem to be any real consensus on the term or the purpose of what I have called ‘decoys’, although my term is probably incorrect. The most consistent name is ‘finials’, and they could simply be decoration serving as a signature of the thatcher. Whilst ‘decoy’ may be incorrect I do like the deterrent idea. Here is the text of Jackie’s observations:

Not called decoys by thatchers (decoy ducks are used by hunters I believe) but known as straw finials, they are a west country tradition that came from decorating hay stacks and corn stacks, used on roofs since at least the 17th Cent, I found an East Anglian thatcher who advertises that altho’ straw finials are a west country tradition he is willing to incorporate them if the costumer should desire it!

P.P.S. Barrie Haynes has sent me an equally enlightening comment: Most surprised to see a thatcher has placed an owl on a roof as when I was a child, many of the old New Forest people (my mother was a ‘Cooke’ from Emerydown) thought owls anywhere near the house brought bad luck!

The £2.00 Pint

Yesterday I received John Green’s package of comments on what is likely to be my last Listener Crossword.  They were largely positive and some complimentary.  John is the very thorough checker of the entries for this, the pinnacle of crosswords.  Having performed this free service for many years, John provides statistics, both personal and general, of such as numbers of entries, successful and otherwise.  He describes common and individual errors, and sends his handwritten extracts from solvers’ letters to the setters.  These days I am more inclined to post a blog than set a crossword.Nuthatch & marsh or willow tits

As I watched the birds this morning, wagtails trotted across the lawns; alongside the feeder station a blackbird, preferring fresh kill, dragged an unresisting worm from the sward; and a nuthatch elbowed a couple of willow tits off its chosen breakfast dish.  The two smaller birds perched on the wrought iron holders, awaiting their second sitting.  A large black corvine creature strutted about for a bit, then, in cumbersome flight, lumbered, airborne, into the forest trees.

The Shave Wood loop was today’s walk.Anne's house  Anne’s house on the way through Minstead which I imagine has for many years been in desperate need of refurbishment, is now looking quite trim.

CelandinesAlthough absent from the roads through the forest itself, the verges of those leading to it are rich in daises, and, seeming to have been blown from the glowing gorse bushes nearby, celandines and dandelions.Metamorphosing tree  Yet another fallen tree is metamorphosing into a primeval creature.

I had a pleasant conversation with a young woman riding a horse along the verge passing Hazel Hill car park.  Seeing someone emerge from the only vehicle parked there and walk into the forest, I followed, thinking I might learn a footpath skirting London Minstead.  It was a small family who seemed to be setting up camp.  I rather hoped the pile of wood being collected was not for building a fire.

As I passed Hazel Hill Farm a cacophony of cackling and clattering emanated from the hen coop.  Wondering what had caused it I peered over the fence just in time to witness a guilty looking crow winging off.

Ponies - Seamans Corner

Back at Seamans Corner ponies were gathered grazing on the first fresh green grass they can have tasted for months.

Before our evening meal Jackie and I visited the Trusty for one drink each.  A pint of Doom Bar (£3.95) and a small bottle of Peroni (£3.50) cost £7.45.  Yes, £7.45 for two drinks.  We then reminisced over the time, probably in the 1980s, when we began to wonder how long it would be before you didn’t get any change out of £2.00 for a pint of beer; and, not much later, when would £5.00 be inadequate for a round of two drinks?  Unless you happen to live near a Wetherspoons the £2.00 pint is long gone.  How can that chain do it?

On our return, to accompany Jackie’s succulent roast pork dinner, she drank Hoegaarden and I had Carta Rosa gran reserva 2005.