The Toughest Terrain Yet

This afternoon Jackie deposited me

outside The Rising Sun at Bashley, whence I crossed the road and entered the

heathland with its ubiquitous ponies

and golden gorse bound for a leisurely walk..

We have driven past this spot on countless occasions, yet I was taken aback by the

pitted hoof prints that would seriously impede my progress. Those in the pictures above were largely dry, yet most upsetting for my balance. Others were still soggy enough to suck at my shoes.

After a while I abandoned the idea of stumbling towards a little wooden bridge straddling a small flowing stream. Leaving the morass was more than somewhat difficult.

A thin band of woodland stood between the green stretch and the heath.

In parts it was soggy enough for shallow pools to reflect the trees.

Having taken a wide diversion to avoid the little bridge

I tried the pony track which was much more treacherous than it looks here.

I did not venture as far as the distant walkers at its far end.

 

 

In whichever direction I looked such walkers as there were were almost imperceptible,

until they returned to their cars.

Had I taken note of this area of mud, pools, and reflection beside the road, I may not have been surprised by the toughest terrain I have yet tackled since my knee replacements.

This pony chomping hay among the shadows wasn’t far from the car and my refuge.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s sublime sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potato;  firm Brussels sprouts; crunchy carrots and cauliflower, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Médoc.

 

Social Distancing Is For The Birds (Too)

The thousands of people who crowded the UK parks and beaches over the weekend; and the London Underground yesterday, gave the Government no option but to send us into compulsory lockdown, which was announced and came into place with immediate effect last evening. Again this morning the tube trains were packed.

All non-essential retail outlets are to close; everyone is to stay indoors except when shopping for essentials once a week or for outdoor exercising once a day; gatherings of more than two, except for family groups must stop. Clearly complete policing will be impossible. Much will still depend upon common sense and consideration for others.

At the moment the police are only able to use persuasion. The regulations will imminently be enshrined in law and fines for infringement will be introduced.

This afternoon Jackie drove me up to the highest point of Holmsley Passage and decanted me onto the terrain, where I walked for forty minutes in complete isolation.

She photographed the proof. This was my outward journey;

this the return.

I have mentioned before that we see things differently when on foot than when driving.

We had never known that, even on this high, albeit undulating and soggy, ground, There lay a deep, reflecting, pool.

I passed a recently toppled tree

in the woodland on the right hand side going down the lane

A pair of walkers

descended the steep slopes of the heathland;

a lone cyclist prepared to cast down the lane.

I crossed to the other side where bright yellow gorse

dotted the heath

where a small family kept their distance;

as did a cyclist disappearing on the pitted track.

I photographed trees in silhouette

while Jackie also photographed a tangle of lichen covered branches;

and a robin with its mate practising

social distancing.

Careful not to interrupt this pony’s slumber, I did poke my lens out of the window at Brockenhurst.

We took a diversion to Pilley on our way home, tapped on Elizabeth’s window, pulled funny faces, and bravely ran away. She came out after us and, keeping a little more than the requisite distance we enjoyed a pleasant conversation.

This evening we dined on luscious lemon chicken, crisp roast potatoes, crunchy cauliflower, and tender cabbage with tasty gravy, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Tesco’s finest Médoc 2016.

One For Quercus

High winds gusted and steady rain fell throughout the morning, only lifting at 2 p.m. when we set off to South Sway Lane in order visit our equine friend with the striking eyes.

Unbeknown to each other we both carried a carrot. Now we have a spare in the car.

First Jackie photographed a pheasant, because our friend was a long way down her field.

As soon as the nameless pony spotted us she made straight for our feeding station.

Stretching over the fence, she was most eager to relieve me of whatever I might have about my person.  I held up my finger and enjoined her to wait until the Assistant Photographer was ready.

 

On Jackie’s say so I handed over the carrot, which between us we managed to

drop on the ground. “Now What?” neighed the pony.

“Have no fear,” I replied.picking it up. “I am here”. By this time I was confident I would not lose any fingers, and made a better fist of the process.

Perhaps I was getting a bit excited here.

The vegetable was gratefully received and rapidly consumed. Jackie produced this whole set of pictures, including those in which I do not feature.

We then proceeded to Woodpeckers to visit Mum who was on good form and very proud to display the Amaryllis which we had given her as a bulb for Christmas. It is apparently a talking point among the staff. Three blooms ar shown here, There are four more in bud.

The pencil drawing on the wall is one I made of Elizabeth when she was about 4 and I would have been 16.

By the late afternoon when we left the clouds had dissipated and we were treated to clear sunshine. Without the cloud cover the temperature dropped from 10 to 5 degrees.

The woodland along Balmer Lawn Road out of Brockenhurst was burnished by the sun; lichen glowed; shadows stretched fingers across the soggy ground, embracing the wide oak trunks;

numerous pools reflected trees and skies.

Jackie photographed me once more as I ventured across the muddy terrain.

In particular she was keen to catch me hoisting my trouser legs as I prepared to negotiate a watery ditch. Our blogging friend Quercus had recently suggested that she should produce a picture of such an event for his amusement. This one is for Quercus.

Such temporary lakes such as this at East Boldre are appearing all over the forest.

Further along the same road, as woodland gives way to moorland, grazing ponies do not have far to go for a drink.

This evening we dined on spicy pizza with fresh salad with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the El Zumbido, Garnacha, Syrah.

On A Hillside

Today was sunny and warmer than yesterday.

Jackie entered the garden for a weeding session. Within seconds Nugget was in attendance, taking time out from his under-gardener role to tweet sweet nothings to Lady, who kept out of sight.

“Where’s Nugget?” (63)

Ron continued sweeping up underneath his front garden feeder.

Jackie also photographed

hellebores,

irises,

and Daphne Odorata Marginata.

Since it was another sunny, somewhat warmer, day, and knowing that Hockey’s would be open today we brunched there to make up for yesterday’s disappointment.

Ponies were back on the moors alongside Holmsley Passage,

and in the Bisterne Close woodland,

where a lowing cow wandered down the lane and vanished into the shadows.

On a bracken covered hillside outside Burley

stood what seemed a somnolent quartet of grey ponies. I fact there was a bay among them, visible only to my camera.

On our return, just north of Ringwood we diverted along an unnamed lane which is in effect a cul-de-sac,

alongside which gnarled knuckles of mossy tree roots caught the sunlight.

A pair horses could be seen at the bottom of a field,

a gate to which bore an Alergy Alert.

This evening we dined on scrambled egg liberally laced with chopped spring onion; fresh salad, and toast.

They Have To Grow Into Their Legs.

This morning, in preparation for an early morning tutorial telephone conversation with a WordPress Happiness Engineer, I drafted a post on the further subject of our August 2000 Isle of Wight holiday. I will publish it after it has been polished up.

This afternoon Jackie drove me to Wessex Photographic in Lymington where I was helped to choose a new printer by a very attentive staff member. One will be ordered for me when the manager returns to the shop.

Later, we drove into the forest. I photographed a few ponies at Bashley. It is Jackie who has noticed that the reason that young foals need to splay their legs to graze is that their legs are so long at birth that they have to grow into them.

Highwood Lane is a narrow winding cul-de-sac. Where possible I left the car and photographed the woodland with its furrowed tracks, its still green bracken, turning leaves, and dappled sunlight.

Nugget, staking out his territory with sweet song – that John Knifton describes as an invitation to a punch-up to another robin – from ever widening vantage points, kept us fleeting company while we enjoyed our pre-dinner drinks in the Rose Garden.

“Where’s Nugget?” (27).

This evening we dined on our second sitting of Hordle Chinese Take Away’s tasty, well cooked, fare with which Jackie finished the Pinot Grigio and I drank more of the Saint-Chinian.

Clay Hill

On this sunny and rather cold morning Nugget followed Aaron around the garden, darting for his prey.

“Where’s Nugget?” (18).

Small White butterflies multiply by the minute, sharing the verbena bonarensises

with swarms of bees.

I spent much of the day listening to the fourth Test Match between England and Australia.

Late this afternoon we drove into the forest. Holmsley Passage was blocked by a car that had slipped into the muddy ditch. It would have been rude to have photographed it. We and another car managed to find our way round the obstacle, having assured ourselves that help was on the way.

We drove up Clay Hill at the top of which I wandered around the undulating terrain. Clouds allowed the sun to shine on occasion.

A group of ponies enlivened the landscape which was carpeted with

heather, blackberries, harebells, and gorse,

some of which had been recently burnt.

From the summit I looked down over the moorland,

then wandered along the sloping pony tracks into the woodland.

It will come as no surprise that Jackie prepared more than enough cottage pie and cauliflower cheese yesterday, with the intention of feeding us with more today; along with fresh carrots, cabbage and runner beans. I drank more of the Baturrica, from which the Culinary Queen abstained.

The Path To Deadman Hill

The day before yesterday I finished reading

being the final novel in the trilogy of the Larkin family, first featured in “Freak Of Fate” in which I described the first book; how I came by it; and the amazing coincidence of the address on the flyleaf, also borne by this Book Club edition published by Michael Joseph in 1960.

In his now familiar rollicking style the author continues to relate the cheerfully energetic romp through life of Pop Larkin, his friends and family. I have now realised that one of the chief pleasures of these stories is the ease with which Bates weaves beautiful bucolic descriptions into his innocently scandalous narrative. For the Larkins, life really is “perfickly” beautiful. Maybe, only 15 years after the ending of the Second World War, that is what the world needed.

This morning we visited Bill and Helen to exchange birthday presents.

We diverted to Abbotswell, near Frogham, on our way home, then decided to lunch at The Fighting Cocks at Godshill.

In the deeply pockmarked gravelled car park at the top of Abbotswell hill a couple of riders were persuading two splendid, reluctant, black horses into their trailered transport which, with their weight, seemed certain to increase the potholes.

I took a short walk among the undulating woodlands overlooking the sloping landscape below.

As always in such terrain it was necessary to tread gingerly over tree roots.

Bees swarmed among wild blackberry blossoms.

Cattle and ponies congregated in the valley below.

A lone cyclist sped along a footpath

and re-emerged on the path to Deadman Hill on the other side of Roger Penny Way. To think that just four years ago I would take that walk without thinking about it.

My lunch at the pub consisted of steak and ale pie, chips, and peas; Jackie’s was mushroom stroganoff with which she drank Hop House lager. My drink was Ringwood’s Best.

Long haired miniature ponies groped their way across the greens beside Cadnam Lane where

an enterprising hairdresser had given a bug-eyed tree stump an impressive Mohican.

The Head Gardener has a little friend in the form of a juvenile robin that follows her around during the day and has taken to joining us on the patio for a drink in the evening. Jackie, on this occasion, drank Hoegaarden, I drank sparkling water, and Robin drank water from a flower pot saucer.

After this, Jackie and I dined on pepperoni pizza and salad; Robin probably finished off what was clinging to his beak.