Thursday 26 February 2015

Home from the Forest

Above and below:  "Wild" New Forest ponies grazing one of the "lawns" just outside Brockenhurst, on the way to Rhinefield and the Ornamental Drive.  The ponies all belong to people, but their owners live on the New Forest and are called Commoners and have grazing rights for ponies and cattle, and also rights of pannage (turning pigs out on the Forest each autumn to fatten up on acorns and beech mast,.  This also helps prevent the ponies from eating too many acorns, which they love the taste of but which are very poisonous and can cause death.  There are rights of turbary too (collecting peat turves for fuel). The collars that some ponies have on are reflective and are to help them be seen by drivers at night, and prevent road traffic accidents/fatalities.

I have jumped straight into the photos without much explanation.  I have been down to visit my best friend T who lives at the edge of the New Forest, now our smallest National Park in the UK.  We know it well from childhood walks and rides across it.  Unfortunately she is unwell at the moment, and undergoing Chemotherapy, and even more unfortunately the treatment has had side effects and the day after I arrived she had to go back to Hospital - just overnight we thought - to go on a drip for dehydration treatment.  As luck would have it I arrived Sunday, and she spent Monday afternoon until Wednesday teatime in Hospital so I didn't see much of her at home.  We kept her company in visiting times at the Hospital though so I think we still managed to catch up on chat and news : ) and it was so good to see her.

I had arranged to meet up with my friend Kim, and we went to Lyndhurst and then on to Rhinefield to get some fresh air.  It was a while since we had seen one another, so several donkeys were in danger of having less legs!  (For my overseas followers, this refers to the expression "talking the hind leg off a donkey" . . .)

This little pond was near the lawn where my parents always took me when I was a kid.  Happy happy memories.  They would park the car, get out the windbreak and set up the primus for a cup of tea to accompany reading the Sunday papers (News of the World scandals . . .) and I would go "pony chasing"!

Gravel and organized parking now - not like in our day . . .  White Moor in the distance behind the car.

Then Kim and I drove a little bit further, onto the start of the Ornamental Drive, which has huge Sequoia trees as part of the plantings.    We parked up at Poundhill Enclosure for our car picnic.  This is Black Water.

As you can see, we were very lucky with the weather, and the almost spring sunshine was wonderful.

The road bridge across the stream.

We strolled into the Forest beside the stream, following its loops and meanderings.

Last year's Bullrushes provided shelter for wildlife of the insect kind in the Forest.

Fallen trees across the stream provided an excellent habitat too, and had we been (much!) younger we might have been tempted to tippy-toe across them . . .  About 50+ years too late in my case . . .

A bit too cold to paddle too . . .

Then Kim spotted . . . a White Egret.  My first definite sighting, and probably not exciting for bird spotters as they are apparently quite a common sight in Britain now, but we were pleased with it and managed to creep a little closer for another photo before he flew off.

One last glimpse.  I do miss the Forest.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Off to foreign parts

I am off down to Hampshire again tomorrow morning to see my best friend again.  I'll be back on Thursday, when normal service should return.

A quick photo from today, when I went to see my other dear friend who is very poorly (but bright and cheerful today, I'm glad to say).

It had been trying to snow on and off all day.  Here is a view on the way home.

Here was a wonderful mossy green dingly dell!  EVERYTHING was covered liberally in moss . . .

Friday 20 February 2015

Rained off

Yesterday it rained, all day long.  There was no chance of getting back out to the Brambles, so I donned old clothing and got out my new paintbrush and the can of "Rice cake" satin gloss I got recently and set to work.

The paintwork up the stairs (including this window and 3 doors along the way, not to mention skirting boards, was looking a little shabby and careworn.  It was a pale grey-green (to pick out a similar colour in the carpet) and I thought a sort of antique white would be a good look.  So out with the masking tape and get busy . . .

I always paint with Radio 4 on in the background.  I've not listened to it a great deal so far in 2015 and had completely missed this brilliant series - Gloomsbury, a wonderful parody based on the Bloomsbury set.  It had me in stitches (I listened to 4 episodes back to back), and cheered me up no end!  Vera Sackcloth-Vest!  Then they introduced D H Lollipop (D H Lawrence) and that had me in stitches.  Listen on Catch-up if you have a mind.

The finished window and windowseat on the half landing, looking out across the paddock.  Job well done.  LOTS more to do though - 3 flights of stairs!

Tuesday 17 February 2015

A touch of spring I think

Although Sunday's weather (when we went to Malvern Fleamarket) was cold and foggy at the Fleamarket, today we had sunshine, and  the birds are singing more and more noticably with each day that passes.  Woodpeckers locally are drumming - and have been all this month - and two feisty cock Robins were having a ding-dong on the rockery last week.  Plus I have seen the first Daffs on our recent travels, and I have my first Crocus out in the garden.

Malvern was enjoyable, as it always is.  We were lucky it was a dry (if cold) day and there were lots of outside stalls, which always make it more interesting.  I had a game plan for what I wanted to buy, and ended up buying TOTALLY different stuff, but that's life, you have to buy what is available.  I didn't take any photos as the light levels were so poor, but you know the usual stuff which is there from past photos and visits.  A token Malvern photo up, which I'm sure I've used before.

The only trouble with Malvern is that is takes about 3 days to get over getting up half way through the night (3.30 a.m., to leave at 4.30 a.m. to get there before 7.30 a.m.)  We were like Zombies yesterday!  We drove in the dark until the pre-dawn light just before Hereford . . .

I've just come in from doing battle with the Brambles along the edge of the paddock.  We used to have a lovely little path along by the stream, and Fahly (my lovely Arab horse) used to love thundering up through there, breathing fire!  I have managed to cut right through the thicket of Brambles which was blocking the way - some of the growth was 15 feet or so in length.  I know I shall ache in bed tonight as my shoulders are already aching!, so it may be a case for a couple of Panadol at bedtime.  Still, I need to get myself fit again and get those muscles working which have been siting idle all winter.

Here I had just made a start.  You can see it's in Quite A State there . . .

Looks impenetrable doesn't it?  But I had secateurs and thick gloves, and determination.

As you can see, Ghengis decided he would help me.  There;s quite a bit of clearing of sickly young trees which needs doing along the stream bank, and a couple of diseased bigger ones to come out too.

I felt in a baking mood, and we needed a fresh loaf, I belatedly got that started and I had a hankering for a Lemon Drizzle cake, I made one of those as well.

Spelt and Golden Linseed Loaf:

And the Lemon Drizzle cake . . .

As it came out the oven.  Now pierced with a skewer and soaking up lemon juice and sugar.  Yum...

Saturday 14 February 2015

Going to the corner shop for bread

A Sunflower loaf of mine, well done but not burnt!

We were in Swansea this morning, as we'd arranged with G (middle daughter) to drop off some walking shoes which didn't fit me but would be perfect for her.  As it was the day of Singleton Hospital Car Boot Sale, we decided to get up early and call in there on the offchance of there being something interesting to buy.  Well, the "something interesting" just amounted to an old wicker basket with handle and a newish beech draining board. Anyway, as we were far too early to drop off G's things, we went into (nice WARM!) Sainsburys to do the grocery shopping for the week.  Going to Sainsbury's is always a treat for me, as we rarely go there (it's our nearest, and 25 miles from here).

Anyway, as we needed bread rolls for our Car Picnic at Malvern tomorrow, we went to the bread aisle, and there I saw it, well-done crusty bread.  In fact, more than well done, it was on-purpose BURNT!  Oh, I just HAD to have a loaf and when I got back home I cut a hunk and it tasted like the food of the Gods . . .

In fact, I will confess, I also bought some Caerphilly cheese.  I had to.  My body TOLD me it needed it.  So that went in the shopping trolley, along with my normal lacto-free cheese which I can only stomach grated and melted on toast.

I had a knife's blade thickness of the cheese and after eating NO CHEESE since last August, it tasted AMAZING!  I sat back and waited for the effect to hit me.  There was a moment when I thought I was getting the clogged-up lungs but it passed and believe it or not, my peak flow is 430, which is as high as it's got since Christmas.  Perhaps I can - once in a blue moon - have a sliver of my favourite cheese with no lasting ill-effects.  I will know later anyway . . .

Anyway, the bread has brought my childhood to mind, so a trip down memory lane is about to be inflicted on you:

In the road where I grew up in Southampton in the 1950s (and 60s) there were a few shops serving the locals.  Right at the top, by the Target pub, was a reasonable-sized Co-op which served the needs of most of the local folk.  Back down the road a bit towards us, was a corner shop called Haston's (a surname I've never heard since) and which went back deeply enough (several rooms on the ground-floor) to become a little mini-supermarket when the concept of serve-yourself first arrived on these shores.  It had freezers and fish-fingers soon became part of the staple diet of the Butts Road inhabitants.  Just inside the door, was a little whirligig of booklets and I still have and regularly use the Bread Making one which cost me all of 70p post-decimalization.  In the early 60s (when it was still a corner shop with a counter), they did deliveries with a dark brown pony who lived in their back "garden" in a very gloomy shed-stable behind a tall Privet hedge by the cut through to Orpen Road.  Sadly, he developed hoof problems (Navicular - doubtless from being hammered around the roads by the delivery boy) and was pts - or shot, as it was called in those days.)

Down the hill past my house was the Community Centre, which still tested its Air Raid Siren under the guise of the 4 minute warning in my time, and was home to a summer roost of the Swifts whose noisy flights up and down our road kept me awake on summer evenings when I was in bed whilst they were still on the wing.  I still can't hear a Swift today without being transported back in time and place.

Then, opposite my Best Friend Tricia's house, was Checkleys.  This was a real "open-all-hours" type shop, just one room deep with plate glass windows to the front and side.  Against these side windows were shelves lined with glass jars of sweeties - I think I could name them all even more than 50 years on - and my teefs bear testiment to their deliciousness!  Pineapple chunks; Cola cubes; Winter Mixture and Coltsfoot tablet (yuk!); Rhubarb and Custard; Lemon Bonbons, Strawberry Bonbons and the white sort too; Sugared Almonds which had a hard outer jacket which splintered if you bit them; Raspberries and Blackberries, which were boiled sweets; Toffees; Liquorice Allsorts; Chewing Nuts; Chocolate Limes; Sherbert Lemons; Glace Drops - oh I knew them all . . .  With the sun behind all the jars of sweets, it threw a rainbow of colour across the shop and they ALL looked so desirable . . . No-one every bought the Quality Street though, as they cost 2s 6d. (12 1/2p) a QUARTER!  Everthing else was 6d (2 1/2p).

In front of the counter were large open lidless tins of broken biscuits, to be had cheaply by dint of being broken - they were usually the boring sort - Digestives, Maries, Malted Milk and so on.  Sometimes there was a tin of little wrapped biscuits of the same persuasion, 3 or 4 at a time and I still have a scary memory of the "witch" from the dark-creosoted timber house behind the fir trees opposite us, coming across to give me a packet of these, soft and crumbling from extreme old age, just as she was.  Of course, she wasn't a witch, just old Queenie Goddard, the Botany Bay Goddard's granny . . .

For 3d (old money) you could buy a Lucky Bag or a Jamboree Bag, one of which had a square of toffee on a stick in it which you sucked and them dipped into some noxious coloured powder (or was it a Sherbert Dab?).  Even a farthing would buy you a sweetie in my extreme youth - a wrapped small chewy sweet often in a pink/lemon colourway (Fruit Salad), which usually sold as 4 a penny, and were alongside the Black Jacks (same price), pink shrimps, pink false teeth, fried eggs, fruit salad,  Frys 5 Boys Chocolate Bars, Barley Sugar Twists,  Flying Saucers, sucky-lollies on a stick, Space dust (in the 60s, after Sputnik had gone into space), Sherbert Fountains, Gobstoppers, Bubblegum, Lovehearts, Refreshers, Parma Violets.  Oh dear, as you see, some things never get forgotten.

Crisps were made by Smiths, and Smiths only, and came in one persuasion - plain - with a small twist of salt in dark blue greaseproof.  I loved Potato Puffs and I wish someone would make those again - I would be their best customer!

Anyway, I digress.  Mum would give me some money (I can't remember the price now) and send me down to Checkleys to get a loaf of bread.  A cottage loaf.  Nice and crusty.  I always chose the one with the Most Burnt Top, and before I had got one foot off the shop step, the first handful of the top, blackened, crusty and wonderfully tasty, would have been in my mouth, and by the time I got it home, I would often have eaten the top "knob" - the burntest bit!

So Sainsburys, you are onto a good thing.  Here's one customer who will make a special trip back for your burnt on purpose bread!!!

Sunday 8 February 2015

Saturday's walk

I took myself off for a walk yesterday, but cheated a bit as it was gone 2 p.m. when I set off, so I got my OH to drop me well up the hill.  I added 20 mins to the walk initially by climbing even higher to see if I could get a photo of Black Mountain covered in snow, but it was too soft and milky. Winter leached the colour from the landscape, so only the closest fields were in technicolour.

Mums-in-waiting were in a field one side of the lane forking off the main route up to Horeb.

Whilst the ones who had lambed were in a field opposite.

View down the Cothi valley.

Iron Age enclosure on the top of one of the steepest hills.

An old farmstead and barns have been on the market, with parcels of land.  There was work going on in the house, but two of the barns still have plans attached, and presumably no buyers yet.

But this one is finished and lived in.  It has beautiful views down the valley.

I love rough hillsides like this one.

We used to ride round this loop too.  As you can see, the lane is very narrow - one horse and cart width - so we always hoped not to meet any traffic or we would have to turn around and try and find a gateway.

Looking at the big hillfort hill, you can see I was crossing the valley at this point.

The views are just tremendous.  Big hill to the left, and looking to the far edge of the Towy Valley on the horizon.

I think this is one slope of Banc y Darren.

Now the lane plunges steeply down.  The cluster of white buildings on the brackened hillside belong to some folk seeking an alternative lifestyle - modern-day hippies I suppose.

Plenty of old plantings of Snowdrops are in flower along the lane now, and the Daffodils planning to soon join them in bloom.

Turning back towards home (to the right).  The little lane to the left just leads to one final farm.

I met our neighbour Nikky walking her dog.  He must have known we would have had a good chinwag as he straightaway laid down on the road!  Here are Nikky's two donkeys, George and Ned.  It is George who I have been halter breaking.

One last look back along the sunny valley.

Then I dragged myself up the 2nd half of a really steep hill.  By this time I had been walking for an hour and a half and my back was aching, so I decided to phone home, and get my OH to pick me up.  If I hadn't walked the first bit of hill for the view (which I couldn't get), I would have got home, as it took 20 mins and I was 20 mins from home here.  I think because I got out of the car and started walking up a steep hill before I warmed up, I shot myself in the foot rather.

Hope you enjoyed walking with me.