A Week in the New Forest…October 2019

20191016_110618 copy.jpgA week in the New Forest in October in a house in the trees with rain forecast every day didn’t seem to augur too well. In the event the rain held off at critical times and at other times we didn’t mind getting wet. After all, being British, we accept bad weather with the equanimity it deserves for what it is. Getting wet is not something you seek, but when you are wet, well you’re wet and that’s sort of ok.20191013_155135 copy.jpgWe were all converging on the house from different directions. F and me in our car from Cornwall, Katherine and Aiisha from Southampton airport, and David and Jennifer from London. On our way we called into Forde Abbey as it was on our route and free to HHA members. A good call for lunch. Forde Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery dating back to the early 12th century. One of the richest abbeys in England it was of course quickly dissolved by Henry VIII. It then had a rich and varied history as a private home. Its first lay owner entertained the Duke of Monmouth as he planned his rebellion and ended up in the Tower of London, and Jeremy Bentham also rented the house for a period during the 19th century, and did much of his writing here.

It was in fact converted into quite a palatial family home during the mid 17th century. The house has exquisitely ornate plaster ceilings throughout the state rooms, together with a collection of very impressive Mortlake tapestries woven from cartoons drawn by Raphael for the Sistine Chapel. It is indeed a unique family house.

Throughout the 20th century the 30 acres of gardens that surround the  house have been transformed by the present owners. The gardens are now a diverse and breathtaking landscape fit for the house that they surround, from the productive Kitchen Garden, to the Arboretum, Rock Garden, Herbaceous Borders, Bog Garden, and Woodland Garden.

20191011_135552 copy.jpg20191011_122337 copy.jpgAnd with it being near to Halloween they had lavish displays everywhere of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes…20191011_135300 copy.jpg20191011_122314 copy.jpgA fleeting but fascinating visit. Now, the clans having gathered and made ourselves at home, we set out on the first full day for Lymington as I knew the market was there on Saturdays….the journey there gave us some inkling of just how many ponies we would see in the following days…..they are everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, (and very friendly).20191012_104618 copy.jpgWe loved Lymington, who wouldn’t, and the busy and engaging market stretched in two rows a long long way down the main shopping street, and was great. We also found amazing bargains in a charity shop where we purchased 5 or 6 games suitable for children and adults (bearing in mind the weather).20191012_115926 copy.jpgAt the end of the main run a couple of very pretty cobbled streets took us down to the harbour….where we availed ourselves of some refreshments and lunch.20191012_120315 copy.jpg20191012_120639 copy.jpg20191012_125220 copy.jpgA great place all round. A bit later in the day we walked along country paths to Beaulieu where we encountered rather a lot of donkeys (also friendly).20191012_170023 copy.jpgNow why didn’t the others follow the example of this one sheltering under a large archway? Mind you, they do always seem to look sad….20191012_165927-copy.jpgBack ‘home’ it was time for a belated birthday cake for Katherine and Aiisha which went down well, and after it some of the games we had bought.20191012_193433 copy.jpgThe ‘Load the Camel’ game was hilarious and we played with it lots of times. When overloaded it kind of jumped into life shocking me more than anyone every single time, and scaring poor Aiisha!20191012_200713.jpegSunday was to be our adventure day. We walked to the Outdoor Activities Centre at Beaulieu….20191013_092431 copy.jpgand prepared for our bike rides. Very very enjoyable if a little scary (as one of the main cycle routes was closed for pony counting!!) leaving us no option but to travel on busy main roads. 20191013_100400 copy.jpg20191013_110905 copy.jpg20191013_110942 copy.jpgHaving completed our rides we prepared for canoeing. As you can see the rain was not putting anyone off.20191013_122835 copy.jpg20191013_123134 copy.jpgWe travelled upstream to the weir at Beaulieu where we called into a little inlet for cups of hot chocolate provided by our instructor Chris. He was a terrific guide pointing out lots of rivery things, and always aware of which birds and features we were seeing…20191013_130959 copy.jpg20191013_132324 copy.jpgA great day all round, and highly recommended.20191013_135751 copy.jpgAlways nice to have a pint or whatever in the local Beaulieu pub after our exertions……20191013_172705 copy.jpg20191013_173736 copy.jpgAnd a nice sky on our walk home.20191013_182531-EFFECTS copy.jpgAnother day took us to Portsmouth where we were to see the Mary Rose (something I have always wanted to do). The dockland surroundings were very impressive and we glimpsed some very famous ships before entering a very active repair and building shed……..20191014_134238 copy.jpg20191014_134906 copy.jpgwhere we had a very decent lunch ( and did a bit of colouring)…..20191014_135313 copy.jpg20191014_144536 copy.jpgGetting closer to the Mary Rose museum we were intrigued and impressed by Nelson’s very own HMS Victory…20191014_152029 copy.jpg20191014_152051_001 copy.jpg20191014_152134 copy.jpgand in between it and the Mary Rose was the iconic 25ft statue ‘Embracing Peace’, also known as Unconditional Surrender. This European replica of the US based original has been touring Europe, the original statue famously depicting an embrace in Times Square, New York, at the end of the World War II, between a returning serviceman and a local girl. Very impressive indeed.20191014_152331 copy.jpgAt last the Museum. We didn’t really know what to expect and whether it would be suitable for a 5 year-old. We were not to be disappointed. The ship itself at the centre, of course, of the museum is encircled by a “Hot Box” chamber that houses it whilst a highly technical drying out process takes place. Spotlit in different places at different times it is magical to see, and surrounding it on several floors equivalent to the decks are many of the items recovered from the ship which tell us so much about the England of Henry VIII and those who worked in its navy.20191014_154808 copy.jpgItems which show the essence of a very powerful warship of its day, and a warship which moreover had already had a successful career of 34 years (news to me).20191014_154911 copy.jpgAnd items which show us how its crew lived – and died.20191014_154036 copy.jpg20191014_155734-copy.jpgThese are items from the carpenters store….20191014_155012 copy.jpgand in their midst something which to me was the most astonishing thing of all…..20191014_155639 copy.jpg….this multi-purpose tool. How incredible, a Swiss Army knife of the sixteenth century.20191014_155644 copy.jpegThere was so much to see that we only were able to have a good look at a tiny fraction…..20191014_163011 copy.jpg20191014_161553 copy.jpgWho could not be impressed by the galley with its two large, brick built ovens each with a huge copper cauldron on the top. Meat and fish were boiled in these to feed the 400 or 500 men on board. No chimneys – the smoke was trapped in a box-like area above the ovens, where it could be used to flavour fish and meat.20191014_162851.jpgThe adults were entranced. And as for Aiisha, there were interactive games..20191014_160048 copy.jpgskeletons to rebuild…..20191014_162509 copy.jpg20191014_161419 copy.jpgclothes to dress up in….20191014_154113 copy.jpgfood casks to see what people eat….20191014_163216.jpgand a kind of treasure hunt where successfully spotting various things all around the museum was rewarded with a certificate and badge. What a successful day. And we can return any time in the next year – we will!20191014_164047 copy.jpgYet another day found us at Poultons Park a theme park like no other and the #1 UK theme park as voted for by TripAdvisor, Mumsnet and Which readers, and most definitely by the Smith family. It was quite exceptional. Our first job on entering was to get ourselves fed and watered. And I can honestly say that the curry I had was one of the very best (and cheapest) curries I have ever had. Terrific to find such quality in a theme park.20191015_105619 copy 2.jpegAnd what then struck us before anything else was the beauty of the surroundings with Japanese gardens, dinosaur jungles, 20191015_110406 2 copy.jpg20191015_111746 2 copy.jpg20191015_114611.jpgand lots of birds………20191015_114258 copy 2.jpgBut of course some of us had come for the rides, and they were great. Naturally neither F. nor I  ventured  onto the more extreme, adrenelin-inducing rides but we did try some of the more moderate ones which gave us ample flavour of what theme park rides are about…..20191015_125745-copy.jpg20191015_110951 copy.jpg20191015_112839 copy.jpg20191015_112908 2 copy.jpgAnd what I found fascinating was the way that Aiisha not only got super enjoyment from the big rides, but also from the gentler ones too……20191015_113209 copy.jpg20191015_121901 copy.jpg20191015_121526 copy.jpeg20191015_123521 copy.jpg20191015_125501 copy.jpg20191015_130720-2-copy.jpg20191015_131025 copy.jpgAnd at the end, to cap it all off there was Peppa Pig’s World, and who couldn’t like that?20191015_144105-2-copy-1.jpg20191015_150527 2 copy.jpeg20191015_150725_001 copy.jpg20191015_154154 copy.jpg20191015_160811 copy.jpg20191015_104409 2.jpg20191015_143953.jpegA really, really really successful day…..well done to Paulton Park!

Reading matters……

91OwoXUQWwL copy.jpgBeing held up with the sale of our house prior to moving to Cheshire (or Lancashire, not absolutely definite yet……), I have had to make do with reading about the county. I was glad to see on a recent visit to Waterstones that a new guide was out in the ‘Slow Travel’ series by Bradt. This I have devoured from cover to cover. It really is a most unusual and brilliant series of guides. Written by local experts, ‘Cheshire’ was a revelation. So many out of the way places, restaurants, farm shops, attractions of all kinds that we haven’t yet visited in our trips up North. And what you quickly learn in this guide is that your probable preconceptions about the county – flat, inland, dairy farms, cheese, the houses of footballers and Coronation Street stars – is wide of the mark in many respects. Parts of the countryside are as beautiful as anywhere, there are some lovely heights to walk along and get amazing views, Cheshire has a coast (the Wirrall) which is well worth a visit. And history and industrial interest are everywhere. And undoubtedly Chester itself is one of my absolute top-favourites of small towns, more spectacular than York in both setting and what it contains. Thanks to ‘Cheshire’ I am more anxious than ever to migrate there!71auesail3l-copy.jpg

Before our recent trip to Verona, I sent for the book ‘Italian Neighbours : An Englishman in Verona’ by Tim Parks. It seemed a natural for anyone visiting this most splendid of cities. But the more I got into the book, the more and more disappointed and frustrated I became, because this wasn’t about Verona at all but about the little village somewhere near Verona where Parks lives. Verona got about two mentions. Whilst it was moderately interesting in itself, it really was something that should have fallen foul of the Trades Descriptions Act. Caveat Emptor!91myUPhS1GL copy.jpg                                                                                                         Having fallen completely in love with Venice again ( we were only there for a few hours), we have both been re-reading the Commisario Brunetti novels by Donna Leon. ‘Death At La Fenice’ is the very first, and I have just finished it. It certainly doesn’t read like a first novel (as so many first novels do), and all of the characteristics which are in the many later novels are also present here. The emphasis on Brunetti’s home life, the pointing up of differences between how men think and how women think, the drinks and the meals, the description of place, the realistic conveying of how Venice ‘feels’, the ever=present undercurrents of Italian politics and corruption – all are just as important as the plots which are never very convoluted and therefore ideal bedtime reading. So glad we went to Venice to get us back into reading these brilliant evocations of Italian life!!!