Jackie needed to have yet another headlight replaced this morning. She drove us to Wells Garage in Ringwood where she left the car, she went into the town, and I walked to Rockford End and back.
Hurst Road lies very near the garage. It is a cul-de-sac with a footpath leading off it. I followed this until it joined the Avon Valley Path; crossed the road at Rockford and walked up a minor road to Rockford End, whence I retraced my steps. The sun emerged from grey clouds in time for my return.
The footpaths ran through and around a series of lakes, the main ones being those of Blashford. Access to these expanses of water was very restricted. They were fenced in with wire mesh, cable, or barbed wire. Consequently there were only a few vantage points from which to enjoy the views. Warning notices proclaimed Deep Water, Private Property, a fishing club, and Spinnaker Sailing Club. Followers of the Avon Valley Path were restricted to narrow strips, now largely dried out, criss-crossed with tree roots of varying thicknesses.
At the Hurst Road end, a couple of scattered piles of plumage testified to an overnight reduction in Ringwood’s avian population, and to satisfied predators’ stomachs. This footway, in part, ran alongside a still swollen stream of clear running water heard trickling around the tree roots and over gravel stones. A couple of constructed bridges were supplemented by those formed by fallen trees.
Through the various barriers, I couldn’t see much of the waterfowl I could hear waking up to spring. Of the sounds I recognised, geese were trumpeting and coots piping. The former, in twos and threes occasionally flapped, honking, overhead.
The most open stretch of water, not available to the public, was the domain of Spinnaker Sailing Club, the New Forest’s private provision. Beyond this, a private fishing club had warning notices fixed, it seemed, to every other tree. Here, the footpath narrowed considerably.
On reaching the road at Rockford, I struggled to pick up the Avon Valley Path, walked around a bit, and being unable to find it, took the minor road up to Rockford End. This proved fortuitous, for the wooded slopes and farmland provided beautiful views, especially as the sun had then made it through the blanket of cloud.
I hadn’t got far up this road before a weathered footpath sign indicated a way through a field of dried mud. This was just beyond a still waterlogged stretch containing a knackered old bull. On my approach, he staggered arthritically from the mudbath he had been enjoying, turned to observe me, then sidled off. Even I didn’t consider him much of a threat. Nevertheless, the walker’s way was barred by a gate. Actually five barred. The field was filled with cattle. I continued on up the road to Rockford End. Spinnaker Sailing Club’s expanse of water shone in the distance, and nearer farm buildings soaked up the sun.
The car repaired, we set off back to Minstead. Jackie took a road she hadn’t tried before, and we were soon lost. But, we are retired, we had all day, and the sun was shining. So what did it matter? We drove up and down beautiful forest landscapes and envied characterful, idyllically placed, houses until we came to a spot I recognised. It was the road I had so recently walked across at Rockford. I proudly told my driver where she was headed, and where she would end up if she went in the opposite direction. ‘So it said’, said she, referring to the signpost we had just passed and I, for once, hadn’t needed. Here was I, attempting to show off my newly acquired knowledge, and that was all the thanks I got.
Jackie made up for this by demonstrating that last night’s meal could be just as good revamped. Especially when accompanied by Lussac Saint Emilion 2010. Or even her Hoegaarden.
Finally, episode 7 got us up to date with ‘Call the Midwife’.