Thursday, 31 December 2009

Partial Eclipse of Full Moon Photo - from New Years Eve!

Tonight, New Year`s Eve 2010, there is a partial eclipse of a full moon ( a "Blue Moon" too, two full moons within a calendar month).

An eclipse of a full Blue moon on New Year`s Eve occurs once every ninety one years

This photo was taken at 7.30pm this evening. Half an hour ago. There is earth shadow falling upon the bottom right corner of the moon. A truly amazing sight. Thanks to my OH for going out in the cold with his camera and long lens!

Wishing all of you a happy New Year`s Eve and a healthy, peaceful year in 2010. May we all try to tread more lightly on our own beautiful planet in 2010 and in the years to come.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

A Grey Old Day......

Drizzle and grey sheets of rain today. Out on the open Forest, a hundred small streams run over gravel and down moorland hills into lanes and valley bottoms. Brown, peat stained water from a night of heavy rain. Pastures half submerged by ponds and lakes where the water soaks and slips its way downhill.

Old Dog is better again. One morning last week he hurtled out into a world of sheet ice . His feet went from under him and he crashed and slid onto his side. He came in lame, his left shoulder strained by the sudden landing. He has been examined and treated with extra anti-inflammatory pills and it is good to see him sound again and eager for life. Today was his first walk beyond the gates , so we pottered gently around the hill and Whisperdog , muzzled again a world of fear and Other Dogs, came with us.

Wet silver birch trunks shine out of the grey-greens and maroons of the woodland edge.

On the dullest day, there is always gorse in flower.

A pony track between gorse bushes becomes a rushing stream over a gravel bed. Each spring, walkers and riders venturing up and down Forest hills find changes in familiar pathways. Steep drops, small but treacherous ravines cut into the sand, sink holes filled with water. Sometimes the old tracks become impassable and detours are made . New tracks appear in parallel through the bracken, gorse and heather.

Clouds of soft rain moving in across the hills.

Wet and miserable after a night and day of rain, a yearling filly dozes in the shelter of an old field bank. We call this pony Fudge, as that was her colouring when she was born up on the hill. She seems to be turning greyer now, but last summer she had a coat of soft , mushroom dun.

These two were standing nearby. The mare was carefully chewing gorse from a branch while her friendly filly foal came over for a chat and a scratch on her withers.

A thick growth of tree ivy on a silver birch provides shelter and food for insects and birds.

Rivulets of water stream down trackways into the valley bottom to be soaked up in bog land and marsh.

Monday, 28 December 2009

At Longslade Bottom

The last week of 2009. Christmas is over for another year. Today dawned white with hoar frost and even by the afternoon, sheets of silver white ice still covered puddles and pools in the Forest. We drove south to Longslade Heath and parked under a stand of pine trees on a hill. The cold froze our cheeks as we walked, down into Longslade Bottom and along the frozen stream that drains water flowing down from the grassy slopes and into the valley.

Longslade Bottom ( Bottom is the local name given to a valley) is a wide and shallow valley of re-seeded grassland which stretches from the edge of Wilverley Plain and then southwards between Hinchelsea Woods and Setthorns Enclosure.

The grass lawns provide grazing for New Forest ponies, while the sedge and marshland further along the valley is home to curlew, lapwing , snipe and redshank. Mole hills, rabbit scrapes and warrens are evident, especially near areas of shrubland and bracken. The ling heather on the valley edges is home to heathland birds and to reptiles such as the sand lizard, smooth snake and adder.

Young silver birch trees and holly amongst gorse and heather. A good habitat for Stonechat and the Dartford Warbler. Some holly trees still showed red berries.Food for the flocks of winter visiting thrushes and redwing. Today I saw my first fieldfares of this winter, feeding by the stream,where the water had thawed and the ground was soft for stabbing beaks.

A snapped branch from a Scots pine. In recent weeks there have been wild storms ripping across the Forest from the coast.

A family of ponies, wearing flourescent collars to enable drivers to see them in the dark, graze on the grassy slopes. The unfenced road to Sway, which runs parallel to Longslade Bottom, is notorious for animal accidents at night.

A closer look at this pretty, compact little filly foal who was grazing near to her mother. All the adult mares are now obviously in foal and they will give birth between late April and mid June.

I envied this woman on her lovely bay horse. They walked along the valley bottom and broke into a calm, controlled canter as they passed me. The rider was smiling with pleasure as she and her horse enjoyed the crisp afternoon together.

Up beyond the silver birches, the road to Brockenhurst stretches along the top of the ridge. Although today was a Bank Holiday, traffic was light and the peace of the open Forest was undisturbed.

Towards Hinchelsea Woods. The Manor of Hinchelsea has existed here since Saxon times. There is landscaped parkland beyond these woods.

A frozen pond in the valley bottom.

Air bubbles in the ice.

Crows feed on thawing grassland. Setthorns enclosure is at the top of the hill beyond.

In-foal mares, most probably a pair bond of mother and daughter. All the ponies we met today looked well nourished and healthy.

Bare trees by frozen water.

A bridge which once carried the Brockenhurst to Ringwood railway (part of the Castleman`s Corkscrew line). The bridge has recently been repaired and the disused railway is a cycle track, bridleway and footpath called the Castleman Trail.

Two happy young Golden Retrievers rushing ahead of their owners and bounding up the track towards Hinchelsea Woods. Our Old Dog slipped on some ice last week and has strained his shoulder, so he missed the walk this afternoon.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A day of freezing fog

Last night, the downs in North Hampshire were covered with thick snow. Hundreds of travellers were stranded on ungritted roads and took shelter for the night wherever they could. The hospital in Basingstoke opened up day wards so that staff and visitors could sleep there on whatever beds they could find. Many people took hours to travel two or three miles home.

Here in the south of the county, large, wet flakes of snow fell onto already frozen ground. Snow turned to sleet, then rain, which froze into sheets of ice on fields and Forest. We awoke to a dense white fog rising from the icing-dusted land. I fed the animals outside as the fog began to lift. A quiet world of soft white air.The peace broken by the crunch of my boots across iced grass. The feel of walking on a creme brulee crust which snapped beneath my feet.

Weeping willow and icy grass.

Red hips from a Ballerina rose stand out against the dull colours of frost and fog.

"Where`s my breakfast?"

A stand of poplars emerges from the mist. Dense clumps of mistletoe grow from their central boughs.

Filigree of frost on fennel seed heads.

This oak has been the last to lose its leaves this winter.

" Can you spare us a scrap of hay?"

New Forest mares wait hopefully at the back gate.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Two hours in Christchurch

Yesterday, like today, was bitterly cold. I drove down the Avon valley to Christchurch, a market town that dates from pre-Saxon times. The Saxon settlement grew up on land between the confluence of the Rivers Stour and Avon. Its early name was Twynham, the town between the rivers. Its name was changed to Christchurch when the church and the priory were established .

The Priory Church, in the photograph above, is known as Christchurch Priory, although the actual Priory was situated nearby. The first Saxon church on this site was built in the 7th and 8th centuries. The present church was initially Norman and was built in 1094 by Ranulf Flambard. It has been added to and altered over the centuries. The end of the Priory came with the Dissolution of the Monastries by Henry VIII, in 1539, but the church remains to this day as the parish church for the town.

Church Hatch, a fine house at the gates of the Priory Church.

Sign on the old brick wall opposite Church Hatch.

The main door to the Priory Church.

An archway of ancient yew trees in the graveyard in front of the church.

Beautiful external stonework on the north side of the church.

Standing by the eastern end of the church and looking across the walls to sailing boats moored in the harbour.

The east window.

Looking back , westwards, along the north wall.

A narrow "secret" doorway in the wall.

The golden fish (a salmon?) on the weathervane. A symbol of the rich fishing in the rivers and the harbour that have sustained this community for centuries.

A peaceful corner of the graveyard.

A wood pigeon dozes in a churchyard tree.

Back into the main shopping street and looking east along Bridge Street, where the road crosses the River Avon as it flows through the town.

Ye Old George Inn, one of the oldest pubs in the town. It is a favourite with local people and serves a range of local Real Ales. A narrow passageway at the side of the inn leads into Millham Street, a quiet lane that runs parallel to the High Street.

The old market house which now stands in front of the modern shops in Saxon Square. A market was in progress in Saxon Square.

When this shopping centre and the nearby road and underpass were being built, the remains of a Saxon Cemetery were found. The Red House Museum in Christchurch now houses many of the interesting artefacts found during archaeological excavations on the site.

I often come to Christchurch, to the good little independent shops. There is an excellent bookshop where I found some Christmas gifts yesterday. I also just love wandering around the town. We lived on the outskirts of Christchurch for ten years, when the boys were small, so it has many good memories for me. Sometimes I will see familiar faces from the old days and maybe stop to chat with a former neighbour. The lovely old buildings in the town centre and the deep sense of history in the area around the Priory Church make this a town to return to whenever I can.