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.


Bovey Belle said...

Oh I did enjoy that walk my dear. I keep saying it, but it's nearly as good as being "hwome" for me . . . Plenty of people out enjoying the fresh air by the look of it. I have NO inclination to go outside today, having ventured out at first light to open the gate for a guest, and been feeling frozen ever since!

Kath said...

Sorry your dog is on the sick-list. I did like the retrievers gambling along the path. My 2 dogs would love it (as long as there weren't any sheep!).

Morning's Minion said...

I am purely envious of such a walk! I can't think how it can be cold enough for ice in streams and ponds and yet the grass stays green. Winter is a bitterly cold and frozen time where I live. We do see more sunny winter days in Wyoming than in many parts of the country, but are currently being treated to a spell of white fog and cold temperatures.
I think the hazard of the ponies on the roadways there is the same as the problem with so many deer crossing the roads here. They leap into the path of a vehicle with no idea of the consequences.
I hope your companionable Old Dog can soon return to gentle walks. It is sad to watch a loved pet grow feeble.

Dartford Warbler said...

BB- I thought you would enjoy this one!

Thank you all for good wishes for Old Dog. He is not limping today and seems much brighter, so maybe we will venture out for a short Forest walk tomorrow.

Kath - there are no sheep!