Monday, 6 December 2010

A Partial Thaw

The rain came on Saturday night, rattling roof tiles and washing away much of the lying snow. By morning, freezing air left the wet ground icy. By afternoon, our usual tracks and pathways were still slippery and hard, despite a thaw in the cold winter sunshine.

We walked along a lane cleared of ice and then took a farm track up across heathland. Trees were wet with melting ice. White trunks and purple stems of leafless silver birches shone out against rusty bracken and deep green gorse.

A New Forest pony, her head tucked into a clump of gorse, was munching the prickly stems and leaves. Her tail shows a pattern of marking cuts. These snips out of the tail are done when the ponies are rounded up in the autumn, during local Drifts. Small groups of animals are held in wooden railed pens where they can be checked over and given wormers. At this point, the colt foals are often separated from their dams, ready to be taken back to their owners farms and maybe prepared for sale.

Each New Forest area is looked after by an agister, a man whose job is to take care of commoners stock. Each agister has a tail cutting pattern of his own, so this pony has the pattern of the agister local to the area that she wanders and grazes, her `haunt`.

The track was slippery with iced-over puddles. Up on the heather banks, unmelted snow stayed crisp.

Snow had melted from tree tops, but remained in the chill of the shadowed undergrowth.

Across the heath, with an oak wood inclosure in the distance.

The temperature was dropping. We had walked a fair way and the dogs are no longer young, so we turned back towards the lane.

Ice sheets in shady places needed extra care.

Into the afternoon sun and down towards the ford.

The stream rushed over pebble and gravel, twisting its way eastwards, flowing for miles and draining the Forest heath.

From the lane, views across a frozen Forest........

.......a stream beside the path.....

.........and a paddock still white with frost.

Back through a tunnel of tall oaks and beeches, we walked through dappled rays of the dipping sun.......

......and looked up at branch and winter leaf against the sky.


Karen said...

I want to pack up and come to the New Forest, snow or no snow, ice or no ice, rain or no rain. Wonderful post and pictures!

ChrisJ said...

What a lot of nice tree shots. I do love trees with or without leaves. You live in such a beautiful area. I like hearing about the ponies. It's a whole area of life in the UK that I know nothing about. A good healthy and brisk walk for all of us.

Kath said...

Gosh that looks cold. I love to see the trees against the sky like that.

WOL said...

I am always struck by how symmetrical trees are -- their branches mirroring their roots. With their roots in the earth and their branches in the sky, they hold the world together.

Thanks for the lovely walk.

Angie said...

What wonderful photos ...I love the bare trees....the New Forest was my late husbands favourite place.
Re our war stories amazing that they are so similar .... probably many simialar stories out there is thought that 5000 were lost on that troop ship alone.