Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Rocking Horse Dapples......

Our Grey Pony, now four years old, started life as a dark bay roan with a smattering of grey hairs. We wondered what colour he would eventually be. Every year has been different. Last year he was a dark iron grey. This spring he has lightened yet again, and at last he has some lovely "Rocking Horse" dapples on his summer coat. In a few more years , he will probably be completely white. Time will tell!

For New Forest Pony fans, there are photos of his sire on

There are real similarities between them. Pickle is now a gelding , being ridden and enjoyed in a private home. We know from his previous owner that he has a superb temperament, which he seems to have passed on to his son.

Here is J, another New Forest Pony. He belongs to the same friend who found The Grey Pony in the road, after his mother had been killed. It was J`s owner who had the foresight to save the Grey Pony`s life on that awful summer morning four years ago.

J , is staying with us and is the kindest pony I have met in years. We are gradually bringing him back into work as he was not ridden last year. He has settled in well and we love having him here.

Woody belongs to another friend. He was lame earlier this month and is thankfully getting better.

Woody`s half brother, the Chocolate Pony, comes over to have a word with me. We need to watch this one`s diet!

The Ginger One apologises for his hair. He had only just got up after a morning sleep.....

Enjoying the warm sun, which helps her arthritic old joints, the Golden Pony dodges the electric fence for a tastier bite of grass. She was not so well last winter, despite daily anti arthritic medicines. If we have another hard winter, we may need to make a difficult decision about this dear old girl. Always a character and not always easy, she has mellowed over the years. I don`t believe in keeping animals to suffer though, so if the pain gets bad when summer is over, we shall see.... At least she is doing well on the summer grass and we will take each day as it comes.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Blocking the Road

Along a New Forest lane in the midday heat of a humid summer day. Like a latter-day Stubbs painting, a group of commoners` ponies rest beneath two oak trees that reach across the lane to form a canopy of shade. Every summer day they stand here, as their mothers and grandmothers will have stood before them.

Driving through this little family is a slow and careful business. Sometimes a pony will turn to let you pass. Sometimes you have to wait, and wait, or wave a duster out of the window, hoping for some movement.

Yesterday, I squeezed the car carefully through. No one was behind me, so I stopped to take some photographs. The young dark grey mare is likely to be a half sister to our own Grey Pony. He was born on this heath four springs ago, and lived with this family group until his mother was killed by a car one night. Aged six weeks, he came to us as an unhandled orphan. Now he is a kind, beautiful young gelding who is beginning his education. We hope he may be a riding pony by next summer. The grey mare looks so much like him. I feel sure that the same grey stallion is their father.

Scratching an itch - a balancing act.

Another possible half sister. She looks around four years old.

Just away from the group, a single chestnut mare cropped the new, sweet grass growing between blackened gorse stumps. Controlled burning leaves a stark, twiggy landscape of charcoal branches, until the rain comes and grass grows again. It will not be long before new gorse sprouts from the burned earth. A new supply of food for ponies and cattle in the years to come.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Gardens at The Red House Museum in Christchurch

It is a while since we last spent time at the Red House Museum in Christchurch. When our boys were young, we would marvel at the Stone Age hand axes, the Bronze Age cremation urns and the evidence that Neanderthal men and women once lived in the place we called home.

When I was teaching, we would bring primary classes to see the Saxon exhibitions; the artifacts and the finds from a Saxon graveyard excavated where a supermarket car park now lies. A boy and a girl would dress up in the fashions of a Saxon man and woman. Christchurch was an important town in Saxon times. It was called Twynham then, because the town grew up between the confluence of two great rivers, where the Hampshire Avon and the River Stour meet the sea in Christchurch Harbour.

Today, we came to research an important craftsman who lived and worked in Christchurch in the first half of the twentieth century. Arthur Romney Green, a furniture maker and boat builder, is considered a fine craftsman of the Arts and Crafts Movement. He had a workshop and a bow fronted shop in Bridge Street, Christchurch. Inside the Red House Museum, a small room is set out as a 1930`s dining room, where Romney Green`s furniture is displayed. It is like peering through a window into the past.

I took photographs outside, in the lush and lovely gardens of the Museum. The Red House was built in 1764, as a workhouse for the town`s poor. It is difficult to walk in this garden, without thinking of the orphaned, old, ill and destitute souls who trod these pathways centuries ago.

More about the museum can be found at

The water pump....

Into the walled garden, where herbs of every description are grown. Well labelled, they make a good resource for teaching children and adults about both culinary and medicinal herbs. They also make a quiet garden of scented leaves and bright flowers.

In the centre is a pond.

A formal urn grows house leeks.

A plaque tells of the origins of the herb garden.

Mr Blackbird......

...and his wife.

Leaded windows above climbing roses.

We followed a narrow path, into the garden that borders the road.

Through the hedge was the tower of the Priory Church. As we walked in the garden, the bell in the tower struck four o`clock.

The covered well where the workhouse residents would draw their water.

On the Georgian Vicarage opposite, Virginia Creeper covered walls and chimneys.

Soft herbaceous borders against the trees........

A cloud of powder-blue cranesbill geraniums.

The West Window on the tower.

A beautiful rose, Lady Sylvia.

The weeping ash........

.....moss on a coral skeleton........

....and a return through the herb garden, out into the busy streets of the town.

Not far from the Avon Bridge on Bridge Street, we found the building which once housed Arthur Romney Green`s furniture workshop and bow fronted shop.

A popular Italian restaurant has taken the place of a craftsman`s shop......

....but the upstairs windows are the original ones. These are the rooms where Romney Green lived and where he met with friends to discuss art, politics and philosophies of life.

As he walked into town, Romney Green would have met this view of the Norman Priory ruins and the Priory Church . In the waters of the River Avon, he would have sailed his beloved wooden boats ........

...moored, perhaps, by the willow trees on the river bank, two minutes from his home.

As a young man, Arthur Romney Green lived and worked in Haslemere, Surrey. He was part of a community of artists, writers, thinkers and craftspeople associated with the Haslemere Peasant Industries of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. More can be learned about them at this interesting and well researched blog

I have a hunch that Romney Green would have known my Haslemere Grandfather in his younger days, but that is another story and, as yet, we only have the faintest of connections.