A River of Stones
The tide comes in. Green wave ripples wash at the roots of reeds and fill the salt marsh pools.
Yesterday, the afternoon was hot on the Forest uplands, so I walked by the sea at Stanpit Marsh, in Christchurch Harbour, to catch a cooling breeze and to find this summer`s brood of foals. The Marsh is used by New Forest Commoners for grazing in-foal mares.
Stanpit is a place of lush salt marsh where foals are born and can grow in a family herd. The mares are good examples of larger, sturdier New Forest ponies. The stallion used last year was a spotted Appaloosa horse, who ran on the Marsh to father this year`s foals. Their progeny can vary from plain bays to coloured (paint) youngsters, with sometimes a prized young spotted foal or two among the varied mix.
As I walked along the path towards the marsh, curlews bubbled their liquid call in the reedbeds. White egrets waded and black headed gulls stepped through damp grasses. A haze of pale purple Sea Lavender softened the shades of green.
If you click on the photo below, a curved billed curlew stands to the left of the middle distance.
The tide was slowly coming in. In from the rougher waters of the Channel, past The Run, where salt water races into the Harbour and meets fresh river currents from the Hampshire Avon and the Dorset Stour.
Across the Marsh, stands the Norman Priory Church at Christchurch, and numerous small boats are tied in a safe and sheltered mooring.
Looking seawards, across the harbour water and a spit of sandy land. Here, beach huts in a long, pastel-painted row, separate the harbour from the sea. On the horizon stand the distant white chalk cliffs of the Isle of Wight.
Down towards the Harbour channel I walked, where the foals were growing bolder, meeting to graze and play on the edges of their herd.
This bright bay foal had seen a friend........
...to play with....
....under the watchful eye of the dark bay`s mother.
A tall, sturdy palomino cropped grass among the swan feathers.
The group splashed in cool water and walked on the narrow shingle beach.
Out on quieter marsh, mares with younger foals slept and grazed.
The palomino foal suddenly realised that his mother, the chestnut mare, was walking away. He whinnied to her, high and shrill, and then leapt into a canter along the shore, catching up.
A group of ponies on the path. Walking through, quietly and with respect, poses no danger. These animals are used to people, although I would not take a dog amongst them while the foals are here.
A fine, tall masted catamaran moored across the channel.
The palomino foal indulged in some mutual grooming with a friend.
This spotty foal, whose profile heads this post, was bold and friendly, coming across to be scratched on his withers. His markings will make him a prized young animal when his owners come to collect the foals in Autumn. He may be sold after weaning, or maybe kept to see how well he thrives and grows.
There were smaller, finer spots on this palomino, especially on the face.
Two fat, glossy mares, doubtless in foal again, waded into fresher pools where river water makes their drink less salty. On a summer`s day, an idyllic place to be. A place of sweet grass and wide space where they can live in a family group and watch their spring foals grow.
Two men in a small white boat, "Gone fishing"....
...and the wooden causeway back around the marsh. Not another human being in sight, I followed the bank of the little River Mude until I reached another path. No kingfishers seen this time, but I knew they must be there, somewhere, as I walked across the wide grass, back to the Purewell road again.