Tuesday, 31 December 2013

After the Storm had Passed

Rain is falling in torrents  this morning. I just managed to feed the animals and walk the dog before the sky darkened again.
Yesterday, after a rainy night and morning, we had a few hours of reprieve before sunset.
Out on a walk with old Whisper Dog, we had to paddle through large puddles where ditches blocked with leaves had overflowed.

We met some wet New Forest ponies, grazing on the green.

Some were feeding on holly..........

.... or finding grass beneath fallen oak leaves.

One pony decided to follow a village friend on her walk.

The hill slope was wet underfoot.

Forest pools on the hill were full again.

Down on the moor, and across to the Bronze Age burial mounds, watery sunshine lit up pools and puddles.

Golden rusts and dark umber browns were beautiful in the sunlight.
Whisper Dog enjoyed his slow, careful walk. We lost his companion, Old Dog, eighteen months ago. Whisper carries on, despite arthritis, and had his fifteenth birthday in November.

Whisper has always hated being photographed. He thinks the camera will steal his soul.
I managed to take take todays photos from a distance and while he was preoccupied!

The day`s grey blanket of storm clouds passed into the east and north, leaving us a precious hour or two of sunshine.

The trunks of old oaks on the hill are often wrapped around with their undercanopy of holly.

Roots of an oak that fell in late summer winds.

 Walking back again, through winter sunshine and long shadows........

....we passed quiet ponies who still munched holly in the shelter of trees beside the lane.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Between the Storm Showers

Another storm passed through in the night. For those on lower ground, who live near the major rivers of Southern England, these winter storms have brought flooded homes, power cuts and a miserable Christmas season. 

We are half way down a gentle slope that leads from the moorland of the open New Forest and down towards village lanes.

Water flows down and collects for a while, before finding a path through ditches and drains, to the bottom of the hill. Woody`s field has gained its usual "pond" over recent days..............

.........with run-off from the fields flowing through the garden, the wild pond and back towards an old drainage ditch between us and our neighbours` land.

Out on the Forest, water has found numerous pathways downhill, bringing down sand and gravel in brownish, peaty streams.

 A nearby track has a deep gully gouged into one side, which makes driving difficult for all but the toughest 4x4 vehicles.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, gravel from the track had washed away to reveal old foundations of brick and rubble.

The hollow way across the heath is marked as a track on maps which are several centuries old. Now it is used by a few walkers, but quickly turns to a stream in wet weather.

A few gorse flowers brighten the heath.

Red wilding crab apples are a welcome source of food for birds.

I saw several redwing, song thrushes and blackbirds feeding beneath these wilding apples. Most of the sour, green fruit has fallen in the strong winds of recent days and nights.

The sky began to darken and spit with rain, so I abandoned my walk. Within an hour, the old beech tree in the hedge was swaying and creaking again as another rain storm blew in from the South West.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all of you who follow or visit "Beechmast" a very Happy Christmas!

No snow scenes here today, only a wet and windy New Forest. Hailstones have just been pelting down the chimney.

Thank you to everyone who has visited and commented over the past year.

Stay safe in the storms and floods of Christmas 2013!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Boldre Church - A Quick Look Inside

It was bitterly cold inside the church. Still and peaceful. Each generation seemed to have added or taken away from the stone, the wood and the glass.

Above is the thirteenth century porch. The original medieval statue above the door has been replaced by a stained glass window depicting St Nicholas, patron saint of sailors. Inside the porch are momentos of  HMS Hood.

Below, are the only remaining Norman arches and their piers.

The wooden Family Pews are evidence of  past residents from the many grand houses and wealthy families in this parish. There was once a segregated Servants Gallery where humbler folk were admitted to worship.

In a corner of the North Chapel, is the simple and moving Memorial to HMS Hood. Under a bright window, is the illuminated Book of Remembrance.

On the wall is a painting of HMS Hood, by the marine artist Montague Dawson (1899-1973).

There have been several changes to the stained glass windows over the centuries. The East Window, behind the altar, is a modern depiction (1964) of Christ in Glory, by Alan Younger.

The Victorian West Window, above the old West Door, Depicts Faith, Hope and Charity. 

The Bradley Window ( 1956), below, in the North Chapel, replaced an earlier Victorian window.

A closer look at the East Window.

The beautiful, almost Pre Raphaelite West Window (1884), is entitled Come Unto Me. It was designed by Curtis, Ward and Hughes as a memorial to parishoners Louise and Sidney Read.

The contemporary and stunning Millennium Window was designed and engraved by Tracey Sheppard FGE. It commemorates the year 2000 and "shows the church within its rural setting with trees, the river and various flora and fauna, each having a symbolic meaning". A frosted vision of the Forest set in glass, against the cold evening sky and bare trees in the lane beyond the church.

Refs: Information plaques within the church plus the PCC Guidebook, as mentioned in my last post.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

A November Afternoon at Boldre Church

Today is Winter Solstice and the trees are whipping in gale force winds. Every leaf has gone now.

This is a belated post from the last week in November, when the countryside was glowing with the reds and golds of autumn. One afternoon, we drove eastwards across the New Forest to Boldre, a village just inland from the coast. 

The  Church of St John the Baptist is not in the centre of Boldre village but is situated in an isolated spot, amongst farm fields and lanes lined with ancient trees. The church was built on a hill in the early years following the Norman Conquest. There are, apparently, three sarcen stones in its foundations, which might suggest that this hill was a neolithic place of pagan worship long before Christianity arrived.

Boldre Church was initially built in around 1087 (the year when William the Conqueror died) but has been added to and altered in every time and style across the centuries. 

We walked around the graveyard on a cold, sunny afternoon.

A view across pasture and woodland, towards the open Forest.

There were old and interesting graves in every part of this peaceful churchyard.

A famous occupant of Boldre churchyard is the Rev William Gilpin, (Vicar of Boldre 1777-1804) described as "Pastor and Polymath", who was a writer, landscape artist, teacher and philanthropist. Gilpin was an important artist in the development of the Picturesque movement. Concerned by the poverty and need that he found in this New Forest parish, he founded a Poor House and a school, which he funded with the sale of his paintings.

Below is the Oldest Named Tombstone in the churchyard. It marks the grave of Edward Watts, who died in 1698. On the tombstone are carvings of a skull, crossed thigh bones and an hour glass.

The War Memorial not only commemorates the parish fallen of WWI and WWII. It also serves as a memorial to the drowned Vice-Admiral, 1416 officers and men of the Flagship HMS Hood, which was sunk off the coast of Iceland by the German Battleship Bismark, on 23rd May, 1941. The stricken ship sank within two minutes. There were only three survivors.

Vice-Admiral L.E. Holland and his family had worshipped in Boldre Church for many years, so his widow ensured that the HMS Hood Commemoration should be here. The HMS Hood Memorial Chapel is inside the church.

The lower part of the church tower was built in the early 1300`s while the upper part was rebuilt in brick in 1697.

After visiting the church itself, we left the churchyard through wooden gates. A narrow , wooded lane wound down towards the Lymington River.

As we left the church, the sun was going down over nearby fields, where New Forest ponies grazed in the lengthening shadows of a cold, still afternoon.

Ref: The Church of St John the Baptist, Boldre - guidebook, 8th edition.