Saturday, May 14, 2016

Trundling down the Track and across the Moors.

Every evening, if we were at Mum's, I would sit and look out on these trees from the lounge, watching the sun set. I've always loved pine trees and these are so tall, looking grandly down on all of us below. I also thought of Dad as these would have been the trees he looked out on during his final days, watching and listening to the wood pigeons as they prepared to roost for the night in these high and safe branches. Most of the birds here are larger varieties, crows, black birds and song thrushes. I haven't seen any smaller birds, not even sparrows. Strange, since there are no cats in this neighborhood. I also watched them in the mornings with a couple of cups of tea while Mum and I reminisced over old days or chatted about the new life she was now leading., a very busy life in which she has more social activities than me. good for her!
We were going to Hythe today as she wanted me to see the little pier and railway down there. Today the sun was shining but it was still very blowy and cold. Wrapping up we set off, me driving again and really enjoying the experience. There are few large trucks in England due to so many narrow and windy country lanes or tight city streets with old buildings leaning towards each other.  So it's a joy to drive as there are no obstructions and the road ahead can be seen at all times. I never once experienced even a hint of road rage either the two weeks I was there, everyone was polite and friendly.
Hythe was busy with a street market when we arrived but we didn't hover over many of the stalls, wanting to get to the pier. I loved the gothic church entrance that we passed, but the door was locked so the interior had to remain a mystery.
We found the little pier with an even littler ticket office and a narrow train was waiting to set off. The Pier Train is the oldest operating pier train which has continuously served the public on Hythe Pier, Hants, and it began running in July 1922 and hasn't stopped since!
It had a very Victorian look and feel to it and we gratefully climbed inside, glad to be out of the winds. It set off rattling along the line very slowly and we laughed as we read the old timetables and notices on the walls. Everything inside looked to be original from the highly polished slatted wooden seats to the many layered painted walls. We trundled down the 2100ft pier to the end where a ferry was waiting to take folks across to Southampton. The history of Hythe Pier is here.
We stepped off the train and nearly got blown off into the sea. The winds battered the pier and the boats moored to it, white horses thundering across the waves towards the land. The skies were dark and ominous, trying to throw down rain showers but only succeeding with a few spots hitting us. We took refuge in the waiting room and looked out, immediately willing the train to return quickly.
 Mum peering out onto the crashing waves. We did wonder if the legs of the pier would hold us up and Mum noticed that we could see the sea below us between the ancient wooden planks of the floor, which alarmed her even more. So we stepped outside to see if we could see our little train arriving. It wasn't in sight so I stepped over to the railing to look down at the sea and grab a photo. As I returned after snapping my shot a man yelled at me to be careful. I guess I must have been a cat in a past life as I've had so many near brushes with death, and yet here was another. I had absentmindedly stepped over the live rail as casually as though stepping down from a kerb and had narrowly missed brushing the rail which had I think about 3000 volts running through it. I may be exaggerating here as I can't really recall the figure but I knew it would have been enough to instantly extinguish my life. And the photo I took was rubbish too...
Eventually we heard a rumbling and the little train appeared again. We quickly climbed aboard making sure our door was firmly shut. Once we were back at the start of the pier again we sought refuge from the cold in a Costa cafe where we sat at the window with a coffee and a cake watching the market vendors go about their work. We felt pretty sorry for them, the wind really was biting, and we did notice a couple of them starting to pack up early.
On the way back to Mum's we drove through the New Forest again, I really wanted to see if we could find any of the ponies. These ponies have grazed in the New Forest for thousands of years, likely since before the last Ice Age, Horse bones have been found in the area dating back to 500,000 BC. In the 1850's and 1860's the quality of the ponies was seen to be declining due to bad breeding so the Arab was introduced. But this affected their hardiness and also their ability to work as pit ponies, so numbers decreased. In 1884 only 2250 were left and this declined to just 571 in 1945. To improve the breed, Thoroughbred, Weslh pony and Hackney blood had also been added as well as breeds from the Fells, Dales, Dartmoor, Highland and Exmoor. This stopped in 1930 and since then only purebred New Forest stallions have been used. More information is here.
We came across a small herd and stopped. I approached slowly but it soon became clear that they were not interested in visitors, however sweetly you spoke to them. I remembered as a child when we'd come down to Dorset for a holiday my poor Brother had been bitten on the shoulder by a mare who thought he had gotten too close to her foal. The ponies today were of a similar temperament and if I got close they would start to turn their hindquarters so they could follow through with a well aimed kick with their back legs. I soon wised up to this and was constantly looking over my shoulder. I did get close enough for some head shots as I was simply amazed to discover these horses had moustaches! I've never seen this before on a horse and it looked hilarious, not that I let the ponies be aware of my amusement.
More beautiful gothic doors and a window at a church inside the New Forest.
The gorse is everywhere over Dorset but in the New Forest it looks amazing on the moors. It can grow up to about 7ft high but is managed, and every so often there will be a burn to get it back down to ground level again. But it also provides excellent shelter, standing in a circle of these bushes kept the winds off me completely. More gorse info here.
We stopped at a cute little village called Burley but had arrived too late for the shops. they were all shut by 6pm, a far cry form America where so many stores are open until 10pm or even later. I actually liked, though, stepping into this world where money doesn't rules supreme and personal time is important. We also came across a lot of places where shops were closed on Wednesday afternoon, or all day, and also some villages closed on Mondays. Good for them, I held no grudges at not being able to purchase a souvenir, and actually with so many tempting sweets and knick knacks in the windows it really was a good thing!

No comments: