New Forest flowers; a Conservative Club outing; the SS United States; an Avocado Pear; Gran’s formidable fitness; kindly friends; those cats again; a green budgie and tennis with the best.
On June 28th 1952, Gran makes the three-bus trip, via the Hythe Ferry to her beloved New Forest. On the way, seeing the bombed sites of Southampton, Redbridge and Millbrook, she notes:
Buddleia, now recognised as a naturalised native plant, had taken firm hold and its beautiful purple heads of bloom flowered above the golden masses of Senecio squalidus (Oxford Ragwort).
She has a botanically fabulous day, described in great detail, recording many plants, eight of which are new species for her Hampshire list, and she writes:
The afternoon was perfect and I joined the Southampton Natural History Society in a ramble round Hatchet Pond in the New Forest, a district full of interest and with a tremendous number of small but beautiful, and, in some cases, rare wild flowers…the rarest and most exciting being the tiny gentian Cicendia filiformis (Sender Cicendia), which, according to Bentham and Hooker, occurs only in the south-western counties of England. Two bedstraws, Galium debile [now G. constrictum] a rare plant closely allied to Galium palustre (Marsh Bedstraw) and which has only recently been identified as a separate species, and the Stellaria uliginosa (Bog Stitchwort) were the next new discoveries…
On the hard, dry gravel was flourishing the lovely little pink Illecebrum verticillatum [with the lovely English name, Coral Necklace] a small creeping plant which has only recently been acknowledged native in Hampshire, having previously been confined to Cornwall, Devonshire and the Channel Islands.
Hatchet Pond, one end of which is nowadays heavily populated by human New Forest visitors, with cars, dogs and ice-cream vans, nevertheless remains a fabulously rich area botanically, and for me, hunting for the numerous small and specialised plants there is the essence of the relationship of the Goater family to the New Forest and what it has to offer. My fervent wish is that National Park status will not threaten it.
Gran adds something that surprises me, given the number of times she has roamed the Forest:
The leader of the party, Brigadier Venning, told me that two pairs of Dartford Warblers are nesting near Hatchet Pond this summer but I did not see any of the birds, which was disappointing as I have never seen them.
Two days later, Gran is enjoying a different habitat, in the company of her great friend “Tommy” Fowler (nee Joan Tomlinson):
I caught the half-past eight bus to Southampton to join a Conservative Club outing to Guildford and Kingston, an unusual and unexpected event for such as I, but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed it and found the chief place visited both beautiful and interesting.
She describes all she sees from the bus windows, along the Meon Valley saying that “we had a most considerate driver in our coach…he drove almost at walking pace so that we might enjoy the wonderful view”, and further on:
Again the driver slowed down to a crawl, and this time it was for us to gaze upon the splendour of the famous Devil’s Punchbowl near Guildford, which, like the Meon Valley is clothed with such lovely trees.
She and Tommy picnic in the grounds of Guildford Castle, “while some others preferred a meal in the town”. The coach takes them next to:
…the beautiful grounds of Albury Park, the home of the Dowager Duchess of Northumberland, which stands in the valley of the Tillingbourne, a tributary of the Wey.
And she follows this with several pages of detailed history of the place, much of it taken from a booklet she bought there, and concludes, “I bought two bunches of lovely blue Scabious from a man selling the garden produce at the gate. We went on to Kingston-on-Thames for tea…I felt myself feeling quite at home.”
The main party went into Benthall’s Tudor Café for tea but I sped along the Lower Ham Road on winged feet, for I had an hour to spend with Adrian’s mother if I hurried! Sure of my welcome, and finding the front door ajar, I pushed it open and was received in open arms. I just had time for tea and to arrange the Scabious, a quick look round the dear familiar room and a word with Victor, Adrian’s brother, and away again to re-join the coach.
On July 9th:
Barry had been across the Hythe Ferry this afternoon to take some pictures of the new American Liner, “United States“, which recently won the Blue Riband of the Atlantic…
And the following day:
I left home at eight o’clock to cycle to Southampton in order to help my friends, the Fowlers, with orders for flowers for passengers in three ships due to sail this afternoon, the new “United States”, the “Georgic”, and the “Stirling Castle“. I enjoyed packing the boxes of beautiful flowers, but was disappointed that my help was not needed for delivery on board, since I was hoping for a look at the “United States”.
Barry went to meet Jock from Winchester and they came home over Shawford downs, where Chalkhill Blues were out (the first time we have seen any this Summer).
On July 16th, Gran takes an early bus into Southampton (where she had an excellent view of the liner RMS Queen Mary which was in dock there) to meet companions for another trip to the New Forest:
I went with my Aunt and Cousin, Marjorie, to Beaulieu and Bucklers Hard, and they were sufficiently charmed by these favourite haunts of mine to satisfy even my demanding heart, for which none but the most enthusiastic praise will suffice.
The party spends time in Hythe, waiting for a connecting bus to Beaulieu, and we are given a little insight into those days before peppers, aubergines, kiwi-fruit and tagliatelli, let alone quinoa and humus, had found their way into the British consciousness! Gran writes:
Coming through the quaint town back to the pier for our bus, we saw in a greengrocer’s shop, a most intriguing plant growing in a tall glass jar. It had a rather large object, rather like a potato (a poor description, but one could not call it a pip or a stone – too large) propped into the neck of the jar with match-sticks, and long, feathery roots had grown down right to the bottom. From the side, a stem about a foot high, had put out a series of leaves, a little larger than Laurel leaves, deep, clear green, beautifully veined, and the tip shooting, a lighter colour, with folded leaflets. On enquiry we were told that it was an Avocado Pear, whatever that might be, and was being grown as an experiment from a pip of the fruit purchased by the shop last year.
An illustration of Gran’s formidable fitness, endurance and perseverance is recorded on the 17th when, she says, “I spent a most enjoyable day, eventually joining Barry at Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight”. She cycles from The Ridge to Southampton Town Quay, catches the ferry to Hythe, cycles against a strong headwind via Dibden Purlieu and Beaulieu, to Lymington and just misses the ferry to Yarmouth. She waits for the next one, writing, “I had a look round and ate a few biscuits to quieten the inner man and the time soon passed”.
Barry is waiting for her at Yarmouth Pier-head, where she is “glad to see his welcoming smile and wave of the hand as he recognised me in the crowd”. They cycle to the Freshwater hotel where Dad has been staying these last three days, prop up their bikes there and botanise in the nearby marsh, adding Greater Spearwort and Small Bur-reed to their list of Hampshire plants. Tennyson Down is their next destination, where Gran is enchanted by the downland plants, and she is interested that because of the exposed position:
…open to the winds off the sea, they were all considerably dwarfed, and, amongst others, we found Campanula glomerata (Clustered Bellflower) altered beyond recognition as such in places, being scarcely two inches high and bearing only a single flower. This was disappointing, since this had previously been identified for Barry in his early days as Gentiana praecox, which we now find was incorrect.
Leaving the Down, having read the inscription on the Tennyson monument there, Gran says that “descending was more difficult than the ascent and I wondered if my legs would hold out until I reached Chandler’s Ford again”. They start the homeward journey just before four o’clock, having tea in Yarmouth, before boarding the ferry. A following wind helps the cyclists through the New Forest to Hythe, but the ride from Southampton Town Quay seems very long:
…but we were nearly home and Barry gave me many a helping push and word of encouragement. I was too tired now to notice much, but he saw and pointed out to me two Pine Hawk-moths, one at Bassett and one in Merdon Avenue, both at rest on Pine Trees. I just managed to cycle up the last, short hill and we were home – over forty miles on bicycle, and a long tramp over the downs at Freshwater, but what a soul-satisfying day, and how very worthwhile.
“House Martins were circling round Mary Harding’s house”, writes Gran on the 21st:
…when I made my customary visit, and the sun was shining again. I found, when I reached home, that, under the pretext of putting into my basket two books which I had lent her, Mary had also put in a delightful little Devon Pottery jug as a birthday present for tomorrow. I can already see it filled with some favourite flowers later on. I had a second lovely surprise during the evening. Barry, ever impatient of other people’s birthdays as well as his own, gave me a wonderful book, the biography of Ivor Novello, whose music I love, by W. MacQueen-Pope. It promises me many hours of pleasurable reading.
Earlier, that morning:
Cats wailing beneath my window wakened me just before dawn and I got out of bed to empty my glass of water upon them, whereupon they fled with much commotion along the side of the house.
And just before sunset the next day, scolding Magpies and agitated Goldfinches alert Gran again:
…and when I went downstairs to close the windows I saw, from the kitchen, a pale yellow cat strolling up the path. I waited until it was just outside the open window and then threw over it a jug of water which happened to be conveniently on the draining board. The cat fled and the Goldfinches were happy once more.
Dear old Gran would not tolerate any cat within her territory!
Dad has been “bug-hunting” throughout the Summer, with great success running the mercury vapour lamp in the garden, where, early in July, 104 species of moth were attracted one night. Later that month, he returns by bike from a night in the field, and Gran recounts this:
…he did not get home from Titchfield Haven until about three o’clock this morning. He had an amusing experience as he reached the top of this road on his bicycle. The local policeman, on patrol duty, shone his torch upon Barry and he dismounted, whereupon the policeman said, “Oh, it’s you! What’s the matter, couldn’t you sleep?” Barry explained where he had been and what he had been doing so all was well. No doubt the policeman thought to himself that some folk are queer and do odd things in the night but he was apparently convinced that Barry is harmless.
Gran rarely writes about her choice of clothes; they appear not to interest her, but she knew what she liked and I remember her dressing simply, with little colour, but with a degree of tasteful elegance. She writes on July 24th:
I do not often feel much enthusiasm for clothes, but, having some birthday money to spend and needing a summer dress, I went to Winchester this morning to look at one which Mary had seen in a shop window and which she said was “just me”. It was not in the window today but I described it to the assistant as Mary had to me and she recognised it at once. I liked it very much, a “countryside” print, complete with river, church, farmhouse, trees and flowers, in soft shades of green, cherry and black, with a touch of mauve – in short, just the thing I like best, and a perfect fit. No trouble or fuss – I do not mind shopping this way and I am grateful to Mary for suggesting it.
That evening, Gran makes her way in the Winchester direction again, “to see my old friend Mrs Durst at Compton…and spent a pleasant hour in her delightful garden at Cross Ash, which is the name of her house. Mrs Durst”, she writes:
…a perfect gentlewoman of a past generation, is one of those kindly souls who make one feel absolutely at home, a great Christian in the truest sense of the word, and tonight, besides gathering me fresh broad beans, marrow and cucumber, gave me a delightful posy of old-world flowers, fragrant, gentle and beautiful as she is herself – roses, sweet-peas, carnations, toadflax, achillea, flax, yellow marguerites, annual scabious and thalictrum, all of which are now shedding their scented loveliness in my room as I write.
Going home, Gran feels “rested and strangely uplifted after my contact with this charming old lady”.
There has been much tennis over the summer (a hot and dry one, with, by July 26th, a drought officially recognised), Gran playing in matches locally as well as at Parkstone in Dorset, at Bishops Waltham and Andover. Jane too, has been involved with the game, and she comes home late on the 25th, “…tired but elated. She has won the School Tennis Singles Cup for the third year in succession and now retains it”. Often, it seems, Gran has not been much in the mood for tennis over the season but playing on July 27th brings her great pleasure, after leaving home quite early:
…to compete in the Hants and Isle of Wight Mixed Doubles Championship at Winchester…the four main grass courts looked beautiful and were, indeed, perfect too, as I was to discover later on.
Play commenced at half-past eleven and I was delighted to find that we had been drawn in the same section as Jean Walker-Smith, England’s leading woman player, for, though I knew that my partner and I would be literally wiped off the court, I appreciated the privilege of playing against our best exponent of the game. I was not disappointed – she is as delightful off the court as on it and she greeted me with a smile every time we met after the game. Altogether I was well satisfied, for I know we are past our prime at the game and can no longer compete with the more youthful and better players of today, but we finished fifth out of nine in our section, winning four and losing four, two of the latter after close fights, and two completely!
Jean Walker-Smith and her partner eventually won the shield for West Hants Club, Bournemouth, from Winchester, the holders, after a game which was a pleasure to watch and which, without a doubt, was won by the better pair.
“Tired, almost to the point of exhaustion”, Gran arrives home to Barry’s exclaimed, “Look in your bedroom!”:
What did I find but a little green Budgerigar, which he had caught in his butterfly net in a neighbour’s garden. He had put it in our empty birdcage and it had eaten some cereal. Tomorrow I must get it some proper food…
I went to the local corn merchant for food for the Budgerigar who seemed fairly lively this morning. I bought the proper seed mixture and a head of millet for him. He must have been extremely hungry and I began to feel very anxious, so long did he remain eating seeds, but, after preening himself, he went soundly to sleep. He has eaten well all day but has been very silent.
We have put a notice in the Post Office to say that we have found him, but, frankly, I hope he will not be claimed…he will be well cared-for, at any rate, whilst he is in our care.
Next morning the Budgerigar is fully recovered, climbing about the cage and preening, chattering and feeding vigorously. A claimant visits the house to look at the bird but is unable remember whether his own lost bird is blue or green, and Gran is not impressed! He is not heard from again but five days later, Gran writes sadly:
The little green Budgerigar, whom I fed before leaving this morning and who then was full of energy and chatter, died suddenly and without warning this afternoon. He seemed so well and had quite got over his exhaustion – I wondered if he had been almost starving and had over-eaten when food was within reach. At all events, he has left us in spite of all the care lavished upon him…
I hope the poor bird had been supplied with water! Gran does not say. By the end of the month, Barry has received his call-up papers for the Royal Air Force, Gran saying, “…and he has to go on August 13th, the day before his birthday. I do regret the waste of time that this entails but it has to be done and I should have to face the parting with him in any case”.
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 1)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 2)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 3)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 4)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 5)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 6)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 7)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 8)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 9)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 10)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 11)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 12)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 13)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 14)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 15)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 16)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 17)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 18)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 19)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 20)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 21)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 22)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 23)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 24)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 25)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 26)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 27)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 28)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 29)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 30)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 31)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 32)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 33)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 34)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 35)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 36)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 37)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 38)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 39)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 40)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 41)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 42)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 43)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 44)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 45)