Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Lord of the Rings

Last nights dinner at the 17th Century Three Tuns Coaching Inn and Restaurant, a belated birthday treat for Hugh (and for the rest of us I might add), turned out to be an unforgettable experience for all of us,

Hugh, Janet, Gill and Norman (plus myself)

The food was some of the most inventive and palatable I have ever experienced, certainly the best Pub Grub albeit 'Gastro-Pub', and so not to bore you with the whole menu I'll just describe my own choice. The starter comprised crispy duck served with savoury noodles which arrived in a small waxed box, an absolute delight, followed by 10 hours cooked pork and vegetables. The pièce de résistance was indeed the pudding that was advertised as Eggs & Soldiers,

comprising this boiled egg shaped and sized bowl full of delicious white fondant with an orange flavoured yolk, while on the side was a poached egg shaped panna cotta with a small edible 'sack' of apricot cream. The soldiers were made of candied pastry making for the best pub food I have ever eaten. Mention should be made of our Polish waiter who, we all agreed, had that certain charisma that brought an extra dimension to the proceedings - Thank You young man!

Another gruelling 'day at the office' in bright sunlight, barely a breath of wind and a new chill to the air, was mostly spent in the New Forest where there was potential for half a dozen additions to the Year List.

Climbing the hill out of Ringwood, over the top of the forest Redwing and Fieldfare were everywhere

and as I turned onto the Fritham road dozens of Rooks were feeding by the roadside. Of the possibilities Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was always going to be of 'needle in haystack' proportions, while it was hoped an early Goshawk might be on the wing. Neither of these were seen so I drove to a mature stand of Holly trees where last year I found a Long-eared Owl at roost, and a few Woodlark besides. The Owl was not in residence but walking across the heath 3 birds were flushed, a Skylark, a Meadow Pipit and a Woodlark*.

Only a short distance away is Eyeworth Pond already visited this trip, but I was hoping for a few photos on this visit.

At the far side of the pond this male Goosander was cruising up and down, but closer to hand

were a pair of magnificent Mandarins.

male Mandarin,

female Mandarin. This done it was time to travel a little further east and to territory very familiar to me. Gosport was where I joined the Royal Navy in 1961 at HMS St Vincent. Situated on a main road with no chance to stop there was no hope of a photograph of the Main Gate, but further on (at the Ferry Terminal) both the

Spinnaker Tower on Southsea Common and

HMS Warrior, the first power driven warship, could be clearly seen. Driving through the district of Forton also brought memories streaming back, particularly to our weekly moment of light relief from our gruellingly physical training regime. It was Thursday evenings when the local young ladies were invited to the establishment, closely chaperoned, in the name of teaching us equally young matelots the skills of Ballroom Dancing. These young women were collectively and respectfully known as The Forton Follies.

Arriving at the Gosport Boating Lake the prospects looked good as there were plenty of Gulls awaiting the next bag of bread,

with a distant scan already showing Common Gull which can be confused with my target species.

A little closer, and there was no mistaking the

Ring-billed Gull a vagrant from the Americas that has visited this site for a number of winters now.

I was armed with some bait which every other bird in the vicinity was attracted to,

except for Fella' My Lad, but even at a distance the photographs were proving good.

Eventually it too took to the wing and homed in on the sliced bread,

making for some striking posses at the same time. By now the 'spun-yarn radio' was breaking into life with some tentative, but as yet unproven, news of another Yank somewhere in the Meon Valley Foothills, not too far away.

Even if there wasn't a bird, the drive through this part of Hampshire is 'stunning' to say the least.

Unfortunately the camera cannot always capture the full magnificence of these beautiful rolling hills,

where it is always worth looking out for a Red Kite. With thousands of acres of scrub and brush to search the bird was never likely to be found, but 1 I'd had the pleasure of the fantastic views and 2 I was now in close proximity of my old shipmate, if he was at home.

As I have reported in the past Micheal (Huck) Hutley and I joined the RN together, undertook our full year training together, then served aboard HMS Keppel (Arctic Patrol) and HMS Eskimo (Persian Gulf Squadron). A total of 5 years made us firm friends indeed, so we were both equally delighted when we got together, shook hands and departed 30 minutes later. ALWAYS GREAT to see you my friend - have a good year and hope to see you again soon!

Again the journey back was via Blashford Lakes, and on entering the first hide

a Peregrine* was perched on a shingle spit, but

soon took to the wing, harassing the local Lapwing population,
before flying off to the south.

All else was a Yellow-legged Gull, centre with white head, and good numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
The Year (January) List now stands at 136


  1. Am I allowed to correct a Royal Navy veteran? HMS Warrior was the first armour-plated and iron-hulled warship, not the first power-driven. Steam-powered gunboats had been launched as early as 1839 (HMS Sesostris for example) - and some even earlier I believe.

  2. Hi Simon. Yes mate, I can always stand being corrected as I am regularly and often for my spelling mistaked. Thanks for pointing it out and look forward to hearing from you again. Happy New Year to you and yours.
    Best Wishes