Another sunny day and today’s outing was to the so called New Forest (neither new, nor much of a forest)– a low-lying area near the coast, southwest of Winchester. Driving through the English countryside is such a gorgeous experience – there is just nothing like it.
We stopped first in Eling to see the Tide Mill, allegedly the only one in the world still operating. Eling lies at the end of a channel leading to the sea.A tide mill is one where the in-coming tide is stored by means of barriers, then released in a controlled flow past the mill’s waterwheel. We were able to witness John pulling levers and chains to bring the mill into a full operational state. Interesting to see that the teeth on the wheel at the business end were made of wood!
To get to the mill we had to go over a privately-owned bridge that demanded a toll to be paid – £1, good for the day. We had a nice chat with the toll-keeper and a passing senior gent. Afterward we took a short stroll through the village. [Postscript: on our return, the car rental company advised they had received an infringement notice from Totton and Eling Town Council to the effect that the toll had not been paid. This will cost us dearly, with expired deadlines and court and company administration fees. Bastards!]
The major stop of the day was Buckler’s Hard, an historical naval village where 50 wooden ships were built for the Royal Navy. The museum there was outstanding, chock full of well-presented and interesting displays. We learned that Neville Chute (a favourite author of both of us in our teens and twenties) worked here during the war, and that Nelson’s first command, the Agamemnon was built here.
We were able to observe some trainees shipwrights working with wood – some apparently for the first time. It was interesting to observe the use of an adze in a vertical cutting motion and how they turned a round log into a rectangular timber using only axes. Surely they must have had saw pits at least in the 18/19th centuries?
Although we drove down to Lymington, we did not stop there, proceeding instead to Brockhurst for a flying visit. At various places on the drive we were delighted to see the New Forest Ponies – a very small breed.
Our last stop was Lyndhurst. Very attractive buildings. We were surprised to see a large Ferrari/Maserati dealership at one end of the High Street, with their wares on display outside in the sunlight. We had been amazed at the prices of homes in this area (mostly > £800,000), so perhaps it’s not so surprising that affluent new arrivals need to upgrade from mere Range Rovers. Speaking of cars, we have seen an inordinately large number of sports cars on the roads – an order of magnitude more than in Oz – mostly Porsches.
We returned home to Easton early enough to have a rejuvenating siesta, before heading over to Winchester for dinner. Being a bank holiday there wasn’t much open, but we managed to find an Italian eatery, part of the Ask chain. I had ordered spag bol, but it was the worst example of same I have ever encountered, and I told the waitress so. She was a real sweetie, and was very solicitous of our welfare, offering to remove that item from the bill.