If I'd remembered to take my camera, I'd have some lovely pictures of New Forest ponies to put up. Easter Sunday, and it really felt like Spring. The first sunny day for ages and the cars streaming out from Bath, as well as those heading towards us, all driven at a speed which suggested herds of farm animals penned up far too long over winter, making for their first taste of fresh, green grass in months.
We headed for the New Forest and went off track - got lost a bit - in a part of the world we'd never explored before and came upon The Cuckoo dead on lunchtime. It's a wayside inn, completely and authentically rural. A good local beer, log fire, and crowds of kindly folk drinking and eating in the garden surrounded by spring flowers, or indoors surrounded by oak and pine, flagstones and good-natured chatter. A sweety of a woman proprietor saw us to a sunny table, and with a keen but simple pride proceeded to describe the several dishes of home cooked food on offer. We settled for artichoke and celeriac soup with a touch of lemon and ginger, and a plowman's, the proportions of which seemed so staggeringly generous that I nudged Michael, hinting that a plastic carrier in the car would do nicely as a doggie bag. Both the farm-house pate and the wedge of Brie would have done us the week.
Later, at last deep in the forest, it was time to breathe lungsful of sunlit air, stroll over springy lichen, twisty roots, piles of dead beech and oak leaves, and through squelshy water-sodden ground. Ponies all around, some scrubby-looking with their winter coats peeling off, others with bodies bony and thin telling how hard a winter it had been, were nibbling at whatever nourishment they could find on the ground. Of grass we saw no sign, except on the verges of the lanes.