Saturday, 14 January 2012


The blog post is a bit late this time because the wi-fi router decided to blow up. Thanks to my computer tech brother though, things are once again up and running! Can I just quickly say before starting. A few have mentioned that the video clip in the previous post came up 'private' when clicked on. I am new to this whole thing, and so bare with me, the privacy is now taken off!

It's been quite a week, full of fun, thoughts, adventure, and as things have turned
I was supposed to have had this week off as holiday, but thanks to several severe storms that have ripped through the south of the uk, most of the gardens have had masses of tree debris come down, and customers have needed help to clear the rubbish from drives and drain channels, and so the end of the Christmas/New Year break has been postponed for a week or so.

Some of the fun part of the week however, involved a lovely day at Hurst Castle. Built on a spit that juts out into the Solent, it's a fascinating concoction of various ages of war defence. The central 'round', was built by Henry VIII in 1544. As some may know, his passion for a certain lady led him to basically making enemies with the catholic church, and as such most of Europe, and so he had to build a serious of castles along the south coast, in preparation for any invasion that was almost certain!
The two long wings were added by Queen Victoria in around 1873, and the whole castle was made ready for WWII with the addition of search lights and a new battery of artillery. You can see along the front of the walls, the square openings, now sealed, where the huge Victorian guns would fire from.

The walk there involves a trudge along the shingle spit, which is by no means comfortable, and so before setting off, the necessary pint of ale and large malt were taken on board first, at The Gun Inn in Keyhaven, the small village at the start.

It was a bitterly cold day, and we also had big and hot coffees while we were there.

A small bridge takes you across a small tributary that feeds into the marshes at the beginning, and if you look really carefully at the photo below, you can just make out the white lighthouse that is next to the castle.

We love to take photos, and so memory cards are always empty, batteries are fully charged, and both phones are ready as back up. The spit itself, as with Chesil Beach, is formed by the tidal deposits of shingle from further along the coast. If breached by the sea, as has happened on a few occasions, then the whole of the New Forest coastal perimeter is threatened by open sea.

It's about two kilometres long, and whatever the weather, provides lots of chances to take photos. On a rough day, the sea crashes mercilessly on one side, whilst the wind lashes the boats moored in the quieter waters on the other side. Today was clear, cold, sunny and very windy indeed.

The old sea defences, long since replaced with huge chunks of granite, were taking a hammering.

About an hour and a half later we arrived at Hurst Castle, and spent quite a while taking in the atmosphere of this extraordinary place.

Then it was into the, what turned out to be deserted castle. The keepers were working on a boat some way away, and so we had the entire castle to ourselves!

On entering, one first gets a view of the inside of one of the two wings. Although lawned and quiet, nothing takes away the evidence that this is a place of war. Rail lines to carry shells, room after room for storing weaponry, and lots of quarters where soldiers would have once lived.

One of two 38 ton guns from the Napoleonic war.

Memories from WWII include this electric hoist, used for carrying munitions to the upper areas of the castle.

One of several wash and toilet areas, still earily in one piece and just as though everone had just walked away.

And the old laundry room, complete with boilers still in place. The best part about this castle, is that all of the tunnels and rooms are open for exploring, some with lighting, and some without.

From the upper levels of the Victorian wings, a better view of the surrounding area, marshes, and spit is possible. A beautiful view on a fabulous day.

But of course, childhood memories of this castle had me dragging Amanda to the oldest, and spookiest part of the whole place, Henry VIII's bit!

Before going into the lower rooms and up the stairs to the higher parts, I had to take a look at the cellars, but alas, because of the dim/non existent lighting, Amanda wouldn't join me.

Memories from visiting as a nine year old boy came flooding back. The floor had an inch of water, and there was absolutely no sound in this vast and spooky place, once used to store gunpowder and weaponry for the battlements above. It's one of those places that once deep within, and in the pitch dark, you suddenly feel as though someone is behind you, and every time the flash went off, I kept expecting to see 'someone' there!!

Then we both went to the upper, and better lit floors. Once used for living quarters, with open fireplaces built into the outside of the circular rooms, it must have been a solitary existance for the group of soldiers stationed here. Remember, the large wings would not have been around, and so just this small round building, on the end of a shingle spit, jutting out into the sea.

Then up the spiral staircase to the roof, and where the guns would have been mounted.

Now it was VERY cold and windy, and red noses were the order of the day!

The views were incredible. In the picture below is where the Solent meets the English Channel, with the Isle of Wight in the distance.

It was getting late, we had the long walk back, and so we had to say goodbye to our deserted castle.
Stopping off at the deserted ticket office for a nose around at the memorabilia first though.

And back to the van as the late afternoon sun set.

I mentioned at the start, that work has played a part this week, and indeed it has big time. Only the blowers, rakes and brooms have been needed, but the rubbish and debris caused by the recent storms has been enormous. Usually, all of the gardens would remain static for at least two months, only really needing any real work when February arrives, but this January has been different, and plans have changed. Everywhere needed cleaning up. And once the debris is done with, the moss and algae is next.

Still, we are half way through the debris crisis at least!

Returning from work yesterday, we stopped at the harbour side of Sandbanks to admire the view and the sunset. It's both a reflective, and decisive time for me. January 10th was my 51st birthday, a year ago exactly to the day, had me in hospital with a DVT in my leg, and subsequent injections in the stomach to stop the clot from breaking up and killing me, then warfarin and elasicated stockings for the next six months. The last six months appear to have been ok. My leg hasn't swelled again, there has been no excruciating pain at all, and all seems quiet. Alongside this has been an awareness that I have been doing less and less hiking, wild camping and general backpack exploring, once a thing that was close to my heart and I did often. Of course, age has taken it's toll as with everyone, and weeks spent in the ice covered Cairngorm mountains or Alps must now perhaps take a backseat, but there is adventure to be had, the equipment is still in order and ready to use, and all I needed were a new pair of hiking boots, as the last ones really have seen better days.
My resolution, as partly stated in the video in my last post, is to get more wild adventure again. How to get that and balance it with a work and personal life? Well, that's the big question, but one that needs an answer, and I am 51 and not getting younger, but it WILL happen this year.
In work such as this, it’s incredibly hard to get the work/personal life balancer right, especially when self-employed. Throughout the blog, it doesn’t really show just how much time is spent working, because for the most part, the particular type of gardening that I have ended up doing is fairly repetitive, and leaves little new stuff to tell on a daily basis. Work doesn’t only involve the actual regular gardening contracts themselves, but also the numerous ‘one-off’ jobs that I am asked to do by other individuals, the nursery visits that with travelling can take up half a day, the endless paperwork, and of course phone call after phone call that happen throughout every day. Through necessity to build up the business, quality personal time has had to take more and more of a backseat, weekends have become for the most part ‘spare days’, to be used for work if rain or such like means that they have to, and so these need to be given proper ‘time off’ status, regardless of what work demands. Holidays, if spent at home, will of course always be subject to emergencies such as storms, that has always been the case. Nonetheless, the randomness needs to change, work generally MUST have proper order in the calendar, and regular time off to pursue the walking, wild camping, kayaking and such like that I love WILL happen.

My birthday was spent doing some of my favourite things. An easy morning spent opening presents, and then shopping for the boots, followed by a light lunch at the spanish tapas in Bournemouth.

We generally chilled out in the afternoon, before heading over to The Rex at Wareham, and a showing of 'The Prince & The Showgirl', starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier in this museum of a picture palace.

The boots?.......well, I got them!

  Thanks for dropping by, and take care!


  1. What a great adventure the castle visit looks to have been! I have to say I've become accustomed to the Southern US climate, so not something I would undertake in January! Now the tapas, on the other hand.......glad to hear it was a happy birthday celebration!

  2. Happy Birthday, Gary! I hope you're able to use those new birthday boots often this year. I'm glad that your leg has been okay the last six months and I pray that you don't have a recurrence of that scary episode from last year.
    The tour of the castle was fantastic - both the photos and the history of the place.

  3. Hi Tim,
    It's strange really, becaquse like so many other places like this, it is only a half hour away, and yet we so rarely go. As for going in January, for me the colder the better!

  4. Hi Ginny,
    Thanks for the kind words. Although the initial problem hasn't returned, there is always a thought in the back of my head now that it might again. Glad you liked the tour. Take care!

  5. Gary,
    Another most intriguing place you have taken us. I can only imagine the hustle and bustle of this now still castle when it was a fully operational defense outpost, in any century. I am sure the sounds of daily life were amplified as the noise echoed of those stone walls. And I am sure that it was deafening when the big guns were fired. Your pictures fuel thoughts of those that lived / stationed there.
    Wishing you a belated “Happy Birthday” and it sounds as if your day was splendid. – gary

  6. Hi Gary,
    It really is creepy walking around the place, and imagining soldiers from the different eras standing where I was standing. What were they talking about, thinking, eating, or hoping for?
    As for the noise of the guns, it must have been horrendous. Look after yourself.

  7. Happy Birthday, Gary. I have put you on my 'Liebster award' list!

  8. Rosemary, what can I say but :)
    Thank you!

    1. Happy Birthday Gary! You share a birthday with one of my children.
      I know exactly what you mean about the work life balance, and I'm not self-employed so can see that it must be even more difficult for you. I have the edge on you by a couple of years, and am more and more aware of the precious nature of time spent doing things that fit with our identity.
      Hoping your health continues to be good. Let's make this a good year for the early 50s!

  9. Thanks Linda,
    I am determined to make it work this year, but already things are starting to rev up workwise!