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Charcoal's News

Christmas Newsletter 2010

Charcoal’s Christmas Newsletter

24th December 2010


Charcoal stretched his paws out on the towel Tess had put down for him in the porch. Above his head golden lights were strung in branches of fir, holly and ivy.

Inside, Tess was playing the music she only played at this time of year. He heard her humming and sometimes singing:

“Good King Wenceslas last looked out, on the feast of Stephen”

She was stirring up delicious smells in a saucepan.

“When the snow lay all about, deep and crisp and even…”

It hadn’t snowed for over a week but the forest was still white. On the roads and tracks the snow had turned to ice.


An Easter foal - bulletin!


This is a quick bulletin rather than a newsletter. Last week we saw a foal - the first one we've seen on the Forest this year - just in time for Easter! Charcoal thought you would like to see it too. This lovely filly was having a joyful canter around her mum when we first saw her but of course she stopped as soon as we found the camera.
All that running about must have made her hungry...
Foal feeding April 10

Have you spotted any foals yet? Or perhaps your own New Forest pony has had a foal and you would like to send us a picture? You can email Charcoal from the 'Contact Charcoal' page on the Green Dragon Publishing Website:


Spring dip!

Charcoal was lying in the garden waiting for Tess. He closed his eyes as he stretched out his paws in the warm sunshine. He couldn't remember much about being ill except waking up in the veterinary hospital feeling groggy. What a huge relief it had been when Tess turned up to bring him home. Anyway, all that was nearly four weeks ago now and he was feeling much better.

He opened his eyes. A robin had landed right in front of his nose and was looking at him inquisitively.

"Hey Charkie, you're lying on those daffodils again, you vandal!" called Tess. The robin flew off in panic. Charcoal stood up and shook himself. Tess put his collar on.
"Time you had a walk" she said.

As soon as they reached the gate, they could hear the lapwings scouting for nesting sites. They were back from their winter homes along the coast.

"Pee-wit, peewit"

Their black and white wings flashed through the air as the birds wheeled around in pairs over the wettest part of the heath.

"Peeeeee-wit, peeeee-wit" The sound they made was like happiness and sadness all mixed up together.

A fox was trotting across the moor in broad daylight. It threw a careless glance over its shoulder at Tess and Charcoal. Charcoal recognised the vixen that came through their garden each night, looking for scraps. he guessed that she was hoping the lapwings would nest soon so she could steal some tasty eggs for her cubs. The dog fox had been helping to feed them but last night he had been shot by a neighbour who kept hens. Now the vixen must find food for her cubs alone. The lapwings saw the fox too and drifted further away on the breeze.

Suddenly, the gentle spring air was tinged with the bitter smell of burning. Smoke was rising in a billowing cloud from over the hill. At first it was black but soon the smoke faded to white then grey as the Keepers brought the fire under control. They were burning off the gorse and heather to encourage new shoots for the ponies to eat.

The lapwings saw it too. This time they rose high into the blue sky and flew off towards the cpony eating burnt gorse twigsoast. Perhaps they would come back in a week or two. Or perhaps they would find somewhere else to nest with no fires and less foxes.

Already the ponies were munching the charred twigs of gorse from last week's burning.

Tess turned the other way along the track. There were plenty of interesting sniffs along the track but Charcoal had been hoping for a swim. He set about persuading Tess to change her mind.

"What's up Charkie?" said Tess.

He concentrated hard, sending her pictures of the stream from his mind.

"We haven't really time but...oh, come on then!"

Charcoal wagged his tail and skipped across the moor, past a huge oak tree and down to the stream.
frog spawn
An egret was standing on the bank, staring at the water where it glittered and flowed over the shingle. It stayed still for ages, dreaming of the feast of tadpoles and baby frogs that would soon be there. As Tess and Charcoal approached, the little egret took off, folding its big yellow feet up under its white body. Not far from where it had been standing was a jelly-like mass of frog spawn.

Charcoal jumped into the water. It was still icy cold but it felt delicious on his skin. Tess sat down on a log to watch. A creamy coloured butterfly settled on her hand. In the wood, a green woodpecker called its yaffling call as it dipped and soared through the trees. Charcoal plunged his nose deep into the water under a dam of sticks and mud. He found what he was looking for. Triumphant, he leapt out of the stream and dumped a dripping tennis ball in Tess's lap.

"Ha! Thanks a lot!" she laughed.

Charcoal shook himself, glad to share some of his joy in being wet again. It's great to be alive, he thought.
dog in water


It's a new year in the forest!

Last night when Charcoal and Tess went for a midnight walk the moor was wrapped in a deep, deep chill. The moon was well on its way to waning but its light shone as brightly as if it was full. In the great, dark roof of the night sky, the stars beat out sharp, glittering pictures. Bears, goats, archers, ploughs, gods and dragons hovered above Tess and Charcoal's heads. Their feet crunched over the frost-bound earth and their warm breath blew ghostly shapes where it met the cold air.


New Forest Railway Track

A New Forest Pony grazing in the autumnOn Sunday, Charcoal woke up to rain beating against the window. Wind was whistling through the yew tree and stripping the leaves from the hazel. In the garden, Charcoal followed the scent of a dog fox across the lawn to the bird table. He could tell by the smell that the fox had eaten the scraps that Tess put out for the birds the night before, a midnight feast Charcoal thought. Ha!