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Thursday, 26 April 2012

Food Week in Pictures

Thanks to a whole team of volunteers we have had several million photos from Milford on Sea Food Week 2012!
You can now see a selection to give you the taste, flavour & fun of Food Week.
To view Food Week pictures, please click here
There will also be more to follow from Nick’s Foodie travels around the village.

*Thanks go to all of volunteer photographers: Nick, Val, Colin, Mark & Derek.

Total Voice Flash Mob
If you missed it first time around, below is another chance to see our village choir's surprise performance at the Milford on Sea Food Week Market. (Turn up volume to hear the singing.)

Who lost the Monkey?

At the end of the Milford on Sea Food Week Market we found a lost monkey. 

Looking forlorn and obviously missing its owner, monkey is awaiting reconciliation.
If you know monkey’s master please let us know and we can arrange for them to be reunited.
Please reply to: ‘It’s my monkey” at
PS: Anyone over 40 years of age claiming the monkey is their's will not be believed. 

Village Service for Authors

Milford on Sea now has a consultancy service for authors and writers.  Fortunately, I have no involvement, so serious writers will benefit and the grammar will be fine.
Wordshaker is run by Sandra Cain and offers a variety of means and methods to help you on your writing adventures, including copy editing, structural advice and manuscript appraisal, ghost-writing, training in e-publishing, copywriting, creative writing workshops, author talks and book promotion and marketing.
Sandra is an author, senior lecturer, and a regular contributor at writing festivals and international conferences.  She has also written many books, fiction, non-fiction, children's, young adult and academic. Working alongside Sandra are a number of high profile writers, authors, screenwriters, film-makers and social media experts.
Sandra says; “Wordshaker offers a full service writing consultancy alongside our e-publishing arm. We are happy to hear from any aspiring authors who would like to learn how to write, format and upload their books to Amazon's Kindle e-reader. We also offer a full marketing consultancy from blog tours to designing and developing book trailers. We are lucky that Milford is a literary village full of wonderful writers and aspiring writers. Milford is a truly inspirational place to live.”
That’s getting me thinking, a book on ‘The Adventures of an Idiot in Milford on Sea’ could be my first top-seller.  Perhaps my wife would be happy to type it up for me?  I will ask her when I have sufficient courage.

If putting pen to paper is your thing, Wordshaker will be running a full one day workshop teaching aspiring writers how to design their book cover, write their blurb, format and upload their book to Amazon's Kindle. 

To find out more about the course running on Saturday 26th May please visit:

Food Week Raffle Winners

The draw for the Milford on Sea Food Raffle was made on Sunday 15th April at the Food Market on the village green.  The winners list can be seen below.
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Sunday, 22 April 2012

40 B4 40-La Perle

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No. 12: Today being ‘Adopt a Pensioner Day’ (Adopter un chiot Jour) in my spiritual homeland of France, I was in a bit of a quandary.

My wife seemed to be misled in thinking it was actually ‘Adopt a Puppy Day’. However, being the fluent French speaker in the family, I knew I was of course correct.

I popped out to find a pensioner, but after knocking on a several doors it soon became clear that no-one was at home anywhere. It is strange, but this often happens when I call on neighbours, they must be busy people.

Despondently, I returned home. Still insisting I should be looking for a puppy rather than a pensioner, my wife then mentioned our friend Colin was coming around at 11am. Knowing his other half was away, and that he was suitably qualified, I decided he would be our adopted pensioner for the day.

On arriving I gave him the good news. At first he didn’t understand me, as I had told him in French, but when I reverted to English he just looked at me with complete disdain. I then told him the day included lunch at La Perle, and within seconds he was asking where he need to sign the adoption day papers. “It is Adopt a Puppy Day” my wife again insisted. Colin, with his mind firmly on his stomach, concurred that he had read in this week’s edition of La Monde that it was indeed ‘Adopt a Pensioner Day.’

I booked lunch for three at La Perle, our chic Milford on Sea village Bistro & Restaurant. I think they liked the reservation being made in fluent Gallic, although I repeated my booking request in English when requested. One step into the door and I was immediately transported back to when we had emigrated to France, this little haven in Milford on Sea High Street would have been just as at home on La Planche in Deauville, Normandy. (La Planche is the ‘Boardwalk,’ not ‘Ironing board’ as a weird friend of ours once thought.)

A sweet French voice greeted us and led us to the table. Being a lunchtime you might expect the restaurant to not be that busy, but all of the tables we full, which reflected the excellent reputation that Leo and Emily have already created since opening in June last year.

Leo, the proprietor chef, is a genuine Frenchman, from Epernay in the Champagne region of France. His passion is to serve authentic and rustic French dishes, and his past experience in working in kitchens with One & Two Michelin Stars shines through in the quality of ingredients and presentation. When we chat, for some reason he always finds my Gallic accent and version of French amusing. I am not sure why, but who can explain how any Frenchman’s mind works.

We were soon enjoying the homemade bread and French butter, my wife had a glass of red wine, and myself and our ‘geriatric for the day’, were supping a cool pint of French Kronenbourg. Having translated some elements of the menu to my wife and guest, (they pretended they knew already) I decided it might be a friendly gesture to pop around the other diners to ask whether they had any translation issues I could resolve for them.  My wife, second guessing my thought process, managed in one smooth simultaneous movement to stab my hand with a fork and start a conversation with Colin to cover up my muffled scream.

As I read the menu (with one hand), a selection of delights were jumping off the page. The ‘Prix Fixe Lunch’ seemed amazing value at £10 for one course including a glass of wine or beer. The choices of Moules mariniere & frites, Chicken chasseur & buttered mash, Mixed seafood pancake & salad, Beef Bourguignon & buttered mash, or lighter options like, Croque Monsieur, fries & salad or Omelette with choice of 3 ingredients, made this menu a definite for our next visit.

For the steak lovers, we read that La Perle has a ‘La Grillade du Jeudi’ available every Thursday. The Thursday grill provides the opportunity to have a ‘SteakFest’, as on that day, in addition to the normal menus, they serve a choice of Fillet, Sirloin or Rib eye steaks in 8oz or 10oz sizes (cut to order). Each steak can be accompanied with pomme pont neuf, French fries or buttered mash potatoes, plus a choice of Bearnaise, Peppercorn or Butter compound sauce. Another note for the diary!

However, as it was a special day for the adopted aged, we decided to go for the ‘A La Carte’ menu. Although the ‘Les entrées’ of, 'L'escargot' garlic & parsley snails, Moules mariniere, and Rabbit terrine with gherkins & salad had all looked tempting, we all chose the same starter, the ‘Soupe du jour’, which was ‘Mushroom and Tarragon’. We were all more than happy with our choice when we discovered the soup was delicious, displaying a true rustic feel in its chunky presentation and fresh flavour.

For main course my wife went for Beef Bourguignon & buttered mash, Colin and I went for the 6oz Steer fillet steak & frites, field mushrooms & grilled tomato. It took a while to make our choices as many other dishes like, 'Pintade roti' breast of guinea fowl and leg confit, pilaf rice & spring vegetables, Fillet of Gilt bream, saffron turned potatoes, basil ratatouille & parsley sauce, all looked worth a try. Most interesting was the Côte de porc façon grand mère', pork cutlet, wholegrain mustard mash & grand mère garnish. I suspect that the English people in the restaurant did not have my linguistic skills, and did not realise that ‘Grand mère' means ‘Grandmother’. Whilst I am sure Lionel’s grandmother is delicious, I did not fancy her for lunch.

When we ordered, I asked our waitress if the French had their own word for ‘Bourguignon’, she simply looked at me, smiled, and then gave a sympathetic look to my wife.

As we awaited our main courses, Mon épouse was telling Colin about how someone had commented to her about her ‘sunny disposition’ during Food Week, I then suffered a sharp kick in the shin when I added; “I think you misheard, I am sure she said ‘funny disposition’".

With my shin throbbing and stinging, the main dishes looked great when they soon arrived, and there was only compliments and complete satisfaction as we all tucked in. The steaks were mouth-watering and they cut as if they were butter. That was without doubt one of the best Fillet steaks I have eaten.

Now it was time for the best bit, pudding. Pathetically, I was struggling to choose, and my wife, and our adoption of the day, had already abstained, which added a dose of distress. Things got worse when it occurred to be me that in all of the excitement of finding a pensioner, I realised I had forgotten to tell the restaurant that it was my wife’s birthday. (It wasn’t, it is actually in, err, later this year sometime. I think.) Whilst she doesn’t find this ruse funny, it does normally get her a treat from the house, - which I then eat.

My table partners were enthralled when I told them that ‘Bistro’ is actually ‘Bistrot’ in France, and that the ‘t’ was dropped in the UK to make the word more attractive. My wife reminded me that she had also been to France, and I thought the added comment; ‘unfortunately with you’ was a little cutting.

When Emily came to take our order for the ‘les desserts’, I was still deliberating between the Blanc manger aux amandes & poached fruit, the Tart tatin, honey & ice cream, and the Dark and white chocolate mousse with cappuccino Chantilly. Being charming, (and probably wishing she could clear our table as soon as possible,) she said’ leave it to me monsieur’. ‘Oooo, surprises, I like them’; I said.

The sweet duly arrived, and it was a great surprise - Emily had bought one of each. My table guests were each given a spoon, and to my dismay started to tuck in. How is it that; “No sweet for me thanks”, becomes “I’ll just try a bit" when the pudding arrives at the table?

I wished my fellow diners ‘Bon Appétit’ and heard mon cherie whisper to Colin, “I wish he was next door in Bon Appétit Creperie right now”.

All of the spoons were soon a blur as the sweets were demolished. The Tart tatin was a classic that any French patissier would have been proud to have created, and the Chocolate mousse was quite literally heaven in each spoonful from the dish.

We sat, full and truly satisfied, as I enjoyed a liqueur coffee. Leo then came around all of the tables for a casual chat. This is something he does at the end of every service, and the guests love to meet the master from the kitchen, and he must get great satisfaction to hear how people have enjoyed his food.

As he arrived at our table I greeted him with three sloppy kisses and a lick on the cheek. It was hard to tell if he liked it or not. At first we started the conversation in French, but he was struggling to answer my questions, it was evident that his French has slipped since he left his homeland, meaning the conversation was at no stage two way. Both giving up, we reverted to English.

Leo let us into a little secret, when we discovered that his sous chef had put his back out this morning, and that he had single-handedly cooked every meal for the full restaurant with only the assistance of the guy who did the dishes. Pretty impressive, as the food was superb and there was no delay or sign in the restaurant that the kitchen was under any pressure.

He then offered us all of glass of ‘Marc du Champagne’ (a Champagne liqueur.) Having fallen for this once before, we declined. Last time I accepted his offer, my legs didn’t stop wobbling for a week.


La Perle, 60 High Street, Milford on Sea, SO41 0QD | 01590 643557

Open Tuesday to Saturday for both lunch and dinner.

If you are wondering what the 40 B4 40 Dining Challenge is all about, please click here and all will be explained.

Music Festival on the Way

Plans are well underway for the Milford on Sea Music Festival from the 12th July until 15th July 2012.

As with all other village community organised events they could always do with a few extra pairs of hands, whether as a raffle ticket seller, selling refreshments or running a stall or workshop.

There will also be one or two vacancies on the Committee next year as a couple of people are standing down after several years involvement, so anybody who would like to join the Music Festival Committee next year might like to be involved with their particular area of interest this year to get a feel for it.

To cover the Festival costs, sponsors are of course also a critical part of the whole event. If you have a local business who can support the festival, or if you would personally like to become a ‘Friend of the Festival’, the team would love to hear from you.

If you are interested in getting involved in any of the above ways, please contact: Sean Reeves at:

Lend a Shed

Bit if a weird one, but Milford on Sea Community Centre are looking for somewhere to paint scenery for forthcoming show productions and the pantomime.

Previously the youth room in the Community Centre has been used, but moving the structures in and out constantly has became a real pain.

If anyone has a large spare shed, workshop or garage that they would be happy for the scenery men to work and store their scenery in for a few weeks, it would be gratefully received.

If you can help, please contact: Sue Whitlock on 01590 643404

Flower & Produce Show Entries

The free entry form and schedules for the Milford on Sea Flower and Produce Show are now available at Gwen’s. The show takes place on the 21st July and it hopes to attract new and novice entries, as well as old hands to take part in the Greatest Produce Show in Milford.

There are lots of classes to enter including Craft, Photography, Baking, and more for the non gardeners, there are also childrens' classes to encourage a new generation to get involved in our village activities.

Admission to visit the show has been held at 50p and accompanied children are admitted free. Not quite the Chelsea Flower Show, but a lot cheaper and local fun!

Curry Cash for Hospital

Our local Indian Restaurant held a Hospital charity night went great raised £310 Thursday 19th April in association with Milford Hospital League of Friends.

The evening had a ticket price of £20, which included a 10 item ‘eat as much as you like’ buffet.

A good night was had by all, and half of the nights total ticket sales were donated to the charity, raising £310 for Milford on Sea Hospital.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

What a Food Week!

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It was very difficult to identify which part of my body hurt the most come last Sunday evening.  Marathon runners talk about 'hitting the wall', well, us foodies suffer just as much when we 'hit the plate'.

Before Food Week kicked off, the Information Centre, housed in the promotional trailer generously lent by Shorefield Country Park, was open on the village green, and manned by a host of volunteers giving information to anyone passing.

Easter Bank Holiday Monday arrived, and Milford on Sea Food Week was underway with the CakeFest.  The weather felt like the end of the world, but it soon became clear that a few massive thunderstorms were not going to stop anyone getting to the cakes and WI lunch!

Milford on Sea, may be a small seaside village on the South Coast edge of The New Forest, but it is fast becoming recognised as a ‘Foodie Heaven by the Sea’, due to the wonderful selection of dining options provided by the twenty excellent places to eat in the village, and of course, the now annual Milford on Sea Food Week.

This year over 100 food related events took place, all involved local people organising, participating and enjoying a vast variety of fun food related activities.

Around 12,000 people visited a least one event over the seven days, some coming from miles around, and from every generation, young and old. There was plenty for everyone to enjoy whatever their age or preference, basically, if you love food, you will have loved Milford on Sea Food Week!

Milford on Sea Food Week included themed dining nights in all of the restaurants, wine talks and tastings, a food market featuring over 55 local producers and a surprise ‘Flash Mob’ performance by the village Total Voice Choir, community organised breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas, lots of fun and educational activities for the children, food quizzes, live music dining shows, a professional Cookery Theatre which hosted renowned top chefs from across the New Forest & our own village, and which also included cookery demonstrations from local amateur village cooks, bakers, nutritionists, vegetarians, and chocolate, jam and chutney makers. A number of lucky diners jumped on ‘The Great Dining Bus’ to enjoy a separate course in four different village restaurants, and the two weekend headline shows, ‘An Evening with Tom Kerridge’ and ‘Comedy & Cake Night’ starring Jo Caulfield were both a storming success.

Milford on Sea Food Week is a fabulous demonstration of true community spirit in action, and all of the community group food events were fabulously attended, the village restaurants were all full, and all themed events and ticketed shows sold out. 

Many village shops have said that they benefited from the extra people visiting the village, and there were certainly people around who had booked a holiday to visit Food Week.  The thought of the tills ringing a bit more in our village centre shops is tremendous. 

The Sunday Food Market was also extremely busy, so we are thrilled that a lot of local businesses have been given a well deserved boost. Best of all, it was great to see the smiling faces on the kids, families & our older generation throughout the week.

In my mission to visit as many events as possible, my leg muscles now look like Steve Redgrave's on a bad day.  Fortunately, at most stops there was something tasty to eat, so the pain was soon eradicated for a minute or two!  It was quite pleasing to hear that most chefs and café owners in the village could hardly walk by Sunday!

The effort scores of volunteers put into making Milford on Sea Food Week such a spectacle is immense, none receive any fees or expenses, everything is done just to have a good time, promote our village businesses, and to provide enjoyment for the local community, with any profits going to local charities.  This year Wave Radio Cash for Kids and the Community Centre will be getting a £1000 cheque each.  Next year we would like to start a fund for something everyone would like to see in the village.  We don't know what yet, but we will be asking you early next year, so get your thinking caps on!

Throughout Food Week it is amazing how many people want to put themselves out to provide enjoyment for others, and it is great that every crumb of effort is repaid many times over when they all see the smiling faces and excitement about food!


PS: The link below takes you to a video of the Total Voice Choir ‘Flash Mob’ singing at Milford on Sea Food Week Sunday Market.

The fourth Milford on Sea Food Week will happen all over again next year, from Bank Holiday Monday 1st April until Sunday 7th April 2013, so now seems a good time to get it in your diary. 

PS: Perhaps a note to diet a few weeks before might not be a bad idea as well!

PPS: Our first event for next year has already been planned.  There will be a 'Throw the Hot Cross Bun Competition' on the Seafront on the Monday 1st April.  There will be prizes for age groups Under 12, 12 to 16 yrs, 16 to 30 yrs, 30 to 40 yrs, 40 to 80 yrs, and Over 80 yrs.  Ah, got you guessing now, am I serious, or not?!

Weekly MoS E-Newsletter: We would like more people to receive our weekly e-mail Newsletter which contains village news stories, silly local adventures and the ramblings of a big bloke in Milford!

Please e-mail all your friend and ask them to register.  All they have to do is send me an e-mail saying 'Please send me the newsletter' - send to:  Thanks!

Flash Mob Hit Food Week Market

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Around midday at the Sunday Food Market finale of Milford on Sea Food Week, the lucky thronging crowd were all taken completely by surprise.

As they happily shopped at the local producer stalls or enjoyed hot food from the stands or shops, music suddenly fired up with a familiar tune.  As they looked around to see what was happening, random people in the crowd started singing, with more and more joining in as the verses progressed.

With the song 'Food Glorious Food' ringing around the village green, the Total Voice Choir Flash Mob slowly appeared from the crowd and gathered in front of the Food Week Information Centre.  Still singing, the final choruses were enjoyed by everyone watching this surprise and fun entertainment.

The whole performance was a well kept secret in the village, so much so, that one member of the choir was standing with their family, and they all wondered whether she had lost it when she unexpectedly started singing in full voice!

If you would like to see our village choir's performance, you can see it below. (Turn up volume to hear the singing.)

HSBC Cash Machine Stolen

It hasn't been really, but I like a dramatic headline.

You may have spotted that the hole in the wall ATM cash machine outside of what was HSBC Bank in Church Hill, Milford on Sea, has gone.  The hole which once held crisp new readies is now looking forlorn, lonely and boarded up.

My obvious fear was that the machine had actually been removed by the men in suits, however after a brief conversation with the builders on site, I discovered that it has simply been removed for three weeks while alterations take place inside the old bank building.

I also discovered that the bank is being converted into offices for a building company, by the new owners who's name is above the door. 

It is a bit of a shame that it isn't becoming a new shop, or something like a wine bar or bierkeller.   My personal choice of course would be a new restaurant.  By my reckoning we are still short of a Chinese, Steakhouse, Vegetarian, Classic Italian, Japanese, Tapas, Mexican, and Mongolian BBQ.  Perhaps by next Food Week some of these culinary gaps will be filled!

40 B4 40-The Jetty

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No. 11: After a pretty exhausting, but exhilarating, Food Week we decided a quiet night out was on the cards. We were joined by our good friends J&S, who were also recovering from an amazing week in their Milford on Sea restaurant.

We decided to go to The Jetty in Mudeford, Christchurch. Alex Aitken had been massively supportive during Food Week, so a visit to his award winning restaurant seemed a top idea.

On arriving we were given a very warm welcome. Alex himself was off for the evening, but he had left a very nice welcome note.

The Jetty is well known for serving fresh sustainable local fish, in particular, much of the fish comes directly from the fishermen on Mudeford Quay, which is part of the dramatic and ever changing view from the window.  I have fond memories of Mudeford Quay as a child and with my own children, so it is always nice to visit.

As we salivated over the various menus and price options, our drinks order was taken. We soon spotted that The Jetty has an unusual and creative ’While You Choose Menu’ in addition to their local produce set course menu with 2 courses for £17.95, or 3 courses £21.95, a full a la carte menu and a ‘blow you mind’ tasting menu.

We of course went for some of the dishes from the ’While You Choose Menu’ as we started on our first bottle of a very fine Californian Petite Sirah. The Tempura prawns, Tempura oysters with dipping sauce, Smoked salmon stuffed with soft herb cheese, and the ‘to die for’ marinated cockles got the evening off to a perfect start.

An evening out with J&S normally gets very messy quite early, and then ends with inappropriate loud singing, ‘S’ falling over at some stage and my wife with a hangover for several days. On this occasion our combination of aching muscles & tired brains, meant we simply had a refined and very enjoyable evening of conversation.

The main event was soon underway when one of my all time favourite starters arrived. Alex’s twice baked cheese soufflé is a true classic and every mouthful a delight. Others in our party had Poussin, foie gras & prune terrine with salad & truffle vinaigrette, Mudeford crab risotto topped with white crab meat & whole tempura tiger prawn, and Rustic salad with Parma ham & hens egg.

Every time I visit, I find it very difficult to resist the Christchurch bay fish and chips with tartare sauce, however, being a man of mystery and constant surprise, I shocked myself by going for Braised rabbit with pea risotto. J& S had Calves liver with leek and potato cake, sautéed onions, Hampshire watercress & a red wine sauce, Fillet of Dorset sea bream with chorizo, ratatouille and Hampshire watercress. My wife had Fillet of Dorset sea bream with crushed new potatoes, spinach and chorizo.

As the second bottle of Petite Sirah slipped down easily as we all enjoyed the sweets of Banana tart tatin with fudge ice cream & peanut brittle, Warm chocolate fondant with brownie and ice cream, and a Rhubarb mille feuille, my wife even succumbed to the local cheese and biscuits.

Our dining partners are so knowledgeable about food it is rare that they are impressed, however there was only compliments from us all tonight.

In summary, The Jetty is in an attractive modern eco-building, the location is fabulous and the view rivals any in the world, the dining room is impressive, warm and inviting, the team are friendly, knowledgeable and attentive, the food and prices hit every taste and pocket, and each dish is beautifully cooked and presented. In fact, this place has every reason to be pretentious, but it is quite the opposite, it is relaxed and focused on looking after you.

Without doubt, The Jetty is one of my favourite restaurants in the country. The only problem I can see, is that The Jetty is not in Milford on Sea.

If you are wondering what the 40 B4 40 Dining Challenge is all about, please click here and all will be explained.

Play Park Underway

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The resurfacing work has now started on the childrens’ play park next to the Needles Eye Café on Milford on Sea seafront.

(Editor’s note: I am never sure were apostrophes are supposed to go, and ‘childrens’ is a particularly confusing one. Please don’t explain it to me, I didn’t listen at school when I bothered to turn up, and it is too late to learn now!)

For anyone that doesn’t know, this work is taking place thanks to a extremely generous £20,000+ donation from a local anonymous donor.

I for one am really looking forward to seeing how it looks on completion, it should be a real benefit for many families in, and visiting, the village.

(Editor’s note: I’m not sure about how to properly use comma’s either, but I reckon it is always better to have too many than too few. Arggh, should that have been ‘to’ or ‘too’! ..... I find my second fluent language of French so much easier mon ami.)

Shop Local

Writing about Dave Gates’ new website got me thinking. I know everyone bangs on about how we should support our Milford on Sea village shops, and I suspect we all have the best intentions to do so.  But, do we really do it?

Indeed there is something quite romantic in living in a village with ‘old fashioned’ shops, and I guess we all know the reason why we should support them, we all want to, but life is busy, local shopping takes time, and the big supermarkets are easy to use for us all.

I am as guilty as the next man, but given the time and chance, I try when I can, but never often enough.  We must be pretty unique in having two butchers, a greengrocers, an independent grocers store, a florist, a model shop, a launderette, (a hundred hairdressers!) etc, for just 5000 villagers. Like many today, these guys must be finding life pretty tough, so it would be a great gesture of support if we could all buy a little more from the village shops before we all mourn their passing and they become a fond but distant memory.

As I sit here enjoying another whisky, I have calculated that if every resident just spent another £10 in the village shops each week, they would share £50,000 weekly, and that is the sort of sum that can seriously help their survival.

Would lots of small actions really make a difference? I reckon so, as the old saying goes; ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ – Answer; ‘In bite-size pieces’.

The Butchers Shop Online

Our award winning local butcher has got himself a new website. I say new, but it is indeed his first foray online. David Gates, famous in the village for his sausages, bacon and hog roast, has now made an investment to have a presence on the web, which you can see using the link at the end of this article.

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It is interesting to discover that David supplies grass fed free range New Forest beef from local farms, free range outdoor reared pork, and local Dorset and Hampshire lamb. He also produce a unique range of nationally recognised prize-winning sausages and delicious home-cured bacon which is dry cured on the premises and offered in traditional style, or with their our own hickory smoked version (a genuine smoke not chemical). It is no surprise to know that David is the current Hampshire Bacon Champion.

Adding even more, The Butchers Shop also offer an attractive range of products to compliment their meat products, such as fresh cheeses, chutneys, pickles, mustards, honey, and local free range eggs from Kitts Merries Farm in Romsey.

David also does free home deliveries when you find leaving the house difficult. To complete his range of services, he also does a tasty Hog Roast for parties and events.

We of course are lucky enough to have two butchers in the village, with Dave Gregory also providing fresh meat from his butchers shop in the Keyhaven Road end of the High Street.

Enjoy eating local!

The Butchers Shop, 3 Church Hill, Milford on Sea, SO41 0QH
Tel: 01590 642136

Granary Kitchen Demonstrations

The Granary Kitchen, a new Cookery School in Newlands Manor Farm, is holding two Butcher Demonstration Evenings in association with Sway Butchers.  This new venture is run by local chef, Christian Rivron.

The first course features 10 Ways to Prepare a Chicken on Monday 11th June, and another course is planned for Monday 10th September when attendees can learn how to Butcher a Pig.

Both evenings will include a Cookery Demonstration with sampling of the dishes cooked.

To book your place, please call: 01590 673040

The Granary Kitchen
Newlands Manor Farm, Milford on Sea, SO41 0JH

Play Bowls by the Sea

Another new website is now promoting one of Milford on Sea most popular clubs. Packed with information, the Milford Bowls Club website gives all the information a member, or potential member may need.

The club was founded in 1933 and is situated in Hurst Road on Milford on Sea seafront enjoying spectacular views of the Isle of Wight and the Needles.

The Clubs Green has 6 rinks that are amongst the finest in the area, and they have an extensive social calendar as well as plenty of opportunities to play competitive or fun bowls.

The summer season is from early April until late September with the Short mat bowls season taking place most days in the clubhouse during the winter.
Experienced bowlers moving to the area and any residents wishing to play this enjoyable sport are welcome to contact the club secretary for further details.

You can even try your hand at lawn green bowls to see if you like it. A Club Steward (a playing member of the club) is on hand during the open sessions to help and give advice if required. The public visitor sessions are just £5pp including hire of shoes and bowls, and the fun is free!

Contact: Milford Bowls Club

Another Food Week Bird Walk

Following the successful Food Week ‘Feed the birds walk' around Sturt Pond local nature reserve on Tuesday 10th April when 29 different bird species were seen, the Milford Conservation Volunteers (MCV) led a second walk around the Pleasure Grounds (woodlands) and Studland Common nature reserve on Wednesday 11th April.

The guides were Tony Locke, MCV Conservation Officer, Mervyn Couzens (River Warden) and Keith Metcalf. Ten youngsters and ten parents and grandparents walked the grounds with their guides and were again enthralled with some fine close-up views of woodland birds aided by some clever pre-recorded bird song gadgetry. The recordings enticed some of the birds down from the trees to within a couple of feet of the walkers! Britain’s smallest bird, the Goldcrest, whose high-pitched call is usually only heard at the top of extremely tall pine trees, was encouraged to come down at Mill Meadow balancing pond to give spectacular close-up views of its gold stripe along the top of its head, while continuing to sing his heart out to the lucky bird spotters.

Other woodland birds seen and heard were, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit and Blackcap, while some walkers were lucky enough to see a pair of Sparrowhawks in mating flight over Studland Common. Nuthatch and Green Woodpecker were also recorded and a Speckled Wood butterfly landed on the ground leading down onto the MEG Boardwalk at Sharvells Copse. The total birds recorded over the two days was an impressive 42 different species.

Keith said that; “It was a wonderful opportunity to again take a number of youngsters around our nature reserves and if just one of the 28 visiting children goes on to have an interest in nature and local conservation, then one of the Milford Conservation Volunteer objectives will have been achieved”.
Further walks are being arranged by the MCV to encourage a better understanding of why woodlands, commons, streams and reed-beds need to be managed appropriately for the benefit of both wildlife and public amenity. These walks will be supported by a brand new Milford-on-Sea nature reserve walks booklet, which is being published in the summer and will be available for a small charge from village shops, businesses and from the MCV direct. Look out for the official announcement of its launch.

A Bike in Cambodia

We are happy to publish a story sent in by Milford on Sea village resident, Sue Forward. Together with a group of other adventurous cyclists, they managed to raise £65,000 for under privileged children.

Reflections of Cycling in Vietnam and Cambodia

So much traffic, so much beauty, so much contrast, ravaged by war, new opportunities for a new generation.

click image to enlarge
With a time difference of 7 hours we arrived in Saigon – now known as Ho Chi Minh City. The next day we had free and so visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, the hide out of the Vietcong, stretching from Saigon to the Cambodian border. Those of us who were small enough could fit into the narrow passageways, giving an empathic and claustrophobic appreciation for the people who spent weeks underground.

Imagine a constant stream of countless cars and motor scooters in all directions, scooters sometimes with 2 or 3 persons plus a calf or a pig, pavements teaming with street vendors, ramshackle wooden shops selling silk and spices, cafes selling steaming bowls of noodle soup by the roadside, incense filled pagodas, a Vietnamese guide in front giving hand signalling directions at traffic lights with a countdown of thirty seconds to get across, and a guide of similar nationality shouting “keep going” from the rear!! Phew! We did make it out of Saigon and cycled 30 miles the first day with increasing confidence but realising too how much of a challenge the heat and humidity were going to be, temperatures reaching 100 degrees – keeping hydrated was of utmost importance! Reaching the ferry to cross the Mekong Delta we saw a water world of boats, houses and markets.

The next day we had a wait of 3 hours in order to cross the border and into Cambodia, we cycled a further 30 miles to Kep, founded as a colonial retreat for the French elite. With a longer wait than anticipated we were cycling our very hardest in order to reach Kep before dark but the next day we saw strong evidence of the Khmer Rouge rule with scores of Kep’s luxurious pre-war villas still blackened shells. The longest day, cycling 60 miles, we past lush scenery, rice paddies and fish farms and a constant wave from children, little voices from nowhere, and hands out to do “Ha Five” as we rode along. We must have been getting tired – two people fell off their bikes and cramp for some was debilitating. Our guides and back up team were tremendous.

Day 4 was probably the hardest, although not the longest, 50 miles, certainly the hilliest. But for those who struggled up the hills there was always someone from behind who could manage to give you a gentle push! We arrived that evening in Phnom Penh, the capital. If we could get out of Saigon, surely we could get into Phnom Penh, a city of poverty and excess, of charm and chaos!

We had two free days visiting the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom and the sobering and poignant Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which documents past struggles of the Khmer people. The next two days we cycled 40 miles on each, visiting a school and taking books, pencils and rulers.

Our flight home from Siem Reap was 17 hours with a 7 hour wait at Seoul. Touching down at Heathrow I thanked God for our safe return, the privilege of having the opportunity to learn more about the incredible culture and lifestyle of the Vietnam and Cambodian people. There were 22 of us and the whole challenge raised £65,000 for under privileged children in the South of England. Thank you to all who have been part of that journey.  Sue Forward

Saturday, 14 April 2012

No Food Week Update!

At the begining of Food Week I had planned to give an update on how things are going.

However, I had to make a choice; either write a daily blog, or visit as many events as possible to find delights to eat.

You of course know what I chose to do!

So, with two days still to go, and much still to visit to and things still to eat, I hope to bump into you on my travels.  (Not literally I hope, I'm a big lad and could do a lot of damage by randomly trampling on someone!)  

Although I do not have a Food Week Update for anyone, I do having aching legs and I am struggling to know what day it is!  Naturally, a quick taste of something soon makes all of this more than bearable.

I have been delighted to see so many smiling faces in so many places around the village, and I hope you have had already enjoyed many highlights during Food Week.  There is still penty to visit and experience - so keep eating!!

PS: With the hundreds of pictures taken and many events still happening, there a slim chance a summary of Food Week may be completed by around the middle of October!  Removing all the weight gained may take a lot longer!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Simon off up the Peaks!

Simon Pollock, Managing Director and Chairman at Shorefield Country Park in Milford on Sea, is embarking on a slightly mad challenge.

He has signed up to do the Three Peaks Challenge by climbing the three tallest mountains in the British Isles within 24 hours on the 12th/13th May 2012. Simon is pleased to say that his training is going well and that he has already shed ten pounds and clocked up quite a few miles in the process.

Whilst the weight loss sounds a benefit, the idea of even running to the village green makes me fell nauseous!

Simon is doing the challenge in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease Association as someone close to his family contracted and died of this crippling disease recently.

If you would like to support his efforts or cause, a donation can be made here:

Westover changes hands

We are sad to see David & Christine Smith move on from Westover Hall.  Over the past few years they have been warm and generous hosts, putting a lot of work into maintaining the standards and service at their hotel and restaurant in the heart of Milford on Sea.

Rumour has it that Westover Hall in currently in the process of being taken over, and we hear that the new owners will be Hall & Woodhouse.

The magificent Grade II Listed Victorian mansion enjoys uninterrupted views of Christchurch Bay, the Isle of Wight and the 'Needles' rocks. The hotel even has its own private beach hut, which enjoys panoramic views stretching from Hurst Castle in the east to Hengistbury Head in the west. Westover Hall currently has the fine dining 'One Park Lane' Restaurant, a cosy bar, and the 'Vista' Bistro for casual dinning.  It of course remains to be seen how the new owners view the best way to organise and run the establishment.  Let's just hope that it continues to include great food!

Built by the famous Victorian architect Arnold Mitchell in 1897, Westover Hall features a magnificent series of stained-glass windows, extensive oak panelling and ceilings decorated in high relief.  Inside, this imposing mansion has a minstrels gallery and impressive stained glass windows, built in the Arts and Craft Style.

We have discovered that Hall and Woodhouse are an independent family company owned and run by the fifth generation of the Woodhouse family. The pub estate has grown to over 250 and stretches from Exeter to Eastbourne and Hemel Hempstead - in the North.   They are also the brewers of the award winning Badger bottled beers, which can be found nationally in leading supermarkets and off licenses. Hall & Woodhouse has a turnover approaching £90m and over 1,500 employees.

As a new era dawns, thanks go to David & Christine for being great hosts, and welcome to our new owners at Westover Hall.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Food Week Bird Walk

As part of Food Week, The first bird walk at Sturt Pond nature reserve took place this morning and was led by Milford Conservation Volunteers Keith Metcalf (Wildlife Recorder) and Emily Slade (Youth Leader).

The walk started at Sea Road car park where 18 youngsters, their parents and grandparents listened attentively to their guides. An impressive 30 different bird species were seen on the walk, including lots of common species; house sparrow (who said that they were in decline - we saw plenty), a Pied Wagtail and for those with quick eyes, we saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying over the reserve.

Further along the Solent Way footpath, we saw a pair of Canada Geese and a pair of Shelduck in the pond along with lots of Black Headed Gulls (they actually have brown heads!), Herring Gulls, a single Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull and a pair of Mediterranean Gulls (who have black heads just to confuse us birdwatchers!) and were seen and heard flying over the reserve. At Cut Bridge, a single male Red-breasted Merganser was seen flying off the pond towards Keyhaven. The children fed the 13 Mute Swans who had congregated at this spot. Further around the southern end of the pond, the youngsters saw over 40 Turnstones (a small wading bird often seen at close quarters along the Quay wall at Keyhaven).

The walkers were then invited into the Bird Hide (open all year round between 9am and dusk) in smaller groups to hear about the birds that have been seen at the reserve. The children were also entertained by recordings of some of the more common birds, including the Cuckoo, Chiffchaff, Mallard and Rooks in a rookery. Keith and Emily then handed RSPB lapel badges to all the children of the Brent Goose, a well-travelled who has become synonymous with Sturt Pond. This bird annually travels from Russia to spend their winters with us. About 500 to 600 Brent Geese regularly visit the reserve.

Tomorrow, Wednesday 11th April, a second walk will be led by Keith, Emily and Tony Locke and will be looking at birds of the woodlands and common. Meet at 10am at the bottom of Barnes Lane. Bring Wellies and a bottle of water. Parents, children and grandparents are reminded that there are no WC facilities en route.

A small contribution towards the bird food, which will be handed out to children would be very much appreciated. All proceeds will be given towards Food Week.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

40 B4 40-Pebble Beach

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No. 10: Pebble Beach restaurant in neighbouring Barton on Sea has a super reputation, however it has been a year or so since we have been.

Today we went along with my wife's brother.  Unlike my wonderful wife, he is a passive kind of bloke and not prone to any kind of spontaneous violence towards me.  Funny how some children get either the mother or father's genes?!

Anyway, we were here to eat because my wife had a hangover from the wedding reception the night before, and our home-cooked roast dinner was cancelled.  She was also being quite quiet and willing to drive, so every cloud has a silver lining.

Pebble Beach is an impressive venue to eat.  On entering you are greeted at the front door and first impressions are top notch.  As you go to your table in the contemporary designed dining room, you pass the tropical fish tank, a classic and classy bar, and even get to see into the busy open kitchen at work.  The outside patio with expansive sea views is extremely impressive and inviting, however the weather dictated today was not one for an alfresco lunch.

Although all of the tables were full, we were soon looked after with drinks, and it was nice to be able to order Steve & I a pint of draft Becks.  My wife had a glass of water, accompanied with little sympathy.

Homemade bread started our meal, cheese & onion, walnut & date, Sundried tomato and a Ciabatta were all tasted and enjoyed as we read the menu, which had plenty of specials in addition to the a la carte.

My wife hit the jackpot with the best starter, her Ravioli of duck confit & Savoy cabbage with giroles mushroom and duck jus was fantastic.  Steve enjoyed his Watercress soup, whilst I had one of my favourite starters; Twice-baked Beaufort cheese soufflé lined with roasted ground almonds, finished with fondue and kirsch sauce, the flavour was excellent, and the almonds a tasty inventive touch, but unfortunately it was slightly over-cooked.

My wife's main course was Half lobster tempura with stir-fry of pak choi, & glass noodles served with sweet chilli sauce.  I had, Duo of lemon sole goujons and tiger prawns served with tartare sauce, new potatoes and mixed leaves. Now, new potatoes are pointless, and mixed leaves just a waste of space on a plate where real food could sit.  So, the waitress was happy to accept my request to change my vegetables to chips. Not my best move, as they appeared frozen in origin and not completely cooked.  The sole and prawns were fine, but I know chef's hate doing chips, so perhaps that was a subtle way to tell me to keep to the menu in future. Unaware of my chip drama, Steve was drooling as he devoured his Roast saddle of lamb filled with spinach and mushrooms, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and mint sauce.

As we ate, Steve told us about his trip to the Tate Modern yesterday with his (imaginary) girlfriend.  He tried to prove she existed by producing a picture of a girl in front of Monet's Waterlilies. It looked to me as if the person involved was just trying to get out of the sight-line to the picture for the photographer.

Time for sweet.  My wife declined and now looked a little less green around the gills.  Steve, explained he wanted to keep trim for his girlfriend.  (What girlfriend!!)

I plumped for the Cheese cake Polish style, which was baked layers of soft meringue, peach & a raspberry sauce.  It seemed and tasted more like a Lemon meringue, but with peach rather than lemon, and very nice it was too.

On leaving, Steve extolled the virtues of his dining experience, saying it was the best meal he had enjoyed for ages, going on to say he could wait to tell his girlfriend.  (Chat down the phone to a random wrong number more like.)

Pebble Beach is certainly a class place to eat, but I reckon our own Milford on Sea Verveine Fishmarket Restaurant wins by a whisker between these two fine restaurants!

If you are wondering what the 40 B4 40 Dining Challenge is all about, please click here and all will be explained.

40 B4 40-Verveine

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No. 9: We went to the theatre on Saturday evening.  Well I say theatre, it was actually Verveine Fishmarket Restaurant, where each dish contains great drama and all are served with more than a hint of theatre.

Verveine is a very special Milford on Sea fish restaurant, which has been recognised as not only the 'Hampshire Restaurant of the Year 2012', but David Wykes, (owner/chef alongside his business partner Stacey) is also the reigning 'Hampshire Chef of the Year'.

We had invited friends to join us for dinner from as far away as some town called Boscombe.  Waiting at home for them to arrive, we received a call saying the four were now seated and on their first drinks of the evening.  My wife, knowing that there was a drink on offer, rushed her shoes on, and it was not many minutes before we were alongside them at the table.

As a complimentary amuse-bouche of mackerel & cajun spiced dip with homemade vegetable crisps was placed on the table, the conversation soon focused on the imaginative restaurant decor and the unique arrangement of a combined restaurant and thriving village wet fishmongers at the front.  Two of our friends, David & Julia, were taking particular interest in the subtle lighting highlighting the 'wave shaped' plaster panelled wall.  Plans were also being made as to how they could replicate the effect in their lounge.

Verveine had launched their new seasonal menu this week, so even though we are regular customers, we were now looking at a completely new set of creative and exciting dishes for us all to enjoy.

Our starters chosen, we first enjoyed two types of  homemade bread along with homemade butter as we chatted.  The starters we had selected included, Pan-fried Scallops with Hampshire cheese ravioli, baked onion puree & hazelnut’s, ‘Soup and a Sandwich 2012’ which is Local ham hock with grain mustard, Hampshire watercress soup & truffle mayonnaise, and Lymington Crab ‘In the English Style’ (Escoffier c1903).  When presented at the table, it really felt like we were looking at art on the plate.  Even better, they all tasted as great as they looked.

The service was attentive as always, and the choice of fresh fish extensive.  Not only was there a large selection of the fish and seafood you would expect, but more unusual options were also available, such as Gurnard, Pollock and Sand Sole. When a fish is chosen, you then select from four garnish options. None of us had ever experienced any other restaurant that offered your menu choice in this way.

The main courses chosen by our party were; fresh lobster with a butter and herb sauce, Sea Bass with a Spring Garnish of Parmesan mash, spring greens and texture of onion. Monkfish with a Forest garnish of Wild garlic & barley risotto, wild mushrooms, broad beans & artichoke, Brixham Fish & hand-cut Chips with home-made tartare sauce & Verveine mushy peas, and finally, Pan-fried king Scallops with potato puree & ‘coq au vin’.  We didn't talk much as we tucked into these delicious and perfectly cooked dishes.

As the sweet menu arrived we were all pretty full, and very impressed, however the temptation proved too much.  Many spoons all enjoyed; a sweet simply called 'Chocolate' with 70% Valrhona chocolate, peanuts & caramel, a Pistachio Brûlée with Local raspberries and burnt chocolate ice cream, and a deconstructed Rhubarb Crumble and Custard with champagne rhubarb, vanilla and crumble.

Each dessert had been offered with a individually tailored sweet wine. We however refrained, as the bottles Pouilly Fumé were still going down well.

Demonstrating the Verveine teams fine attention to detail, it was spotted that the plates on which the dishes had been served, varied in colour and even texture to compliment each individual course.

As we relaxed and ordered coffees, my mate David was now paying a bit too much attention to the table candle holder and other table decorations.  Discretely, I asked whether he was having problems with his female hormones.  He protested, and informed us that he was actually thinking through how he could decorate the tables for a new event he was hosting as the new President of his Rotary Club. When he chatted about his idea to have red checked table cloths we were all comfortingly reassured that his foray into interior design was completely inept, just as it should be for a bloke.


If you are wondering what the 40 B4 40 Dining Challenge is all about, please click here and all will be explained.

Mole Men Scare in Village

We have received an e-mail from a concerned (and slightly disturbed) Milford on Sea resident.

The gentleman concerned obviously has far too much time on his hands, but it appears the village is once again blighted by the activities of the Milford Mole Men.

click image to spot the 'Mole Man'.

Dear Editor,

Until recently, 'The Mole Men' have again been excavating parts of the two roads by which Milford on Sea is accessed. They have, in the normal style, left their piles of spoil on the road alongside their holes, marked the scene with changing coloured lights and disappeared from the scene for weeks on end.

Employing a high degree of stealth they've recently returned to subterranean activities from their presence on Lymington Road leaving few traces of their activity, and leaving the road available for two-way traffic once again. (Until next time.)

Behind the customary illumination on their second excavation site on Cliff Road (known as the curse of the temporary traffic signal) a windowless hut has been installed where mole person(s) can spend time above ground, while sheltered from any public gaze, and in the darkness that enables the breed to remain comfortable.

Does anyone know why Southern Gas Networks disrupt traffic week after week apparently without any urgency since they attend to any work activity on an infrequent basis? Perhaps they can tell us why things take them so long when other utilities dig their hole, make the repairs and go away, typically in just a day or two.

Colin (Anon)

Naturally this letter concerned me, not only for the mental health of the writer, but also because it appears The Mole Men are back at work.

This story has quite a history, which our long-term readers will recognise. For those that are new to this saga, you need to know that 'Southern Gas Networks' do not actually exist, this is purely a cover for 'The Mole Men' to carry on their nocturnal activities.

Ironically, not long after receiving the e-mail I heard a report of a lady resident who needed roadside first aid, having suffered severe shock when witnessing someone working at the roadworks. On closer investigation we discovered that she had actually seen a bloke from Whitby Road who has a fixation (he says 'hobby') of looking down empty holes. It is a shame her distress was actually unwarranted on this occasion.

If you have the inclination, or nothing better to do, you can discover the historic story of the Milford Mole Men, by reading below:

January 2010 | Lymington Road Slalom

It appears that invisible Mole Men from the fictitious 'Southern Gas Networks' have appeared in the village. Their humorous hobby is to dig holes that make roads in to a single file lane, & then to disappear underground to carry out their real purpose for being here.

Having passed through several times, I have yet to see any Mole Men even pretending to work.  Some may assume that they have left the site, I however have another theory, - they actually live down the hole. Indeed, there is a whole town of Mole Men tunneling away, right under our feet.

I suspect they only come out at night only to replace the batteries in the temporary traffic lights, or to pop down to The Smugglers or Red Lion for a quick pint.

The now regular traffic queues remind me of my birthplace in London, ......but without the muggers. If anyone sees the Mole Men actually working in Lymington Road, please send in a picture, as I won’t believe you otherwise!

6th February 2010 | Mole Men claim more territory

No sooner do I reveal the truth about the mole men living in their hole in Lymington Road, that they test my patience by now appearing with a new hole in Cliff Road!

Their efforts to conceal their real activity by installing temporary traffic lights and a spurious Southern Gas Networks sign, doesn’t fool me for one minute.

I suppose that these could be independent burrowing structures by different tribes of mole men, but my theory is that our resident family has tunnelled from one side of the village to the other.

Considering the length that the tunnel structure must now be, it is not inconceivable that they are building a complete underground town.  I supect that they bring in their reinforcements of supplies and other mole family members by the dark of night. Not that I am really that bothered, as even mole men need to live somewhere. Indeed I am sure if we were asked nicely I guess most of us would not object strongly. (Wouldn’t fancy their chances of getting permission from the Parish Council though).

There is a likelihood that they are under your house right now. Anyway, I hope I have not alarmed you with my revelation, as I am sure that they are quite friendly, although that may give a nasty nip if approached unexpectedly. (A bit like my wife really).

Footnote: Driving home tonight I spotted a sign saying that Sea Road is going to be closed for a few days from the 10th to 13th February. It seems the mole men are wasting no time in colonising the entire Milford on Sea sub terrain.

I wonder if we asked them nicely whether they would put in an underground railway system? Do you know anyone in the Milford on Sea Wildlife Group who speaks ‘Mole’? It looks like we may need someone to negotiate this additional development on behalf of us surface dwellers.

On a related but separate note, I have to say that some readers of these news pages don’t always seem to take my stories seriously. After my article last week on the Lymington Road roadworks, when I speculated that the holes are dug by mole men, who then disappear down the hole to their newly constructed homes, my challenge to send in some photo’s showing men actually working on the site was met with a response, ......but not quite as expected.

Not being an expert on manual labour, I cannot be 100% sure, but I have to say, I do not think the photo’s sent in below are genuine. On reflection, I am not sure it is a good idea to ask readers to send in pictures in future.
click image to enlarge

13th October 2010 | Mole Men invade Village Green

They’re back! The infamous ‘Milford on Sea Mole Men’ have again returned to the village. This time they are excavating on the Village Green, using the cover story that they are gas men installing a new governor.

The official looking plastic fencing doesn’t fool me.

18th November 2010 | Mole Men head for Whitby Road!

As the Mole Men continue to burrow deep below Milford on Sea village green, we have been contacted by one of the head moles. (yes, really!)  We suspect that the Mole Men are trying to gain friendships, and that this may be a plan to divert from their work of creating a network of tunnels under the village for their new subterranean community. Jim Stark, who claims to be the Operations Manager for Southern Gas Networks, wrote to us, saying that; ‘following recent gas escapes, works will be starting shortly in Cliff Road to replace a section of main between Cornwallis Road and Whitby Road’.

Hmmm, I never smelt any gas leak. Interestingly, Jim contacted me by e-mail, which of course means that they have already installed broadband under a number of houses in the village. If your web connection speed has increased recently, this may be why. I wonder if they have installed their own mobile phone mast yet, as I am sure we will all get a better signal when they do. I must remember to ask when I next see a Mole Man in the Red Lion. Indeed, I must also remember to ask them how they are getting on with the underground railway to Hurst Castle that I had requested.

Demonstrating my lack of judgement in understanding women, I attempted to explain to my wonderful wife the latest development in the Mole Men saga. As she gazed into my eyes, with what I thought was a stare of wonderment, I felt a sharp pain. Once again she had demonstrated that a size 10 body is more than capable of delivering a perfect kidney punch. As I laid on the floor, I decided not to retaliate, mainly because she was now emptying the dishwasher, & there were a lot of knives around.

Undeterred, and now breathing again, I carried on with my quest, and discovered that the Mole Men had also written to local residents in the area using paper with a Southern Gas Networks letterhead. The various corporate disguises they use always amuses me. They claim the work should be completed within 3 weeks, and by my reckoning they will be able to build underground accommodation for at least forty Mole Men Families in that time.

Jim goes on to say that, ‘it is impossible to carry out this essential work without some disruption and I would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused’. What he actually means is; ‘please do not disturb us, as we have a lot to do & complaints about the noise delays our progress towards our perfect home in the darkness’.

It is nice to know the Mole Men are friendly, as once their underground town is complete, & more Mole Men from across the country move in, we will all be neighbours!

Does anyone know what Mole Men eat? .... it would be nice to get them involved doing cookery demonstrations during Food Week!