Lentune Probus Club - Men

Lentune Probus Club meeting on 11 September - The New Forest Pony

The Meeting was the annual invitation meeting where the Probus Ladies  join the Men's meeting 

Our Speaker on 11 September was Suzanne Kemp.

Suzanne has lived in the New Forest for the last thirty years, is a practising first generation Commoner and has judged ponies in Finland and Sweden as well as the UK, she also once ran a stud in Belgium. Suzanne now runs her own ponies on the Forest and gave us a fascinating and detailed talk on the importance, life and relevance of the New Forest pony.

It soon became clear that the ponies are essential to the ecology of the Forest and probably largely responsible for it remaining the open and beautiful space that it still is. The closely grazed areas encourage a large number of small and often beautiful plants, as illustrated by Suzanne’s excellent photographs; ponies sculpt the gorse bushes into interesting shapes and indeed travel long distances to feast upon the recently burnt areas, as they do to consume holly offcuts around Christmas. They have well designed coats for winter protection allowing them to survive the wettest and coldest weather and have even developed moustaches to protect their faces when devouring prickly gorse. Their need for access to water has also probably contributed to the survival of 70% of the most important mires in Europe.

The breeding population is tightly managed with just 20 strictly licensed stallions allowed loose over the whole Forest between May and July to maintain the quality of the foals and ensure that they are born at the optimum time 11 months later. After 5 years the stallions undergo an “MOT” to ensure that they are still suitable to be fathers! 

Breeders from all over the world now come to the annual Beaulieu Road sales to buy our ponies and contrary to common belief, none now finds its way into burgers or boucheries chevalines!

With her enormous wealth of experience, Suzanne opened our eyes to the complexities and expertise involved in ensuring the continuation not only of the pony population but also the environment of the Forest as a whole.

Lentune Ladies Probus

Lentune Probus Ladies Club meeting on 6 September - Spitfire Ladies 

The Lentune Ladies Probus had another excellent talk in September. Andrew Duncan began his talk, entitled Spitfire Ladies, with a description of an air accident in Spring 1945 at Cowes Airfield. It turned out this was his mother who had an amazing escape when she was thrown from the cockpit of her Walrus aircraft. 

The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) had been set up in 1940 in White Waltham. It was the idea of Gerard d’Erlanger who had been a director of BOAC in 1936. An auxiliary air force was needed to aid the RAF and was made up of civilian pilots. Out of a total of 164 pilots, there were 8 women who began work in 1940. At the beginning they acted as a courier service but quickly added ferrying many different types of aircraft from factories to airfields. Pauline Gower was their leader and was an experienced pilot. Other names were Amy Johnson, Lettice Curtis and Jacqueline Cochrane. They all had very different temperaments but managed to work well together. 

They would pick up chits in the crew room with their task for the day, and would then fly single handed, using only maps on their laps to follow roads and railways to their destination. Cloud cover was their biggest danger, which they called grey concrete. Aircraft ranged from huge heavy bombers which were hard physical work to fly, to Hurricanes and Spitfires. The latter they considered were specially made for women to fly!

There were many difficult times when male RAF officers did not approve of women flying.  They finally argued to be allowed to wear trousers and achieved pay parity in 1943. 

After the war there was a special bond between the women.  They were described as reserved, unflustered, practical, and both feminine and tough. It must have been very difficult when they were expected to become 1950’s housewives, and only a small number were able to continue flying. 

The talk was followed as usual by lunch and a chance to chat with friends. 

Lentune Probus Club - Walk around the Seawall

Lymington Keyhaven Nature Reserve  Walk  -  with Pete Durnell

On 21 September seven members met in Maiden Lane Lymington, near Eight Acre Pond, for a walk around the Nature Reserve with Pete Durnell, Sites Manager for the HCC Countryside Service. The weather was fine for the afternoon walk around the marshes and the along the seawall.  

Pete gave an introduction to the history of the area from the earliest times and Lymington's salt making industry until its demise in the mid nineteenth century due to the arrival of more easily mined salt from Cheshire. During its hey-day, the area all along from Keyhaven to the mouth of the Lymington River would have been a hive of industrial activity comprising salterns (shallow evaporating lagoons), wind pumps, boiling houses and narrow docks for the import of coal and the export of the salt. 

Between 1973 and 2006, Hampshire County Council purchased this stretch of coastline to protect its unique wildlife heritage. In recent years in particular, the HCC has managed the Normandy Marsh into an extensive protected area of coastal habitat supporting a wide variety of wetland plants and animals . The brackish lagoons of varying salinity are connected to the sea by a system of sluices and tide flaps. These are some of the most important lagoons in Britain with rare species of plantlife and visited by huge variety of birdlife - both migratory and indigenous, varying with the season.   

Pete took our party around the seawall and explained the management of the Reserve and identified a vast number of birds - including wheatears, stonechats, egrets, herons ;  I now feel able to distinguish between redshanks, geenshanks and even whiteshanks !!      

This gentle circular walk and talk took about an hour and a half on a pleasant afternoon :  most enjoyable and informative, even for the Lymington residents amongst us familiar with seawall walk.  

Ray Mayes