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Wind is tearing like a banker destroying evidence and although the rain is holding off for now, it’s never far away, cradled precariously in voluminous steel grey cloud pantaloons ready to fall at any moment. Ladies, gentlemen and the rest of us, welcome to the British summer.

We are deep in the New Forest, driven by new Lost Promenade friend Cass and our first stop is Lymington on the Hampshire coast, a town that thinks it’s special, but is strangely featureless. Dominated by boating bores and with not much to distinguish it from anywhere else, it does at least have lots of charity, antique and bric-a-brac shops (although the interesting pickings to be found in them are pretty sparse, dominated by generic pastel-covered, twirly-fonted, killing-spree-inducing chicklit and the limp floral hand-me-downs of Middle England). However, there is an interesting retro shop which specialises in mid-century transport-related collectables, a refreshing change from the usual girlie vintage shops. Printed ephemera with titles like ‘Motor Car Lubrication Simply Explained: Running as Smoothly as a Ball’ and old signage, including one that would surely be in demand amongst sex offenders: ‘Mine’s a Minor’. The shop’s owner talks about the “equinox weather we’re having” and demonstrates a nifty vintage Kodak duffel bag that also doubles as an inflatable float; “The air is free. ” He directs us to the vintage cameras on sale: “Film photography is fashionable at the moment – people like low-quality flukey pictures”.

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We continue on to a church hall craft fair and unlike the usual modern craft fair disappointment, this one is an old-school affair. No owl cushions, no cupcakes; instead there are dolls knitted by elderly ladies, and proper fairy cakes, just like it should be. One stall holder has crocheted a doll labelled ‘Ellie (Good Witch) and Her Bag of Good Wishes’. “I once knitted a bad witch with a wart on her nose but I prefer doing good witches” says her creator.

We also look at a shop plastered with officious signs, that claims to be the rudest one in Britain – “If you can’t leave these books tidy then leave them alone”, “Don’t be beaky”etc. However the most endearing junk shop in town is called Julie’s. “Please buy something, no-one else has today” Julie pleads, and so we duly oblige.

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There is a market running the length of the high street. Nothing exciting for sale, however but our interest is held by a flower stall trader whose shout of “Any bucket on the floor for a fiver”, sounds suspiciously like “Fuck it on the floor for a fiver”. There is also another craft fair, this one in a Masonic hall, and featuring yet more old-style crafts. Amongst them is a stall of extra-realistic “reborn” baby dolls, laid out in satin layettes like the dead children of Victorian post-mortem photography. The artist’s website talks of “Genesis heat paint, kid mohair…babies filled with fibre fill, baby fat and glass beads to wieght them (sic)”.

We finish off at a stall run by “The Bag Lady” and Cass and Nhung both buy totes (Nhung’s has horses on, Cass’s has chickens) and try to persuade Tamsin into getting a bunny rabbit one, but she holds firm against their peer pressure.

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Up till now Lymington hasn’t felt very seasidey at all, but near the harbour it starts to get a bit more so. However the boaty bit is dull, too similar to other boaty bits of towns we’ve visited to warrant much exploration. We stop for lunch at a hugely overpriced tearoom (£6 for a toastie, £7.50 for omelette and chips), then at the other end of the scale, top it off with a bargainous 50p New Forest ice cream from a street stall.

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We’re done with Lymington so we drive on, passing through Milford-On-Sea in search of Hurst Castle. Gigantic globs of sea foam are blown onto the promenade, like escapees from an ogre’s snow globe, whirling around as a group of pensioners stoically carry on a game of crown green bowls buffeted by the cranky winds. No sign of the castle though.

Calshot Castle

Calshot Castle

We travel further along the coast in search of another castle when Nhung screams “STOP!” She’s spotted industrial installations in the distance, a sight always beloved of the Lost Prom. Eventually we end up in a place called Calshot, which is fringed in multicoloured beach huts and cavernous aircraft hangars and features an actual castle – a Napoleonic fort, at first a bit small and disappointing, but up close, quite sweet. It has a moat at any rate. There is also a silent coastguard tower and a forest of boat masts, jangling in the wind like a ferocious carillon. Across the harbour lies a metallic labyrinth of oil refineries and chimneys. The sky is an intense grey with a glowing light behind the clouds and if feels like the edge of a nuclear winter. It’s June and we’re in Hampshire, but it could be Chernobyl. It seems a long way from the stolid low-rises of Lymington. The Lost Promenade knows which view they prefer.

fawley quarry

fawley quarry

Lost

Otter nursery (we see it en route and imagine a baby otter crèche but it turns out to just be a garden centre)

Hurst Castle

Milford-On-Sea (closed by the time we reach it, so we only drive through)

£25 from Cass when she incurs a parking ticket due to the pay-and-display voucher slipping from view

Balance in the high winds

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Found

Yellow Kodak duffel bag-cum-float

Set of 1970s bird print place mats (from Julie’s)

2 handmade tote bags – one with horses on it, one with chickens on it

Brideshead Revisited (Nhung has always meant to read it)

A book called ‘Hampshire Days’

Crochet flower brooch

Pink knitted pig keyring

2 books about graphic design

A 1970s German Barbie doll promotional leaflet

Relief that we live in Sussex not Hampshire

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