Grassy mounds at the start of the walk
We were on our way to stay in Poole for a couple of days and we decided to begin exploring the New Forest on the way. This walk comes from the Pathfinder Guide for Hampshire and the New Forest.
The book proposes a start at the Standing Hat car park, near Brockenhurst, but the road leading to this was closed so we started instead from Balmer Lawn, just off the A337. Initially you are in a wide open landscape with watercourses, ponies and distant trees. We were struck by the number of small grassy mounds. Googling reveals they are the dried-out bases of purple moor grass tussocks.
Soon after reaching the Standing Hat car park - a Hat in the New Forest is a small hillock topped with trees - we entered the forest proper, following a gravel track between trees.
The track winds left and right and then passes a ride on the left named after the celebrated naturalist Frederick Frohawk.
A helpful sign board revealed the existence of the Silver-Washed Fritillary and rarer Pearl-Bordered Fritillary in these woods: I will have to come back in the right part of the summer! Frohawk named his daughter Valezina, which was not an early example of the modern trend towards made up names, but rather the name of a rare variety of the Silver-Washed Fritillary. A man truly devoted to his calling!
Further along the gravel track we came to a T junction where a what seemed to be a family group of ponies were basking in the sun, asleep.
It seems a bit ridiculous to single out a few trees from the thousands which surrounded us, but I did like this clump of Silver Birches which we passed shortly after the ponies.
There seemed to be less to remark on in the remainder of the walk. We entered Denny Wood and began the return part of the loop, past a couple of houses (what were they doing there? I wandered). We continued through Stubby Copse Inclosure (an Inclosure is an area of the Forest reserved for growing timber: commoners' animals are excluded. Everything you might want to know about the Forest can be found on its website.)
The final section back to the car park ran parallel to the railway line through the Forest. We passed the unremarkable Victoria Tilery Cottage - thought to have once been the home of the manager of a brick and tile works whose products were used for drainage works funded by the railway company.
By the time we reached the end clouds had begun to form, giving the sky much more drama. I have learned a lot this year about the value of clouds to landscape photography.
Conditions: clear, sunny, 6 or 7 degrees.
Distance: 5.5 miles.
From: Hampshire and the New Forest (Pathfinder Guides).
Map: Explorer OL 22 (The New Forest).
Rating: three and a half stars. I have to confess that the novelty did wear off a bit towards the end. No doubt it would be better in summer.