…and a few that I can.
Are you loving the sunshine we’re getting? Wasn’t last weekend gorgeous? What fantastic weather to be out and about walking. As luck would have it, this weekend we ended up walking from Wimborne into the New Forest, which is beautiful all year round and especially so in the sunshine because there is sooooo much sky!
For rationalists amongst you, I am still recording the walking instructions for each leg of The Games Way – just three more to go now, and this weekend happened to be the next one to do. For the more romantic, the New Forest was calling us down from Berkshire to revel in the joys of spring and the first warmth of this year’s sun.
Either way we dumped the car in Wimborne and headed out west along the Stour, backtracking about half a mile on the previous walk to reconnect with the route and head south over the Stour and across meadows before walking eastwards and feeling like we were finally underway.
Once we’d carefully crossed the A31 we headed down a very quiet road with a few smallholdings and views over to the Minster at Wimborne when we were assaulted with the most incredible smell of roses. We never found the source – it was either something put onto a horse (would you do that?) or there really were roses behind a fence somewhere. Anyhow, it wasn’t long before we were walking along the edge of the river Stour towards Canford Magna school (Dorset’s answer to Hogwarts), when we came across these fine chaps:
It took a while for Felix to compose herself but a few minutes later her legs felt strong enough to take her across this wobbly footbridge:
The meadow is beautiful along here and it is a popular place for locals to take the dog for a walk. All the trees are looking full of life and bees and birds are busying themselves above our heads.
At the waters edge willow trees are brushing the water with their green veil on and ducks are playing hide and seek behind the curtains.
We leave the open meadows for a shady bridleway around Ferndown which (after pausing for lunch) takes us into Ferndown forest and a really well waymarked and accessible section of the Castlemans Trailway. Woodpeckers are busy hammering away but their effort is nothing compared to the frenetic activity of the gangs of squirrels that scurry around a few feet away from us at a tremendous pace.
They are such funny creatures, I love the indignant way they’ll face you down from a branch about 8 feet up, mouth rammed full of nut, eyes full of teenage malevolence with those ridiculous baggy trousers with their bum hanging out. Alas they have a sixth sense for camera activity, and so one photo (but not THE photo) I can’t show you is of a damn squirrel, even though they were everywhere. Here are some trees instead, which had the good manners to stand still for me!
…and here is a beautiful young robin who I think would have been happy to accompany us all the way to the New Forest if only we had a few worms…
Castleman’s Trailway is largely made up of disused railway line. Consequently it is flat, and in this case gravelled or asphalted which makes for easy walking. In a very straight line. For quite a while. Neither Felix or I are especially good at this kind of walking, so we played sight alphabet and sound alphabet. You know, where you have to see something starting with A, then B, then C… and then when we were done with that we had to hear something starting with A, then B…
These are good games, and likely to feature on other walks in the near future. The trick is to resist the urge to cheat – “Quite a nice flower” is not an acceptable Q for example! Anyway the game took us from West Moors to Ashley Heath to Verwood to just outside Ringwood where we met these fellows (or Fallows?!)
I guess it was around 5-ish or so as we left Ringwood, and the sun was getting lower in the sky as we broke free of the last signs of civilisation and into the huge expanse of gorse, trees and ponies that is the New Forest!
Felix and I are *very* relaxed about the direction we head in the New Forest, which is just as well really because there are a myriad of paths that go in all directions, and to be honest one gorse bush looks rather like another and experience tells us that ponies make pretty unreliable landmarks.
We are however, remarkably talented at sniffing out a pub, and it’s no coincidence that this leg of the walk finishes at the Red Shoot Inn in Linwood. After an hour or so of walking across the land, following our noses, we hit the road about 100m short of the pub. Sadly the taxi couldn’t pick us up for an hour or two, so we were forced to stick around and try out a couple of their own-brewed beers and a chilli jacket potato. Result!
…and so it was that we were stood outside in the New Forest gazing up at a fingernail moon with a couple of bright planets hanging nearby and the clearest sky filled with stars and recognisable constellations. We could hear laughter from the pub, and several owls hidden away hooting on their hunting horns ready for the nightshift. This is the photo I can’t show you, this is something you *can* see, but really have to feel for yourself.
Pretty ponies want you to sign up now to join us on the first official walk of The Games Way. It’s free and you can bring your friends!
Join us for a day, a weekend or however long suits you. We’d love to share the experience with you.