This past weekend we returned to the New Forest to join up the last bit of the Walk2012 route. Be warned, there will be lots of pictures of ponies. Here’s one:
We started at Lyndhurst, a very pretty New Forest town. We made a terrible faux pas by walking into the excellent Good Food Cafe with 2 cups of Costa coffee, and were suitably chastised whilst buying sandwiches. Then we parked at Foxlease (more later) and set off.
In a few minutes we were into the New Forest and any road noise was soon drowned out by the birdsong.
It was a bit of a tentative start as we had to pick out a path from the maze on the floor and get the map and compass to agree with our eyes. Squirrels openly mocked us! We soon got to grips with things and were striding out through woodland and heath past streams and riverbeds wishing we’d brought our bird and flower books with us. One day we’ll remember!
Not far from the A31 and a flotilla of ducks gave us a grand reception:
…but for the most part the wildlife did it’s best to ignore us. Well, the adults anyway…
Looking in the direction of Fritham we could see the weather was taking a turn for the worse. Fortunately it was just a brief shower but the clouds were gathering.
Now in truth there was no actual need to walk to Fritham as we had proved the bit of the walk I was unsure about. But Fritham offered the lure of The Royal Oak with its magnificent ploughmans and fine range of beers. But when we arrived we saw a note on the pub door that spelled DOOM! It began “Due to unforseen circumstances…” and ended with the pub being closed.
But the gods were kind – well the landlord was anyway. He saw the devastation in my eyes and very kindly slipped us a couple of pints to send us on our way. Suitably refreshed we headed south towards Red Shoot where we planned to camp for the night.
When I camped here last August I was surprised at the rate they wanted to charge. It was the same again – £25 for our tiny tent for one night. It wasn’t even a school holiday! Something is definitely wrong with their tarriff and I think they need to recognise that backpackers take up much less space than the 4×4 family with their fully equipped canvas palace and hot tub. Fortunately Felix and I are both Jedi knights and with judicious use of The Force we were offered a much better rate.
On the plus side – the loo/shower block is AMAZING – totally spotless and it has heated flooring. Who needs a tent?! there is also a little shop which sells bread rolls, eggs, bacon, and fudge among other things, and it is right by a pub which has its own microbrewery and a reasonable range of hot meals. Save your cheese passion for better places though.
It got cold in the tent that night, and the rain started falling in the early hours. Our amazing little tent did a grand job of keeping us dry and we de-camped speedily and set off in an easterly direction heading towards Pickets Post where we surprised the punters at a Little Chef by bursting through the shrubbery and demanded breakfast!
So fully fed and caffeinated we set off in the rain once again, compass in hand heading east for Lyndhurst. What could possibly go wrong?
Quite a lot as it turns out.
1. Boots give up being waterproof after a few hours in the constant wet.
2. Ditto waterproof coat.
3. Ditto waterproof cover for rucksacks.
4. Map dissolves to mush.
Still at least we didn’t get horribly lost and have to walk several extra kilometres in the rain. Oh wait – this isn’t where I thought we were….
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Not too many of them were repeatable in polite company!
We arrived back at Foxlease looking like two drowned rats. I’m sure they were delighted to welcome our sodden carcasses into their gorgeous Gorgian residence! What an amazing place though, and what a cheering time we had there talking about the walk and what they are able to offer us by way of hospitality. It was impressive in so many ways, although I think most of us got fixated on devising the ultimate cheese board!
Foxlease can give us a field to camp in, and/or beds in one of their beautiful buildings. They have a wide range of catering options – and I think we have come up with a couple of great ideas. And they can also provide all sorts of activities from zipwires to kayaking to guided walks (too much of a good thing perhaps?!)
I am wondering whether we might give ourselves a day off during Walk2012 – what do you think? Foxlease would be a perfect location for a day of R&R with the New Forest literally on the doorstep, the beach just down the road, the Reptile Centre, or just a day relaxing in this spectacular estate. On the other hand, perhaps you would rather crack on with the walk? I seesaw between the two options at the moment and would love to hear your opinion.