we parked at the Picket Post site as there was lots of purple heather around there - and my friend knew her way around that spot - but next time we should follow the maps and guidebooks and go further afield! Such as to recommended walks at Bolderwood to see the 300 year old Knightwood Oak.
There are plenty of marked walking tracks and also you will see the locals out riding their horses or walking their dogs - enjoying their nature in their back yards!!
The forest is managed by 10 verderers who meet 6 times a year at the Verderers court at Lyndhurst and appoint 4 Agisters who are responsible for managing the up to 5000 wild ponies and cattle that roam freely around the New Forest - annually these animals are rounded up by the Agisters.
Beautiful colours can be seen around the great outdoors! - especially when the heather is in bloom. Seen and most well known around Scotland heather grows in the New Forest mainly around the moors area. Along with the purple of heather in bloom are the green ferns and browning bracken and an assortment of wildflower colours.
With mist over the trees in the background it all makes an interesting array of colours and atmosphere.
There are tracks all over for walkers and horse riders. Car parks at various access points around the New Forest.
The New Forest covers 145 square miles of forest, woodland, villages and farmland - the largest area of unenclosed land in southern Britain and one of the few primeval oak woods in England.
Its a pretty area to drive, cycle, walk and horseride around - especially when the Heather is in bloom with its pretty purple flowers!
With 145 square miles of unenclosed land theres plenty of pretty area with walking tracks to head off and enjoy the great outdoors!
There are many designated car parking areas and walking tracks around the New Forest providing for 7 million visitors each year.
During the summer months, in 2013 from 29 June to 15 September, it would be great to tour around the New Forest in an open topped bus!
There are 3 routes to take in a wide range of what is on offer in this large area encompassing King Williams old hunting grounds, free roaming ponies and donkeys, large market towns and small villages, old parish churches where you can find notables buried such as Arthur Conan Doyle, and seaside quays and maritime villages.
As the website points out there are 3 passes you can buy - 1 day, 2 day and 5 day.....
a great way to take in a very quaint and interesting part of England.
The more we investigate here the more impressed Ive been with the area
A regular stop for the National Express coaches between London and Bournemouth I had only seen Ringwood as a bus stop with a large carpark - this time after driving to see the heather in bloom in the New Forest we drove into the town centre of Ringwood and what a lovely little centre with cute little shops, a large thatched pub restaurant, norman church, an old stone bridge and Georgian houses.
The website for the area www.thenewforest.co.uk is an excellent source of info for the area which highlights towns and villages and sites of historic interest to visit - much of which even my friend I visit in Bournemouth who has lived there for several years did not know about - including a hop on hop off tour bus with 3 itineraries between June and September.
Cycling does not get better than this! We've chosen to cycle from Brockenhurst to Beaulieu, return via Bucklar's Hard. This route takes you through woodland to Hatchet Pond and back on open heathland with views of the Isle of Wight.
Cycling through New Forest, you will see horses, cows, donkeys and deers! I was on a look out throughout my 23mile route!! Of course, you are not allowed to feed these lovely creatures and you should do as much as you could NOT to disturb them.
Apart from being so close to wildlife, you will be cycling through one of the most treasured National Park in the UK, all routes are extremely scenic and relatively flat. (Remember to research on your route or get the cycling hire shop to recommend one :)
It took us about 5/6 hrs to complete the route at a leisurely pace including the enjoyment of a serving of the lovely cream teas in Beaulieu Village.
We've hired 2 bikes from Country Lanes, who are friendly and very helpful. Hire costs include hire of bike, helmet, bike route and type/pumps!
A walk in the New Forest had long been on my wishlist, so when we had the opportunity to go there I started preparing for it:
I bought a dvd about the New Forest from the very helpful staff in the Lyndhurst tourist office, a book about walks there , a compass and on the morning of our walk the latest Ordnance Survey map of the area. That should be enough, I thought, we'd be well prepared.
We had carefully picked one of the walks described in the book and drove to the carpark from which it started.When we followed the instructions in the book we quickly realized we were wrong. We later learned it was the wrong carpark. In the book they had names, in reality they didn't, so we had to guess from the distance on the map.We had guessed wrong and had missed it by about 500 meters.So we gave up on our chosen walk and followed a path away from the road down into the valley.It was beautiful.
The New Forest near Fordingbridge is a mixture of open heathland, some muggy, boggy areas, some creeks and some parts in the wood. Soon after we started we saw the first ponies. I thought they 'd run off when we walked up to them, but they didn't. They were grazing right and left of the walking path. Even the mothers with new-born foals didn't act nervously when we passed them, they simply moved one or two meters away from the path.
Some places in the woods looked like an enchanted forest, we saw wild orchids and cotton grass, beautiful, large dragonflies -I think you can tell that I liked this walk very much.
But we weren't sure where exactly we were. We kept ckecking the map, we counted the turns we made and compared them with the ones on the map, we checked the compass to make sure we'd be going in the right direction and still we only had a vague idea of where we were.Just as we were debating if we should turn around and walk back the way we had come we met a group of hikers. They were very friendly and invited us to walk with them, so they could show us where to turn to get to our car.They also told us it's quite a common occurrence to get lost in the New Forest, even with map and compass. The map shows all the public paths, but there are some private ones in between . So when we thought we'd have to take the fifth path in south-western direction it could have been the eighth path in reality, since there were three private paths in between. And there are no signs whatsoever.
But what can I say: Getting lost in the New Forest is a great experience!
This centre is the seat of the tourist information, there is a very nice shop and there is the New Forest Museum.
The staff of the tourist information had helped me before we arrived there. I needed information brochures, books and a dvd, and they advised me.
The shop is one of these shops where I could easily spend hundreds of pounds. Apart from the usual souvenirs they offer high quality souvenirs like beautiful earthenware, very informative books and very nice jewelry.
The museum is a hand-on museum where you can learn much about the New Forest, its wildlife and its fascinating history. Who owns the ponies and who takes care of them is determined by a very old system unique in England.
The first time we saw the Ponies down here, made us laugh our heads off; there was a beautiful orange/red Pony sauntering down the right hand side of the road and there were two cars following behind him. The Pony just gaily walked slap bang in the middle of the road as the two cars had to dawdle along; one was a newish car and the other was a metallic pale blue Rolls Royce. The Pony didn't have a care in the world and was totally unaware of the impatient people behind his tail. I couldn't very well photograph the Pony as we were coming up on the left side and would have blinded the car drivers opposite, but the memory of this will always make me smile.
As the New Forest stretches all the way down to the sea, you can combine your visit with some swimming at one of the beaches. Most of the villages next to the sea seem to have at least a small strip of beach, although most of them are pebble or gravel beaches. We visited three beaches: Key Haven, Milford on Sea and Lepe.
1. Key Haven: This is a picturesque beach with pebbles of all sizes and colours. While not really convenient to walk on, it is very popular with fishermen who try to make a big catch here. It's also a nice place for a picknick on the beach - we saw several people having a barbecue there. A kilometer or so away on a spit is Hurst Castle, built in 1544 to defend the shore against enemies coming from the sea.
2. Milford on Sea: Milford is a popular tourism destination and can get quite full in summertime. We visited its beach for the sunset and really enjoyed the spectacular view. There is a parking lot just next to the beach where you can stop and get a good view on the groynes, the beach cottages and of course the Isle of Wight in the distance. Bear in mind, however, that the parking lot officially wants you to pay and display until 10pm! I doubt that any police officer would come and check at that time, but you never know...
3. Lepe: Lepe is a very small place hidden at the end of a side-road branching off of B3054. Nonetheless, it is apparently very popular with the locals - there were hundreds of people there when we visited. Lepe has got a relatively long strip of beach, mostly gravel beach. There is even a little restaurant, but beware: It's got the worst food you can imagine! (see my warnings tip) We enjoyed Lepe's beach very much because it is really picturesque.
Ashley Walk is a superb area for walking, with rolling hills, streams and if you're quiet, herds of deer. Most people do not realise just what they are walking through!
In the second world war, Ashley Walk was a major bombing range covering some 5,000 acres. Many top secret tests were performed here, including the dropping of a 'Grand Slam' earthquake bomb from a Lancaster bomber - this was the largest explosion ever to occur in the UK. Sir Barnes Wallis spent a lot of time at Ashley Walk.
Bouncing bombs were trialed here - both 'Upkeep' dropped by the Dambusters and 'highball' dropped from Mosquitos.
One of the Dambusters (Serial number ED765/G - the 'G' designating it top secret) crashed here, but luckily all the crew escaped unharmed.
There is still a lot of evidence of Range activities, though in some places it's easy to miss;
The base of a metal ship target.
Concrete submarine pens(!) - part buried but you can see this quite clearly.
Over 400 bomb craters. There are a couple of 'Tallboy' craters that are very obvious. One is full of water and makes a circular pond.
Many chalk targets still exist as huge crosses and circles. There is a 'Linear target' that is a straight line for a considerable distance.
The largest target is approx 1 mile across looking like a massive dartboard, and is easiest to view on google earth.
The sole remaining building is an observation shelter which overlooks the fragmentation bombing area, though it now stands somewhat forlornly alone.
I would recommend getting a copy of 'Ashely Walk - It's Bombing Range Landscape and History' by Anthony Pasmore & Norman Parker ISBN 0952388855, available from Lyndhurst Visitor Centre.
The ideal way of getting around the New Forest is by bike. There is over 100 miles of off- and on-road cycle routes connecting just about everywhere. Because the terrain is relatively level this makes cycling a pleasure and there's almost always a pub at the end of any journey.
South West Trains are very "bike-friendly" with ample racks on most services and so it is easy enough to bring your own. But if you do need to hire there are sevral hire places dotted around, including one behind Brockenhurst Railway Station.
One small warning though - off-road cycling is only allowed on the waymarked paths. There are fines of up to £500 for using foot-only paths.
For what is effectively still a small village Brockenhurst manages to cram a plethora of shops, services and other useful things clustered around its main drag of Brookley Road.
Here you'll find pretty much everything you need - banks with ATM's, a Post Office, convenience stores, gift shops, newsagents, a bookshop, a couple of bike hire places, a couple of garages, a chemist, hairdressers...
Then for sustenance there's several restaurants and cafes, a trio of fast food takeaways: an Indian, a Chinese and a Fish 'n Chip shop and a quintet of pubs (two of which slightly out of the village).
For accommodation the village offers no less than 18 establishments ranging from family B&B's to the stately manor of the 4-star Rhinefield House Hotel.
Not only that but there's regular train services to and from London, via Southampton, and onwards to Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth. There's the local train to Lymington, and for the Isle of Wight ferry. From the train station local buses run to Southampton and Lymington and there are National Express service to Heathrow and Gatwick. So as well as being the shopping and services centre for the area it is also the public transport hub.
All this and you even quite often have the New Forest Ponies wandering the streets.