Sunday, 17 August 2014

Day Trips 1 - The New Forest

This summer for various reasons we haven't booked a holiday away from home. This is unusual for us, and it was in some ways fortunate because it has been an unexpectedly busy summer. I have a job which means I am at home for the school holidays anyway, so for my husband's fortnight off work we decided to have a series of day trips. This has suited us as a family, since two of our young 'uns are now adults with busy lives. So in no particular order I've decided to post about where we've been to capture some of the lovely memories we've had.
Yesterday we headed off to the New Forest which for me has many happy memories as it's very close to where I grew up. My parents took my brother and me there for walks on Sunday afternoons when we were children, and we had picnics there too. The landscape varies between heathland and forest, and at this time of year when the heather is in flower and the trees are green it's very lovely.

The New Forest isn't actually that new. William the Conqueror had it designated a royal hunting park in 1079, and most of it is still owned by the crown. It's a National Park nowadays, but its inhabitants, or commoners, still have ancient rights to graze their animals, cut turf and peat and put their pigs out in the autumn to eat the fallen acorns. These commoner's rights all have wonderful medieval names like pannage, vert, mast, estovers, turbary and marl. The trees are mainly deciduous with some conifer plantations dotted around.

Care must be taken when driving through as there are often free-roaming ponies at the side of the road, and deer sometimes cross as well.

We decided to stop for a picnic at the sweet-sounding Bramble Hill Walk,

and quickly found a pretty spot to spread out our rug.

The heather all around us made a lovely soft purply-pink haze.

I love to look at it closely. There's bell heather as well as ling with the smaller flowers.

I found a tree with tiny apples on it, crab apples I think.

The gorse bushes are wonderfully twisty and prickly.

So weathered and worn.

I love to look at tree trunks and bark too, and there are some deciduous trees which give the New Forest its unique identity. Holly grows everywhere, and has a fairly smooth bark.

Already its berries have a tinge of red about them.

Oak bark is full of fissures and cracks.

It's a haven for tiny creatures and insects.

This one's growing into a fabulous twisted shape.

On the ground are some beautiful plants, like this gorgeous scabious, my favourite shade of purply blue.

Some of the bracken is just beginning to change colour, a taste of the wonderful colours to come in the autumn.

There are still lots of baby ferns just pushing their way up through the grass. I love how they unfurl into such beautiful shapes.

This lichen is a fabulous acid green carpet of tiny stars.

The New Forest is home to an amazing array of wildlife, and I was reminded of that when I spotted this delicate feather lying in the grass.

And on the subject of wildlife my son and daughter spotted this absolutely enormous caterpillar. As long and thick as an adult's finger, I don't mind admitting that it was a little terrifying, but pretty amazing, nevertheless. I'm still trying to find out what kind of moth/butterfly it will become.

This brings me to the human inhabitants of the forest. It's full of the most gorgeous thatched cottages, and I always suffer from a bad case of cottage-envy when we visit. Just look ...

Swoon! So very pretty

Think we'll pop back there in a couple of months to enjoy the wonderful autumnal colours.

***Edited to add: my son has identified the caterpillar as a Goat Moth caterpillar - mystery solved! ***


  1. Years ago when I first arrived in the UK, I was taken to the New Forest. It was a lovely place to visit and I have fond memories of my time there. We stayed in a lovely house for a weekend, wish I could remember where, and remember watching deer and ponies wander around the garden as dusk turned to night - magical.

    1. That sounds like a very special visit :) It is a unique place with a definite character all of its own, isn't it? Think we'll try to get back for the autumn colours x


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