New Forest ramble

We came back from New Forest on Tuesday afternoon totally revitalised. Traffic, roadworks and ensuing chaos of daily London life felt weird and alien. So did the crowds later on Tuesday evening in Soho. Over the past couple of years I’ve really come to appreciate the positive effect that a good long walk – or a few days walking, preferably in the middle of nowhere, has on me. We walked just over 40 miles (around 65km) in two whole and two half days. On our last morning, we had a leisurely stroll from Brockenurst towards Lyndhurst and then back, around 6.5 miles. The weather wasn’t really sure what it was doing but it stayed dry so we could pause every now and then and admire the wealth of colour everywhere despite this still being the ‘bleak’ time of the year.

New Forest last day

 

The leisurely pace allowed us to ponder existence of bigger beasts in the forest although we couldn’t decide whether saskwatch or a T-rex could have left these marks

New forest last day pondering on existence of saskwatch

 

And we also got close and personal with yet more moss. Can’t help myself, it is too lovely…

New Forest last day mossy tree stump

 

We got better at finding our way around, recognising paths and wading through the mud. Did not see a soul until right at the end, a man walking a dog in the distance. While it felt great to be the only people about, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad that there weren’t more people about appreciating this. It is a shame that a ‘season’ lasts only for a few weeks in summer. There are people staying at hotels but perhaps they spend more time at the numerous spas rather than being out and about.

At the end of the walk, I took a parting shot from Balmer Lawn

New Forest last day Balmer Lawn

 

And another of Lymington River, which now seemed much reduced after last week’s rain.

New Forest last day lymington river reduced

 

I’d spent the best part of last week checking the BBC weather page and worried that the weather would be too bad to really enjoy our little break. Shouldn’t have worried, we had a great time even on the wettest day when the rain was really bad. Would we go back? Yes, I think probably in late spring or summer. I’d particularly like to go back to Lymington saltmarshes and do that whole walk because the little bit that we did was great fun. And then there are other bits of New Forest that we didn’t do at all. The great thing is that this is only an hour and a half from Waterloo, easily doable in a day.

Now if only spring would arrive properly…

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New Forest, Brockenhurst to White Moor

Yesterday’s walk turned out to be nearly 14 miles and that is way past Beloved’s threshold of acceptable walk length. We were walking in a different part of the forest to Sunday, heading towards Limewood in a roundabout sort of way, for late lunch. The weather didn’t look too promising but ended up being fairly dry with just an odd little shower and quite a sunny late afternoon again. The really marvellous thing about yesterday was being able to pause to take photos without the fear of camera getting wet. The beginning of the walk, at Balmerlawn looked pretty good with all sorts of colours and good reflections caused by so much rain.

new forest balmer lawn

 

We weren’t in a rush and once it became evident (or rather hopeful, really) that there weren’t going to be downpours like on Sunday, we’d go off the bridleway and into the woods taking lots of photos of things like moss. I get rather excited by moss, it’s the lovely greens and the sponginess of it.

new forest moss

 

And, later on funny trees and streams. It’s rather lovely when there is no one about and you pretty much have this whole massive forest to yourself. We did see a few people pass by here and there but probably less than 10 in total.

new forest stream

 

We’d walked about five or so miles to this point and as we had plenty of time before lunch, we walked up towards White Moor. I was pretty ignorant of the fact that there is quite a bit of moorland around here, I just expected forest really. So all this moorland has come as a great and pleasant surprise as I love a rugged landscape. We are not here at the best time of the year for heather but its purple tones can be seen just in the background of the photo.

new forest white moor

 

Walking through all this heather was also pretty good for cleaning our muddy boots but in the end that was a bit pointless. At this moment we were really pretty close to Limewood where we were having lunch but of course, I didn’t want to arrive there by road, thought it would have been nicer going through the forest. Only Limewood doesn’t seem to be frequented by people who walk so the only path leading to it (considering that it is situated right in the middle of forest) from the forest goes to the back of kitchens/ spa. We found it after much head scratching. And yes, the food was good but something was lacking from this experience. The porter had no idea about gates and exits from the grounds and one of the waitresses was pretty speechless when we said we’d walk back to Brockenhurst too. That walk back took no time, we marched it as I was afraid that we’d be stuck in the forest in the dark. Also, weirdly, OS map seems to be out of date slightly or maybe it’s just that we’re here out of season and some paths have overgrown but there was much further head scratching by me when we suddenly came out on Standing Hat, by Balmerlawn and I had us way, way back in the forest. Walk back was pretty good, late afternoon sun beautifully colouring the forest, had I known how close we were to Brockenhurst, would have stopped for more photos but never mind. Finishing with a photo of burnt bracken (it is not bracken but not sure what it was) up on the moor. Good contrast to forest which was teeming with life even at such ‘out of season’ time of year.

new forest burnt bits on white moor

New Forest: Brockenhurst to Beaulieu

Yesterday’s New Forest walk – 9 or so miles through the forest from Brockenhurst to Beaulieu. We set off at 10am and it was very wet but the ground was flat and we walked along the bridleway path so we didn’t get too muddy. It was too wet to get the camera out for most of the walk, which was a shame as the scenery was fabulous everywhere you looked.

This photo, which I took with my phone, shows flooding just on the outskirts of the forest. This was by Lymington River, which we walked a few miles downriver on Saturday.

floods on way to beaulieu

 

I used a tiny break in the downpour to take the camera out just for a few minutes. This is one of only few photos of the actual forest I took.

new forest trees

 

We are heading back to the forest after breakfast today so hopefully, I’ll be able to take some more photos.

Once in Beaulieu, we stopped for coffee and cake, my rucksack leaving a nice little pond on the floor. We then went off to have a look at National Motor Museum and ruins of Beaulieu Abbey – not that I care about cars particularly but the museum was actually pretty good, especially the older cars. And our jackets slowly dried off. Once outside it actually stopped raining for the afternoon. There was even some blue sky as we walked around the ruins of the abbey.

beaulieu abbey

 

And, as we headed back to Beaulieu, it was positively sunny!

beaulieu river

 

A bench may just about be visible in the gap between the trees, what a lovely spot. By this point, we’d walked about 10.5 miles so Buckler’s Hard and Nelson’s shipyard was unfortunately a bit too much. Instead, we stopped for a pint prior to dinner. Dinner was a few miles away at The Pig, who kindly booked taxis to pick us up and drop us off. Rather annoyingly, as the cab picked us up and we were driving back towards The Pig and Brockenhurst, the weather looked absolutely glorious. I caught the last rays of sunshine on this big oak tree outside The Pig

tree by the pig

 

 

London Loop, West Wickham to Riddlesdown

A really lovely, if somewhat muddy walk today, 10.5 miles of London Loop from West Wickham to Riddlesdown. Once you leave West Wickham, this walk is mostly woodland, which was rather marvellous and now, back home, I feel happy. A little tired too, today’s was the longest walk we’ve done so far this year. We walked through Threehalfpenny Wood, Addington Hill, Bramley Bank, Littleheath Woods and Selsdon Wood, then along some fields and meadows (super muddy) and across Riddlesdown to the station and train back. Very peaceful, we hardly saw anyone other than a few dog walkers here and there. Birds singing and first signs of spring everywhere. Very uplifting! I mostly took photos of trees so here are a few:

Pine tree loop walk

 

tree on loop walk

 

snowdrops

 

fungus on tree loop

 

tree selsdon wood Got completely overexcited by snowdrops, so glad we didn’t miss them and that it is almost spring. The weather wasn’t sunny but definitely milder. Be lovely to come back to these woods in a couple of months, this was by far the most enjoyable walk of London Loop yet.

London Loop, Orpington to Hayes

Glorious day for walking, I had plans to continue along the London Loop where we left it last Saturday, Beloved wasn’t quite so enamoured of going back to Bexley as it wasn’t very nice the first time around. Turns out trains were a bit funny around there today anyway so we just moved onto next section of the Loop instead. Off we went to Orpington, setting off quite late and then struggling to find the right path through Darrick Wood towards Farnborough Common. Once we got to the top of the common, however, it was rather lovely:Farnborough common topLondon Loop loops around the Common and this walk was just so much nicer than last week’s. Polar opposites pretty much. Everywhere was muddy, which slowed us down quite a bit but we still enjoyed the walk immensely. It was a bit ‘Hello birds! Hello sky!’ at times, I got very excited by the clouds.

sky on farnborough commonWhat can I say, I love a bit of winter sunshine. Especially good for one’s soul after being cooped up at work all week. While walking through various bits of woodland, I kept noticing first little signs of spring too, would be good to come back here when it’s all green and lush.

farnborough common w horses A little while after I took this photo we walked past a little William Wilberforce memorial, a stone bench where he sat with Pitt (methinks this was the Younger Pitt) and said he wanted to abolish slavery. We continued up across Keston Common towards Keston, passing some pretty little lakes in the last bit of sunshine.

lake at keston commonWalking in so much mud was quite tiring, I originally planned a nearly 11 mile walk but realised that would be best left for dry paths. We stopped for a pint of ale at a pub in Keston, friendly and seemed very popular with locals. Much refreshed, we continued on to Hayes station and got a train back. We ended up doing just over 7 miles. Signing off with a photo of a cute cottage with a clock tower, somewhere on High Elms Road.

Clock tower house

London Loop part 1, Erith to Bexley

Over the past couple of years we’ve walked most of the Capital Ring and Lee Valley walks so have been thinking about starting a new long walk – the London Loop, which we did earlier today. We started in Erith and did a 8.5/9 mile stretch to Bexley. We usually start longer walks at the section nearest to home but with London Loop being quite far off from home and Erith actually being pretty easily accessible, we thought we may as well start at the beginning. A short walk from the station to Thames Path and it all looked quite promising:Thames looking in at ErithThe sky was blue, it was sunny, looked like a good day ahead. It’s pretty incredible to think that I only took photos of Hackney Marsh in the snow last Sunday and now it’s completely gone. View to the other side was not too bad either: Thames looking out at ErithAnd then it all got a bit too industrial. And stayed industrial. We had the Thames to our left and a huge industrial ‘park’ to our right. This went on for well over a mile – you basically loop around the industrial ‘park’ and what looked like a huge junkyard. We pretty much marched through this bit, passing no one. Eventually, we turned to follow River Darent through Crayford Marshes and finally, no industry. A little later on, we followed the path along River Cray and the views got better:Cray riverBut not for long, this photo was taken looking back, looking ahead you could see a busy road up ahead and soon enough we had this lovely prospect in front of us:Rubbish heap london loop p1I thought all the birds on the roof looked quite funny. This was the last photo I took today, we still had a while to walk to get to Bexley station but to be honest, we didn’t come across anything interesting enough for a photo. Perhaps I am being a bit harsh but this was probably the least interesting walk we’ve done in or around London. There was an interesting looking old house, Hall Place just outside Bexley with big gardens and grounds and this seemed to be quite popular with visitors, otherwise we saw a couple of cyclists, a couple walking ahead of us at one point and pretty much no one else. We still had a good day out, it was sunny for the most part and we got a bit of exercise but this is not a walk I’d want to return to. Perhaps it’s just the time of the year, might look nicer in the spring.

 

Knole Park and surrounding area

A lovely first walk of the new year yesterday, to Knole Park and surrounding woodland. As we haven’t done a long walk in almost two months, thought we should ease ourselves back into it with 8 miles over fairly flat ground. The house and park are only a mile or so walk from Sevenoaks station so pretty easy to get to. Knole big treeA big tree near the house. The weather stayed dry but cloudy so photos are a bit dark. The house is closed out of season and I only took a photo of it from distance:Knole houseTo be honest, I wasn’t really that interested in looking at the house, I just loved the setting and the approach to it, especially at this time of the year when it all looks a bit bleak. Now owned by the National Trust, it is apparently the biggest house in England with 365 rooms. According to the National Trust website, it has some great tapestries, should have just knocked on the door and said ‘We’ve come to see the tapestries’ in my best Harrison-Ford-does-bad-Scottish-accent. We walked down the length of the deer park, spotted some deer, too far away for a decent photo. Beloved kept complaining that there simply weren’t enough deer in the deer park but we did spot a few more in the distance later on. We walked back up towards the house via Chestnut Walk, which had lots and lots of fabulously gnarly chestnut trees: Knole gnarly treeThis side of the park was much more visually interesting and I can imagine it being lovely in early summer. We then continued towards One Tree Hill and up towards Godden Green to Bucks Head pub for a pint, at least we thought that’s what we were doing that but took a wrong path somewhere along the way and ended up in an entirely different bit of woodland. A bit silly really as I worked out our route and printed a map but never really thought to check the compass to make sure we were going in the right direction. There were quite a few marked paths on my map, most of which weren’t really marked on the ground and some seemed to have been completely closed off by local farmers too. Pub being our main goal, we decided to get out of the woodland and follow the road instead and were rewarded a few minutes later by a good pint of Kentish ale, the name of which I immediately forgot. We headed back via Godden Wood and Knole golf club, which was rather wonderfully rugged (more deer spots here), then back to Sevenoaks station and train home.

Another photo taken from Chestnut Walk earlier in the day:Knole deer parkPaths through Knole Park were mostly mud-free and there were quite a few walkers about, mainly families and kids with scooters. The nearby Fawke Common and Godden Wood were completely empty though, probably because all the paths were very muddy – our new walking boots coped wonderfully. Very excited about these although they’re in a complete state now and will take ages to clean…