Looking along a long straight road amidst lush green farmland

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Exploring The New Forest

Ride Date 12 May 2022

By Ren Withnell

I can tell I've been on the road a fair few days now. Why? Because while sleep is still not that deep soft slumber of a proper bed and solid walls, sleep is forthcoming at least. I'm also settled into the routine of getting the stove lit, washing up noisy pans in random sinks and almost everything I require being at least 2 minutes walk away. Tell you what though, all these short walks soon add up, I'll be as fit as a fiddle by the time I'm done. 

The green tunnel tent that Sharon and Ren have been using this last week
"Home Sweet Home"

The air is cool, almost cold as the sun is making it's appearance from behind the trees slowly but surely. I hang everything up once more to encourage dryness as Madam stirs from the depths of her sleeping bag. I poke a cup of tea at her - I fear she may be changing though. Regular readers will recall the fear and trepidation on previous trips of waking the sleeping monster? Nowadays it is still unwise to be too abrupt but it is possible, with some care, to rouse her and not fear for one's life. 

Right, what's the plan? Sharon's on the back of my bike again - OK. Otherwise apparently apart from some old tree thing I am in charge, it's up to me and Sharon will be playing Lady Muck, inspecting the area while luxuriating on the back seat. That worries me. Why? Because if I'm in charge and I go to all the wrong places then it's my fault isn't it. Dagnammit!

New Milton has a Tesco and with it... erm... how do I put this? Let's say - fuel at a price less than more expensive places? This trip's fuel bill is going to hurt. 

Barton on Sea has a parking space on a steep bluff overlooking the shoreline. I park the bike as a chap hanging from a glorified parachute glides skilfully overhead. I calculate the onshore breeze whips up the bluff providing sufficient lift to keep him up there seemingly indefinitely. We watch a while as he swishes east then west, up then down. 

A man hangs for his large paraglider over the bluffs. Blue skies and the sea
Impressive. I know I'd just end up faceplanted in the grass.

We head inland with only the merest of direction towards Lyndhurst. Without the rain we can see vast swathes of the hard open moor we almost saw yesterday. Stiff spikey grasses, short spikey bushes and gorse (or broom, I dunno). The flatness, the gravelly road edges and the harsh foliage reminds me of De Hoge Veluwe in the Netherlands. I spy a couple of the wild horses and a place to park so I pull in.

The horses seem entirely unperturbed by our approach. They are both unkempt, stout and scruffy compared to most horses that are preened, polished and brushed at great cost. One looks forlorn with flies all around, I'm reminded of Eeyore. The other looks in better condition, almost glamourous while still keeping an air of "I'll kick yo ass if you mess with me". I ponder how well they fare without the regular human input most horses receive. Modern horses have had their natural survival features bred out of them over their time spent with humans.

2 stout horses, somewhat scruffy and wild looking just standing around
Unpreened and unpolished and entirely unperturbed by the camera.

We bumble into Burley which looks nice, it also has public toilets so my bladder makes an executive decision. Next to the car park is The Burley Stores which sells nice things like sausage rolls and pasties. Not only do I fear the fuel bill I now fear the scales. Sharon assures me holiday calories don't count, science might disagree but stuff it, we're on holiday.

The village is small and quite evidently aimed at the alternative tourist. There's a shop or two for the modern witch should that be your thing, a hippy come festival clothing shop and a couple of peculiar sweet shops. We take a wander and find more horses, roaming and lazing on the verges like they own the place. It is most odd seeing these beasts sauntering around. I strangely like it, they seem at ease with the cars and the people, they seem far freer than the gated and stabled ones I normally see.

Several wild horses eat grass, hang around and lie about by the road in the village as an old lady walks by
Wild and free and totally "not bovvered".

Oh my. Oh WOW! SHARON!! LOOK!! Within the spider web and dust encrusted windows of a once shop are tractors. Old tractors. Oooh oooh a John Deere, that's an old 2 potter. There's 2 grey one, most likely an Grey Fergie and/or perhaps a Fordson. Wow! A mahusive Farmall - I know not which but them's ain't common here in Blighty. I'd love an old tractor I would. I've nowhere to put one but cor! I sure want one.

Several vintage tractors seen through the dusty window of an old shop
OOh! Oooh! ooh! mmmm! Me wanna play.

I sadly leave, lusting after a silly simple diesel motor in a slow and cumbersome vehicle. I picture myself rattling along a quiet narrow road with a caravan in tow and a vast long queue of angry motorists behind me, all travelling at a sedately 15mph tops. I am that guy a guy like loves to hate.

The Knightwood Oak is a grand title for a tree. In fact the tree is important enough to make it onto the maps and have it's own parking area. And what is it famous for? Being old. It is believed to be over 500 years old. Initially that doesn't seem that impressive - until I have a think. This tree was probably a sapling at the end of the War Of The Roses. It was a strong young tree when Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were chopping heads. It smelt the first smoke from the first steam engines and then steam trains. It has witnessed soldiers marching to Waterloo and Nazi bombers flying overhead. I could go on.

We find the parking and a short walk through this part of The New Forest that is indeed - forest - takes us to The Knightwood Oak. It's a tree, make no mistake. If it weren't surrounded by a simple fence and a few information boards you'd be forgiven for not noticing it among all the other trees. It is indeed big and gnarled and not quite the shape you may expect for while it is many moons old it's not untouched by human hands. It was in the past "pollarded", pruned to suit the needs of the day. 

The massive old tree still has leaves and good growth
I wonder if I'll look this good when I'm 500 years old?

We walk a while longer, soaking in the forest, the New Forest this time complete with forest as we modern folks understand the word. After that we pass through Lyndhurst which is a pleasant enough town but we are merely here to purchase supplies. 

Hythe is a curious small town. It feels quiet and comfortable and yet, I dunno, it feels like part of the city, that city being Southampton. As we stroll I ponder with Sharon. There's a foot passenger ferry to Southampton and while the marketing feels "touristy" I wonder if it also puts Hythe into Southampton's commuter belt. I take a moment to admire the small steam train who's entire world runs along a pier. Oh how that little steam engine must dream of such adventures out on the national network!

Eventually we end up in Lymington and I can hear a distinct rumbling. At first I fear a storm is a-brewing only to find I'm right - if Sharon doesn't get some food soon there'll be hell to pay. Chippy? No, that won't do. Kebab? No, I agree sweetie it'd be nice to sit down somewhere. There's a Wetherspoons? While hardly the height of adventure or luxury you know what you're going to get with a Wetherspoons. The Six Bells provides us with entirely predictable satisfactory service and taste at an equally predictable price. Wetherspoons - the pub food version of McDonalds.

After we head down to the Marina just to see. It is as I'd expect it to be. 

A selection of sailing boats and small yachts line the walkways of the marina
Lymington Marina.

We need to make a decision. Today is Thursday, thus and therefore using the application of knowledge and a combined 102 years of experience we conclude tomorrow will be Friday. Genius. We could stay another night here and spend Friday exploring - we consider catching the ferry to The Isle of Wight. That would mean on Saturday we could ride half way home and on Sunday get home. That's easy enough.

But, there's always a but. Sharon starts her new job on Monday. After around 20 years of being a part time librarian 2 years ago she was seconded to various roles to do with the pandemic. These varied from a Covid support line - guiding Merseyside's residents to services and advice, through to the chaos of track-n-trace. In this time she's changed. She's realised she's actually considerably more capable than she's given herself credit for. 

Now, well from next week anyway, Sharon will become a nerd - just like ME! That's not strictly true, she'll be a digital support officer. We are not exactly sure what this will entail - theoretically the idea is to help improve the council's website with a mind to encouraging people to use more of their online services. It's never that simple though, there'll be much to learn.

As such Sharon would like to get home on Saturday so she can ensure she's got plenty of time to get ready then and chill out. I, well I think I've done what I set out to do. We've had a look around The New Forest, admittedly only a basic look but a look none-the-less. The Isle Of Wight can wait, it'll still be there next time. We're going half way home tomorrow.

Advertise here - contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Prologue - It's Not Up North Happenstance and circumstance is the driving force behind this trip's direction. Ren explains it all.
Down To Akeley It's the first day of the southern adventure and already Ren is reclining in sumptuous luxury. So, err... what's changed?
A Look Around F1 Country Ren offers an all too lengthy explanation of his uncouth approach to museums before taking in some quintessentially English countryside.
Stones and More Comfort It's time to depart the rally and head even further daaan saaaf. There's plenty of time for tea and to explore some ancient standing stones. What will the next 3 nights' accommodation be like?
Stonehenge On The Cheap, Salisbury On The Hoof It's time to take in Britain's most famous monolithic structure - Stonehenge. Salisbury is also going to endure a good dose of looking at as well.
A Walk In Dinton There's a simple and lazy day ahead of The Dynamic Muppets today with not much planned. This eventually leads Ren to his new career as a Surrealist Artist Extraordinaire. Soon he will be famous and rich?
Off To The New Forest It's time to move on once again and head even further daaan saaaf. The New Forest might be quite lovely but given the foul weather Sharon and Ren won't be finding out today - in fact they are struggling to see the road ahead.
Exploring The New Forest With better weather and a tank full of fuel it's time to look around the New Forest. There's a risk of trees and horses and tractors.
Half Way Home Oh no! Disaster! The weather is just right, the trip goes well and even the accommodation is lovely. Surely there must be something Ren can find to moan about? It's all going terribly wrong.
Homeward Bound And Thoughts There's not much to report on the final leg of the journey - in a good way. Ren shares his thoughts on this adventure in that there daaan saaaf.

Reader's Comments

ROD¹ said :-
I wish Sharon all the best in her new position.
The isle of wight is definitely worth a visit when you get the time. We went in 1976 on our honeymoon and have visited since, but we have always had good weather which makes everywhere seem nice.
06/07/2022 09:40:26 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Good luck from me too to Sharon. That council is being sensible by using real people to ensure that the website works for ordinary folk. There are so many that are virtually unusable in both public and private sectors.

I had an aunt lived on the IoW and always found it pleasant enough but a bit twee. I'm also not a great fan of islands in general as you're reliant on other people to get you off / on them unless there's a causeway like Noirmoutier or Lindisfarne.
06/07/2022 10:03:57 UTC
Ross said :-
Ooo, a little grey Fergie, I learnt to drive on one of them when I was a kid being dragged up on a farm...happy days!

Congratulations to Sharon on the new job, hope she's settling in to it ok!
06/07/2022 14:27:19 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I do likes a little grey Fergie Ross. I'm just not sure how the neighbours would take to it being parked on my street.
09/07/2022 10:15:30 UTC
Ross said :-
You couldn’t leave a Fergie out on the streets these days, they’re only little and would probably get bullied by SUV’s!
10/07/2022 19:58:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I wouldn't leave one out on the streets around here as it'd likely be "borrowed" and used in a peculiar bank heist as a slow getaway machine.
11/07/2022 15:50:28 UTC

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