Friday, 29 September 2017

South West holiday - The Forest

Sunday today, and it has been raining quietly but insistently all day.  Had a slow breakfast and chat with Grandad, who was doing Bible study before the morning church service.  He was full of rejoicing over the subject, as he usually is.  I was mainly full of tea and chocolate croissants.

Around 9.30, slightly later than planned, I headed off to Lyndhurst.  It seemed sensible to try that far side of the New Forest today, partly in case the rain was less there (it wasn't) and also to see if the visitor centre was open (it was).

I picked up some leaflets and walking maps, and had a look round the museum, which tracks the life of centuries of Forest dwellers.  The best bit for me was the Lyndhurst Embroidery, which is a beautiful long strip in two parts, chronicling all four seasons and the major events and characters in the area's history.  It's a meticulous and wonderful piece of folk art.  Over the road there was a craft show going on, so I stopped in there too.  Was tempted by some books but ultimately left with a jar of blackberry jam, which the maker let me sample.

Rain still raining, so I decided to get on and do some walking and just be wet.  I headed out the East side of the village and up past Bolton's Bench onto White Moor.  Immediately met a small herd of ponies, some with foals, coming across the road.

A sharp right turn and I was on the circular walk which orbits Lyndhurst, taking you through Pondhead Inclosure, Clayhill and Gritnam Wood.  This stretch had some lovely wooded walking with breaks of heathland, and I saw a hind in one of the Norman Oak plantations.  We stared at each other for a while before then she trotted away.  I'm quite fascinated with the heather, as I've never seen it in flower over such a large area before.  Individually the flowers seem like nothing, but as a mass they create this purple haze that looks almost neon, even on such a grey day.

The rain carried on, I got wetter, and had left it far too long to put on my waterproof trousers so I continued without.  Annoyingly my coat, which I've had for over seven years, has started to give in to a lot of hard wear.  After a point it will soak up water rather than run it off.  I think I need a new one!  After two hours of nice but soggy trudging I called it a day near the Oak Inn at Bank and headed back into Lyndhurst.  My leaflet map had turned almost into a fabric and was beginning to adhere to itself!
I'd eaten my homemade sandwiches, but stopped in at local teahouse TeaTotal to dry off a bit and have a cup of tea and a jam & cream scone.  The tea was called Ooh La La and it was probably one of the nicest teas I've ever had (no doubt helped by the fact that in my drowned rat state I would have found anything hot delightful).  Even the scone was warm.  Simple pleasures!
Soggy but happy at Bratley View

I have a map of all the Forestry Commission car parks in the New Forest, and decided to visit some of them.  This turned out to be a great idea, as off the picturesque A35 (much nicer than the A31) are lots of side roads and places to stop.  I went up Bolderwood Ornamental Drive, which the Queen once took a trip up, and got to Bratley View.  Even in the drizzle this is a lovely spot, high and quiet, and I went for a wander.
It occurred to me that in my need to be productive and Do Walking I'd forgotten to stop and just enjoy being.  This may be a little easier in Dartmoor where I'll have more time.  For now, I stood still and took in the blankets of fluorescent purple heather.

Back to Poole for tea, and had a nice long chat with Grandma, who was telling me mainly about the life of their church and it's doings.  She's quite old now, and getting frailer, so she doesn't do much travelling these days and I haven't had the chance to spend this much time with either of them in quite a while.  Their faith is so straightforward and trusting it seems almost unreasonable to me, and yet I kind of envy them for it, for their confidence in how things are. I wonder if this is something you preserve from when you are young, or something you discover anew when you are old.

The one thing about taking yourself on holiday is that you take yourself with you, and all your emotions.  I couldn't always respond to my grandparents declarations of optimism with the same enthusiasm they had, but we spent a nice evening together in the heated living room; eating dinner, drying out my gear, discussing opera and classical music and dogs, playing about with the ukulele (which Grandad has never seen, although his brother makes them in Canada).  After quite an active day I'm in bed by 11am - very early for me!

A day's parking: £4
Walking map: £2
Museum donation: £5
Jam: £2.60
Tea and scone: £5
Bed + Board: An evening of pleasant conversation

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