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Walking the New Forest – part two

We will continue our walk where we left off at the end of part one of “Walking the New Forest”.

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We left the old Oak behind crossed a clearing and followed a pathway through Beech trees as we aimed for an old wooden gate.

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The gateway afforded us views of an open area with few trees and most of those were now of Birch, our native Betula pendula.

Ferns within the wooded area tended to be the Hard Fern variety but once out in the more open and much drier heathland the main ferns were our common Bracken. The Bracken was showing signs of changing into its autumn coat but the Hard Fern is an evergreen and keeps its leathery deep green coloured fronds.

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We took an indistinct path which led us diagonally towards a little wooden bridge which enabled us to cross a ditch. As we crossed wet muddy patches we found signs of life, bicycle tracks left by previous human visitors and prints of deer

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Crossing the footbridge we aimed for a distant stand of brightly coloured Silver Birches.

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Leaving the heathland behind we crossed over a gravel track that led to a forestry worker’s house and entered a new inclosure of forest. The trees here started off as a selection of mixed deciduous native trees, but before too long conifers crept in. Slowly these dark pines took over completely and we found ourselves walking in dark woodland. Little grew beneath these trees as they blocked out the sunlight. The fresh smell of our native broadleaves was replaced by a resinous aroma reminiscent of pine household cleaners. Less inviting a smell than the warming and welcome scents of our native broadleaves.

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The path we were following suddenly met a crossroads where a clearing allowed more light through to reach us and the forest floor. Foxgloves appeared both as first year rosettes of leaves preparing to flower next year and as seed heads, the remains of this years flowers and the promise of more Foxgloves to come.

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We looked up from the bench where we sat enjoying our coffee break and noticed the bright leaves of Sweet Chestnuts and beneath them we discovered their nuts, nut cases and fallen leaves. We were entertained by the loud noise of rutting stags roaring through trees and the gentler sounds of the diminutive Goldcrests high in the branches of the conifers.

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The final leg of our walk took us along forestry tracks through the conifers and then back into the brighter world of native deciduous trees.

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Just before finding the car park we passed alongside a line of huge conifers blown down in strong winds, a line of destruction.

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We really enjoyed our first experience of the world of the New Forest. We had plenty more planned for our break.

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Walking in the New Forest – part one

We decided we would take an Autumn break so went down to the New Forest for a short mid-week break. We loaded the car with coats, waterproofs and warm clothes thinking we were planning for whatever the weather had in store for us. We got it totally wrong for as we went further southward the weather improved and we ended up enjoying warm sunny weather. A real treat!

We have driven through or past the New Forest, Britain’s smallest National Park, several times and vowed we would holiday there some day. So as we arrived we had great expectations and we were not to be disappointed.

The New Forest proved to present the unexpected. Traffic jams and delays were not caused by vehicles but by livestock, cattle, pigs, donkeys and of course the famous New Forest Ponies. So here are a few shots of the many critters we encountered as we drove around the forest.

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Our first day excursion was to a Forestry Commission area of woods and heathland with way-marked walks winding through it.

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We set off firstly in search of the Knightwood Oak the oldest oak in the New Forest which reached maturity during the reign of Henry VIII. We followed the posts marking the way, rather beautiful way markers carved in wood.

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Among the hundreds of oak trees here we passed two other significant oaks on the way, celebrating important moments in the forest’s history. Firstly the Queen’s Oak was planted by Queen Elizabeth II to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the founding of the forest by William I in 1079. Secondly the Deputy Surveyor’s Oak planted to mark the contribution of a former Deputy Surveyor of the forest, Donn Small. The second oak was planted as a sapling from the Knightwood Oak itself. The ancient oak itself was surrounded by a chestnut paling fence to keep the public away from falling branches and to prevent the public from getting too close to the tree.

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Although this was a forest of mature trees there were signs of regeneration throughout, little saplings of all the main species of trees, so its future looks secure.

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At the other end of the age scale we were pleased to see that dead and dying trees were being left for the benefit of wildlife, insects, birds and of course the many fungi that live in woodlands breaking down and decomposing dead wood.

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In my next post about the New Forest we will continue walking this walk deeper into the woodland and across heathland until we found our way back to the car park.