This was a short day. My intention was to travel down in the morning and get off the train at Beaulieu Road station. Few trains stop there and so I had to time which train I caught carefully. Things worked out as planned. Getting off the train early afternoon, it was noticeably warm. It took little persuasion for me to change in to shorts. Amazing, March and I was wearing shorts and a tee shirt! There where only a few miles to travel and I was in no rush. As I headed across the heath toward Denny wood, one could not fail to notice how dry and parched the heath-land was. My walking took me around by Woodfidley Passage and then on by Perrywood Hassely Inclosure and on to Brockenhurst, where I was staying.
Today was a long one. There had been an overnight frost and the early morning had a chill to it. This though soon went with the sun burning though. By mid morning it was back in to shorts and tee shirt. After much studying of the map I had a plan. Thus heading out of Brockenhurst, up the lane ,past the church and on to the bridleway that leads through Roydon wood. Pleasant walking, woodpeckers where in abundance, doves cooed, everything in the wood was astir, smitten by the spring like atmosphere. Noticeable too was how green and verdant the woodland floor was compared to the open heathland. A constant eye has to be kept on the map. The navigation is not that difficult, however, there are a multitude of paths, tracks and trails and that does require a degree of vigilance. Following the track around by Dilton Gardens and on to skirt around Little Dilton farm. From there it was across open heath, past Greenmoor and around the edge of Bull Hill village. Across the B3054 and back in to woodland to do a dogleg through the woods to the village of Norleywood. Then it was a case of a long, straight bridleway that ran along the edge of fields sown with crops. A short bit of road walk and then down Turners lane which led me to the coast. What a pleasure to sit on the beach in warm sunshine and enjoy a picnic lunch. It had been a long mornings walking and I was hungry and thirsty. For lunch I had treated myself. An unsliced small loaf of fresh bread from a local bakery, local ham from the village butcher. The man had asked me if I wanted the ham for sandwiches and he had done me proud. My sandwich was most unladylike, no dainty cucumber slices these, cut to precision in neat triangles; no, these where a proper, wholesome, thick and filling affair.
Heading back meant a little back tracking to Norleywood and then it was back on to trails through the woods. Crossing the road by Upper Crockford Bottom. Back on to Beaulieu heath there was a profusion of paths leading through dense thickets of gorse resplendent in full bloom. Trying to roughly stay on course, I made my way across Two Bridges Bottom and, by keeping the woods to my left, managed to arrive back at Little Dilton farm. Deciding not to push on much further, I opted to back track through Roydon Wood. Some eight hours of walking today. Mind, constant map reading slows one down a tad! It is amazing the amount of folk out with dogs. My first encounter was a group of horse riders with three Jack Russells, two black Labradors and a collie. Every time I was near a car park there where dog walkers out in force. Over the day I have seen at least twelve black Labradors, more than twelve Jack Russells, three or four collies, a whippet, several spaniels, at least five staffies, a few dogs of uncertain parentage, a couple of tiny white things that where finding it hard going on the rough heath and a hefty dog that looked more like the many ponies that roam the heath.
Another quite long day. It had been in my mind to head over to Beaulieu. However, having been that way before, I knew there was a short section of road walking for which I had no liking. A busy road, heavy with traffic. So I opted for a more circular route, avoiding roads, staying with tracks and paths.
Starting out, I followed yesterdays route for the first couple of miles. It was a pleasant area to walk and was the easiest option. My route took me around by Dilton farm and on around by lodge heath. There are old concrete roads through there. From what I have learned, these where part of military activities going back to the second world war.
Overall, some good walking in fine weather. Shorts and tee shirt in March is a tad scary and I have gone a distinct pink colour.
Although we luxuriate in such fine weather, there is a flip side to the coin. Wild life is suffering. Many ponds on the heath where drying out. Frog spawn was left high and dry and other pond life life was suffering the same fate. The heaths themselves where bone dry with a high fire risk. Many farmers are extremely worried, their cereal and other crops are desperately needing water. The hay harvest is under threat, I spoke to a couple of local folk who owned horses and livestock. They said that the cost of hay had tripled in a very short space of time. Poor harvests will obviously reflect on the consumer, pushing food prices up. Unsettling?