This weekend Claire and I went down to the New Forest in Hampshire with Fiona and Alan to test out our tents before our summer holiday in France - Fiona and Alan have used theirs several times since they got it, but Claire and I haven't had the chance. The idea came a couple of weeks ago when Claire and I thought it would be great to go see what the New Forest is all about. We'd been told by several people that it's a fab place to go, so we did. We jumped in the car on Friday afternoon and bombed it down to the New Forest.
The New Forest, contrary to it's name isn't very new... well, not to me. It was founded about 900 years ago by William the Conqueror and has remained pretty much unchanged since then. One unique thing is that the animals have a priority over humans and vehicles when it comes to right of way... so if a horse wants to walk where you are, you let him. As a result of this, the animals pretty much wonder around the woods, camp sites and nearby towns at their leisure. Some of the entrances to major roads have cattle grids, but I suspect this is more to protect the animals from wondering in front of cars than to restrict their movement. It is quite a unique experience having unmanned horses wandering through the camp site or finding cows relaxing under the trees in the middle of a residential area... it's like being in Africa.
As most of the camp sites in the area only take pre-bookings for 3 or more nights, we thought we'd wing it and see what we could get when we got there. We had a list of several sites to try, but struck lucky on the first one... actually Fiona and Alan did as they got there long before us (I only finished work at 14:15). We stayed at the Hollands Wood site, just outside Brockenhurst. I must say, this was a lovely site... good fascilities and relatively level ground too with a lovely view out over a field with wild horses lazily grazing.
Well, we selected our pitch, and set to putting up the tents. It didn't take us too long to get both tents all setup... but all that hard work deserved a beer, which which we duly did - had a beer. After a bit more faffing and just relaxing, we took a stroll to a local pub for a pint of the local brew - the ladies had wine and then we headed back to site. Not much more to report for the evening... dinner cooked on the skottel and then to bed.
Saturday was fantastic... the weather was lovely and clear with a slight breeze keeping things cool. We took a nice long walk through part of the New Forest... this place is huge, so we couldn't take it all in. It's definately a place to take your bicycles so you can venture further afield - definately next time.
Most of the day was spent wandering across grassy fields and along the dirt tracks with Alan's ordinance survey map in hand checking our progress as we went along. I'm sure that thing details roads that aren't there... or maybe I was just caught up in the whole beauty of the country side and too busy taking pictures. I also wasn't too good at converting our walked distance into distance on the map... I thought we'd walked a lot less than we actually had. I was soon corrected when we crossed "Albert" bridge - not exactly it's official name, but it did have "Albert" spray painted (graffiti'd) in bright orange paint on the side. This helped confirm our exact location, well at least it confirm it for me... everyone else knew where they were.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing by the tents, enjoying the crunchy side.
Sunday was pack up day... what an organised team we are - all the tents were down and everything packed away in about an hour, and best of all, the tents fitted in their bags probably better than when they came from the factory. It's definately all about the folding when it comes to getting the tents into their bags.
All in all, it was a great weekend away in the crunchy side with all the fresh air and exercise.
I took a fair few pictures whilst we were there, so check them out in my gallery... oh and when I saw all the horses, I thought Sarah would love a couple of pictures - think I may have been a little bit of a happy snapper though :-)