My last post was about my trip to the Isle of Wight and on the way back I took the opportunity to make my first visit to our smallest National Park – New Forest. Although the best time of year to visit is late Summer when the heather colour is at its peak on the heathland or Autumn when the deciduous woods are ablaze with green, yellow and orange colours, it did give me the opportunity to search out suitable photographic locations for a return visit at some time in the future.
The New Forest, designated a royal forest by William the Conqueror covers southwest Hampshire and extends into southeast Wiltshire and includes the last remaining tracts of unenclosed pastureland, heathland and forest in the South of England. It consists mainly of heathland rather than forest although there are of course plenty of wooden areas and two main rivers running through the area.
The area is well known for its ponies which is one of the recognised mountain and moorland or native pony breeds of the British Isles and they roam freely throughout the park. They are valued for hardiness, strength, and sure-footedness and I couldn’t resist including one in my first image.
My base for my stay in the New Forest was close to Ober Water which drains the heathland to the west of Brockenhurst and is the western most tributary of the Lymington River. On my first evening I was fortunate in there being nice light just before sunset and took the opportunity to walk down to Ober Corner and to wander around unhindered, apart from the ponies, capturing images of the wonderfully shaped trees and their reflections in the water.
The following day I took a walk, which I can highly recommend on the eastern side of the Forest, covering a variety of habitats and some of the best areas that this part of the Forest as to offer. The walk is approximately seven miles and starts near Beaulieu Road station taking in Rowbarrow which consists of mainly huge oaks in their dotage and silver birch followed by an area of working forest with felled pines and evidence of replanting and regeneration.
Beyond the working forest you enter some of the one hundred or so Inclosures so much a feature of the Forest. The process of enclosing open land for timber production in the New Forest began in the 1700s with the most recent Inclosures dating from 1968. The fences keep out commoning animals which can damage young trees.
Finally passing through Denny Wood and returning to the start across open heathland.
The majority of the Forest landscape is short of opportunities to capture wider vistas although there are areas of modestly high ground – up to 420 feet above sea level in the north and west of the area, creating scenery not too dissimilar to that of Exmoor. In the south and east, gently undulating land dips gradually down towards the sea. One such area of high ground is Mogshade Hill which allows a wonderful view over Bratley with another lonesome pine which from certain viewpoints resembles an oversized bonsai.
Although my time in the area was very limited it has certainly given me plenty of inspiration for that return visit.