New Forest: 8-11 August 2013

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General Overview of my Holiday:

This, I would say, would be one of my favourite getaways. It was rough and leisurely as well as highly self-indulgent and physically self-exerting. I’d booked this holiday a month in advance after much ha’ing and ah’ing. I knew that I wanted to see the New Forest, as I had not seen it yet and it had been at the top of my list for a few years now but constantly trumped by other more exotic excursions. Finally, I bit the indecisive bullet and booked the hostel and train. In retrospect, I should have made my way straight to Burley, but I decided to take the advise of the hostel manager and took a train to Brockenhurst leaving me with miles to travel before I was, in fact, in Burley which was, in turn, about a 15 minute walk from the hostel – a lot closer than I was ignorantly imagining when planning my journey.

I tend to journey and board cheaply when I travel alone. The less I spend on transport and a bed, the more I can spend on more trivial things – such as food, alcohol and adventures. As long as the bed is clean and the shower hot, I am usually pretty happy and comfortable for the few days I am there. I generally do things a bit more luxuriously when I go with someone and can share a hotel or guesthouse room and en suite.

So, on the whole – a very worthwhile project and relaxing getaway into the wilds and the woods with just horses, ponies, cattle and deer to keep me and the many grazing rabbits company.

History of the New Forest:

In prehistoric time, the New Forest was called ‘Ytene’ which is the plural ‘Yt,’ meaning ‘Jute.’ The Jutes were an Anglo-Saxon tribe in the area. William the Conqueror (Battle of Hastings 1066) decided to make the area into his own personal deer hunting zone and the expanse of land was made into a ‘new’ forest in 1079. It is quite … ironic… that his son, William II died in that same forest that his father had created for sport.

‘Commoners’ were not allowed to hunt the deer and William II was known to mutilate those who did. They were, however, allowed to freely graze their horses, ponies, cattle and pigs on the crown land and in the forests. This is why there are so many ‘wild’ animals roaming the roads and paths with no human interference. (Well – other than the unwary motorist). The timber of the New Forest has always been a good source for the Crown and provided the wood for the navy until they no longer needed to build ships from wood.

Now the woods are crisscrossed with paths all numbered and mapped and organised for wandering cyclists and pedestrians. each town and cycle shop has their own pack of maps and routes and well detailed cycle tours which came in very handy for someone like me who wanted to stay off the main roads as much as possible.

As a matter of interest – the New Forest is also famous for a book entitled Children of the New Forest printed in 1847 by Frederick Marryat in which the Beverley children must hide in the woods from the Cromwellian regime of 1647 after Charles I is defeated and the children have been left orphaned. This, I found, is a lovely tale – if rather dated in its ideas of gender roles. However, having been written in the Victorian age, it can be excused, I think, as being representative of its times.

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