A few weekends ago Oscar and I spent the most beautiful weekend camping in the New Forest National Park. It is where I have spent most of my last six years riding and walking every weekend and I was so excited to be taking Oscar. I think I may have been a bit too excited as I filled every second of our time on the first day and had to rethink the reason why we were there for the second!
The reason that we went was to practice using all the equipment that we have bought and finally managed to pin down, namely the cooker, before we leave in a few weeks for Patagonia. We came away really happy with everything and very optimistic about our trekking in South America which is exactly what we were hoping!
We arrived late on the Friday night and pitched our tent in a field in the middle of the Forest, the grass was really overgrown and you couldn’t see our tent at all from a distance – we felt very hidden! We got our water from a trough and ate a picnic we had brought with us, before creating a small fire, roasting our marshmallows and looking at the amazing stars in the unpolluted sky.
On the Saturday we woke up fairly early from the sun shining through our tent and got to work on making our morning coffee. This is when we had a mishap with our Jetboil which I will talk about in a future blog post but basically I can’t be trusted to make the porridge!
Our first practice walk of the weekend was about three hours long and took us over to near Godshill and Woodgreen, through a valley and a couple of enclosures. The weather was beautiful and we got to see lots of Donkeys (none as cute as Ushi of course), cows and horses. When we got to the second enclosure we put up our hammock and stopped for a short nap in the woods. It was so lovely and serene as we saw almost nobody all day and there were no roads to spoil the scenery. We agreed that our walking pace is fast and that we don’t think we need to hike that quickly at all however, we did only have a small rucksack between the two of us and not all of our equipment and water and food as we will do in Patagonia.
This walk is one of my favourites and have spent years riding the same paths and taking our old dog, Tiger, on the same route. I think I love it because it is mostly within a wood where you can build jumps and canter through the trees, jumping fallen logs. Woods have always been my favourite places, I would pick them over a beach or mountain any day. When I finished school I took a year out for travelling and I knew without doubt that the place I really wanted to go to was the Amazon rainforest to see the trees. I know that seems odd but I think it is place association. When I was younger we lived surrounded by woods, I was around 6 years old when I could play with the other children in our road. The only rule pretty much was that we couldn’t go in the woods, so of course we spent most of our time in there making dens. Then as I got older, from about 10 I could go off riding with my friend in the woods for about 3 hours at a time just doing whatever we liked. We never got lost or worried and I don’t think many of my friends ever had that freedom. From then on I have just always associated them with fun and adventure.
After our long walk we spent the late afternoon and evening at my mum’s eating and relaxing. We went to THE BEST fish and chips restaurant in the whole world (I have tried a few!) it is called Chez Fred and as a family we have been going for about 30 years. It is just a tradition now and their fish and tartar source is to die for.
On the Sunday we went for another long hike, this time towards Abbots Well and Hasley Wood. Again we pitched the hammock for coffee and a snooze, we aren’t sure we are going to take the hammock to Patagonia as it’s just another thing to carry but I do really enjoy using it. It might just come on the boat with us for hanging on the palm trees at the beach. I also love this walking route because it takes you across a really beautiful plain. In the middle is a river which runs all year round, though it does get pretty dry at times in the summer, and all the animals congregate here to drink. There are always herds of both horses and cows and we were lucky enough to see foals and calfs – they were extremely cute! Part of the walk also takes you around the edge of the wood along a red sand track. In this part of the forest there are lots of red sand tracks which are great fun when you are riding – our horses always go so fast on them!
After our walk and before we started the long drive back to Kent, Oscar decided to try one of the freeze dried meals. He had brought a pasta and meat meal that comes in a bag and you heat with boiling water. Oscar ate it fine and although it was pretty mushy and tasteless I could eat it for sure, especially if I was hungry. We have agreed that we ought to take a few each in our bags for emergency rations, food is definitely not something I want to run out of on our hiking trips!
So after a fantastic weekend in the New Forest we packed up the car and headed off, we both had so much fun and are both extremely impressed and happy with all our equipment. Our walking pace may be slightly fast but I’m sure that when we are walking with our backpacks that we will slow right down – it’s not like we are in any hurry!