‘Established’ in 1079 by King William I as a royal hunting ground, New Forest is one of the oldest surviving forests in England. Whilst many forests endured fatal deforestation due to the naval campaigns of the 15th and 16th centuries, the New Forest still has areas that were protected in efforts to protect wildlife and game for the food stores and royal sporting of the Crown.
Blackwater Woods is an area of New Forest with some of the oldest trees still standing. Knowing my love of forests and inner Dryad, Will brought me here for good long explore as part of my Birthday Weekend Experience (got to love Friday birthdays!). The drive was only about 1hr 40min from central London, which was fine for a day trip.
After exiting the motorway toward Lyndhurst, we were immediately plunged into an autumn wonderland. The tree lined roads were bursting at us in rich golds, browns, multi-hued greens, rusty oranges and reds. The quaint homes and farms of Lyndhurst dotted the country-lane-scape, and richly hued pheasants pittered about amongst the roadside grasses and paddocks.
The colours grew more profound the closer we came to our destination, and by the time we parked at Blackwater, we were stunned by the mighty trees looming overhead in golds, greens and plums. After a quick fuel-up on chicken, spinach and rice, we set out on our adventure.
No more than a few metres down the leftmost walking path to the south, we somehow (intentionally) wandered off into the unpathed wood, which quickly swallowed us up in its ancient wilderness. The forest floor was a medley of tangled grasses, stream beds, mosses, ferns, fallen leaves and decaying tree stumps consumed to softness by moss and earth. And sticks. Oh my, the sticks. Within minutes, I had selected superb instruments of adventure for both of us.
A fallen tree climb here, a stream leap there, we passed the time in exploratory bliss. The fresh, sweet fragrance of pine and even juniper graced the air. These are the things John Lewis winter candles are made of.
Eventually we hit path again, so turned our campaign back around northwards towards the Tall Tree walk. Of course, yet again, we only stayed on-road for a few moments before diving back off the beaten path. The trees became even older, the leaves even richer, and the stream leaps became ‘Okay, surely a brave forerunner has laid a helping log or two.’ A startled woodcock rushed by us as we maneuvered the tree limbs and forest brush, and every now and then Will (who is rather less distracted by his surroundings than I am and was thus usually further ahead) stopped to snap worthy specimens for his mushroomentary.
The expedition continued thus, until we came to the edge of the forest and heard cars on the motorway in the distance. This dulled the magic only momentarily, however, as we turned right back around and set off on the last leg of our journey. It concluded with another side-journey off a particularly beckoning forest alleyway, the end of which brought us to a beautiful stream with dark, gentle waters, which I can only imagine is the woods’ namesake. Here, we ceremoniously laid our great walking sticks to rest, and a short way further our journey ended back at the car.
Needless to say, the tree nymph in me was deeply contented by our New Forest outing, and we highly recommend the area for a day trip or weekend break. We drove through the town of Lyndhurst on our way back to the motorway, and found ourselves contemplating a real estate search… All in all, the area was beautiful with much to recommend it as a gem of southern England. We already have plans to go back for a winter walk with friends!
Have you fallen in love with New Forest? We’d love to hear what you think in comments below.