Monday, February 12

Solitude - All in the mind

Sunday afternoon, dry and windy, but very sodden underfoot after a night of rain and gales. Sandy paths transformed today into tinkling mini waterfalls and small streams as I moved northwards from the car, following the border of the sunken old railway line.

Forsaking the usual tourist scarred tracks I once more took myself back to my new secret corner here in the New Forest (see Jan 14 post)

I've saved this one up for a few weeks now. A little bit of a wandering, an exploration in mind. A treat for once the ground has dried, but not today. Far too wet.

Keeping my eyes on the wet ground ahead for signs of others passage through this way recently - either animal or human. Only a couple of wellington footprints and a shod horse. No deer, but they would steer clear of the wider tracks preferring to stay away from prying eyes, at least on this part of the track. Maybe later amongst the small stand of trees?

According to the OS map there is a footbridge hereabouts, leading off into a very remote area, invisible from the nearby forest tarmac ways. The main attraction of this area - solitude and largely unbroken ground except for ageing and mostly indistinct forest worker paths and the usual forest pony/deer thoroughfares.

Following my nose, I passed through a small copse of conifers on a small hill, and stopped to look over the land I'd visit once the ground had recovered. A quick photo with my mobile. Dubious quality but good enough as a reminder. A compass check for the sun. A look around for any nearby forest houses overlooking the area.

And then something I seem to do as a matter of habit these days whenever I move off the beaten track - an assessment of potential wildcamp places.

Something for a summer night under the stars?

Not, of course, that this blog condones that sort of action in this 'new' New Forest National Park. Of course not. Ahem.

A quick aside.......
Now where have all these new and highly visible Forest Rangers come from recently?
The introduction of rules and regulations to protect the NP, ideally with the best of intentions, are having a negative effect with their access policy. Largely ignoring the fact that the real damage is done during the dry summer months with the sheer volume of holidaymakers, and visitors from the nearby conurbations, arrive at the same hotspots. Sent there by the very organisation and its partners tasked with protecting the Park.
Not a popular move at the moment.
..........but I digress.

I sat down on the thick dry carpet of pine needles formed over many years with little disturbance except the wind. My back leaning against a pine tree. Letting the feel of the place soak in, picking out the location of streams and bog. The colour of the land indicating potential paths or pratfalls for better times when the ground could handle my passage over it. Mentally scoping the site for the future.

A ringing sound, my mobile. A surprise. Many New Forest areas that I visit are hard pressed to receive a clear FM radio signal, never mind mobile phones reception. And as I write this I recall the mast sited a few miles distant near the A31, supporting the needs of the occupants in cars speeding past on the main southern feeder route across the south coast. Perhaps I was in a reflected shadow, as the mast wasn't visible from my solitary spot.

I was needed elsewhere. No real choice.

So I stood. Took a last look. Turned to stomp back towards the parked car some distance away.

No sigh or grimace from me at the unexpected interruption. Just glad of the excuse to repeat this trip in the very near future, and continue from where I was interrupted.

I've learnt that proper relaxation is all in the mind, and my own attitude to the break from normality. It doesn't always need long days or trips to the far off hills to acquire it, although they can of course help set the scene. Prepare the mindset as it were.

Just an open demeanour. Ready to accept what comes down the track, and handle any disruption to it with a smile and a promise to return.


It is amazing where you can wildcamp. It takes a bit of time to work up courage and you need to often be stopping quite late. But this is were -= in the warmer months - a bivy bag and tarp come into their own!
bivy! tarp! You're getting soft in your old age Andy - this is the deep south we're talking here. An old space blanket and a bed of pine needles
we should plan a walk in the NF some time, it's just down that little road called the M3 for me.

Hey may even be up for a wild camp as well round that way.
Darren - I'm game matey
Spot me a date, and if I'm around I'm up for it
John how about meeting up on Saturday 10th March?
i'll drop you a mail
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