The New Forest – Deer Leap towards Lyndhurst

Ponies at Deer Leap

A run and a walk at Deer Leap

The New Forest is one of the largest areas of unenclosed land in the South of England and spreads into three counties, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset, the majority being in Hampshire. It’s not all open land though, there are villages and towns amongst all the woods and Heath and, if, likeyou’re a fan of walking, loads of foot paths and trails.

A nice gravel path at Deer Leap

Surprisingly, it’s not a natural forest. It started life as an area of small hamlets and farms called Ytene. William The Conqueror had big plans for it though, he thought it would make a great Place to hunt, if he could only get rid of all the pesky villagers. In about 1079 he set about evicting the people of somewhere in the region of thirty six parishes, burning houses as he went, and joined up all the uninhabited woodland in between to make the New Forest as we know it today. I’m pretty sure the villages weren’t too happy about it.

Perhaps it was karma for all his evil deeds but two of Williams sons died in the forest. In 1081prince Richard was killed in a hunting accident, during a chase. He was the heir to the throne. Then, in 1100, King William II, or William Rufus, was shot with an arrow when hunting in an area that is now Canterton.

For me the New Forest is all about walking. I love to walk and I’m lucky enough to live very close to the Forest. A little while ago Commando had a ten mile run scheduled for his half marathon training and, for a change, he decided to drive out to the New Forest to do it. The plan was for him to run and me to walk, obviously not the same course because it would take me a lot longer to walk ten miles than he takes to run it. Sadly it wasn’t as bright and sunny as it could have been and it was quite windy but it wasn’t raining and the forecast said it would stay dry. We put on our trainers, gathered up water bottles, hats and other sundries and drove out to Deep Leap where there’s a car park and a few nice trails, one of which we’ve walked before.

Commando set out on the road route, mainly because off road it’s not the best surface for runners, lots of pot holes, gravel, boggy bits and goodness knows what else. I set off to walk the trail we walked before, heading for Lyndhurst. The half marathon training plan was for a slow run, remember this is not about time it’s about covering the distance, and the run was supposed to take one hour forty minutes. With this is mind I decided to walk towards Lyndhurst until I hit the fifty minute mark and then turn round and retrace my steps. That way we should both arrive back at the car park round about the same time.

Totally unconcerned by the mad walker

The first part of my walk was a gravel track through fairly open ground, mostly grass and Heath land, and I was soon glad I’d bought my hat. Not long after I left the shelter of the trees the cold wind was biting at my ears and, although I was warm from the effort of keeping a good pace, I had to put my hat on to keep my ears from hurting. There were lots of ponies grazing on the grass but they didn’t seem to take much notice of me as I passed. I suppose the New Forest ponies are pretty used to seeing mad humans marching about.

Railway bridge

When I reached the little railway bridge, weight limit seven point five tons which might have given me cause for concern a few years ago, I was looking forward to reaching the shelter of the wooded walk past the campsite I knew lay ahead. The wind really was bitter. I crossed the little stream and came out onto more heathland knowing it wasn’t much longer before the trees would be acting as a windbreak and wondering if I’d get in sight of the church at Lyndhurst before I had to turn back. There’s a point where the path divides, and when I reached it I wasn’t sure which way we’d walked before. I decided to take the left fork, feeling pretty confident both paths joined again a bit further on.

It wasn’t long before I realised I was going in the wrong direction but, by then, I knew I’d make a mess of my timing to start walking back if I retraced my steps to the fork in the path so I decided to press and and see where I ended up. Either way it looked like I was heading for the trees and, as I was using my Walkmeter with its handy little map, I knew I

Ponies in the distance but no path

wasn’t going to get lost. I made the tree line but the relief from the wind was short lived, after I crossed another stream I came out on a large grassy clearing with some more ponies grazing in the distance and no more path. I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to do next and I was considering turning back when I saw two walkers emerge from the trees at the other side of the clearing. I decided to walk towards the place they’d come from and see if I could pick up the path there.

A path! Even if it is a bit steep

Sure enough there was a nice gravel path leading up a steep bank. When I reached the top I could see it led through the heather to more trees so I followed it. Unfortunately, not long after I reached the trees the path disappeared again. I could also see I was heading towards a road. Once I made it to the road I was again stumped as to which way to go. There was no more path, I didn’t want to cross the road because I really didn’t know where I was or what I would find on the other side and I was, by this point,

Boggy going

forty minutes into my walk. There didn’t seem to be anything else to do but turn back with some vague idea of getting back to the original fork in the path and walking up the route towards the campsite for ten minutes and then turning back and making for my start point.

This would have probably worked quite well if I hadn’t missed the turn and ended up back at the one mile mark with far too much time to spare. Just as I was

The little gate

wondering what to do I spotted a little gate beside the path with another trail leading into the trees so I decided to take that and walk for the extra ten minutes each way instead. By this time my useless bladder was telling me I had to find somewhere sheltered to stop pretty soon anyway. After a quick detour into the trees to find a suitable spot (luckily there was no one about) I marched on.


Woodland toilet

Even with all my calculations and detours, I still made it back to the car park with ten minutes to spare so I took yet another path, leading in the opposite direction to my first walk and did five extra minutes each way to make up the time. Shortly after I arrived back at the car for the second time, Commando emerged from the path I’d just come down, looking very fresh for someone who’s just run ten miles. I really don’t know how he does it. Five minutes of running and I need an ambulance yet he can run for one hour forty minutes and then complain that he can’t go as slow as the training plan wants him to. Somehow I didn’t think he would have any problem with the half marathon.

In case you’re wondering, my whole walk was a little under six miles and earned me almost six hundred calories. At least I’ve burned off all the rubbish I ate yesterday.