It has been a lovely hot bank holiday weekend, and determined to make the most of it, this morning we decided to dig our bikes out of the garage and go for a cycle ride in the New Forest. I’m ashamed to say that the last time we did this was 8 months ago! Read about it here: A Cycle in the New Forest in Winter
My! What a difference! It was so cold that day, (January 22) that we both had at least 5 layers on. We were so bundled up, it took me ten minutes to get it all off when we got home! And by the time we got home, I couldn’t feel my feet or my hands, as they were so numb with cold.
In contrast, by the time we left home this August morning at about 8:30am, the temperature was already climbing to around 15 degrees and promised to be a very sunny hot day. (It would later reach 31 degrees and be one of the hottest days of the year.)
We started off at Woodlands on the edge of the Forest. We usually follow the bridle paths, and although Andy is always keen to leave the beaten track and go exploring, we usually end up a) in a swamp, b) at a dead end c) lost. There was no losing our way today however, and we were soon cycling through some of the loveliest parts of the Forest.
We cycled past Bartley and then onto Lyndhurst where we grabbed a coffee. As we sipped our iced lattes, seated on a bench, we overlooked the abandoned building that was once The Lyndhurst Park Hotel. It’s eerie presence still dominating the approach to the little village. I can remember going there when it was a hotel, about 15 years ago, for a work conference. A few years later, it closed down, and is now a dark and dismal foreboding place. Such a contrast with the brightness of the day today! It’s all boarded up, but some windows still have glass and it’s not difficult to convince yourself you can see a figure or two moving about in the shadows.
Apparently it IS haunted: The ghost being one Duc de Stacpoole who was a wealthy and eccentric English aristocrat. In his twilight years, he was involved in smuggling and lived in a mansion house in Lyndhurst called Glasshayes. He spent much of his wealth on enlarging it, and died there in 1848. The property became a hotel in 1900 and it was then (as they made the renovations) that builders first reported seeing his ghost. Apparently his face can be seen staring through the windows and during renovations and refurbishment in the 1970’s, workmen reported his ghost screaming in anger at the changes they were making. When the hotel is disturbed at all he is said to appear, and on 7th July, the anniversary of his death, music can be heard in certain parts of the building. Creepy!
We left Lyndhurst, skirting the golf course (look out for flying balls!) and onto the bridleways that run past Ashurst. There were a few people around, but very few given the bank holiday in the middle of summer.
I’m always amazed at how incredibly quiet the Forest is. We stood in a couple of dappled clearings, dropping our bikes for a minute and listening to the absolute silence. Not only is it peaceful, and scenically breathtaking, it is also wonderful for that feeling of being so close to nature.
On previous trips we have seen lots of deer, but that tends to be when we have left home much earlier. Plenty of horses around today though – and the New Forest ponies are worth the visit alone. Forest ponies and donkeys can be seen roaming freely, not only throughout the forest, but also in local towns and villages such as Brockenhurst and Burley.
Doing this sort of bike ride is so important, not only for my fitness and my physical health but also for my mental health. Andy and I love our holidays and I wax lyrical about being near the sea, but sometimes I forget how wonderful it is to have The New Forest right on our door step.
To step in to the Forest is to step inside a magical world. A timeless world. The sunlight and early morning dew makes the trees sparkle and there is a sense that although it is peaceful and quiet, there is so much life thriving in these dappled glens.
It’s a magical place and as you stand and look around you, one can easily imagine that nothing much has changed here in the last thousand years. I gaze at the massive Oak trees and think about what they have witnessed over many hundreds of years.
I only pray that humanity is slowly waking up to the damage we are doing to our beautiful planet and the warnings that conservationists and environmentalists have been voicing for years, are finally being heard. We desperately need to heed these warnings, and change our ways, if our children and grandchildren are going to enjoy nature as we are able to do.
Thankfully the New Forest has lots of conservationist projects and there are plenty of roles for volunteers. You can find out more here:
We’ve put our bikes away now and are settling down for a nice brunch, but I’m going to make sure that we cycle again soon. With its idyllic glades, ancient woodland, open moors, and sense of enchantment, The New Forest is truly a magical place. ❤️