Just a short drive of 23 miles from home we arrived to find a rural and informal campsite for 3 nights on the old Holmsley South Airfield used during WWII. A total of 12 airfields were constructed in The New Forest starting in 1942 and Holmsley was the largest with 3 runways, hangers, support buildings and accommodation facilities. During 3 short years there was flight training for gliders, missions for the D-Day landing support squadrons, and equipment sent to Europe, Africa and the Far East with Prisoners of War being brought back. By 1946 it was being returned to The Forestry Commission and is now a campsite surrounded by common land and trees, New Forest ponies, deer and birds. Perfect!
We walked out of the site over closely nibble grass with tall green bracken and colourful wildflowers, there were a number of ponies sorting out who was who in the herd, they looked lovely in the afternoon sunshine. For an hour it was very pleasant to stroll over Plain Heath seeing stonechats, pied wagtails, skylarks and goldfinches and a few heathland butterflies.
A beautiful sunny morning encouraged us out walking and we found our way to a Memorial of the New Forest Airfields with a map showing the locations and poignant poems placed on the fence. We continued to Bransgore mainly by quiet lanes as there was a serious lack of footpath signs, then collapsed at The Three Tuns for a rest. Further along the lanes we found our way back and during the later part, thankfully over common land, there were lots of mares and foals, they really are so cute.
By way of a contrast, next day we went Geocaching, mainly in Holmsley Enclosure with the tall forest trees in some areas making it difficult to get signal on my phone to know where we were headed. However as relative newbies to this hobby, with a few difficult finds, we chalked up another 9 caches on a 6.5 mile circuit. Very tired we stopped for a short break at The Holmsley Tea Rooms formerly the site of the old Holmsley train station in 1964, a casualty of the Beeching Report, before returning back to camp.
30th June – Hollands Wood, New Forest
Three additional nights at Hollands Wood Campsite, further east between Brockenhurst and Lyndurst, gave us a new area to explore. The campsite is wooded with open spaces and a ‘camp where you like’ policy, with ponies and foals walking right in front of our pitch and acres of grassland to watch them roaming freely. There are grey squirrels racing around up and down the oak trees and many deer around the area which we are told also come out at night, although we haven’t seen any here, but we have seen them and a very young fawn on our walks.
Our first evening was spent with my sister Helen, Steve and family meeting up at The Snakecatcher pub. It was named after a man who lived near Hollands Wood as a hermit in a hut, he caught large numbers of snakes, mainly grass snakes and adders, it was a means of pest control but also he sold them to research centres, zoos and the public. He died in 1905 aged 65 after a regular evening drink, he walked outside and collapsed, what a way to go! After a great meal and lots of chatting we went walking around Brockenhurst College where Steve started his teaching career, there were lots of memories and such funny tales too.
The forest in this area is very beautiful, a large variety of trees and open spaces, woodland flowers, dragonflies and butterflies. We sorted out a Geocaching circular walk and found 8 out of 10 so not too bad. Clues like ‘at the base of a moss covered tree’ and ‘look for an old stump’ or ‘under fallen trees’ were not the most helpful in a forest full of them but we walked, talked and enjoyed our picnic. It was a long day and a total of nearly 9 miles so a relaxing evening with a gin and tonic in the sun was most welcome as we watched the ponies and cows wandering around.
Taking the bus up to Lyndhurst was a welcome luxury the following day when we notched up another 5 Geocaches walking around the town, having completed that we admired the Ferrari display room with a few beauties parked outside, and then looked in the shop windows at delicious looking pasties, Scotch eggs and pork pies before heading for refreshments at The Mailmans Arms, a very pretty pub with lots of flowers and nice rear garden away from the road.
After that it was a quick bus ride down to Brockenhurst for one more Geocache by the station and then a 20 minute walk to Pig Beer to try some locally brewed beverages. Brewing started in 2018 on a former pig farm, they grow their own hops, collect rainwater for irrigation and local farmers feed the used malted barley to their cattle. The beer was delicious too, offerings include hoppy refreshing beers and a dark milk stout which Chris really enjoyed.
What a great way to end out sabbatical in The New Forest. We walked 44 miles in 6 days and added 26 more Geocaches to our total, sampled a few good beers and luckily had 6 days of dry sunny weather! It’s so close to home, so different and we plan to do it again more often and at other times of year.