December at Hatchet Pond - every season is fabulous in the New Forest

Hatchet Pond

Winter has its own magic in the New Forest, especially on crisp clear days

Those of us fortunate to live and work in the New Forest are blessed in winter.  When the sun shines as it has done a great deal in the later months of this year, vast areas of forest which heave with holiday makers in summer are practically empty.  And by winter sunshine and indeed moonlight too, many parts of the forest enjoy a special magic.

Sunset behind Hatchet Pond in the New Forest - winter playground for humans and wildlife

There’s plenty of space in winter - for everybody to play

The sense of getting away from it all is even more pronounced in winter.

We’d love more visitors to enjoy this very special time of year in the New Forest – and there’s plenty of space for everybody.  It’s a veritable winter playground, and it’s enormous.

Even when it gets boggy as it does especially in some of our moorland areas,  the well maintained roads through closed campsites provide fabulous winter parks for all sorts of activities...

...from an early morning training run or just a gentle jog,  to a pony trek length amble on horseback in , to accompanying the children on their stabilised Christmas bikes with the very little ones in their buggies, or giving the elderlies, well wrapped for the elements, a long wished for breath of fresh air up in their wheelchairs.

And of course during the Christmas break most of us have a little more time to do all these things than we do normally.

The days are short - and all the more precious

From beautiful sunrises which are late enough for even the owls among us to be up and about,  through the gentle warmth of the midday winter sun to the spectacular winter sunsets over the heathland, there are magic moments to be enjoyed simply gazing at the views.  Shorter days do focus the mind on making the most of every moment of daylight.  And somehow the sunsets seem all the more spectacular and the moon more enormous in winter.

Open access to this vast area all the more pleasurable in winter

The New Forest has 193,000 acres of ancient woodland, open expanses of heathland, and coastlines.  The ancient  trees in the heart of the Forest can be seen in all their majestic sight, when  reveal enable even more to be seen!

In fact in the run up to Christmas the volunteer New Forest Keepers help with the selling of Christmas trees so whether you’re a local or a visitor, choosing your tree connects you with the traditions of the Forest.

The novelty of the animals wandering at will

For locals it’s just part of our everyday; we tend to forget what an amazing sight it is for visitors  to see the ponies, donkeys, cows and in autumn even pigs, wandering at will all over the Forest.  What many visitors don’t realise is that all these animals are owned by somebody, in this instance a New Forest Commoner.  And, all the animals are all routinely monitored to make sure they remain in good condition through the harshest months.  In fact the ponies clad in their thick, protective winter coats look even more picturesque in winter.

We cannot however stress enough, how important it is to drive sensibly.  Animal road deaths are far higher in winter, and in the long dark and often foggy evenings and early mornings, the speed limit is often too fast.  If you couldn’t stop within the stretch of road you can see ahead of you, you’re driving too fast.

See below for reporting a road accident involving a New Forest animal.

Boxing Day Point to Point - a very special New Forest spectacle

The annual Point to Point on Boxing Day is the most important event in the year of the New Forest Commoners – it’s a wild and ferocious race across rough terrain in which only the best and fittest riders and ponies can be competitive. The finish point is made known a couple of weeks before Christmas so that spectators can prepare to gather for the finale, whilst the location of the start is kept secret until just before the race – no “walking the course” for this one.

With less busy roads and town centres, it’s easier to get about

Travelling about within the New Forest is easier in winter especially if you journey during the daylight hours, because the roads are emptier and the town centres too,  although with their pretty twinkling shop windows and winter events especially in the run up to Christmas, they’re also at their most atmospheric. 

If you take a day trip to Lymington, you can also  hop on the ferry to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, visit one of the hostelries and take a walk on Tennyson Down,  from which vantage point you can admire the view back across to the New Forest coastline.

Or simply park at Keyhaven and enjoy a bracing walk along Hurst Spit.  Attempting to park in summer here is always a stressful experience, but in winter you can always find a space. 

Some of the attractions will be closed, but the walks are open all year round and free.   Just remember to bring your wellingtons or walking boots!

 

References and more information

  • Winter sunset behind Hatchet Pond photo December 2016 with thanks to Matt England
  • With thanks to references from “The Crown Keepers of the New Forest” by Sally Fear.  The Crown Keepers, the  frontline of the Forestry Commission team which looks  after the New Forest, have been guardians of the Forest and its wildlife for almost 1,000 years.  http://www.sallyfear.com/new-forest-crown-keepers/
  • Visit www.lymington.com for much more information and “what’s on” in Lymington and nearby
  • The Turfcutters Arms (referred to in our December newsletter) offers a warming winter fireside and you can walk from here to Hatchet Pond.

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