Walking and Galloping at the Same Time

Since Yomping Buddy was visiting for the weekend and the weather was set fair,

Cold weather walking

So Christmas is over, Lymington did itself proud with a very pretty light display and Santa was back in his boat moored in the Lymington River. And during all this, since yomping buddy stayed for Christmas, we had a walk. To be entirely accurate it was a post-Christmas walk in temperatures best described as only slighty sub-artic. What’s the number one rule walking in cold weather? Always assume you need at least one more layer than you think. Everywhere.

We were only taking a relatively even walk around one of the local Inclosures, but boots and thick socks were vital. Probably a smidge less vital than if the mud hadn’t been frozen hard, but none the less a very good call. Deck shoes would definitely not have done.

It’s kinda funny though, you put on your wind-proof, water-proof coat with integral fleece and Thinsulate hat and step out of the car at the same time as a couple of guys with thin leather coats or light windcheaters and no headgear. You start to think that you may have overdone it a tad but the fact they are scurrying back to their car after only ten minutes is strangely reassuring.

Thing is that although the New Forest is the smallest National Park and all that, and has roads criss-crossing it regularly, it is still necessary to be prepared.There have been times recently when we needed a compass to find our way when going off-piste. There’s a lot of boggy terrain often hidden in stands of trees and continually turning to get round it means you quickly lose direction. I know it’s hardly the Artic and three inches of snow would be a cause for great surprise, so describing it as extreme weather conditions is probably slightly erring on the side of exaggeration. But if you get caught out at dusk on the heathland near East Boldre at this time of the year, the mist rolls in very quickly and can reduce visibility to a few metres. Tricky enough if you’re driving through, but even worse if you are on foot in the middle of one of the bogs up there.

So when I suggest that the right equipment is required to enjoy a winter walk, it’s not so you can look good in your coordinated cold weather gear, it’s so you want to repeat what has been a pleasant experience again in the future.

So follow me follow, down to the hollow…

Without getting overly obsessed with the weather, last weekend was somewhat wet. Inevitable really, the same friend with whom I had shared a somewhat wet walk towards Hurst Point was staying and as normal a degree of yomping was in the offing. I’m not actually averse to walking in the rain, at least we now have proper wet weather gear purchased after a salutary walk in Scotland one year, but you do have to pick your walks with inclement weather in the offing.

So having goaded the clouds with a sea wall walk on Saturday and found them only too willing to offload a considerable amount of water in our general direction, we opted for a more inland walk for Sunday. The reasoning being that trees equal cover if it all goes pear-shaped.

The Set Thorns inclosure near Sway is worth a wander around as it is a little more diverse than some we have visited, actually having a couple of hills in the Great Ashen Bank and the Oaken Brow. It is possible to wander into the camp-site situated on the Burley road side, but equally easy enough to avoid it if you know it’s there. This inclosure has the advantage of broad stone paths as well as muddy sidetracks, so whatever your bent short of fell-walking you should be happy. In fact on a previous visit, wife and I were somewhat surprised to see a lady taking her dogs for a walk with her motorised buggy.

Anyway with fair winds and just the suspicion of sun as we drove out, it looked like the wet weather gear might not be called into service, that is until we parked at the entrance and it started persisting down as if it had a quota to meet. Nothing daunted, we donned our trusty waterproofs and set out. One of the things I like about this particular inclosure is that you can wander in and out of it, taking in short tracts of Forest should you wish. More by instinct than design this is what we ended up doing. Strangely for the last weekend in the Easter holidays, we found few other walkers out to enjoy the bracing fresh air, well only three including one with a dog in fact. What we also found is that a lot of thought has to be given to where you intend walking if you decide to go downhill and walk along any hollows. Oh and it helps to have a rudimentary knowledge of which flora prefers to grow in excessively damp areas, although to be entirely honest, it would have been pretty tricky to have found anything that wasn’t an excessively damp area that particular walk.

Having traversed enough mud to fuel a serious attempt on the world mud pie making record, and as if to mock us when we finally decided to head back to the car over the top of the Great Ashen Bank, the sun comes out. Although it did make for somewhat warmer walking than is strictly preferable since we were engaged in a bit of a climb, at least we were treated to the vision of clouds of water vapour climbing skywards were the sun hit the soaked vegetation. All a bit Jurassic Park, though fortunately without any T-Rex sightings.

A bit of history. The inclosures are the timber plantations of the New Forest and those that survive today date from 1700 to 1968. There are two types, Statutory inclosures and the Verderer