September 15 – The New Forest
I know I said in yesterday’s post, “it doesn’t get much better than that”, but today…well…it really doesn’t get much better. Today was perfect. Absolutely perfect. The perfect Go Slow Sunday and the sort of day that was just bliss.
We planned a full Go Slow Sunday today, with elevenses in a tea room and a pub lunch, with a short ride. First stop was the village of Brockenhurst, but we decided to dodge the really busy road we were on yesterday, so we hopped on a train in Lymington and choofed a short ten minutes up the line to Brockenhurst; just enough to skip over the busy road. A short pedal around the corner from Brockenhurst station and we were at the tea room. This was a lovely elevenses, of very English tea and crumpets, in a very pleasant little tea room. Perfect. We even had a very friendly man who brought our drinks.
“Thank you very much,” I said.
“No problem at all, no problem at all” said the man, then he added, “It’s a nice day today.”
“Beautiful,” I agreed.
“It’s going to be hot though!” he said with a degree of concern in his voice. He then added a very theatrical swipe of his brow, and a grimace on his face, as if to warn us that we were all about to melt into puddles by the end of the day.
We did smile, once again we realised “heat” is all very relative!
After enjoying a thoroughly delightful elevenses, we hopped back on the bikes and pedalled off through Brockenhurst, to begin another ride through the New Forest, to a pub for lunch. Brockenhurst is a gorgeous little village in the New Forest, with the ponies roaming freely through the village. As we rode out, there were a group of them grazing under the trees, then they began wandering up the street. It’s lovely and very special to see, how they just wander about the streets, without a care in the world.
We pedalled on and had a beautiful ride through the forest, along the gravel tracks, with the sun blazing and it was all completely wonderful. Perfect!
We rode into the village of Lyndhurst and turned into The Swan Inn, our Sunday pub of choice. This turned out to be the perfect pub. It was beautifully traditional inside, with timber beams, historic pictures and photos on the walls, jugs and tankards on the shelves and lovely, friendly people working there. We found a small table in the corner and then I noticed a story on the wall beside me and discovered we were sitting in the “Croll Seat”!
This was a traditional pub, but they also had some vegan options on the menu, so we both had the sweet potato and mushroom parcel with vegetables and then pushed the boat out and decided to treat ourselves to the vegan sponge and custard for dessert, just to make it a perfectly traditional Sunday pub lunch. Not healthy, but a wonderful treat indeed. Perfect! We also had some very entertaining table neighbours. People here absolutely love their dogs. I mean, LOVE their dogs. Aussies like their dogs, but here it’s on a whole new level, because dogs really are a member of the family and go everywhere with people. It helps that dogs are allowed in places they’re not allowed to go at home, so as we had our lunch, we had a Westie beside us, giving us the stare down every now and again, or it would just sit and look at us, almost as if it was trying to have a conversation. Then a table down on the other side, was a big dog, who came in with a family and sat beside their table. Even before the family had ordered their drinks or food or done anything for themselves, the man brought out a water bowl and offered the dog a drink, then gave it a big rawhide chew bone. The dog then sat there, as happy as could be, chewing and crunching and slobbering all over the bone and the floor. The staff went back and forth delivering orders, sometimes stopping to pat the dog, not fussed at all about the remnants of rawhide that were collecting on the carpet or the doggie drool that was no doubt accompanying it. It was great, sitting there, in a quiet, olde worlde pub in a New Forest village having a delicious pub lunch treat, with doggie patrons beside us. Perfect!
We waddled our full bellies out to the bikes, hoping for a hill-free run on the way back, at least free of those we’d have to haul our lunch up, downhills were most welcome though! After a short pedal on a main road, we turned into a quiet lane and began a nice downhill roll, before all of a sudden having to hit the brakes with a screech. Two horses had appeared out of nowhere and came trotting up the lane towards us, then without giving us so much as a sideways glance, trotted past on their way to wherever they wanted to go. The cars behind us just stopped and waited for them to get out of the way.
A short hill climb, passing more horses grazing under the trees and cute thatched cottages and then we were back in the forest. It was an absolutely magic day. It was warm, even in the shade of the trees it was warm, even the breeze was warm and the sun was in a very sparkling mood. It was a t-shirt day! Perfect!
Through the forest we went, riding past more of the New Forest ponies and then out across the heathland again. It really is special, riding here, being amongst the horses and ponies and seeing them happily roaming around. Then, as we rode under some trees, my eyes gazed right and…squirrel! This one was digging around in the leaves, then scurried along a tree trunk and I could stand and watch it as it skittered around under the trees. A squirrel day. Perfect!
We continued on the wonderful, traffic-free paths, under the glorious sun, only having to cross the occasional road that runs through the national park. There were horses and ponies everywhere, under the trees, grazing out on the heath or walking along the road. They really do make the place their own and everyone just works around them and waits for the ponies to get out of the way and often they are in no hurry. Cars or people just wait patiently for the horses to, ever so slowly, amble along or across a road, oblivious to the traffic, just walking around in their home and everyone else gives them priority. It’s just terrific, how the animals come first here and it’s about leaving them be in their own environment and trying not to disturb their life.
After seeing so many horses and ponies, as we rode past some trees, we saw another inhabitant of the national park, that we hadn’t seen here so far. A group of Highland cows standing in the shade, not bothered by us going past at all, just standing quietly. One had the most amazing set of horns and I wondered how it managed to get through the forest without getting them jammed in the branches! Maybe it’s savvy enough to stick to open ground. Then, not far past those cows, we saw some more, happily grazing alongside the ponies. That looked great, to see the different animals getting along and just grazing quietly, sharing the space in this fabulous home they have.
We returned to the streets of Brockenhurst, riding into the village, where we stopped so Steve could duck into the village supermarket to get a drink. While I waited outside for him, another pony appeared, calmly walking down the main street…as you do! It sauntered past the pedestrians and cars, with an air of “this is my place and I’ll go where I like!” Then, as we pedalled up the street on our way to the station, we passed two donkeys, just strolling down the street, stopping to graze for a while outside a house, not a care in the world. Brockenhurst really is a wonderful little village!
A pedal along the street to the station and we hopped on the train for the short ride down the line and back to Lymington. What a day. What an absolutely perfect day. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than…
A beautiful, warm, sunny day…perfect!
Elevenses in a tea room in a peaceful little village…perfect!
A beautiful place to ride, through forests, on traffic free paths…perfect!
Lunch in a traditional English pub, enjoying traditional Sunday lunch fare…perfect!
Riding alongside free roaming ponies, horses and cows…perfect!
Spotting a squirrel…perfect!
Riding through a lovely little village that has ponies and donkeys roaming around the streets…perfect!
Returning to another lovely little town, beside the harbour, with the warm sun still blazing…perfect!
Dear old England, what have we done to deserve the gifts you are bestowing on us, you are spoiling us indeed and we thank you wholeheartedly! We don’t want to be greedy, but if you’ve got any more on offer, yes please, we’ll take ‘em!
Distance ridden: 22.7 km
Time in the saddle: 1 hour 52 minutes
Weather: Sunny all day AGAIN! Warm. AGAIN! We are beside ourselves! 22C