WALK: New Forest stroll

Donkey in Brockenhurst lr


By Tim Saunders

My wife thought she knew Brockenhurst, having gone to the college and spent time in the area as a teenager. But when we go on a trail to the New Forest village our eyes are opened.

The spy themed trail from Treasure Trails, which comes in a handy envelope, keeps us entertained for hours and is a great way to while away a summer’s day. The only problem is that we need a pen or pencil and haven’t brought one. It’s not faultless by any means, but we work with it and learn quite a bit along the way. It’s not possible to find a parking space at the railway station and trying to find roadside parking that is for longer than a couple of hours is not possible. So we head out of Brockenhurst towards St Nicholas Church where there is a fairly sizeable empty free car park. This does also shorten the trail slightly, which isn’t unwelcome with three little children. So our trail starts at St Nicholas Church. This is a very welcoming church and as soon as you enter there is information about those who died in WW1. We borrow a pencil to complete our mission answer grid. As we walk around the side we are then introduced to The Commonwealth War Grave Commissions graveyard where there are 110 graves of soldiers aged 19 to 44, mainly from WW1. Forty four years old, that’s my age. This memorial really does make the younger generation appreciate history and what our ancestors did to provide the freedom we enjoy today. We learn that during WW1 there was a wartime hospital in Brockenhurst, at Careys Manor Hotel, and that nurses here cared for casualties from New Zealand, India and other Commonwealth countries. Caroline certainly wasn’t aware of this and neither was I. It’s a very peaceful location and although the children struggle with the idea of war and death there is some appreciation especially when we consider today’s conflict in Ukraine and the fragile state of Taiwan and Nancy Pelosi’s visit that inflamed tensions with China – how easy for a war to begin. The wider graveyard is home to graves of other locals included Busher Mills, the famed New Forest hermit snake catcher, who caught five a day and thousands in his lifetime. He managed to live to be 65. I spy another grave for a woman who died in 1936 aged 96. Quite an achievement for that time. But then the New Forest was and still is a delightful place to visit and to live in.

We continue our walk, which is only meant to take three hours, but ends up taking five. However, we do have a sort of leisurely picnic. “Look at those New Forest ponies,” says Heidi (9). They seem quite interested in our food so we gingerly start walking again. Motorists drive too quickly for our liking when these delightful creatures are by the roadside. As we walk through Brockenhurst village and find a roadside bench, we watch donkeys and their foals and are again saddened at the lack of respect motorists have for them. We are also disappointed at the litter around the village, which will be a hazard to the donkeys and ponies. The children do a litter sweep. “What is this?” asks Henry (6), pointing at a discarded battery from a vaping device. This is in fact the second such vaping remnant that we have seen carelessly slung on the ground in recent days. The children also throw discarded plastic and takeaway forks into the nearby bin.

We don’t actually manage to complete the entire trail but plan to do so in future. It is definitely recommended for making an adventure.

Hampshire Brockenhurst Treasure Trail
Price £9.99
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