“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” – Unknown
My first trip of the year was to the New Forest in the south of England. This year I have decided that I would like to see twelve new places. As I am still working full time, most of these are most likely going to be over long weekends. A friend has organised ten hikes in ten countries in Europe and I am hoping to tag along on some of these to make up my dozen. However, my first trip of the year was this weekend, to the New Forest in the South of England. It was a gadget free weekend so no phones, no smart watches, no laptops, tablets or anything that would entail looking at a screen. I went with a group of friends who similarly wanted to get away from the hectic life in London. Some were worried that they would not be able to survive two whole days without Instagram and Facebook but I did not have any concerns, a gadget free weekend sounded like heaven.
We set off for the New Forest on Friday after work, initially it was proposed that we use paper maps to navigate to the cottage but that idea was soon kicked out into the long grass as none of us had used a paper map in years and did not think that we would make it to our destination with one. Perhaps we should have stuck with it as the satnav was no better. We took three cars (not very environmentally friendly I know) and my car arrived last as we took a detour at some point and ended up on some really narrow country roads that permitted only one car to pass at a time. Thanks to Google maps which apparently was taking is via the fastest route. We did eventually get there.
Day One AM – A visit to the Farmers Market
After breakfast, we set off to the local farmers market which sold products that are apparently reared, grown, baked, caught or brewed locally. On offer we had home reared meats including buffalo and game, eggs, cheese, milk, ice cream, wine, beer, apple juice, bread, cakes, bakes, pickles, chutney’s preserves, fruits and vegetables, all apparently produced from within Hampshire. For a market that was not so big, the variety of produce on offer was amazing. The only thing they did not have was charcoal but that is understandable given that it is February. After buying enough food to feed an army for supper we set off in search of charcoal as we had convinced ourselves that we would have a barbeque despite the cold weather.
Day One PM – A Long Forest Walk
From the market, we made the obligatory visit to the local pub before setting on the first forest walk following one of the many walking routes in the National Park. The route was not challenging and took us through country lanes, farmland and woodlands. It was well signposted and had monuments and statues giving historical
information about the area. This, of course, did not stop us from taking a wrong turn here and there. On route we met a dog walker here and there, drivers asking us for direction which I thought was quite odd because given the composition of the group we did not look like we were from the area. I guess with the paper maps we looked like we knew where we were going. After four hours of mud, rain, scones, beautiful ancient churches and cottages we finally stopped at another pub for lunch before we collected the cars and drove back to the cottage.
The highlight of the day for me was the food, as food is one of the things I love most in the world this is not surprising. I volunteered to be the head chef for the evening and together with my two sous chefs we rustled up a feast for dinner. At the market we had bought rabbit, salmon, a variety of vegetables, sausages, steak and potatoes. I had never prepared rabbit before and it took a while to figure out what to do with it. I can safely say that I will not be buying rabbit anytime soon though. It was too hairy and tough and took forever to cook. In hindsight, we should have barbequed it instead. The food when it finally got to the table was very well received thanks to my hardworking and creative sous chefs.
After dinner whilst some of us who were too exhausted prepared for bed, the remaining half of the group set up the chess board and had a game that lasted until the early hours of the morning.
This morning, armed with a campus and a map of the area we set off on another walk, this time not on a walking route but randomly in search of a pub, well, we had a set destination but that is what it felt like to me. The walk was more challenging as it muddier due to the overnight rain and the fact that there was no set path so at times we had to go through dense woodland with concealed puddles under
the fallen leaves that left your feet soaked. I, of course, did not follow advice so rather than bringing wellies, I brought my hiking shoes which right now are soaked to the core. After what seemed like forever through open fields, forests, being followed by wild ponies and getting lost, we finally got to the pub only to find that it had not opened yet. That is village life for you. It turned out to be a very small pub and as it was the only one in the area rather overcrowded. We practically had people hovering over us waiting for us to leave. In the end we decided to have just drinks rather than lunch.
On the way back we got spectacularly lost, walking across a field and ending up exactly where we started from, it does not sound possible I know but I swear it happened. The compass turned out to be useless, unfortunately, without it was hard to work out where we were on the map. And there was not a soul in the forest to ask for directions. After some great debate about where we were and which direction to go in next, we finally found our way to the main road and to the cottage.
We have just had a late lunch and I am not relaxing in front of the fire. In a couple of hours, I will be driving back to London and back to the rat race. It has been a really fun weekend and I have not missed my phone or being connected to the rest of the world. I think I will be degadgeting (if that’s even a word) myself more often.
**In case you are wondering how I managed to take pictures, we had one communal old school camera between us.**