Chris made a trip to the town of Lymington in Hampshire, which lies between the New Forest and the sea. The lush New Forest borders the elegant town ~ renowned for yachting and shopping. The forest survives as a large living remnant of the 'New' hunting ground, protected on the orders of William the Conqueror, or Bastard of Normandy (as the English originally named him.) Unwittingly, the King safeguarded a sizable green oasis of mixed woodland, heath and bog that is cherished today.
Large swathes of the area, around half of the forest, is public owned. It is home to over several thousand animals, including donkeys, deer and ponies. They appear like moving statues, wandering freely around the forest. Time honoured policies and bye laws protect the forest customs for local people or Commoners. These Common rights are specially maintained by the Verderers (or wardens) of the New Forest. Verde is the French word for green. The Verderers hold a similar role to that of the former Broadland River Commissioners, now sadly defunct.
The forest became the UK's newest National Park in 2005. Traditional communities, housing and practices are also rigidly maintained throughout area. Cycling, bus tours and canoeing are available for the adventurous. Local shops and produce are promoted under the badge of the New Forest Marque. The versatile forest is a perfect place to visit year round.
We had a walkabout in Beaulieu, viewing the scenes from the 1966 film, A Man For All Seasons. The plot revolves around the sometimes turbulent relationship between an adviser/minister to Henry the Eighth, Sir Thomas More. The unspoilt tidal reaches of Beaulieu River recreated the Thames of Tudor times, when it was the highway for all and sundry. Passengers were conveyed under oar in anything from small wherries to state barges by skilled Watermen. The scenic river and it's nature binds the award winning film together.
At Lymington we looked around the St Barbe Museum. Special displays represented local industries like salt making, boat building, smuggling and wildfowling. Most of these industries have lapsed. An exhibit of a gun punt on the marshes illustrates a major devastating enterprise, which today is mostly relegated to history. The nippy punts are however, as useful as ever. Punts remain a speciality at Royall's Boatyard, Hoveton in Norfolk, for the discerning water enthusiast.