Sunday, 26 July 2015

Beaulieu: the capital of the New Forest



Mention that you're going on holiday to the New Forest and the two things that people are most likely to mention are wild horses and Beaulieu.

Having made friends with the wild horses (and donkeys. Oh, the donkeys!) during the first three days of our camping trip, we decided to spend our last day visiting Beaulieu, one of the biggest villages/towns in the New Forest, most famous for its Motor Museum.

Getting into the "when in Rome" spirit of things, we left the car at the campsite and walked through the forest to Beaulieu, as we had done to Brockenhurst two days before, although this trip was a couple of miles further. Our choice to walk was also partly due to the car, which we needed to make the 150 mile trip home, hanging onto life by the skin of its teeth by this point. The twelve mile round trip to the New Forest's most famous village may have been the proverbial straw that broke the coil spring.


We hit our first hiccup just a couple of hundred metres from the campsite, strolling along a concrete path, chatting about our dinner plans. A twig a couple of feet in front of us moved. That twig turned out to be a snake. As anyone who knows me know, snakes are my worst fear, to the extent that I was reduced to tears in the reptile house in Barcelona Zoo - and they're behind glass there.

"Your running's coming along well" said The Boy, when he caught me up half a mile down the road, bawling my eyes out. Needless to say I was on high alert for the rest of the walk, giving anything vaguely twiglike a wide berth.

And what a walk it turned out to be. Across a heath (more donkeys!), past a model airfield, through a village green, down a lane, through a wood, up a hill, down a hill, across a road, through another field, and finally, two hours (and six miles) later, we found ourselves in the village of Beaulieu. At this point I would like to point out that while The Boy's compass was of great help in getting us to Brockenhurst two days previously, Google Maps saved our skins while wandering on the heath today. Tradition 1-Technology 1.

It's a stunning little place, situated next to a lake with swans a-swanning and ducks a-ducking. Neither of us have a vested interest in the Motor Museum or the Abbey ruins (and the sign post suggested these to be a long walk away) , so we headed for the centre of the village where we hoped to find seating, refreshment and amusement.

The village itself was small -disappointingly so after a six mile trek to get there. A 10 minute stroll saw us visit all of the half dozen shops and the garden centre, so we made our way to the tea rooms for some much needed sustenance. A jacket potato, some cake, and a couple of drinks later, we'd explored all that Beaulieu had to offer and set off on the six mile trek back to the campsite.

The Boy contemplates having come face to face with a fearsome predator.
 When we got to the technological refuge of the Happy Cheese pub that night (well worth a visit if you're in the area - yummy burgers), we took advantage of our first WiFi in four days and looked up the snake species.

 I say we, I can't even look at a still image of a snake on a phone screen without wanting to vomit. The Boy looked at photos of snakes to try to identify which one we'd seen (I had absolutely no idea - I didn't stay around long enough to take a close look) and concluded that we'd come across an adder, the UK's only native species of poisonous snake. Although horrified by the thought, and dreading spending one final night in the tent knowing that such a monstrosity was on the loose nearby (did I mention that I don't like snakes?), I couldn't help but feel like a hero knowing that I'd come within a couple of feet of an adder and lived to tell the tale.

Unless we missed anything, this was the extent of the main street
So, Beaulieu - a very picturesque village, and worth stopping if you're in the area, but certainly not worth a 12 mile round walking trip.

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