Last Sunday we headed off for a recently-discovered corner of the world on the edge of the Avon Valley. Readers may recall I'd visited there a few months ago, reminiscing about the school cross country course! This time we started at Castle Hill close to Fordingbridge, which has beautiful views from high across the sweeping flatness of the peaceful Avon Valley.
We headed through Godhill Enclosure, having entered the New Forest National Park, admiring the small pockets of bluebells still on display amidst the remnants of ancient woodland. Popping out the other side, into the village of Godshill itself, we exited the National Park and attempted to pick up a small path towards the river. We missed our turning, but did find another path further along. Although this meant we had done a small loop, this turned out to be fortuitous, as the path was beautiful. It passed old cottages, a small tranquil stream, and up the hill through great swathes of bluebells, all with nobody about at all. We then found ourselves along an old drove way, again lined with bluebells and red campion, thinking about the centuries of use by farmers driving livestock between farms and to market.
We crossed a field and were then on the edge of Frankenbury Iron Age hill fort, although it was hard to make out any earthworks, it being covered in woodland now. The plan was to continue around the fort, but, whilst admiring the magnificent trees and strolling purposefully along well-made paths, we found ourselves deep in Sandy Balls Holiday Park (cue sniggering about the name). This is the trouble with public footpaths not being distinguished from permissive tracks on the estate. We managed - with a bit of help form the phone - to establish quite how far we had gone wrong and retrace our steps back to where we should have been. Again, though, this route had afforded great views!
Finally, we worked our way through a farm and up the road to the car. A lovely route through a quiet area of the National Park and beyond well worth exploring, for the woodland, wildflowers and birdlife.