Hincheslea and Whitemoor

21st April 2009

The day was bright and warm as summer. The route is one I made up from the map (OL22 - New Forest) and it turned out to be another lovely walk.

The first intended landmark to hit was the disused railway that runs as a cycle track/footpath/bridleway from Burley to Brockenhurst. The route runs past the outskirts of Brockenhurst and out across the eastern reaches of Hincheslea Bog. As I passed the last cottage before heading out across the bog I met a lady with a young labrador who wanted me to play fetch - with my walking pole, if you please!

Unlike my previous encounter with a bog (Linwood) the path is excellent and takes you safely across the bog and not into it. The views are interesting across this part of the New Forest as the wetlands are being managed to encourage wildlife that prefers such an environment. The ponies were also finding good foraging here.

After meandering across the bog and down through a small copse, the path runs between two cottages and on to the disused railway. I walked part of this on my walk around Sway back in December 2008 and today I left the path where I had previously left it to walk down to the village. Today, however, my way lay in the opposite direction, passing under the old bridge and up into the western area of Hincheslea Bog. There is an information panel here with details of the path layout around the wetland and about the birds that inhabit the area.

Having met with a pleasant chap and his three soggy spaniels I followed the path across the footbridge by the water where the dogs had obviously been playing and continued up into Hincheslea Wood. On reaching the boundary fence of Farm Cottage (a mansion if ever I saw one)the path turns left and soon becomes indistinct. Keep the fence clearly to the right and trust the clearest way ahead.

I came upon a muntjac deer which looked at me, had a scratch and wandered off a short distance to start grazing. It wasn't fazed by me at all. Great photo opportunity you would think. Every shot I attempted was all tail and no head. I gave up, the deer grazed on. At the edge of the trees a good, clear path appears running south to north, with the fenced land of Farm Cottage on the right and Burley Road ahead to cross to Hincheslea Moor.

Before I got to the road I was adopted by two pony yearlings. I was worried that they might follow me out on to the road. Fortunately my ignoring them (apart from taking one photo) made them eventually give up and go back to what they were doing.

Hincheslea Moor is pleasant walking. The lower part of the path is obviously deeply muddy in winter and after heavy rain but it soon rises and becomes sandy. It slopes up to Red Hill - which is actually yellow due to the thick gorse bushes that cover it. From Red Hill, I turned west to follow another previously trodden path, this time up Holm Hill (January 2009 Whitefield Moor). However, I turned off on to a different path down to the Ober River and up into Clumber Inclosure. Fortunately, the pony grazing directly in front of the gate into the Inclosure moved off after giving me an "I suppose you want me to move" look as I approached.

I had been in Clumber Inclosure before on the walk mentioned above. On that occasion I came in from the west and turned north to pass Rhinefield House. Today I entered from the south and turned east heading for Aldrigehill Inclosure. The light through the tall pines was scintillating, and there was a lovely warm glow on the path at the crossroads. It was a lovely place to be.

The route led out of a gate, guarded by a tall Douglas fir, and across Rhinefield Drive into Aldridgehill Inclosure, another place I have walked several times. From the main path I turned down alongside a new enclosure of pine posts and wire fencing and came down to the excellent path that runs alongside Ober Water as a laid out Forest Trail. I went over the bridge and up the slope to the car park. They have a public convenience there.

From here along the path that runs between the green lawn of Whitefield Moor and the lower wetland. Small paths run down to the river but there is a gravelled path further along that runs down to another bridge and turns right along the south bank of the river to a cross path which runs up to a drive and the car park at the far end of the drive.

The water gently trickles over the stones and fallen twigs and branches, birds begin their evening chorus as the sun falls westward, and it is very peaceful and pleasant. Try to come midweek during termtime to avoid the inevitable crowds at weekends and during school holidays.

As you make your way back to the car park, Whitefield Moor opens out around you.

At 6.45pm on an April evening with the sun hanging just above the horizon, a golden light falls across the green lawns dotted with New Forest and Shetland ponies. Looking out over those lawns and the surrounding tree lined moors I couldn't think of anywhere else I would rather be at that moment.

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