Sixteen of us assembled for ‘standing orders’ at our hotel along with Rocky a Border terrier, rescued by Hazel and Roger, previously owned by a friend who could no longer cope with him. Three more members joined us later in the week. Rocky accompanied every ramble and even appeared to lead some, but to claim that would be denigrating the skills of Dennis and Roger!
When Bill Bryson wrote A Walk in the Woods his understated title referred to trekking in the Appalachian Mountains. However the first Rambling Club walk, a stroll through the forest, was just that. The forest was the New Forest in Hampshire and we began at Lyndhurst Heath near the hotel at Cadnam where we stayed. It was only three fairly easy miles, starting on open heathland with a single cow (an escapee?) and several ponies which would came right up to you. Once among trees navigation was difficult, but modern technology saw through to Beechen Lane and back to Lyndhurst. Presumably ‘beechen’ is the local plural of beech, as in children and oxen, and there were beech trees on both sides of the lane.
The next day our fittest four accepted an invitation to join the New Forest Ramblers for a five–and–half mile ramble beginning at Millyford Bridge. Fearing I would merely stroll and hold up the others I was not one of the four. I understand there were some tricky paths with fallen trees to be negotiated, and the pace was brisk. I also didn’t take part in the slightly shorter ramble at Keyhaven by The Solent on a hot, sunny day. Those who were not taking part in any of the walks went to towns like Lymington where there are cobbled streets and the church has a huge gallery erected in 1798. There are attractive villages such as Minstead, gardens noted for azaleas and rhododendrons, Beaulieu Abbey and The National Motor Museum.
The final ramble began at Burley which seems to be a village obsessed by witches and things occult. I usually find something historical to write about when recording Old Askean rambles and this time it was a stone rather like a milestone but placed on the edge of the village in 1802. It reads ‘Peace restored 27th March 1802. Rest and be thankful’. This refers to the fourteen months of peace, agreed at the Treaty of Amiens, during the wars with Napoleonic France. The path took us along a disused railway track and through Holmsley Bog which fortunately lay below road level.
Blazers were worn for the last meal of the holiday and The Sandbin was sung more tunefully than in the recent past. Unfortunately there was no Welsh choir present to appreciate our efforts. Jenny set the quiz which was won by Ann Johnson (on her own she insisted).