Saturday April 6th 2002
Lymington – Hythe
Spring had arrived and with Jen home for the last university holiday before her finals, a day’s walking seemed like a good plan. We set out early and arrived in Lymington once again just after 10a.m. The walk today began from Lymington Town station and was to head east through the New Forest to Hythe, nearly 12 miles away on Southampton Water. We were embarking on this walk with a certain amount of reluctance because it barely touched the coast. It is difficult to reach the sea in the New Forest because most of the land is privately owned and because the first crossing of the Beaulieu River is several miles inland at Beaulieu Village. The Solent Way meanders parallel with the coast and along the river but the gap between public transport stops is too great to make it feasible in one day. So we decided to navigate our own way between the two small towns and thus keep the continuity of the walk.
We set off from the station, across the railway and over the River Lymington where we saw a sign warning of otters crossing the road. It was a very straight fast stretch of road and any foolish otter crossing here would surely take his life into his paws.
Soon we left the road and climbed a woodland path to a very impressive obelisk, which was a memorial to the MP for Lymington who died in 1840. On the other side of the memorial was a quiet wooded lane that led us past Snook’s Farm into the small village of South Baddesley. Here we rested for a few minutes on the steps of the village hall much to the amusement of the ladies of the village who were setting up a jumble sale inside.
From South Baddesley we left the Solent Way turning north along a secluded lane that ended at a tiny ford on the edge of the next village, Norleywood. We then picked up another equally quiet lane almost to the village of East End where we branched off along a track onto heath land. Soon we came across a pond surrounded by gorse bushes and grass and decided to sit on its banks and eat our lunch. We enjoyed the antics of a couple of teenagers on their ponies splashing through the water and generally enjoying the job of exercising the animals.
After lunch we struck off again across the gorse-covered heath surrounded by horses grazing quietly. We soon picked up another lane and were again heading north. This lane was straight and long with houses along one side and open country on the other. All the way along the road were horses and other animals wandering along with no restriction. The only fences were those on the front of the houses and across the road the wilderness stretched as far as the eye could see. We were treated to the site of half a dozen cows roaming freely, eating grass as they ambled along. One even helped itself to a large piece of lilac overhanging the wall of a front garden!
The end of the road brought us into the village of East Boldre and a minor panic when we could not find the pub we knew was there and were looking forward to! Eventually we stopped outside the church to consult the map, then walked round the corner and there it was! The Turfcutter’s Arms had been recommended to us, so we went in for a drink and use of the facilities. We had our drink in the garden with the dogs and the washing!
Much refreshed we continued through the village and up Chapel Lane in the hope of finding a footpath at the end that would cut off a large amount of road walking. On the way, we found the chapel; a Baptist one with a sign outside reading, “DO NOT PARK HERE ON SUNDAYS”, which made us chuckle. There was a space reserved for the Minister though!
The footpath was well marked at the end of the lane along with a sign telling us we had entered the Beaulieu estate. The path wound downhill through a beautiful wood with a stream at the bottom then came out into a field and disappeared. We decided to try following the edge of the field as it looked as though it had been walked before. We did this though two fields and by a miracle ended up in the right place! From there it was a short walk along a very busy road into the centre of Beaulieu village.
Beaulieu is a very popular destination for visitors and a very ancient place with the river crossing here influencing the settlement. The abbey church here was built in 1204 and was, until the 1500s, the largest Cistercian monastery in Britain. After the reformation the Montagu family moved in and have owned the estate ever since. The family is famous for the motor museum but their home is also open to visitors and they work the farms and other tourist attractions all around.
We stopped in Beaulieu for a cup of tea and a cake at a posh tearoom but decided we didn’t really like the place much. Perhaps it was the contrast between the lovely secluded lanes we had been walking because Beaulieu was busy and noisy with tourists and too many cars. Whichever we decided to move on fairly quickly but paused for a moment on the river bridge that had forced us so far inland. The name is of French origin and simply means lovely place, which it probably still is when everyone has gone home.
The next section of the walk was back on The Solent Way again and fairly unpleasant. The route followed the only road out of Beaulieu which is a B road; narrow and twisty with no safe space for walkers at all. We first part was uphill and still within the village with gardens walls fronting the roads and not even a grass verge to escape onto. At the top of the hill we were back into heath land again and were able to walk on grass away from the road. However it was uneven and quite difficult walking particularly towards the end of the day. There were still horses roaming free here and a donkey wandering across a road with no concern for the traffic.
Finally, the end of a long straight road brought the beginning of the descent into Hythe although it was still another couple of miles to the sea. The walking was easier here as there were pavements and houses and things to look at. We fairly soon found our way to the front at Hythe with its ferry terminal and buses back to civilization!
We had done it! 11½ miles of New Forest in 5-and-a-bit hours. We have now walked across most of Hampshire, nearly done the Solent Way and walked across an O.S. Map! We took some photos and caught the next available bus back into Southampton. It took us through every village on the way but that was interesting too. At Southampton we collapsed into a fast train all the way to Reading. Glyn met us at our station and we arrived home just after eight o’clock ready for a hot bath but triumphant!
Running Total 70.5 miles