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Bikerscott and Jamikins do the New Forest (Hampshire, Southern England)

Bikerscott and Jamikins do the New Forest (Hampshire, Southern England)

Apr 13th, 2009, 12:50 PM
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Bikerscott and Jamikins do the New Forest (Hampshire, Southern England)

The New Forest - Southern England

April 10th – April 13th 2009

Day One – Drive to Brockenhurst

We picked up the car on Thursday evening at the Sixt rental place just across from Battersea Park train station. We’d reserved a 4-door automatic Golf, but it seems that they’d oversold them and had run out so they gave us a free upgrade. The first offer was for a Mercedes, but it was just a two door; with the kiddos in tow we’d definitely need a 4-door. We weren’t expecting the Volkswagen Touareg – a car the size of Belgium. I nervously got behind the wheel and set up. The sat-nav worked its magic and we made it back to our flat in about 15 minutes, passing buses with reckless abandon.

Friday morning, we weren’t feeling particularly healthy, having been out the night before with Tim and Heidi at The Comedy Store at Leicester Square where we may have overindulged just a little bit. We had neglected to pack at all for the trip prior to Friday morning, so after dragging our sorry asses out of bed at the ungodly hour of 8am, we threw everything into a suitcase and loaded up The Beast. We had planned to hit the road at about 9, but due to the time it took to actually get moving, we didn’t head out until closer to 9:45 – having missed both breakfast and more urgently, coffee.

The drive was initially uneventful, taking us down through Balham and Tooting, then out past Kingston onto the M3. Apparently everyone in London heads west at Easter and we started to hit a bit of traffic, caused mostly it seemed by broken down cars and one on fire at the side of the motorway. At one point, Frau Gretel (the stern and LOUD voice of The Beast’s built-in sat nav thingy) warned us that THERE WERE QUEUES AHEAD. I shit myself just a little bit, having not known that the car could do that on its own.
Before I go too much further, a few notes about The Beast. First, it’s really wide. I parked at the front of a long line of normal cars on Thursday night – my tyres were touching the curb, yet the other side was jutting out noticeably further than other cars. Second, it’s weird. The windshield wipers will only work when the car is moving – if you’re stopped, it doesn’t matter what you do, the windshield will remain soiled. Also, the engine must be running to tilt the side mirrors in when parking. Very bizarre. On the plus side, it does have a built-in sat nav super-duper entertainment/radio/media player thing in the dash that we found useful – the little sat nav did the directing and the one in the car was used to see where we were going. It’s a diesel, and very big, so it doesn’t seem to have that much power. I really had to stomp on the gas to get it to go, but once moving it’s very comfortable to drive.

So – traffic was starting to get a little heavy, but nothing too bad. Until we got to the A337 heading into Lyndhurst. At that point, it turned into a very long parking lot – the mile from where the queue started to the red light that was causing took almost as long as the entire 90 mile drive to that point. I was not amused, and the dogs in the back seat were getting restless.

We finally did make it to Brockenhurst and found the B&B without too much bother, which was a nice change for us (that Sat Nav has paid for itself several times over lately). Our room wasn`t quite ready so we took the kids out for a quick walk in the drizzle while we waited. Did I mention the drizzle? It had been sunny for about two consecutive weeks in Britain preparing for the Bank Holiday, when it is legally obliged to rain, or at least fitfully spray cold piss down on merrymakers trying to have a good time away from work. Not that I’m bitter at all. We had to spend quite a bit of time avoiding rather large piles of horse shit on our little walk, which we found odd, seeing as we’re pretty much in the centre of the village. Turns out, it’s not odd here; it’s completely normal to have largish herds of wild horses, forest ponies, donkeys, pigs, cows, and occasionally deer wander through and around the towns and villages in the Forest, leaving trails of closely-chewed foliage and steaming mounds of poo.

So – we got into our room and put our things down. The room is really nice, if a little on the small side (we’ve become hotel/b&b snobs) with a little hallway for the dogs and a nice-ish bathroom. We even have our own little fenced-in patio so that the kids can run about without escaping. We spent a little while getting settled in before heading out for dinner.

The B&B has a little guest comment book where people can leave reviews of local eateries. A pub up the road called “The Snakecatcher” got good reviews according to other guests, so we decided to give it a go.

It was odd. It was up near the train station and sort of looked like a waiting room into which someone had installed a bar. The menu was even odder. They’d evidently got a chef in with delusions of grandeur who seemed to think that The Snakecatcher was in either central London or central Paris – it included such typical pub fair as confit of duck leg with a currant sauce, rack of lamb, and other gastronomic delights. It was a bit thin on the traditional pub food which one expects to see in a pub. To be fair, what they served was done fairly well, if a bit unseasoned. But when I’m at a pub in the country I want country pub food, not confit of bloody duck.

After dinner we thought we’d give a second pub up the road a go, to see if Brockenhurst could redeem itself. It couldn’t. The Rose and Crown (I mean honestly, if I see another Rose and Crown, or Royal Oak, or Red Lion, I’m going to stab myself in the eye with a bar drinks twizzler) looked really quite nice from the outside; a big stone building which was clearly quite old exuding that jolly friendly atmosphere which we look for in a pub. Inside, however, it appeared that a group of elderly retired pub owners gathered together 100 years of bad pub wall crap and nailed it all to every available vertical surface. Then took belt sanders to ever thing else. We only had one drink. Then headed for bed.
BikerScott is offline  
Apr 13th, 2009, 12:53 PM
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Day two - A Walk in the Forest

Saturday dawned grey and damply, as we had expected, despite the Met Office’s cheerful assurances that the sun would soon be out. We took the kids for their morning constitutional before presenting ourselves in the dining room for our breakfast. We had the option of a full English or an omelette – we both went for the full. Despite the name, it wasn’t actually that big, but quite tasty – the expected fried egg, both streaky AND back bacon (posh, innit?), a fried tomato and a little Portobello mushroom. No beans, oh well.

The day, despite the general dampness, looked like it wasn’t actually going to rain, so we grabbed a pre-printed laminated map and headed out to walk the New Forest. As it turned out, the map was crap. We carefully followed the directions to the first marker point and went in completely the wrong direction. After walking for about half a mile, a local resident who happened to be walking the opposite direction into town asked if we needed help reading the map. We said yes, and handed it over. He inspected it for quite some time, turning it this way and that, before deciding that he had no idea where we were meant to be going or where it was expecting us to start, and this coming from someone who had lived in the area for 25 years!

He kindly took us into town and showed me where to buy an ordinance survey map for 8 quid, and set us on the right path on completely the other side of the village from where we’d started. We left the paved road and down a soggy boggy path across the heath towards the forest near Brockenhurst. The kiddoes don’t get a huge amount of exercise in the city so we weren’t sure how well they (or we) were going to do. At first they seemed to flag a big tramping through the giant mud puddles and boggy bits, but like all small children and me, they seemed to delight in getting completely filthy and soon were merrily bouncing along beside us.

We soon entered the forest proper on a bike path, where the going was much easier, and made fairly good time. We were extremely glad that we’d bought the ordinance map, as the forest was complicated, with turning and branches all over the place. It was a very odd place to be – obviously people had been there for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and the passing time and nature couldn’t completely obliterate the evidence of their lives. There were what seemed to be irrigation channels and little raised earthworks all over the place which, based on the size of trees growing out of them, had been there for quite some time.

It’s odd – The Forest by Edward Rutherford, which I am reading at the moment, was set in this very place, despite being (initially) set in 1099!
Several hours and two very tired monkeys later we made it out the other side of the forest into the town of Bank, near Lyndhurst, and the pub we’d been aiming at – the Oak Inn (have I mentioned that the British aren’t particularly creative in the naming of their pubs?). They had a huge patio seating area at the back, so we found a spare picnic bench with the kids and sat down to a few tasty pints and a surprisingly good lunch. Unfortunately the walk hadn’t completely exhausted the kids and they managed to find the energy to be very loud and embarrassing when other dogs had the audacity to walk through what was very clearly THEIR pub.

Having had our fill of lunch and beer...well, not MY fill of beer to be perfectly honest...we headed back to the forest, fully intent on walking the five miles back to Brockenhurst and the hotel. About 20 yards down the path though, Hamilton was lagging behind by quite a bit and not looking so pleased with the plan. We decided that the easier option would be to walk into Lyndhurst and find the bus stop which was apparently conveniently located outside yet another pub, as neither of us particularly wanted to carry either of the dogs the five miles back.

The pub turned out to be a bit crap, and the bus was EXPENSIVE – five pounds sixty, as opposed to the 90 pence I’m used to paying in London! It was, however, easier than walking and dropped us off right at the Brockenhurst train station (Jamie would probably like me to mention the moment on the bus where I stood up to press the “stop” button and tried to sit back down, not realizing that the seat was one of the spring-loaded folding ones which had folded when I stood up, thus I fell on my ass while carrying my camera and holding Charlie, but it’s embarrassing so I won’t mention it).

When we got back to the room, the dogs crashed. I’ve never seen Charlie so tired – she could hardly lift her head up off the carpet, and farted in a desultory manner, which is not normal behaviour. We were a bit tired as well and I had a few minutes of a lie-down while Jamie read – we had to wait till 7pm for dinner.

Seemingly moments later it was dinner time, so we drove back over to the train station, and more particularly, Il Pollio (or something Italian like that) for pizza. Oddly, both of us were so exhausted that neither of us felt like having any wine. We did, however, manage to get through a litre and a half of water with our pizzas. Impressively dehydrated, I’d say. Probably caused for once by exercise, rather than the previous night at the pub.

Despite the somewhat late start for dinner, we were in bed with the lights out by half nine. We felt old and sad, but we ARE old and sad, so whatever.
BikerScott is offline  
Apr 13th, 2009, 01:08 PM
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And some of our pics:
jamikins is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 04:54 AM
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Enjoying your report; especially like all the little "side" comments! Your pictures add to the narrative. thanks for sharing. I am watching for the rest of the story.
irishface is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 05:21 AM
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Day 3 is being written as we speak

I've just re-read the first two days and feel that I should clarify something - all references to "the kiddos", "the kids", and "the monkeys" are to our two dogs Hamilton and Charlie. Both are small pugs, who had a great time on the trip despite us walking them half to death, plus not letting them play with the horses and cows.
BikerScott is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 05:39 AM
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Looking forward to the rest!
yk is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 05:43 AM
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This is great. Glad you clarified about the kiddos, and you are NOT (old nor sad neither).
stokebailey is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 09:31 AM
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I figured the kids were dogs expecially after looking at your pictures. The one with the dog looking as if he were right in your face about to leap off the monitor was great. Made me laugh! Again, thanks!
irishface is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 12:16 PM
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Completely loving this trip report. Awesome.
jent103 is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 12:27 PM
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Great fun report so far,

but that was a long walk for little puglets on their first day out of London!
julia_t is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 12:00 AM
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To be honest we didnt know if they would make it julia_t, but they did great!
jamikins is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 01:19 AM
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We were worried they wouldnt make it julia_t! But they did so much better than expected!
jamikins is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 02:37 AM
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Good start. Thanks for sharing your pictures.

SandyBrit is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 06:45 AM
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Pugs'd be easy to carry if need be.
stokebailey is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 06:48 AM
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Stokebailey...you'd be surprised at how heavy the can be!
jamikins is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 01:10 PM
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Day Three - Here, There, and Everywhere

For breakfast this morning, I decided to go for the cheese and bacon omelette, because let’s be honest, nothing with cheese and bacon in it ever tasted bad. Both Jamie and I were a bit stiff after yesterday’s death march, and I suspect the kids were as well, although with them not speaking English it’s a bit hard to tell sometimes. We decided that instead of another day of trekking, we’d spend a bit more time in the car exploring the local villages.

After breakfast, we loaded the kiddos into the car and drove to the little village of Beaulieu – the bit of The Forest by Edward Rutherford that I was at was set at the Beaulieu Abbey and I was curious to see what it actually looked like. The drive over to Beaulieu didn’t take as long as I’d expected – I’m constantly surprised how close together everything is in Britain. We stopped briefly on the way to see if we could find a herd of highland cattle that I thought I’d seen, however all we saw were a few ponies sleeping while standing up and a group of people with remote control model airplanes. I wanted to watch some of the big ones take off, but Jamie was bored so we left.

When we got to Beaulieu we discovered that they were having a local market, so we parked in the village hall parking lot and took a look (I’d like to say that a guy in a little hatchback took three or four tries to get out of his parking space, while I managed to back into it on the first try, despite my car being twice the size of his, and despite my being a bit of a rubbish driver when I’m on the wrong side of the road).

Having been to any number of local French markets while in France, we may have been expecting too much from the British one. There was a butcher’s table set up outside as well as a little veg stand, and few little stalls set up inside the hall selling everything from hand-made jewellery to woollen blankets to a very enthusiastic New Forest baker who was regaling everyone with tales of proper British baking. He’d actually come up with a brilliant idea - seperating a loaf of bread into two-slice sections and sealing them up. We don't eat a lot of bread, so just taking enough for a sandwich out of the freezer at a time in their little packages is perfect! He was so excited about baking though - was trying to bring back old bread recipes from the 20's...no preservatives or additives, just bread. We bought two loafs, then spent a good ten minutes trying to leave - I guess he figured he had a captive audience...

After the market, we took a bit of a walk through the village of Beaulieu. It's a very cute, but very small little place, with ponies and donkeys wandering about all over the place. We saw the back of the abbey but there didn't seem to be any doors or entrances that we could see. Charlie spent some quality time barking at the donkeys, one of her favourite New Forest pastimes. Not annoying at all. We had reservations for lunch at The Hare and Hounds in Sway for lunch, so packed back into the car and headed out.

The drive to Sway was uneventful other than one breakthrough discovery. One of the downsides of constantly hiring different vehicles is that you never really get used to any of them. I'd noticed that on the vehicle info screen on the Touareg, the bonnet displayed as red. As it had done this when we picked it up from the car hire place, I assumed it was supposed to. Jamie, very cleverly, had noticed that when she opened her door, the little door animation on the vehicle information screen also turned red. If you've put it all together already, you're smarter than me. Yes, I'd been driving around Britian for two days with the bonnet not securely fastened. As soon as I'd closed it, all the weird things that the damn car had been doing stopped - the menus screens started working properly, and most importantly, the wipers started working even if we weren't moving.

Lunch at The Hare and Hounds was actually pretty good - a good portion of roast beef, a big ole yorkshire pudding, potatoes, and as probably expected in dear ole blighty, overcooked veg (I'd be disappointed if I got a serving of veg anywhere in Britian that hadn't been cooked to within an inch of it's life. I may have also enjoyed a tasty pint of Fuggle De Dum by Goddards brewery on the Isle of Wight - well worth a sip if you can find it...

After lunch, we hit the road once again, this time on the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive just east of Brockenhurst. We stopped for a brief walk in the forest again, but didn't opt for the epic walk we could've done. It seemed that the forest in that area would have been beautiful a little later in the spring or summer with all the leaves out, but we were a bit early. On the other hand, there seemed to be a fair bit of pine around so it reminded us of the forests in Canada so was nice to spend a bit of time in.

Jamie and I still wanted to see the abbey at Beaulieu, so after a bit of a wander, we got back in the car and drove back to Beaulieu. Just before the village is a turn-off for Buckler's Hard. We didn't know what it was, but it has a funny name so we took the turning and went for a look. It turns out it's an old sea-side village where they used to build ships. Now they charge people to go look at it. As we hadn't planned on seeing it anyway and were feeling a bit cheap, we turned around and headed back to Beaulieu.

We got back to the village and found the signs for the abbey and manor house. We were surprised to find a huge series of 4 parking lots and a big entrance hall. We were even more surprised to find that it was going to cost us £15.75 each to get into the place. To be fair, for that price we would have been able to get in to the abbey, the manor house AND the motor museum (an odd combination, but there you have it). On the other hand, we had the kids with us so we wouldn't be allowed into any of the buildings. So £15.75 each to wander around inside a fenced-in area. We could do that for free, and not even have the fence!

We left Beaulieu and turned off the sat nav, relying on the ordinance survey map. Of course, this meant that we fairly quickly got relatively lost and spent a fair bit of time driving about. It was during this drive that I managed to slightly hit a small wooden post while not driving very quickly at all, and in a parking lot to boot. Don't worry - not a lot of damage at all, no harm no foul.

We were feeling so upset by the events of the afternoon that we felt that we needed a fresh pint to steady our nerves. We found a new pub (well, new to us) probably called something The Royal Oak or something similar (can't actually remember the name, but I think it actually was The Royal Oak) on the edge of one of the heaths. It was one of the least scenic points of the New Forest, however they cleverly acknowledged this by advertising the wonderful view in the evening of the twinkling lights of the oil refinery across the heath...nice one. They did have a little donkey in the parking lot that was doing its bit by licking the dirt off the cars parked there - thoughtful.

Eventually, we felt that our nerves were steadied sufficiently to drive back to Brockenhurst and find somewhere for dinner (this sounds bad - I'd only had one pint at the pub, the last pint having been several hours earlier - no drinking and driving for this kid). Jamie had seen a wine bar on the high street that she wanted to try, so we looked at the menu. She was then momentarily distracted by the curry place up the road that had gotten good reviews in the guest book. I, on the other hand, was looking forward to a nice steak.

We went into Brookley's and found that it was run by a french guy - a good sign in a wine bar. We both ordered the sirloin with chips and a bottle for cotes de rhone as recommended, which turned out to be quite a nice bottle. Not much I can say about the steak - it was cooked by a french guy, so arrived rare as ordered, as opposed to the medium well I would have expected if cooked by a Brit We finished out dinner and went back to the B&B to crash. Again, sad and old.
BikerScott is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 01:52 PM
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Fun trip report, and I love your pictures. Thanks for posting.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 02:21 PM
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jamikins, I admit I've never carried a pug in my life, and they do look solid now that you mention it.

Thanks, Scott. Fun report.
stokebailey is offline  
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