My partner-in-crime Richard has produced a look-back over the last 6 months or so. Maybe you were there ....

 Descending from Ballard Down - no time to lose with a train to catch

Richard's Ramble
We have always been lucky with the weather, with only a very few walks where getting wet has taken the edge off what would have been a brilliant day.  There have been some memorable moments involving water but these come up regularly in our little anecdotes. Recently though, if we were to take a walk we would certainly need our water wings - all through the summer its been on/off rain.


During our most recent weekend walk from Lyndhurst, miraculously, we avoided a drenching again and we only had to suffer a slight drizzle on the sunday. Probably, if we hadn't stood around talking about coppicing quite so much we could have stayed drier still!


Our adventures since the Easter holidays have seen us trekking through darkest New Forest from Brockenhurst and also setting foot on new turf (for us) over the Purbeck Hills.  The first weekend saw us joined by a sports orientated social club, although others were welcome, if only to make up for the other planned Forestdale weekend being cancelled.  The group is hoping to extend its range of activities offered, as so far it has only really embraced one activity in its successful forays abroad and that's skiing.  The organizers were keen to see how the deceptive art of Fuzzacking would go down (deceptive only in that our walks appear to be an easy paced, casual stroll with a bit of chat along the way - which indeed they are - until you suddenly realise you've walked 9 miles - not bad for a great, healthy exercise that doesn't hurt (much) and is accessible to most).


It seemed to go down very well.  The first day saw us stomping some familiar ground, essentially setting out from the Forest Park and heading roughly towards Lyndhurst, then stopping at Bank for lunch and heading back, taking in badger setts and some fantastic old trees.  We witnessed inosculation, where two trees combine in romantic fusion, as a kiss.  Regulars will be all clued up about this because we've found many examples, but this time it actually came up in the infamous quiz.  Yes, the much mythologised quiz question has actually never been used in anger until now and of course it stumped nearly everyone.


It was still early in the year and many of the flowers hadn't come out, but buzzard soared in the sky and at one point we saw lapwing defending their nests on the ground.


The second day was a coastal walk from Keyhaven, along the sea wall to explore the salt pools.  Flooded now, they form a nature reserve with all manner of water birds, including coots and egrets.  We spotted an elegant heron fishing in the corner.  But as predicted by Steve, the thing everyone takes home with them is the knowledge of where his Mum’s old bike is buried.  The neighbouring restored land was once Lymington tip.


Our next voyage of discovery, barely two weeks later, was the Dorset trip.  Based at the Wessex  hotel, a very swish venue.  Day one saw us start at the village of Corfe with fantastic views of the castle.


We parked at the Corfe end of the Swanage railway, as our means of returning would be by steam train.  On our way we saw a lot more flowers than we ever encounter in the New Forest.  Here, grazing by the famous ponies and cattle mean you really only see members of the buttercup family and some protected examples of flora found behind the fencing of inclosures.  Out in Dorset on the Isle of Purbeck, we were thrilled to see a swathe of red campion at the start.  Then, along the way, through trees, the red splash of herb robert amongst the white mantle of anemones and the hunger inducing aroma of wild garlic and jack-by-the-hedge.  On the hill tops, where its more exposed, yarrow and black medick and on the steps a lot of scarlet pimpernel.


Those steps proved a challenge to all but a few (including the guides!).  Arguably the highpoint of the trip, because yes, they were the only means of getting to the spectacular high points, but also because perseverance triumphed over perception.  The perception of one very brave walker, not used to long distance and suffering from ill fitting footwear (a lesson to be learned!), was that she wouldn’t make it and we were starting to talk about taxis home, but with a little help from her friends (that was all of us) she took the first steep flight with some trepidation and then after that managed the main flight brilliantly well.  We all got to see some world class (without exaggeration) coastal views.  Particularly at Ballard Point, looking down on Swanage.  On the way down we found the fascinating marestail - a prehistoric plant on the Jurassic coast!


The second day shorter walk took in spectacular cliff scenery, on a circular walk to and from the village of Kingston.  Some lovely maritime flowers like slender thistle and golden samphire, plus sheep!


We would really like to do something like this again and the hotel venue was great.


We now look forward to the autumn season and a Forestdale weekend is arranged.  Specialists predict that because of the poor spring and summer, the show of autumn colours could be very good. Also, if it remains slightly damp (damp, not wet) the fungi could do well too.  A kind of a pay-back, if the autumn is really autumny when the summer was not very summery.