When I say, my geography is poor, better educated people in this field (or indeed persons with any slight knowledge of the subject) generally fail to understand just how inadequate it is. I make the mendacious excuse that its teaching at school seemed largely to consist of wheat yields in Canada; the teacher was one of those persons who never get to the point and stuttered, and I had a window seat in the 4th floor classroom where we were higher than the swallows.

We recently went on holiday to the New Forest. I didn’t know where it was. I had some vague idea it was beyond the Cotswolds, or east of Cambridge, or somewhere like that.

When I first go somewhere, I don’t research it. I am fortunate that I travel with my personal tour guide, holiday planner and driver, so I leave it all to him. Occasionally he becomes a little irritated by my extreme ignorance, but we’ve travelled together for 40 years, and so far he’s been able to put up with me. He’s a great person to travel with. He has a nose for where the street of best restaurants will be in any city. He can find a toilet when one is needed (which in my case is fairly often) in the most unpromising of places. He has an instinct for danger, and can bribe, bully or charm his way out of a deteriorating situation faster than I can say, I don’t like the look of this. I once went to a meeting where you had to relate your ideal adventure or holiday and choose your ideal travelling companion. I found I didn’t want to travel with anybody but John..

Anyway, on this trip I am amazed to discover that the New Forest occupies a small triangle between the Southern cities of Portsmouth, Poole and Salisbury. Although it has some low hills, it is largely flat, with very little boundary between land and water. Much of it is decidedly marshy. I also realise there is a difference between what the Scots mean when they say ‘forest’ – mountains and valleys covered in ancient pine – and the English definition – scrubby moorland with open spaces and copses of woods. It is quite attractive, but I have no sense of belonging with it, and in fact it is unlike any other area of England that I’ve seen.

The famous horses are lovely of course and they are quite unfazed by cars or people. They don’t look ferocious and the best policy is to admire from a distance. They are of many colours, including one particularly lovely one with cream body and smoky blue ‘accessories’, and there were more white horses than I would have expected. They were roaming freely and the area was unfenced but it was difficult to tell just how ‘wild’ they were.

The area, by Scots standards, was quite heavily populated throughout and it had some attractive villages and towns, of which I thought the most prominent were Lymington and Christchurch. We had some very nice meals – we had no bad meals – and one in a French style restaurant in Lymington where everything was excellent except that Madame in charge, while perfectly competent and obliging, behaved rather like a duchess who had invited her tenants to a reception at her chateau and expected them to be slightly more grateful for the honour than they appeared to be. The food was good enough to compensate however.

We explored a section of ‘forest’ looking for the Rufus stone, and sadly concluded that we could not find it and returned to the car to see it squarely facing us on the other side of the road. It allegedly marks the spot where William II of England, son of William the Conqueror and known as Rufus on account of his red hair and ruddy complexion, was killed by an arrow fired by one of his own men in what was presumed to be an accident but in circumstances which could be described as ‘suspicious’. I was amused to note that the original stone had required replacement as it was continually desecrated and vandalised (clearly the inhabitants of this island are not all tainted by the blood of the conqueror!)

In all, it’s a pleasant area, untypical of England however. People were relaxed and friendly.

Large sections of it belong to the Beaulieu Estate, whose owner, Montagu of Beaulieu died while we were there. Bealieu’s location was another surprise to me. I had thought it was in Ross and Cromarty in the North of Scotland – but it turned out I had confused it with the Beauly Firth.

I did say my geography was poor.




About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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