The New Forest’s Uncharted Waters

Arriving at the New Forest visitor centre, we were met by two women at a desk. I had researched a few walks and decided on ‘The Matley Walk’ which would take us from Lyndhurst to Matley Wood.

ME: Hi, could you point out the Matley Walk on a map for us please?

LADIES: Never heard of it. You sure you wanna go walking today? You’ll get very wet. Oh I suppose you’re young and fit, you’ll be alright. Go and see them at the information desk.

ME: Hi, we want to do the Matley Walk. Do you have a map we could look at?

LADY: Oh I think that’s on the map we don’t have anymore. You could drive to here (pointing on a different map) and walk along the river. I wouldn’t go walking into the forest without a map. It’s not signposted you know. Have you got our phone number? Have you got water? Have you got a knife? Have you got your emergency flares?

So I may have exaggerated the last part of the conversation slightly, but they did their best to deter us from walking the route we’d chosen. Bearing in mind it was bright sunshine outside, we thought the staff must have either thought us to be complete idiots, or they were trying to keep the route for themselves. Either way, this was a bizarre start to our hike! We set off down the highstreet into a well maintained paddock full of ponies, rooks and bouncing pied wagtails. There was one sign for Matley Wood, and considering it was a long straight path, it was all we needed.

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We reached Matley Wood, or a woodland nearby after some half hour of walking. It was glorious. The sunlight was splintered through the towering trees, leading us to a mighty log pile. The girls couldn’t resist.

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We left the log pile and headed further into the woods. Our feet were still dry at this point and there was no apparent need for a flare gun. We found some climbable trees and yogable logs. The girls staged a kung-fu fight on the log, as you do.

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As every good explorer knows you need to take provisions, so we stopped for a quick snack of wobbly worms to boost our wanderlust.

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From woods to bogs, we ventured further into the unknown. Here we found the uncharted waters that the nervy workers of the visitor centre might have been thinking of. Trees sprung out of the spongy ground like those in a savannah. We crossed streams, sank in bogs and eventually got to the New Forest’s smallest waterfall.

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Now with ‘very wet’ feet, we looked for an exit from the bog. We headed back through a sort of path, taking some trees in our stride as we went.

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We made it out the other side of the treacherous boggy woodland, into a field full of cows. At no point did we feel the need for a map, extra signposts, a flare gun, a knife or other such items.

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