Starting mileage: 15301 km
Day started: 11:00
Day ended: 22:00
A fairly uneventful day, due to the weather being more awful than usual and us oversleeping and being late everywhere.
The New Forest is a curious ecosystem: one where the usual wild forest animals have been replaced, with success, by domesticated ones. The cow replaces the bison, the pig replaces the boar, and the pony replaces the deer. The ponies of New Forest, a native, half-feral breed, are graceful, slender animals, quite unlike most other working pony breeds. You can quite easily imagine a dwarf or a hobbit riding one into battle at full gallop.
The ponies roam the forest in their thousands, keeping the gorse and grass of the wind-swept meadows in check; on open campsites, like Roundhill, they wander freely among the tents and caravans. Further into the park, they can be seen in small herds, quite unperturbed by the tourists trying to snap a photo of this English mustang.
Overnight, the weather turned from sunny and hot to sunny and cold, then to cloudy and cold, then to windy, cloudy and cold. It continued to grow increasingly abysmal throughout the day.
We drove on to Dorset, along the coast, via Boscombe Beach. A few brave surfers struggled with the cold and rain, as the wind blew sand into our air filters, forming small dunes on the esplanade. Everything looked rather bleak, like a British remake of A Scene at the Sea.
The wind picked up, and the shipping forecast for the day became a litany of gale warnings. On a sunny day, Brownsea Island (birthplace of Scouting) is a small paradise of pine trees, peacocks and red squirrels accessible by ferry, well worth visiting, but today it had to join the list of places we passed by, having seen it twice already in much more favourable conditions. Instead we took a brief stroll around the old Poole harbour, which turned out to have a large medieval hall and a haunted pub.
We were now heading for Purbeck Isle, so naturally we had to stop by everyone’s favourite iconic castle at Corfe – if only to buy an extra blanket from NT shop 😉 The castle is an instantly familiar sight, its tall, ruined keep rising over the Purbeck like a real-life Amon Sul, with sweeping vistas in every direction. The NT have now added a few more explanatory plaques, which help spot the ancient Anglo-Saxon herringbone masonry on the walls of the Old Hall, and the remains of King John’s private villa, the Gloriette.
Tom’s Field is a preferred holiday spot for those wanting to take the long walks along the Purbeck Coast; it’s a medium-sized field, average priced, with good facilities, situated in the village of Langton Matravers, close enough to get to the pub in a few minutes, but far enough not to be disturbed by traffic.
At night the gale grew to the strongest we had yet witnessed, and I spent the best part of the evening trying to figure out how strong a wind needs to be to overturn a campervan 🙂