The New Forest: Ivy Wood & Perrywood

7 miles (11 kilometres) October. Solo with silly dog

Autumn. The season of contrasts. Harvest and decay. Crunchy leaves and wet ground. Cold weather and wood fires. It’s not that autumn leaves gain colours, but they lose the most dominant. In early October there is still plenty of deep green still to be had and there are not many better places to be than in a moist and mossy broadleaf woodland when the leaves are beginning to turn. I know a good one.

I walk from the Balmer Lawn swimming hole, deserted, aiming for a kind of kissing gate into Ivy Wood, and once again I am alone with no one to kiss, except for the wildlife. I don’t know whether anyone else takes kissing gates literally but in our household you are obligated to kiss the next person coming through, even if you dislike them. Within ones own group I should add, but if you see us, feel free to offer yourself. I’m not sure this one is technically a kissing gate so I’m not kissing Shovell.

Even though it is October there are still plenty of speckled wood and ringlet butterflies around. In the canopy I can hear a woodpecker drumming and ants are marching over decaying stumps. The wood is busy. Someone has scattered moss cushions everywhere, I want to roll in the leaves. My friend has told me there are pigs gruntling around in the woods. It is pannage season, an ancient right where New Foresters let their pigs loose in the woods to forage and eat acorns. I’m on the lookout.

There is a wide cycle path but it is more interesting to explore the side trails, or rides, for which the New Forest is famous. Some on the map have been consumed by the forest leaving no trace. Some have fallen trees blocking the path, but if you are careful and don’t mind a clamber, the wood is yours. Back in June we found orchids, this time I find mushrooms that look just like orange slices.

My wandering is too noisy and I don’t see any deer but I know they are there. Their prints and poo are everywhere, and naturally Shovell wants to roll in it. I haven’t seen any pigs either. I dread to think what Shovell would do if confronted by a drove of pigs.

After an hour or two fungi hunting (sadly no fly agaric, the fairytale mushroom) the wood opens out a little and I’m back on the cycle way. The sky is blue and holly berries are ripening. I have found some peace of autumn.

In the deserted campsite there is a barrow. Pudding Barrow is covered in scrub, whatever is in there is well protected. Most of the bronze age barrows in the area were flattened when the land around Beaulieu was turned into airfields during the war. I don’t know what saved this little pudding.

Near it looms an epic tower, giant and incongruous, like something from War of the Worlds. Something wild hiding in the forest, waiting. My mind tries to fly up there to get a look at the view, but I get shot down in a storm of laser beams. Bloody Martians.

As I start the home stretch back through the wood there are crab apples everywhere. As they rot and ferment I wonder if the ponies spend most of October cider-drunk.

To my left is a silver sliver of a stream. I follow its sound through the woods leading me back to the Lymington River through the Perrywood Ironshill Inclosure, walking along the river bank and jumping the tree roots.

The stream reappears and widens, it is flowing faster now in a rush to get somewhere. I’m surrounded by birds calling and suddenly a huge grey arrow comes flying past, it’s a heron, Old Nog. It’s flying low which means rain, and sure enough the rain comes tumbling down and adds to the sound. It seems whenever the rain begins I start to see mushrooms again. Or maybe its because I turn away from the river, I put my hood up and my head down and the forest floor opens up to me once again.

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More walks in this area

Walk info

This walk is one my son and I did back in May and I knew it would make a great Autumn walk too. Start in Brockenhurst, at the station or one of the carparks nearby. The GPX is available here. If you prefer a traditional map you are looking at Ordnance Survey OL22.

One response to “The New Forest: Ivy Wood & Perrywood”

  1. That does look like something from War of the Worlds. Those wacky Martians. Yes, those are a LOT of crab apples. Drink up, ponies!

    Liked by 1 person

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