Walking home for Christmas
Kristian Smith decided to walk home for Christmas in support of the Walking with the Wounded charity - from Southampton to Marlborough in Wiltshire. Here's how he got on...
The New Forest is jam packed full of outdoor fun and adventure for cyclists, walkers and families. Get some inspiration here...
The New Forest is an absolutely amazing place for weekend walks and cycle rides, with a vast network of bridleways and designated cycle paths open to the public whenever they want. When you combine that with incredible scenery and fantastic stopping points for lunches and cream teas, it's easy to understand why the New Forest is the perfect place for a camping holiday or Saturday afternoon bike ride,
The terrain within the New Forest is more often than not flat gravel tracks or well-worn footpaths and bridleways. It is by no means a challenging terrain and can be traversed by even the most novice of walkers. Even better, there are lots of routes already planned and well signposted, most set in the idyllic scenery of sanctuaries or heathland, and all well documented online for anyone to print off and walk.
There is also no need to rush around on the walk; you can relax, take in the scenery and enjoy the refreshing fresh air of an unspoiled paradise. There is also plenty of scope to make a whole day of your walk with plenty of tourist attractions located throughout the New Forest, well worth a visit and that are suitable for all the family.
However, don’t let me detract you from the simplistic enjoyment a stroll or cycle through the New Forest can bring. When the weather is nice, the scenery is simply gorgeous; the broad expanses of open ground, stretching for miles and miles, just demonstrating the beauty of nature. You don’t even have to be in the New Forest long to appreciate the magic or heritage it contains, be it through seeing one of the infamous New Forest Ponies roaming freely or by visiting one of the historic landmarks like Beaulieu House and Abbey.
Not only is the New Forest a generally pleasant place to be, the walks and cycle routes themselves are fantastic in their length, difficulty and location. Certain routes have been planned to incorporate all ages so, although being slightly shorter, allow the whole family to enjoy the fresh air and keep fit and healthy. These routes are also perfect for less confident navigators or walkers as, having been designed to cater for children, are not too challenging to walk and are difficult to get lost on. Set often in the confines of deer sanctuaries, the routes are usually a single path, so the chances of mistaking one track for another is fairly remote. Not only that, but there are clear signposts positioned around the routes, making navigation significantly easier for those less confident with a map.
Having said this, the New Forest also allows for more challenging routes to be devised separately from ones that have already been created. It is a popular location for both practice and final Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, a challenging award which encourages people to navigate their way around paths that are nearly always off the beaten track. This allows people to challenge their navigational and expedition skills.
The long and short of the New Forest is it can be both a challenge and a delight, whether walking or cycling. For this exact reason, it is a firm favourite of mine for walking in as the routes are well signposted, well looked after and are suited to any ability or age. Combine this with the flawless scenery on view and the New Forest is a near perfect destination for any keen walker or cyclist.