What a day! I don’t think i’ve felt this worn out since the day me and Kevin walked 8 miles when I was 10 days overdue trying to get nixie to come out! I had wanted to go on a long hike but it ended up feeling more like an expedition.
We left the house around 9:00 got the train to Brockenhurst or Brock as many people around here call it and walked to the high street to make a quick stop at the post office, then continued down to the ford, turning right on Burley Rd and then just a little ways ahead on the right there is a sign that reads “public footpath” and it is directly next to a stream (i’d always wondered where this takes you so thought we should take the opportunity to check it out).I’m so happy we did! It was such a beautiful little path right along the water's edge which brought us to Butts Lawn where we were greeted by several donkeys or “nock-knees” as Nixie calls them and from there took a left until we arrived at Meerut Road on the far end of Black Knowl which was exactly where we were heading, it couldn’t have been more perfect.
I had forgotten how long it takes to cross the heath because it seemed to take forever but we were enjoying the view and admiring all the horses along the way. My plan was to go through a gate near Long Meadow campsite which leads to one of the many cycle paths around here and head over to one of my favourite bits of woods but instead i was drawn to a little bridge which led to another path in the opposite direction which i had never been on which went parallel to Highland Water. It was absolutely gorgeous although incredibly muddy, it wouldn’t be very enjoyable if you didn’t have wellies on. I had really wanted to return to this one area that we had been to during the summer where we used to have picnics, which I just call the dead tree area but last night i was looking at the map and I couldn’t see any paths that took me there directly from Black Knowl, it seemed that there were a bunch of fences in the way and according to the map it looked like the only way you could get there was to go a very long way around which I didn’t feel like doing so had scrapped that idea but then when we saw that path which in my mind was in the right direction to this area I had to see for myself where it would take us. This was such a photogenic path, it really felt like we were in some fairytale, after a while, once we passed some of the bigger muddy areas, I decided to get Nixie out of the backpack so she could be free and so that I could have a little rest from carrying her.
She had lots of fun running around stomping her feet in the mud and running to the edge of the stream so tempted to go in but somehow miraculously I was able to keep her out of it. I think the dog she had spotted in the distance helped because once her eyes locked onto it she was off in a heartbeat running towards it. She ran as fast as she could all the way to one of the main cycling paths where the little dog and its owner were standing on a little bridge enjoying the view. I quickly asked the man if his dog was friendly and he replied, “oh yes, she is! She might just jump up” And i said, “oh that’s OK, Nixie doesn’t mind” I’m trying to teach Nixie to always ask before going up to a dog she doesn’t know but I think that’s gonna take some time although she does know to hold my hand before going right up to a dog at least most of the time. I asked the man while pointing to the right if that was the area of the dead trees? And he kind of gave me a funny look and said, “There are some dead trees over there,” pointing in the opposite direction and i said, “No it’s a whole area of dead trees and it’s really surreal”, but i told him “i’m pretty sure it’s right there!” pointing back to the area on the right. And I was right, the path had brought me directly to the area I had wanted to go to all along! He then asked, “oh is it called that?” and I said, “no that’s just what i call it”. He became intrigued and wanted to see it for himself so we both continued in that direction. He told me he had just dropped off his 7 year old son at Forest School and was enjoying a nice little walk in the New Forest. A couple of minutes later, we arrived and the man was in awe, taking several photos with his phone, he told me he was a pastor and is always looking for inspiration for sermons and that this was a really great source of inspiration. Nixie had fallen in love with his little dog and when it was time for them to leave, she had a big meltdown not wanting to leave her new friend, I even had to pick her up and carry her away while they walked off which made her very angry with me but luckily this only lasted maybe 30 seconds and then she was ready to explore. This area is always very waterlogged and i’m pretty sure this is the reason why the trees have died but it was even more so today after all the rain we’ve had but for Nixie it was the perfect playground. She had a blast running in all of the puddles, discovering mushrooms and so many slugs. There was a very noisy bird that kept getting her attention, she seemed completely stunned by the sound, I have no idea what kind of bird it was but it gave out a very loud squawk!
After a while I could tell she was getting tired so I changed her into dry clothes and she wanted back in the backpack. It was time to continue our adventure. We veered off just slightly from the cycle path so we were deeper in the woods. We heard a sound, it was a loud, grunting, almost roaring sound not very far in the distance and seemed to keep getting closer to us, it was mesmerizing, but I knew what it was, it was a deer, we are right in the middle of rutting season. Nixie didn’t know what to make of the sound, she just kept giving me her surprised hand over mouth expression and then getting distracted by all the leaves falling and trying to catch them all while giving out little giggles and squeals. We ended up at whitley Wood, our special place. So far this area feels the most at home to me because we’ve spent the most time here. I’m starting to know each of the trees and we both searched for the perfect tree to sit under, she had told me she wanted to cuddle and have boobie. Not very long after getting situated she had fell asleep in my arms, this time I was more prepared, I had a ground sheet and a blanket for her.
I couldn’t believe I got to have some more time to relax in the woods, it was so peaceful out and it felt especially good to relax after having carried her so far. It felt really magical there, the leaves were falling from the trees all around us, the birds were singing their hearts out, it almost reminded me of spring & Nixie was in the deepest sleep. I was soothed by the wind blowing through the trees whispering its secrets and hearing the sounds of branches falling to the ground from high up in the trees. My body became so relaxed, my mind became still. I took a moment to lay down too. It was such a gift to have some time to just feel your surroundings & to feel how my body felt being there, to just slow down and do nothing, it was blissful. Nixie slept for an hour before I saw her eyes half open and watched her look out at the treetops with a little smile on her face, she looked so happy and content. I picked her up and sat against the tree while she nursed herself back to sleep and I held her in my arms for another hour until she woke up properly.
Once she woke up she was ready to explore some more. She went off in the woods surveying her surroundings finding all sorts of sticks and gave me some so that we could have a little stick breaking session, it's one of her favorite things to do and I just love watching her grab a little twig, place it over her knee and push down with both her hands on either side of the stick, if she's unable to break it in half, either because the stick is too big or not dry enough she'll keep trying until she has success. She gets so excited and the i just love how much she concentrates! Afterwards I had found this loose dead tree that was held up by another tree and if you gave it a pull it would do a sort of spiral and Nixie loved this and had to try, I didn't think she'd be able too cuz it was quite heavy but she actually did! We were both surprised and then jumped up and down shouting yay!! And clapping our hands.
Then I brought out the air dry clay ( normally I would have used mud from the woods but I had the clay at home and just thought it'd be easier) that I had brought with us and the way her eyes lit up, I'll never forget! I think she was very surprised that it was in the woods with us. I asked her if she wanted to make tree faces and she said, “yeah-eah!!”. We went around searching for just the right tree and it was a bit hard to get to the clay to stay on so I needed to help her & then we both helped decorate, her favorite bit was collecting the moss for the eyes, and making patterns into it with a stick. Then we moved onto another tree, this time she wanted to do a heart so I created the heart and then she wanted to decorate it with leaves. She really loved this activity, she was completely absorbed. I had planned to leave them in the trees, but Nixie decided to take down the face; obviously it wasn't right but we did keep the heart up, & I wonder if it will still be there when we return?
It was getting time to go back home so we started heading back, up until this point Nixie was still dry and in clean clothes but that didn't last for long because the first puddle she went in she fell and got stuck, one of her wellies even came off and she then tried to just walk with one wellie! I managed to get her wellie back on but she had no desire to go in the direction I wanted to go in and was only interested in the muddiest of puddles in the opposite direction. I decided to just let her go where she wanted to go and see what she'd do if I continued my way. I told her, “I need to get us to the train station so I'll go ahead and you come when you're ready.” She continued in her own way not even looking back at me. I stopped just behind a tree where I could still see her but she couldn't see me. After about 3 minutes I saw her slowly making her way in my direction and then when she realized she couldn't see me she just called out, “mummy?” but not in a frightened way at all and immediately I jumped out from behind the tree and shouted, “Here I am!” She gave me the biggest smile and ran towards me and then we held hands and walked in the same direction for maybe 1 minute until another puddle in another direction caught her eye. At this point she was soaked and muddy so I took this opportunity to find a dry place so I could change her once again. She was not very happy about having to stop playing in the puddles but I got her changed and decided it was time for her to go in the backpack because I had no more dry clothes and couldn't risk her getting soaked yet again.
By this point my body was already exhausted, and still had a really long walk to the station through Holland's wood campsite. My hips ached from the backpack and my feet hurt from wearing wellies, I kept having to say to myself just one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other in some sort of mantra. I must have carried maybe 30 pounds and walked about 6 ½ miles but walking back through the campsite was so peaceful and I never tire of seeing all the horses go past us. By now it was kind of spitting rain, we left at the perfect time although missed the train by just a couple of minutes and had to wait 22 minutes. Nixie loves riding the train and when it finally arrived she screamed with such excitement that pretty much everyone on the platform turned to look at us.
About a half hour later we were back at home and it had just gone 17:00, just in time for dinner. Luckily we had leftovers so I didn’t need to cook. I was exhausted, my body just wanted to collapse but because she had a nap in the woods she was not ready for bed after her bath and ended up staying awake until 22:30! Kevin got home around 20:00 which was a very good thing because I was a zombie and he could take over Nixie duties which for him is such a special treat, he hates getting home when she’s already asleep. But all in all it was another great adventure in the New Forest!