Our original plan for this section was to follow the Solent Way to the coast then just follow the sea all the way into Bournemouth which sounds super lovely and idyllic but you know what? We’re going to have 630 miles of coast when we hit the South West Coast Path. We can save ourselves nearly a whole day of walking if we just cut through the New Forest, a place with a reputation for wild beauty and a place neither of us had been. We told Emma and Kat, our hosts last night, of our new plan and they nodded approvingly. Plan’s a good un then!
After a quick pit stop at the Co-op to stock up on things that would be rendered edible by adding boiling water, we marched through the suburbs of Southampton to get to the ferry to take us over to Hythe. We’d talked about the ferry option before we started this. Would it be cheating? Should we walk around? Eventually we decided that fuck it, we’d hike our own damn hike thankyouverymuch, and walking around sounded dull as shit. In fact The South West Coast Path includes ferries as an official part of the route so we’re pointing at that fact whilst going, “See? Not cheating!” to everyone who glances vaguely in our direction.
The ticket guy at the ferry asked us about our backpacks so we told him of our plans to walk to Poole, complete the South West Coast Path, then walk up to John O Groats. He only glanced up from his ticket machine once to ask us, “And have you seen a doctor recently?” Funny fucker. We were getting used to these sort of looks by now.
Once we were in Hythe it didn’t take us long to get to the outskirts of the New Forest. Firstly, I can’t get over how fucking close to the city this sprawling expanse of gorgeous is. Imagine having this on your doorstep! It’s largely vast swathes of gorse and heather broken up by inclosures (no, really, inclosures and not enclosures but I’ll get over it) of trees. Not really very foresty by the strictest definition of the word but I’ll take it.
There’s also a surprising amount of floor-soup considering how dry it had been. We hadn’t had to tiptoe through mud and puddles for ages, it almost felt like a novelty. But, like, a really shit novelty. One that I could have done without. Also I knew there’d be ponies, the area is famous for them, I didn’t realise there’d be so many. They give no fucks about humans either, they barely even glanced in our direction. Thing is, when anything with hooves rapidly approaches me I panic and hide behind Tarrant, but now they wanted nothing to do with me I got all needy and wanted to pet them. They’re not like the Dartmoor ponies that walk right up to you and start nibbling on your hiking poles. Not a euphemism.
So we’d gotten ourselves into the habit of having naps after lunch whilst we were doing the South Downs Way. A poor night’s sleep coupled with the searing heat meant that a nice lie down in the shade for twenty minutes, complete with actual snoring and possibly a small amount of drooling was necessary directly after applying sandwiches to our faceholes. Today wasn’t that hot, it was actually perfect hiking weather, and we’d slept so fucking well last night that it hadn’t occurred to us that we’d need to nap. But no. A mere half hour after lunch and I had to lie down before I fell down. I guess this is my life now. I have no idea how I’m going to reintegrate into society after this.
We weren’t intending to wild camp in the New Forest as I’d heard the rangers were shit hot on moving campers on. We’d found a couple of campsites but one of them had exactly zero facilities and I’m sorry, if I’m paying to camp I have to insist on a minimum of a vaguely comfortable place to shit in the morning. Call me a little bit fancy if you will but I’m not parting with money if I still have to dig my own damn hole. The other wanted you to stay for two nights. I did email them and they said one night was fine but I’d spoken to an Instagram mate by then who said she’d been hiking the area for years and rarely sure a ranger.
Fuck it. We’d risk it for a biscuit then. We’d hardly seen any other humans that day at all, never mind an official shouty type human in a uniform. We walked until 7-ish before scooting off into a wooded area, quite deep so there’d be no way we could be seen from the path, and pitching up on a lovely, flat bit of ground that was just crying out for a tent to be placed on it. This would absolutely do for the night.
Southampton, Hampshire to The New Forest, Hampshire, England
Stayed at: Wild camp in the New Forest
Useful shit to know…
- There are a few small streams where you can fill up a water bottle but I would strongly recommend a good filter.
- We passed through Brockenhurst which has shops for resupply and a couple of pubs for refreshments and/or to fill up your water. There’s a public toilet here too.
- The Hythe Ferry runs daily. Check their website for timetable and fare information.