The New Forest Seasons
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Through some people's eyes, the New Forest in winter may be considered a little bleak, but with the advent of Spring, a different picture emerges. The lengthening of the days, together with the warming sun, welcomes a new vision, with the bursting into life of the hedgerows and trees. The dappled pale green of the newly forming leaves, increasing in density as the week's progress, coupled with the brilliant yellows of the Daffodils and Primroses in the gardens and roadsides and the gorse on the heathlands form a canopy of warmth and colour from the cold and bareness of winter. Also one must not forget the mauve of the Rhododendrons in places such as the Ornamental Drive and the vivid colours of the Azaleas, and spring flowers on show in the large estates at Exbury, Minstead and Boldre.
Whilst the deer are always somewhat elusive, the ponies and donkeys with their newly born foals are numerous and easily seen. Bird wild life, with the nesting season just beginning, is plentiful. Water fowl at Hatchets Pond, Beaulieu and the coastal areas are easy to see and observe. For many people, spring in the New Forest is the most attractive season with the many amenities opening their doors to welcome you and share in the pleasure.
Late Spring and Summer in the New Forest attracts people - lots of people - but the 90,000 acres of heaths, woodlands and glades can easily accommodate them all. The deciduous trees are now in full and heavy leaf, some in flower. Look out for the large imposing Copper Beeches to contrast with the rich greens and of course the Conifers in their plantations. The various animals that roam freely are a familiar sight around the open land and unfenced roads. Many country and agriculture shows are organised, amongst the largest being The New Forest Show and the Netley Marsh Steam Fair. Many private gardens are also open to the public. Authorised caravan and camp sites are well patronised and horse riders, hikers and bikers are in abundance.
It is not all hustle and bustle with wall to wall people. This huge area boasts stunning tranquil spots, many with coastal or waterside views. Serious village cricket matches are played with free access to the public at places such as Bartley, Swan Green and Balmer Lawn. The New Forest has something to offer everybody, young and old, rich and poor. There is good food and drink in the country pubs and restaurants with outstanding scenery, entertainment and good shopping in the small towns and villages.
The New Forest area is generally depicted as the green National Park with its trees, heaths, and waterside parts coupled with the thatched cottages, farms, and forest ponies all shown in the sunny summer season. However, The New Forest when out of season is an equally attractive and interesting site. The ponies, donkeys and timid deer are still there, and on certain days commoners pigs can be seen, having been turned out to devour and clear acorns which are harmful to horses. The thatched cottages are now seen against a back drop of rich colour - not the pinks, reds and almost blacks of the Canadian Maples, but the vivid yellows, golden and chestnut brown of the Birches, Beeches and Oaks, contrasting with the deep greens of the Conifers. Early Autumn sees the purple and pink heathers on the plains and heaths against the browning of the bracken. There are less volumes of motor and pedestrian traffic and a more relaxed atmosphere is enabled to savour the Forest beauty.
Winter in the New Forest might be considered by some to be bleak and uninteresting, but think of the numerous deciduous trees, now denuded of leaves, which are left to carpet the Forest floor, together with some fallen branches, giving clearer views through the woodland. This is much more glamorous with winter sunshine streaming through or even with snow on the limbs and blanketing the floor. At stopping places, a stroll through an enclosure might enable you to see and identify footprints of some of the host of wild life. In certain parts, just stop and listen to the silence. Curling smoke from the chimneys of forest cottages bring back memories of by-gone days. In December most of the Forest's towns, villages, houses and cottages put on a fine display of Festive lights and decorations and Christmas trees are grown and sold in the Forest.