Writing just days before the Summer solstice on June 20th but only two days after exploring one of the Forest’s nine streams brought to mind a historical story from years ago. The links are the Black Water stream, a fish species and death of William the Conqueror’s youngest son, Henry. Let me lead, then ask you to use your imagination while you stroll 2.5 miles ( 3.9 km) on an oval route in the central Forest.
We meet at the Black Water car park on the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, close to Brockenhurst, with very easy access from the A.35 Lyndhurst to Christchurch Road. The Grid Ref: 268047 is from Map OL22. This C.P. has toilet, picnic facilities, an icecream van in season, and information magazine point. The walk is over quite level or gently sloping gravelled or grassed paths. We are close to, and will be crossing the Black Water and Fletcher streams. In recent years both are returned meanders, rather than former man made straight cut drainage types. Just wandering the banks of forest streams would enable you to discover the ecological changes from the improvements, many more species of dragonflies, insects, small mammals. The bank side shrubs have increased – cover for bird life, particularly kingfishers. Flower growth is especially good in Spring with prolific yellow iris and primroses, also St. John’s wort – known for homeopathic qualities.
The forest streams feeding the Lymington and Beaulieu rivers benefit from substantial gravel bottoms, runs of shallow faster flows, deep holes, home to range of fish species. Children enjoy attempting to catch minnows
and sticklebacks in nets at numerous areas within the Forest where shallow streams hold brook lampreys. Deeper waters are home to pike, eels, small wild brown trout, sea trout, and occasional salmon.
Our route leaves the car park by crossing the road into the Arboretum, a gated access and exit. It has a wheel-chair friendly circular path or one straight to the exit another 100 metres (yds) ahead. So choose now to just stroll around, firstly view the very wide range of indigenous and non-native trees and shrubs. Sit awhile to observe the bird life, see crossbills in the Autumn. After exiting you have just 200 metres to a crossroads of paths. Turn left onto the cycle path, presently level but descending gradually to the Black Water stream ford, concreted above the flow, normally dry over in summer. It is now 300 metres gently uphill to a crossways of paths. Turn left (east), level ground again, a cycle path of 450 metres to Rhinefield cottage, at the edge of the Ornamental Drive. To your right, close by is Rhinefield House entrance. Cross the narrow road onto a grassed path gradually curving from right to left for some 800 metres. You reach a well defined T junction. Turn right, for some 100 metres only, to join a well marked gravelled cycle path. After some 50 metres ignore the small path on your right, continue ahead to cross Fletcher’s Water, a narrow shallow almost dry ford. To your right is Fletcher’s Green a large expanse of grassed plain. The location originated from bow and arrow makers testing their product; importantly the flight of the arrows (fletched with feathers).
Continue for 500 metres – continuous curving path to a five crossway. If you choose to shorten your route by some 600 metres, make a 90 degree left turn onto a wide grassed pathway directly to Black Water C.Park. Do NOT take the path @ 45 degrees to your left. Why leave now?, you have come this far. Tis but a short way to complete 2.5 miles. Straight ahead then for 500 metres. an enjoyable alternative. Please ignore the two small paths on your left (west side). Your final turn is formed from the small crossways. The cycle path turns 90 degrees right, almost north east. Ignore it & the grass path ahead. Turn left, southwest leading directly onto the footpath through the tall trees – Douglas firs, parallel with the Ornamental Drive. After 500 metres further you will arrive back @ the Car Park picnic area. Our link to King Henry I is that he over ate upon a feast of lampreys after hunting in the Forest of Lyons, Normandy. Death @ 66 resulted. No decision was reached by the French about his burial. It is reported that his noisome remains were returned to England where he was then buried at Reading. Few brook lampreys are seen in forest streams and are eel like without a lower jaw. Larger varieties are in the rivers. I hope you enjoy this pleasant walk and the injection of medieval history but if you ever catch a lamprey; don‘t eat it.
*This article and walk was contributed by Trevor Nunn for the New Forester Magazine