Spring has been replaced by Summer. The forest floor bluebells have gone, leaving a memory of their scent on the breeze just as the flowers helped in medieval days to perfume hovels, cottages, houses, manors & castles. Their sap was used to starch Elizabethan ruffs, collars, and sleeves. Around the time of William Caxton his fledgling printing business still used that sap to bind pages of books to the spines. Further back remains some evidence that feathers for flights were set ‘fletched’ on the arrow using the poisonous liquid..
This walk is a gentle oblong 2.75 miles (4.8km) amble starting at Fritham (OS Map 22 New Forest). Allow two hours or so. Choose from two start points. The first, close to the Royal Oak public house GR 230141 with a second @ Eyeworth Pond GR 228146. There is an affinity to the pub, providing a downhill start to the Pond and onwards to end with a refreshing rest, some food and drink. Your choice can be made by reviewing this easy route. Many place names across our countryside have ‘Olde English’ origins. Fritham is one, where ‘Fryhth’ meant forest edge heathlands with low shrubs. ‘Hamm’ was a farmed plot on the marginal land around a small village, with examples still seen today where strip farming continues. The Royal Oak pub has an unsupported but historical reputation of being an Elizabethan type of parliament of the New Forest, but now well known for good food and drink.
To find the first car park, and start point drive straight past the pub, and triangular green; for some 70 yards. Ignore the small road opposite the pub on the left. Turn sharp left off the road onto a hard surfaced gravel track at the tree line leading directly to the CP, before the tarmac road descends to Eyeworth Pond. Leaving, you return to the tarmac road, turning left, down to the Pond. On that left corner, set on the tree line edge is a restored cannon formerly used by the hobnailed booted postman to deposit mail for the Gunpowder factory, started at Eyeworth Lodge in 1859. Letters by Royal Mail were one penny & a halfpenny for newspapers. The ‘postie’ of those times was not permitted further, as sparks from his boots were not welcomed down the hill. Ample local charcoal helped production until 1869 when the Schultze Gunpowder Company bought the company, because large amounts of gunpowder were required for the Franco – German war.
Five hundred yards down hill is Eyeworth Pond, (also known & mapped as Ironswell (Chalybeate). To the south west is a Romano British pottery site. The man made dam for the pond holds waters from Latchmoor Brook, local springs in the northern hills beyond, and rain run off east & west from Ironswell & Eyeworth woods. This time of the year, banks are coloured by long lasting yellow flowers – ‘Bog or Flag’ irises. Wild and indigenous ducks are common, as are dabchicks, coots and moorhens. When I visited just weeks ago two parent geese were escorting their two chicks in and out of the irises and reeds. Turn right to walk alongside the water ahead, passing the Pond Car Park on your right, to where the path enters the woodland, rising slightly between large beech and oak trees – a picture when autumns colours appear.
Your path opens out, gently rising onto heathland for only 1500 yards (1.5km) before the B3078 (Godshill to Brook road) appears ahead. Just before, turn sharp right onto a narrow path through the heather for 200 yards, angled across Longcross Plain towards the Fritham /Longcross road for Stoney Cross. Prior to reaching it, your path returns southwest gradually descending for some 1000 yards (1km) into lightly wooded area of Howen Bushes. There are many pollarded Holly trees in this wood, and it is the height of the lowest branches which reveal which types of deer feed from them. Deer will stand on their rear legs to reach the succulent sweet flower tips. The path then joins a farmland track close to a field gate on your left, then passing a small bungalow on your left on the approach to Fritham Green – your original start point. Turn left for the Royal Oak pub, find a table, a comfortable seat under cover as needed, then consider the menu, or return to the car for a picnic on the green. Reward yourself, but your choice, just relax after the walk, and recall the views across to Telegraph Hill and the valley. Have a wonderful summer, make the most of life.
*This article and walk was contributed by Trevor Nunn for the New Forester Magazine