Having paused in building my ark – kits available at all good D.I.Y. stores, I realised there has not been any contribution about a little known walk beginning or ending by seeing indigenous reptiles, raptors from the U.K. and Africa, or an old fireplace with 2nd World War connections.
With present weather / ground conditions this stroll is suitably short, reasonably level with gravel paths for three quarters distance. Have you visited the New Forest Reptile Centre?. I thought not. This is located on the north west side of the A.35., (3k) or 2.25 miles south of Lyndhurst. Grid Ref: 271071 Map OL22. Sat.Nav users use the Post Code. SO43 7GR. The Centre reopens at Easter 1000 to 1630 hrs daily & worth mentioning the phone number – 02380 283141 to enquire about the *nest cams*. Free entry, but a donation box is on the Car park. The stroll is only (3k) some 2.25 miles. Good to take the grand children.
In addition to having a range of reptiles, snakes, smooth, grass, and adders,, plus natter jack toads all safely seen, retained in display pits, the RSPB has *nest cam* facilities to view Goshawks, their cycle of eggs to chicks, to fledging; as well as another remote camera of Hobbies (migratory between Africa and the U.K.). On a humorous note, I well recall whilst accompanying a trainee walks leader meeting when a group of young people on a practice Duke of Edinburgh expedition. They had misplaced the route close to the Centre, but their conversation with my colleague turned to birds and animals in the Forest. A buzzard was perfectly described, backed up with a good photograph. My friend asked one of the group, “What about hobbies then”? to which the reply was, “Well my Dad does D.I.Y”. My friend, rather nonplussed said, “No, no, does he know birds”, to which came the answer, “My Mum would kill him if he got himself a bird”. At that point, thankfully, we were joined by the safety supervisor for the group, who by then saw the funny side.
Last year three goshawk checks survived, fledging in July, off to the wild and in years to come increasing the raptor population. Two young hobbies finally made their exit, heading back in late August to Africa for the winter. However, if ever you visit Arne in Dorset and the open moors around Wareham there are some resident hobbies there to be seen; if you have the patience to wait.
Leave your car on either of the Centre Car parks. The upper area has toilet facilities. The New Forest reptile centre trail leaves the upper car park along a gravel, well signed cycle path @ the north west corner for one kilometre (1000 yds plus). Eventually you will hear cars, passing along the Lyndhurst, Boldre Wood, Canadian War Memorial road ahead of you.. At that point there is an adjoining path to your left but go straight on until you reach a 5 barred gate opening onto the road. Pass through the gate, turning immediately right, staying on that side verge for 200 yards to the Portugese Fireplace. This very large rebuilt stone fireplace with a historical plaque, occupied a cooking hut used by Portugese workers engaged in timber extraction to assist the war effort.
Back to the gateway. Rejoin your path but ONLY for some 150 yards to the fork. Take the path to the right for some 550 yards south until you reach and go through the Inclosure fence line. Just ahead on your left is a path leading directly back to the Reptile Centre., your car, or cycles, maybe even an icecream van. Whilst in the area why not visit the Knightwood Oak. If so, leave the Centre, turning right onto the A.35 for 1000 yds to the cross roads formed by the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and A.35. Turn right onto the Drive. The next car park is on your left. Roll on Springtime.
*This article and walk was contributed by Trevor Nunn for the New Forester Magazine