Ober Water Walk
The New Forest has numerous paths and trails through . Forestry Commission ranger Paul Hibberd took us on a walk round the Ober Water Trail near Brockenhurst.
Start your walk at Whitemoor car park, follow the yellow arrows on the marker posts.
You are in the heart of the New Forest, but a lot of people wonder why it's called that when a lot of it isn't very new and half doesn't have any trees - it's heath or wetland. It all dates back to 1079 when William named 'Nova Foresta' as the first royal hunting ground - and introduced Forest Law to protect the 'Vert' (the trees) and the Venison (the meat). That Forest Law has protected the forest to this day when rather than being a hunting ground for a king, it's now a National Park.
Leaving the Whitemoor carpark, you'll walk across a patch of heathland and you'll see the gorse - if it's in flower, you'll be able to smell the scene it gives off - a bit like coconut.
Follow the path down a small slope
As you move off the dry heath down towards the stream, you'll notice the grass has changed colour maliner, light brown - in a wetland area. Aramatic natural - Bog Murtle - which is a natural insect repellant in the summer - it used to be used to flavour beer, but with such a pungant smell, who knows what the beer actually tasted like!
Continue walking along the path until you come to a footbridge
You are crossing the Ober Water - the stream originates in the bogs around Burley and flows down through the oak woods and joins the Highland Water a mile from here to become the Lymington River
Cut through Puddlesbridge Car Park and follow the path following the stream on your right
Have a look at the trees along the path - there is a patch of naturally grown scotch pine trees - you can tell them by their orange/red bark. And underneath, you'll see typical holly which has been 'sculptured' by New Forest Ponies - it may be prickly for them, but it's very nutritious. Taste bad oak and beech aren't very tasty, nearer the river there are birches and alder which prefer the wetter ground.
A New Forest Pony
Continue walking along the path
On your left, around 15 metres from the path you'll see a earth bank - this marks the edge of Aldridge Hill Enclosure - it was planted in 1809 at the time of the Napoleonic Wars when a lot of oak trees were being cut down to build warships. It took 5,000 oak trees to build a sailing ship, some of which were built at Bucklers Hard near Beaulieu. So these plantations were needed to replenish the supplies of oak.
Keep your eyes open - there is plenty of fallow, red, or roe deer around this area but they don't get close if there are lots of people around but you may get lucky and see some either early in the morning or in the evening.
New Forest Wetlands
When you reach another footbridge, you can either cross the bridge or extend your walk by following the posts with the red arrows further along the edge of the river.
Across the bridge we get into an area of wetland. You may hear the calls of curlews - they make their nests on the wetland and are one of the few types breeding birds left who make their nests in the New Forest, but there are liable to be disturbed by people so if you are walking a dog, keep it close so as not to disturb the nesting birds.
Follow the grass bank back to the car park
Follow the path onto a grassy bank back towards the car park.
You'll notice the grass is very short - we do have a big team of 'lawn mowers' in the Forest with all the New Forest Ponies and Cattle keeping it tightly trimmed! Over the centuries they have shaped of the New Forestl Landscape - they are all owned by local commoners, who have a legal right to put their animals out on the land. So they aren't wild, but they're not exactly tame either so don't get too close or try and feed them.
The grassy bank leads back to the car park - for other walks and cycle trails around the New Forest, visit the Forestry Commission website.
last updated: 11/03/2008 at 15:29