Believe it or not, there’s a magical woodland containing unicorns only around 18 miles away from Bournemouth. It’s called the New Forest.
Contrary to what the name suggests, the New Forest is anything but new. It’s actually an ancient woodland which will stun you with its beautiful landscapes and wild animals like horses, deer and pigs. It became a National Park in 2005 and is an absolute “must go”!
The name was given to the Forest by William the Conqueror, who in the 11th century proclaimed it a royal forest and his new hunting area. He would hunt in the woods for deer and wild boar with his guests and held big feasts afterwards. I wish I could take part in one of those feasts (no offence to vegetarians and hunting opponents, of course!). An interesting fact is that William’s son was shot by an arrow while hunting and it has never been explained if it was an accident or not.
The New Forest contains many villages. I often visit one called Burley, where you can encounter wild ponies, typical cottages, cosy restaurants…and even some witches…
In the 1950s, a woman called Sybil Leek used to live in Burley, but the poor thing had to move to America because her interest in astrology, occultism and a long black cloak made the locals think she was a witch! Nevertheless, Sybil’s presence and legacy are still noticeable. Burley’s shops offer souvenirs related to witchcraft including magical amulets, wolves, witches on brooms, unicorns (I told you!) and fairies.
One of the biggest attractions of the New Forest is its wild horses. There are around 5,000 of them in the Forest and they wander around lazily. Their presence in the New Forest is estimated to date back around 2,000 years! Thanks to these grass eaters, the fields of the New Forest are always clean.
The New Forest ponies walk graciously and they look very friendly, but they can actually kick and bite. I witnessed this myself when one lady, misled by its apparently gentle nature, approached a pony from behind. Nothing serious happened to her…well, apart from landing on the ground with a thud and an expression of embarrassment across her face! But it was a great reminder that we should respect the ponies’ wildness.
The other heroes of the New Forest are pigs. Their function is very important because apart from looking cute, they eat nuts some of which are poisonous to the horses.
So if you want to walk on the lands where William the Conqueror used to hunt, eat a nice dinner in a homely restaurant and have a wander in the forest to see white stallions walking beside you – the choice is simple.