- County: Hampshire
- Area: New Forest
- Distance: 11.8km / 7.3miles
- Time: 2hr 40minutes
- Refreshments: The Royal Oak, Fritham
This is a beautiful circular walk on the ‘quieter’ side of the Forest, where you will see New Forest Ponies and Donkeys. Although Fritham itself is a popular hotspot for the ponies, locals and tourists! Most of the paths are gravel based meaning they don’t turn into a bog fest like other forest paths! Therefore it is ideal for the wetter months. There are no stiles so it is fine for a dog – although do be aware that there is livestock around. I would recommend walking boots, as even though the paths are excellent, there is still the odd wet section. Also, don’t be put off by parts of the route being a national cycle route. We hardly saw any cyclists!
Despite doing this walk in December, the forest was full of beautiful colours from the amber ferns to the green fir trees, and the blue sky. I was very lucky that it was a stunning mild December day.
We had aimed to park in the Gorley Bushes carpark, which is on the left after passing the pub. However, when we arrived at 1045 it was full! So we continued down the road to the Eyeworth pond carpark. This added an extra 5 minutes each way with walking back up the road to get to the starting point. If you do the walk in the busier summer months, then I’d advise either arriving early or in the evening.
By the edge of the start point there is a recently restored black postbox. The postbox was erected by the Shultze gunpowder factory. They operated near Eyeworth pond between the 1860s to the early 1900s. The postbox made the postman’s life much easier with there being no delivery vans. Taking the national cycle route west from the edge of the Gorley Bushes carpark we instantly entered a wooded area. Yes, you may think that’s an odd comment considering the walk is in the New Forest, but trust me, a lot of the New Forest is actually heathland!
This wooded area was part of the Amberwood Inclosure. William the Conqueror first created enclosures when he designated the New Forest a royal hunting ground. Today they exist to keep deer away from the tree plantations, as they tend to nibble on the buds, preventing the growth of new trees. This walks goes through numerous inclosures, with beech, hawthorn, oaks and pines growing in them.
We continued along the cycle route up a hill and out of Amberwood Inclosure. Exiting the Inclosure and going along Hampton Ridge gave us a complete change of landscape. The scenery opened up, and we got fantastic views across the heathland, and down into the valley. We stopped to let a beautiful horse and cart go past, with a New Forest pony also stopping to watch. It all seemed to fit the landscape perfectly. After walking part-way along the ridge we turned left away from the cycle route, and descended into the valley and Alderhill Inclosure.
It is only a short section through the wooded Alderhill Inclosure. Here there is a bench dedicated to the New Forest filmmaker and conservationist Eric Ashby. It has an engraving of a fox and badger on it, and is clearly asking you to stop and reflect. It was here that we also attempted to play pooh sticks. We had crossed over a stream a couple of times previously but here the water in Latchmoor Brook was running particularly fast and calling out for the game. However, it’s a mystery to what happened to our sticks, as they never reappeared, even on the replay! So when you get to this bridge, please play the game and see if yours appear!
From here we crossed into Solden Inclosure, again just for a short section, before exiting and going back onto the heathland. Don’t bother going off the main path to find the medieval site of the Royal Hunting Lodge and Churchyard. We went to look for it and there was nothing there. Emerging from the trees and rounding the corner you will once again get fantastic views, this time up towards Hasley Hill. We turned off the path just before Hasley Hill and headed down to Broomy Inclosure.
Crossing over a small old stone bridge, cutely named Splash bridge, we rejoined the national cycle route. Passing by the clear white Holly Hatch Cottage, we walked alongside the winding stream, before we crossed over it, and headed on the path over Fritham plain back towards Fritham. A refreshment at the well-known Royal Oak pub would now be well deserved.
I can honestly say that this walk from Fritham is one of the most varied and pretty walks I have done in the Forest. It encapsulates everything the New Forest is about – trees, heathland, inclosures, open spaces, ponies, donkeys and if you are lucky even the forest pigs and fallow deer! With the sun shining on the trees, it was truly stunning. Although I have to admit that, whatever the weather, it will certainly be a worthwhile walk!
If you are looking for another forest walk a bit further afield then I can highly recommend Savernake Forest. Check out the walk here.