“Pony! Pony! Pony! Lots of Ponies” Shouts my son. “Tree creeper!” I shout. We have excitedly arrived at our destination, Hollands Wood Campsite in the New Forest. We expected to see ponies but not so many, straight away. A tree creeper is a small bird that literally creeps up the trunks of trees, given we were surrounded by trees and all manner of birds seeing a tree creeper wasn’t unlikely but it is still exciting (if you are me and a wanna be bird geek).
For a while I’ve had a yearning to camp in the New Forest, I’m not sure why. This week when I had an end of holiday/return to school sorting-out-fest, I discovered long forgotten articles on the New Forest torn from newspapers and magazines. The photos of ponies, cycling, pretty villages, inviting tea shops and endless trees must have been my initial inspiration.
Last week I fulfilled my ambition to camp in the New Forest, there is always a risk that the anticipation may be greater than the realisation, not the New Forest, it did not disappoint.
Our chosen site, via Camping in The Forest, a site called Hollands Woods near Brokenhurst. It’s 600 pitches and was half full when we arrived and full later that evening. It’s a sprawling site set within the forest. Simply find a pitch as long as it’s 6 metres from your neighbour.
There isn’t a sense of being on such a large campsite. The trees give the site an intimate feel and provide pockets of shelter as well as a degree of warmth. Alongside the campsite is a large open health which gives a sense of space and provides a play area for children.
Camping in the Forest appeals to families, children have the freedom stray from immediacy of their parents, to cycle around the site or play on the field. For many children now days that is a rare freedom. It is wonderful to see gangs of kids forming, running, shouting, chasing and enjoying being outside or just endlessly cycling up and down and round and round.
We were all very excited to see ponies and they amble freely around the campsite. Within half an hour of arriving we experienced; ‘When ponies turn bad’. A pony and it’s two accomplices broke into a nearby tent, making a big hole as they did so. undeterred by campers who attempted to shoo them away, they simply went round to the back of the tent and tried again. Almost making off with a bag of food. They were apprehended at the last moment and seen off by more determined shoo-ing and clapping.
There are lots of signs which remind: “Don’t feed the ponies it encourages them”. They can bite. The ponies are very determined and brazen in their approach. Store food in plastic boxes with lids. Don’t leave food out or unattended. That said, mostly the ponies are lovely to have around the campsite and no trouble. They are very much part of the New Forest. Ponies appear all over the forest and in the villages. Sitting outside the small supermarket in Brockenhurst ponies wandered past, along with free range donkeys.
A highlight, was hiring bicylces and spending a day following trails through the forest, the only thing we would do differently when we go again is either take bikes or hire bikes for longer.
My small boy wanted to see adders (native British snakes), we visited the reptile centre which is small and informative, it’s also a good starting place to walk from. Walking amongst the trees nourishes the soul and the pace gives time to exploring little things; ants on a log, fungi and dens. We listened to the birds and tried to spot goshawk nests.
Camping brings nature up close, going to bed as the stars come out, waking up to birds, just enjoying long days outside. Hollands Wood is a truly lovely campsite. Helpful staff, happily answered all my questions. There is no electrical hook ups on the site but at a small cost they provide freezer packs and mobile phone charging.
The facilities are plentiful and well kept. Signs ask you to mop your shower after use. The campsite has a nice community atmosphere and people did generally clean up after themselves and respect their neighbours.
Hollands Wood is campsite jointly managed by the Camping and Caravanning Club and the Forestry Commission. Find other Forest based sites across the UK via Camping in the Forest.
Disclosure: Having previously been the guests of the Camping and Caravanning Club I received a press pass allowing us to camp. Hollands Wood was our choice of destination. All words and opinions are my own.