The New Forest in Hampshire
By Wendy Hughes
A couple of weeks ago I received some health news, and you will hear more of this later when I know more myself, but it set me thinking. What you do when you receive some not so good news? Some curl up in a corner and yell poor me, look at me, why should this happen to me, but those who know me better know that is certainly not the way I deal with things. After the initial shock, like when I received my diagnosis of Stickler syndrome, I thought why not me, I am no different to lots of other people, and soon my thoughts turned to my friends. How was I going to tell them about my new setback without upsetting them too much? After agonizing for a few days, I felt I had to be straight, after all, in the coming months I may well need their support and friendship, so I’m now working through my list of dear friends explaining what has happened and choosing my words carefully.
Forever resourceful, next I decided to get out and about as much as possible and as I have always found immersing myself in nature and wooded areas a good leveler, I can’t change what has happened and there is little point in worrying until I get the results, so I brushed away the tears, applied the make-up and with hubby in the driving seat set off for a day in the New Forest. Thankfully we are enjoying super warm weather in the UK, especially along the south coast, so I was looking forward to my little adventure into the countryside. As some of you may know thanks to hydrotherapy every week I am at long last beginning to walk without a stick, although at the moment three-quarters to a mile is my maximum.
We set off just after 9am and made our way to Milford on Sea, I place I had not visited before. We parked very near to the pathway in a disabled car park I set off along the towpath with the calming sea waters to my left and managed around half a mile before sitting on a seat, enjoying the view before making our way back to the car.
Our next port of call was for lunch at the House Martin, a Hall and Woodhouse pub and restaurant in Barton on Sea, so named because of the little birds that often frequent the gardens there. By now all that sea air had given me an appetite, and I really fancied a sharing seafood platter, which was really for two, but as it was going to be my main course, I opted for that. Along came an excellent array of little dishes which consisted of lightly dusted calamari, whitebait, crab mayo with croutes and a prawn and avocado cocktail, which I really enjoyed. This is a pub I would certainly recommend for service and décor and do look out for the little bird cages hanging from the ceiling and wired sculptures of birds that there dotted around the room.
Suitably refreshed it was time to visited somewhere else. I was certainly ready to make the most of my day, so off we set for the New Forest, which I always find tranquil set amongst woodland trails. Many moons ago I had visited the Rufus stone and wanted to see it once again. Today the forest is so peaceful, but around 1100 AD it was the scene of a violent death that has remained unsolved for over 900 years. So… after another little walk lasting about half an hour we got back in the car and headed for the stone. Today it looked so different from when I visited it years ago. Then it was a stone monument, but that to vandals it has not been encased in iron to preserve it.
The stone commemorates the location where William II, son of William the Conqueror died during a hunting accident, or as some say, it was cold blooded murder. The New Forest then was a royal hunting ground established by William the Conqueror and was inherited by his son William who became known as Rufus because of his red hair and ruddy complexion. William Rufus was not a popular king because he alienated many of the nobles and treated his subjects with disdain and was hated and feared by the residents of the New Forest William Rufus also had two brothers, Robert of Normandy who inherited his father’s estates in France, whilst the other brother Henry inherited nothing and soon the unhappy nobles of the land who had fallen out with William came to the aid of the brother and there was a rebellion.
The story goes that on 2nd August 1100 William Rufus, with a party of his noblemen, were hunting boar in the forest when the king became separated from his retune and found himself alone with Sir Walter Tyrrell when they noticed a stag. Tyrell was the better archer and drew his bow and fired an arrow, but the arrow bounced off a tree truck and struck the king in the chest and lodged in his lung. When Tyrrell realized that the king was dead he fled the scene and headed for France, which raises the questions, was he afraid of being changed with the king’s murder or did he have guilty conscience? Legend also informs us that Tyrrell paused by a pond near Castle Malwood to wash the king’s blood from his hands, and every year on the anniversary of the death, the pond turns crimson, and that Tyrrell stopped at a smithy and had the blacksmith shoes his horse with backwards facing horseshoes to confuse his pursers, but as far as we know there were no pursers as no one seems concerned that the king was dead. In fact, it is said that a local charcoal burner called Purkiss loaded the king’s body into his cart and deposited at Winchester Cathedral where he was buried quietly with very little ceremony three days late and it is thought that his bones are kept in a chest above the Cathedral choir.
The Rufus Sone was erected by William Sturgess Bourne, the then warden of the forest, replacing an earlier stone erected by John Lord Delaware in 1745. The stone is not easy to find and the best way us come off the A31 on the eastbound lane and head towards Cadam. Note there is no exit from the west bound lane. There is a large car park on the left and the Rufus Stone is just across the road and can’t be missed.
By now it was time to head home, and although very tired, I thoroughly enjoyed my day out and look forward to few more if this weather stays for a while.