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A Forest Walk




The New Forest is one of the largest remaining forests in the south of England. William the Conquer proclaimed it to be a Royal Forest, one of the last four Royal Forests in the country. In the 18th Century, the New Forest was a source of timber for the Royal Navy. This beautiful piece of England covers around one hundred and fifty square miles and attracts millions of visitors very year.

With many different species of wildlife and fauna, the New Forest is also the perfect place to go for a walk and to lose oneself in nature.

Your feet find the dirt track that has seen so many other people trek along its winding route. Thousands, maybe millions, of people have walked this route, some of them stretching back millennia. But, on this blissful day, the path belongs to you and the wildlife.

Trees stretch overhead and hide you from the world outside. For now you are allowed to lose yourself in the meditation of moving and breathing.

Your feet thud lightly against the slightly damp ground and the smells of the forests reach your nostrils. A thick, mossy scent, one of fresh rainfall and fallen leaves, hangs in the early morning air. The sun is only just beginning to break through the leaves and its light dapples the forest floor. High above you, and hidden from view, birds sing cheerfully. Their voices are loud and you appreciate being able to hear their song.

Blue skies can be seen between the leaves and the occasional cloud drifts overhead. The air is already beginning to warm and the tranquillity of the trees can be felt with every step. Fallen twigs snap beneath your feet and ferns tickle your ankles. A stream can be heard flowing over rocks and, as you turn a bend in the trail, you see a small wooden bridge ahead.

The forest is thick around you and all sense of the outside world has disappeared. You get the feeling that you could easily find yourself moving into the forest. Maybe a small stone cottage with an open fire and a small plot of land for vegetables. Anything feels possible in the embrace of the trees and you intend to savour every moment that you're away from the concrete jungle cities.

The bridge creaks as you walk over it and you pause to take a look at the stream. The water winds its way through the forest floor with the sunlight dancing off the small crests and waves. Rocks have been smoothed to pebbles and the sound of the water as it passes over them is heavenly. You could spend all day on the bridge just listening to the sound of a stream winding its way through the forest.

You walk off of the bridge and catch your feet in a pile of the previous year's leaves. They pick up on the gentle breeze and twirl in the air before settling across the path. Green is all around you from the ferns and grasses of the forest floor to the leaves that sweep above you. The crispy autumn leaves are in stark contrast and a welcome surprise to your walk.

Trees curve away before you and you follow the trail along the arc. A deer emerges from the depths of the forest and crosses your path. You smile as the majestic creature stops to look at you with big eyes. Both you and the deer pause to take one another in, the deer's ears flicking to listen to the woodland around it. Eventually the creature ambles away on spindly legs and you continue you on your way.

There's a magic to the forest. From the soft rustle of the leaves to the gentle thump of your boots on dew-dampened ground, the sensation of being in another world runs through the trees. The New Forest has been home to witches for many years. A coven practised among the trees as late as the 1950s and the village of Burley is home to a clutch of witchy shops. Magic is embodied in the very ground that the forest sits on and everyone who walks along its winding routes can sense its presence.

Decaying tree trunks lie along the edge of the path. At one time they may have been used as makeshift benches. But mushrooms have taken hold and jut from every possible crevice. You stop to look at them, marvelling at how perfect each one is. Ants march across the fragile wood and you can hear other insects hovering close by. A dragonfly zips across your line of sight before disappearing on gossamer wings.

Sunlight shimmers through the leaves and kisses your face. The air is slowly growing warmer and you're happy to be out in the early days of Spring. Life is slowly returning to the world and you feel that same energy beginning to trickle into your body. The feeling of growing, of becoming more, of finding a standing in the world. While out in the forest, there is nothing but you and nature. You can allow yourself to explore parts of yourself that have remained hidden and release them to the wider world. Dreams, desires, fears, and hurts are all expressed to the winding branches in the heavens above as you look to expand your understanding of yourself.

Another stream tumbles across your path with another bridge to allow you to cross the flowing waters. You stop in order to crouch beside the rolling bank. Leaning closer, you place your fingers in the fresh, clear water and savour the feeling of the cool liquid washing over your skin.

The water is soothing and you find that you're calm in the moment. Spray from the stream causes a miniature rainbow to form and you dip you fingers lower to brush against stones that have been smoothed by thousands of years of flowing water.

You pluck out a particularly nice stone and admire it in the early morning light. Grey and flecked with white, the stone fits perfectly into the palm of your hand. Its surface quickly warms to your skin and you decide to take it home with the intention of placing it on your desk as a reminder of your morning in the forest.

The trail winds back on itself, taking you through small rolling hillocks of fern and beside long forgotten boulders. History seeps from every inch of the forest, anchored into the very earth and awakened by the footsteps of people like yourself.

The skies are completely clear of any clouds as you step from the trees and back into the open space that you started from. A few other people mingle around. All are ready to start their own walks. With the stone in your pocket and a sense of wonder and freedom fresh in your heart, you make your way back to your car.


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Rachael has published numerous books, both fiction and non-fiction. They can be found at www.roswellpublishing.co.uk