Wild ponies in all shades from white over grey to brown are grazing just next to the road without a fence separating them from the potentially dangerous traffic.
We drove through the New Forest National Park which boasts of vast spaces of unenclosed heath. Pasture land and forest spread out over 571 km2 despite the fact that it’s lying in the heavily populated south of England.
We returned from our visit of Hurst Castle and Lymington – Keyhaven Nature Reserve (previous post Hurst Castle in New Forest National Park, England) heading to Lymington.
At the estuary of the River Lymington lies the equally named quaint town of Lymington. Steep streets lead to the harbor, where the ferry departs for Isle of Wight.
We didn’t have too much time to visit Lymington as we wanted to proceed to a most special place with lots of free roaming donkeys on the streets.
But first we followed the road down to the coast, which is broken only by the Beaulieu River Estuary. The western side of the estuary, part of the Beaulieu River Estate, is a nature reserve. A peaceful riverside footpath leads from Bucklers Hard to Beaulieu.
This village is part of the Beaulieu Estate and is being restored to its 18th-century appearance. Bucklers Hard was originally planned by the 2nd Duke of Montagu as a base – “Montagu Town” – for the import of sugar from the islands of St Vincent and St Lucia in the West Indies.
As the French seized the islands the village became a shipbuilding community. The river is deep and the village is well-sheltered and secure from coastal attacks which made it well suited to that role. Furthermore the Bucklers Hard was encircled with extensive woodlands. A vital resource, since it took 60 acres of timber to build a single man-o-war.
“Enough history now! When do I see the famous donkeys?”, I asked George impatiently.
We didn’t even have to drive into the town as we had to stop for a couple of donkeys which blocked the road. They were totally unfazed by the traffic and didn’t feel like moving off the street. “There we go – we are in Beaulieu!”, I exclaimed excitedly.
As the donkeys slowly freed the road, we entered the characterful center of the village with mellow red-brick buildings, small corner shops and cafés lining the main road.
We parked in the street and walked around town and to the old mill at the head of the Beaulieu Estate, where small yachts like to land.
George read me from the guide book: “The town was originally named Bellus Locus, ‘beautiful place’. When monks founded an abbey at this place in the 13th – century they changed the Latin name to its Norman French equivalent, ‘Beau Lieu’.
When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries the abbey was destroyed unfortunately to use its stones to reinforce the king’s coastal defenses at Cowes, Hurst Castle and Calshot. The remains of Beaulieu Abbey and the Palace House, home of Lord Montagu, are open to public.”
Maybe we actually walked on the ancient stones, I thought.
We passed some beautiful restored old timers at the National Motor Museum.
There would have been so much more to explore:
But we decided to take a slow drive enjoying the vast landscape with the wild ponies on the way back.