We chose Setthorns again for the annual caravan weekend with our favourite niece and nephew, Lenny and Evie. There are so many places to visit nearby and it makes a great base, so it was a pretty obvious choice.
Thursday 25th/Friday 26th
We met my brother, Bruce, in Guildford for the handover on Thursday evening. 2 excited kids, a couple of bikes and clothes and entertainment for 4 days and we were away. We arrived back home quite late and there was time for a quick pre-bedtime snack before they bundled into bed. Lenny (6) went out like a light and Evie (10) joined him about half an hour later. They awoke quite late for them – about 7.30 – and we all got up. We planned to get away about lunch-time and take a picnic lunch with us in the car. Unusually – it all went according to plan and we were on our way by 1pm. Predictably, the kids fell upon their sandwiches before we were at the bottom of the road. The “grown-ups” made it as far as the M27 – something of a record!
We had an easy drive through the Forest (it not being rush-hour), singing all the way, as we always do when they are in the car with us. We have made it our mission to teach them Old Time Music Hall songs. They seem to like them? As were were earlier than usual, there was a nice choice of pitches and we chose one in a ring of trees, with plenty of room for bikes and quite a lot of privacy. The kids love helping set up and are very willing helpers. They can always be persuaded to pop to the bin with bags of rubbish, as required, too. Very handy.
It was very hot indeed and after we had set up, we went out in search of a paddling pool and the obligatory (when on holiday) daily ice-cream. We ended up in Lymington and had fun at the quay, watching people crabbing and boats coming and going. That finished off the rest of the afternoon, so we made our way back to the caravan. We had decided to keep a count of the number of New Forest ponies we saw, and the journey passed quickly as we spotted ponies.
I had made a Cottage Pie for dinner and while it was cooking, Paul had a go at coaxing Lenny to ride his bike – without much success, sadly. It is slightly too big for him and I think he has a bit of a phobia about it, which is a such a shame. Better luck next time. The weather was so nice, we decided to eat in our “garden”. Although all you can see in the picture is the aftermath!
Before bed, we played a few games of cards and Evie and I went for a bike ride round the large site. We got lost – but only temporarily. Great fun. Soon it was bedtime again and we decided that we would go to bed at the same time, so they slept on the front beds and we had our lovely fixed bed, as usual. It worked well and we were soon all in the land of Nod.
The next morning dawned and we were delighted to see that they had both slept in late again. We had all had a restorative night’s sleep and we were all raring to go. Paul took the kids out with Archie while I restored some semblance of order and prepared breakfast and a packed lunch. Evie went on her bike again but Lenny was very firmly on foot.
We set off to our first destination of the day – Keyhaven, where we planned to catch the ferry to Hurst Castle. We passed the amazing Sway Tower (aka Peterson’s Folly) on the way and stopped to take a photo. It’s currently on the market for £2 million. Sadly not quite enough bedrooms for us…. We arrived at the ferry embarkation point, parked and took our place in the queue. There was only a small queue , though, and we were soon on board for the short but enjoyable trip.
The Castle is a great place to explore and we were soon climbing up and down and around the walls. There was an underground section, which Evie didn’t fancy (nor me actually!) and so I stayed with her while the intrepid boys went off. It was stinky apparently. And dark. Who knew? There are a lot of interesting things to see and – especially “what is believed to be the only surviving World War 2 ENSA theatre created by the troops themselves during wartime” on the site, which has recently been restored. Exhausted (OK – bit of an exaggeration!) by our exertions. we stopped at the cafe to refuel. Then more exploring.
By now, it was lunch time and we caught the ferry back to Keyhaven and then made the short trip to the spit/nature reserve where we were lucky enough to find a space as someone drove away. We went onto the beach and had our picnic there. We played on the beach for a while and then made our way to Beaulieu to see the donkeys and perhaps find an ice cream.
We were not disappointed on either front! We had some very close encounters and spent a quite a while there (at the Hatchet Pond). I’m not sure who was more excited! Me, the kids or Archie – who loves a donkey. There was a foal too and they were all pretty tame and it was a lovely experience for us all. Then we went off the to the village itself for a look round the shops and an ice-cream.
We went back to Setthorns for a cuppa and a relax before dinner. Evie and I went on a bike ride. Got lost again. Found ourselves again. All good. While we were sitting at the bench drinking tea and playing, something magical happened. We were visited by some deer. We were all enthralled to see them so close. We were worried about one who seemed to have a poorly leg, but he looked in reasonable condition. Paul planned to mention him to the warden later.
After our deer encounter, we ventured back to Lymington for a fish and chip supper, which we ate by the river and then went to the kids playground, before rushing back to Setthorns for the guided ramble, which started at 8pm. I dropped Paul and the kids off, with their coats and torch and went back to the van for a shower and a bit of “me” time. I had a whole hour to kill. I went back to pick them up at 9 and they had had a great time although not seen any wildlife.They were full of tales of owl pellets and mouse bones as we put them to bed, good as gold. Also very sleepy. As were we. An action packed and full on day! Roll on tomorrow. We read for a while, and I was returning from the loo, there was a car returning to its pitch and – caught in the headlights on our pitch – was another stag. Stunning. I love it here.
A repeat of yesterday morning – except that the weather had taken a turn for the worse. It was a bit grey and pretty blowy. We had planned a trip to the beach today and decided to go ahead regardless. We are British! We piled into the car – with coats today – and drove to Hengistbury Head, where we parked and scuttled aboard the land-train. This takes you on a short trip to the end (pretty much) of Mudeford Spit. There is a lovely beach here and the most adorable set of very covetable beach huts. Caveat emptor however, or you might find yourself with a massive hole in your pocket. They have been know to fetch prices in excess of £200,000, as this article from the Daily Mail notes. I have found one for £250,000 today! They are adorable and owners can stay overnight between March and October. They have no proper toilets, mains water, or electricity by the way. I’d still buy one if I had the money, though, because of their amazing location.
We pottered about on the beach for a bit but the wind was both strong and chilly, so we repaired to the Beach House Cafe for hot chocolates and – in some cases – brownies. 2nd breakfast in true Hobbit style.
We decided that we would drive round to Mudeford Quay on the other side of the spit (at the mouth of Christchurch harbour) and go crabbing. This is a favourite spot of ours anytime – we like to watch the tide racing through the narrow gap. We managed – sheer luck again – to grab a parking space overlooking the beach and sat in the car to eat our lunch, it being a tad too breezy to sit out. And as we ate – a drama unfolded before our very eyes. We saw the RNLI rib go out and eventually return with a sadly disabled yacht. It looked like the boom had broken – possibly as a result of the high wind.
We decided it would not be pleasant to be out crabbing in the inclement weather and instead the kids had a play in the play area. And then we went off in search of the mandatory ice-cream. We ended up at the Old Station Tea Rooms in Holmsley and drove back to van slurping on our ice-creams. We have learnt two new songs on this trip, by the way. My Old Man (which had me regaling them with the concept of doing a moonlight flit) and K-k-k-katy – a song about stammering. Hmmm. The pony count is getting higher – although I am pretty sure that there has been some double-counting!
We stopped on the way back for a run around with Wilson (the football). They enjoyed the Castaway story and happily christened the ball Wilson (although Lenny also like to call it Baby). We had talked about the importance of refraining from feeding wild animals because of the potentially negative effect on them. We told them the story of the bear that had been shot on our campsite in Canada, because it had become a nuisance because people – despite being told not to – persisted in feeding it. They were scathing in their comments about the people we saw who were feeding the wild ponies – they had clearly taken that point on board. Bless them.
We went back to the campsite and Evie and I went on the longest bike ride yet. And yes we got lost. And yes we found our way back – eventually. It’s becoming a habit! We had booked a table at the Rising Sun in Bashley – which had an amazing kids play area and so off we went, spotting ponies as we went. The pub was heaving but we had a very nice meal, a couple of games of cards and then it was home to bed. I think we had worn them out. And ourselves!
Going home day. The usual morning walks/cycles (no further luck with Lenny who refuses point blank to get on his bike, poor lad) and then it was time to gather together all the myriad bits and pieces that 2 children can position around the caravan. Lenny then amused himself by sweeping the leaves off the picnic table so that it would be nice for the next people. Cute! We had plenty of willing helpers and were all too soon packed up and on our way home.
My brother (Bruce) and his wife Mel had been staying at our house while we were away as they had been visiting the Victorious Music Festival in Portsmouth. They were preparing a lovely lunch for our arrival home – which was a shade later than anticipated, due to the sheer volume of traffic through the Forest. After lunch, it was time to transport the kids’ accoutrements into their parents’ car and wave them off. We had such a lovely time and I’m pretty sure they did too. We will miss them. Until the next time.