A New Forest Church.

On this dull Wednesday, we stopped off at our favourite New Forest Churches.

St Nicholas Church Brockenhurst is the oldest church in the Forest. It is positioned on a mound, on the edge of the village which may have been a sacred site since pre-Christian times. A church is recorded at Brockenhurst in Domesday but the original Christian church was quite possibly established by Augustinians who established the priory at Christchurch. This church never seems to change except with the seasons. today it looks exactly the same as it did in 1980 when we got married there.

Male and female Blackbird.

War Graves in the Churchyard.

Details re the war graves copied from Commonwealth war graves commission webpage.

“Due to its proximity to the port of Southampton, its railway connections and an abundance of large houses in the area, Brockenhurst was chosen in 1915 by the War Office to become a hospital centre. Initially, Lady Hardinge’s Hospital (named after the wife of the Viceroy of India) for the Indian troops of the Lahore and Meerut Divisions was established south of the village. This was then replaced by No.1 New Zealand General Hospital in June 1916, after the Indian Divisions were replaced by ANZAC troops. The New Zealand Hospital remained at Brockenhurst until it closed early in 1919. The churchyard contains 106 graves of the First War, of which one hundred are in the New Zealand plot. In addition to the 93 New Zealand graves, there are also three Indian and three unidentified Belgian civilians (employed at the Sopley Forestry camp). On the East side of the New Zealand plot is a memorial incorporating a Cross.”

The snake man.

Harry ‘Brusher’ Mills was a hermit, a resident of the forest, he made his living as a snake catcher.  It is said he caught around 30,000 snakes during his 18 years as a snake catcher.

He was a man of few needs who loved the simple life, in a mud hut apart from a spell in the workhouse after catching influenza.

He was a popular character in Brockenhurst, regularly enjoying a tipple at The Railway Inn which today is named The Snakecatcher in his honour.

You are never far from a Robin in the New Forest.

After the rain.

We left home in heavy rain this morning and it looked like my walk into the New Forest may be a washout however the BBC weather forecast was correct and by 9.30 the sun was out and the Autumn colours were looking good.

Fallow Deer are the deer that most visitors to the New Forest see. Although not a native species, to the forest. The New Forest was William the Conqueror’s first hunting forest in England, and the hunting of fallow stags took place for over 900 years until it was outlawed in 1997.

I only saw one Stag but he was worth spotting and decided to sit down rather than move on!

Deer and more.

A different area of the New Forest today gave a glimpse of both some Fallow Deer and some Red Deer. All females and youngsters.

Fallow Deer.

Red Deer.

Also, a few Redwing were about. The redwing is a common winter visitor and is the UK’s smallest true thrush. Its creamy strip above the eye and orange-red flank patches make it distinctive. Rare in summer with under 20 pairs but in the winter the influx of some 8.6 million birds!

Lepe Beach D-Day Relics.

Lepe Beach and country park has many relics that date back to WW2 and link it with D-Day and the invasion of France in June 1944.

One of many Mulberry Harbour construction and launching sites was constructed at Lepe 6 concrete Phoenix Caissons that were simultaneously built on these platforms from January 1944 so that they could be directly launched into the sea by May 1944. They were towed up Southampton water for finishing.

Mulberry harbours were temporary portable harbours following D-Day, two prefabricated harbours were taken in sections across the English Channel from the UK with the invading army and assembled off Omaha Beach (Mulberry “A”) and Gold Beach (Mulberry “B”).

Many Allied troops waited for D-Day in camps in the New Forest. Some of these embarked from Lepe, and others used embarkation sites to the east or west. The group of camps was known as Marshalling Area B. On the beach, at Lepe, there was room for four Landing Craft Tank (LCT).

Remains of the “Dolphins” part of the pierhead which was used to load landing crafts.

Large Bollards for tying up Landing craft.

Concrete blocks known as “chocolate Blocks ” were used to build a roadway over the beach for vehicles to load onto the landing craft without getting stuck on the soft sand and gravel.

Launch block blocks where the large caissons were winched into the sea.

Large contraction platforms where the caissons were constructed.

Monuments remembering D-Day and Poppy display in support of the Royal British Legion 2022 Poppy appeal.

Curlew on the shore.

The curlew is the largest European wading bird. There were around 10 birds on the mudflats at the edge of the incoming tide catching small crabs at Lepe Beach on the edge of the New Forest. They also feed on worms, shellfish and shrimps. The UK breeding population is around 58,500 pairs and the wintering population increases to some 125,000 birds.

UK conservation status: Red.

Timber from the New Forest.

At the start of World War, One much of the timber required by the UK came from Canada. By 1916 Canadian timber could no longer be imported on a large enough scale to meet requirements for the war effort as there were not enough freight ships for all the country’s munitions, food and other essential items. Timber production from English forests and woodlands had to be increased to meet the Canadian shortfall. Labour was short due to the war. To harvest local timber the First Battalion of Lumbermen was formed of 1500 Canadian workers who started coming to the UK. The Canadians brought over their own equipment an initial advance party of 15 Canadians set up in a camp near Lyndhurst. which quickly grew and later received help from Portuguese labourers.

The camp was some 4 to 5 acres in size and surrounded by fences It was like a self-contained village with over 25 huts. Including workshops and even a hospital. At the height of the camp’s usage, there were around 100 Portuguese and 200 associated workers on site. There was also a Light railway that helped speed up timber production. Other camps were set up mainly in Southern England.

Little remains of the timber camp today as most of the buildings were wooden.

Concrete remains of the sawmill.

Now a monument “The Portuguese fireplace” is the chimney of the former cookhouse.

Timber Work in the New Forest is still being undertaken.