Rockford Common and Blashford Lakes round
The New Forest and its National Park is a wonderful and beautiful place situated in Hampshire in Southern England. The New Forest National Park was created in March 2005 after six years of consultations. A national park authority was established in April 2005 and gained full statutory powers in April 2006. The park covers 140,000 acres and includes many existing Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and lies mainly in south-west Hampshire from east of the Avon Valley to Southampton Water and from the Solent coast to the edge of the Wiltshire Chalk Downs. The Forest is a living and working place with so many thatched cottages, hidden gems and secrets making it a haven for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and tourists. To enable you to enjoy the forest to its full potential is to leave the car and get out there and explore. There are many circular routes, which can be found in the tourist information places, with picnic areas and toilet facilities. There are also guided walks where experts will tell you about the forest, its history and wildlife etc. There is also the New Forest Tour which is an open top bus taking you on many routes round the forest and villages and you can hop on and off where ever you like. This is fun for everyone and ideal for people who cannot walk far or are disabled. The New Forest Museum and Visitors Centre in Lyndhurst is the best place for any information and advice. The main attraction of the New Forest is the wild ponies that roam free but are actually owned by New Forest Commoners. There are approximately 3,000 ponies and have lived here for about 2000 years. The foals are born in the spring and summer and they are a delight to see. In the summer and autumn each year Pony drifts are held so that the commoners can sell their stock and the job of tail clipping and veterinary checks can be done at the same time.
The New Forest River Restoration Project is a massive project to help restore the New Forest to create a better place for people and wildlife along its rivers. The New Forest National Park Authority, the lead partner for the project, are working with the Forestry Commission and Natural England to restore 2,700 hectares of the New Forest that has been damaged by past drainage activities in the 19th and 20th centuries. The New Forest is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the work started in April 2009 and will finish in March 2013.
Rockford Common, managed by the National trust, is steeped in history from its traditional pastoral management of the livestock and local people to World War Two military history revealed by old bunkers, rifle butts and gun emplacements. Rockford Common’s industrial past can be seen as grassy embankments and bowls as the result of gravel extraction. Explore and discover hidden and gentle valley systems surrounded by mires and bogs, exposed plateaus of heather dotted with pine plantations and paths that wind through ancient woodland edges.
The Alice Lisle pub at Rockford used to be Rockford Primary School which closed in the 1960’s and there is a photo in the bar of the school in 1940 when it was requisitioned for military purposes in connection with Ibsley Airfield. George Gale & Co bought the building and turned it into a public house. The pub is named after Dame Alice Aisle, a landed lady of the county of Hampshire and the last woman to be publicly beheaded in England in 1685 for harbouring fugitives after the defeat of the Monmouth Rebellion at the Battle of Sedgemoor. Dame Alice’s case was tried by Judge Jeffreys at the opening of the Bloody Assizes at Winchester. A plaque on the wall of the Winchester city museum marks the spot of Dame Alice’s execution, opposite The Eclipse Inn near the cathedral. Born in 1617 she was a daughter of Sir White Beconshaw of Moyles Court at Ellingham which is just down the road and is now Moyles Court School. Her husband, Sir John Lisle had been one of the judges at the trial of Charles I, and was subsequently a member of Cromwell’s House of Lords, hence his wife’s courtesy title.
Blashford Lakes, about a mile from Ringwood and separate the hamlet of Rockford and the village of Ellingham, is a series of lakes which have been created as a result of sand and gravel extraction since the 1950’s. The lakes now used for nature conservation and drinking water storage are surrounded by willow, birch and alder woodland as well as grassland. Blashford Lakes is an internationally important site for wildlife which attracts thousands of wildfowl in the winter as well as bittern and also many types of woodland birds including redpoll, siskin and brambling. There are six accessible bird hides and a number of viewing screens around the site. In the summer look for adder, grass snake and kingfisher. It is also a great place for invertebrates and 26 species of dragonfly have been recorded to date. There is an on-site Education Centre that offers a trail guide and toilets for visitors. There is also 8km of rolled gravel paths for ease of access in all seasons for mobility scooters, more robust wheelchairs and pushchairs. The 490 acre Nature Reserve and Education Centre are managed by the Wildlife Trust in partnership with the New Forest District Council, and landowners Wessex Water and Bournemouth and West Hampshire Water.
Ringwood the New Forest’s main market town stands on the western edge of the New Forest at a crossing point of the River Avon. With a market charter dating back to 1226 the town still holds a Wednesday morning street market. Ringwood, ideal as a base for touring the New Forest, is a lovely unspoilt historic town with both quaint and modern shops, restaurants, pubs, cafes, street entertainment and a Visitor Information Centre. The town also sits on the Avon Valley Path, a 34 mile long distance walking route that starts from the beautiful Cathedral City of Salisbury in Wiltshire and ends at Christchurch Priory in Dorset on the south coast. The path is named after the River Avon whose course it follows and the valley is a special place with a greater range of habitats and a wider variety of flora and fauna than any other chalk river in Britain. The river and its water meadows dominate this route passing mills, weirs, sluice gates and charming villages where you can explore their churches, twisting lanes and welcoming pubs.
Turn left out of the car park and follow the road, sign posted Rockford, slightly downhill and round the bend to the left. We walk on the verge on the right we are now on the Avon Valley Path. At the t-junction we cross straight over, go through the gate and head forward. When we come out at the road we head forward past the Alice Lisle pub, cross over a cattle grid then at the end of the wall just after Ivy Lane on the right we turn right and go through the gate. We head forward along the narrow path, with Blashford Lake on our left until we come to a track. We turn right then after a short way we turn left immediately after the entrance gate to the sailing club. With the lake still on our left we head forwards following the narrow path. At the kissing gate we turn right then after a short way we turn left through the kissing gate just before the bungalow. We head forward the lake still on our left then at the telegraph pole we turn left now leaving the Avon Valley Path. We keep following the path passing a bridge on our right to the road. At the road we turn right then head forwards bearing left at the t-junction sign posted Highwood. We follow the road with a stream on our right passing a thatched cottage. When we come to a thatched cottage, a footpath sign and Exley on a log on the left we turn left following the path through the trees. We walk along a board walk, go through a gate then turn left uphill. We keep heading forward and when we meet a crossroads of tracks with a sign on the tree saying Tanglewood we cross straight over. We soon come to another crossroads of tracks we turn right passing a bungalow called Foxglove Corner. We continue slightly downhill passing Yew Tree Cottage and Lavender Farm. At the bottom of the hill we head forward past the farm on the left. We pass Furzie Field on our right and continue forward through the trees slightly uphill. We pass a telegraph pole into the open then head forwards between the trees. We come to some open grassland and continue straight ahead passing Waterslade Farm on our right to go through a gap in the ferns. We keep heading forward on the grassy path ignoring any paths going off left or right until we come to a gravel track. We turn left and as the track turns left we keep heading forwards past the barrier. We head straight forward over the crossroad of tracks and after about 300 yards and as the track starts to go downhill we turn left. We head forward passing an old pit on our right then when a track comes in from the left we head forward and continue following the track ignoring any paths going off. We go through a barrier and turn right and as the track raises out of the quarry on our right the track splits we turn right. When we come to a t-junction we turn right. We pass a path going off to the left and a building and head forward with a fence on our left through the trees. We continue past a thatched house on our left and a picture post card cottage on our right back to the car park.
This is an easy walk on grass paths, gravel tracks and tarmac road. There are some gradual inclines and declines.
Elevation: approx lowest point 21.40m (70.21ft) approx highest point 76.20m (250ft) approx ascent 85.20m (279.53ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 5.1 miles allow 2¼ hours using OS Explorer Map OL22, New Forest. This walk is done anti-clockwise.
Start point: Rockford Common National Trust Car Park.
Rockford Common is just north of Ringwood in the New Forest, Hampshire.
Directions and Parking
From Ringwood take the A338 northwards. After about a mile turn right along Ivy Lane. At the junction turn left to Rockford. Follow road bearing right and car park is on the right opposite the ford. Or after about 2 miles turn right to Moyles Court then first right over bridge then left uphill. Car park is on the right.
Parking: Rockford Common National Trust Car Park. The car park is free of charge.
Toilets and Refreshments
There is no public toilets en-route the nearest ones are in Ringwood. For refreshments there is the Alice Lisle pub or Ringwood is the nearest town for a variety refreshments.