Millyford Bridge – Portuguese Fireplace – Knightwood Oak and Reptile Centre round
The New Forest and its National Park is a wonderful and beautiful place situated in Hampshire down 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.
Millyford Bridge which crosses a stream called Highland Water is situated 2 miles west of Lyndhurst on the minor road leading from Emery Down to Bolderwood and Linwood. Next to the bridge is Millyford Car Park which has ample free parking and from here there are some lovely walks and strolls for walkers of all abilities, even small children and the elderly. Close by is the Portuguese Fireplace war memorial the plaque at its side reads “This is the site of a hutted camp occupied by a Portuguese army unit during the First World War. The unit assisted the depleted local labour force in producing timber for the war effort. The Forestry Commission has retained this fireplace from the cookhouse as a memorial to the men who lived and worked here and acknowledge the financial assistance of the Portuguese Government in its renovation”. Due to the war effort in the First World War local labour was in short supply so the Portuguese Army unit along with the Canadian Timber Corps helped with the managing of the timber production for the war whilst local foresters were away fighting. Because it was also operated by the Canadian Forestry Corps it is also referred to locally as the Canadian Fireplace. Grassland bumps and hollows near the memorial, mark the site of a contemporary Canadian Forestry Corps camp and slightly to the west by a gate leading into the woods is a short length of a deep cutting bordered by moss covered banks which was part of the route of the First World War narrow gauge railway used to take timber to a sawmill located close to the Millyford Bridge car park. Also near the car park there is still a large rectangular concrete block and opposite on the other side of the road the building foundations of both the First and Second World War sawmills can be seen.
Knightwood Oak also known as the ‘Queen of the Forest’ is the New Forest’s most famous oak tree and one of the oldest at over 500 years old. It has a girth, close to ground level, of just over seven metres and the tree is still growing. Unlike most other oaks in the forest it is a pollarded oak. It was pollarded when it was about 200 years old and is thought to have been last pollarded about 150 years ago. The unique art of pollarding is a traditional way of harvesting wood without killing the tree and was used throughout the New Forest in ancient times. A pollarded tree is one that has been cut a couple of metres above ground level, promoting outward growth of fresh branches rather than the single main trunk growing upwards. The new branches greatly increased the yield of timber from the tree. This tradition stopped when the Royal Navy started using the oak timber for shipbuilding at Bucklers Hard, they wanted solid trunks ideal for cutting long planks that were required for the ships of Nelson’s fleet. At Knightwood Oak there is a car park and a gravel path, suitable for wheelchairs, leads to and around the tree. A fence encircles the tree to protect its roots from soil compaction due to foot traffic.
The New Forest Reptile Centre, only a few miles west of Lyndhurst, is open right through the spring and summer until the end of September and entry is free. It is the only conservation centre that has a collection of all of Britain’s native lizards including the rare sand lizard, grass snakes, smooth snakes, Britain’s only venomous snake the adder, frogs and toads, newts and slow worms. The reptiles living in their natural environment are displayed in separate specially created open air netted enclosures. The best time to see most of the reptiles is on a warm sunny day when they will be basking in the sunshine to warm their blood. In addition to the reptiles and amphibians, the centre is home to “A Date with Nature in the New Forest” where you can view birds of prey on nest cams and watch live woodpeckers, nuthatches and various other birds feeding on the nuts. There is also a picnic area with benches and tables and a 1½ mile walk named The Reptile Trail. This is a very interesting place and makes a great day out for all the family of all generations.
From the car park we cross straight over the road, turn right and follow the road to the Portuguese Fireplace. Shortly after passing the Portuguese Fireplace we turn left through the gate and continue ahead on the track. At the Y- junction we bear right keeping to the track slightly downhill, ignoring any paths or tracks going off left or right. Shortly after passing a seat on our left we go through a gate and when the track splits we bear left. We keep heading forward over a little stream until we reach a minor road. We turn left along the road then at the Knightwood Oak Car Park on the right we turn left and follow the signs to view the Knightwood Oak then return back to the road. We turn left and head forward to cross over the cattle grid and straight over the A35. We continue ahead on the Ornamental Drive. Soon after crossing over a little bridge we turn left onto a gravel track and when the track splits we bear right, then at the crossroads we turn left. We soon go through a gate and continue ahead on the path. After crossing a bridge we head forward slightly left into the birch trees and follow the wide track through the woods to a bridge over a stream. We do not cross the bridge. We turn left and follow the path that runs parallel with the stream until we reach the A35 road. We cross straight over the road onto the track opposite towards the Reptile Centre and continue ahead. After passing the white house we go through the gate beside the cattle grid into the Reptile Centre. At the top of the car park near the toilets we leave the Reptile Centre by taking the gravel track bearing left. We shortly take the path on the left and continue ahead crossing over a walkway until we reach the main track. We turn right and retrace our steps back through the gate at the start of the walk then turn right passing the Portuguese Fireplace back to the car park.
This is an easy walk on forest tracks/paths. There are some gates and a few gentle gradients.
Elevation: approx lowest point 19m (61ft) approx highest point 46m (150ft) approx ascent 51m (166ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 4.75 miles allow 1¾ to 2½ hours using OS Explorer Map OL22, The New Forest. This walk is done anti-clockwise.
Start point: Millyford Bridge free car park.
Millyford Bridge is situated on the minor road about 2 miles west of Lyndhurst in the New Forest.
Directions and Parking
From Lyndhurst take the A35 to Swan Green then take the right turn for Emery Down. Take the next left at the New Forest Inn signed Bolderwood. Continue for just over a mile and the Millyford Bridge car park is on the right.
Parking: Millyford Bridge free car park. The Reptile Centre and Knightwood Oak also have free car parks.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets at the Reptile centre. There is no refreshments en-route but there is a pub The New Forest Inn at nearby Emery Down and the next nearest facilities are at Lyndhurst.