Sunday 11th November 2012
After checking the forecast last night, I decide to get up early and go onto the Forest to see what I can find. The adventure doesn’t start well: I oversleep and finally jolt awake to the alarm just before 6am, have a lightning shower, stuff down some breakfast while sorting out camera gear, rush out the door, then spent the best part of 10 minutes de-icing the car, neigh on freezing my fingers in the process. Several times I consider giving up and going back to bed, but I persist and started off down the road - only to realise that, in my haste, I have left both my hat and sunglasses at home. Too late to turn back now. By this point I'm in a thoroughly foul mood, cursing my still-tingling fingers as a driver speeds past me in Ashurst's 30 mph zone.
As I drive out of Lyndhurst towards my destination, though, my mood is immediately lifted as across the road in front of me run a small group of fallow does, accompanied by three ponies. The sight of these animals running over the heather into the mist, with the sun peering cautiously over the clouds, is, frankly, breath-taking. I pull into the carpark and change into my wellies, set up my camera, curse my forgotten hat, and start walking across the frozen, mist-shrouded heath as chaffinches flit through the pines in the carpark.
As I wander, a small herd of fallow huddle under a nearby tree, and pipits dart up and down across the heather. About 10 minutes out of the carpark I turn to watch a bright ball of orange soar out of a cloud bank and illuminate the heath. The frozen gorse, bracken and grass glisten as though bejewelled. As the sun's rays reach the path where I’m standing and start to warm my frozen feet the earlier crap stops mattering: I just stand and watch.
For the remainder of my walk across the now steaming heath and through the ochre autumnal woodland, I’m in the best mood I’ve been in all week. Highlights include a fallow buck grazing among the fallen beech leaves, a green woodpecker, more fallow does, and a flock of crossbills.