New Forest camping
Rain was forecast for Sunday and so we put on waterproof over-trousers and coats and set off on what's signposted Ashley Walk just across the road from the campsite. It's stunning and so peaceful, letting you cross far enough into the heathland that you can no longer hear traffic, just the wind in the trees.
Wild horses and donkeys roam free, alongside cows and they all tend to give you a wide berth as you pass. We followed the track towards the village of Fritham, the weather holding until we reached the Royal Oak pub. It was Sunday lunchtime and the pub was busy, but we found a table outside under the large marquee.
The peace and quite we'd enjoyed up until then was shattered by a table of three or four families with noisy kids, and then about two dozen cyclists in every shade of neon Lycra. We stayed for two pints apiece of real ale - something the Royal Oak does well, straight from the casks behind the bar. We might have stayed for a third pint to accompany lunch but I was rather disappointed by the food menu. Everything was 'home cooked' and not 'home made', meaning 'we just heat it up', and there were variations on a theme - sausage roll, pork pie or pate served with salad and crisps. For the kids' meal of sausage roll, crisps and an apple, they were charging £6. The adult choices were £8.50. When I'm at a country pub on a Sunday lunchtime, I want a Sunday roast. So we ate pork scratchings as we enjoyed our second pints and set back out, into the rain this time, to walk back home.
Daytime drinking is never a great idea and we both had a little snooze upon returning back to camp. We woke in time for the wood-fired pizza van visiting Tom's Field and it was properly home cooking it's delicious food.
We sat out until 10pm, under our awning, sheltering from the rain. It's nice to be outside in the rain when you've got shelter, and the views from Tom's Field can do nothing but relax you. We retired to bed soon after, but on a visit to the toilets just prior to bedtime the campsite was a site to behold. A few hardy campers will seeking shelter in their tent porches with the dying embers of their campfires, or else ensconced inside their tents, the canvas glowing from the light inside. Under the pitch black of the New Forest sky, campfire flames and illuminated tents made the perfect campsite scene.
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