More or less at the end of the next street, we can walk through a kissing gate and pass into another world entirely. We go from a street full of suburban bungalows with neatly manicured gardens to this seemingly wild woodland that you would hardly even acknowledge is there when driving around the area.
This woodland, part of the Great Woar Copse, leads us onto the Ballard Water Meadows (at the far side of which is Ballard Lake a.k.a. the duck pond) and is a favourite route with dog walkers and lovers of Walking in New Milton.
All around the woods and meadow are lecturns with information about the management of the copse and meadow, the flora and fauna. Don't be tempted to pass any of them by, because each one has different information.
Despite all the recent summer rain, the current view (above, right) is quite a contrast from when we visited in February (above, left).
There are gates all around the woods and meadow for keeping in the livestock. There are signs up about cattle, but we've never seen any of the seven Dexter cattle that are meant to be grazing there. Either they're very small, very shy, or very absent! (I suspect the last.) This time they both waited, but normally the dogs will just limbo dance under the fences and leave the gates to us silly humans!
At the top of the meadow there is this fenced-off area, where we find a wonderfully gnarly, over 300 year old oak tree.
And so towards home, back along the paths in through the copse. The full route takes around an hour, so is ideal for our medium to large sized visitors.
NB: Our intrepid route testers here are Teekee and Baloo, who belong to a friend and are regular visitors. They are shown off lead because we have an established relationship with them. We wouldn't let any dogs off the lead who we aren't very confident are going to respond to recall. No dogs were harmed in the filming of this walk. Batteries not included. Your results may differ. :)
If you're interested in the conservation of the water meadow and it's surrounding area, you may like to check out The Friends of Ballard Water Meadows