We travelled an hour and a half south to the New Forest, a broad expanse of public land not far from the ocean. Despite its name, only a part of the land is wooded. In fact it was established as a medieval royal hunting 'forest', or game reserve, in the late eleventh century. Saturday was a lovely day, perhaps the last warm bright day of autumn, and it was a pleasure to ride for four hours.
An hour's ride took Brena and I to the site of the Second World War bombing range near Godshill. In the photo above we're fifteen feet up on top of the main target, a concrete bunker that was covered in earth at the end of the war. Towards the top left of the photo lies an enormous crater some eighty feet across, and as much as a hundred feet deep, made by a five-ton 'earthquake' bomb dropped in 1944. The bomb would have been dropped from an aeroplane flying at twenty-thousand feet at a couple of hundred miles an hour, so the exercise was surprisingly accurate for an era of unguided munitions.
It's strange to think that such a tranquil location was once the scene of explosive testing of bombs and rockets. And it's very unusual to find bomb craters here in Britain. Pits abound in the chalk hills, but they were used to dig out material for road repairs and building work.
Ponies grazed the forest, congregating near ponds. There's one just behind the trees. It wasn't a problem riding past these herds of ponies as mostly they and Brena ignored one-another. There was the occasional whinny, that was all. The ponies seem to have a lovely natural life out here, with plenty to eat, fresh water, shelter and company. Their freedom contrasts with the many domestic horses kept in solitary confinement, often indoors for most or all of the day, so that they remain 'safe' and clean.
Back at the car park I tied up Brena, washed down her back, and fed her. Several ponies wandered across to look at her, both the native New Forest breed and a few Shetlands. Only mares and a few foals are loose in the forest at this time of year. Brena chose to stand with her hind feet up on a bank, hence her peculiar head-down stance. And then they all dozed at the end of a warm afternoon.