My shiny little online spot to help y'all keep track of me while I galavant around London.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New Forest

So I really needed to get out of London this weekend, even just for the day, to get some air and chill out and be alone. It's decidedly hard to be alone in this city -- lonely is easy, but being actually physically alone is very difficult.

I couldn't decide where to go. I thought about the ocean, but the only seaside cities I still want to see are hours and hours away. I decided I'd go on Saturday morning to Waterloo station and take the first train going somewhere interesting.

When I arrived at the station, there was a train going to Portsmouth. On the ocean, so that's good. Then, it was cancelled. Okay, fine. A few minutes after, there was a train going to Alton, from which I could get to Chawton House, where Jane Austen lived. But there was a fault on the line, and I'd have to take the bus part of the way. Forget that. Look back at the screens... there's one going to Southampton -- it's near the ocean, good enough. So hopped on the train and off I went.

Part way thru the trip, the conductor-lady announced that at 11am the train would stop for two minutes, in honour of remembrance day. Two guys -- European, with not very good English -- talked thru the whole thing. I'm sure they had no idea what was going on, why the train was stopped, or why everyone was suddenly dead quiet.

Anyway, arrive at Southampton. I have my bike with me, so I pedal down to the waterfront. It's pretty dire. Maybe I was in a bad mood. Or maybe it really is that much of a dump. But Southampton was not offering me what I needed, ie: cheering up. I stopped in a cafe for a sandwich and a coffee, and it was full -- packed completely -- with senior citizens. On a Tuesday morning, sure. But on a Saturday, in the city centre? Lame.

So I biked back to the train station, and went a few stops further down the line to the New Forest, a massive park full of ponies. Why I didn't go there straight off is beyond me. I've been there before (with Dan then, and this time, decidedly without) and wanted to go somewhere different, I guess.

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Anyway, right off the train, there were ponies. I wandered into a town called Ashurst, bought a shitty map, then cycled for half an hour in the wrong direction. Oh well, not like I was in a rush. I was trying to head to an area called the Woodlands, but only because it was close-ish on my map. I randomly turned into a closed-for-the-season campground, because I saw some ponies. Bigger ones, like horses. I took several dozen photos, and then walked further in and found more ponies.

It's a beautiful area. Massive old trees, all gold and yellow, with leaves and acorns and horse poop all over the ground. My kind of place.

I was mostly wandering around, petting ponies, taking photos and admiring the view and breathing the lovely air -- you start to appreciate air quality living in a place like London.

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I wandered over to one bigger pony -- more of a horse, really -- hoping to get a good photo, as the light was reflecting off the trees around it in a very ethereal way. I got closer, lost the nice lighting, and was standing in a clearing when I heard rustling from behind me.

I turned, and a herd of tiny ponies trotted out of the bushes and trees toward me. It's hard to explain the sensation, of just being somewhere, and having wildlife wander into view. It's one thing to see them from the road and go in for a closer look, it's another to be standing alone in the wilderness (or the closest to it this ridiculous country has) and see animals come out of nowhere, on their daily business, doing what they'd do if you were there or not.

They trotted right up to me, and past me. Much more aggressive than the bigger ponies, pushed their little faces right up me, looking for treats I guess, or just curious.

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One walked right up to the nicely-lit bigger pony, and they stuck their noses towards each other. Shamefully, I didn't have my camera ready, and missed the shot of this horse, several times bigger than its new friend, stretching it's neck down to meet the nose of this tiny little pony-creature. Adorable.

After going thru all my film (thank god I had the digital, too), I left the ponies and went for a ride down a trail thru the forest. I had no idea where it was going, so eventually backtracked to Ashurst and a shitty pub, with food that tasted of nothing; it was just warm and solid. Amazing. Almost an accomplishment. And then, with my runners and bike tires caked in mud, I got back on the train to Waterloo and stinky old London...

More pictures here, and video is here and here.

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