It was a late summer day. The sky was an intense blue and enormous puffy white clouds sailed above our heads, heading towards the horizon as we set off on an adventure, satnav in hand.
The journey to the New Forest took just over an hour but didn’t seem very long at all. There was lots of lovely scenery to look at, especially as we got closer to the Forest.
You know when you are almost there, for you begin to see the wild ponies everywhere. They are allowed to roam freely, wherever the mood takes them and if you are lucky enough to live there, you must get used to them just turning up and being in the way. They are not that small, either. To call them ‘ponies’ would give you the wrong impression. Most of them are quite a size and can be quite formidable!
I am always surprised when people seem frightened when a pony gets too close to them. Sometimes it can be alarming, one poor man had to give up his ice cream; it was either that or lose an arm.
As we made our way to the car park, there were several ponies standing around in the street and a few more in the car park. Nobody seems to mind, but it does tend to play havoc with the traffic. Most of the foreign tourists have no idea what’s going on, and I know from experience that it’s completely terrifying trying to steer a car around a completely oblivious animal that’s just standing in the middle of the road.
It was not our first visit, so we knew what to expect. We were here about ten years ago and still remember one rather large and stroppy pony who was trying to break into some of the cars in the car park. He obviously thought he could smell food, and it was all very scary not to mention the damage he was causing!
We decided to have lunch and have a look around afterwards, so we chose an eating-place with a good view of the road so we could watch the show. One pony, in particular, was standing in the middle of the road and didn’t look as though he had any intention of moving anytime soon. He seemed to be hell-bent on causing as much disruption to the traffic flow as possible. Almost deliberately, I thought as I could swear I saw mischief in his eyes.
I heard some of the locals explaining to the tourists that the freedom the ponies enjoyed was theirs by right, as they were here first. The New Forest belongs to them and people take second place, as simple as that. Very strange goings on, if you ask me, but wonderful to see. This has been going on for centuries and I can see it going on for years to come.
I could live there for sure, to literally share your life with wild ponies seems like my idea of heaven.
Quite apart from the fact that I have wanted to live in a forest for years…