Well, first and foremost I suppose that a big old happy new year is in order; if we’re to believe everything we read online, it sounds like 2017 was a bit of a shitter – a notion with which I disagree entirely. Whichever side you’re on, here’s to a fabulous 2018 for all.
True to both manner and expectation, the Boy and I decided that we’d kick the new year off upon the predicate of “starting as you mean to go on” – that is, by
shirking responsibility entirely and continuing to avoid this so called “real world” you all keep telling us is a thing making the very most of the last couple of days before returning to work. Thanks to an old knee injury (quad bike accident, Vanuatu) and a more recent but still excruciatingly frustrating groin injury (hiking, Poland), we and certainly I have not been able to do much “outdoorsing” of late; with that in mind, we headed down to the New Forest National Park in search of some gentle rambling to get us back into the swing of things.
Contrary to it’s rather charming but misleading name, the New Forest is in fact anything but; it was officially established in the year 1079 – a year which is unfathomable to most as ever having even happened, it’s so damn long ago. And truly charming it is – shrouded in history, down each winding lane and over every babbling brook, as you pass by each thatched cottage and timeworn brick house, the New Forest is but one of the few traditional pieces of untouched countryside left in the UK.
Honestly, it has a real feel about it. You can almost visualise the old Dukes and Kings riding around on horseback, shooting their bow and arrows, gallivanting through the thick forest and doing whatever else noble men did back then. Good day, squire.
Now, one thing you should know about me is that I have a pretty severe fear of horses – I wouldn’t call it a phobia anymore and I’ve definitely worked at it (namely through an incredible day of horseback riding in BC, Canada a couple years back); nonetheless I’m not a fan and, as a horsey nay-sayer (see what I did there?) the New Forest does inherently prompt some feelings of anxiety in one such as I, given its 5000-strong wild horse population.
Yes, there are wild ponies in England today. And yes – 5000 of them. Give or take.
And I’m pleased to say that they are in fact
I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t love it – we were literally accosted by 6 or 7 full-size horses about 10 minutes after leaving our hotel, on a narrow lane in the middle of the woods, completely wild; clearly used to people, these guys wasted no time in introducing themselves and showed literally no apprehension in seeing two muddy humans roaming around their stomping grounds. Despite my (totally unfounded and fairly irrational) fears, after a few days spent, you really can’t deny that it is truly magical to be surrounded by these creatures, which we know so commonly as domesticated, wild. Driving through the open heathland which separates the picturesque towns within, the roadsides are scattered with herds of varying sizes; the landscape is laden with either majestic horses – chestnuts, grays and everything in between – or the unbelievably cute, decidedly diminutive ponies for which the forest is so well famed.
Being that we were near the coast, we decided to spend a day seeing some of the incredible shoreline that England has to offer; our Jurassic coast, dating back 185 million years is as stunning as expected. I’m the classic traveller who could tell you about the far reaches of Morocco’s mountainous hash plantations, or regale tales of a tiny town 350km away from any civilisation in Australia’s outback, but ask me about something an hour down the road from my own home town and I’m clueless. We really have not seen enough of the UK and this is a huge focus for us this year.
We drove down to a beautiful little town (more thatched rooves and winding streets abound), called Lulworth – parking up and heading out towards the dazzling blue sky and sound of the waves below, we started our trek from here on the beautiful coastal path which hugs the shore, all the way to Durdle Door.
Cue the rain. Icy, cold, piercing rain lashing us in the face, and near gale-force winds threatening to throw us over the cliff edge. Goodbye, blue sky – it was nice to have you for even a moment.
I suppose it wouldn’t be a walk in England without these factors.
We powered on, and Durdle Door was well worth fighting the elements for; situated on a properly English pebble beach and framed with its white chalky cliffs, it’s a beautiful sight to behold. Again, you can’t help but be enchanted by the history that this country holds, how old it feels wherever you go. Questions of who – or even what – walked here before and what were they doing fill your mind as you crunch through the weathered stones, gazing at the distinctive layers of soil which make up the cliffs, each heralding a new time, a new epoch to come around. It’s utter madness, really, and it’s why the UK and certainly most places in Europe hold a special place both in my heart and mind – they’re old. They know things. The history they have. It’s incredibly cool.
And, to top things off, it would seem that my pesky groin is in fact healed. Success.
This year we are, as ever, focusing on sustaining a day to day life which is far more enjoyable than it is stressful, and centres around us doing what we want to purely because we’re fortunate enough to be able to do so. As a couple, the Boy & I are realising more and more so that work/life balance is important, because really, what are you working towards? A mortgage on a house that you’ll not spend much time in because you’re always at work? A new car, which you’ll be super excited about for the first little while, until the novelty wears off or something goes wrong and you have to dump more money into getting it fixed? A promotion? Success?
What even is success?
I’m not saying don’t have a career – and I’m DEFINITELY not saying don’t go to work at all (quite the contrary; if you’d like to debate with me my no doubt controversial opinions on how darn lazy our generation is – for the most part – shoot me a message).
I believe one thousand percent in hard work and everything it both entails and leads to, and I pride myself on having an unceasing work ethic – but know why you’re working, what you’re doing it for.
I’m doing it so I can take impromptu trips to the New Forest, whenever I bloody feel like it.
More to come. Watch this space. Comments welcomed and appreciated.