Crockford is a regular destination for the natural history society usually starting the walk from Norleywood car park.

This year however it was started from Crockford car park and walked in the reverse direction.

Crockford car park is normally closed in the summer to enable ground nesting birds to remain undisturbed but when it reopens it takes time for the usual dog walkers to revisit.

The car park was empty on arrival except for a group of ponies grazing the nearby grassy area hoping for a chance to get food from the cars.

The ponies had obviously been fed before and come to expect food from visitors.

Although there was a large sign warning people not to climb on wood piles there was no such obvious sign saying ‘do not feed the ponies’.

After a hot dry spell the weather had turned rather fresher before the walk and there was a stiff breeze at the car park.

The breeze lessened on walking across the heath downhill towards the stream and it was a pleasure to inhale deeply of the fragrant heather.

All three varieties of heather were in bloom with shades of pink from white to red colouring the ground.

Coral NecklaceDepressions in the heath which had been filled with water but now dry hosted the mottled pink of Coral Necklace flowers and the duller greys of Cudweed.

Crockford stream never appears to hold a large volume of water and is generally narrow enough to stride across.

Occasionally it opens out wide so that its depth barely covers the boots but crossing in these areas risks sinking into the peaty mud.

It follows the contours of the valley but has not matured sufficiently to have any significant meanders.

Reaching the stream it was obvious where the log piles in the car park had originated as many of the mature trees close to the water had been felled.

Although the area looked scarred at present it will no doubt improve over the next few years. It was still a pleasure to walk along the stream with many lingering stops to enjoy the views.

The longer you look into the running water the more things you notice including many small fish, Water Boatmen and Pond Skaters in the side pools.

Blue Southern Damselflies can be seen at Crockford earlier in the year but have all disappeared by August.

Beautiful Demoiselle damselflies however have a longer season and there were several flying between the vegetation along the stream.

There were also a few Keeled Skimmer Dragonflies and several red bodied Common Darters.

A large Southern Hawker Dragonfly chased all the other Dragonflies from its patch around a shallow pool.

Butterflies including Cabbage White, Brimstone, Meadow Brown, Peacock and Red Admiral occasionally found their way to the vegetation along the stream wherever the breeze calmed.

After crossing the road towards Norleywood the walk along the stream became more difficult.

Gorse bushes appear to have thrived this year and overgrown even narrow paths used by ponies.

A route further away from the stream had to be taken but it was always possible to return to the water if only for a look before resuming the search for a suitable path.

Grassy areas between the gorse gave a chance for flowers to grow including Scabious, Saw wort and Marsh Thistle.

Water Mint and Purple Loosestrife grew near the water and Hampshire Purslane covered a shallow section of the stream.

Hampshire Purslane is quite rare though common in parts of the New Forest.

It can easily be identified by the dark red colouration of the stem and leaves.

The flowers are inconspicuous being much the same colour as the rest of the plant and they hide between the stem and the leaf.

Being self-pollinating they do not have to attract pollinating insects which could account for their lack of colour.

The inclosure of Norleywood consists mainly of mature Scots Pine trees with some deciduous trees along the gravel tracks and rides.

On entering the wood the first notable structure was a large Wood Ant nest and it was surprising to find such a large number of nests.

It was not unusual to see a nest through the trees whilst standing beside another and indeed a colony may comprise more than one nest.

Most of the nests had a stick lying beside it presumably where people had tried to poke the nest.

The nest itself is largely underground and the mound consists of a thatch of pine needles or other debris laid in such a way as to keep the rain off and the sun angled to maintain a constant temperature.

Poking with a stick does little harm to the nest but makes a lot of work for the ants in their repairs.

On leaving the wood the walk continued over the road and through the gorse back to the car park.

The walk was short but very pleasant through an idyllic part of the New Forest.