The walk from Beaulieu to Bucklers Hard along the Beaulieu River is a very popular walk at any time of year but is especially so during the winter months because of the well maintained and sturdy paths.
On the day of our visit however the weather turned out to be dry and sunny, if not too warm, which provided ideal walking conditions over any terrain.
The weather so far this winter has been exceptionally mild but with greater than average amounts of rainfall.
Many areas have been flooded with rivers in full spate but the regular pattern of heavy rainfall has meant that the ground has become saturated with water.
Much of the New Forest is covered by temporary shallow expanses of water with the soil underneath being dissolved into a liquid solution.
Walking through these puddles can become quite hazardous when the boot suddenly disappears into deep soft mud.
The Forestry Commision have spent some time recently blocking the flow of streams and reinstating meanders so that rainfall is retained by the land.
Their efforts must have received a severe test recently but hopefully prevented flooding in habitations further downstream.
Normally when walking along the path to Bucklers Hard we have to be aware of flooding by sea water at high tide but on this occasion the water was coming from rainfall and flowing towards the sea.
Fortunately the depth of water was not sufficient to prevent us completing the walk.
The mild weather so far this winter has encouraged the reporting of spring flowers in bloom and late summer plants still in flower.
It could just be that flowers take advantage of warm temperatures to maintain growth so flowering is automatically linked to the weather.
Many plants however seem to have biological clocks linked to the hours of daylight.
The catkins of Hazel for instance always appear immediately after the shortest day between Christmas and New Year.
I have seen Snowdrops near the Cathedral in Winchester in flower in early January but I suspect that many early flowering plants including these Snowdrops are cultivated specimens.
Native Snowdrops reliably flower in February and start to grow upwards from the bulb in late autumn.
We did not come across many birds until we took the path diversion to walk alongside the Beaulieu River.
Mallard were swimming on the water and Redshank feeding just above the water line.
A group of Canada Geese sailed majestically down towards Bucklers Hard and a pair of Shellduck peered above the reeds on the opposite bank.
Two bright coloured canoes were being rowed upriver and every word the canoeists said could distinctly be heard on the bank as though amplified by the river.
The sound of Curlew and the whistling of Wigeon occasionally broke the silence as we plodded through the mud between duckboards.
A Pheasant and possibly Reed Bunting were all that was visible from the bird hide so we quickly moved on to have our lunch on the tables at Bucklers Hard.
The land rises steeply from the river at this point and a good long view was an added bonus whilst eating our lunch. Several Buzzards were seen circling overhead and repeating their short mewing call.
A flock of Black Headed Gulls were disturbed from the surface of the river but did not fly far before returning like falling snow back on to the surface of the water.
Several Lapwing disturbed at the same time took the opportunity to fly a short distance upstream to search for food in the mud.
Our walk back to Beaulieu was along the direct gravel path so took far less time than our outward journey.
Looking ahead along the straight path it was surprising to see so many people out walking attracted by the sunny weather and enjoying the chance of fresh air and exercise before the next batch of storms would sweep across the country.
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