Ringwood; the name is thought to be Saxon for edge of the forest. I arrive in this small Hampshire town by the faithful Castleman Trail, which has by now become a familiar friend. The last leg contains the remains of an old station, Ashley Holt, a reminder of its previous life.
I am excited, I have crossed the Avon, and know I have entered a new county. It is soon noticeably different, I wonder what it is, and then I realise that the big A31 is close by and the roar of the traffic is constant. My old friend Steve is on my mind; I walked some of a big cross country walk from Cornwall to East Anglia (The Michael and Mary line, after the churches it passes) with him some year s ago, and Hampshire is his home county. We lost touch ages ago but it is nice to notice who my thought companions are as I walk. I sit on a beauitful ornate bench, and soon get up again; it is obviously meant for effect not comfort!
On the outskirts of town I see a road sign that has Southampton on it! This city marks the end of the first stage of the walk; I am filled with a sense of what is possible when we set a clear intention. Who would ever have thought that I would one day walk through Devon, across Dorset, and arrive in Hampshire!
I enter Ringwood by a tiny old lane, Coxstone Lane. It is opposite the trail when I emerge from it, intersected by a main road; I know which way I should turn, left into the town centre, but I don’t, I walk straight on into the lane. It contains a cluster of thatched cottages. It feels like the right way to enter town; the lane brings me out at the Lamb Inn, and I feel this was the old way into Ringwood, the town at the edge of the forest.
I walk into the town centre and wind up in the White Hart. I order hot water and lemon, my tipple of choice and the most fascinating of drinks to ask for; I have been refused it in a train station cafe, been given it for free in many, many places, and sometimes, as now, charged as if for a cup of tea. I call my host for the evening; Wendy Morrow of Transition Ringwood, and she gives me directions.
I arrive at her house and we prepare fresh potato, leek and courgette soup for supper. I am told the veg come from their Riverford box and we are all slightly perplexed as to where the farm actually is – for me it is just outside of Totnes where I have come from. We wonder if there is now more than one farm.
Wendy and I talk about how it is a challenge to find a way to bring Steiner schools and main stream schools closer together. We recognise that Steiner education has a lot of the transition way of life embedded in it, and that both Steiner and main stream teachers are so busy for different reasons, that they find it difficult to meet up and share.
At dinner I meet Kate & Corwen of http://www.ancientmusic.co.uk . They talk with great passion about their long distance walks; they have walked to Spain to do the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage and all around Norway too. They suggest I get in touch on finishing my walk and we form the 1000 mile club! They also lend me two very useful items; a pair of trekking poles so that I might negotiate any future mud and an amazing lightweight 100g wind shirt. This tiny garment folds away into a tiny bag I can suspend from my bum bag, and yet is as warm as a fleece; I am in love with it already!
After dinner Wendy and children walk me to Cathy Dine’s house. This is where I will spend the night. They leave me at the end of the road with clear instructions, number 38, it has an orchard at the front. As I walk along lane darkness sets in and suddenly I realise I cannot see the numbers on the houses and every house seems to have trees outside it! I wander up and down, try entering a garden; the security lights come on, number 35. I leave and know I must be close; I meet a man coming out of a house and ask directions.
“Ah, yes, ” says he “you must be coming to my house!”
Relieved I enter the house of Cathy and Neville Dine. Taprisha the New Forest Story teller is waiting for me. We talk about our plans for day of storytelling we will run the next day in Minstead at the Study Centre.
Taprisha tells me the choices of walk I have for the walk through the New Forest to get there; over heath land or through Burley and forest. From her description I cannot resist a visit to Burley. I go to bed full of anticipation for the next day.