Gale Gould has started The New Forest Packhorse Company to reintroduce this ancient form of transport into the 21st century and promote the New Forest pony as a modern working breed. She regularly takes guests on walking trips across the National Park but instead of being laden with goods, which would have been the case in the early 20th century, the ponies carry picnics or guest’s belongings.
Gale said; “Walking in the company of a New Forest pony is one of the the best ways of experiencing the New Forest National Park. The ponies offer companionship and interest to our guests on their walks, plus a little bit of history. New Forest ponies would have been employed extensively as pack animals before the introduction of motorised forms of transport made their use redundant. Our packhorse walks represent a low-impact and leisurely way of experiencing the stunning scenery of the New Forest, and encountering the wildlife and the commoner’s free roaming animals. It’s a step back in time that harks back to a distant horse-drawn era. Additionally, our ponies have been born and bred or roamed wild on the Open Forest and act as ambassadors for their breed by demonstrating the all-round capabilities and excellent temperaments of these amazing animals.”
The ponies used by The New Forest Packhorse Company have been trained to wear packing gear specifically designed for working animals and go unshod or wear special equine-boots to protect their feet. Gale is hoping to add more New Forest ponies to her string giving the breed, which is listed as ‘rare’ by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, a ‘grown-up’ use.
The packhorse walks take place all year round in the northern part of the National Park where people, walking along the tracks and pathways, are accompanied by a New Forest pony (which would have born or roamed wild on the Open Forest) and a host (Gale Gould). Guests can choose from one hour, a half-day or full-day walk, which may included a picnic. See The New Forest Packhorse website – www.newforestpackhorse.co.uk - for more information.
This guidebook describes 30 day walks of between 3 and 10 miles set right across the New Forest National Park. Suitable for all abilities, the walks can easily be combined into longer routes for greater challenges, through woodland, heath and along the coast, all illustrated with large-scale OS map extracts and vibrant colour photographs.
The area is also an animal lover's paradise, providing natural habitat to many types of wildlife including deer, all six of Britain's native reptiles and the New Forest's very own species of pony. The New Forest is a unique landscape of open heath and ancient woodland tucked into south-west Hampshire and south-east Wiltshire. To many, a key feature is the ancient and ornamental woods, and here can be found the greatest concentration of 'veteran' trees in western Europe. However, there is much more on offer, including 42km (26 miles) of coastline, the largest area of lowland heath in Britain and three-quarters of the valley mires in north-west Europe, as well as picture-postcard thatched cottages, ancient churches and cosy pubs.
And all this located within Britain's smallest national park, within easy reach of Southampton, Bournemouth and Salisbury.
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