I live in the New Forest National Park, UK, and it’s an incredibly beautiful place, but I hadn’t realized that it can also be a potentially quite dangerous landscape. There are bogs and bogs all over the New Forest – ponies and other animals are smart enough to avoid them. We weren’t, as we almost found out at our expense this weekend.
A tabloid may have described our weekend hike as “My son was eaten by a New Forest bog!” especially if a celebrity
He was involved. However, even though we didn’t have the latest glossy magazine cover celebrity in our midst, we ended up pretty freaked out, once we stopped laughing.
We started our walk through the heathland with my son, a burly 28 year old who is six foot two, his friend Michael, my husband and our adorable dog.
We headed into a deep valley and spent a lot of time watching the New Forest ponies and cows enjoying the day in these beautiful surroundings. The creek that ran through the valley was very shallow, but from time to time the dog was able to swim a little. We wandered around and took some lovely photos of turquoise and iridescent damsel flies.
We also found the Sundew plant which is a carnivorous swamp plant found in the New Forest which is very similar to the Venus Fly Trap. It lives on the banks of a stream and devours any insect that lands on it.
Thank goodness we didn’t walk near a six foot Sundew plant or my poor son could have been a tasty meal!
Along we wandered and my son was facing Micheal and me, only a few feet away. We could see that we were approaching a swampy area as the land emptied into the creek ahead of us. The crossing was only one meter long and we all knew that we could easily cross it by jumping.
My son jumped in first, and Michael and I didn’t realize what happened next because we were too busy chatting.
Before our eyes, he fell at least 3 feet into this rather innocent-looking New Forest swamp, waist-deep in fetid, brown slime.
The shock was tremendous: she later said she felt like Dawn French in a comedy skit we once saw. She was literally sucked into the mud and water up to her snout!
Michael and I, once we got used to not seeing him at eye level, we absolutely fell in love. Here was this six foot man squirming at our feet trying to get out of a swamp! I don’t think we could really take it in, and since he’s always joking around, we thought he was kind of a joke, well, if it wasn’t you in the swamp, he was hilarious!
He skinned himself and managed to crawl to the edge of the swamp and then the next part of our New Forest swamp adventure began – the awful smell. He had obviously stirred up hundreds of years of silt, peat and decomposing debris and most of it was stuck in his jeans and wellies; we did not know that a walk in the New Forest meant a walk in the depths of the sea.
It had a symbolic strand of long grass hanging from each wellies and was completely covered in thick, acrid brown slime. He sucked! We made our way back to the car and had to get the dog out of the trunk as there was only one place for this New Forest swamp man to ride and that was in the trunk!
Once we got home he was hosed down in the garden and felt much better after a hot shower (the second of the day).
Finally, we all stopped laughing and when we had time to reflect, we realized how dangerous the walk through the New Forest swamp could have been. There was no indication that the ground was so unsafe, or that anyone would slip so quickly that deep.
Earlier in the week I was at the New Forest Show and spoke to Hants Fire and Rescue staff who showed me photos of some of the rescues they do. They said that, in general, New Forest ponies, cows and other animals are quite aware of where dangerous bog or bog areas are in the New Forest, and usually manage to safely avoid them.
So if you’re out and about in the New Forest, beware. Fortunately, we all live to look back and laugh about it, this time.