A Focus On Nature

Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar: Rhinefield Ornamental Drive (The New Forest, Hampshire) by Sam Hempenstall

Welcome to our AFON Advent Calendar! Each day leading up to Christmas you will find a wonderful new post by a different member. This years theme is your favourite nature reserve; where do you go to escape from the world and connect with nature? Enjoy!

I am very lucky to live in the heart of the New Forest, but this comes with a big problem. How do I go about picking a favourite nature patch within this beautiful National Park?


© Sam Hempenstall

It quickly became clear to me that I cannot ignore the first area that I experienced since leaving the London life behind. Rhinefield Ornamental  Drive simply blew my mind the first time I decided to head off on my bike, at first cycling along a narrow road surrounded by open moor and grazing ponies and then suddenly finding the tallest trees that I have ever encountered towering over me.  It was at this moment that I knew I would find myself coming back here, again and again.

This part of the forest is home to giant Douglas Firs and Redwoods, creating an enchanting and sometimes eerie atmosphere. In fact, the two largest specimens of giant sequoia in the forest stand here, side by side. The tallest is an impressive 51 metres in height, making it England’s tallest sequoia and the tallest tree in the New Forest. When I venture further I find myself tucked away in a secluded arboretum, full of trees from around the world. As soon as I enter, I  find that I am hit with a sweet, ‘citrusy’ smell and this has proven to be very handy in helping me to identify the many conifers found within and someone was even kind enough to tell me how to make some tasty ‘needle tea’!


© Sam Hempenstall

It is not just the trees that help me lose myself in this area. A late evening walk was also where I came face to face with my first ever red stag! He did not hang around for long, but it was enough time for me to see just how beautiful and majestic he was. A precious moment which will never be forgotten.

The more time that I have spent here, the more I have explored, following many hidden paths, often avoiding the areas that attract a higher numbers of visitors. Time is forever lost here, developing and practicing species identification skills and looking for mammal tracks and scats but for me, this is time well spent.