by Julian Burnell
On the hottest day of the year we made our way from all parts of the country to the depths of the New Forest.
The Forest itself is actually a mix of wide open heathland, grass close-cropped by the wild ponies and sudden, dense stands of ancient woodland. Burley Youth Hostel stands in the middle of one of these, an island of genteel Edwardian architecture surrounded by dark trees, blessedly cool shade in the thirty degree temperatures.
Soon the tents started to fill the grounds, and glamping pods received their occupants, and as the day began to cool the Wild Night Out began in earnest. Neil Frogitt talked about travelling by SUP from Bristol to London, along with his many other adventures and his upcoming leadership of a three-week school trip to Kinabalu in Borneo. He then put his money where his mouth was by leading a circular walk through a beautiful mix of New Forest landscape, past ancient silver birches and fallow deer. We watched the sun westering from the heights of Burley Beacon, an ancient hill fort and reputed dragon’s lair, and then made our way back to the campsite for stories as the darkness gathered.
Tales of murder and witchcraft around the campfire rounded off the evening, with me giving my take on the strange death of William Rufus, the ravages of the Bisterne Dragon and the efforts of the New Forest Coven to protect Britain from the Nazi invasion. All of these were set within a stone’s throw of our camp site, adding a strong local flavour to the proceedings, and it was a well-pleased (and slightly spooked) group that went to their beds that night.