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A walk through autumnal Ridley Wood

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Ridley Wood stands just to the south of the A31 between Picket Post and Burley. This ancient wood is a marvellous place to walk, not only for the fine oak, beech and birch trees with their spring and autumn colours and fungi, it’s also an excellent place to see deer.

It also has a host of history within its beech mast carpets and fine old branches. An ancient haunt of smugglers, who brought their wares up from the coast and sold the contraband in a gully close to the southern tip of the wood.

From medieval times the wood was used for coppicing, the traditional method of woodland management in which young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level. Ridley Wood is mentioned in Norden’s 17th century survey of coppices as a place where land was leased to tenants for exploitation of the underwood only. In 1571, the tenant of Ridley Coppice was accused of pollarding 200 trees and selling the cut wood, thus exceeding his rights. To compound his crime, he also cut young oak to make fences (source New Forest History).

After parking at Vereley car park, I walk down through Vereley Wood towards the Mill Lawn Brook

After parking at Vereley car park, I walk down through Vereley Wood towards the Mill Lawn Brook.

The colours in Vereley Wood are wonderful, with a carpet of bronze beech leaves and orange and yellow in the trees above

The colours in Vereley Wood are wonderful, with a carpet of bronze beech leaves and orange and yellow in the trees above.

A huge and ancient beech tree towers above me, this one has yet to start to change its leaf colour. Perhaps it's just too darn high up!

A huge and ancient beech tree towers above me, this one has yet to start to change its leaf colour. Perhaps it’s just too darn high up!

As I cross the Mill Lawn Brook, I spot this tree that has been frequently used by deer for rubbing their antlers, leaving these strange markings in the bark

As I cross the Mill Lawn Brook, I spot this tree that has been frequently used by deer for rubbing their antlers, leaving these strange markings in the bark.

Ahead of me, the south western edge of Ridley Wood in all its glory

Ahead of me, the south western edge of Ridley Wood in all its glory.

Zooming in on a group of birch trees on the edge of the wood, a riot of yellow...

Zooming in on a group of birch trees on the edge of the wood, a riot of yellow…

...and on the entrance to the wood that I'll be passing through shortly

…and on the entrance to the wood that I’ll be passing through shortly.

Ridley Wood is full of fine old beech trees like this one

Ridley Wood is full of fine old beech trees like this one.

Looking more closely, its massive trunk is quite hollow. I wonder if there is a fairy city in there? I like to think so

Looking more closely, its massive trunk is quite hollow. I wonder if there be fairies in there? I like to think so.

Skirting the southern edge of the wood, looking out over Sir Dudley's Ride to Berry Wood

Skirting the southern edge of the wood, looking out over Sir Dudley’s Ride to Berry Wood. Sir Dudley’s Ride is a track that is dedicated to Sir Dudley Forwood Bt who was Official Verderer of the New Forest from 1971 TO 1982.

A veil of colourful beech leaves

A veil of colourful beech leaves.

Bright orange fungi. I'm not sure what it is, but it makes a lovely contrast against the grey wood

Bright orange fungi. I’m not sure what it is, but it makes a lovely contrast against the grey wood.

Ridley Wood is an excellent spot for finding deer. A little herd of fallow deer watches me carefully through the trees. Low light and the zoom makes this a little grainy

Ridley Wood is an excellent spot for finding deer. A little herd of fallow deer watches me carefully through the trees. Low light and the zoom makes this a little grainy.

Whilst the rest of the Forest flora is busy dying off for the year, next year's foxgloves are getting ready for their show

Whilst the rest of the Forest flora is busy dying off for the year, next year’s foxgloves are getting ready for their show.

I think this might be a very fine show of Armillaria at the base of this beech tree, but I'm not sure

I think this might be a very fine show of Armillaria at the base of this beech tree, but I’m not sure.

A close up of part of the cluster

A close up of part of the cluster.

Despite being pulled half out of the ground by some force of nature, this beech tree is still very much alive and putting on a grand show

Despite being pulled half out of the ground by some force of nature, this beech tree is still very much alive and putting on a grand show.

Coriolus Versicolor - or its common name the Many-Zoned Polypore

Coriolus Versicolor – or its common name the Many-Zoned Polypore.

Oudemansiella Mucida or Porcelain Fungus - I think

Oudemansiella Mucida or Porcelain Fungus – I think.

A beautiful stand of enormous beech trees with their leaves just beginning to turn

A beautiful stand of enormous beech trees with their leaves just beginning to turn.

Part of the gully at the southern entrance to the wood where the smugglers sold off some of the contraband brought up the Smugglers Road from Christchurch or Bournemouth

Part of the gully at the southern entrance to the wood where the smugglers sold off some of the contraband brought up the Smugglers Road from Christchurch or Bournemouth.

Having left Ridley Wood behind, I head back up the wide grassy paths to Vereley Wood and the car. Looking back over Ridley Bottom to the ford and bridge at the southern end of the wood

Having left Ridley Wood behind, I head back up the wide grassy paths to Vereley Wood and the car. Looking back over Ridley Bottom to the ford and bridge at the southern end of the wood.

A little to the right, one last look at the fantastic colours of Ridley Wood

A little to the right, one last look at the fantastic colours of Ridley Wood.


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