We walked from St John the Baptist Church at Boldre.
It is thought that there has been a place of worship there for 2000 years. The main part of the existing church dates from 1320. There have been several notable curates at the church:- Rev Gilpin is buried in the churchyard, he was widely acknowledged to be an expert on the flora and fauna of the New Forest and wrote books on the subject. He is credited with setting up the local school which bears his name and also cottages for his parishioners. One of his successors was Simon Comyn (whose brother was Nelsons chaplain), who took a census of the whole parish in 1817 ( the first national census was in 1841). His original records include notes of which parishioners were dissenters! After WW2 there was Rev Hayter who had spent years as a prisoner of war in Changi, Singapore about which he wrote a book.
We walked through Roydon Woods nature reserve to see the bluebells which were just starting to come out – we probably were a week too early for the best show. From the bridge crossing the river Lym we could see Roydon House, a substantial and impressive red brick Manor House. The name Roydon is derived from “Roi” and “Donne” - French for Kings gift. The estate was given by Henry 111 in 1240 as a monastery. Later after the dissolution of monasteries the Brockenhurst Park estate which included Roydon House was gifted to the Morant family. Alongside the foot-path, you can see the pit where the clay for making the bricks was taken and the brickworks and estate was for a long time the largest local employer. There is a stone inside the house recording the date of 1692. When the main house on the Brockenhurst estate was demolished a lot of artefacts were moved over to Roydon House.
At the end of the walk, back at the church, several walkers were interested to go in to the church. In WW2, the flagship of the British Navy was HMS Hood which was sunk by the Bismarck in 1941 with only 3 sailors surviving (out of 1418 on board). The Bismarck was thereafter hunted down by the British and sunk with the loss of over 2000 souls. The wreck of the Hood was excavated in 2001 and in 2015 it’s ships bell was recovered and is now displayed in a museum at Portsmouth dockyard. After the war ended, there was pressure for there to be a permanent memorial for the loss of HMS Hood but this was not accommodated; However one of the Admirals on board had been a parishioner of the Boldre Church and each year since, a special service has been held in May to commemorate the sinking of the battleship and there is a book recording the names of all those on board.