I have lived on the boundary of the New Forest for some years but recently moved to a village called Marchwood on the edge of Southampton.
The cranes of the docks light up the evening sky to my right and the forest stretches away to my left. I had thought we had found the best of both worlds, but the forest is now tantalisingly out of reach and it’s changed everything for myself as well as my children.
With no garden, the forest and local walking paths were always a source of freedom for my eldest children. Teenagers who craved space to sing without being overheard, and space to run and walk without younger siblings, they could leave the house whenever it suited them and get what they needed.
Here in Marchwood though they can see it, reaching the wilder spaces is very hard to do. There are village roads without pavements that lead to busy A roads with no crossings, meaning their access is now reliant on me driving them to where they want to be. While I’m happy to assist, it instantly changes the nature of their experience. Gone is the freedom and independence, replaced instead by start and end times, and often siblings in tow.
The busyness of daily life often means escapes into wild places only happen at unexpected or stolen moments. For myself especially, it was a place I retreated to for quick breathing space on my way to or back from something else. A brief but nourishing respite which now has to be thought of and planned for in advance.