When I moved to Waterlooville with The Hound, my trusty canine companion, a key priority was to look for good places to walk together, spoilt as we were when living in London with Wimbledon Common.
It was therefore with surprise and excitement that I realised that my new house was very nearly opposite the entrance to the Queen’s Enclosure (probably named for Queen Victoria) – a Forestry Commission maintained remnant of the Great Forest of Bere which used to cover huge swathes of southern England.
Whilst out walking in the Enclosure, fellow dog walkers have kindly given me some nuggets of information about the history of the forest which I hope are accurate! From what I can glean, it appears that in the Middle Ages, the Forest of Bere formed part of the 11 Royal Forests – areas created by the Norman Kings for hunting and reserved for their sole enjoyment. The London Road which now runs alongside one edge of the Enclosure (the old A3) started life surrounded by forest and was a rough, muddy track notorious for highwaymen according to diarist Samuel Pepys – it being the sole route from the South Coast to the South Downs. The title of Royal Forest was taken away in 1812 and much of the land was broken up for housing, farming etc. With the breakup of the forest, came the creation around 1815 of a new town – Waterlooville (named for Wellington of course).
Still, this little area formerly known as Bulls Lodge Woods remains intact for now. The sessile oak trees which proliferate were originally grown for shipbuilding and deep in the forest, you can still make out the plantation lines of trees grown systematically. There were three woodsmen who used to work the wood and they cut the lower branches off the trees to help them grow tall and strong – they needed 16 feet lengths of wood to make it viable for shipbuilding. Alongside the oaks, grow the yew trees, which both helped to keep the oaks growing straight and were valuable in their own right for making longboats.
Today, there are walks laid out around the forest for the enjoyment of all and if you keep very still and are very lucky, occasionally you will spot one of the Monarch’s deer which still survive here to this day. As I live in the grounds of Hart Plain Lodge (hart is used to describe a red male deer), that makes me feel a part of a living line of history and very happy indeed.
Contributor: Sue Lowry
Queen’s Enclosure is not a client of Magellan PR.