Deer sightings are not the only reason to visit Bolderwood!
Only one! One single, solitary deer - that's all we got!
And even that was a pretty far away, squint-or-you'll-miss-it sighting.
Today, Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary wasn't really living up to its trademark reputation for us.
Nevertheless, our visit to this handsome sanctuary at the heart of the New Forest National Park was far from a bust.
Bolderwood, in addition to being a decent place to spot the fallow deer that make it their home, is also an excellent place to go for a New Forest walk surrounded by mother nature. In our new post-covid world it is also the perfect place for a day out - the Bolderwood Forest is huge, and once you've made your way into the sanctuary and left the car park behind, keeping your social distance from other visitors is a doddle.
So off we went to the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary late one July morning, where we found the car park only about half full. Parking at Bolderwood is free, as is the price of entry to the sanctuary, although a small donation is encouraged.
At the picnic area in the shade of the huge trees just alongside the car park families were beginning to stake out their claims to the picnic tables, and youngsters were happily running around or kicking footballs about.
We made our way directly to the nearby deer viewing platform, purpose-built for spotting fallow deer in the meadow where they are fed by the park rangers. Deer feedings are daily from April through September, and take place between noon and 3pm. However, since we had arrived a little early and there were no noticeable deer around, we gave it just a brief look before making our way deeper into the Bolderwood forest.
The Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary has some clearly marked walking trails that can be followed - 3 of them by the looks of it - signposted and colour-coded for those inclined to stick to the designated routes. In addition, there are a few cycling routes criss-crossing the park, and we did see a few cyclists making the most of the trails to get some fresh air exercise.
For our part, we ambled along a bit aimlessly, off the paths when the urge took us and into the thickets and shadows of the trees.
One of the biggest surprises of the Bolderwood deer sanctuary was the wealth of magnificent ferns - lush green gardens of them that often were taller than we were - hiding us from each other as we brushed the branches aside to make our way along.
Elsewhere we crossed clusters of trees with canopies so thick that they blocked out the sunlight, our feet squelching through the carpets of dead leaves underfoot.
We strolled through clearings dappled with light, crossed streams muddy and mossy, and marveled at giant fallen tree trunks.
All the while accompanied by the soft sounds of the forest, interrupted every now and then by the far-off squeal of a delighted kid on a family day out.
A couple of contented hours later, as we approached the end of our hike and were again walking by the viewing platform, thanks to Julien's eagle-eyed attention we finally had our moment. There at the far end of the meadow, munching away contentedly and paying us visitors little attention, was a lone deer. It was the only glimpse that we'd get of the famed local wildlife that day, but hey, we'd take it!
The Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary is one of the New Forest's most well-known tourist sites, and an attraction which is deservedly popular. We passed a happy bit of time meandering through the beautiful woodlands, at times feeling like we had the place entirely to ourselves, and we left reminded of the revitalising power of reconnecting with the outdoors.
The lovely Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary in Hampshire's New Forest National Park is a destination that is absolutely worth the visit!