There was an initial kerfuffle, due entirely to the leaders having a potty, senior moment when citing the meeting point (right name, Godshill, but the grid reference was Ashley Walk, thankfully nearby). Apologetically, Marge and Sandra rounded up the strays and 10 in all re-gathered at the edge of Godshill Inclosure.
It was gloomy, cold and breezy as we set off westwards, skirting Godshill Wood before turning south on a public footpath (uncommon in the Forest) between dwellings, sliding and squelching down to a footbridge over the Millersford brook. On the uphill plod via field and woodland we heard Robin and Nuthatch. Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming and the sight of powdery Hazel catkins with newly-emerging tiny, red female flowers hinted at Spring.
We continued south across stiles and fields to Sandy Balls Estate and turned west through tall beech and conifers that diced with gravity on the steep slope to the Avon Valley below. Our path contoured beneath the remains of the iron-age fort, Frankenbury Ring. We stopped for a while, trying to identify a mixed flock of Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits and Chaffinches - just silhouettes darting among the branches against the light. Then a splendid Fallow buck stepped slowly across the path behind us, well aware of our presence, and disappeared down the slope in a trice.
We wound our way to the valley floor where Mute Swans and Little Egrets were feeding in the wet meadows beside the River Avon which is the western boundary of the Forest in this area. Our return was through Folds Farm and up through Godshill Wood. MW/SP