Walk report: Rockford Common 06 February 2020

Early fog and frost gave way to sunshine and a light mist as 14 assembled for a 2.5 mile stroll from the National Trust car parAk by the sand pit at Moyles Court. Nearby stands an ancient, craggy, oak tree: a contender with the Knightwood Oak for the oldest tree in the Forest. This hilly region was not part of the New Forest until 1964. Before then, and for a while afterwards, extraction of plateau gravels created a large depression that remains today, but is now reclaimed by heathland. Public rights of way criss-cross the area where dwellings, large and small, are scattered in isolated spots reached only by rough tracks. The habitat comprises mainly open heath and moorland with small streams and patches of woodland.
A cold and frosty morning
© Richard Coomber

We headed south-east, steeply uphill along the edge of properties where stocky oaks still cling to a high, eroding bank. At the top, the site of the gravel workings came into view: a large bowl several metres deep, now grassy with small trees and Gorse. A short detour gave a hazy view westwards down to the lakes at Blashford and the Avon valley. Back on track we turned north-east along the south rim of the workings then down to Little Whitemoor Bottom. Passing a small cottage, we headed into woodland where a muddy path led up to Rockford Common. A left turn through Gorse led down to a small stream that comes and goes with the season in Big Whitemoor Bottom. From here it was an easy track westwards on the rim then down to the floor of the old gravel area and back to the cars. 

© Richard Smith
© Chris Robinson
Apart from a few clusters of lichen, Ganoderma sp and Stereum sp on rotten branches, birds were the main interest. We watched a solitary Goldcrest (see above) swinging in a small conifer then, obligingly, in a bare tree for several minutes, completely undisturbed by our presence. Also of note was a flock of 50+ Redwing, a Buzzard, Peregrine and an elusive Woodlark, or possibly more than one, calling but not spotted. In addition, the following were seen or heard by at least some of the group: Blackbird, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Jackdaw, Long-tailed tits, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch (heard only) and Robin. MW/SP