Longslade Bottom ( Bottom is the local name given to a valley) is a wide and shallow valley of re-seeded grassland which stretches from the edge of Wilverley Plain and then southwards between Hinchelsea Woods and Setthorns Enclosure.
The grass lawns provide grazing for New Forest ponies, while the sedge and marshland further along the valley is home to curlew, lapwing , snipe and redshank. Mole hills, rabbit scrapes and warrens are evident, especially near areas of shrubland and bracken. The ling heather on the valley edges is home to heathland birds and to reptiles such as the sand lizard, smooth snake and adder.
Young silver birch trees and holly amongst gorse and heather. A good habitat for Stonechat and the Dartford Warbler. Some holly trees still showed red berries.Food for the flocks of winter visiting thrushes and redwing. Today I saw my first fieldfares of this winter, feeding by the stream,where the water had thawed and the ground was soft for stabbing beaks.
A snapped branch from a Scots pine. In recent weeks there have been wild storms ripping across the Forest from the coast.
A family of ponies, wearing flourescent collars to enable drivers to see them in the dark, graze on the grassy slopes. The unfenced road to Sway, which runs parallel to Longslade Bottom, is notorious for animal accidents at night.
A closer look at this pretty, compact little filly foal who was grazing near to her mother. All the adult mares are now obviously in foal and they will give birth between late April and mid June.
I envied this woman on her lovely bay horse. They walked along the valley bottom and broke into a calm, controlled canter as they passed me. The rider was smiling with pleasure as she and her horse enjoyed the crisp afternoon together.
Up beyond the silver birches, the road to Brockenhurst stretches along the top of the ridge. Although today was a Bank Holiday, traffic was light and the peace of the open Forest was undisturbed.
Towards Hinchelsea Woods. The Manor of Hinchelsea has existed here since Saxon times. There is landscaped parkland beyond these woods.
A frozen pond in the valley bottom.
Crows feed on thawing grassland. Setthorns enclosure is at the top of the hill beyond.
In-foal mares, most probably a pair bond of mother and daughter. All the ponies we met today looked well nourished and healthy.
Bare trees by frozen water.
A bridge which once carried the Brockenhurst to Ringwood railway (part of the Castleman`s Corkscrew line). The bridge has recently been repaired and the disused railway is a cycle track, bridleway and footpath called the Castleman Trail.