Micro Event: Fritham - Rufus Stone Circular
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Fritham is a hamlet in the northern New Forest which is tiny in extent but big in impression. From a mention in the Domesday Book, through its acquisition of a pub (The Royal Oak; one of the oldest in the New Forest and dating to the 17th century), to its name being given to a minesweeper (HMS Fritham), it has acquired a significance disproportionate to its size. But that's easy to understand, as its seclusion and beauty attract many people (but not the hordes who descend on its counterparts in the southern Forest). This walk (click the link to see it at the Ordnance Survey website) sets out to explore the plains and inclosures south and east of the village.
These include Ocknell, which was used in World War II for the Stoney Cross air base (the concrete runways and turning points for the planes can still be seen, including on the map), to the plains of Fritham itself. While the plains are heathland with heather and gorse still providing colour, the inclosures are thickets of woodland, generally ancient wood, some recent pine plantation and very recent birch. Inclosures include Kings Garn Gutter, Holly Hatch and Sloden.
Like Fritham, which is at least lovely, the Rufus Stone seems to feature in people's imaginings of the forest to an extent that belies its significance (perhaps that's due to the Rufus Stone Services on the signs on the A31). At least aesthetic significance, because the short triangular pillar to the east of Ocknell records an event of great historical importance.
King William II (lecher and blasphemer, nicknamed 'Rufus' owing to his red hair or ruddy complexion, and third son of the Conqueror) went hunting in the Forest on the 2nd August 1100. He was killed by an arrow through the lung, but whether this was by accident or by design and by whom, historians disagree. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle noted that the king was "shot by an arrow by one of his own men." Later chroniclers added the name of the killer, a nobleman named Walter Tirel, and events continued to be embroidered.
The Rufus Stone is claimed to mark the spot where William fell. The claim that this is the location of his death appears to date from no earlier than a visit by Charles II to the forest in the 1670s. At the time the most popular account of William's death involved the fatal arrow deflecting off a tree. Letters in The Gentleman's Magazine reported that the tree was cut down and burned during the 18th century. Later in that century the Rufus Stone was set up. Originally it was around 5 feet 10 inches tall with a stone ball on top. King George III visited the stone in 1789, and an inscription was added to the stone to commemorate the visit. It was protected with a cast iron cover after repeated vandalism.
The inscription reads:
Here stood the Oak Tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a Stag, glanced and struck King William the second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100.
That the spot where an Event so Memorable might not hereafter be forgotten; the enclosed stone was set up by John Lord Delaware who had seen the Tree growing in this place. This Stone having been much mutilated, and the inscriptions on each of its three sides defaced, this more Durable Memorial, with the original inscriptions, was erected in the year 1841, by Wm [William] Sturges Bourne Warden.
King William the second, surnamed Rufus being slain, as before related, was laid in a cart, belonging to one Purkis, and drawn from hence, to Winchester, and buried in the Cathedral Church, of that City.
The pub nearby is named after the purported assassin and liberator; perhaps a drink there will be in the offing if regulations allow.
Dogs are welcome to join us on this event but we do ask the following: Please ensure you adhere to the Countryside Code at all times (see Keeping Dogs Under Effective Control) If your dog is uncontrolled and strays in open land frightening other animals or livestock, the leader is supported by the OutdoorLads board of trustees to ask you to leave the event as this is not acceptable behaviour.
COVID-19 - IMPORTANT: Please read the following before you sign up to this event:
- Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are extremely mild, or who lives or is in a support bubble with someone showing symptoms, is asked not to attend. This is in line with the government’s coronavirus advice.
- You must also immediately self-isolate and not attend the event if you or someone in your household or support bubble shows coronavirus symptoms or tests positive. You can find the NHS self-isolation guidance here.
- The main symptoms of COVID-19 are a high temperature, a new continuous cough, and a loss or change to your sense of taste and/or smell.
- You may be subject to local lockdown restrictions, which you must fully comply with. Details of the location of these restrictions can be found here for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
- We do not encourage car sharing to events during the pandemic. Please comply with the safety travel guidance for England, Wales, and Scotland. Face coverings should be worn on public transport.
- OutdoorLads will support the tracing systems in place across the UK and attendance at an OutdoorLads event is considered permission to use contact details for this purpose if requested by the appropriate authority.
- All are required to practice social distancing – staying 2m (not 1m) apart at all times, including the lunch stop. Remember: Face, Hands, Space.
- Unfortunately, there won’t be any planned pub / café stops en route or at the end, and please don’t share sweets or snacks with others – we’re sorry!
- Please bring your own hand sanitising gel for your own use throughout the day. Use of face coverings is at your own choice, but please bring one with you just in case it's needed. Please bring any other PPE items required. Bring a disposable bag for any used PPE.
- Members are advised to bring their own small first aid kit for personal use..
- Be aware that opportunities for toilet stops may be minimal if facilities are closed.
- Please, please cancel at your earliest opportunity if you are unable to attend or are unwell, so that we can allow others to take up these valuable event spaces.
- Much as it's difficult - no handshakes or hugs!
COVID-19: Participation Statement
OutdoorLads draws your attention to the fact that travelling and being away from home increases the risk of receiving and transmitting Coronavirus, whilst it is present in the UK. You are likely to choose not to participate in OutdoorLads events whilst there is a risk of Coronavirus transmission. However, should you choose to participate in OutdoorLads events whilst the risk is present, you must be aware of and follow the law and government guidelines, both when travelling to and from events as well as when participating in events.
Please note that every person participating should be aware of (and accept) that those members perceived as ‘in charge’ or leading the event are not experts, do not need to be experts, and are not regarded by OutdoorLads, or themselves as experts, but are amateurs with some experience in the event type and who are happy to impart their knowledge. Any advice given should be considered with this in mind by the recipient.
By signing up to and attending an OutdoorLads event, you are confirming that you have read, understood and accept the content of this statement.
Please see our website for more information including an FAQ about our events.
(Images: On Janesmoor Plain by David Martin; The Rufus Stone, New Forest by Philip Halling; The Sir Walter Tyrrell by Jonathan Kington; Long Beech, gates by Mike Faherty; Low sunlight in Ocknell Inclosure by David Martin; Cadman's Pool by Jonathan Kington; Wide path through the Ocknell Inclosure, New Forest by Jim Champion; Bridge over Dockens Water, New Forest by Jim Champion; New Forest near Fritham by Mike Smith; Fritham, Lawn by Mike Faherty; Ponies at Janesmoor Pond by Mike Faherty. All photos are copyrighted but are above credited to their copyright holders and are licensed for further reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).)
What to bring
For your comfort and safety please be prepared for the anticipated weather and the terrain of the walk. Keep in mind the following:
Boots: Hiking boots that are both waterproof and breathable, and provide good ankle support, are important as soon as you encounter any mud. Cross trainers may suffice in good weather and flat routes.
Socks: Proper walking socks keep your feet dry, and help prevent blisters.
Walking trousers: (ideally water resistant) will be more comfortable than Jeans which are heavy and cold when wet. From April to October shorts are usually a better bet.
Waterproof over-trousers: essential in any significant rainfall. Breathable ones are best.
Layered clothing: allows you to quickly adapt to changes in the weather as well as body temperature. E.g. a base layer or a cotton T-Shirt; a mid layer like a micro fleece, or a rugby type thick shirt, and in cooler weather an outer layer consisting of a windproof jacket or a thick fleece.
Waterproof Jacket: essential when hiking in all but the calmest of weather. You get what you pay for with these. Breathable fabrics are advisable.
Hat: essential in summer to prevent sunburn and heatstroke.
Small Rucksack: one that is comfortable to wear is essential so that you can use your arms freely. Place valuables in water proof bags inside.
Sunglassses: April- Sept: comfortable sunglasses enhance your pleasure and keep insects out of the eye.
Water: even in winter one can loose a litre or more of fluid by perspiration. If you fail to make this up you'll get dehydrated which can lead to headaches and other problems. A hydration bladder is easier to use than bottled water, but higher maintenance.
Food: a packed lunch will be required unless otherwise stated. In addition carry energy bars or similar to counter 'sugar lows'.
Medicines: if you have allergies, are diabetic, or have minor ailments: don't forget these!
Food & drink
Please bring your lunch and plenty to drink. There are no shops on the route.