The Drift


The Boat House Café

On another beautiful late summer sunny day we brunched at The Boat House Café in Lymington. I chose the Full English Breakfast with tea, while Jackie selected a baked potato generously filled with prawns, accompanied by a cappuccino. The food was good and the drinks enormous, but further visits would be happier when not on a scorching hot day in the height of the holiday season.

Lymington Quay 1

This was the view outside the eating house. Henrietta can be seen at her strawberry stall.

Strawberries and shoe 1

On the wall against which her sign is propped, can be seen a child’s shoe and a small punnet of the fruit. I asked this lovely lady what was the story behind this display. She explained that she was trying to draw attention to the lost item of footwear. She had originally placed a strawberry inside the shoe. Never one to pass up a photo opportunity, I asked her to do it again.

Strawberry in shoe 1Strawberry in shoe 2

She obliged. I was not surprised that someone has loved her enough to adorn her wedding finger.

Lymington Quay 2

The quayside was very well populated; people were occupied

Lymington Quay 3Harbour master crewBoats


Lymington Quay 4Fishing 1Fishing 2Fishing 3


Feeding ducks

feeding the ducks,

Couple on quayside

or just sitting.

Jackie drove right past our house afterwards and headed off to the forest in search of ponies. As far as the eye could see the sun-blest, purple heather-carpeted moorland between Sway and Brockenhurst was devoid of ponies. We wondered why. It was then that my driver saw the road signs such as: Pony Round-up sign

Maybe we were going to be in luck after all. But which way? We did an about turn and turned left in the direction of Brockenhurst. In the distance a line of parked vehicles came into view. We headed for them. Eventually we came to a track under a railway bridge from which a rather frantic neighing emanated. Jackie parked on the gravelled path and I walked in the direction of the sounds. Having moved under the bridge I came upon the round-up, known as The Drift.

Pony round-up 1Pony Round-up 19

This was an area penned off with very stout poles. An increasingly active and vociferous mass of equine flesh and hides was contained within its confines. Spectators of all ages lined the structure, leaning or sitting on the struts.

Pony Round-up 9

Pony Round-up 8

Seeing the handlers in the pen surrounded by heavy, heaving, horseflesh, hooves thudding on the impacted soil, I wasn’t surprised to read signs saying that anyone attending The Drift did so at their own risk. When I was absorbed in taking the last photograph above, I almost backed into a pony that had been freed.

Brands in fire

A tap on my shoulder alerted me to the fact that if I stepped backwards I would encounter a hot branding iron hanging from the tree behind me. I had noticed a fire, and walked close to the heat of it, but I had not examined it closely enough to notice that it was heating an array of such implements.

These creatures were being given an annual health check. They were rounded up; had their condition inspected; branded; and given a tail trim. Any that had problems were returned to their owners on whom it was incumbent to resolve any problems before releasing them back into the forest. Those to be branded with their owners’ initials were either new to the forest, or had been born since the last annual event. I have mentioned before that the animals’ tails are cut in a particular way specific to the area in which they roam. This is the reason for the trim.

Pony Round-up 13

The gentleman in this picture was one of those tasked with trimming and branding inside a smaller enclosure into which the ponies were led in manageable groups. Managing involved prodding with a stick, slapping on the rear, and only occasionally shouting. The horses made far more noise than their carers. Interestingly, those animals which had been in the forest for several years, and therefore knew the ropes, were far less alarmed than the younger ones.

Ponies on road

They also knew that, branded, brushed, and treated to a new collar they would, like those in this shot, be set free to worry the traffic and set off under the railway bridge to Brockenhurst for a good feed.

Pony Round-up 11

Pony Round-up 12

Once a few had been cajoled into the the treatment pen, a little space opened up in the main enclosure,

Pony Round-up 3

Pony Round-up 7

until newcomers filled it.

Pony Round-up 14Pony Round-up 15Pony Round-up 16

Occasionally the seething masses would divide enough for

Pony Round-up 2Pony Round-up 4

human handlers,

Pony Round-up 5Pony Round-up 10Pony Round-up 17

and equine captives to steal the show.

The gentleman in the purple T-shirt on the left of the first picture in this series was my informant today. Further information can be obtained from this excellent website:

This evening we dined on pork spare ribs in barbecue sauce with Jackie’s savoury rice and green beans, followed by Bakewell plaits and custard. I finished the syrah.


  1. Good Lord, that’s amazing! People and horses aplenty today Derrick! You set me thinking about the fact I live in a country of roughly the same size, with roughly 60 million less in population – horses as well as humans I suspect – and how, when I returned home after my UK sojourn, how empty the city seemed 🙂 The horse drift is fascinating!

  2. What a beautiful day it seems. One can almost smell the sun on the flanks of the horses. Very beautiful photography and I especially like the horses as well as the scenes with the reflections on the water.

  3. Interesting post Derrick. My daughter works with horses in a trail riding company and has a bit to do with this. Wonderful photos.

  4. Beautiful photos of quayside and ponies. Thanks for sharing all the information about the ponies and the drift.

    They do an annual roundup of ponies in Assateague/ Chincoteague. They give them shots, and there’s also an auction.

  5. Spectacular post, Derrick, with such a variety. I feel like I went on a real journey with your and your Jackie! The water and boats entrance me, just imagining being there is plenty. I was drawn to the one of the man with who appeared to be his son at waterside, fishing with a net. The shoe and strawberries, lovely shots. And The Drift was very interesting, its photos engaging. I think you do love and respect those ponies. (I also checked out that blog and learned a lot about new Forest.) Thanks!

  6. This is like the Chincoteague round-up, but the horses there are wild. What a beautiful day you had. And that picture of the white horse is really exceptional.

  7. I’m surprised that in this day and age people are still savage enough to brand animals in such a barbaric manner. I hope they fall onto those branding irons and get a taste of it. 🙂 And I would like to give a free kick at their torturers to each animal that gets branded. 🙂

  8. What a great day to be seeking out ponies, Jackie! 🙂 I am so glad she thought to do this. Derick, of course, you captured the noise, movement and visuals in your descriptive words and excellent photography.
    Your tea and meal, her cappuccino and meal both sounded delicious. The sights around the cafe were lovely. The strawberry in white baby’s shoe was certainly a sweet shot!

  9. I love The Drift. What a spectacular and important ritual of New Forest heritage! I remember seeing it as a child and it being the most memorable part of my school holiday that year. So rare to be able to capture photos of it – you’ve done really well. My other favourite culture of the New Forest is the Pannage – I just love all those pigs. That day out in Lymington is just idylic – strawberries, crabbing, sunshine, boats – you have really made the best of an English summer Derrick.

      1. You had taken photos of it without realising perhaps? Pannage is when all the pigs are let out from farms in Autumn to eat up acorns which are poisonous to ponies. Often it is when piglets are born. Any large pregnant sows are usually let out longer so that have their fill. Some areas around Fritham and Nomansland leave their semi-wild pigs out all year.

  10. First, I loved seeing the family crabbing off the jetty – used to be one of our favourite pastimes on holiday! Second, your report of The Drift is so interesting. It’s great that these ancient methods are maintained. I remember watching a Countryfile programme on the Exmoor round up and thinking then that we are so lucky in this country to have all this open land where animals are free to roam.

  11. Fascinating piece! I, too, love the very last picture. It seems to me it would be very striking if it were enlarged.

  12. What an incredible adventure to have ~ a bit of a fairy tale with breakfast (my favorite Full English as well) alongside such an idyllic scene, and then off to see the ponies 🙂 A scene I would feel very at home with, and your photography made me feel as if I was there.

  13. Hi Derrick, please note that this has nothing to do with your article. I’m actually hoping that you can help me with a problem. I know someone who’s getting married soon, and the couple likes to enjoy an occasional glass or two of wine. Since I know less than nothing about wine and you seem to also enjoy an occasional glass of wine, I was hoping that you could tell me the names of a few good varieties and/or years.

    1. Thanks, Weekly. I don’t really know anything about what you can get in America. Zinfandel is your grape and should be OK – red or rose, but I wouldn’t know about years which depend very much on the weather. Maybe you have a reputable wine merchant who could advise? Sorry I can’t be of any more help.

  14. Wow, there are a lot of ponies to be found in that forest ! I’m happy they get a yearly check-up and their owners are responsible for their medical care. So, they are known as forest ponies and not really kept on a farm for riding? This is so interesting. Thanks for sharing the link Derrik, cheers xK

    1. And that you for reading and commenting Kelly. A few people keep the ponies for riding. It takes a long time to have them broken in, or backed as it is called.

  15. Amazing insight on British lifestyle. What to do on a sunny day? (Only Continentals claim it rains all year long)
    Had a quick look on the map. So you live in (Old) Hampshire? (Not New Hampshire!) Quite close to the Isle of Wight… Did you go there in the sixties?
    Thank you Derrick. Enjoy your little corner of paradise.

Leave a Reply