Come on in! – Children of the New Forest!
Transforming angst into activity and action through exercise and community by exploring Literary Locations in a neighbourhood near you!
This timeless classic novel first dropped into my life when I was awarded a first prize in the last year of my Primary School. My name even made it to the special Prize Winner’s Board in the school hall as a result.
The book was a treasured possession although it undoubtedly got buried in the hurly-burly busyness of the next 50 years!
If you take a moment to view my sister site, MarilynKinnon.com you will get a flavour of what I mean!
Lymington was chosen as the place for our ‘happy ending’ and once we had settled in after our move from London, I set about exploring the nooks and crannies by walking, cycling reading and research.
I began to recognise a few familiar names: Arnwood, Beverly, Villiers …Marryat!
Hey, I am living in the deepest la la land of my old school prize book. Children of the New Forest is steeped in the history of 1650 and steeped in the geography of Lymington!
The story begins in 1647 when King Charles I has been defeated in the civil war and has fled from London towards the New Forest. Parliamentary soldiers have been sent to search the forest and decide to burn Arnwood, the house of Colonel Beverley, a Cavalier officer killed at the Battle of Naseby. The four orphan children of the house, Edward, Humphrey, Alice and Edith, are believed to have died in the flames. However, they are saved by Jacob Armitage, a local verderer, who hides them in his isolated cottage and disguises them as his grandchildren.
Under Armitage’s guidance, the children adapt from an aristocratic lifestyle to that of simple foresters. Edward develops and expands the farmstead and the family share his love for the forest. A sub-plot involves a hostile Puritan gamekeeper named Corbould who seeks to harm Edward and his family. Edward also encounters the sympathetic Puritan, Heatherstone, placed in charge of the Royal land in the New Forest, and rescues his daughter, Patience, in a house-fire. The second section spreads more widely as Edward breaks away to fight for Charles II and experiences the terrible royalist debacle at Worcester in 1651.”
In the novel, the momentous opening events all take place in our back-yard, between New Milton, Sway and Lymington.
Charles 1 is making his dash to the Isle of Wight, hotly pursued by troops of Roundheads despatched by Cromwell to scour the New Forest.
Meanwhile, forester and family retainer, Jacob Armitage, is out procuring venison:
“he had gained his leeward position of a fine buck, behind a huge oak tree, so as to get within shot unperceived,” when suddenly the animal bounded away, scared off by a galloping troop of Parliamentarians.
Hidden by the oak, Jacob overhears the plan to torch Arnewood Manor, the Beverly family home, “as King Charles may be concealed in the Malignant’s house.”
Jacob sets out for Arnewood to persuade the children and their guardian Judith to leave the house immediately. He lodges the children safely at his humble cottage, “in so sequestered a spot that few knew even of its existence.”
That very night Arnewood Manor is destroyed in the flames and Judith Villers is dragged from the property kicking and screaming as the Roundheads think they have captured King Charles in disguise!
And so the exciting story continues!…
Blending all the pieces together, I was able to devise a great cycle-geographic tour of the local area, stopping here and there to read directly from the novel. Wonderful fun!
But that was not all! I rode over the next day with trusty Jacob to seek more news of the saga at Gossip Allwood’s Ale House…