On arrival I made my way up a steep hill from the car park. I looked back and was presented with a wide far reaching vista south-west across the Blashford Lakes. These lakes dotted around the villages of Blashford and Rockford are nature reserves made from flooded gravel lakes. They are surrounded by grass meadows and woodland and serve as an ideal location for wildlife watching and educational visits. I had checked my The Photographer’s Ephemeris app on my phone before arrival so I knew which direction to expect the sun to set below the horizon, whilst also keeping in mind where sunrise would be should I re-visit early one morning.
I was instantly relieved that I hadn’t left my visit too late and saw the common full of bright pink and purple heather. The best time to visit The New Forest including Rockford Common, for the heather is mid-August to early September whilst it is in full bloom, although you should expect it to still be flowering well into September albeit fading in colour.
I followed the ridge along a wide chalk footpath leading across the common to find a number of New Forest ponies grazing on the grass of the lower plateau. The lower common can get quite boggy in places so good supportive shoes or walking boots are a must. I concentrated my exploration on the ridge because the vistas across the rolling landscapes also looked more inviting, although Red Shoot Wood and Linwood Brooks are a short walk away for a return in autumn.
I found a number of promising spots along my walk and decided to set up my tripod. I mainly worked with my 18-105mm DX wide angle (equivalent to about 28-150mm). I stuck to the mid apertures of f/11 and f/16. I metered from a mid-tone area of the foreground where I could use my camera’s built in matrix metering mode. I also found spot metering was useful for example when dealing with backlit views.
As I explored the common, I ensured my compositions were tight and incorporated a variety of foregrounds including some logs I found lying in the heather that reminded me of costal driftwood. I finally made my way to a footpath on the common that overlooked a wide view north-east towards Ibsley Common. This was my base for the ‘golden hour’ between 7-8pm when the light was at its best.
On my way back to the car park I captured a few images of the sun setting in the distance, with the Ringwood forest providing an impressive tree line silhouette, as the sun disappeared below the horizon. It is certainly worth a return visit during autumn once the purples give way to the yellows and golds. The surrounding valleys would make this an ideal location to capture mist in the early mornings.
How to get there
I found the best way to approach Rockford Common was from the west side via the A338 through the village of Blashford. There isn’t really an easily accessible route off the A31 from the south. From the A338 head across to Rockford to a triangle junction of country roads that meet by Dockens Water. From here a large gravel sand pit carved into the side of a hill can be seen at the end of a track. Here is a free public car park where you only need to walk a short distance up until you reach the top of the common. As with anywhere in the New Forest National Park, take extra care on the roads as New Forest ponies roam free and are common on the narrow country lanes.
Ordinance Survey Map OL22