Day 3: Brockenhurst to Lyndhurst

A steaming day with record beating temperatures. We walked, fortunately, down scrunching tracks that bisect the New Forest. Moses dived into every pool he saw. I met an aged man who, to my irritation, began the old boast: “I’ll bet you can’t tell how old I am?” Nonsense! I am always tempted to answer “104!” But I hadn’t the heart

I nearly told him he was younger than David Dimbleby and the Queen, and Dame(s) Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Eileen Atkins and John Humphries and what was his problem? But then we
thought, what is the point?


Road Awareness

The only cars I can tolerate at the moment are car crushers!


Heroes and villains

Eighteen months ago I persuaded past foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind and past chief of the general staff General Lord Richards to lead a committee (Commonwealth Veterans Review Committee) that would campaign for an increase in aid for some 8,500 aged veterans who served The Crown when we had an empire and who today live in countries where their is no NHS or welfare.
Please see the film “The Forgotten Legion” on our site

Some 600 live in Zimbabwe.

To cut a long story short, backed by the committee (Lord Richards, Sir John McColl, Charles Byrne, Robert Robson, Martin Rutledge, David Murray), Chris Warren of RCEL (the charity that looks after these people) and ZANE’s Camilla John did a great deal of work. We made an application to HMG’s DfID and some weeks ago we met with the Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt who agreed to create a special scheme to fund the whole exercise. My heroes are all those who worked tirelessly to get the final result.

My villains are those politicians and civil servants who have beefed up the Data Protection Act to make fund raising a costly misery for small charities. The bigger charities can afford rooms full of file pushers but the smaller ones like ZANE stagger under the burden. The trouble is that rules never succeed in stopping the cowboys. They just add costs for the good guys! I reckon that such are today’s regulations that it is more or less impossible to start a new charity today.


Take a Risk!

The spirit of risk-taking is on life support. As a small example, but representative of a trend, consider this. Two of our friends’ children were to join the army but instead decided to go straight into the city. It seems to me they have had no opportunity to walk on the wild side but have instead opted for a life of moneymaking, the delights of Internet dating and the safety of an office.

Rough Living

Of course, previous generations had greater opportunities for risky adventures than today. In my youth, wars involved boots on the ground and rough living, but most loved it and saw the rest of their lives through the prism of that experience. How many times in the late 1950s and ’60s did one hear a sober citizen throw down his pen to exclaim, “Oh, I wish the war was still on!” It’s a strange echo now, for who could want to be at war, but that citizen wasn’t longing for battle and sudden death. He was remembering the freedom of service life, the smell of faraway places, the unpredictability of the future, and the romance of distant lands and seas.

But these wars have more or less stopped and what’s left to explore? In my grandfather’s day, there were places to discover by hacking through jungles:  these are today’s tourist sites. And only a blink of time away, we had an empire that needed hundreds of thousands of the young to fight or serve in now forgotten wars. They were a hardy lot. After a diet of cold showers, the cane and endless Latin (or Greek as a treat), young men were dispensing tough justice to brigands in areas the size of Wales. That so many died can be seen in the forgotten graves strewn across the world. There was no counselling for bereaved families then; nor did TV reporters soupily ask for parent’s “feelings” at the news that Henry had been boiled in a pot. Families just had to get on with it.

Nation of Shopkeepers

Kipling and Somerset Maugham’s stories explain the extraordinary lives they led. But the spirit of adventure – at its peak in the late 1800s – began to grow thin after the Second World War, and is now reduced to a trickle. Today’s young prefer to take their adventures vicariously by way of the Internet and sensation-drenched films. Overseas travel is no longer red in tooth and claw, but has morphed into a flight to a golf course and a posh hotel with the latest girl. In short, most young men have become “domesticated” – wedded to ‘elf and safety’, nappies and family life. Their women have turned nomadic man into paunchy clerks. This comes at the cost of increasing alcohol and drug consumption to dull the pain of the loss of manhood. We are reduced, as Napoleon gloomily forecast, to “a nation of shopkeepers”.

Our elder son was until recently a teacher at St Paul’s School for boys in London. He told me that all the brightest and best opt to follow Dad into the City.

We are open to the taunt thrown by Juvenal at the Roman people nearly 2,000 years ago, that their main desire was panem et circenses (bread and circuses), today perhaps translated as “booze, dating sites and football”.

Perhaps the creeping march of “civilisation” is as inevitable as old age, but it seems that prosperity has slackened our fibres and we are definitely less tough in mind and body than our grandparents  – or even our parents. This is dangerous.

History lessons are sanitised by lefty teachers and few read the Bible, so the myth has spread that today is bound to be better than yesterday; that we are wiser, kinder, cleverer, more civilised and more peaceful than our forebears; that weapons are nasty things; and that money is best spent on welfare (since bloody conflicts are yesterday’s story). But this claptrap was believed by our Victorian grandparents until it died in the trenches of the Somme. Indeed, this lie is one of the reasons why the young feel comfortable in voting for the absurd pacifist Corbyn.

It is an iron law of life that has yet to be broken that a nation can only earn the right to live soft by being prepared to die hard in defence of its living. We are in the process of forgetting that law. So instead of the drivelling mantra, “take care”, perhaps instead we should be urging our young to take a risk!



One of my readers took issue with the fact that I used the words “lefty teachers” in a disparaging manner, and asked me to justify it.

It so happened that I saw an article by the Times centre-right journalist Melanie Phillips recently who writes as follows (and I paraphrase):

A report last year by the Adam Smith Institute claimed that eight out of 10 university lecturers are left wing. In 2015, the Times Higher Education poll of voting behaviour amongst university teachers found that 46 per cent voted Labour and 11 per cent Conservative. On positions such as Israel, Brexit or global warming, right-wing folk keep their views to themselves if they want to hang on to their jobs.

Phillips points out that those holding centre-right views tend not to be invited on to broadcasting media – unless there is an imperative need to display a fig leaf of political balance. For more than 15 years, she was on a blacklist and no major UK publishing house has published any of her books.

She continues: Views that challenge the left are seen as secular heresies to be silenced. Argument is replaced by smears, name-calling and character assassination designed to stifle dissent. As with all heresies, however, the fundamental motivation for silencing them is fear — fear of even hearing contrary arguments.

This is because at some level such “progressives” fear that their arguments are built on sand and they might be persuaded that the contrary view is correct. Since to such people anything contrary to leftism is not just wrong but evil, they are terrified that this would destroy their entire moral and political personality.

So that’s why I cite lefty teachers as being a curse!




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    • Mrs Jill Rowley on July 7, 2018 at 5:06 pm
    • Reply

    Many young people in their twenties do care about choosing a career that will benefit Society even if
    the work will be tough and the pay not great compared to many of their contemporaries.
    Our granddaughter, now 27, did a Fine Arts degree achieving a 2;1. She hoped to go on to train as
    an Art Therapist but that was financially impossible, She chose instead to work for two years as
    a Care Assistant for Home Farm Trust working in the Day Centre caring for physically and
    mentally disabled adults a job, which though often challenging and poorly paid, she found very
    rewarding. Two years ago she decided to take an M.A. in Social Work. As she is dyslexic this
    has been very hard work, fortunately she was awarded a Bursary as otherwise she might have
    had to turn down the Universities offer of a place on this course.
    She has just heard that she has obtained a 2:1 and is now looking for a job in Mental Health where
    on a modest salary she will be working with some of the most vulnerable in Society.
    Another granddaughter is a language teacher in a Comprehensive School in a somewhat deprived
    area and another is in South Korea teaching English to very young Korean children another
    tough job in a strange and. until recently a dangerous part of the World.

    • Richard Birch on July 7, 2018 at 6:08 pm
    • Reply

    Always good to hear Tom having a refreshing rant and channeling his energy into yet another amazing walk for the excellent cause of Zane. I think like Jill, however, that at the more modest levels of society below the bankers and their sons at eg. St Pauls School, there are many youngsters who choose more useful careers. Our own daughter after graduation is teaching biology in a pretty deprived area and is in the process of qualifying as a psychotherapist. Her friends are also doing useful things like medicine and even admin in the house of Commons.
    So let’s not have too much of a downer on the young!

    • Tom Benyon on July 8, 2018 at 8:10 am
    • Reply

    Of course there are a great many young doing excellent and courageous work in difficult parts if the world and they should be encouraged and not patronised by me! However it is inevitable that I will generalise in such a blog and my comments include the so called “snowflake generation”. Plus the fact that my soldier friends tell me that so soft have we become they cannot see how any future, vital wars that involve the security of the nation can be fought in future that risks boots on the ground in case some soldier will be killed.

    I reckon this is extraordinary but perhaps people do not agree.

    Please go on commenting.


    • Jane Reeve on July 16, 2018 at 12:47 pm
    • Reply

    Blessings upon our intrepid author.

    As the daughter and grand-daughter of career military men who spent most of their active lives serving in Africa and India, fighting successively in the 2 Great Wars and locally teaching engineering, hygiene and standard-meeting skills, I am just so grateful that I inherited the mind-set which drives one to take gap years bussing and hosteling and hiking through many thrilling, dangerous, and insufficiently effectively developing countries. I have also been a university professor and United Nations employee.

    I am so proud of the achievements of my son and daughter who overcame enormous obstacles and are decently employed in society-building niches. None of us are rich or need to be. But I regret they will probably never be able to shake off the timorous, injured-civil-rights- and peace-marching norm of our –in general –calm, luxuriously incredibly well sheltered modern first-world.

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