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Millyford and the Portuguese Fireplace

Posted on 17 October 2013 by

You can find all sorts of odd things in the New Forest. I remember taking a walk from Lyndhurst to Ashurst some years ago and being surprised to find amidst the woodland at first fragments of brick and then parts of old foundations. Since then I’ve been on the lookout for similar things, intrigued by the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made. A little while back I was driving along the road from Emery Down and thought I saw the remains of an old structure; today, I went to look for it.

Near the car park at Millyford Bridge the road passes through a wide clearing, dotted with a few trees and grazing ponies. At the western end of the clearing, near the approaching tree line, stands an old ruined fireplace. Known as the Portuguese Fireplace because it was part of an encampment of Portuguese personnel during the First World War, the fireplace cuts a very strange figure indeed. There is a plaque that stands nearby, which reads:

Portuguese Fireplace

   This is the site of a hutted camp occupied by a Portuguese Army unit during the First World War. This unit assisted the depleted local labour force in producing timber for the war effort.

   The Forestry Commission have retained this fireplace from the cookhouse as a memorial to the men who lived and worked here and acknowledge the financial assistance of the Portuguese government in its renovation.

I think what fascinates me about this structure is that it is such a contemporary ruin. We often see visions of a dystopian, ruined future in popular culture, but here it is in front of our eyes. With our lives being so brief it’s difficult to visualise a time after humanity, although such a time will most likely come. Modern day ruins like this draw parallels with the famous ruins of the past and help us better understand a simple and humbling truth: that in the grand scheme of things, our lives are fleeting and even the most indelible marks we make upon the earth will one day fade away.


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