IT is usually a haven renowned for its picturesque views across the New Forest.
Overlooking the sprawling landscape, it is surrounded by tracks that are popular with dog walkers, ramblers and cyclists who have come to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
But yesterday the hilltop car park on the edge of the sleepy village of Frogham instead became a base for a huge manhunt for a missing teenager.
Forty-eight hours since Ross Haughey was last seen by his parents, specialist police and volunteers search and rescue teams descended on Abbotswell car park to get involved in the hunt for the 17-year-old which continued as darkness fell last night.
The experienced walker and runner, who has a love for the New Forest, was last seen on Sunday afternoon when he left his family home and said goodbye to parents Brian and Penelope to go for a walk.
There was nothing unusual about that. He had his rucksack packed with a jacket inside and a sandwich to eat while he was gone.
But the alarm was raised by his anxious parents who live in the village on the outskirts of Fordingbridge when he failed to return home that night, sparking fears he had suffered an accident.
Concerns have deepened as time has passed with no news of the Alevel student, who is not thought to have been carrying a mobile phone, and only a handful of unconfirmed sightings which are currently being investigated by police.
So far there have been around six calls from members of the public who have seen someone matching Ross’s description. Most of them have been within the New Forest, but one was near to the Wiltshire border, police say.
With news of Ross’s disappearance spreading through media appeals and on the Internet, local people yesterday turned out to do what they could to help and were given guidance from police about how to do that safely.
It was an extra strength of support which was warmly welcomed, as former pupils from The Burgate School, where Ross is a pupil, anxious parents, parish councillors and a contingent of local residents who know the area well turned out in freezing and at times wet conditions to help.
Mum Wendy Monkcom, whose children went to school with Ross, rallied local residents to search for him yesterday morning.
Around 18 people including her son Austin joined her and spent around two hours scouring a stretch of the New Forest as well as contacting liveries to raise awareness with horse riders.
She said: “I just felt compelled to do something. I know the area well, I have the time and we could cover some of the tracks that many people won’t even know about. The more eyes that are out there looking, the more chance there is of getting him home safely and quickly.
“It’s just awful. I cannot think what his family must be going through right now.”
Austin, 18, who went to The Burgate and Hyde Primary like Ross, and was in the same year as his brother Max, added: “Ross is quiet but scarily clever. I used to catch the bus with him and when I heard he was missing mum said she was organising a search and I wanted to help.”
PC Mike Spencer, Hampshire police’s force search adviser, was co-ordinating the teams who were still on the ground scouring a fivesquare kilometre area between Fritham and Bramshaw.
Today searches are expected to resume again across the huge swathe of forest identified as being a potential route taken by Ross.
Volunteers are welcome but are being urged to heed safety advice and only search in areas that they are familiar with, dress appropriately, carry food and water and vitally a mobile phone.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Hampshire police on 101.
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