A PENSIONER stranded in the New Forest for three days during some of the stormiest weather for years has been found safe and well.

How Edward Harper, 79, survived his ordeal as gale-force winds swept across the area has amazed rescue experts. He was found several miles away from home.

Mr Harper appears to have made his way from Cranleigh Paddock residential home at Lyndhurst to an area near the High Corner Inn at Linwood, near Ringwood.

He was found at about 2.30pm yesterday during a search of the Bolderwood area.

He was conscious, lying in woodland near the High Corner Inn.

Police say that although he was cold and wet, he was able to chat to ambulance staff who took him to hospital for a check-up.

Mr Harper, who suffers from short-term memory loss, left Cranleigh Paddock at 11.45am on Sunday, saying he was going for a short walk, but failed to return.

Although he is known to be a regular walker and in good physical condition for his age, police be-came particularly worried about his welfare, and launched a massive search involving the police spotter plane, Royal Navy and Army personnel, Forestry Comm-ission staff and members of the public.

The search was initially concentrated on the area known as the Portuguese Fireplace, near Emery Down, but drew a blank.

Police appealed for local people to check their sheds and outhouses in case Mr Harper had taken shelter from the weather.

Inspector John Kenna said: "We would like to thank all those people who have assisted us with our search over the last few days.

"We are also very grateful for all those people who have come forward with possible sightings of Mr Harper following our appeal."