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900 years old and it is still the New Forest
New Forest (Hampshire)
Member Name: buzzard_cad
New Forest (Hampshire)
Date: 27/04/05, updated on 01/05/05 (6759 review reads)
Advantages: See ponies roaming wild, Walk in ancient forests, Good beaches nearby
Disadvantages: Busy in the summer, Poor public transport
The New Forest is a great area for walking, viewing flora, fauna, ponies and other animals in the wild, also there are good beaches around Bournemouth. In the New Forest there are parks and activities for visitors, along with a variety of small towns and quaint villages to visit. Also there are many little gravel car parks dotted across the forest for visitors to park the car and have a wander at their leisure.
The New Forest is located on the South Coast of England, it is about 90 miles South West of London in Hampshire. The New Forest covers an area of approximately 150 square miles and is roughly bounded to the south by the sea, to the east by Southampton Water and to the West by the River Avon. The New Forest is made up of woodland, heaths, marsh and some arable land. Approximately half of the area is made up of woodlands ranging from ancient deciduous trees to pine tree plantations. Open spaces of heath land take up the remaining half of the forest with the odd smattering of villages here and there. The only urban area of note within the boundary is Lyndhurst, however there are larger metropolitan areas nearby, these are Southampton to the east and Bournemouth to the south-west.
This is an abridged or quick version of the New Forest’s history, as I don’t want to bore you right now and I do not claim to have any qualifications or deep knowledge of history.
‘William the Conqueror’ created the New Forest, he was the first Norman (French) King of England and victor at Hastings, by defeating King Harold the last Saxon King. After his victory at the ‘Battle of Hastings’ in 1066, he ordered an inventory to be taken of his new territory, this inventory is better known as ‘The Doomsday Book’ and listed all peoples, villages and estates of England. Through the ‘Doomsday Book’ William’s advisors found an area in Southern England littered with wild deer and other game animals and very few people. In this area William the Conqueror set up his royal hunting grounds and called it the New Forest. The crown owns much of the area today, but commoners are still given rights to graze animals and collect wood as decreed by William over 900 years ago.
The nearest airports are at Bournemouth and Southampton, however these are smaller airports and tend to be utilised by smaller charter airlines. For schedule services Bournemouth mainly serves the Channel Islands and several European destinations, I personally use the ‘RyanAir’ service to Glasgow Prestwick at least once a year, its is cheap quick and convenient.
Southampton has schedule services to most of the major cities in the UK, (except the major London airports) and several European destinations.
If you are an international traveller coming by air you are likely to arrive in the UK at Heathrow or Gatwick, both are less than 100 miles away and you can reach the New Forest by road, rail or bus/coach.
From London and the South East the easiest route to the New Forest is via the M25, take junction 12 to join the M3.
If you are coming from the North of England or from the Midlands try and work you way across to the M40. If you’re on the M1 take the A43 from Northampton to junction 10 of the M40. It is far better going this way than to go via the M25 car park. On the M40 head south to junction 9 and take the A34 south past Oxford. This joins up with the M3 at junction 9. Follow the M3 all the way to Southampton, where you will need to take the M27 West bound at junction 14. The M27 finishes at junction 1, which is just inside the New Forest boundary. The M27 changes to the A31, but if you want to get to the heart of the forest you need to leave at junction 1 and take the A337 to Lyndhurst. Please note that the A337 can get very busy in the summer hoildays.
The main London to Weymouth rail line runs right through the New Forest. Starting at London Waterloo, the line runs via Southampton and ends in Weymouth. Rail stations of note for the New Forest are Southampton Central (main station), Totton, Brockenhurst, Sway, New Milton, Bournemouth and Lymington. There are other smaller stations in the forest, but most of them are unmanned and along way from anywhere like Beaulieu Road Station (one hotel, one pub and four houses) and only the slow trains will stop at these.
The local scheduled bus service in the forest is pretty poor with it being on the edge of two rival companies. The two companies being Solent Blue Line and Wilts and Dorset. For the South West portion of the New Forest you are best sticking with Wilts and Dorset, their service is mainly in the Bournemouth area and along the southern part of the New Forest to Lymington. They have express services going straight through the forest but they only stop intermittently and are really for getting to Southampton from Bournemouth. They are however very good routes along the urban areas, so you can to get to the beaches between Christchurch and Lymington easily.
Solent Blue line services are for Southampton and the surrounding areas. They don’t really stray much into the New Forest it self and will only get you as far as Totton or Hythe, right on the eastern boundary of the Forest.
National Express coaches also do a service to the South Coast, their main coaches normally terminate in Southampton. I do know however that there is an airport service to Southampton and another service between Southampton and Bournemouth, but please check with National Express for more details.
There is the usual array of accommodation available in and around the New Forest. There are hotels, guesthouses, Bed and Breakfast (B&B’s) accommodation and finally there are campsites. There are only a few hotels right in the Forest and most of these are privately run, here is a list of some that I know.
Balmer Lawn Hotel, Brockenhurst
Rhinefield House, Brockenhurst
Chewton Glen, New Milton
Busketts Lawn Hotel, nr. Ashurst
Bartley Lodge Hotel, Cadnam
Beaulieu Lodge Hotel, Beaulieu
Forest Lodge Hotel, Lyndhurst
Moorhill House Hotel, Burley
I have only personally stayed in one of these hotels namely Rhinefield House, it has some lovely grounds and I saw numerous deer wandering the grounds early in the morning and late in the evening, definitely a place to stay.
Busketts Lawn Hotel is also a personal favourite as it was where I had my wedding reception. It is easily reached from the M27 junction 1 or 2 it has a pool and is very quite.
Again there are many guesthouses and Bed and Breakfast accommodations in the New Forest and here is another list:
Lyndhurst House, Lyndhurst
Forge Cottage, Lyndhurst
Thatched Cottage Hotel, Brockenhurst
There are many more to be found in Bed and Breakfast listings such as the AA B&B guides and on the internet.
If you are really feeling adventurous then there are camping and caravan sites to stay in. Some of these are regulated by the Forestry Commission, as camping outside these sites on forestry land (aka: Guerrilla Camping) is illegal. Hollands Wood nr. Brockenhurst is one of the ten sites owned and operated by the Forestry Commission.
There are also private landowners and campsites dotted in and around the New Forest that allow camping, here is a quick list.
Sandy Balls Holiday Centre, Fordingbridge
Bashley Park, New Milton
Redshoot Camping Park, Ringwood
~~Towns and Villages of the New Forest~~
The main town of the New Forest, Lyndhurst is the home of the New Forest District Council and also the main gateway to the heart of the New Forest. It is easily reached from the M27 via the A337, but in the summer the roads through Lyndhurst will be heavily clogged up with traffic. There is a car park in the centre of Lyndhurst for cars and some coaches. There is now a charge for parking, but if you are staying in the New Forest for a long time you could get a parking clock for a fee of £6, as April 2005.
Lyndhurst has a church, several pubs, some good restaurants and numerous shops. The shops range from the tacky souvenir shops with postcards and sweets, to antique shops with expensive brass lamps and furniture items. For car freaks there is a Maserati showroom near the Stag Inn on the High Street, they have all the top models and is worth a stop to drool over the lovely Italian sports cars.
For a better history of the New Forest there is a visitor centre in the car park, that describes the history and the future plans of the New Forest and is worth a visit if you want to find out more about the New Forest.
Brockenhurst is south of Lyndhurst, follow the A337 south out of Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst is about 4 miles away and is truly in the heart of the New Forest. It is very much geared for the tourist and in the off-season it can be quite and peaceful. The High Street has a small amount of local shops, cafes and a small car park. The train station has a few pubs around with the famous ‘Snake Catchers Inn’ just over the main road and the ‘Foresters Arms’ just a stagger away. There are some very nice restaurants in Brockenhurst, namely ‘Il Palio 2’ (Italian) in the old station hall and ‘Le Blairaeus’ (french) near Carey’s Manor on the A337. For cycle activities there is a cycle hire shop called ‘Cycle Experience’ in the triangle near the station. This is a good place to hire bikes for an easier way to get into the depths of the New Forest.
Not really in the New Forest, Lymington is a further 5 miles south on the A337 from Brockenhurst. It is more of a marina town with facilities for yachts and a ferry to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. It has a good range of shops including a ‘Boots’ chemist and would be the best area if you need to do a bit of shopping. There is a market on the High Street each Saturday so try to avoid driving through the middle of Lymington on a Saturday morning. It also has a range of antique and art shops and the obligatory tacky souvenir shops can be found down the cobbled street to the quay front. ‘The Ship Inn’ down on the front is quite nice as you can get a pint and watch the world going by.
~New Milton and Sway~
Again not strictly in the New Forest New Milton and Sway are a few miles west of Lymington on the road to Bournemouth. It is a good area for pubs, restaurants and places to stay. New Milton has a few shops including a small supermarket and some convenience stores. This is a good area to stay for those more reliant on public transport as Wilts and Dorset buses service the area well. At New Milton you are also within striking distance of the sea and the good beaches along this part of the coast. Sway is a few miles north east of New Milton. It is a much smaller village with a good smattering of country pubs. Try the ‘Hare and Hounds’ on the road to Brockenhurst or ‘The Plough’ near Tiptoe.
This is small village with a lot of history and a sense of regency. It has a small car park and a little street with numerous shops including a café, a chocolate shop, a pub ‘Montagu Arms’ and even a shop for your dressage needs. The local palace, abbey and motor museum are all located on the estate across the millpond from the village. The stone walled palace and grounds make for impressive viewing across the still water of the millpond.
An another small village located about 8 miles south west of Lyndhurst and reached by the A35. Burley has a busy high street with shops, and the ‘Queens Head’ pub, there are also antique, cycle hire and gift shops all located around the central cross area.
Okay now you are in the New Forest you are wondering what activities there are to do.
Walking is the main activity in the New Forest as there is a large amount of woodland and open spaces to explore. There are numerous marked trails and pathways to follow, most of these marked routes are around the Brockenhurst area. I personally have a book by Mike Power called ‘Pub walks in the New Forest’. This is good book if you want to go for a short walk and then have a good pub lunch. Generally anywhere you go in the New Forest is good for walking, however be aware that some areas are boggy and uneven so it is best to have good walking shoes rather than sandals or heeled shoes. Trainers at the very least will get you around the forest in the summer, but hiking boots are better in the winter.
Cycling is taking over as the means to get around the New Forest easily and quickly. The only downside is that there are rules that you must stick to the gravel pathways and not go anywhere you want. This enforced by the Forestry Commission and is done to reduce the amount of environmental damage that mountain bikes do to the soft ground of the New Forest. There are many gravel pathways around the forest and again most of these are around the Brockenhurst area. The Forestry Commission produce a map for cyclist showing the routes that you can use for you bicycle.
Cycle hire shops can be found in Brockenhurst, Burley and a few other centres around the New Forest.
Horse riding is available to those who wish to go riding around the New Forest. There are many commoners who exercise their horses in the forest and you may be walking on a path and suddenly come across some horse riders. I’ve never ridden a horse in my life, but I do know that my father-in-law visited some stables at Burley to go on an organised horse ride. I don’t know the stable’s name so I cannot pass on that information, however I’m sure that the local tourist information centre will be able to tell you more.
Alternatively there is a wagon ride available in Brockenhurst. This wagon is pulled by some sturdy horses and takes you on a little trip along a gravelled road and partly into the forest.
Not really an activity, but I felt I should mention one tour that is possible for those that have a lack of mobility. There is area of the New Forest that is almost designed to be viewed from the car and is something you could do in any weather. I will describe the tour in full starting at the Brockenhurst. From Brockenhurst drive through the High Street and the water splash (if it’s a dry summer there will be no water) at the T junction on the up ramp of the water splash turn right. Drive along this road and ignore all junctions. You will pass through the tree-lined outskirts of Brockenhurst village, viewing a melange of cottages and houses, finally the road comes on to an open plain. In the summer these plains are great for picnics and flying kites, there is normally at least one ice-cream van in one of the gravel car parks and numerous ponies roaming wild.
Continue driving along the road and eventually you go back into a wooded area, this area is Rhinefield enclosure and is made up of pine trees. Keep an eye out on your left, as you will eventually see the grounds of Rhinefield House and the old hunting lodge itself. If you are feeling particularly flush you can stop and have a coffee in the ‘Orangery’, but at weekends it could have a function or wedding taking place. Passing by Rhinefield house you will eventually come to a sharp right hand bend at the drive way to Rhinefield House, follow the bend right and drive on through the slightly narrower road. This part of the drive is called Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and is enclosed by large pine trees and Rhododendron bushes. Continue on until you reach a cross-road, this is the main A35 road and is a little tricky to cross as you need to go straight over the road and on to Bolderwood Ornamental Drive. Instantly you enter a different woodland made up of Deciduous trees, continue on the road until you see a triangular grass area to your right. You have now completed the car tour and can go and get an ice-cream from the van if he is there.
By doing this drive you will see the many differing parts of the forest, open spaces, pine trees, old hunting lodges and deciduous trees. Also there are many gravelled car parks for you to stop and view the forest at your leisure. If one car park is busy you can always move onto the next car park.
~Beaulieu Palace and Motor Museum~
It has been many years since I have been to the Motor Museum at Beaulieu, but it is a very good day out for all the family. There is the Motor Museum itself for the petrol heads, the ruins of a monk’s abbey, the palace building and the palace grounds. There is even a monorail to help you get around and stop at any point of interest. If you were to visit I would plan on allowing for a whole day in the museum and the palace grounds.
The New Forest is the home to the only poisonous snake in the United Kingdom, the common adder or viper. The reptiliary can be found about 3 miles west of Lyndhurst on the A35. I have never been, but from what I have heard they have a good collection of snakes common to the New Forest including grass snakes and small lizards. Good if you’re interested in cold-blooded scaly animals.
~Longdown Dairy Farm~
This is one for the young and old alike, Longdown Diary Farm is located about five miles east of Lyndhurst near the A35 to Southampton. Again I’ve never been, but I’m told that under supervision you can feed the young animals and see a farm in action, very good for young children apparently.
There are good beaches to the south of the forest along the coast to Bournemouth. There are car parks dotted along the coast with paths down to the beach. The beaches are generally clean and vary from gravely beaches to the soft sands at Bournemouth. Milford-on-sea, Highcliffe, Mudeford and Bournemouth are the places to go for the beaches with parking areas and good amenities nearby. Some beaches have a bit of a walk down the cliffs to the beach, but most are well paved and getting pushchairs down to the beach should pose no real problem.
The New Forest has lots of rules and regulations, but most of them are common sense, like closing any gates you open, don’t drop litter, don’t feed the animal’s etc. One item to remember is that all speed limits in the New Forest are 40 mph and the animals area allowed to roam free. So don’t be surprised if you come around a corner and there is a cow or pony standing still in the road. If you ever visit the New Forest I hope you enjoy the area as much as I like living in it.
Thanks for taking the time to read*
*Please note this is also posted at Ciao.co.uk under the same user name.
A list of all the websites and pages I’ve found on the Wicked Wild Web and referred to in writing this review.
Power, Mike – Pub Walks in the New Forest
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