The New Forest is a national park in the south-west coast of England that is known for its outstanding beauty, it’s ancient woodlands and of course, it’s wild pony’s. After my recent trip to Italy during the coronavirus, I had to self isolate for two weeks upon my return to the UK just in case I had fought it (the rules changed while we were out there, this wasn’t the case when we left the country) and so after two weeks of not leaving my house and being stuck in my tiny one bed flat with my ex I was dying to get out. I thankfully have access to a car which is unusual in London but this meant my options were more open to going somewhere quieter where I could easily social distance, I had considered going to a beach location such as Eastbourne or Brighton but having seen reports at the weekend of them being really busy I decided to look a little further afield. opened my copy of Eyewitness Travel Guide Southwest Coast and got searching for places that were within a couple of hours drive away that would get me out into the countryside. It wasn’t long before I settled on The New Forst as my destination of choice.
The New Forest is just under a two-hour drive from central London or around the same by public transport (although to get around The New Forst locations you will need a car). The New Forest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, it was proclaimed a royal forest by William the Conqueror and is home to a variety of rare birds and mammals. Needless to say, The New Forst is a lot more than just a beauty spot. I created a route with some key points of interest I wanted to see and off I went. Here is my breakdown of the must-visit locations within the new forest:
Lyndhurst is known locally as ‘the capital of The New Forest’, this pretty village is a great place to start a trip to the area. It’s traditional and independent shops, cafes, tearooms and pubs make it a tourist haven and taking a stroll up and down the high street is a must. You may notice an Alice In Wonderland themed cafe and shop along the route? Well, this is because the girl who inspired Lewis Carrol to write the famous book Alice Liddell is buried in the local parish church, St. Michael and All Angels, you can find the grave directly at the back of the Church. Like all of The New Forest, Lyndhurst is surrounded by amazing scenery to explore either on foot or by cycling.
Bolderwood is the home of the Bolderwood Dear Sanctuary, and it’s the one place within The New Forest where you are almost guaranteed to see wild deer. There are several different trails you can take from here to see the area, ranging between 1/2 a mile to 2 miles and even the shortest gives you a good chance to see deer as it takes you to the deer viewing platform.
Rhinefield Ornamental Drive
This scenic drive was one of my favourite parts of the whole trip! Driving along the narrow forest roads surrounded by redwood and sequoia trees reminded me of my road trip through California, totally dreamy. These are rare trees to see here in the UK and being surrounded them feels almost overwhelming. There are various areas to pull over and park throughout The New Forest and I couldn’t resist stopping and walking amongst the woods.
Brockenhurst is another beautiful village situated within The New Forest. The River Ford winds lazily through the village and the local wold pony’s love trotting through the streets here. Make sure you drive carefully as it isn’t unusual to find them in the middle of the road or gazing at the side of the rod as they walk by the rover, it is slightly surreal to see.
Another beautiful historical village, Burley is home to many independent shops including an incredible fudge shop and a famous witchcraft shop which looks seriously fascinating.
Ringwood Village is home to an ancient market which has been running since 1226 and there is a long tradition of beer making, make sure you stop in or of the many local pubs for a pint.
This bridge over the River Avon has been here since the early 13th century and looking out over the water provides some really beautiful views. There is a town museum and an independent conima making it a great place to visit if the weather isn’t great or if you are feeling more adventurous make sure you check out the inflatable water obstacle course at the New Forest Water Park.
The Rufus Stone marks the spot where King Richard III, known as Rufus because of his red face, was killed being fatally wounded by an arrow.
This small village of old thatched cottages is most famous for being home to the burial place of Sir Arthur Conal Doyle, the writer of the Sherlock Holmes series. His grave can be found in the churchyard of the All Saints Church and it’s usually adorned with one of Sherlock’s famous clay pipes. Minstead is also home to Furzey Gardens, a great nature trail especially if you have children, try and spot all the many fairy doors on your way to the play area.
Travelling between these locations can take between half a day to two days depending on how long you choose to spend in each area. Here’s the map I put together for my trip:
It just so happened to be that this first day out was also my last, as when I back to my flat I turned on the TV to find that the UK was to be put on ‘lockdown’ from that day forward, with social distancing rules now firmly in place and only being able to leave the home for exercise, to travel to work for keyworkers or to get food. I’m glad I got this trip when I did, it really has made a big difference to my mental health being stuck inside for the near future and after two weeks of not leaving the flat, it felt incredible to be outside, taking in the beautiful surroundings and fresh air on my own. As soon as this time we are currently in is over, I want to go back and experience this stunning part of England again, it really is something everyone should visit when in the UK. Have you ever visited The National Forest?