I was lucky enough to have grown up on the outskirts of South London. My grandmother had moved to Holbury, just outside the New Forest and the best thing about visiting was a trip to see the horses! We returned years later to see what the New Forest was offering and were not disappointed!
For this trip we stayed at Hollands Wood Campsite (through campingintheforest.co.uk). The site is advertised as a perfect retreat for mind and body. Celebrity broadcaster and environmental campaigner David Bellamy described it as a paradise park. It is situated in 22 hectares of oak woodland and although the facilities are limited to toilets, showers and 600 grass only pitches, (they don’t have any electric hook ups or wifi) it sounded like a beautiful spot to explore from. The ‘limited’ facilities did mean the cost was very reasonable if you were willing to unplug from the grid.
The wonderful thing about this site is the lack of a hard perimeter. The horses and cattle are able to enter and free roam the site. Opening the doors the next morning we could already see the wildlife from the comfort of our bed. We had our breakfast and watched in awe as a heard of cows silently made their way through the trees. They came through camp – leaving one member behind who went frantically charging through a few minutes later calling for the herd.
Brockenhurst Village is within walking distance of the campsite and is one of the villages without cattle grids. It is not uncommon to see the horses and cows walking through the village nonchalantly. It has two fords which are a draw for the animals on hot days looking for a drink of cool water. There are a parade of shops and a couple of places to stop for a bite to eat. We stopped at The Buttery near the car park and enjoyed a cool drink and a bit of shade. In my head I thought the village would be bigger but it was a quaint and peaceful location. There is also a large pay and display car park with plenty of spaces.
Hythe is a town on the Solent famous for being home to the world’s oldest operating pier train. It is an excellent location to see the large cruise ships as they dock at Southampton. I remember watching the QE2 manoeuvre herself on more than one occasion as a child and feeling so very small in her shadow!
Hythe had a market on during the time we visited, selling fruits, vegetables, clothing, pet supplies and household items. The town has plenty of shops to look around. We found a Costa, grabbed a hot chocolate and headed to the estuary. The tide was out but it was still lovely to sit in the sunshine and watch the birds. We saw a type of seagull here that looked very different to the ones we usually encounter. I was not sure what they were called but they had white bodies and black faces. Google came to our rescue and told us that they were indeed called black faced seagulls… Who knew!
The Happy Cheese Pub
Taking a drive to Ashurst on the A35 we discovered a popular local pub called The Happy Cheese. It’s on your right hand side as you go over the railway bridge. The pub was so popular that we struggled to find somewhere to park as their car park is not very large however there were other options available to us which we took up.
The pub is well presented with fresh paint on the building. The outside area housed benches with umbrellas in both a grassed and patio locations for you to choose from. The inside was very ‘country pub’ looking with dark beams and low lighting which I found enhanced the character. The food was beautifully cooked and the staff were very friendly and efficient.
Most famously known for being the home of the National Motor Museum and its Palace House, Beaulieu is a stunning village best seen in glorious sunshine. Although it is a very popular destination for tourists, its parking is rather lacking. Be sure to get there early for a space!
There are a few shops in the village and a pub. The Beaulieu River is home to lots of wildlife and can be a twitcher’s paradise with some rare birds seen here.
A great couple of hours out here, and not far from Beaulieu. The New Forest’s charming hamlet was once famous for its shipbuilding. It has a clear navigable route to sea and a great source of timber! The rows of cottages are now turned into museums and tourist attractions to learn about the shipbuilding industry and how people lived. In the summer time they often have people in costume too. Boat rides are available at extra cost along the water.
Lyndhurst is known as the ‘capital’ of the New Forest and has been visited by many members of royalty since William the Conqueror established it as a royal hunting ground. The graveyard of St Michael and All Angels’ Church is the resting place of one of the New Forest’s famous residents, Alice Pleasance Liddell. Alice was the little girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’. Alice also had a holiday home in Llandudno and you can read about her influence on this seaside town here!
Lyndhurst’s bustling town is full of shops, restaurants and local charm. From here you can rent a bicycle, go for a walk into the forest or simple wander around the quaint little independent shops and grab a bargain!
I had not been horse riding before but Louise has. Louise had spoken about how she missed it and when I was looking for things to do I realised we could hire horses and go on a hack! The stables are very experienced and went through all the health and safety information followed by a quick lesson on how to control your horse.
These horses are very well trained and know the drill. They are used to novices riding them and were very patient. We were a group of 6 with 2 professionals to lead us around the forest tracks and even though I was terrified at the start, I can tell you that there is no better way to see the forest than on horse back!
New Forest has Beaches???
Yes. The New Forest is an amazing destination as it has everything! Forest, heather, wide open spaces, rivers and a coast line with sand dunes and nature reserves! Head to the southern edge of the forest to be greeted with loads of options. Check the New Forest website for a list of possible sunbathing spots!
A unique destination with so much to offer
We loved the New Forest and there is still so much left to explore. Being in close proximity to the horses and cows was an amazing experience.
You can pay for the privilege of going to a zoo and having an ‘experience’ with the animals but nothing quite feels as real as a herd choosing to walk close to you. For me it was a very honest experience which reminded me about acceptance and serenity. I will not forget that.
Earlier in the post I described the campsite as ‘limited’ however after my experience there, it is the most unlimited location I have ever been to. It really opened my mind and heart.
The new forest has something for everyone, so whether you want to chill out and relax like us or spend your days with more of an adrenaline rush, there is something here for you!
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