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6 Apr

Exploring England’s Enchanting New Forest

The English have been captured by the charms of the New Forest since William the Conqueror established it as a royal hunting ground 900 years ago.  Then, as now, he was one of many captivated by the wild deer and other animals that graze the land.  This continual grazing by a variety of animals developed the unusual landscape that visitors enjoy today as Commoners still have the right to allow their animals to graze on the common land in the Forest.

Fortunately, the New Forest National Park that now manages the Forest has provided car parks where visitors can leave their cars to walk through the Forest to watch the animals grazing.  The New Forest ponies are the most popular but donkeys, cows, the occasional sheep and clusters of deer are also frequently sighted.  In the autumn, pigs have the right to graze to rid the land of acorns which can be harmful to some animals.


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The New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst offers visitors a comprehensive collection about the Forest’s history and traditions as well as information about activities on offer in the area. The museum is free to visit and it is child-friendly with their Family Fun Tree interactive exhibit.

Lyndhurst has plenty for visitors to see and do: cosy tea rooms and old world pubs to watch the world go by as well, as well as fine restaurants for an evening meal out.  It’s great for walking and cycling too, with plenty of routes for you to explore, many of them flat.  The popular Lyndhurst to Brockenhurst route takes you through Forestry Commission enclosures.


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While visiting the Forest I stayed in Brockenhurst where animals and people mingle happily in its narrow streets and patches of common land.  I was very comfortably accommodated in the Balmer Lawn Hotel which is situated in the Forest beside the River Lymington and perfect for early morning walks before a delicious breakfast in its Beresford’s restaurant.
In the village centre visitors stopping for refreshment at the Snakecatcher pub will learn the story of a famous legendary character of the Forest, Brusher Mills, the New Forest snake-catcher, who would catch snakes in the Forest for the Zoological Gardens in London and other reptile keepers.


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Lymington, on the extensive estuary of the River Lymington was the ideal place for smugglers.  They would sail down the estuary to the Town Quay from where many willing helpers would transport the contraband to various hiding places around the town.

Today the town is famous as an international boat building and yachting centre as well as its Saturday Charter Market that has lined both sides of the unusually wide High Street since the 13th century.  The narrow cobbled streets of the old town lead to the Town Quay in Lymington Harbour, popular as a venue for crab catching and the starting point for boat trips around the estuary.  Whilst the St Barbe Museum tells the story of Lymington in a beautifully refurbished Victorian school building.


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Beaulieu is renowned for its Motor Museum set in the grounds of Palace House.  The museum features over 250 vehicles and was established by the 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu in 1952 as a tribute to his father – one of the great pioneers of motoring in the UK.

Medieval monks once lived in Beaulieu Abbey which was established over 800 years ago.  Its conserved ruins now house a museum documenting its history.

The New Forest is easily accessible on main roads or mainline trains to Brockenhurst.  Once there, it is easy to explore on foot, on bicycles, on horseback or on public buses.  I recommend buying a Go New Forest Card that offers discounts on local New Forest businesses.

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