The New Forest, England

New Forest - by Jim Champion via Wikimedia CommonsSituated in Southern England, covering an area of 219 sq. miles sits the New Forest National Park. Boasting trees of birch, beech and oak, wildlife and animals in abundance, the area attracts visitors in their millions year upon year. During the summer months hotels, guest houses and camping sites are full to capacity as visitors return each year to what is one of the most beautiful beauty spots in the country. But what of the area in winter you may ask, well, it takes on a new suit of clothes. The trees are bare, their past foliage covering the ground in an array of colour or on a frosty morning crunches underfoot, a time to visit the famous beauty spots and ancient sites without crowds, roads free of heavy traffic allowing you to stop and admire the wildlife and animals that freely roam the Forest.

I travelled with South Western Railway from London Waterloo to Brockenhurst in a remarkably quick 92 minutes, just time for a coffee and a quick read of the daily paper.

There are many residences to choose from but my choice was the Balmer Lawn Hotel & Spa on the outskirts of Brockenhurst and I was not disappointed. Why this hotel, several reasons; it’s run by Chris and Alison Wilson owners for the last 20 years who together with a very dedicated staff put immense effort into ensuring their guests receive 100% satisfaction. Balmer Lawn Hotel & SpaThe bedrooms, all 53 of them, are individually designed, tastefully furnished and well appointed, many with wonderful panoramic views across the forest, it has its own microbrewery, the Brockenhurst Brewery producing Smokin’ Deer Ale which is on sale at the hotel bar. For the more energetic there are both indoor and outdoor pools, squash courts and all weather tennis courts, thus, having exerted all that energy, what better than to relax in the Nordic Spar with its comfortable loungers or enjoy a massage in one of the luxurious massage rooms. Feeling hungry after all that? Sample the main restaurant Beresfords, which even offers a 7 course tasting menu. Balmer Lawn has a history that few can match, a former hunting lodge, during WWI as a hospital and during WWII it was used by the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division as their HQ prior to the D-Day landings. Contact them direct for the best price.

Using Balmer Lawn as a base the locality is a myriad of venues and attractions to visit. One of the most famous being the National Motor Museum. National Motor MuseumFounded by the 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, beginning life with just 5 motor cars on display at the official opening of Palace House and Gardens in 1952. Over the last 55 years the exhibition has grown to what it is today, a collection of 250 vehicles manufactured since the late 1800’s accompanied by books, journals and films from around the world. Other attractions include the Monorail, rides on a veteran bus or in a vintage car and having done all of this there is the restaurant to eat and relax in. Also visit the Palace House with much of it now open to the public together with the partial ruins of Beaulieu Abbey. Open every day with the exception of Christmas Day this is worth a visit winter or summer.

Lyndhurst, dubbed by many, ‘The Capital’ of the New Forest, an area that over the years has become a favourite with tourists and visitors alike. Enjoy the tea rooms, craft shops, restaurants and much more. Whilst in Lyndhurst visit the New Forest Centre, open 7 days a week and a venue where all your questions on the New Forest will be answered.

Whilst in the area visit the church of St. Michael and All Angels where is buried Alice Liddell, Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. More information

Finally, the Forest itself, dating back to time immemorial, an area of heath, woodland, lakes and streams, teaming with animals and wildlife where artefacts going back to the Bronze Age have been found indicating the existence of dwellers going back centuries.New Forest pony - by R J Higginson via Wikimedia Commons The first records show that in 1079 King William 1st designated the area as his hunting ground. The Forest is looked after and tended by Verderers and Agisters, Verderers, of whom there are 10, are concerned with the management of the Forest whilst Agisters are full time employees who look after the welfare of the wild life and animals that roam the Forest. Year upon year the number of animals inhabiting the Forest increases with numbers for 2017 totalling nearly 13,000, ponies and cattle making up the majority but a plus to this figure is around 2,000 deer of which there are 5 species.

From the Balmer Lawn Hotel so many locations are possible on a day trip: Marwell Zoo, Monkey World as featured on the TV series ‘Monkey Life’, Corfe Castle, Stonehenge, The Isle of Wight, Lulworth Cove and many more. This is an area that is special whichever season you choose to visit. Peace, tranquillity and relaxation are key words for the area, and an area I will certainly return to.

My personal thanks to Go New Forest for all their help and assistance during my visit.


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Alan Fairfax

Travel writer & cruise journalist

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