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Visiting the New Forest

The New Forest doesn’t really live up to its name. It is neither ‘new’
– since it was created more than 900 years ago – nor is it a ‘forest’
in the modern sense of the word; nearly half its area is made up of
open heath, grassland and boggy mires. It is, however, one of the most
beautiful, tranquil and special places to visit in the British Isles.


The landscape

When you enter the New Forest, you feel like you have entered another
(often enchanted) world. The lowland heath that makes up great swathes
of the New Forest is, in fact, extremely rare – there are only a
handful of other examples of it throughout the world – but what makes
the New Forest unique is the variety and combination of its landscape.

Alongside the heather-clad heathland you will find ancient woodland,
virtually unchanged since the last Ice Age, then the view will open out
onto the wide grassy lawns so characteristic of the New Forest; after a
while you might meander down towards the coast to see saltmarshes and
mudflats teeming with wildfowl, then you might come upon a pretty
village like Brockenhurst or Bransgore, Burley or Lyndhurst.


The history

The New Forest was created by William the Conquerer in 1079. At the
time, ‘forest’ was defined as the monarch’s hunting ground and
protected under Forest Law which, among other things, prohibited the
enclosure or cultivation of the land in case it interfered with the
running of the deer. To compensate for this, the local people were
allowed to turn their stock out into the open forest – a privilege
(since enshrined in the Rights of Common) that still exists today.

The fact that the commoners have been grazing their ponies, cattle and
pigs in the New Forest for hundreds of years has had a major impact on
the appearance of its landscape.

Indeed, the New Forest ponies are known as ‘the architects of the
forest’; anyone visiting the New Forest will be able to see how their
grazing has created the characteristic close-cropped lawns between the
wooded areas, as well as distinctive ‘browse lines’ on trees that mark
the highest point they can reach.

Since 2005 the area has been designated a National Park, which means
that the unique landscape that has developed over many hundreds of
years should be preserved for many more generations to come.

For more information on the plants, animals, geography and history of
the area, as well as its heritage and traditions, drop in at the New
Forest Centre at Lyndhurst – it’s a great starting point for anyone
visiting the New Forest for the first time.


Exploring the New Forest

The best way to see the New Forest is close up. You will see things on
foot, by bike or even on horseback that you just wouldn’t see from a
car. There are several places around the New Forest offering cycle hire
and there are lots of stables catering for all levels of horseriding
ability (see below for some suggestions).

One of the great attractions of a National Park is the freedom to
ramble across open land, though there are also lots of waymarked routes
to follow and several organisations offering guided walks. The National
Park Authority itself arranges a number of themed walks throughout the
year exploring different aspects of the New Forest’s flora and fauna –
from birdsong to fungi. (For a full list of walks go to
www.newforestnpa.gov.uk)


Other things to do in the New Forest

For most people visiting the New Forest, the forest itself is the main
attraction, but it can also provide a wonderful backdrop to activities
as diverse as kayaking and golf, sailing and fishing – whether in
river, lake or sea. And in the unlikely event of you tiring of the
great outdoors, there are plenty of museums, galleries, castles and
manor houses for you to visit too.

A few of the top attractions include the world famous National Motor
Museum at Beaulieu, where you can also visit the palace home and
gardens of the Montagu family and the atmospheric Beaulieu Abbey ruins.
The Elizabethan Breamore House – which has its own Countryside Museum – is another popular visitor attraction.

Children will enjoy the Longdown Activity Farm at Ashurst where they
may get the opportunity to bottle-feed the animals and let off some
steam in the outdoor and indoor play areas, while those looking for a
more sedate outing may enjoy a wander through the St Barbe Museum at
Lymington, which houses a permanent exhibition on the New Forest coast
as well as various art exhibitions and events.


Staying and eating in the New Forest

A day trip to the New Forest is lovely, but staying there is even
better. The New Forest offers a wide range of high quality
accommodation from cosy cottages to traditional pubs to country house
hotels.

A longer stay also gives more opportunity to try the wide range of
fresh local food produced in the New Forest. The New Forest Marque is
awarded to quality produce which has been grown, reared, caught, brewed or produced within the New Forest. Many shops, pubs, hotels,
bed-and-breakfasts, cafes and restaurants now stock produce carrying
the Marque. Eating the local food is another way to experience the
uniqueness of the New Forest and support the ancient way of life of the
commoners and local farmers.



A small selection of the many tourist attractions in the New Forest:
* New Forest Centre at Lyndhurst, tel: 023 8028 3444,
office@newforestmuseum.org.uk,
www.thenewforest.co.uk/new_forest_centre.html
* National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, tel: 01590 612123,
info@beaulieu.co.uk, www.beaulieu.co.uk
* Breamore House and Countryside Museum, tel: 01725 512468,
breamore@btinternet.com, www.breamorehouse.com
* Longdown Activity Farm, tel: 023 8029 2837,
enquiries@longdownfarm.co.uk , www.longdownfarm.co.uk
* St Barbe Museum, Lymington, tel: 01590 676969,
office@stbarbe-museum.org.uk, www.stbarbe-museum.org.uk

A small selection of bike hire companies in the New Forest:
* AA Bike Hire (New Forest) at Lyndhurst, tel: 023 8028 3349,
www.aabikehirenewforest.co.uk
* Country Lanes Cycle Centre at Brockenhurst, tel: 01590 622627,
nf@countrylanes.co.uk, www.countrylanes.co.uk/newforest
* Forest Leisure Cycling at Burley, tel: 01425 403584,
mark@forestleisurecycling.co.uk,www.forestleisurecycling.co.uk
* The Bicycle Barn at Lymington, tel: 01590 644441

A small selection of riding stables in the New Forest:
* Bagnum Riding Stables at Ringwood, tel: 01425 476263
* Burley Villa School of Riding at New Milton, tel: 01425 610278,
burleyv@globalnet.co.uk, www.burleyvilla.co.uk
* Forest Park Riding Stables at Brockenhurst, tel: 01590 623429
* Sims Cottage Stables at New Milton, tel: 01425 612961


Visiting The New Forest
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