How often in life can you spend the day entirely surrounded by beauty? All day, every day, if you’re in the New Forest.
Sometimes, however, even we have to choose. So here – in no particular order – is our guide to the New Forest’s most beautiful places.
1. Telegraph Hill. Free roaming animals? Check. Stunning views for miles? Check. Winding paths to follow? Check. And did we mention that the view across this gorgeous heathland are even better at sunset? (Or so our spies tell us!)
2. The Beaulieu River. It’s not difficult to see why beautiful Curtle Meadows was asked to stand in for the River Thames in the Oscar-winning 1966 film, ‘A Man For All Seasons’. There’s a similar effect as you enter the village from Hatchet Lane, where protected reed beds sway ethereally in the breeze.
3. Exbury Gardens. One guest described these internationally-renowned gardens as ‘heaven with the gates open’ and if you visit in the spring, when the Rothschilds’ outstanding collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and rare trees are in bloom, you’ll understand why. Autumn and summer are just as grand!
4. The Northern Commons. There’s nothing common about our commons and heaths but the National Trust’s Ibsley and Rockford Commons in the north of the Forest are two of the best. A walk from Ibsley to Rockford takes in military history, the Huff Duff (an old directional station) and, in season, flaring purple heather.
5. Lepe Beach. Enjoy a view very similar to the one admired by Queen Victoria when she visited the area as a Princess in 1833. (Her husband likened the views in this area to those in the Bay of Naples.) Given that Lepe is one of the few beaches on the south coast with wild, natural land behind it, it’s easy to understand why.
6. The Ornamental Drive, Rhinefield near Brockenhurst. Planted up by the Victorians, nothing beats a stroll, cycle or walk down this avenue, which is home to a pair of Redwoods as well as trees noted for their stunning autumn colours.
7. Buckler’s Hard. With it’s picture-box Georgian cottages running down to the Beaulieu River, you’d be hard-pushed to find a prettier man-made beauty spot. Buying a ticket allows you as much time as you’d like to enjoy the scenery, plus the museums and the chance to learn how this tiny village made ships for Lord Nelson’s navy.
8. The Ancient Woodlands. Most of the remaining Ancient Woodlands in Europe are in the UK, a large number of those are in the New Forest, and their beauty is year-round. Dark, magnificent shapes in the winter frost and snow, magical with the first leaves of spring and then summer, and perhaps at their best in autumn, as they gently shed their brilliantly-coloured leaves. Find them in the forest which stretches from Bramshaw and Eyeworth Woods in the north, Berry Wood in the west, to Frame Wood in the south-east. Or try Red Shoot and Pinnick in the west, or Bratley Wood near Picket Post.
9. The Art Gardens at The Mill at Gordelton. In addition to the work of local artists displayed on this hotel’s Art Walk, you’ll find a ‘Secret Garden’, which contains a renovated Victorian swimming pool now used as a pond, and a traditional knot garden.
10. The Bluebells. True, you can only see them for around three weeks in the months of April and May but they are always worth the effort. Best places to spot them are Clayhill Heath near Lyndhurst and Broomy Inclosure north of Linwood.