Known as the northern gateway to the New Forest, Fordingbridge, is a small riverside town. Built on the banks of the River Avon, Fordingbridge was recorded in the Domesday Book under the name ‘Forde’.
A key landmark of the town is the medieval bridge, upstream from the ford, with its seven graceful arches that span the river.
Once an industrial town and commercial centre, Fordingbridge was also noted for its smuggling - the infamous Captain Diamond, the ‘Smuggler King' spent much of his time in a local hostelry. During the 16th century, the town was a centre for cloth making.
St Mary’s Church, just off the High Street, was also mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. It has features of Norman architecture and was restored in the 19th century. Within the churchyard you can find a memorial to James Alexander Seton, the last British man killed in a duel in England.
The artist Paul Kidby, best known for his art based on Terry Pratchett's Discworld, lives and works in Fordingbridge to this day.
These days, the town offers a range of independent shops, pubs and restaurants.
Things to do in Fordingbridge
A great place to start with things to do in Fordingbridge is with a visit the town's museum. Open from Easter until the end of October, this free museum brings the local history to life. You will find out more about the history of the local businesses and trades, get to experience a WWII bomb shelter and learn about one of Fordingbridge’s famous residents, local artist Augustus John.
You can find a statue of the artist near to the town bridge. A controversial figure in the town, Augustus John lived here between 1927 and 1961.
Close by is Fordingbridge Riverside Park with children's play area, secluded memorial gardens, parks and sports playing fields. There are also opportunities for day fishing at the Recreation Ground (tickets can be purchased from the Riverside Kiosk).
For keen walkers, The Avon Valley Path, a long-distance walking route from Salisbury to Christchurch, passes through Fordingbridge. This is a great way of exploring some of the town’s nearby countryside and take in some of the sweeping views across the River Avon.
The open heathlands of the New Forest are just a short distance away from Fordingbridge. Nearby Godshill is a popular spot for a walk for both locals and visitors alike.
Cycling is another popular activity in the Fordingbridge area. Sandy Balls Holiday Village and Hockey’s Farm Shop (both within a short distance of Fordingbridge) offer bike hire and can suggest some cycling routes for you depending on your ability.
See if you can negotiate your way around the inflatable obstacles at the New Forest Water Park. Other options also include paddle boarding, kayaking, wake boarding and water-skiing. There is also a clubhouse overlooking the lake for those who prefer something slightly more sedate!
Insight Activities offers woodland activities at Featherdown Farm, near Fordingbridge. Archery, rifle crossbows, axe throwing, archery combat tag, bushcraft skills and giant catapults make up some of the activities you can get involved with here.
History buffs will enjoy a visit to the Elizabethan Manor of Breamore House with its Countryside Museum. Completed in 1593, the house today looks much the same as to the original owners. A footpath from Breamore House leads you to a walk to the Breamore Mizmaze, a labyrinth where all paths eventually lead to the little mound in the centre.
Fordingbridge also have their own Cinema, which has screenings every day of the lastest films and also the classics! The Regal Cinema is a beautiful, newly refurbished cinema and is the perfect place to visit if the weather is a bit grotty outside or for an evening family outing or romantic date.
Shoppers can expect a range of local food shops, a gift shop and a couple of garden centres. Cream teas and freshly-ground flour are on offer at nearby Alderholt Mill.
To the south of Fordingbridge, Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve makes an interesting stop for nature lovers. These former gravel pits are now a haven for wildfowl, dragonflies and other wildlife.
Events in Fordingbridge
Fordingbridge Museum holds temporary exhibitions, talks and other history events.
Nearby Breamore House holds a variety of car shows on certain weekends over the summer months as well as the popular Countryside Museum Working Weekend.
Explore some of the countryside on a gentle stroll with Walking Picnics. Each walk takes in some of the special nature of the New Forest, followed by a tasty picnic.
For families, Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve offers a variety of events during the school holidays including nature walks. For adults, there is also a range of workshops available including photography courses.
Places to stay in and around Fordingbridge
There are several places to stay on the outskirts and nearby to Fordingbridge including a handful of self-catering holiday cottages, a couple of B&Bs and a holiday village.
A wonderful self catering cottage in the heart of Fordingbridge is Robins Nest. A cosy, detatched bungalow perfect for a romantic break to the New Forest.
West Park Farm has four stunning character barn conversions set within working family farm to the northwest of the town. Further south is Alderholt Mill, a picturesque working water mill and self-catering cottage and B&B.
To the east of Fordingbridge at the small village of Godshill there are a handful of self-catering properties including Wayside. Godshill is also home to the famous Sandy Balls Holiday Village which comes with pool, bar, gym and spa. Touring pitches for tents and caravans, plus glamping pods are also available here.
Short Stay Homes also have some fantastic Self Catering properties located in Fordingbridge and around the New Forest. From picturesque thatched cottages to riverside lodges, there are loads of wonderful places to choose from.
Take a look at our accommodation pages to enquire about availability for your Fordingbridge-based break today.
Where to eat and drink in Fordingbridge
Within the town there are several places to eat including a selection of pubs and cafes. It's also worth heading just out of the town, where you can find lots of other great places for food and drink, including Hockey's Farm. Sandy Balls Holiday Village also have 2 great places to eat on site, Aubrey's Forest Kitchen and The Woodside Inn.
Getting to Fordingbridge
Fordingbridge is easily accessible from Salisbury and Bournemouth via the A338.
The nearest railway station to Fordingbridge is at Salisbury, 11 miles north of the town.
Regular buses like Fordingbridge from Salisbury, Bournemouth, Verwood and Ferndown.