We’re incredibly lucky in the New Forest to have hundreds of spectacular hospitality businesses dotted around, for residents and visitors to enjoy and create unforgettable memories at. And lots of these hospitality businesses are based around delicious food and drink.
From pubs, inns, cafes and restaurants, to hotels, holiday parks and bed & breakfasts, even local attractions and activity centres with their own cafes and restaurants on site! All of these fabulous places to eat and drink have staff working day in, day out, to produce the best food and drink and the greatest experiences possible for their guests.
Whether it’s the chefs in the kitchens, the waiting staff hosting out front, the owner of the local business working hard behind the scenes or the gardeners taking care and growing the best produce for their kitchens and bars to use, we want to celebrate these people over the next year and give them the love and support they deserve for all their hard work.
See below to find out which hospitality staff members have been chosen and find out more about them and their jobs with stories, photographs and videos...
Michael Clitheroe, Balmer Lawn Hotel
Michael has been the General Manager at the Balmer Lawn Hotel for 6 years and a hospitality industry professional for over 20. He’s previously been GM at the Sandbanks Hotel, Poole, GM at the Bowood Hotel Spa and Golf Resort in Wiltshire and Director of his own 10-bedroom boutique hotel on the edge of the Cotswolds for 3 years with his wife.
Working alongside owners Chris and Alison Wilson, over the last 6 years he has helped them position the Hotel in the luxury sector. He has helped raise the profile of the hotel with an exciting refurbishment programme, expanding the capacity of its spa and function rooms, introducing a brewery, new wedding pavilion in the gardens and a general re-branding.
The results of this speak for themselves; the Balmer Lawn has maintained 2 AA rosettes for outstanding food and 83% silver-star status for the Hotel for over 3 years now. More recently the hotel has maintained an incredible 97% staff retention figure for its full times roles for 2 years and has won multiple awards including New Forest Business Partnerships “Business of the Year” and “Training and Development Award” 2020.
Michael believes the most important asset any business has is its staff, and is totally committed to continuous personal and collective staff development and investment. He himself has recently completed a Chartered Management Degree in Leadership and Business Management at Solent University. Michael is an active member of many industry bodies. Locally he is Chair of Go New Forest’s Hotel, Pubs, Inns & Restaurants Sector Group and Steering Group Member of Go New Forest’s ‘Taste the New Forest’ 2021 Campaign. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, and a committee member of Bournemouth and Poole College Employers Advisory Board.
Michael is incredibly proud to be April’s Taste the New Forest hospitality personality as this month sees the opening of the Balmer Lawn Hotel’s newest venture – The Lodge - a seasonally themed outdoor venue which can accommodate over 100 people in a 30 x 12 metre covered stretch tent. The Balmer Lawn led the way in the New Forest’s outdoor dining concepts last Autumn with the Ski themed Lodge which served over 3000 customers in just 3 weeks. Michael says: “We are so excited to be opening up The Lodge in April, with a summer beach theme, so you will be in for a great time! We are blessed with incredible outside spaces and I’m confident that customers will love the new improvements.”
Balmer Lawn Hotel is a leading Go New Forest Member and is one of the New Forest’s most iconic and highly trusted venues. Be sure to visit through the summer, where you can enjoy “Taste the New Forest” events and menu specialities like their New Forest Pizza served in The Lodge with a fantastic Forest view!
Andrew & Sarah, The Commoners Larder
Andrew and Sarah are Commoners of the New Forest and have their own local company, The Commoner's Larder, where they deliver local foods to your doorstep, as well as supplying local food to pubs, cafes and restaurants in the New Forest. This local food includes their pork, beef, lamb and chicken eggs.
Read more in this The Forest Foodie Meets The Commoner's Larder interview - Flora Richardson & Andrew and Sarah (April 2021) :
On a gloriously sunny Monday in April, along with the Go New Forest team, we were invited up to meet Sarah & Andrew Parry-Norton at Storm’s Farm near Cadnam. Not just any farm, these guys are traditional New Forest Commoners. Their skills and (incredible) knowledge having been passed down from many, many generations. We couldn’t wait to learn more. We had a full tour of the common land, the bog (integral part to the Forest), the pig stys, the barns housing all of the animals and the farm itself.
Firstly, what is a New Forest Commoner, and how did you become one?
Commoners of The New Forest are those people who occupy land and property which also has rights over the Forest. We have the right, having been granted by the Lords of the Manor, to turn out ‘commonable’ livestock such as ponies, cows, sheep, pigs etc. (Andrew:) I have been involved all of my life, and before that my father, my grand father etc. (Sarah:) I have worked as a teacher for many years until last March when Andrew finally persuaded me to ‘retire’ and work full time with him on the farm. I didn’t know much about communing but I have learned so much. I am very much a country girl at heat though having grown up in the countryside and love my riding, being outdoors, shooting etc.
How many Commoners are there in The New Forest?
There are now over 700 of us! Most commoners will only have a small farm. It’s by no means easy, but really good fun.
What part do you play in looking after the land, and why is that important?
We look after about 1500 acres. It’s hugely important because without us, without our animals grazing there would be extremely long grass, someone would have to manually cut it all. The land is home to some very rare plants and flowers, without the cattle and ponies poaching up the land, they wouldn’t be able to survive such as the Fleabane. The Forest would be totally inaccessible to anyone unless it is looked after. The landscape that is enjoyed by many visitors is the result of generations of stock grazing this special environment. Lowland heath is rarer than the Amazon Rainforest.
We also need to play a part in educating people visiting The New Forest to play their part in helping to protect it. We do often chat to people who are cycling across the common land for example – about the damage this is doing. It compacts the ground so much meaning flowers and plants are therefore unable to grow through. We absolutely want people to visit our beautiful Forest but they must stick to the paths, and the paths only!
How many animals do you have?
We have 40 cows, the same number of sheep, 50-60 pigs. We don’t let all of the pigs out because there isn’t enough food for them. The grazing animals, especially the Ruby Devon’s, do really well out here, they are good foragers. We turn them out during the Summer months and our pigs are releases into the woods during the Autumn (Pannage Season) to hoover up the acorns and beech mast.
You started The Commoners Larder recently; can you tell us more about that?
Yes, we started the Commoners Larder to try and generate a bit more income and to be able to widen our customer base enabling more people to try our produce. We deliver meat, breakfast, BBQ, and roast boxes all around The New Forest. From the Forests’ ancient woodlands of oak and beech, to the mixed grasses, herbs, heathlands and lawns come the most incredible flavours and textures to the meat. We supply various local butchers but our main big one in Wimborne take our whole carcasses and butcher them to order depending on what our customers are after. All of our Ruby Devon’s, Lamb and Pigs go there. We also have about 350 chickens – so lots of eggs. People can have a box delivered weekly by ordering via our website. We sell lamb, beef, chicken, pork, homemade burgers, sausages, gammon, and we have game when it’s in season.
** We were very kindly treated to a homemade Pork Bap for lunch – so I can confirm it was absolutely delicious. **
Thank you so much to Sarah & Andrew. A truly inspiring, insightful and fascinating morning out. A stunning spot in the middle of nowhere, and it was a pleasure to meet two people so knowledgeable.
Here at The Forest Foodie, we are going to work alongside The Commoners Larder, to include their lamb and beef into our hampers and we will be creating new three course dinners (which we will deliver) using their produce too.
Flora | Founder of The Forest Foodie, Lymington | April 2021.
The Forest Foodie deliver Hampers & Picnics of Fresh Locally Sourced Produce from around The New Forest to homes, holiday cottages and boats around The New Forest.
Barry & Mary Topp, New Forest Cider
Barry & Mary Topp at New Forest Cider.
The Topp Family brew cider the traditional way from their farm in the traditional, picturesque village of Burley, using English apples from their own orchards. Barry is the Founder of New Forest Cider and Mary, his daughter, is a Director.
They make a selection of different ciders, as well as apple juice too. They sell their cider and juice at their farm shop, as well as other local produce, including jams, chutneys, honey, fruit & veg and more!
New Forest Cider also sell their cider to local partners across the New Forest, such as pubs, restaurants, hotels, cafes and delis, as well as selling it in their own café on-site, The Cider Pantry, where you can also try their popular cider-soaked scones! New for 2021.They also have their Coffee Pod open for takeaway drinks and food, the perfect stop-off for when you’re walking or cycling in the New Forest.
Find out more at Barry, Mary and New Forest Cider in the video…
Simon Noble, The Noble Bee
Simon at The Noble Bee.
Simon is passionate about bees and nature conservation. The Noble Bee produces exceptional quality and delicious honey, which is award winning! Their honey is 100% natural, raw, unprocessed honey!
They produce the honey from specially located apiaries in wild areas across the New Forest, with their main home base being at Furzedown Farm Conservation Area. They currently offer two types of honey made by their bees, Spring and Summer Wild Flower Honey and New Forest Heather Honey. As well as their pure honey and natural raw honey, they also produce beeswax lip balm, hand balm, candles and also beeswax wraps too - all of which can be bought via their online shop. There are also many local outlets that also sell their products, including Fairweathers Garden Centre, Beaulieu Motor Museum Gift Shop, St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, and more - see a full list here.
As well as producing delicious honey, and other products, The Noble Bee also run incredible, unmissable Beekeeping Experiences in the New Forest. On a Beekeeping Experience with The Noble Bee, you'll learn a lot about bees and beekeeping, you'll get the chance to get hands on and take a look inside an active beehive, make your own beeswax candle, get to try some tasty honey and have loads of fun.
Find out more about Simon and The Noble Bee in this film about taking bees out into the New Forest for the flowering of the Heather - made my Matt Dunkinson...
Michelle Rogers, Waterloo Arms
Michelle from The Waterloo Arms!
Find out more about Michelle and The Waterloo Arms in the interview below :
- How long have you been landlady at the Waterloo Arms in Lyndhurst?
I've been the landlady at the Waterloo since September 2007.
- What’s your favourite thing about being landlady at the pub?
I've always loved being in hospitality, there is absolutely nothing better than seeing contented customers leaving after having a lovely meal, a good pint and a great experience at our pub.
- What do you love about owning a pub that is located in the New Forest?
We are ideally situated in the heart of the forest and just off the main road leading in. This means we have a great local clientele from the surrounding areas plus plenty of tourists who love the picturesque thatch building and quaintness of our pub, which is complimented with the ‘ancient’ woodland and heathland in the New Forest, especially surrounding Lyndhurst, where our 17th century pub is located.
- What is your favourite dish on the menu?
We serve mostly homemade good old pub grub, with a few specials that change regularly, including fish dishes, vegetarian and vegan choices plus plenty of gluten free or gluten free option dishes. There is also the option of choosing smaller appetite portions on quite a few of our dishes, which people love, especially at lunchtimes. But personally, my favourite would have to be one of the pies - steak and ale, chicken and mushroom or vegetable... deep filled in shortcrust pastry with plenty of gravy, vegetables and a choice of chips or new potatoes – so good, if I do say so myself!
- What local drinks are on the menu?
We offer a great range of ciders, beers, lagers, wines and spirits, including :
- A very popular local ale - Ringwood Best/Razorback
- Local gins - Beachcomber from Lymington and three from Winchester Gin Co - Twisted Nose (Watercress), Fine Dry & Gunpowder Navy Strength
- Plus, a Cornish IPA - Sharps Atlantic, too.
- What do you think makes people come to your pub?
We get a lot of return business from locals all year round and tourists visiting year on year and maybe two or 3 times within that year. We love to welcome them back and know that they enjoy the cosy, quaint beams, fireplaces and the character inside the building plus during the summer months our lovely sunny garden with plenty of space for couples and families alike.
I believe many return as having been here for so many years we are known for our food - the head chef, Jamie, has been with us for over 8 years.
- What do you think are the ingredients to make a pub successful?
When we first bought the pub we decided to make it the type of venue where we would like to spend time as a customer - therefore there are no TV sets, no pool tables and no gaming machines …. just a good old fashioned country pub with atmosphere where people converse, laugh, drink and eat with old friends and make new ones.
Dan Tanner, Sopley Farm
Dan Tanner at Sopley Farm.
Dan took on Sopley Farm in 1976, when he turned the farm to a fruit and vegetable farm. Sopley Farm has expanded from having just a few huts to a wonderful onsite farm shop and newly opened bakery, too.
At Sopley Farm, there is also a brilliant free children’s play area and you can also pick your own seasonal fruit and vegetables to take home to enjoy and use in your own foodie creations.
There is also a stunning lake at Sopley Farm, where there are shepherds huts and cabins to stay in. Various events also take place around the lake, and you can also book the lake and the surrounding area out for weddings and other celebrations and parties.
At Sopley Farm they have acres of fruit and vegetables growing through the year, including asparagus, raspberries, strawberries, beans, sweetcorn, pumpkins and more. They are also known for their beautiful rows of sunflowers and wildflowers during the summer months!
Over the years Dan has taken on other farms in the local area, he now has 2 other locations, Cat & Fiddle Farm, another fruit and vegetable farm on the A35 and Burley Park, used for events and where you can see Red Deer.
Find out more about Dan and Sopley Farm in the video …
Debbie Lewis, Country Inns
Debbie and her husband, Duane, own 6 wonderful country pubs across the New Forest. They began with The New Forest Inn in Emery Down 14 years ago, and since then they have expanded over the years, now owning The Trusty Servant Inn in Minstead, The Royal Oak Hilltop in Beaulieu, The Royal Oak in Downton, The Mortimer Arms in Ower and The Bold Forester in Marchwood.
All of their pubs offer very different menus and settings, but are all incredibly successful and very popular places to visit for lunch and dinner in the New Forest.
Find out more about Debbie at all of her pubs in the video…