THE NEW Forest is undoubtedly one of the south of England’s greatest treasures. Created as a hunting ground nearly 1,000 years ago by William the Conqueror, the park of the New Forest has maintained all of its mystery and romance. With over 140 miles of glorious countryside, picturesque villages, bustling market towns, peaceful woodland walks and beautiful coastline, there is something for everyone.
England’s newest national park, the first to be created for 50 years, is well known for its tranquillity. If you are lucky, you may see one of the many deer or badgers that may appear from the undergrowth or one of the 3,000 New Forest ponies that wander freely. Or, simply soak up the countryside itself, the spectacular rolling heath land, the leafy glades and canopies of mighty oak and beech, the numerous streams winding their way through ancient woodland … it’s nature at its best.
With a range of excellent accommodation, scrumptious food, amazing landscape and wandering wildlife, the New Forest is the perfect place to escape to relax, unwind, refresh ….
The Forest is a haven for the cyclist, horse rider and walker, with more than 100 miles of Forestry Commission owned off-road tracks to explore. A network of routes links the main villages and is constantly being expanded and improved, with easy cycle hire and a range of local riding stables to choose from. For water sports fans, there is sailing, windsurfing and water-skiing in abundance along the coast.
Food glorious food
From a cosy tea shop, a traditional English pub or a sumptuous à la carte meal, the New Forest is a gastronomic delight for the true food lover. Chefs include Shaun Hill at the Montagu Arms in Beaulieu and Alex Aiken at Le Poussin at Whitley Ridge. Fans of the traditional full English breakfast are in for a treat with the New Forest Breakfast, available at many hotels and B&Bs, made up of top quality ingredients sourced from across the New Forest.
In touch with nature
The New Forest and surrounding coast is a twitcher’s paradise and, as well as the ponies, donkeys and cattle, you may be lucky enough to glimpse deer, foxes and badgers, browsing under the canopies of mighty oaks. The Forestry Commission runs a range of events throughout the autumn, giving you the chance to explore the forest with a ranger, including guided walks to spot deer and explore the interesting world of bats. For more information see www.forestry.gov.uk
Pigs go wild
A visit to the New Forest in the autumn means you may well see the rare sight of pigs roaming in the open forest. From the end of September, for 60 days, they are allowed to eat the acorns which would otherwise poison the ponies. This is known as the pannage season and is an important part of the forest ecology.
Open top tour with a difference
You can take your bike, walk or sit back and relax on an amazing tour around the forest on board The New Forest Tour Bus. A low-floor, low emissions bus, which offers a “hop on-hop off” service travelling between key points in the New Forest. You can stop the bus anywhere along the route, throw your bike in the back, grab a seat on top and enjoy the scenery, or you can use the timetable to plan a fantastic day out.
Taking a Thomsonfly.com flight from Faro into Bournemouth puts you within less than half-an-hour’s drive of this fascinating area. For further information on all of the above, see www.thenewforest.co.uk or telephone +44 238 028 2269. Flights and accommodation can be booked at www.thomsonfly.com. Those without internet access can book by calling 214 159 122.