When people told me that Hampshire’s New Forest is full of wild horses and donkeys, I pictured them roaming through fields in the distance. What I didn’t imagine was that they actually wander the streets, hang out in people’s front yards and casually walk past your hotel window!
There were animals everywhere.
I was in heaven.
It was a beautiful and peaceful part of the country where I really got to relax and just enjoy nature. Aside from hanging out with the animals, we went on nature walks, drove through cute country towns, ate at cosy country pubs and soaked up the sunshine in our hotel’s huge grounds.
We visited a massive number of towns in the area but ere are just a few of the highlights:
We stayed in Brockenhurst, which is one of the New Forest’s towns where animals roam freely. Although they are “wild” in that they roam anywhere they please around these parts, they do actually belong to New Forest Commoners.
Brockenhurst was brimming with character and charm; donkeys casually crossed streets in front of us, we got stuck behind cows on narrow country lanes, and horses hung out in people’s front yards. One of my favourite moments was sitting in the hotel bar in the evening and seeing a group of cows and donkeys casually meandering along the road right outside the window!
All throughout the Forest there are many nature trails and picnic areas off the side of the road. As we drove along, we picked an exit at random and ended up at Anderwood walking trail. Dressed more for a casual stroll than a hike, we didn’t venture along the entire track but it was nice to spend an hour or so losing ourselves in nature and breathing in fresh, forest air.
Burley is a sweet little town known for its home-made cider and its history of witchcraft! Not much more to say but I really wanted to include this photo of geese!
Beaulieu is quite possibly the prettiest village in The New Forest. Situated beside a lake, the town is full of chocolate-box charm and the friendliest-looking donkeys around! I wanted to pet them all but managed to restrain myself due to the “Do Not Touch the Animals” signs you see all around the Forest.
We came across Milford-on-Sea during an afternoon of exploring. A stark contrast to the rest of the area, the town (as its name suggests) sits on the sea, rather than being surrounded by dense woodland. It was amazing to be exploring a forest one minute then enjoying a salty sea breeze the next.
Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary
Naturally, the deer sanctuary in Bolderwood was at the top of our “must-see” list in the Forest. With free entry to the sanctuary and a purpose-built viewing platform overlooking the deer’s meadow, it’s a fantastic place for immersing yourself in nature.
At first, we couldn’t see a single deer from the viewing platform, which given our luck (or lack thereof) at Richmond Park previously, was extra-disappointing. We went for a stroll through the sanctuary regardless as it’s peaceful and beautiful area to explore.
Thankfully, by the time we passed the viewing platform on the way back up, the meadow in front of us was filled with grazing deer! Pretty sure we spotted Bambi amongst them…
The deer sightings were the ideal way to end our stay in The New Forest and the Forest itself was the perfect place to spend the last few days of our road trip before heading back to the bright lights of London.