Despite its name, the New Forest is not new at all. In fact, it’s old. Very old. Close to 1,000 years old, dating all the way back to 1079.
Set near the southern coast of England, its surrounded by picturesque villages, seaside towns and historic landmarks. But there’s plenty to explore within the forest, too. The New Forest National Park is bursting with natural beauty and roaming wildlife.
Vibrant green lawns, heathland that glows purple under a cloak of heather and tall trees line the many cycling, horse-riding and hiking routes across the 143 miles of ancient woodland.
Cycling the Woodland Route
If you don’t have your own bicycle, you can hire a mountain bike for £18.00 from Forest Leisure Cycling in Burley village centre. This is also a good place to pick up the Woodland trail.
It’s definitely mountain bike territory, as you cycle over roots, gravel and wood chippings, however calling it mountain biking feels like a bit of an overstatement. There are some slopes and inclines to tackle but they fall a long way short of being labelled “mountains”.
In general it is a fairly flat route and great for beginners, families or anyone who’s a little out of practice, like myself.
My Little Ponies
The natural landscape is home to a variety of wild animals. Deer graze on the grass lawns as rare birds soar over the treetops.
The easiest animals to spot, though, are the numerous wild ponies that wander around the forest and towns. From larger breeds to tiny Shetland ponies, they roam free and aren’t afraid to say hello.
Stop For A Snack
There are plenty of picturesque places to pause along the Woodland Route if you’re feeling peckish. From taking a break by a babbling brook to tree-covered grassy areas. Pack a picnic and make an afternoon of it, taking in the scenery while you snack and give your legs a well-deserved rest.
If you’re not that organised, there are some delightful delicacies to be found in the nearby towns. Try the Station House Tea Rooms in Holmsley, a converted ex-railway station, for traditional cream tea in a quaint setting.
Or try Peggy Mays Cafe in the pretty village of Lyndhurst for a great selection of breakfast and lunch favourites and a delicious selection of cakes.
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