THE NEW FOR­EST

Exclusively British - - CRAFTSMANSHIP -

This for­mer royal hunt­ing-ground, teem­ing with wildlife and graz­ing an­i­mals, in­clud­ing the fa­mous New For­est ponies, is 566 sq km of man­aged wood­land, pas­ture and heath, a won­der of nat­u­ral his­tory.

FURZEY GAR­DENS

An en­chant­ing, in­for­mal wood­land gar­den with sur­prises round ev­ery cor­ner. Man­aged by a char­i­ta­ble trust of­fer­ing per­sonal devel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to peo­ple with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, ev­ery sea­son of the year brings new ex­pe­ri­ences. » min­stead­trust.org.uk

NEW FOR­EST WILDLIFE PARK

Near Ring­wood, this fam­ily-run an­i­mal park is part­zoo/part-sanc­tu­ary, pro­vid­ing a safe en­vi­ron­ment for view­ing a wide va­ri­ety of mam­mals, from bi­son to harvest mouse, tak­ing in wild boar, deer and ot­ters. » new­forest­wildlifepark.co.uk

LYMING­TON

In­ter­na­tion­ally fa­mous as a yacht­ing cen­tre, with three mari­nas, this pretty town was voted UK’S ‘best coastal town’, cit­ing its trans­port links and lo­cal scenery. Lyming­ton is both a per­fect tour­ing base and a ‘fun’ place, in its own right, with in­de­pen­dent shops and restau­rants dot­ted amongst high-street names.

BEAULIEU

The es­tate has been the home of the Mon­tagu fam­ily for nearly 500 years and Palace House, built around the gatehouse of the 13th cen­tury abbey, is one of the ten Trea­sure Houses of Eng­land. Most vis­i­tors will head for the world-fa­mous Na­tional Mo­tor Mu­seum, home of around 250 iconic and his­toric ve­hi­cles, the en­ter­tain­ing Top Gear dis­play and favourite cars from TV and Cin­ema. Less fran­tic, but no less mem­o­rable, are the gar­dens and wood­land walks, the re­main­ing build­ings of the mas­sive abbey and the Secret Army Ex­hi­bi­tion, telling the lit­tle-known story of Beaulieu’s con­tri­bu­tion to the SOE in WW2. » beaulieu.co.uk

BUCKLER’S HARD

Make time for a visit to this liv­ing mu­seum of life on the Beaulieu river. The de­light­ful vil­lage was, for cen­turies, home to a thriv­ing ship-build­ing in­dus­try - Nel­son’s Agamem­non, among many - and the only street, wide and flanked by Ge­or­gian ter­races, slopes down to the wa­ter’s edge. His­tory is in the air and a splen­did Mar­itime Mu­seum vividly brings that pe­riod to life, also telling of the con­tri­bu­tion made to WW2. Af­ter a leisurely river cruise, look in per­fectly recre­ated labour­ers’ cot­tages and the Chapel of St Mary (al­legedly a smug­glers’ head­quar­ters) and re­lax in the Cap­tain’s Cabin tea­rooms or, per­haps, the 18th cen­tury New Inn. » buck­ler­shard.co.uk

EXBURY GAR­DENS

200 won­der­ful acres of wood­land and gar­dens, most in­for­mal, and 22 miles of path­ways to ex­plore make for an ab­sorb­ing visit – even for younger ones and non­gar­den­ers. De­signed and cre­ated for Lord Roth­schild in 1919, this botan­i­cal par­adise sur­prises and de­lights, at ev­ery turn, with spa­ces ded­i­cated to re­gions of the world (‘Amer­i­can’, ‘Ja­panese’) and in­di­vid­ual species (aza­lea, iris, heather, hy­drangea, etc). For those less keen on walk­ing, there is a hop-on/hop-off elec­tric buggy ser­vice, with 11 stops around the es­tate to en­able leisurely view­ing, and you will love the charm­ing nar­row-gauge steam rail­way, ex­tended and im­proved for 2017. » exbury.co.uk

RING­WOOD BREW­ERY

Launched in 1978 by the in­flu­en­tial mas­ter-brewer, Peter Austin, out of frus­tra­tion with the con­glom­er­ates of the day, this tra­di­tional ‘craft-ale’ brew­ery is now firmly es­tab­lished in the re­gion and, un­der the benev­o­lent pro­tec­tion of Marstons plc, its in­de­pen­dent fu­ture is se­cure. Pro­duc­ing a con­sis­tent range of qual­ity beers (my per­sonal favourite is ‘ Boon­dog­gle’, a medium-strength blonde ale), and some sea­sonal ‘spe­cials’, Ring­wood is happy to wel­come vis­i­tors to take a pre-booked tour, in the com­pany of en­ter­tain­ing and knowl­edge­able guides, to learn about the tech­nique of brew­ing, the crit­i­cal fac­tors and the source of the var­i­ous flavours and colours, be­fore set­tling down in the Tun Room to sam­ple the wares. » ring­wood­brew­ery.co.uk

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