24 HOURS IN Lyndhurst
As the New Forest’s de facto capital, this thriving village makes a
great base for a New Forest break – EMMA CAULTON visits
Forget Lapland for a Christmas break – a stayover in the New Forest is so much easier. Instead of reindeer there are freely roaming deer, donkeys, ponies and cattle. A good frost makes the landscape look all wintry and sparkly, and if there’s snow, you can even enjoy some sledging action on the slopes of ‘Bolton’s Bench’ at the bottom of Lyndhurst’s High Street.
Actually, Lyndhurst makes a great base for exploring the New Forest. It is often referred to as the New Forest’s capital as it is home to both the New Forest District Council and the Verderers’ Court, based in the Queen’s House - the only surviving major building of the Charles I period in Hampshire. It is the Verderers who are tasked with conserving the New Forest’s character, landscape and wildlife by administering the Forest’s unique agricultural commoning practices. Each of these administrative centres (the Queen’s House and the Council offices) sit like punctuation points at the top and bottom respectively of Lyndhurst’s busy High Street. In between them, hidden away on Lyndhurst’s central car park (a convenient if utilitarian location) is the
New Forest Heritage Centre, comprising museum, gallery, reference library, gift shop and café.
If you want to find out more about the Forest, this is where to go. The great little museum is free (donations invited) and has lots of imaginative, Forestrelated displays and activities. These include the sounds and atmosphere of Beaulieu Road pony sales yard on trading day, the New Forest in World War
II, Alice’s looking glass (the real Alice through the Looking Glass lived in Lyndhurst latterly), fun family tree, bark rubbing, even a guess the animal poo quiz – a bit of a naughty one for the kiddies! For those who are more serious about understanding the Forest, the Centre is also home to the Christopher Tower Reference Library. This comprehensive collection of material about the New Forest is accessible to the public and encompasses guide books and topics such as gypsies, natural history and military history. The gallery has an ever-changing programme of exhibitions – currently it is Commoners’ Voices, celebrating the Forest’s commoning community, its people, animals, knowledge and skills (until 6 January 2019). There’s also a well-stocked gift shop for souvenirs and Christmas gifts – including cute cuddly animals, mugs decorated with stags and Hampshire-made trugs. Finally stop off at the small, welcoming Tip, Leaf and Bean Café with a good selection (as the name suggests) of loose leaf teas and coffees.
LUNCH & TEA
If there’s one thing in Lyndhurst that’s plentiful, it is places to eat and drink. You’re tripping over tea rooms, cafes, bistros, restaurants and pubs. Recommendations? It depends what you’re looking for. Tea lovers can enjoy a very good cuppa at Tea Total. The Greenwood Tree Café is liked for its hearty all-day breakfasts. For an old-fashioned tea room experience try Lyndhurst Tea House (the menu includes traditional treats such as a Lyndhurst version of Welsh rarebit and treacle tart), Peggy Mays, prettily styled with retro spotty tablecloths in ice cream pastels, and friendly, quirky, Mad Hatter’s Tea Room - themed in homage to Alice Hargreaves, nee Liddell, the original inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice.
Others worth a mention are The Forage Deli & Eaterie with an impressive choice of local goodies including Pinch of
Salt Charcuterie, New Forest Apple Juice, Ashlett Creek Cider Vinegar, Lyburn Cheese and chilli jams and carrot chutneys from
LEFT: There’s plenty to do at the New Forest Centre with museum, gallery, gift shop and cafe