Everything you need to know for a staycation in the New Forest

One of the largest wildwoods in Western Europe, the New Forest National Park has 200 square miles of woods, heathlands and meadows and hundreds of tracks and trails to walk, run and ride along at your leisure. Plus, with almost 6,000 ponies, donkeys and cattle roaming free through the forest and surrounding villages, you’re never far from nature. Our favourite walk took us through thick woodland and into Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, home to some of the tallest trees in the forest. Fallow deer gather here for food every day, supplied by the forest keeper. Map out your ramble at thenewforest.co.uk. 

Things to do 

Take to the water 

A 25-mile drive through the forest to the Solent delivered us to a waterside activity at Bucklers Hard. The historic hamlet was a shipbuilding centre in the 18th century and found fame for building warships for Nelson’s navy, three of which sailed into the Battle of Trafalgar. 

Visitors can take a peek inside the shipwright’s cottage, visit the maritime museum and hop aboard a river cruise to see the picturesque village from the water. Here, New Forest Activities (newforestactivities.co.uk) offers two-hour kayak tours around the marina and estuary, taking in the moored boats and tasting the fresh samphire growing in the water. Tour guide Nicky took us to see some of the most expensive houses in the area, one thought to be owned by the director of Domino’s Pizza. 

Windsurf 

Along the south coast towards Bournemouth we hit the water once again, this time on stand-up paddle boards in Mudeford Quay. Learn to windsurf, SUP or kayak with ShoreSports (shoresports.co.uk), open Friday to Monday until the end of October. Head into town for a seafood snack at The Boathouse, with views of Christchurch Quay. 

Fishing 

I never fancied myself as a fisherwoman until I perched on the banks of the River Avon, armed with a trusty rod and box of wriggling maggots. My partner and I were under the excellent instruction of Dave Quirk, a Hampshire-based enthusiast who has spent almost 60 years bait and fly fishing along UK waters. 

The Hampshire Avon River has more fish species than any other in the UK, from Atlantic salmon to trout. As it turned out, I only caught
a few straggling weeds. Nevertheless, my efforts were praised as Dave untangled my rod for the umpteenth time that hour. My partner had more success, reeling in an unlucky minnow who was duly plopped back into the water where he belonged. A two-hour taster session with Dave costs £50. See hampshire-flyfishing.co.uk. 

Where to stay

A beautiful bolthole in the forest, Undercastle Cottage is surrounded by rolling countryside and a sizeable herd of curious cows and their very cute calves. There’s also kingfishers, otters and birds of prey to be spotted. 

This cottage boasts half a mile of exclusive private fishing and a rowing boat to take you there. The imposing thatched house sits in sprawling grounds, and there’s a cosy fishing lodge with twin beds, while the house itself has two double bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room and double-height living area with wood-burning stove to warm up during the winter months. 

Guests at Undercastle Cottage arrive to discover a hamper full of local produce, from fresh eggs, bread and cheese to chocolate, cake and beer. Short breaks at Undercastle Cottage start at £1,536.80 (sleeping six) or £1,152.60 for the main house only (sleeping four). Book at undercastlecottage.co.uk. 

Where to Eat

The Horse and Groom, Woodgreen

A short walk from the Undercastle Cottage with a well-stocked bar full of local beer and guest wines, plus a great selection of hot food for lunch and dinner. Find the menu at horseandgroom-woodgreen.com. 

The Rockingham Arms, Wellow

This cosy country pub, a stone’s throw from the popular Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World, boasts its own shop full of tempting gifts, greetings cards and doggie-themed products. We popped by for lunch and opted for a ‘pie for two’, with lashings of thick gravy, creamy mash and greens, all for £30. See details at rockinghamarms.co.uk. 

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