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Character, history and location - a 'beautiful place'

Beaulieu: Palace House and the mill pool
Beaulieu: Palace House and the mill pool

Beaulieu is located on the south-eastern edge of the New Forest, 12 kilometres (7½ miles) from Lyndhurst, and well lives up to Beaulieu Abbey’s original Anglo-Norman, Latinised name Bellus Locus Regis, ‘the beautiful place of the king’.

Beaulieu has, in fact, a strong claim to be amongst the most attractive, most pleasantly situated, most historically interesting of all the New Forest villages.

Beaulieu - first impressions

Visitors entering Beaulieu from an easterly direction – from Hythe and the A326 – pass first on the left, the picturesque Beaulieu River, whilst Beaulieu’s 13th century parish church can be seen on the right, set well back from the road. The Beaulieu Abbey Outer Gatehouse, a structure dating back to the 14th century, is also on the right, beside the road as it bends left to enter the village; and beyond the gatehouse, again on the right, is Palace House, an imposing building that is the home of the Montagu family.

Those coming into Beaulieu village from the opposite direction - from Brockenhurst, Lymington or Lyndhurst – are likely to first notice the large, reed-fringed tidal mill pool - the Mill Dam - that dominates the north-western edge of the village. This was created in medieval times by Beaulieu Abbey monks who built a dam to provide water power to drive their corn mill.

But before travellers from Brockenhurst and Lymington reach the village centre, they may notice just outside the parish boundary, another quite large stretch of water: Hatchet Pond. Fed by narrow streams that drain the adjacent heathland, the pond is on the site of a series of marl pits that around 200 years ago were flooded by damming the main stream so as to provide water to drive the wheels of nearby Hatchet Mill.

Beaulieu Abbey, Palace House and the National Motor Museum

Beaulieu Abbey, Palace House and the National Motor Museum collectively offer the opportunity to walk around what remains of the Cistercian Abbey ruins and learn about the life of the monks; explore the historic stately home and gardens; view the extensive collection of motor cars and motoring memorabilia; and enjoy a variety of rides and drives.

Beaulieu Mill

Now owned by the Beaulieu Estate, the mill is one of a small number of relatively intact tide mills that survive in Britain. It is unlikely, though, that it will ever be returned to full working order.

Beaulieu Mill
Beaulieu Mill

The Mill Dam - a haven for wildlife

Bordered on one side by Palace House and its grounds, on another by cottages and elsewhere by reeds and open shores, the dam forms a picturesque part of the village's impressive landscape and is a haven for wildlife.

Little egrets and grey herons stalk their prey in the shallow waters, oystercatchers and redshanks use their long bills to probe the mud for morsels, and mute swans glide smoothly across the water, accept bread from visitors and build their nests amongst the dense, waterside vegetation.

Other waterfowl are often present, and in spring and summer, swallows hawk for insects above the water's surface. The sharp-eyed might even see a kingfisher flash by or perched on an overhanging branch, resting after a meal or peering down into the water, ready to pounce.

Migratory brown trout pass through on their journey from the sea to spawn in the upper reaches of the Beaulieu River. Some travel by again as adults heading back to sea, whilst youngsters, too, make the journey to spend their early years in salt water.

The village street

Beaulieu’s narrow village street, High Street, is lined on either side by brick-built properties dating mostly from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Shops are relatively few in number – this is a village of modest size – and include a post office and general store, delicatessen, garden centre, hair and nail studio, tea rooms and a picture gallery featuring original works and limited edition prints of local and other subjects.

The Montagu Arms dominates Beaulieu’s main through route. Described as a luxury country house hotel, it provides accommodation as well as featuring a popular restaurant and bar.

Wanderers along the way

Ponies and donkeys graze Beaulieu mill pool’s grassy borders, others wander the High Street, whilst yet more loiter around the village car park, waiting hopefully to be fed by passers-by. Cattle can also often be seen nearby, roaming free, enjoying access to the village and surrounding common lands.

Buckler's Hard

The tiny hamlet of Buckler's Hard is nearby.

Situated amidst delightful scenery alongside the Beaulieu River, Buckler's Hard allows visitors to experience and learn about life in an 18th century ship-building village, cruise on the river and enjoy woodland and riverside walks. The Master Builder’s House Hotel offers a choice of food, drink and accommodation, and there is also a tea room present.

A pleasant 7.5 kilometre (4½ mile) walk route - which is also suitable for cyclists - links Beaulieu with Buckler's Hard.

Beaulieu places to stay

Bed and breakfast facilities are available within Beaulieu village and in a number of outlying properties. The nearest (Camping in the Forest) campsites are at Roundhill, 8 kilometres (5 miles) away on the Brockenhurst road; and at Denny Wood and Matley Wood, 9.5 kilometres (6 miles) distant on the road leading from Beaulieu to Lyndhurst.

Hampshire Place Names: Richard Coates
The New Forest: Jack Hargreaves and Terry Heathcote
An Album of Old Beaulieu and Buckler’s Hard: Susan Tomkins

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** New Forest ponies **
New Forest ponies in the road
Ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during the first six months of 2018, 36 animals were killed or injured on Forest roads, compared with 26 in the same period in 2017, a shocking rise of 38%. And in the full year, 63 animals were killed on the roads compared to 56 in 2017.
** Always take care when driving **
New Forest 'what's on' - a small
selection of local events and activities
September 2019
Up to Sunday 15th - Exbury Gardens, Look Twice Artists' Exhibition, 10.00am - 5.00pm.
Sunday, 8th - Lyndhurst Community Centre, Royal British Legion Band Concert, 3.00pm.
Friday, 13th - Verderers' Hall Open Day, Lyndhurst, 11.00am - 3.00pm.
Sunday, 29th - Brockenhurst Village Hall, The Rhythm Tea Dance, 2.00pm - 6.00pm.

October 2019
Throughout the month - St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, Neo-Romantic Art: the McDowall Collection.
Saturday, 5th - New Forest Heritage Centre, Lyndhurst, Hedgerow Berries and Winter ills, 10.30am - 3.00pm. Advanced booking is essential.
Saturday 26th - Burley Village Hall, Craft Fayre, 10.30am - 5.00pm.

For further details, view the full New Forest What's on programme.
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley