Burley is situated towards the western edge of the New Forest, 8 kilometres (5 miles) south-east of the market town of Ringwood, and 13 kilometres (8 miles) from Christchurch.
Burley is a picturesque village of modest size, and is both a pleasant, much in demand residential area and a popular destination for visitors.
A large War Memorial Cross, pale, solid, seemingly indestructible, dominates the eastern approach to Burley village centre. Erected in 1920 by Colonel and Mrs. Willan of Burley Manor, ‘as a token of their gratitude to God for the preservation of two sons and a son-in-law in the army who served in France during the War’, it reads: ‘In memory of those who went out from Burley and fell gallantly in defence of their country in the Great War 1914-18. Their name liveth for evermore.’
Burley’s somewhat modest main street stretches for little more than 150 metres, but for much of the year is busy with local people and visitors. A combined post office and newsagents, butcher’s shop, and village stores cater for the essentials of life, whilst tea rooms, antique shops, art galleries and gift shops are also present.
Witchcraft is a popular theme that has been adopted by a number of shops, an enthusiasm that recalls a past Burley resident, Sybil Leek, who was a well-known white witch, a gifted psychic, astrologer and prolific author. Resident in the village during the late-1950s, and considered by many to be Britain’s most famous witch, she eventually left for the USA, where white witches are perhaps treated with less curiosity than in Burley.
The Queen’s Head pub dates back to the 17th century, and has a reputation as a past haunt of local smugglers; whilst across the road, the Burley Inn offers a range of real ales and has an attractive garden area.
The adjacent hamlet of Burley Street also had its own pub, the New Inn, but this is now a delightfully thatched private residence, fittingly known as the Little Ale House. Next door, the Burley Street Stores, Off License and Post Office no longer trades, although the shop front remains largely as it was when open for business.
Burley Parish Church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and sits a little way back from Lyndhurst Road, to the north-east of the village centre. Main Sunday services start at 10.00 am.
Burley Village Hall, situated a short distance to the south-west of the village centre, on Pound Lane, hosts a number of events throughout the year, including antique fairs, art exhibitions and plays staged by local groups
Horse riding and cycle hire facilities are available locally, and so, in season, are Wagonette rides and Land Rover-based safaris to see red deer within the grounds of Burley Manor. A golf course is located on the eastern edge of the village, with 9 holes that can be played twice from 18 separate tees.
When in Burley, though, the wide open spaces of the New Forest are never far away, bringing birds and other wildlife refreshingly close; and also providing easy access for walkers, cyclists and those who prefer no more than a casual stroll.
Commoners’ stock – ponies, donkeys and cattle – bring that unique New Forest atmosphere to Burley, and habitually wander village streets and lanes, grazing where they can, but sometimes also begging tit-bits from passers-by.
Overnight accommodation is readily available in and around Burley, in bed and breakfast establishments, guest houses and hotels. The nearest ’Camping in the Forest’ campsite is at Holmsley, 5 kilometres (3 miles) south of the village, whilst Setthorns campsite is 8 kilometres (5 miles) to the south-east.
Aspects of a New Forest village - Records of Burley: F. Hardcastle, BEM
Hampshire Treasures: www.hants.gov.uk/hampshiretreasures/vol05/page055.html
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