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Pony near Hampton Ridge
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New Forest villages - an introduction

New Forest Villages - Lyndhurst High Street
New Forest Villages - Lyndhurst High Street

New Forest Villages offer all the facilities expected of popular visitor destinations. Pubs serve real ale and real hospitality. English, French, Indian, Chinese and Thai restaurants offer a wide choice of food, whilst hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments cater for every level of accommodation need.

New Forest Villages also boast a wide range of shops and all the other trappings of modern life, but for residents and visitors alike, there's far more than that to see and enjoy. Where else, for example, do ponies, donkeys and sometimes cattle wander freely along village streets, at times holding up the traffic but always causing amusement amongst on-lookers?

Lyndhurst (A), for example, is the most centrally located New Forest village. Sometimes known as the Capital of the New Forest, it is home to the ancient Verderers' Hall and to Queen's House, an essentially 17th century building on the site of a 13th century Royal manor house, and now the local Forestry Commission headquarters.

Nearby Brockenhurst (B) is of equal interest - it is the only New Forest Village that had a church mentioned in the Domesday Book. The village, though, has grown substantially since those times, and has, in fact, shifted its centre away from church and manor to be closer to the through road and mainline railway station.

Beaulieu (C) is perhaps best known for the National Motor Museum and its old Cistercian Abbey, although the village's picturesque location alongside a tidal mill-pond is equally noteworthy, and so is its long-established connection with the old ship building centre at nearby Buckler's Hard.

Burley (D), meanwhile, like other New Forest Villages, offers direct access to the open lands of the New Forest, has a pub connected by local legend to the once prolific smuggling trade and once had a resident who was a renowned White Witch!

And finally, there is Sway (E), 4.5 kilometres (2¾ miles) south-west of Brockenhurst. A small(ish) village just outside the old New Forest perambulation, yet within the New Forest National Park, Sway is perhaps best known for the Sway Tower, often referred to as Peterson’s Folly, a 66 metre (200 feet) high concrete tower constructed in the late 19th century. Sway, like Brockenhurst, has a railway station on the Weymouth / Bournemouth / Southampton / London Waterloo main line, and a number of shops, pubs, restaurants, hotels and numerous residential properties.

New Forest Villages - a Beaulieu traffic jam
New Forest villages - a Beaulieu traffic jam

Then, of course, there are many other less substantial settlements within the New Forest National Park, relatively small, often well-spread hamlets with long, fascinating histories of habitation that today may or may not have a village hall, shop, church and chapel; but often possess always hospitable New Forest country pubs – examples of local hamlets include Boldre, Bramshaw, Brook, East Boldre, Exbury, Fritham, Frogham, Godshill, Hale, Linwood and Woodgreen.

Enjoy discovering these and other New Forest Villages within the pages of the New Forest Explorers’ Guide, for here village life and history are graphically brought together in words and pictures.

Old prints, postcards and maps are used to depict the New Forest Villages as they were in days gone-by, and walk routes are included that take the traveller past many of the features mentioned.

Travel slowly, then, and preferably on foot. Absorb the unique atmosphere of these places, and experience the spirit of life as it was in earlier times.

Find out more about New Forest villages

Beaulieu - a 'beautiful place' much appreciated by the Normans
Brockenhurst - a lively, but largely traditional village
Burley - famously home in days-gone-by to smugglers and a white witch
Lyndhurst - the historic 'Capital of the New Forest'
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New Forest 'what's on' - a small
selection of local events and activities
May 2017
Sunday, 7th - Burley Village Hall, Visions LifeForce, 10.30am - 5.00pm.
Saturday, 20th - Ringwood Fanfare for Spring - International Festival of Street Performance Art, various locations around the town, 10.30am - 4.30pm.
Wednesday, 31st - Wild Wednesday, New Forest Reptile Centre, 10.30am - 4.00pm.

June 2017
Monday, 5th - Burley Village Hall, Film Night, 7.30pm.
All of May and then on until Sunday, 11th June - Exbury Gardens, Four Seasons Art Exhibition, 10.00am - 5.00pm.
All of May and then on until Sunday, 9th July - New Forest Centre, Lyndhurst, Special Exhibition - All Trees are Clocks, 10.00am - 4.30pm.
Saturday, 17th - Walkies Workshop, Beaulieu Heath car park, 1.00pm - 3.00pm. Forestry Commission event.
View the full 'What's on' programme.
New Forest seasonal highlights
May
Bluebells and other wild flowers brighten the woods, usually in relatively small numbers.
Bird song can be heard throughout the day but is at its loudest at dawn and, to a lesser extent, dusk.
Foals are born in increasing numbers and can be seen beside ever-attentive mares.
Dragonflies are more frequently observed on the wing as spring progresses.

June
Badgers can now often be watched above ground well before darkness falls.
Deer - fallow, red, roe, sika and muntjac deer are all present - give birth, although the youngsters are unlikely to be noticed until July.
Heath spotted-orchids add delicate pink colour to many of the heaths.
Hobbies, dashing birds of prey, can often be seen aloft, hawking for insects.
New Forest ponies
New Forest ponies in the road
New Forest ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but in 2015, 55 were killed on the roads.
Always take care when driving
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley