Lyndhurst is often thought of as the Capital of the New Forest - it enjoys a broadly central location, is surrounded by relatively fertile land, and stands at a junction of historic routes.
Lyndhurst had its own Royal manor house, and was - and still is - home of the Verderers’ Hall, the meeting place of the ancient Verderers’ Court whose history stretches back to at least the 13th century.
Lyndhurst race ground was, until the late-19th century, a popular attraction; and Lyndhurst used to be the home of the New Forest pony sales.
Lyndhurst: Capital of the New Forest? Absolutely!
Lyndhurst: the name in its earlier form, Lindhyrst, dates back to at least Anglo-Saxon times, and means ‘lime wood’, although Lyndhurst now, in common with much of Britain, has few lime trees.
Lyndhurst was well-described in the mid-19th century by John Wise, who remarked: ‘The people of Lyndhurst ought, I always think, to be the happiest and most contented in England, for they possess a wider park and nobler trees than even Royalty. You cannot leave the place in any direction without going through the Forest.
And today, John Wise's comments still apply - woodlands lap against the outskirts of Lyndhurst, inviting exploration by walkers and cyclists along many miles of gravel tracks and countless lesser used paths.
But the area around Lyndhurst comprises heathlands, too, heathlands that in spring are yellow with gorse, and in summer richly purple with heather blooms. These are places that hold abundant wildlife, including many species that are not often encountered elsewhere.
Lyndhurst is a great place for families to enjoy fresh air and wide, open spaces, for around Bolton's Bench, within walking distance of Lyndhurst village centre, are extensive grasslands with turf kept short by commoners' stock - the ponies, donkeys and cattle that can be seen throughout the area.
Here, there is ample room to play football, cricket and other ball games; to fly kites, watch the cricket or just relax with book or newspaper.
As befits the Capital of the New Forest, the local Forestry Commission headquarters are located in Lyndhurst - in Queen’s House, at the very top of Lyndhurst High Street; whilst close by is Lyndhurst's splendidly Gothic, Victorian parish church of St. Michael and All Angels with its impressive 49 metre (160 foot) spire.
Lyndhurst also hosts the New Forest Centre. Situated in Lyndhurst's main car park, it is a purpose-built red brick building housing the New Forest Museum, Gift Shop, Reference Library and New Forest Tourist Information Office.
Opened in 1988 by the Duke of Edinburgh, the museum has displays illustrative of New Forest life in days gone-by, and is a ‘must-visit’ for anybody with an interest in the New Forest and its history. The Christopher Tower New Forest Reference Library on the upper floor also has a wide range of local interest books and other documents.
At the opposite end of Lyndhurst car park, Lyndhurst Community Centre offers refreshments on Saturday mornings, and is the year-round venue for a wide range of events and activities - antique auctions, craft and gift fairs, book fairs, farmers' markets and more.
Lyndhurst today is well-served by shops, tea rooms, pubs and restaurants. There are five pubs, for example, all of which serve food; whilst the nearby hamlets of Bank, Emery Down and Swan Green boast another three pubs that also have well-respected kitchens.
Those seeking out a restaurant in which to eat will not be disappointed, either - Lyndhurst has Italian, Indian and Thai restaurants, and others associated with the local hotels - a veritable gourmet's delight.
And those wanting accommodation in Lyndhurst can choose from a number of hotels, guesthouses, and bed and breakfast establishments; whilst nearby Pondhead Farm offers its own camping facilities.
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As mentioned above, you can buy tickets for various events at the Community Centre office but did you realise they can also do photocopying for you? The copier can do black and white or colour in either A4 or A3 - a single-side A4 copy in black and white is just 10p. If you would like anything scanning or laminating, they can do that as well. Ask at reception for details.
National Award for Local Conservation Trust
Pondhead Conservation Trust was formed in 2014 to restore the hazel coppice in a Forestry Commission Inclosure on the outskirts of Lyndhurst and has been recognised locally and now nationally. The trust, set up as a community woodland project, has been awarded the UK National Parks 'Volunteer Project of the Year', competing against other projects nominated from any of the fifteen national parks across the UK.
The Trust's volunteers have worked hard in restoring the largest remaining area of hazel coppice on the Crown lands of the New Forest. Restoration benefits the coppice wildlife along with increasing the amenity value for locals and visitors alike. The group has also revived one of the New Forest's oldest industries, which died out in the last century, by using the timber cut during restoration activities to produce BBQ charcoal.
The charcoal burners of old lived in the woods with their primitive production methods. Those methods have long gone and today Pondhead charcoal is produced in a modern environmentally friendly kiln and sold through a network of farm shops and other outlets entirely within the New Forest. In this way, the group manages the woodland in a fully sustainable way.