Our Virgin Experience break in the New Forest was postponed because of the first 2020 lockdown. We were able to re-book in October 2020 but subject to COVID-19 restrictions in both the hotel and around the places that we visited.
My research prior to our visit answered one of the questions that had always nagged me – where were all the trees in the ‘forest’? In turns out the word ‘forest’ was originally imported from old French. This word describes wild land that has been set aside for hunting. When the ‘Nova Foresta’ was first established by William the Conqueror this large expanse of heathland became the New Forest.
We were unable to check into the Drift Inn until later on our first day. Rather than stay at home we went to Calshot Beach, out of our way but promised some great views of the Solent. The seaplane hangers had been converted and we went into the largest which was now a sports activity centre and had a coffee. As we arrived at the beach the heavens opened and we were glad to be in the dry.
Next sight to see was supposed to be Lepe Beach. The rain was now very heavy and we past by the beach and Luttreel’s Tower – both on our ‘to visit’ list.
Through Beaulieu village we headed towards Bucklers Hard and called at the Master Builder’s hotel. We were very lucky and were accepted for lunch despite not having a booking.
The soup of the day was delicious.
The Drift Inn
Our stay in the New Forest was at the Drift Inn. Covid restrictions were still in place and the bar area was quite cold with all the windows open which might have explained why we were often the only folks in there.
Opposite the Drift Inn was the site where New Forest ponies were auctioned. The Beaulieu Road station was very close too.
From the hotel reception we turned left into another car park and walked between more rooms in a motel like configuration to the restaurant.
We visited Brokenhurst and walked along the streets looking in shops and then paused to watch cars wading the ford.
Lyndhurst, the largest town in the New Forest
We visited Lyndhurst and parked just inside the town boundaries and then walked past the abandoned building on Southampton Road. It looked familiar as I am sure I visited there when it was a council office for the county.
One on of pour visits I spent a time looking at the Ferrari dealership there.
Next door we went into the Mailmans Arms to get out of the rain. Their Covid precautions were excellent and we sat and rested and enjoyed a beer and an afternoon respectively.
Rhinefield Drive and beyond
Prior to our visit I searched the Internet to look for recommended places to visit in the New Forest. The Rhinefield (or Rinefield?) is an ornamental drive. We stopped at some of the laybys and car parks and ventured out into the trees. The weather didn’t help as we had occasional banks of rain passing through.
We drove through to the end of the drive rather than turning back and again stopped for a long walk around a small stream and back through open fields.
We passed through Beaulieu many times and one time we stopped at Hatchet Pond. I was supposed to be looking for a sunset reflecting on the pond but the weather continued to be unkind and we had overcast skies and rain. We did walk all round the pond to keep our daily count of steps up.
On yet another rainy afternoon we visited Exbury Gardens. Despite the rain there were quite a few other hardy types visiting the gardens. We walked through gardens down to the Beaulieu River before coming back to the visitor centre for a coffee – drank standing outside in the rain!
The Beaulieu River.
Back at the visitor centre.
New Forest Ponies
Here’s a selection of images of the ponies alongside the roads and sheltering from the rain.
On our way home we spotted a layby with some ponies getting very close to the parked cars. We stopped and this pony decided to try and eat my iPhone when I went too close.