Travel review: Relax on New Forest retreat
Think of the hustle and bustle of city life we face on a daily basis.
Queues of cars, exhaust rising from their rear ends, traffic lights turning red. It’s enough to make anyone’s blood boil.
But imagine if your daily drive could be so serene that your only worry is occasionally stopping because a family of donkeys are in the middle of the road munching on leaves.
This is the New Forest in Hampshire, about as far away from city life as one can imagine.
With a car at hand it can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace where there are no real deadlines to fear (minus the closing times of local attractions of course).
We headed down by car for a pre-Christmas break with our then-five-month-old in search of a bit of relaxation and recuperation before the family visiting rush that a first Christmas with a baby can bring.
We arrived at Shorefield Country Park in Milford on Sea, one of five dotted around the national park in the ownership of Shorefield Holidays Limited, on what was a very wet and windy Friday night.
We were greeted with a warm welcome by friendly staff and one of the park’s Supreme caravans complete with electric fire and radiators which soon had us warmed up from the great British weather outside. The space is vast. A decent-sized kitchen and living area is flanked at either end by a bedroom and bathroom, with a decking area outside the front door available for warmer weather holidaying.
It is worth noting that we were told the master bedroom would accommodate baby’s travel cot, but found this was not the case – worth noting for any parents still sharing their room with their child. So he slept in the living room with our door open, but it was one moot point in what was a stylish and comfortable base for our exploring.
The park, too, is settled in lovely surroundings. It is serenely quiet with little light pollution and caravans grouped so it never feels you are swamped by neighbours’ eyes. A beach is also within walking distance.
The main complex comprises shop, bar and spacious restaurant where food is reasonably priced, well-portioned and tasty to boot. There is a large swimming pool with jacuzzi and steam room nearby, while upstairs consists of gym facilities and Reflections Day Spa.
The spa provides relaxation and pampering treatments to order, and we indulged in one lovely taster neck and back massage which ironed out more than a few creases. They also stock plenty of Ren treatment products too should you wish to continue the pampering back at your accommodation.
There’s plenty to do should you wish to explore, too. You’re nestled between Southampton and Bournemouth across the Dorset border, and there are plenty of picturesque villages within the forest boundaries to fall in love with (complete with wild horses and donkeys).
Brockenhurst is the largest village in the forest and boasts eye-watering properties we could only dream of one day owning. While High Street in Lyndhurst contains many an independent shop to please retail lovers. At the top end, Down To The Wood and Lyndhurst Antique’s unique wares definitely caught our attention.
While here, we popped into the recently-rebranded New Forest Heritage Centre. It’s free to enter and provides a decent amount of history on the area including interactive exhibits for younger explorers to enjoy. The reason behind the equine residents’ freedom to roam is explained in full, as are the unique laws of the Common Land that many New Foresters enjoy.
It is also worth taking a trip to Beaulieu to see the National Motor Museum, World of Top Gear, Palace House and Beaulieu Abbey – all available on one ticket for a jam-packed day out.
The history of Palace House is fascinating – from dodgy dealings with Henry VIII and lies told to secure beneficial marriages; to the Montagu family’s obsession with motor vehicles that led to the museum on-site.
Its plush interiors are well worth seeing. And if you can catch one of the daily free tours, which only last up to 30 minutes or so, you can be introduced to the characters that built this house up from the ground and the dodgier faces who dot its history.
Photo opportunities abound in this beautiful part of the country. There are plenty of ‘do you remember’ moments, and we had plenty to tell those family members who were to pack in for Christmas.
You couldn’t ask for any more while re-charging your inner core.