Almost Two Days in the New Forest and a Bit of a Book

Stourhead (2)After five failed attempts, largely due to bad timing, a broken wrist, oh, and the pandemic, we finally managed to get away for a couple of days hardly believing our luck having snapped up two nights in the New Forest B&B I’d been eyeing up for some time. Not only that but the weather looked lovely, always a consideration when planning a British holiday particularly one to be spent mostly outdoors.

In the new world, spontaneity is out of the window so we booked a slot at Stourhead several days before we set off, calling in on our way to the Forest. Autumn is the perfect time to see this landscaped garden designed by its original owner Henry Hoare. Vivid splashes of red and gold against a background of evergreens, trees not yet turned and a brilliant blue sky made a spectacular sight. The houseStourhead (2) itself isn’t much to write home about, just a plain old Palladian mansion with little to mark it out, but with its many vistas opening up across the lake, the garden is a work of genius, justifying Hoare’s nickname, ‘Henry the Magnificent’.

The much anticipated ponies were spotted as soon as we entered the Forest. I knew they would be having visited several times before although not for quite a while. When ponies decide to amble down the street, or on one New Forest poniesoccasion a small band of determined donkeys, drivers have to put up with it. Charming if you’re a tourist but a tad infuriating for the locals in a hurry, I imagine. H’s favourite pigs are a rarer sight but lovely to see rooting amongst the trees on the sole occasion I glimpsed them from the car.

We managed two walks during our short stay, both glorious. On the first we met a chap from Southport who told us all about the colony of red squirrels at the bottom of his and his neighbours’ gardens, fiercely guarded against grey ‘tree-rats’ as he called them. On Lymington (Hampshire)the second we were treated to the gutteral sound of stags fighting deep in the woods, competing for females. A bit too gladiatorial for me, even at a safe distance, so we left them to it rather than attempting to track them down.

The afternoon of our first day was taken up with a visit to the pretty seaside town of Lymington whose cobbled streets down to the harbour reminded me a little of Lyme Regis. It was pleasing to see that Lymington seemed to be doing well with relatively fewer Lymingtonshops closed than in my own home town. No independent bookshop that I could see but the local Waterstones was busy.

The B&B was all I’d hoped it would be but staying anywhere these days is necessarily very different from the ‘before times’ as a friend calls it. We were sent a list of things in advance that the owners would put in our room for us if we wanted, no one but us was to enter the room during our stay and our breakfast was left outside the door. None of it a hardship but all of it a reminder, if one was needed, of the difficult times we’re living through. My heart goes out to those working in the hospitality trade, having to think their way inventively around these difficulties while knowing that they’re putting themselves at risk. Daisybank‘s owners did it beautifully as did all the cafés and restaurants we ate in.

And the book? I was already most of the way through Rhidian Brook’s excellent The Aftermath which explores the period immediately after the Second World War through a British officer who chooses to share the Hamburg palatial house requisitioned by the army for his family rather than evict its owner. All the more interesting after finding it’s based on Brook’s family’s experience. Many thanks to Kate over at Books are My Favourite and Best whose review put me on to this one.

A thoroughly enjoyable, restorative break, then. My favourite moment has to be the pony crossing the road at the zebra crossing ahead of us as we were walking to supper on our first evening. Honestly, I’m not making that up! Back to books on Wednesday…

38 thoughts on “Almost Two Days in the New Forest and a Bit of a Book”

  1. So pleased for you that you got a break and managed some good weather too – not to be counted on at any time in UK! Lymington is lovely. My dad kept a boat there when my kids were small and we’d buy fresh crabs and lobsters from a hole in the wall – probably long gone! I love The Aftermath, one of my favourite reads.

    1. Thank you! Those sound like lovely memories for your kids.

      I thought the setting of The Aftermath was so interesting. Very little fiction written about post-war Germany that I’ve come across and Brook wrote about it so well.

      1. The Aftermath was made into a good film. I enjoyed Brook’s first book The Testimony of Taliesan Jones too but was disappointed in the 2018 The Killing of Butterfly Joe. I bought The Aftermath out of interest after hearing Brook on the Today programme’s Thought for the Day so often.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed your break and got to see the New Forest ponies. I’ve stayed in Brockenhurst a few times and seen them wandering about. I’ve also visited Lymington and agree all that’s missing is a lovely independent bookshop.

  3. That sounds like such a lovely break, and a much needed one I am sure. Your photos are gorgeous, what fabulous colours! I’m going away on Saturday (unless Boris locks us all down suddenly) staying in a self catering place with my mum who I am in a bubble with. Meeting up with family will have to be outdoors! Brr! But can’t wait to get away. So glad you had a lovely time.

    1. Thank you, Ali. I hope it stays dry for you. I’m sure you’ll all wrap up warm if it’s chlly. A break, no matter how short, is even more restorative than usual right now. Have fun!

  4. I’d forgotten about the wrist! Are you all healed up now? We managed two short breaks in August-September and they were wonderfully restorative. I love seeing the ponies and donkeys in the New Forest. We’ve never spotted pigs, though!

    1. I remember seeing pigs around Nomansland years ago. H was very taken with them. I had a lucky sighting of a few this time but only when driving towards Brockenhurst. Short breaks definitely help, don’t they.

      The wrist is much better, thanks, but I need to improve its flexion so lots of exercises to do still.

  5. Looks and sounds wonderful! How I love the Fall colours.
    Your crosswalk story reminded me of my own… Driving home one night, I saw deer at the corner turning onto my street, so I stopped in case they decided to run out in front of me. Once I stopped, they calmly walked across the crosswalk, one behind the other, as thought that was what they were waiting there for all along. 🙂

  6. Thank you ever so much for the pic’s and experiences and for inviting so many people to share other memorable bits in the comments. To think there are people who LIVE in this lovely little place. It warms my heart. x

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