Glamour and style at Chewton Glen, where that classic tale The Children of the New Forest was written
Take a nature-loving partner to The New Forest and it could become somewhere to remember for the rest of your life. Here are some romantic ideas:Find the New Forest LoverWhat more romantic setting could there be than a place named Lover? You’ll find this peaceful forest hamlet at the northern tip of the New Forest.Roof-top meal with spectacular panoramic viewsFor the ultimate romantic meal, the Art Deco roof terrace restaurant at The Marine at Milford on Sea has a breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view of the Solent Coast. Or stand on the rooftop garden of the Herb House Spa at Lime Wood Hotel near Lyndhurst to enjoy stunning views across the forest without a building in sight.Sunset over the SolentTake a stroll along the Solent Way before stopping to watch the sun setting over Keyhaven marshes. The fiery, orange ball sinking behind the clouds to the still backdrop of tranquil surroundings can be perfect.Put love in the spotlight
If you carry a torch for your loved one, stand at the foot of the towering landmark of Hurst Point lighthouse. This is situated at the end of the shingle spit which reaches out to less than a mile of the Isle of Wight. The views are spectacular. People forget the New Forest has a stunning 43 miles of coastline, as well as the famous National Parks scenery.
Find the most famous oak in the forestStroll along the Knightwood Oak Trail, from the Knightwood Oak car park (take the A35 from Lyndhurst to Christchurch. After two miles turn into Bolderwood Ornamental Drive (car park is on the left). It leads you to the largest (7.4m girth) and probably the most famous oak tree in the New Forest. Sit underneath its shady branches for the ideal picnic spot.Romantic StrollThe gently sloping street leads down to the stunning waterfront of the Beaulieu River.Just to drive through the forest is a delight in itself. You can catch glimpses of the enchanting un-tamed ponies, several species of deer and little groups of wild boar.
There is a maximum driving speed limit of 40 miles per hour throughout the entire Forest area, but many people drive much slower than that to relish the beauty. Walking, cycling or horse riding are, of course, even better ways to appreciate it all.
The New Forest was established by William the Conqueror as a deer hunting area in 1079 and was recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086. Each season offers spectacular vistas: see the New Forest Tourism Association website www.thenewforest.co.uk
We had spent the morning at Exbury Gardens (tel 023 8089 1203; www.exbury.co.uk). Famous throughout the world for its collection of azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons which flower in spring and early summer, Exbury is fabulous for autumn colours.
Purchased from the Mitford Family by Lionel de Rothschild in 1919, the gardens have been managed by his family ever since. (The house was used as HMS Mastodon during WW2, one of the main bases for D-Day planning). There is fun here too, with a little steam railway that carries visitors through the gardens.
In the afternoon we visited the Beaulieu National Motor Museum to admire man-made national treasure from Formula 1 racers to the World of Top Gear and James Bond. The inclusive admission price (Adult £16.25; Youth ages 13-17 £9.75; Child ages 5-12 £8.65) covers entrance to the National Motor Museum, Palace House and Gardens, plus Beaulieu Abbey, as well as various rides and drives. And, you are invited to return free of charge if you don’t have time to view everything. Open every day except Christmas Day (tel 01590 612123; www.beaulieu.co.uk)
Beaulieu itself is a charming town on the banks of the Beaulieu River. Don’t miss the idyllic 18th century hamlet of Buckler’s Hard which has a marina and maritime museum www.bucklershard.co.uk. Nelson’s favourite ship the Agamemnon was built there in 1781, using 3,000 oak trees.
Green Leaf Tourism
Local produce is on the menu at every establishment signed up for the New Forest Tourism Association’s Green Leaf Tourism scheme (look for the little green leaf symbol).
This scheme encourages and empowers hoteliers and other tourism suppliers to create socially responsible, low-impact days out, reduce energy consumption and purchase locally. Many of the businesses in the area offer year-round discounts for guests who arrive without cars.
Accommodation in the New Forest ranges from charming B&Bs, which serve local produce for breakfast; self-catering cottages; and high quality holiday parks. Hotels range from comfortable one-star family-run inns to some of Britain’s finest five star establishments.
As our weekend was to celebrate a very special occasion, we treated ourselves to Chewton Glen. (www.relaischateaux.com). This country house was where Captain Marryatt wrote the classic tale The Children of the New Forest. And how delightful that the bedrooms and suites here are named after characters in the book. The hotel has produced a New Forest Area Guide, which lists some 75 nearby attractions ranging from Winchester Cathedral to local pubs
I had heard about Chewton Glen over many years, and while I expected it to be luxurious, I hadn’t imagined it would be so relaxed and friendly as well. And how down-to- earth that they have Wellington boots and bikes for guests to use.
Staying here is, as one would imagine, like staying with very wealthy friends (if one had them!) for a country house party. Shades perhaps of Downton Abbey.
Most guests seemed to be forty-something couples; the men very dressed down (no ties). A few women (but certainly not all) sported designer bags and boots. And what a surprise that they actively welcome children with a Kids Club, activities such as pony trekking and nature trails, as well as pint-size bathrobes and mini slippers.
Indoor and outdoor swimming pools, golf, tennis, clay shooting, archery and a croquet lawn are all available.
The award-winning ultra-luxurious spa is in a class of its own, with a beautiful 17-metre indoor pool. The extensive range of treatments includes Ren products.
The public rooms are cosy with squashy sofas and log fires, perfect for reading the weekend papers over afternoon tea. Tasty bar meals such as home-made Shepherd’s Pie are on offer as an alternative to fine dining in the restaurant, and interesting wines are available by the glass. They use local organic produce whenever possible, and are happy to adapt ingredients to suit dietary requirements.
Of course, such perfection comes at a price. But for 2011 they have a promotion 'Stay another night on us' - r 4 nights for the price of 3 (lst April to 30th September).www.chewtonglen.com