A forest created by a King, to be the playground of royalty, it’s of little surprise that there is something special about The New Forest.
Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free throughout the New Forest National Park...drivers beware.
As a half-term treat for my nieces, my boyfriend and I took them for a short-break in the area, choosing to stay at Shorefield Country Park.
The five-star rated holiday park is set in 100 acres of landscaped park land, and once we had settled down in our spacious caravan, we explored what it had to offer.
The location is perfect, close to Milford on Sea, it is a short and beautiful walk to the nearby coastline, beset with quaint coloured beach huts and stunning vistas.
You can also take a nature trail to the coastline, which makes the trip a bit more fun for children of all ages.
There is plenty to do on the site. We visited over Halloween, and there were near constant activities for little ones up to teens - most with a spooky theme.
These aside there are copious other attractions on site, including all-weather flood-lit tennis courts, heated indoor and outdoor pools, a nature centre, crazy golf and there is even a small fishing lake (Rod Licence Required).
And a chance for pampering, as the park comes complete with a sauna, steam room and a Reflections Elemis Day Spa, which offers a range of beauty treatments.
With a supermarket on site, live entertainment, bars and restaurants, it would have been easy to stay on site for the entire holiday, but anyone who has visited the New Forest will know that the area is well worth exploring.
The beautiful landscape aside, it has some fantastic museums and attractions.
One must see stop is Beaulieu, a stunning estate, which includes the world famous National Motor Museum, home to a collection of automobiles telling the history of motoring through modern rally cars and F1 Grand Prix machines.
It also includes the Palace House, home of the Montagu family, and the historic Beaulieu Abbey, which was founded in 1204 by Cistercian Monks.
But the real attraction for me was its current exhibition ‘Bond in Motion.’
Whatever your favourite car chase scene involving the world’s most famous agent, you will find it here, in some cases you can even see the before and after from his most notorious crash scenes.
There are even some of the more unusual ‘vehicles’ such as the cello case, briefly used as a sledge by Timothy Dalton, in The Living Daylights.
My nieces and my boyfriend are massive Top Gear fans and spent a very long time perusing some of the most ambitious challenges and
On Screen Cars created by the daring trio.
It also includes TV and film favourites such as Ron Weasley’s ‘Flying’ Ford Anglia from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and possibly the nation’s most famous three-wheel vehicle, the Regal van featured in the BBC’s Only Fools and Horses.
There is so much to see one day is really not enough at Beaulieu, but the good news is if you don’t manage it then you can come back for free, as tickets are valid for six days following the original visit, except on days of major or separately charged events.
But the real attraction of the New Forest, is the forest itself, which features ancient woodlands, rare heathlands and it all borders a striking coastline.
When we visited the autumnal colours were at their finest, but in any season, the striking landscape is sure to charm, and we never ceased to get excited at spotting wild ponies (clearly we have all spent to much time living in town centres).
It is easy to explore the landscape on foot, but New Forest Activities, which booking centre is located in Beaulieu village, also let you traverse the area in other ways.
There are extensive cycle networks, with gentle terrain within the forest, so renting a mountain bike, which comes with a helmet and bag with kit for any bike related problem you encounter provided, is a great way to get to know the landscape. This costs £10 for a half day or £18 for a full day.
The centre also gives you the opportunity to explore the Beaulieu River, a sunning tidal estuary, designated nature reserve and SSSI in the heart of The New Forest.
The banks of this river are privately owned and among the most expensive real estate plots in the country, so going on a Canadian canoe tour is one of the only ways to see this area.
You can go out as a family in a canoe with expert guides who can talk you through history, wildlife...and gossip of the area.
But whatever you choose to do, even if it is driving around pony spotting, you are sure to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.
Nicole stayed at Shorefield Country Park, which offers a wide-range of accommodation from chalets and caravans to lodges and bungalows (some with hot tubs).
2013 prices start from £132 for a family of two adults and two children staying in Danestream Chalet for four nights (Mon-Thurs inclusive). In high season (arrivals between July 19 and August 23) accommodation on the same basis is priced from £637 for a week.
Shorefield Holidays is offering 25 per cent discounts for Christmas at Shorefield Country Park in the New Forest on arrivals between December 22 and 31. A family of four can stay in a Danestream chalet, save £69.75 for 4 nights mid week (now from £209.25) and £99.75 on one week (now from £299.25). The price includes access to the extensive facilities and a fun-packed festive itinerary including a talent show for the kids, a family Wii contest and a request disco each evening. Santa Cyril will visit during Christmas Day Lunch which is free for kids under two years, £19.50 per child (two to 12 years) and £39.50pp (13+ years); advance booking essential. Prices quoted include VAT and are subject to availability, some accommodation is pet-friendly (request at the time of booking).
New Year’s Eve Holiday (December 19-31) prices start from £209.25 staying in a four to six berth Danestream Chalet for four night mid-week or three - night weekend break and from £299.25 for a week. Price includes full entertainment schedule; New Year’s Eve party into the small hours including hot/cold buffet is charged extra at £47 pp (13plus years), £19.50 for nine-12 years, £15 for two to eight years, free to the under twos (pre-booking is essential).
For Reservations call Shorefield Holidays: 01590 648331 (www.shorefield.co.uk)
Local Attractions include:
Beaulieu (including the National Motor Museum, the Palace House and Gardens, and Beaulieu Abbey): entry is £20 per adult, £9.95 per child (5-12), £12 per youth (13-17), (under five years enter foc) or £52.20 for a family (either two adults/three children or one adult/four children; open daily 10 am to 5pm and 6pm from June to September. New exhibition opening January 17 2012 is Bond in Motion. Reservations and more details: www.beaulieu.co.uk (01590 612345).
New Forest Activities, located on the Beaulieu Estate in the New Forest, offers outdoor experiences for all ages including Archery, Bike Hire, Canoeing, Combat Games, Guided Walks and Kayaking. All are run by fully qualified instructors. Bike Hire (inc helmets & one backpack per group, padlock & key, pump, tool kit & puncture repair kit is from £18pppd (£14 for child) from £10pp per half day (£8 for child). A two-hour taster canoeing session on the beautiful Beaulieu River Nature Reserve starts from £28pp (£22 for 16 years and under). Family ticket (two adults/two kids) from £88.