Some of the best things to see and do in Lyndhurst
PUBLISHED: 15:47 07 January 2019
As the New Forest’s de facto capital, this thriving village makes a great base for a New Forest break
Lyndhurst makes a great base for exploring the New Forest. It is often referred to as the New Forest’s capital as it is home to both the New Forest District Council and the Verderers’ Court, based in the Queen’s House - the only surviving major building of the Charles I period in Hampshire. It is the Verderers who are tasked with conserving the New Forest’s character, landscape and wildlife by administering the Forest’s unique agricultural commoning practices. Each of these administrative centres (the Queen’s House and the Council offices) sit like punctuation points at the top and bottom respectively of Lyndhurst’s busy High Street. In between them, hidden away on Lyndhurst’s central car park (a convenient if utilitarian location) is the New Forest Heritage Centre, comprising museum, gallery, reference library, gift shop and café.
If you want to find out more about the Forest, this is where to go. The great little museum is free (donations invited) and has lots of imaginative, Forest-related displays and activities. These include the sounds and atmosphere of Beaulieu Road pony sales yard on trading day, the New Forest in World War II, Alice’s looking glass (the real Alice through the Looking Glass lived in Lyndhurst latterly), fun family tree, bark rubbing, even a guess the animal poo quiz – a bit of a naughty one for the kiddies! For those who are more serious about understanding the Forest, the Centre is also home to the Christopher Tower Reference Library. This comprehensive collection of material about the New Forest is accessible to the public and encompasses guide books and topics such as gypsies, natural history and military history. The gallery has an ever-changing programme of exhibitions – currently it is Commoners’ Voices, celebrating the Forest’s commoning community, its people, animals, knowledge and skills (until 6 January 2019). There’s also a well-stocked gift shop for souvenirs – including cute cuddly animals, mugs decorated with stags and Hampshire-made trugs. Finally stop off at the small, welcoming Tip, Leaf and Bean Café with a good selection (as the name suggests) of loose leaf teas and coffees.
Lunch and tea
If there’s one thing in Lyndhurst that’s plentiful, it is places to eat and drink. You’re tripping over tea rooms, cafes, bistros, restaurants and pubs. Recommendations? It depends what you’re looking for. Tea lovers can enjoy a very good cuppa at Tea Total. The Greenwood Tree Café is liked for its hearty all-day breakfasts. For an old-fashioned tea room experience try Lyndhurst Tea House, Peggy Mays, prettily styled with retro spotty tablecloths in ice cream pastels, and friendly, quirky, Mad Hatter’s Tea Room - themed in homage to Alice Hargreaves, nee Liddell, the original inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice.
Others worth a mention are The Forage Deli & Eaterie with an impressive choice of local goodies including Pinch of Salt Charcuterie, New Forest Apple Juice, Ashlett Creek Cider Vinegar, Lyburn Cheese and chilli jams and carrot chutneys from Pig ‘n’ Pickles and The Real Jam and Chutney Company.
Arty types shouldn’t miss St Michael & All Angels, an imposing mid-Victorian church built high on a pre-historic manmade mound above the High Street. This is church as art gallery, a richly decorated building with magnificent wood and stone carvings and stepped brickwork, exhibiting the work of the Pre-Raphaelites with stained glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris, and a large fresco painted directly onto plaster by Lord Frederick Leighton FRA - one of his principal and most successful monumental works. The church is also visited by enthusiasts of Alice in Wonderland as Alice Hargreaves’ grave is located in a quiet plot just behind the church.
Strolling back down Lyndhurst’s High Street, try Down The Wood with goods, from wands to wooden watches, that are a celebration of trees. There’s contemporary country style at Onomatopoeia where you may pick up an oversized wall clock or prettily patterned jug. Nearby Shave Green offers rustic chic with a glorious mix of the old and new, the beautiful and the eclectic, all carefully curated by owner Emma Barcia. You will find French Bulldog design cushions propped against medina lanterns and ornately framed mirrors. Those who are more confident in finding their own vintage pieces can forage among the antiques and collectables in Black Pug Antiques, Lyndhurst’s Antiques Centre and Stephen Ferder Antiques for treasures.
Contemporary casual fashion and accessories are available at Shave Green’s sister store, Goose Green, Sofika and a little jewellery store, Sparkle, which does just that with its lovely collection of costume jewellery handmade by the owner Kylee using Swarovski crystals and fresh water pearls.
Eat and sleep
Visitors are spoiled for choice. Having opened only last summer, the curiously named Surfing Moo Moo with its beef and reef menu (including seafood pot pie and reggae ribs) has already become a firm favourite. Other recommendations include modern Italian Enzee and traditional Italian La Pergola, Imperial China with Sichuan specialities and Anissa’s Thai Kitchen for home-cooked Thai food – they also offer regular workshops on how to make Thai dishes such as Pad Thai. Although, come winter, can you beat a good country pub? The Fox & Hounds is one - serving tasty updated pub classics among the cosy interior of low beams and log fires.
Staying over? The Crown Manor hotel is an old coaching inn with origins in the 15th century. The creaky lift is thought to be the oldest in Europe and there are log fires while sumptuous rooms are decorated in foresty shades of russet and gold. Forest Lodge Hotel overlooking a green, has comfy rooms named after the New Forest (such as Agister and Verderer rooms) and its Glasshouse Bistro serves classics like boeuf bourguignon.
But for an indulgent treat, relax at Lime Wood, appearing like an iced confection among the treetops on the Beaulieu Road. Here you can cosy up by a log fire in the study, tuck into a feast mixing up English tradition with Italian flavours and great rooms include luxurious contemporary classic four-posters and snuggly cabin-style retreats with log burners.
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