What it’s like to live in lesser known corners of the New Forest

PUBLISHED: 10:33 06 December 2016 | UPDATED: 10:33 06 December 2016

Avon Castle, Ringwood

Avon Castle, Ringwood

Spencers New Forest

Want to live in the New Forest? Emma Caulton explores its lesser known corners

If it is tranquil New Forest you want then this is it. The area above Ringwood where the National Park nudges up against Dorset and Wiltshire is less familiar, but just as lovely. All the buzz tends to be about the honeypot villages in the southern half of the Forest: Burley and Beaulieu and Brockenhurst. The northern half, especially this western corner, tends to be overlooked. Yet I do not think there are many villages prettier than Breamore with its Saxon church and Elizabethan manor house, or Hyde, well off the beaten track and set around a picturesque village green. Nor are there many places better positioned than Woodgreen or Highwood with stunning views across the Avon Valley.

The area is idyllic. New Forest on one side, Cranborne Chase (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) on the other, and the River Avon running through a landscape of water meadows with willows and narrow bridges over streams. Here is the dreamed of rural lifestyle. There are cutesy cottages, handsome country houses, equestrian estates and period farmhouses, and thatch, lots of thatch. There is a feeling of being in the back of beyond, and yet it is reasonably accessible. The Salisbury to Ringwood road cuts through the area, connecting with the A31 - turn in one direction for Bournemouth and the coast, or towards Southampton and Winchester in the other.

Enjoy yourself. There is a liberal scattering of quaint country pubs serving good food. Examples are The Foresters at Frogham (also known as the donkey pub for obvious reasons), Rose & Thistle at Rockbourne, The Royal Oak at North Gorley and The Three Lions at Stuckton. You can live the country life and buy local produce at a farm shop, such as award-winning Hockey’s farm shop in South Gorley, a village store such as the community shop and post office at Woodgreen, or direct from the farm – try Cobley Wood Farm which was featured on Countryfile. (Although there’s always Waitrose at Ringwood.)

There’s plenty to do. Obviously there are the wide expanses of the Forest to explore. There’s also the Avon Valley long distance footpath meandering beside the river all the way from Salisbury down to Christchurch. But there is so much more for the active. For a start there’s Moors Valley Country Park with railway, cycle trails and Go Ape tree top adventure. There’s the New Forest Water Park with kayaking and paddle boarding, Spinnaker Sailing Club and a number of golf courses including one at Somerley Park. Locals are able to use the leisure facilities at Sandy Balls holiday village, including gym and swimming pool, and there is a good leisure centre at Ringwood.

Ringwood and Fordingbridge are the local hubs. The former is country smart (think AGA, Joules and Waitrose). The latter is more country idiosyncratic (think architectural salvage, independent booksellers and art galleries). For a cultural fix, Ringwood is also home to the Forest Forge theatre company – which creates professional performances for both its studio theatre and tours.

Families are attracted to the area by good-sized and well-priced property and the decent schools. Parents do like a good school and there are plenty of them round here. A cohort of juniors and primaries rated ‘good’ by Ofsted include Fordingbridge Junior and Breamore, Hale, Hyde, and Western Downland primaries, all north of Ringwood, Ringwood Junior, and Sopley Primary, south of Ringwood.

Secondaries continue the theme: Burgate School and Sixth Form (on the outskirts of Fordingbridge) is ‘good’, while Ringwood School Academy, a national teaching academy, is ‘good’ but with some ‘outstanding’ features. It does attract many to the area and means homes in its catchment are in demand. Local Independents also come highly recommended – including Forres Sandle Manor and Moyles Court.

All in all... This slice of Hampshire gets top marks for anyone wanting to get away from it all, but stay within easy reach. The area continues to feel like a bit of a secret - but people are increasingly in the know. 

Agent talk - Mark Youngman, Spencers New Forest, Ringwood

“This is a very popular area. Ringwood itself is an incredibly busy town that has improved its image and raised its game with the Furlong Shopping Centre and lots of good quality restaurants.

London buyers are looking, but the split between people moving into the area and those moving within the area is about 50-50.

Avon Castle is a sought after area with good-sized property, sometimes homes of 4,500 square feet, on decent size plots and very private. It tends to attract young families and couples. Ashley Heath is more of a suburb, attracting early retired people as it is near to Moors Valley Country Park and the Forest for walking dogs.

Hightown and Crow on the south side are more rural, and we receive lot of requests from local families upsizing in this area as it is within the catchment for Ringwood School Academy.

Families tend to love the villages. Frogham, Hyde and Stuckton are very sought after - it’s a lovely, lovely part of the Forest. Hyde seems to be a hot spot with families and young professionals. There’s a lovely village school there, which helps people settle. I think it’s very similar to Brockenhurst and so convenient as you’re only about 20 minutes drive from Salisbury.”


A look inside Sway Tower - Do you fancy living in a folly? Here’s your chance... Emma Caulton meets the owners of Sway Tower

Latest from the Hampshire