A winter’s stay at Undercastle Cottage
If you think you may lose your mojo this winter, why not escape for a winter break in the New Forest for a stay at Undercastle Cottage. Leave all the troubles of the world behind you and embrace the beauty of wildlife pottering about outside the window, blissfully oblivious to humans and our problems. Plus, there’s 1100m of private fishing on the Hampshire Avon from the garden. It’s a joy to fish during the winter months as the weeds have died back, and good catches of pike, barbel and chub are on the menu.
Winter in the New Forest National Park is stunningly beautiful. So don walking shoes, a woolly scarf and go exploring. It’s especially magical first thing in the morning because the bushes and trees are laden with sparkly frost and woods and heathlands shimmer and twinkle in the sunshine.
Whatever the time of day you venture out, you see the famous New Forest ponies and donkeys dressed in their thick fluffy winter coats. They appear to be in their own little fog, exhaling plumes of steamy breath against the crisp, cold air. Remember to bring a camera, as there will be plenty of wonderful photo opportunities!
Famous Trees of the New Forest
The New Forest has the highest concentration of ancient woodland in Western Europe. In the winter months, you can see the huge branches and immense framework these magnificent trees have developed over the centuries. The oldest tree in the New Forest is The great yew tree in St Nicholas’s churchyard in Brockenhurst which was carbon dated back in the 1980s and found to be more than a thousand years old.
One some time to wander around the well signposted circular walk at Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. You’ll stroll beneath giant sequoia redwoods which reach an awesome 51 metres in height. They are not native trees though and were planted in the mid-1800s by the Rhinefield Estate. Other noteworthy trees worth exploring is the Knightwood Oak, a couple of miles south of Lyndhurst. It’s thought to be the largest tree in the forest with a hefty girth measuring some 24ft, although it’s just a baby at 500 years old.
Take time to wander
Head to Wilverly Plain for a walk to see ‘The Naked Man’, aka the Wilverley Oak. It was used in the 1700s as gallows for the prolific highwaymen and smugglers. They took advantage of the forests tracks, trails and trees to transport their stolen treasures and escape capture. Those unfortunate to be caught were bought here to be hung or die a long and miserable death inside a gibbet.
If you’re keen to learn more about the heritage and history of the New Forest, you can book a guided walking tour for a couple of hours either on your own or within a group. Try Fuzzacker Guided Walks or Wild Heritage.
New Forest Attractions open in winter
There are plenty of New Forest attractions which stay open all year. Our favourites include the New Forest Wildlife Park to see Bison, birds of prey, deer and badgers plus a large number of playful otters full of noise and mischief! The world-famous Beaulieu National Motor Museum in the village of Beaulieu is definitely worth the trip – and you need not be a petrol head to enjoy it. The museum is packed with displays of vehicles from the earliest cars all the way through F1, film, TV and Top Gear to the present day.
Just six miles north of Undercastle Cottage is the picturesque boutique shopping city of Salisbury. Don’t miss the stunning Salisbury Cathedral which is home to one of the best surviving copies of the Magna Carta. A little further is Stonehenge the World Heritage property managed by English Heritage, The circular posed menhirs (stones) are thought to have been constructed some 5000 years ago. Ticket price includes a circular tour of the stones and entry to the exhibition – there’s also a café and gift shop. Other attractions close to Undercastle Cottage open in winter are: Portsmouth Historic Dock Yard, Corfe Castle, Bovington Tank Museum, Monkey World, Winchester and Mottisfont Abbey.
Winter days out in the New Forest
Take to the saddle
See the New Forest National Park from a different vantage point. Try a couple of hours trekking along bridleways and hoof worn trails through the trees. For experienced adrenalin junkies, fly full throttle across the heather plains for a heady buzz in pastures new. The closest riding stables www.arnissequestrian.co.uk are just two miles from Undercastle Cottage.
Grab yourself a paddle
Paddle the forest’s mighty tidal river, The Beaulieu River on a Canadian style canoe that seats up to three adults . Or go for a one-person kayak. It’s a very different river to the Hampshire Avon with a posse of migrant birds. If you’re lucky you may get rewarded and see the resident seals at play. For more info, take a look at www.newforestactivities.co.uk.
Crossbows, axe throwing and archery
Discover your ancestor’s medieval skills on an afternoon with www.insightactivities.co.uk who are a ten-minute drive from Undercastle Cottage, near Fordingbridge. It’s great fun, regardless of your age or fitness levels. You’ll soon feel like a character from Game of Thrones.
Dine at great foodie pubs and restaurants
Winter breaks herald time to enjoy long, lazy lunches in cosy thatched pubs with puffing chimney pots. You’ll find them sprinkled all over the New Forest serving imaginative and delicious food in satisfyingly hearty portions. There are also an abundance of pretty cafes, tea rooms and coffee shops laden with home-made heavenly cakes and scrumptious savoury bites. Cream teas range from simple scones, jam and clotted cream, to elegant formal affairs of artisan delicacies stacked high on cake stands, and tea served in fine bone china teacups.
Return ‘home’ to Undercastle Cottage
After a day of exploring and adventure, return to the cottage and hunker down in front flickering flames from the fire with a glass of your favourite tipple and relax in luxury.