The third and final phase of our trip was back inland to New Forest National Park for some hiking and peaceful English countryside. Known for its thousands of acres of Heatherland, free roaming horses and ponies, and woodland forests; New Forest is a web of walking trails, lovely villages, and hilly terrain. The weather was supportive of our plan to do as many hikes (walks as the English call them) as we could, to spend some down time just enjoying the countryside, and to enjoy more country pubs. We stayed in the village of Woodgreen, right on the northeast corner of New Forest. It is just 15 minutes south of Salisbury, where we have been multiple times, but we had never visited, the area until now
On our way from Bridport to Woodgreen we stopped in Sherborne and visted Sherborne Abbey. The Abbey was built in 1140 and was the original seat of the Diocese until that was moved to Old Sarum in Salisbury in 1075. Now that’s an old church! It is famous for its spectacular vaulted ceiling. It was amazing and as beautiful as many of the cathedrals we have visited.
Maybe the highlight of our entire trip was our bed and breakfast. We stayed at Little Acorns just up the lane from the village common of Woodgreen. Our hosts Reg and Chris were absolutely wonderful. Their B&B is really lovely. The perfect place for us to spend a relaxing, enjoyable visit in the New Forest. Horses stop by their gate, there are badgers most nights enjoying a bedtime snack under the bird feeders, the breakfasts were delicious, and the guest lounge was quiet and serene. Chris and Reg provided great insights into the area and recommendations for walks which were perfect for us. Their gardens were a lovely place to both enter the forest and watch the local wildlife and birds. Thanks for a great stay!
We took two primary walks. The first was through New Forest, a loop starting near the village of Frogham, out to Alderhil Inclosure and back. While it wasn’t a very long hike, only about 4.5 miles, it was diverse. We started up on a hill overlooking a meadow with a brook running through it, through a small, forested area, then returned along a ridgeline back to the car park. The first section was through the meadow with free running horses, ponies, and cows. We followed along the brook and walked through small groups of horses just grazing on the green grass. The forested area was not only a wooded acreage, but also had small “lanes” cleared through it used for corralling the horses when needed. Thus the name inclosure. After a short climb, we were up on Hampton Ridge. The views from the ridge were fantastic. There is also an old WW II bombing practice range (Ashley Walk), completely reclaimed by nature. We found the old pointing arrow, used to help pilots with the direction for the bombing runs. As we got closer to the car park, we walked past Abbots Well. The well dates to the 13th century and accesses a perpetual spring. It was a great walk, perfect for us, and the weather was ideal.
Our second walk was a loop from Woodgreen to Hale and back. A 5.5 mile loop, it starts just two houses down from our B&B, winds through some local farms and villages, and returns back through the village of Woodgreen. A little wetter and more overcast day then our first walk, but still a very comfortable day. Any hike where there is not precipitation actively falling from the sky is a good hike. We started out by seeing a doe and her fawn run across the opening as we were crossing a brook. The leaves were thick on the ground. We must have gone through 20 stiles as we traversed meadows and pastures on our route. We walked through the villages of Hale and Hatchet Green. The highlight of the trip was finding some Highland Cattle in one of the pastures. Highland cattle are long horned, with bushy long hair and primarily found only in Scotland. We walked past the Hale House and on by St Mary’s Church. The church was quiet and deserted. It is an old church established in medieval times, built in the 14th century, and renovated in the 18th century. Very small, but unique and beautiful. Then along the River Avon, which runs through Salisbury, and through Woodgreen, and back up the lane to our B&B. It was an enjoyable hike on an overcast day through peaceful countryside.
One of our other goals was to enjoy country pubs. We found one of our favorites of the entire trip and of recent memory right in Woodgreen. The Horse & Groom is a classic Public House with a great little bar and wonderful restaurant that served delicious venison & ale pie and plenty of good proper beer in casks, even some of my favorite local brand, Ringwood Forty Niner. We enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner here as well as Sunday Roast. We also found a place right along the river in Fordingbridge, The George, with views of the river and bridge. Soup and a Speckled Hen beer hit the spot. Our final pub of the entire trip was The Goat in Downton. One last serving of fresh fish & chips and beer.
We also did a few local touring drives. The village of Breamore is a lovely little village. We visited their local church, another St Mary’s, an old Anglo-Saxon church made of stone with a 15th century arch and some of the original windows dating back to the 1300’s. A giant Elizabethan manor house, Breamore House, and its grounds, where the family still lives, is the predominate feature of the area’s landscape. We stopped by Breamore Mill and the arched bridge into Woodgreen. We also did some driving along the roads within New Forest proper exploring Castle Hill, with views of the river valley, mill and Breamore house. There are some wonderful turnouts with overlooks of the valleys and meadows. We were lucky enough to have a gorgeous day with blue skies for the views.
It really was the perfect visit with great walks, wonderful country pubs and a lovely B&B. We are glad we were able to spend time here and may even stop in for another visit if we are in Salisbury again.