Little more than a stone’s throw from the popular Yiddishe hub of Bournemouth lies an English oasis.
With miles upon miles of unspoilt land, horses, cattle and deer roaming freely and boasting a catalogue of picturesque villages providing a wonderful step back in time, the New Forest has to be seen to be believed.
Often forgoing getaways on our own soil in favour of sun and sangria, it’s difficult to imagine that just two hours driving time from London – and 15 miles south of Winchester, where you can still discover the remnants of the city’s community – lies an escape so rich in timeless scenery and yet offering something for everyone.
Keen foodies, and with our eyes peeled to the latest hotel hotspots, we had, of course, heard of Lime Wood and its resident chef Angela Hartnett.
So having garnered a reputation as being the jewel in the New Forest’s crown, we packed up the car and went to see if it would live up to the hype.
Our first impression of this Lyndhurst retreat was the two-storey, two bedroom forest cottage that we were to call home for two days and it was, quite simply, love at first sight.
Quaint yet chic, it offered all the latest mod cons housed within a cosy, homely framework. Highlights included the Smeg fridge, log fire and vast bathroom where a free-standing roll-top bath took centre stage.
Muffins for the children, champagne on ice for the adults, and a carefully thought out hamper of goodies on arrival also more than hit the spot.
At on-site eatery Harnett Holder & Co, we dined en famille the first evening, fully expecting to be faced with a kiddy unfriendly menu from which to choose.
Yet, just like the rest of this beautiful hideaway, children are surprisingly well catered for. Fish fingers and tomato soup could be found alongside dover sole and in-house smoked salmon, while no one balked at the mess, spillages and noise made by our three offspring, in spite of the restaurant’s elegant feel.
Dessert was followed by a look through the extensive DVD menu and a stroll back to our cottage via the larger-than-life swing; a firm favourite with the children.
An early morning swim at the simply stunning spa, where the changing rooms have baths, was followed by a trip to the local tourist hotspot, Beaulieu Motor Museum.
You could be forgiven for assuming this is merely a venue for car enthusiasts, but, aside from an impressive selection of all manner of vehicles from many a decade, there is plenty to do to keep everyone amused.
We began the day with a trip on the monorail, which encircled the grounds and took in the museum and palace house, and finished our trip watching the children discover the true meaning of road rage on the fun-filled go-kart track. A play area and picnic spot were also welcome additions.
Village hopping was the next order of the day and with a wealth of picturesque places to choose from, we struck gold in Lymington, with a gorgeous little sandwich shop for lunch and a sunny afternoon spent crabbing – and we did manage to catch one (that we safely sent back home afterwards).
While we rarely snuggle together to watch a film at home, the lure of the cottage lounge enticed us to tuck in to takeaway pizza while we rented ET from the hotel’s reception. They say, sometimes it’s the simple things, and this was precisely the magic of our Lime Wood retreat.
Unable to comprehend why we couldn’t move to Lime Wood forever, the only saving grace of our departure from this haven for the kids was a pit stop on the way home at Paultons Park. Home, of course, to Peppa Pig World, the prospect had the children squealing and snorting (like Peppa) all the way there.
Clean, well-positioned and small enough to be manageable when outnumbered by the offspring, the charm of the piggy-themed park is not lost on either adult or child. Bringing the cartoon to life through age-appropriate rides, a fabulous play area and a vast indoor soft play, as well as a very well-stocked gift shop equals pure joy for any Peppa enthusiast.
Paultons Park gets little attention compared with its better-known sibling. Yet, housing many an exciting ride, catering for children of all ages (and adults), as well as offering bigger and better playgrounds and water play areas than inside Peppa Pig World, it really is worthy of your attention. For us, with our children getting older, it made the difference between a morning activity and a whole fun-filled day out.
Travelling with children in tow usually means compromising on our holiday wish-list for theirs. But this time we all arrived home relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to book our next English getaway.
Where to stay:
Caron stayed at Lime Wood hotel in the New Forest National Park, where prices start from £330 per room, per night, 023 8028 7177 or limewoodhotel.co.uk. She visited Beaulieu Motor Museum, beaulieu.co.uk and Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park, peppapigworld.co.uk