Friday, 30 December 2016

A much-needed break after Christmas

Hosted Christmas? Wrapping, shopping, preparing, cleaning, cooking, tidying up, making beds, washing……………… guests have finally gone and you’re left a shattered husk.

Maybe you need a short break to find your mojo?

Imagine waking up in a gorgeous cottage with ponies grazing outside your window with nothing to do but don a woolly scarf and go exploring on foot, bike or car. Or maybe, watch the wildlife from your armchair and cosy down in front of a roaring log fire with a glass of your favourite tipple. January in the New Forest is quite magical. Trees and heathlands twinkle with frosty crystals, and the sounds of nature prevail in midwinters hazy sunshine - pure serenity and totally relaxing.

There are plenty of wonderful restaurants, traditional pubs, cafes and eateries to explore in the area with exciting menus. The forest has a huge drive to feature what’s fresh and local. You’ll find many menus feature dishes of fish, meat and produce from within a 30-mile radius. Farm shops in particular are fabulous to pop in for an inspirational, quick and easy supper to take home and pop in the oven with minimal effort. A lot of farm shops cook and chill or freeze their own recipes, and you’ll find many of them also stock local crafts and gifts.

The New Forest has an award-winning vineyard worth exploring called Setley Ridge. Stop by and you’ll find a terrific farm shop which not only sells wine, but also offers free wine and cheese tasting, a café and garden centre. Danestream farm shop near New Milton stocks fruit, veg and free-range meat and poultry – check out their awesome home-made sausages. Hockeys Farm Shop near Fordingbridge is more a destination than a shop. Their Farmyard café serves a loyal throng of locals and visitors hearty breakfasts, lunch and afternoon teas, with recipes hallmarked by locally made artisan produce. To the west of the New Forest, Crow Farm Shop has a lovely little café and sells everything local that’s in season. Pondhead Farm in the north of the forest is home to Woodgreen Community Shop, open every day from 6.30am. The shop and café is a favourite meeting place for locals and visitors alike. Bread is baked onsite and don’t miss their deliciously scrumptious pies, made from secret recipes handed down through the generations.

If you’ve been cooking all Christmas, you deserve to take it easy and let someone else take over. The joy about staying in a cottage, is not being tied to a hotel restaurant. The diversity and quality of restaurants in the New Forest is truly sensational. Try The Cartwheel Inn near Fordingbridge for amazing home-cooked food, log fires and friendly service. The Elderflower Restaurant in Lymington is sublime. Chef Patron Andrew Du Bourg (formerly Head Chef at 5* Chewton Glen hotel and Michelin starred Club Gascon, London) creates modern British/French cuisine which is out of this world. Travel along the coast a few miles to the village of Milford on Sea and you’ll find Verveine. It’s a fishmongers, Deli and restaurant. Chef/Patron David Wykes who has worked in some of the finest restaurants in the world including Restaurant Jules Albert, and the famous Restaurant Chantecler at the Hotel Negresco in Nice opened Verveine a few years ago and wins amazing rave reviews.
For cottages with logs fires and home comforts that make you smile try…
The Old Barn in Exbury is a spacious, restful and stylish home from home. Close to the shoreline for walks along the beach, yet surrounded by ancient woodland and vibrant wildlife of the forest. This cute little barn makes for a sophisticated, relaxing retreat.
Fyfield Cottage in Everton is the perfect bolt hole for 2. Stay in this truly gorgeous 300-year-old cob cottage with chunky beams, oodles of character and lots of history. It’s also a short toddle to a fabulous pub called The Crown that serves heavenly food.
Whiteshoot Farm in Redlynch to the north of the forest is a luxurious converted barn with stunning architecture, set in six acres of private land and wonderful views. It has its own lake and boat, a vineyard and a truffle orchard. There’s even a tree house and zip wire if you fancy it!

Seagull Cottage in the Georgian marine town of Lymington in the south of the forest has a pretty high street full of independent boutiques, restaurants and a Saturday market. A great base to pootle around the area, unwind and get your sparkle back.

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