Reviewed by Sarah-Kate Cantlie
Last week was the hottest of the year so far and my family and I had the pleasure of spending 3 nights away from home at New Forest in Hampshire. We drove from Cheshire and expected a long drive, which it was, but there is motorway for a lot of the trip, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The distance has put me off in the past, but now I’ve driven it, I’d definitely feel confident returning in the future and not worry that the journey down would be horrendous.
We had received confirmation from New Forest Holiday Lets in advance of our arrival on access and parking for the property we were staying in, including the times for arriving and departing. These were simple to follow and we easily found the house and gained entry without an issue. I had looked at the property online prior to our stay and it looked beautiful, sleeping up to a maximum of 8 people, there was plenty of room for the four of us. The house itself, Hedgehog Lodge was rather unassuming from the front, however it is deceptively large, moving through the property are two large rear extensions into the well kept and bigger than expected garden, at the back of which there is further accommodation.
Hedgehog Lodge is located on the edge of Lyndhurst village, but is little more than five minutes walk away from the shops and restaurants, even closer to some pubs and eateries. There are two double rooms plus a single/twin in the main house, only one bedroom looks out onto the road and the rest are at the rear of the property. The property has been nicely extended and original rooms opened up, despite this the heating is very efficient and the property was lovely and warm. The let comes with essentials included, so no need to pack the towels, or buy cling film/sandwich bags, as these along with dishwasher and washing tablets are all provided, this was very handy when packing our picnic for our day out at Paultons Park (only half an hour drive away). The neighbours at the house are currently undergoing their own extension work, which I believe will be temporarily disruptive, despite this we were not disturbed during our visit and spent an afternoon in the garden in complete tranquillity, the only audible noise was the water feature and my son bouncing on the handy enclosed trampoline provided at the bottom of the garden.
Hedgehog Lodge is in an ideal location, Lyndhurst is a beautiful little village, with the open park and wild horse’s moments away from the main street, so walking and cycling adventures are well suited to starting and ending here. We visited some of the other villages in the New Forest, such as Brockenhurst and whilst they were also beautiful, we found Lyndhurst to be the most accommodating in terms of its location and for evening relaxing and socialising. We stayed for 3 nights and found that there are many activities in the New Forest to do and we simply didn’t have enough time to do everything, so we will just have to return in the future to complete the adventure.
When we arrived we wanted to buy some food for breakfast and lunch the following day and we found that there is a well stocked shop in Lyndhurst that can be easily walked to. Alternatively there are also some larger supermarkets close by and we made a trip to ASDA in Totton about 5 miles away, where we also filled the car with fuel. The house has a larger than average fridge freezer which also had an ice tray and ice pack, which we used for our picnic, keeping everything cool on a very hot day. I was really impressed by some of the useful little extras available, they made the holiday run smoothly and without all those additional little extras that add up when you go away and forget the tea bags or dish cloth.
On our first evening, we decided to get a takeout, after a long drive, neither of us fancied cooking and we rarely get take away at home. There are quite a few places to choose from including Indian, Chinese and Thai. We decided on Thai as we prefer Thai food, there are two Thai restaurants to choose from and we chose Siam Thai, which was OK, but there was too much food and I ended up eating it for lunch the next day, which I’m not a fan of, but I don’t like waste either.
I spent some time trying to decide how to best spend our short holiday and came across a varied selection of activities, from Go Ape, Cycle Hire and Brewery Tours. We would have liked to have gone on a brewery tour at Ringwood; however the children were too young, so we’ll just have to make sure we take some grandparents next time, and then we can do some of the adult activities and try the selection of local pubs in the village. What we did do during our break, was visit Paultons Park – a family theme park and home of Peppa Pig World, it’s really a must for any parent with a toddler that loves Peppa as much as my son does. The day itself was hot and lashings of sun cream were required, much hotter than in Cheshire, where the weather always seems to be colder than down south. Paultons doesn’t just house Peppa Pig World, it has 60 other rides within the park, which we managed to get through a small number of after exhausting Peppa Pig world. If you want to get the best out of a day at Paultons and have the time, I’d take the two day pass they offer, it’s good value and there’s plenty to do over 2 days.
Next on our activity list was Longdown Activity Farm in Ashurst. This was really easy to find and took 5 minutes in the car from Hedgehog Lodge. The farm opens at 10am and every half an hour starting at 10.30am there are interactive farm activities such as bottle feeding the calves and goat kids, feeding the large goats and the pigs. We also went on a tractor and trailer ride and fed the ducks. The staff are very helpful at the farm and the children can keep going back for more food to feed the animals, keeping the energetic cherubs very busy. Longdown offers an almost endless array of activities alongside the animal feeding, with areas for children of all ages to wear themselves out. These include a lovely play and picnic area, a shed full of trampolines, ride on tractors and functioning diggers for the children to use (the diggers are amazing and my son will not stop harping on about them!). Try the tea room if you find yourself flagging, as neither you nor the children will want to miss the activities that span across the full farm, so get there early and make the most of it. The day is really good value for money and the under 3’s are free, so I would advise loading the car with a picnic and definitely going along for the day.
After our busy day at the farm I decided we needed to go out for dinner, although the facilities at the lodge were more than adequate, I wanted to make the most of being away and not cooking. There is quite a large selection of family friendly places to eat and drink in Lyndhurst, so I wasn’t short of choice. I liked the look of a relatively new looking eatery called Starskys, an American style restaurant, different from what we have available local to us at home. I phoned to book and they were very pleasant and accommodating to speak to, even asking about food allergies and high chairs, I was quite impressed. On arrival we had a lovely table that we could park the pram up at and had plenty of space, there was a cocktail list and a selection of bottled beer, keeping everyone happy. The drinks came quickly and although there was a slightly longer than expected wait on the food, which all came out together including the children’s meal, I think I would have preferred at least my sons meal out sooner, as children don’t like to sit for too long without purpose. The food we ordered was hot, tasty and plentiful and the menu had a good range of choice available. All in all, a very satisfying evening.
To summarise the New Forest as somewhere to visit, I hadn’t really considered it in the past, it hadn’t made the radar and the drive looked problematic. Now that I have been, I wouldn’t hesitate to return and it has opened up a new location for future holidays, especially as the children grow up and we’ll be restricted to school holidays, but they will be able to go to more places, such as Go Ape. The New Forest feels like a destination that can evolve with your family over time, bringing the possibility of new experiences and family enjoyment through the years. I would highly recommend it and with so many things to do packed into a relatively small area, there is something for everyone and travel time is limited once you’re settled in, be it in a self catering accommodation or one of the vast number of other types of places to stay including camping, bed and breakfast or fine hotels, the choice is yours.
For more information on New Forest Holiday Lets and Hedgelog Log or to make a booking visit www.newforestholidaylets.co.uk or call 01590 622449.
For places to stay, places to eat and things to do in the New Forest visit www.thenewforest.co.uk.
Hedgehog Lodge, Broughton Road, Lyndhurst, Hampshire, SO43 7AU