I am a crazy horse lady. It’s a fact. So when the opportunity arose to visit the New Forest I was beyond excited.
David and I were invited to the New Forest for a friend’s wedding. We used the Bank Holiday weekend to make a mini break out of the trip, which meant I had a whole weekend to roam around the common lands in search of wild ponies!
Getting to the New Forest
Our drive down was a long one. We had planned to leave nice and early to avoid the Bank Holiday traffic but we didn’t, which is probably (definitely) my fault…
When we eventually hit the outskirts of the New Forest National Park I soon sat up from my slump and, quite literally exclaimed, ‘show me the ponies!’
Driving through the New Forest is like the English version of going on safari. The New Forest is home to all types of wild animals such as deer, donkeys, pigs, cows, birds, you name it. However, it being the New Forest, you see more of ones species than any other and those are the free-wandering ponies. They are everywhere!
We noticed that they tend to hang around in the busier areas of the New Forest, such as next to roads and in the town centres.
The wedding was at Burley Manor Hotel, which is a gorgeous manor house hotel with grazing deer on the doorstep! It was a lovely place for a wedding with beautiful grounds and the room for the reception was beautifully decorated.
Nice touch that the bride and groom included local fudge, too!
Other than that I can’t vouch for much else as I was only there for an evening (and I was drunk for a lot of it!)
When we looked at booking a room there was limited availability at the Burley Manor (it being the Bank Holiday). Also, we were staying for two nights and the rooms can be a little ‘spenny! So instead we opted for staying at The White Buck in Burley.
The White Buck is a classic period style Fuller’s pub. I didn’t know what to expect staying at a chain pub but actually all my expectations were exceeded!
We booked a Junior Suite with a King Bed.
All the rooms are very cosy with cream, grey and other neutral colours being the main theme.
An added bonus for our room was that it came with a huge round bathtub at the end of the bed! This also looked out onto the woodlands through the stunning bay windows.
In the morning I took full advantage of this and relaxed in it while watching Sunday Brunch. For me, that is total Sunday bliss right there! How do I get one of these installed into our flat?! Definitely beats our current shallow bathtub that barely covers you at full depth!
It’s all woodlands, countryside decor throughout the hotel with stag sculptures and artwork featured all over. I read that the pub founded it’s name because there’s a white buck that lives nearby but we weren’t lucky enough to cross paths!
It was a nice touch that you get a free bottle of Fuller’s London Pride beer in your room each day, too.
The only criticism I have of The White Buck is the lack of storage. For a premium room, you would half expect to get a wardrobe, no?! Instead you get a mere tiny clothes rail that is hung above the sofa. This meant I had to move the sofa to allow my dress for the wedding to flow down.
I’m an Expedia devotee when it comes to booking flights and hotels but we also went through Topcashback to save a few extra pennies.
If there’s anyone out there that isn’t signed up to Topcashback, sign up now! When discount codes aren’t available, Topcashback will usually advertise the company you are purchasing through. Topcashback provide you with cashback for clicking through them. It’s not 100% full proof, I’ve been rejected a fair few times for cashback that I should have been awarded. However, so far I’ve saved over £700 in cashback on transactions I would have made anyway!
We opted for Bed and Breakfast as part of our hotel booking at The White Buck. The breakfast is freshly made to order and they give you a list of hot breakfasts to choose from. David chose the classic full english and I opted for Eggs Royale. The hollandaise sauce was perfect and really yummy! As well as this, they have freshly baked pastries, chilled yoghurt, cereal and all the other cold accompaniments that you can pick from.
We first had a few drinks before dinner in their spacious and sunny beer garden, which I would definitely recommend as a detour on a walk around the New Forest.
That particular weekend, Fuller’s had a limited edition unfiltered pale ale on draught, so David was loving it.
As a little appetiser we ordered the breaded halloumi with sweet chilli jam and their homemade scotch egg. Both were good…but I have dined on the best scotch egg that exists elsewhere!
Ever since visiting L Mulligan Grocer in Dublin and sampling their delicioussssss melt in the middle scotch egg, I compare every scotch egg to theirs and others never exceed the Grocer’s standards. Yet, still, in every restaurant that offers their own homemade scotch egg, I try it in the hope that I will find an even more delectable one. Alas, I fear a trip back to Dublin is in order if I want the best!
For mains, I chose the Mussels Mariniere cooked from their ‘Wood Burner Oven’ menu. This menu is only available on Friday and Saturday. David chose the English rump of lamb with chorizo and sweet potato rosti, green beans and a roasted red pepper puree from the main menu.
I was living in the moment and forgot to photograph any of the food. Slap on the wrists to me!
We both agreed that the food was far better than we were expecting for a pub. We only decided on dinner at The White Buck because it was convenient and meant we could have a drink and not need to drive back from anywhere but we were delighted we ate here in the end.
Wandering the New Forest
We spent most of our time in Burley and found that the walks were generally the most open and best for spotting wildlife.
You need not venture far from The White Buck before you come across wild ponies. When you walk out of the main gate of the hotel, take a right turn down the forest track. A few minutes walk down the track there’s a golf course and the ponies congregate here.
If you walk down the track for another 5-10 minutes, you will arrive at a small cricket pitch where we spotted ponies grazing and also across the road from this we saw big groups of ponies on more than one occasion.
My favourite spot, which we found on the first day, is a little bit deeper into the forest. Cross the road at the cricket pitch and head towards the left into the forest area. At this point the track forks, head towards the right, down a slight hill, and follow the path. Then the track forks again and you want to take the right side track. Head down this path and it should be a little rocky hill.
When you reach the bottom there will, most probably, be ponies. On our first day we stumbled upon this spot and there must have been 4 different groups of ponies all grazing there.
We worked out that one particular group of ponies hang around together here because the little old farmer, who lives in the cottage at the bottom of the hill, feeds them. He leaves out freshly cut grass and apples he collects from his garden for them.
In this spot, I also met my favourite pony from the New Forest, I named her Cloudy! She was a grey pony who was immediately interested in us. She was the first pony that wandered up to me to say hello and stole my heart instantly!
I was armed with my zoom lens thinking we’d get nowhere close to the ponies or they’d flee if we approached them. I was very wrong!
If any lucky person reading this happens to meet Cloudy on their travels, please give her a stroke from me! She is super friendly, which I wasn’t expecting any of the ponies to be.
On our second day we ended up wandering a little further down this path and bumped into another family. They had sugar lumps and were feeding the same group of ponies. At which point Cloudy strutted over. They ended up getting themselves stuck (with a pram!) in the middle of this group of wild ponies and were fretting. Two of the ponies wandered off but Cloudy was in the middle of the path they wanted to go down, hassling them for more food. I’m confident with horses and as it was Cloudy I walked over to help them out and ushered Cloudy back for them to pass.
Moral of the story, I wouldn’t recommend feeding them. They are wild ponies at the end of the day and I believe it is frowned upon anyway. But bear in mind that if you do, you will probably get yourselves stuck in a situation with a lot of wild horses hassling you and arguing with each other for the food! It’s dangerous! Just don’t feed them!
On our last day in the New Forest we travelled over to Lyndhurst for a quick bite to eat before we left.
A quick google search in the car told me that The Oak Inn was a winner for some good grub, so we plotted our route to it.
Parking is limited outside this pub but we managed to get a space about a 3 minute walk away so it was fine.
When we arrived on the doorstep the pub was bustling with people! It was really busy. Granted it was Bank Holiday Monday so everyone had the same idea as us!
The Oak Inn is a dinky little pub. David’s head almost hit the beams lined along the ceiling.
Regardless of how busy it was, we found a cosy little table for two next the bar. Our table was also close enough to the door for a welcome breeze to two hung over humans. I did get cold and turned on the radiator next to our table though at one point. I would consider booking a table if it’s a weekend as I assume it’s always quite busy based on reviews.
Little did I know but this pub was also a Fuller’s pub! Luckily the menu was different to the one at our hotel! Fuller’s definitely have a monopoly in the New Forest.
At this point we weren’t very hungry and were both feeling a little delicate from the wedding festivities the previous night. So we chose something simple and both chowed down in a crisp fish finger sandwich, freshly battered with their ‘frontier’ beer, smothered in tartar sauce and served with coleslaw and fries. For a fish finger sandwich it was a pretty good one.
We drove to Brockenhurst with the intention of stopping but ended up driving through it instead.
It was really busy on Bank Holiday Monday. We couldn’t find a parking space anywhere near the forest areas with wildlife so we gave up and headed elsewhere.
We also ended up at a local vineyard on the outskirts of Brockenhurst. It seemed a good idea until a) we realised we were driving and only one of us could indulge and b) we were hungover! The vineyard was called Setley Ridge. They also make their own gins. We almost bought a bottle but neither of us fancied alcohol after the previous night. We gave it a miss but I will definitely venture back to grab a bottle of their wine and gin in the future!
However, we did buy one of the nicest homemade loaf cakes i’ve ever tasted! I subsequently ate three quarters of at home. They have a small produce store selling lots of local ingredients. The cake was toffee with salted caramel buttercream! The salted caramel had just the right amount of zing to it, it was really good.
Brockenhurst was recommended to us but, actually, I thought Burley was the nicest area. Brockenhurst looked a busier town with more to do but I enjoyed the quietness of Burley.
To break up the drive, we parked up somewhere along our route out of Brockenhurst to go on a walk. We ended up at a dead-end facing a private field and were forced to go back the other way again!
At this point, we thought it was time to called it a day and head home. We’d seen all the wildlife we came for.
All in all, I would recommend the walks around Burley if you’re heading to the New Forest and The White Buck is a great place to set up camp.