Burley village and the surrounding area is as about as perfectly pretty as the New Forest gets. You’re deep in the Western part of the New Forest National Park here and life is slow and rustic.
Ringwood is the areas biggest (small) town and there’s plenty going on.
You’ll find ancient forests, heathlands, wild ponies, cattle and donkeys – all of whom have right of way over cars, and plenty of endearing red brick cottages, many still have thatch roofs.
We love that the animals have right of way. There is even a law court dedicated especially to the right to graze animals ‘wild’ here. Livestock, grazing, and cutting wood are managed under the Commoning laws. These were set up in the 13 century and are very much alive and followed today. Back then animals were grazed wild, and it’s the same now too. The roads are not fenced and animals do have right of way. It’s a slow and an ancient way of living.
Witches are a part of Burley’s history that have become celebrated in the village. During the late 1950’s a famous ‘White’ witch named Sybil Leek lived locally. She wore a long black cloak and had a pet jackdaw who used to ride upon her shoulder. Because her costume fitted the idea of a wicked witch, the locals fell out with her and she moved to the USA. Her work on the occult and astrology is still available online and there are several local gift shops that celebrate the theme.
In the 16th century, a new pub was built. Named ‘The Queen’s Head; it was (as many are across the forest) notorious for smugglers, vagabonds and highwaymen. If you visit, ask about the hidden cellar which was discovered beneath the floor of the “Stable bar”. It was hidden full of pistols, coins, bottles and other goods and was believed to be one of the hiding places of the local band of smugglers.
Public transport isn’t straight forward. There might be a bus once in a blue moon. You really need to be travelling by car. It is well set up for off road travel by horse or bike (on and off road). Trains come to Brockenhurst, 15 minutes away by car, but no further north.
Great pubs to visit
The White Buck is a good local pub. Fullers own the pub and it has generally good reviews. You can still see the odd white roe deer buck (male with antlers) around in the New Forest. Keep your eyes open!
This small market town bridges the River Avon, and is a lively place with plenty of independent shops, restaurants and cafes. It has a charter that dates back to 1226. Who knows if the street market dates back that far, but it’s on Wednesdays now and is very good.
The town also hosts; New Forest Wines are worth supporting. They do a great job. Patterson’s fish monger/butcher are well regarded. There as is a Waitrose and Lidl. Plus 2 good bike shops.
Welsh Street has the best view of the river, the old arched bridge is well loved and used still.
Getting out and about in Ringwood
The Brewery has been crafting quality beers since 1978. It’s a famous local company with plenty of award winning beers. They are brewed in the traditional way using only the finest natural ingredients, premium malted barley, together with hops from Kent and Worcestershire. Head off for a Brewery Tour experience where you’ll get the chance to taste the malted barley, sniff the hops and see the beer fermenting in the Tun Room. The afternoon will end with the opportunity to partake in a tutored tasting session and enjoy a complimentary drink in the Pin Room.
Eating here- there are some really great options to choose from. If you’re looking for a cafe then The New Forest Pantry is very popular and also has an outside seated area. For more of a restaurant feel than Lovitaly is the place to go- they make authentic Italian food with fresh ingredients which is always delicious. Probably the most well known place is Framptons which is a bar/restaurant and the original venue that includes two more places also in the South. They do breakfast, lunch and dinner with a rather good cocktail menu available…
Being active from Burley
Walking here is superb. Head in almost any direction. The Ordnance Survey map won’t show many specific footpaths on the area because it is all free to roam. However try to stick near the tracks, (there are many) not only because it’ll keep you away from the areas famous bogs and wet patches (!) but because you won’t disturb the nesting ground birds that love this area.
Cycling here. For those who cycle off road, there are marked tracks and the National Park team prefer you stick to these. This is mainly for the same reasons mentioned above. But also to try to reduce tire erosion on the sandy soils. If you stray, especially during busy times, you many have wardens asking you questions.
Read more about cycling in the New Forest at large here. Phil’s cycling interview.
There is an excellent cycle cafe in Ringwood called Cafe Velo. If you are looking for family cycling off road, take the old train line. It’s flat-ish, off road, the track is good, there are masses of bits to explore on the way, and not a car in sight.
The Woods Cyclery, based in Lyndhurst, is a leading brand in bike-packing, long distance tours and specialist trips and kit. They have a great and micro coffee shop on site. Very cool fellas.
Horse riding. There is a great place in Godshill, just 20 minutes away to the north, at Arniss Farm. You can ride from here for miles and this is some of the best, (and quietest) hacking in the county.
We love the streams to play in and hide and seek in the bracken and heathy areas. But if and when you want more…
Just past Burley, 25 mins away, don’t miss Moors Valley Country Park. You only pay for parking and the site is huge, has two massive play structures, one for younger children in a giant sandpit. In the larger forest park area, it has 8 or so well built, creative play structures all themed on the local wildlife. You can cycle here safely, all off road. There is a very good café and visitors centre too. The site is also accessible for wheeled mobility transport. It’s a day trip destination for families and very well priced.
See the full beach download below, but small children will love the ‘splash pad’, in Christchurch. Check opening times). There is no swimming areas, but there are paddling pools, fountains, streams, places to dam up, float toys and enjoy creative water play all around.
Open in summer months only. Visit their Facebook page here for more info.
For bigger kids, the New Forest Aqua Park is 20 mins away toward Fordingbridge. It’s approx’ £15 an hour. Do book in advance for their activities which include paddle boarding, kayaking, wake boarding and water-skiing. Teens will love it.
We love Gorley, the hilltop areas and anything toward Fritham for the best National Park forest walks.
Feel the sand under your feet….. the nearest Beaches
The long and sandy beaches at Highcliffe Castle Beach and Mudeford Beach are both charming. There are good cafe’s along the coast here. Read our Insiders Guide to the New Forest beaches for more.
Hengitsbury Head is very close too. It is a site of significant archeological importance. It has a great cafe and visitors centre too.
The Mudeford spit is most fun to arrive by the ‘noddy’ train, or take the little boat. A 20 minute drive then a 30 minute walk.
Even nearer, on the ‘main land’ Avon beach is white sand and lifeguards in summer. It also has a fab’ cafe and further up you’ll find the Noisy Lobster – a well loved and brilliant cafe with some reputation. A 20 minute drive.
As you leave Highcliffe, there is a left turn into Rothesay Drive, short road just at the end, park behind the castle. walk down to beach from there. Castle cafe and nice areas to sit out. Or can park across the road. A 25 minute drive.