The North of the New Forest, (that’s everywhere above Lyndhurst…) is wild and beautiful.
It is widely regarded as the wildest part of the National Park. There are fewer roads and even fewer boundary markers which makes for big views and bigger skies.
There are some lovely villages in this area. But with a far less population, life here spreads out into nature. There are no large towns in the north of the forest and within the National Park boundaries. Fordingbridge is the closest on the north western side. As a consequence, most little villages have good village shops with all the basics.
As you judder out of the villages, over the cattle grids, you’ll be straight out into a diverse landscape; ancient forests, grassy moorlands, pony-trimmed ‘lawns’ and some fenced agricultural land, reclaimed through the years by ‘commoners’. These locals use the forest as their place of work and it is not unusual to see people on horses, checking their stock, farmers feeding cattle, pigs out on ‘pannage’. To this day there is the Verderers’ Court, an ancient thirteenth century assembly, who meet and keep the forest law upheld.
Public transport here isn’t straight forward. 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 but no further north. Salisbury (main line to London) is 20 minutes from Nomansland in the very north of the National Park and 30 minutes from View Point House, in Frogham via the quicker roads there.
Great pubs to visit
The Foresters Arms in Frogham is a lovely pub, the wild animals from the forest have full access to the roads here. They love to rest up outside. Cyclists and walkers love it here and for good reason. The food is reasonable, generous and it’s got plenty of outdoor space too.
The Alice Lisle – south of Moyles Court on the old road to Ringwood (not the busy A338). A nice, good all round pub. Food here is excellent. Also The Horse and Groom at Woodgreen is an excellent. traditional pub, again, very good food. You can walk to both across the open forest.
The Royal Oak at Fritham is lovely and in the middle of nowhere. Walking here is more of a proper walk – 2 hours there and back. This direction across the forest is beautiful because there are no roads in between so traffic noise is very low or non existent and you’ll mostly see ponies and the odd mountain biker.
The High Corner Inn and Red Shoot Inn at Linwood,
Known as the northern gateway to the New Forest, Fordingbridge is actually just out of the park on the western and slightly north side. But it’s the only town near the north and so we’ve added it in here.
It’s a busy little town with all the right bits and pieces to make it popular and loved. Great for foodies, nice cafes, a few nice shops. It has a beautiful medieval stone bridge with its seven arches as a crossing point over the River Avon.
For food here,
Prices Butcher – are as good as any high class London butcher but at a fraction of the price. They offer better value as well as better quality than the supermarkets and include meat specifically prepared for the BBQ.
Gourmet Grocer in Fordingbridge is highly recommended
Hockeys Farm Shop and cafe in South Gorley – get in before lunch for the sour dough bread. Their sustainable sourcing is very good and the coffee and cake in the cafe are excellent.
The community farm shop in Woodgreen – ditto on the bread!
New Forest Wines on Christchurch Road is an independent wine merchant and recommended.
La Lambretta in Fordingbrige does excellent pizza and they deliver to the house.
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.
Being active here
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 teams 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.
Read more about cycling and cycle hire here.
If you are staying at our houses near Fordingbridge, there is a 19 mile road cycle loop via North Gorley, Linwood, Fritham and Godshill. If you want go further you can add Burley and Ringwood to the trip. If you want to do some serious long distance then you can cycle via Nomansland, Lover, Woodgreen, Downton, Whitsbury, Rockbourne, Alderholt and back into the Forest via Hackbridge.
There is an excellent cycle cafe in Ringwood called Cafe Velo. If the preference is for shorter family cycling then the road via North and South Gorley to Moyles Court is quiet, flat and very pleasant with lots of donkeys, pigs, ponies and cattle wandering along the road.
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 10 minutes away, at Arniss Farm. You can ride from here for miles and this is some of the best, (and quietest) hacking in the county.
Things to do in the North of the New Forest
The best bits around here are in the info above: walk, cycle, ride, picnic and explore slowly. This area is about the slow life and smelling the flowers….
The New Forest Lavender Farm at Landford, Salisbury. The farm, cafe and plant nursery are often in the Top 10 Attractions list for the area. We think it’s a fair rating. The cafe is good. The nursery is very pretty and the lavender farm is beautiful through the summer.
Peppa Pig World and Paultons Theme Park. The park is on the most eastern side of the National Park, but it’s technically on the north side. We’ve been and we love it. Here’s our guide to skipping the queues to enjoy the quieter times, read our survivors guide here.
And a little smuggling story…
From the Ringwood Historical Society:
Frogham is an interesting small village in the civil parish of Hyde, first mentioned at the beginning of the 14th century. it is the second largest settlement in the parish after Hyde itself. It is situated on a plateau overlooking the heathland of the New Forest to the east. The village is situated around a crossroads leading to the nearby settlements of Hyde, Blissford and Stuckton. Its nearest town is Fordingbridge, which lies approximately 1.8 miles (2.5 KM) north west of the village. There are many legends which identify the Frogham area as being a centre for smuggling in the 18th century. There is also an ancient roadside well known as Abbots Well, formerly known as Alleynewell, the plaque dates it as being first recorded in 1215. This perpetual spring was for centuries the main watering place for travellers on the old road to Southampton, the uncovered well was for their horses. It is situated round the corner and down the hill from the car park opposite Well House. It is easily missed, on first sight it looks like nothing more than a badly maintained surface drain and a manhole cover. In fact both items are wooden and the cover lifts to reveal a small pool of clear water. Opposite is Rose Cottage beside the Well House and is a grade II listed building once home to herbalist and author Juliette de Bairacli Levy, who wrote Wanderers in the New Forest. The book portrays an interesting picture of the Forest, from the plants and animals to forest gypsies and old farming practices.