The New Forest, where free-roaming ponies and cows regularly halt traffic and donkeys peer in shop windows, is ideally suited to a Slow guide. Despite the name ‘New Forest’ the landscape varies with towering conifers lining the Bolderwood and Rhinefield Ornamental Drives, dense broad-leaved trees in the ancient and ornamental woodlands and miles of open heath. Just beyond the heart of the Forest, are riverside and coastal roads by Buckler’s Hard and East End, the water meadows of the Avon Valley and the yachting town of Lymington. The villages in and around the New Forest have distinct characters. In Brockenhurst animals regularly walk on main roads. Burley is known for its link to witchcraft and Fordingbridge is a charming small town on the banks of the Avon.
Author Emily Laurence Baker outlines the ‘working Forest,’ including how various organisations manage the land, how grazing animals have shaped its outline for centuries, and how the commoning system functions. Interviews with an Agister, local butchers, conservationists, commoners and other locals bring the book to life. The guide also features a wide range of activities, including walking, horse-riding and cycling, and explores accommodation and food options, from camping to luxury hotels and from simple pubs to the more gourmet variety. All venues are the author’s personal selection.
The New Forest is easily accessible to overseas visitors – about two hours from central London by train, bus or car.