It gets more visitors per square mile than any of Britain’s other national parks and no wonder, with its unique combination of ancient woodland, heathland, coast and wildlife – including those famous ponies.
But while the New Forest has officially been around for nearly a thousand years, there’s always something new and exciting going on and 2016 is no exception.
Building on the region’s growing reputation as a must-visit foodie destination, the New Forest’s first ever Food and Drink Festival will run during the autumn, from October 31-November 6. Themes and events will be announced in early 2016. It’s easy to find local produce all year round; the New Forest Marque for locally-produced food and drink is now being used by more than 130 local businesses.
Fine fare is the theme again in Milford-On-Sea, which is holding its Food Week from March 28 to April 3, featuring celebrity shows, dining offers, themed dining evenings, cooking demonstrations, educational talks, wine tastings and the unique Great Dining Bus.
And there will be plenty of cookery demonstrations, gastro-experiences and fab food to taste at the New Forest Show, as well as the usual arena events, which takes place over July 26, 27 and 28.
Continuing the foodie fun, The Pig at Brockenhurst and Lime Wood will be building on the success of their Smoked and Uncut series of mini music festivals, with even more tickets available for 2016. Lime Wood and The Pig will play host with entertainment offered by musicians from the local area, up and coming artists, and accomplished stars. Last year’s performers included a Mercury Prize nominee and Glastonbury artistes. Food will be prepared by each hotel and drinks will be on sale from various specialists, including local ales from regional breweries. Lime Wood kicks off first, with its festival on 21 August, with The Pig following up on September 4.
The New Forest offers the perfect backdrop for wellbeing stays and with two leading hotels offering new wellness retreats, the new year can easily be a healthy one. Matt Roberts, the UK’s leading personal trainer, is leading several 2 and 3-day retreats at five-star Lime Wood Hotel, with a new element for 2016; sessions with meditation and mindfulness expert Lloyd Lovell. Packages start at £996 per person. Chewton Glen (5 AA Red Stars) host four new Fitter, Stronger Luxury Fitness retreats in 2016, with double Olympic gold medal winner James Cracknell and a top team of nutritionists and fitness professionals (from £1,140 per person). Also new to Chewton Glen is their Digital Detox retreat, where they’ll lock away all technology to allow full immersion into the New Forest’s beautiful surroundings. Guests will be able to enjoy spa treatments, special alkaline food menus, Nordic walking, yoga and meditation too (from £1,306 per person).
Walking is another big 2016 New Forest story. The popular Walking Festival returns during October, aiming to get even more visitors out of their cars and experiencing the forest as nature intended; from its World War II history, to the thinking behind the ancient forest customs.
New Forest Hotels will again host two Walking Weekends (walks run by the experienced local guides at Fuzzacker) in the forest next year, from 11-13 March and 21-23rd October. Prices are from £185pp inclusive, staying at the Beaulieu Hotel and walking in different areas of the National Park, including the coast.
Still in Beaulieu, the National Motor Museum opens a brand new feature. Get ‘hands-on’ with Driving Change, the new interactive display for 2016. The Beaulieu crash test dummy will welcome visitors to the display – push a button to hear him talk. Then turn knobs and handles to see how gears, suspension and engines work. The display explores motoring innovations, technologies, safety and alternative power for the future.
More news, openings and events will be announced in the new year. Stay tuned to www.thenewforest.co.uk