The UK is incredible, I never fault to be blown away by our beautiful country. There are so many spots I've seen and loved and I'm sure that I'm yet to discover more places. However, I'm yet to find somewhere that makes me feel like the New Forest does. From that moment you turn into the New Forest you feel the world melting away and suddenly everything is different. This beautiful heathland on the coast of England provides the perfect escape when you just need time to be. I have been eyeing up the East End - Buckler's Hard - Boldre cycle route as recommended in Matt Carroll's rather brilliant Escape Routes book for some time and when took me down to the New Forest I took the opportunity to stick about and spend sometime with my Derek (for those that don't know yet that's my bike).
My food adventure started at the incredible Mill at Gordleton. I was actually shooting a wedding here so the food wasn't their usual offerings but I have no doubts the standards are consistently this high. This little gem of a place is just on the outskirts of Lymington in a village called Sway. Liz, the owner, has a penchant for art and she has a great eye for it. In every nook and cranny of the tranquil garden is something to see and it's delightful. I sat myself at a little table in the front to eat (where Michael Roux Jnr was sat just a week age I was told) and got chatting to the girl working the bar - a gorgeous, friendly being that was happy to chatter away. Enthusiasticly she talked me through the usual menu and I loved that at the back they detail exactly where everything is sourced from. I'll definitely be back next time I'm in the area - the rooms were all devine too.
I was to rest my head in Lymington that evening, at a place called The Bosun's Chair. I didn't actually get any photos - as I checked in I chatted to the owner about cycling and he recommended I go for an evening ride along the sea wall, which I did and of which I got plenty of photos of. Then on my return to Bosun's Chair I got chatting to the barmaid and ended up propping up the bar and drinking a little too much red wine! For the money I paid (£45 for B&B) I was really happy - it was clean and comfortable and I was upgraded to a double room free of charge which was a nice touch. I ate breakfast there in the morning and though I can never manage a full English (they looked awesome though) I had some lovely bacon on toast. They serve Pieminster pies in the evenings and you can't go wrong with those Bristol born pies. I would say I would have liked a better wine menu but that's standard for me.
I think in Lymington I have a new love affair. I returned in the morning to pootle around and do some shopping. I found everyone to be so friendly and I came away with some absolute antique bargains as well as some beautiful Italian linen clothing from a boutique.
And so I set off with Derek. The route started from the East End Arms - a typical English pub owned by ex Dire Straights member John Illsley. The food looked lovely but it wasn't where I had my eyes on. I sailed through East End village, somewhere I would up sticks and move to in a beat - a place so peaceful that birds hop around the streets and the only souls to be seen were a couple of horses playing and the postman doing his rounds. I then found myself turning a corner to what was one of the biggest Tithe Barns in England - it looms over with ponies flicking their tails around it. I passed a pack of cyclists (and a few bits of local history) as I hit a downward run into Buckler's Hard. My plan was to have lunch in the garden of The Master Builder's House Hotel but there was a wedding going on and as I was shooting another the next day I decided I could do with a day off from them and pushed Derek to the Captain Cabin's Tea Rooms. Here I was approached by the lady manning the admission desk for the museum and village, I thought she's come to tell me off for not paying and using their gate but she'd actually come over to tell me about a lovely bike track to Beaulieu and if I'd had more time I would have taken her generous tip.
Lunch at the Captain's Cabin was just what the doctor ordered. I decided against the cream tea as I knew I wouldn't have been able to resist eating both the moreish looking scones and opted for a cheese and ham sandwich instead - no wilted salad and stale read here - freshly prepared and very enjoyable. I also appreciated that the tea came in a no fuss porcelain pot and cup rather than vintage(aka chipped)/enamel/Cath Kidson esque!
And so my time in the New Forest was done (for now), I headed to the M4 via the stunning Beaulieu and the heathland petered away as I neared Totton. The New Forest - you still have my heart over anywhere in the UK and you were just what the doctor ordered. I'll be seeing you soon.
Formally Emma Gutteridge