There are few places with a sense of deep-rooted natural history that compares to the New Forest. Originally preserved as a royal forest by William the Conqueror, it has been a source of pleasure for countless generations.
The incredible splendour of the forests and heath land in the area impressed royalty and government enough through the years to keep it mostly protected from the development and shipbuilding demands that have ravaged many of the forests in the area. Now, it remains a treasured piece of rural old England set perfectly in the modern world of high-speed internet and easy transport access. Yes, these things are available here too. Houses in the New Forest can hook up to 8k web TV and high-speed gaming, even as you enjoy life in a place that elicits comparisons to Tolkien’s Shire and Conan Doyle’s Wonderland.
How the New Forest stays so near, yet so remote
Standing in one of the area’s ancient groves or heaths, it’s hard to believe you’re less than two hours from the bustle of central London. Living here turns commuting into an act of time travel and spiritual refreshment – from the modern world of concrete and immediacy to a place where history and wilderness are always close. And the truth is that, while you enjoy the old rural beauty that enticed William the Conqueror and Elizabeth the First, the perks of modern life are very accessible here too. You can be at Heathrow or Wimbledon in 90 minutes and the City or Soho in 20 more.
The same drive in the other direction will take you to the beaches of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall in summer. If you were to pick the perfect place on a map for access to all the best of southern England, you’d be hard pressed to find a better location than the New Forest.
A holiday in history
Those lured by a house for sale in the New Forest have compared moving there to a permanent holiday in an ideal of rural England that’s almost beyond reach in the modern world. Brooks babble and donkeys and ponies roam free in one of the last British regions where they can while local communities go about their lives. Nearby, there are heathlands to explore, as well as the peaceful Solent, renowned for centuries as a sailing haven.
This is why houses in the New Forest are in high demand among both retirees seeking a quiet retirement and city commuters pursuing peaceful leisure time. In recent years, the increasingly popular weekend commuter lifestyle has brought professionals and their families here to make a second home on weekends, a world away from their busy London lives. The onsetting trend of remote work, meanwhile, has allowed some lucky Londoners to immerse themselves in the New Forest on a full-time basis.
Quality of life – Transport and schools in the New Forest
Swapping rose-tinted retrospect for sharp reality, New Forest estate agents will happily tell you that the basic building blocks of a good real life are all here in abundance. Schools and colleges are generally rated good or exceptional, with a generous smattering of independent establishments rated ‘excellent’ by their inspecting body. Ballard, Forres Sandle Manor and Durlston Court are the independents to look out for, while Arnewood Academy stands out among the government-funded offerings.
Transport-wise, you won’t get much better connected in rural England. Trains form Brockenhurst will get you to Southampton in 20 minutes and London Waterloo in an hour and a half. The M27 and M3 allow you a similarly quick trip in car with easy access to Heathrow on the way. Nearer to home, you can be on a cross-channel ferry in half an hour or enjoy renowned local cycling and sailing scenes that draw people from across the UK and beyond.
Living in the New Forest
While the towns of Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst fit excellently into their roles of quaint local hubs, Southampton, Bournemouth and Portsmouth provide a nearby taste of the urban lifestyle within a 20-minute drive. They’re just close enough to keep all the mod cons of a city handy, without encroaching on that rural ambience that sets the New Forest apart.
For local entertainment in the New Forest, try The Oak Inn, Lyndhurst, for a joyfully quirky take on a typical pub or The Pig in Brockenhurst for premium health and beauty treatments, as well as high-end dining. Of course, there is always the Isle of Wight for a day out or weekend away, along with all the beautiful beaches of southern England, for which you will be perfectly placed.
The impossible ideal made possible?
It’s an aspiration shared throughout Britain, or perhaps all the world: We all want to mix the many mod cons of the modern world with the best bits of times gone by. We want olde England with Colombian café lattes down the road, quiet rural streets with easy motorway access and modern education with gothic gables and green cricket pitches. Yet, we all know, or at least believe, that this is something of a fantasy.
The Rolling Stones, a band that links the old and new in more ways than one, told us we can’t always get what we want. That may be, the New Forest brings us as close as this modern world can to getting that satisfaction. Here, the rose-tint of the old world is available with the high-resolution sharpness of modernity.