We had just returned from Gozo having (only just!) survived a blistering 40-degree heatwave and we were asked to try a staycation in the New Forest in a pet-friendly lodge on the edge of the New Forest. I wasn’t going to say no – having travelled to France with my rescue dog Rosa last year I’m now always looking to travel more and more with her if and when I can.
The New Forest is one of England’s most popular holiday destinations and with good reason. It’s a wild and romantic place covering over 220 square miles of mainly open heathland, dotted with gorse and bracken and home to wildlife such as deer, otters, owls and more famously the semi-wild New Forest ponies. Dating back from 1079, the area was originally William the Conqueror’s game reserve and apparently he fiercely protected his beloved hunting land.
Our home for the week was to be a luxury lodge set in landscaped parkland in the family, and pet, friendly Shorefield Country Park. It was located just five miles from the edge of the New Forest National Park near the coast in Milford-on-Sea, a peaceful village home to a small green, a few pubs, an excellent fish and chip shop and a shingle beach with beautiful views of the Needles and the Isle of Wight. I fully embraced the beautiful coastal location and spent my mornings walking along the seemingly endless stretch of beach taking in as many lungfuls of the clean, fresh salty air as I could. Now and again in a sudden playful fit, Rosa would chase the odd flurry of seafoam or a passing seagull that dared to swoop nearby.
The lodge itself was cute, impressive and spotlessly clean set in a quiet corner of the park surrounded by trees. It was newly refurbished with a hot tub set on a private deck, two bathrooms, two bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen and a living area with sofas, large television and a cosy fireplace. Onsite communal amenities included an indoor and a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a handy and well-stocked supermarket, a gym, a day spa, restaurants and a bar.
Of course, it would have been remiss of us to stay in this area and not to visit the New Forest itself so on the second day we ventured into the protected park. As the car turned down a small narrow lane from the main road and then out onto the open heathland, the stark contrast from the busy traffic of everyday life to the surreal quietness of the unspoilt landscapes was immediately obvious. The New Forest National Park has an almost unearthly feel with velvety green landscapes that stretched far into the distance and clusters of curious ponies who if you stood in one position long enough the most inquisitive would wander over to greet you.
Unsurprisingly my dog Rosa loved the area just as much and spent a joyful few hours diving in and out of clumps of bracken and then dashing off to follow a new trail of wild animal scent.
We ended the week by exploring further along the coast which included a beautiful – and uncrowded – sandy beach at Highcliffe, before heading away from the peace and warm salty air and back again to South West London.
We were invited to stay at Shorefield Country Park but all our opinions are our own. We stayed in a pet-friendly Superior+ Hot Tub Lodge. Shorefield Country Park is one of Shorefield Holidays’ eight holiday and ownership parks across Hampshire and Dorset.