Thursday, 30 October 2014

2 Minutes of Fame (my opinion on cycling in the New Forest)

I still can't quite believe that I was on TV last Sunday, did you see me? 

About 2 weeks ago I was just getting myself kitted up ready for my usual cycle in the forest when I received a phone call.  A very nice lady introduced herself as Jessica Parker from BBC South and explained that she was calling about a current debate that's going on here in the New Forest National Park about cycling, and she wondered if I was willing to talk to her about it.  Well anyone that knows me would know that if I have any knowledge or opinion on a topic I will talk to anyone about it, so it was a no brainer really.  
So, after about a 15 minute discussion she asked me if I would be willing to be filmed for TV at my B&B for a short programme she was making about this debate as she was interested in using my views on how this issue could affect small local business's.  I had obviously given her the right answers to her questions on the phone :)  I was a little surprised but instantly said "yes", as I think we all have this "thing" about being on TV lol.  We agreed a day and time and then I went off and did my cycle, smiling & feeling quite chuffed with myself.  

Filming was set for Monday 20th Oct at 4.30pm and all that weekend before, I was panicking, cleaning, tidying, cleaning again, gardening, panicking, cleaning again, until in the end I had ran out of time.  I had been worrying about what I should say and if I knew enough about the topic to give an informed opinion, so I had debated it with everyone I bumped into and all my guests too, and obviously told them that I was going to be on TV. 
The time arrived, and they were very prompt.  The decision was made by the camera man to shoot the whole interview in our guests breakfast room for ease.  He did quite a bit of filming around the room picking out all my homemade jams & marmalade's and any literature that involved cycling.  He also filmed me setting up the table for breakfast from start to finish.  
It was a very structured interview as she had very specific questions she wanted to ask and I answered them all honestly.  Afterwards though I felt that I could have said more.  I could have expressed a stronger opinion in less words, because after seeing the finished item on TV I realised just how short and sweet it was - most of what I had said was cut out.  
I was told that the interview was going to be part of the Sunday Politics Show which is aired on BBC1 every Sunday at 11.00am, and that our bit was included in the local debate at 11.30am.  Who would have thought it, me being part of a political debate show! 

For the next 5 days I was left wondering what exactly it was going to be like, how much they would use and whether or not they would hash my words around to make something completely different to suit their needs. I told everyone in advance that I know to watch it either live or via iplayer or Facebook and we all waited in anticipation.  
On Saturday night I was actually put out of my misery, as I was given a link via Twitter to a sneak peak of the finished piece and it was really weird watching myself.  I was a little disappointed that it was so brief but they did only use my words and chose some that obviously suited the programme.  The shots of our signage are great publicity for the business which is always a bonus and the support and extra activity on our website, Twitter & Facebook pages is also invaluable.  
I did also watch the full programme, just to see how it all fitted together and if there was any further debate about the film afterwards - there was some discussion, one of the ladies actually supported and agreed with me & our plight as small business's, before they cut her off :)

You can watch it here if you missed it:

The whole experience was a little surreal but fun and well worth doing even if just for the publicity for my B&B, but don't get me wrong - I do really support the pro-cyclists in this very emotional and important argument. I do feel that if we turn our backs on cyclists in the New Forest National Park we will loose out on a huge amount of visitors and a lot of money being brought into the local economy here.  We rely on tourism and that includes cycling.  
Funnily enough we are being encouraged as B&B owners to push the "Green Tourism" concept - Yeah you might laugh! how can we really do that if we object to people cycling.  The health benefits too of getting out and doing some exercise on a bike whether it is just a couple of miles or a whole sportive event, everyone is telling us we need more exercise, it's all just backwards!  How does driving cycling away from here fit in with the government's "get people cycling" campaign?  The government have actually awarded a £3.57m grant to extend & improve the cycle tracks and implement a new extensive cycle hire scheme throughout our National Park, which is predominantly what the argument is about, and the fact that if it doesn't go ahead the money will be withdrawn. 
Other places manage to deal with cyclists and we are in serious danger of loosing them all to places like the Isle of Wight & Peak District simply because they welcome them and encourage them.  If the grant ends up going to somewhere like that and it becomes a success lots of people will have egg all over their faces!!

We need to open our eyes to see the big picture and the oppourtunity for this National Park, it's a special place for all to enjoy, not just the blinkered, small minded minority that think it belongs to them.  For the Park and surrounding areas to financially survive and continue to be a leading vacation destination we need happy visitors that stay and spend money, and as long as the infrastructure (whether it be new or modify what we have) is put into place it should be able to include everyone.   
I am all for live and let live :)

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

New Forest Tour Bus - A perfect day out :)

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be one of a select few local business who were invited to a special social media day out on the New Forest Tour bus.  
It was an organised event, (although we mingled and travelled with actual tourists throughout the day) for us to experience the tour bus first hand and share it with the world.

So we all met at the main car park bus stop in Lyndhurst at about 10.00am and introduced ourselves.  There were representatives from Careys Manor Hotel & Spa , Ringwood Brewery, Shorefields Holiday Park, Daisybank Cottage B&B, New Forest Wildlife Park , Brand New Forest, The New Forest Tour, The New Forest, Cottage Lodge B&B, Camping in the Forest, New Forest National Park Authority

We started off on the Red route, this took us from Lyndhurst straight to Burley through some beautiful scenery and past lots of ponies enjoying the sunshine.  Burley is the Brand New Forest Village of the Year - 2014 a well deserved award for a lovely village.  If you read my blogs regularly you will know that I really like Burley and I wrote a blog all about it.  Every time I go there - whatever time of year, it always has a village fate feeling about it and this time was no different.  The weather was amazing which enticed some to buy a New Forest ice cream, others bought the handmade Burley Fudge.
This time I just went in search of ponies & deer.  Burley is one of the few remaining villages with no cattle grids which allows the ponies and cattle to roam freely.  It's always fun as a spectator to see the traffic held up by them.

Ordinarily if you stayed on the red route you would then continue onto Ringwood, Blashford Lakes, Fordingbridge, Sandy Balls Holiday Village, Ashurst, Longdown Dairy Farm, the New Forest Wildlife Park and then back to Lyndhurst.  

On this trip we changed buses and picked up the Blue route 
at the stop next to the famous Coven of Witches  shop.  On this leg of the trip we stayed on the bus for about an hour and enjoyed all the beautiful and diverse scenery that the New Forest has to offer, ranging from heathland, forest, coastal paths & beaches, wetlands & nature reserve and some beautiful old historic buildings like Hurst Castle.
You can even see over to the Needles on the Isle of Wight and the Purbecks of Dorset. 

This particular leg ended at the lovely Georgian town of Lymington, another one of my favourite places.  We had just enough time to take in the pretty cobbled streets at the old quayside end of the village which looked amazing in the gorgeous weather we were so fortunate to be out in.  Although I have to say, you still need a cardigan or light jacket on the open top as it does get windy and chilly, and don't worry about doing your hair before you get on - it's a waste of time lol!
If you stay a little longer, one of the things you can do is take the Puffin Cruises,

They depart regularly from the quay side and take you out into the Solent for panoramic views of the Isle of Wight and the National Park coastline.  On a day like today it would have been amazing. There are many unique shops, tea rooms, there's a salt water Lido, children's play areas & quiet parks, 10 miles of nature reserve that you can walk through, and even a traditional street market on a Saturday.  So much to do and see.

The running commentary that you get throughout all of the journey's is very informative and interesting, talking about the fascinating history of the area and special places of interest.

So after a short stop at Lymington we jumped on the Green route from the main bus station.  This took us across country to Elmers Court Hotel, Beaulieu Motor Museum & village taking in the picturesque views of the Palace House across the lake and then some of the tranquil Beaulieu river, onto Exbury Gardens, then to Hythe

where the historic Pier train runs to the ferry that connects with Southampton, it's actually listed in the Guiness Book of Records as the oldest working pier train in the world!
From there we then cut across the open heathland over to Beaulieu Road Station - this particular part was extremely windy but still good fun.

Finally after an extremely enjoyable day out, we arrived back at Lyndhurst main car park.
This particular itinerary was chosen for us as an example of what you can do on the Tour bus.  You can do more or less and in a different order if that's what you choose.  You can even (if you choose) just sit on the bus all the way round and not visit anywhere, it would still be a good day out, but if you are able to get off you certainly experience a lot more and probably take away a little bit more of the forest with you.

All in all it was a perfect day out, the weather was amazing, the company of the other business's was a  pleasure, ordinarily I would probably not have met these lovely people, so it was great to be brought together.  The scenery was superb, you can't beat the view from the open top of a double decker bus, the whole event was very well organised and a great success as a social media event, as all of us couldn't stop Tweeting and Facebooking all day.

All that is left for me to say is a massive thank you to Shona, I would have recommended the tour anyway as I always do - but now I can share about all of the routes and attractions with confidence and enthusiasm as I can't stop myself from talking about it

 Mel :)

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Awards & rewards

So it's mid June already and I haven't blogged for a while so I suddenly felt like reflecting & writing a little bit about how my business has changed over the last 2 years, as finally things are coming good for us and I believe we are predominantly reaping the benefits from the outstanding Bournemouth University's Digital Destinations Social Media & Digital Marketing project that I was so lucky to be a part of. 

Rewinding back a bit to explain, we moved to our current address in 2011 and after a bit of time refurbishing the place and converting the spare rooms into B&B guest rooms we opened our doors in 2012. 

That year we basically didn't even exist anywhere because our location is so very well hidden, yet still in the centre of Lyndhurst.  Even most of the locals didn't and still don't know where we are.  This was one of the reasons we loved the location although we always knew getting noticed would be a slow process.  

Moving from a prominent position on the busy A337 Romsey Road where passing trade could clearly see us and stopped most of the year round, to a quiet secluded, well hidden gravel track that no one knew existed and couldn't see us as we are at the bottom, meant that business was almost non existent. We were totally reliant on other B&B's passing business on and the few websites that we were advertising with, as well as our own - which, to say it was under achieving is probably being polite.  

Because of the way our old B&B performed solely on it's location and repeat customers we had never really needed to bother with websites, advertising and I certainly hadn't even entertained other options like social media.  Suddenly not knowing what to do to increase bookings, when we had hardly any money to spend on advertising, things were starting to get me down, I was really beginning to think that we had made the wrong decision in moving to such a location.  Knowing that something needed to be done otherwise we might not have made it through another poor season I was starting to open my mind up to new options and strategies.  

Out of the blue one day I received an email from the NFTA (a support organisation for local tourism based business's) announcing that a project had been offered by Bournemouth University in conjunction with Tourism South East which would involve a selected amount of business's to work with and share the experience & knowledge of a final year marketing student and the project leaders for 8 months - for free!  
Initially I read it and thought it's out of my league, but maybe Fred would be interested, so I mentioned it and his response was "it's your business - so you need to do it for yourself".  Not really wanting to throw myself into something I knew nothing about, I decided it was sink or swim really and entered my application.  The amount of applicants for it was very high and I had already convinced myself that I didn't stand a chance of getting on it, but at least I'd taken the first steps of trying to change our situation. 

So when I didn't get selected I wasn't surprised, although I was surprised when I got a phone call from the University a few weeks later saying that someone had pulled out at the last moment and if I could make it to the first seminar the next week - I was in.  You can probably imagine that I was excited but afraid all at the same time.  On arrival my fear was compounded even more, all these other business's had already been doing some social media and 'little ole me' hadn't even been interested until a few weeks prior.  I was out of my depth big time and nearly never stayed, the only thing that kept me there was Sarah Willats from the New Forest Destination team, I knew her from other things I'd been involved with for the promotion of the National Park, if it hadn't been for her friendly face in the room I would not have continued - I'm sure.  
After a few hours of getting to know everyone in my team I began to realise that although they were already using social media, they didn't actually understand much more than me.  We all gelled really well and helped each other out to gain from each others experiences and failures which to me was invaluable - I owe a lot to each and every one in our #APPSFAB team inc Philip, Maureen & Steve and I want to thank them all again and again.  

To a small struggling business peoples support, help and encouragement can make so much of a difference, I know - Acorns of Lyndhurst is proof.

Anyway to get to the point, since that project which made me (with the fantastic help of my web page designer) upgrade our web page and get us on page 1 of Google rankings, I made 2 Youtube videos with 1 being an advertising promotional video & the other was used as an inspirational presentation at the Tourism South Easts AGM & conference, we joined Tripadvisor and have soared, I became a blogger and a regular Facebook & Twitter user making the most of all the free channels available to any of us, I now make my own
preserves too and I have just been invited to a special social media event on the New Forest Tour Bus.

It does take time to get a good presence on the social sites but the rewards are great when you see yourself on page 1 and you see the bookings flooding in.  Last year was a good year for us as we watched the business start to grow and made a little bit of money, but I have to say that this year so far has exceeded my expectations.  Listening to a lot of B&B owners in the area they have complained about how poor the first quarter of the year was - not for us.  We are up on the same period last year, and this second quarter so far, we have continued that trend.  We are having a very busy year and I am very happy.  To top off the amazing start we were unexpectedly awarded a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence last month, which is amazing.  I can't thank the people who have reviewed us enough, as that was all down to them.

I know sometimes you get fed up with people always bleating on about how well they are doing and everything is all about them praising themselves,  but I really wanted to share this because I really am so grateful for how my business has turned around from 2 years ago, and it's mostly because of a special few people that inspired me, converted me and supported me.  

I am eternally grateful and I can't say it enough, so using the skills they taught me this is my thank you.

Mel :)

Monday, 12 May 2014

Never a dull moment @ Acorns of Lyndhurst B&B

Acorns of Lyndhurst B&B 

The last few weeks have been very eventful at Acorns of Lyndhurst as those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter will know. 

My mum has been staying with us for a while and unfortunately or maybe fortunately for her I ended up taking her to Southampton A&E 2 weeks ago and she was diagnosed as having DVT in her left calf.  I say fortunately for her because it needed to be found as it's dangerous walking around with clots. I have to say that all the staff in the hospital over the 3 days that we were there were all lovely and incredibly thorough, and at least it was picked up, as if it hadn't been spotted she might not be here now.  She has been getting very good care and treatment from all involved and is doing pretty good now.  
We even managed to get out for the day for her 80th birthday last Monday.  
We all went out and became tourists for the day in Burley village 
and a great day we had too, I can definitely recommend Burley as a place you must visit in the New Forest.  One thing in particular that we did was the Burley Wagon Ride which leaves from the Queens Head Pub Car Park regularly and does either 20mins, 30mins or 1 hour tours around the village and surrounding forest.  A very enjoyable experience for all ages and abilities as mum obviously wasn't able to walk too much.  Mum also insisted on going into the Burley Fudge Shop.  We got to try 2 types of fudge, clotted cream which was lovely but obviously a bit on the sweet side, so then she gave us marmite fudge.  Yes marmite, it was actually nice, very unusual but nice.  If you have never tried it you must pop in and give it a go.  We then ended our day at The White Buck Inn for dinner.  

We sat in their beautiful garden as the sun was shining.  Our meals were lovely.  They have recently under gone a refurb inside and it is lovely, I always did like this pub but it's even better now. 

The reason why Mum came to stay originally was so that we could take the kids back down to Looe, in Cornwall again. 

 I had managed to book a 3 day weekend break in the Parkdean - Looe Bay site again with the Sun £9.50 offer, as we did last October.  I have to say that although it was nice to get away and be back in Looe, the overall experience in Parkdean to me was not as good as the first time, mainly I think because none of the entertainment crew were the same and last time round they made it for me.  I think if I do the deal again I will try somewhere else next time.   The kids loved it though - which I guess is the main thing and I do really like Looe itself.

The other major event was us bringing home our new kittens, Daisy & Amber.

 They are so adorable and funny.  The kids absolutely love them, so much that they can't leave them be for a minute when they are at home and trying to get the kids to do anything now is a major ordeal, especially getting ready for school in a morning.  You can waste so much time though just sitting with the kittens or even just watching them.  In the last 2 weeks they have grown so much confidence around the house, so much so that they charge around after each other causing a trail of devastation behind them.  They sound like elephants charging around on our wooden floors and they are still only tiny little things.

Other news includes my highly popular jams & marmalades, they sold like hot cakes again this weekend.  Production is going well for both my friends charity stall for the "Lyndhurst Picnic in the Park" in June, and also for my B&B guests.  It has become so talked about, that some of my Twitter followers are trying to persuade me to take part in a jam competition @Jampionships that is held in September of each year.  I have to say that I am a little bit tempted - so watch this space :)

Also last Saturday we were all lucky enough to be invited onto my cousins current cruise ship - Emerald Princess. 
 She has just started the UK & European leg of her rotation which means she docks at Southampton on either a weekly or 2 weekly basis, which for us is great as it's just 15mins down the road.  This ship is apparently a bit smaller than her last one, but to me it was still huge.  The weather was kinder to us this time and Fred & the kids got to make use of the pool and Jacuzzi while Mum & me watched and sunbathed in front of the big screen.  
We were treated to a lovely buffet lunch which basically was eat as much as you can - it was all delicious.  Before we left Jo insisted that we tried the pizza and ice cream too, not that we needed anything else, but we did.  It was a lovely day out again and we couldn't have asked for any more - Thank you Jo.  Looking forward to seeing you again soon.

Business is going extremely well for us at the moment with lots of new guests aswell as quite a few regulars coming back again.  I am thoroughly enjoying the taste testing of my homemade preserves and seeing everyone faces light up when they taste them.  I really starting to think that they are making a genuine difference to the overall experience when you stay with us and the recent Tripadvisor comments back this up.  I even had 1 guest stay the other weekend, just to try my jam, as he had read about it on Tripadvisor.  I'm pleased to say that he was impressed enough to take a couple of flavours home with him.  

I am loving my job at the moment and feeling very lucky :)

Why not treat yourself to a short break with us and see what we are really all about, the jam's are good too.


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

My guide to eating out in Lyndhurst

My simple guide to eating out in Lyndhurst
I am not going to put these in order of preference, it's just as I think of them and I may miss a few out this time round but I can always do a part 2.  
Also just so that you know - all of the pubs and restaurants mentioned are children friendly as we have 2 of our own.

The Waterloo Arms, Pikes Hill, Lyndhurst (pub)
This 17th century thatched pub is tucked away just off the A337 on the edge of the village.  It's still within walking distance at about a 10 minute stroll.  It is full of character with open log fires in the winter and the best pub garden in the village in the summer.  The menu is a little more original than most pubs and everything that I have tried so far has been delicious.  The atmosphere is very friendly and quite often they have things going on like musicians, quiz, garden parties & BBQ's.  The only criticism I have of this pub is that it's slightly more expensive than the others in the village but they have for the last few years done a 10% discount card on food for all our guests.

The Fox & Hounds (pub)‎
This is another traditional village pub with log fires and beams.  It recently changed ownership to the Fuller's Brewery and since then we have not been in to eat, however it was always consistently good food, very reliable. The pubs prominent location in the High Street means that it is always popular with tourists and our guests feedback so far has all been good.  It has a small rear patio and a semi separate indoor area for families.

La Pergola (restaurant)‎
This is at the very bottom end of the High Street just after the fire station.  A fantastic authentic family run Italian restaurant which is usually extremely busy, I would certainly recommend booking between Easter - October to avoid disappointment.  You can sit in or out as it has a pretty patio garden and also an outdoor play area to entertain the children.  The food and service here is fantastic - the best ravioli I've ever had! Being a restaurant it is little more expensive but definitely worth it, ideal for special occasions.

Imperial China (restaurant)
This is opposite the traffic lights at the top of the High Street.  A fantastic Chinese restaurant which again is usually extremely busy and I would recommend booking between Easter - October.  All indoor seating in a very elegant setting and the food is amazing - the best prawn toast I've ever had! The service is extremely efficient and friendly, another ideal place for a special occasion. Being a restaurant it is little more expensive but definitely worth it.
They do also offer a take away menu if you are unable to eat in.

Siam Thai Lounge (restaurant)‎
This is next door to the Fox & Hounds in the High Street.  Really nice food although the menu is a little hard to understand but the staff are very attentive and nothing is too much trouble.  All indoor seating over 2 floors .

Prezzo (restaurant)‎
Placed in between the Fox & Hounds and the Imperial China.  A lovely old converted building with lots of old features.  They are part of a chain but even so the food is lovely and affordable.  All indoor seating and it's not that big so it may be wise to book in advance.   There is also a take away option if you are unable to eat in.

The Mailmans Arms (pub)‎
Situated at the bottom of the High Street next to the Ferrari garage.  During the summer this pub is ideally situated for sitting outside at the front and watching the world go by while dreaming of owning a Ferrari that's parked right next to you.  It's probably the best decorated pub in the village with masses of beautiful flowers from early summer and then Christmas lights in December.  The area out the front is always the centre of the Christmas Fun Day and also the Christmas lights switch on ceremony.  There is also an enclosed rear garden that is ideal for the kids as they can't get out and it has a lovely lawn for them to play on.  The food ranges from very simple things like bangers & mash that are very reasonably priced to more expensive and slightly more sophisticated food, all of which is very nice.
They also do a lovely carvery on Sundays, the only one actually in the village and children under 10 eat free with each full paying adult.
These do participate in the "Brand New Forest" card scheme.

Passage to India (restaurant)‎
Situated just on the A337 from the High Street at the traffic lights.  It's an unusual shaped restaurant so it doesn't seat quite as many as you would think from the outside and it's looked the same inside & out ever since we moved here in 2002.  The food is very nice although I have to be honest and mention that more than once I have specifically asked them to leave out the coriander and it's still been all over my meal - therefore it's been sent back to the kitchen.  Just a little personal niggle really.

The Curry Leaf (restaurant)‎
We have only eaten here once for Fred's birthday and I have to say I was really impressed.  The staff were all great, the food was delicious - with no coriander!  The price was very reasonable and the atmosphere and decoration was fresh, modern and very relaxed.

My guide to eating out in places further a field

High Corner Inn, Linwood
We ate here last night for my early birthday meal a little bit by accident really (as the Red Shoot Inn wasn't doing food) but I was really glad that we did.  Just as we pulled up in the car we were met by a funny New Forest pony trying to get through the old fashioned turnstile as if he'd just been in for a drink, the bar tender then proceeded to come out and let the pony out of the main gate, and he wandered of - just a little insight into the quirkiness of most of the pubs out in the Forest.  It's a very welcoming pub with a massive inglenook style log fire to great you and very friendly staff.  Even the other customers in there were extremely friendly and with it being a dog friendly pub there were 3 dogs there and our children loved them.  One lady there was on her way to "Crufts" with her Whippet, fingers crossed for them.  The food was delicious and plenty of it, the special Stilton crusted sirloin steak looked amazing and apparently tasted it too.  The setting of this pub really is in the middle of the forest, a real hidden gem, and there are some lovely walks around there too.
These do participate in the "Brand New Forest" card scheme

The Haywain, Bartley‎
This pub does a very nice Carvery every day of the week and  during the week it is such good value for money, it costs £3.75 (I think) per adult  Mon - Sat and then Sun it's more like £7.00 per adult.  You get a generous amount of meat and there is usually 3 different meats to choose from or have all 3, then you can help yourself to as much veg as you can get on your plate.  It does get extremely busy so at peak times you will have to queue and wait but other than that it's unbeatable really.  The prices of the drinks here are also probably the cheapest in the area too and they do offer other meals as well as the carvery.

Other places where we have eaten and would recommend but it's been a while

White Buck Inn, Burley
This is a very impressive former country mansion that has substantial grounds including a great semi hidden play trail for the kids.  The garden seems to catch the sun just about all day long but if you prefer you can sit in and enjoy the very elegant decoration.  I always think that you feel like you have been somewhere special and out of the ordinary when you go here.  We have been here very recently for a drink, but we haven't eaten for a while, although when we did the food was really nice.
These do participate in the "Brand New Forest" card scheme

The Oak Inn, Bank‎
A lovely pub but quite small so it gets busy very quickly.  A lovely outdoor sheltered area and a garden too - very popular with cyclists.
These do participate in the "Brand New Forest" card scheme

The Swan, Lyndhurst
On the edge of Lyndhurst on the A35.  It has a nice garden with an outdoor play area but it is on the road side.  Very nicely decorated inside and the food was lovely the last time we ate there.  We used to go quite frequently until we moved house.  
These do participate in the "Brand New Forest" card scheme

The New Forest Inn, Emery Down‎
Very nice traditional pub with a lovely garden.  This pub has previously been host to the fantastic talent competition - The Forest's Got Talent, in conjunction with the Trusty Servant at Minstead & Wave 105 radio station.  We have had lovely food here but it was a while ago.

The New Forest Hotel, Ashurst‎
This pubs caters for most of the campers at Ashurst campsite so it really can get busy although it is a very large pub with an even bigger garden.  There is a nice play area that is fenced in to keep the kids safe and a huge lawn area to play on, although it does go all the way to the main road.  We have had some very nice food here and it's very nicely decorated inside with a very relaxed feel about it. 
These do participate in the "Brand New Forest" card scheme

Sir Walter Tyrell, Brook
A great outdoor play area here for children - probably one of the largest I've seen at a pub.  The food was very nice but only ever sat outside.  It is a bit in the middle of no where but very near to the famous Rufus Stone.

The Drift Inn, Beaulieu Road Station.‎
Another good outside play area and very large garden.  It is a bit exposed though and situated right next to the railway line, but they are not that frequent to make it a nuisance.  Some great walks around here and the food from memory was good.  We used to cycle to here have a few drinks and maybe something to eat and then cycle back to Lyndhurst. 

Crown Stirrup, Lyndhurst‎
This pub has changed hands since we ate here but it did do good food.  What I really like about this place is the garden.  It has an unusual fire pit in the middle which is lit regularly through the summer and you can just sit round the fire enjoying your drinks.  There is a play corner for the kids and also an outside bowling/skittle alley.  The other nice thing is that the garden backs straight onto the open forest and cycle routes at the back of Lyndhurst leading to Brockenhurst, so it's a great watering hole for walkers & cyclists.

These are places that we have tried & tested and enjoyed.  There will be more as we are continually trying to visit new places all the time and even re-visit old places to make sure that they are maintaning the same standards.  

If you are visiting the New Forest, especially Lyndhurst you never know this blog may just help you to decide where to eat :) 


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Special occasions & decorations

I thought I would do a quick blog to share and promote my individual room decorations.  I love doing them and I get immense pleasure from the reactions & appreciation when my guests arrive and see their decorated room.  

I have done several occasions now and I try to do something different for each of them even if they do ask for the same as the photos on our website
 Acorns of Lyndhurst B&B.
 I only do them on request and I charge for any items purchased and a little bit extra for my time & creativity, but I'm certainly not expensive.  If you bring your own props/gifts I will arrange and decorate for free.  I love a challenge too so I will try to cater for any request.


but it really doesn't have to be a special occasion, you might just want to spoil your loved one any day.  

A couple of years ago I had a very low key wedding couple staying, who are family of regular guests of ours, who over the years have become very good friends.  As a special personal touch I just added the confetti heart and helium balloon as a small gift from us.  

 Hand made paper bouquet.  I made this for one of my best friends 1st wedding anniversary (paper anniversary) last year.  It wasn't involved in a room decoration but it is something that could be, I can make on request if desired and the added bonus is it keeps for ever unlike fresh flowers. 

All of the examples in the pictures can be mixed and matched and adapted, you just need to give me a simple brief and a budget to work from and I'll do the rest :)


Sunday, 9 February 2014

An afternoon in Burley

Although the weather yesterday was very blowy, it was at least dry and the sun did make a few brief appearances so we decided to drag the kids out for a bit and went over to the nearby village of Burley.  I have driven through so many times but have never actually stopped to explore Burley and we decided it was about time we did.  Parking is very easy - there is quite a large pay & display car park just next to the Queens Head pub and it's right in the middle of the village.  Quite often they hold a farmers market here at weekends which is always worth a look. Burley isn't a very big village but it is very pretty with some very unique shops, a whole range of activities and of course surrounded by beautiful forest.

As soon as you enter the main street you can't help but notice that the shops are not your normal shops with 2 of them being witches shops, selling all sorts of mystical, magical & humorous gifts, they are definitely worth a look for their uniqueness.  There is also a delightful leather shop that we visited Titan Leather Craft.  There's lots of lovely things here and not too expensive either.  While we were there the lady, who I believe is the owner, was busy decorating a beautiful leather book cover and she explained to my kids what she was doing, what it would be like when finished, explained about the unique paper from India and her experimental techniques.  It was really interesting and an absolute surprise to find such a shop.  You really can't beat seeing the products being made and listening to them talk about what they are doing - it's far more rewarding and enriching than just going to a shop, buying something of a shelf with no interaction with anyone, other than handing money over.  We were only browsing this time but I know where I will be going next time I want a special gift for someone.  

There are several lovely pubs & cafes to take a pit-stop and enjoy the surroundings but I think my personal favourite is The White Buck Inn.  It is situated just outside of the main village near to the golf course and it's a beautiful country house set amongst a substantial sunny garden with a semi-hidden woodland play area for the kids.  It's an ideal spot to sit for either just a drink or to have a meal - the food is lovely.

Going back to the village just next to the main car park there are two great attractions: Burley Wagon Rides and Deer Safari.  So far we haven't done these yet but have seen them in operation and they are fun ways to see a bit more of the forest and the animals witnin.  They are both seasonal and currently neither are open but they should be on everyone's list when visiting Burley.  
Also operating from the beautiful Burley Manor hotel is a riding school, Burley Manor Riding Stables.  We popped in yesterday to find out more about this, as I personally have decided to tick this particular activity off my "list of things to do" this year.  We have more recently, had several guests go out horse riding whilst staying with us and every time they talk about I am always jealous, so this year I am doing it.  The setting of the stables obviously is quite nice, in the grounds of the hotel and they are very well placed for walks out in the forest.  They offer 1 hour (£33 per person) or 2 hour rides (£66 per person) they take any ability and anyone from the age of 4.  The owner is a lovely lady who was very helpful and from what we could see from the group going out, they are very professional.  Although I have not booked my session yet (only due to weather conditions) I would, from what I have experienced so far, have no problem with recommending them.

Other things to do in Burley - obviously cycling, there is a very helpful and friendly cycle shop New Forest Cycle Hire who will fix you up with whatever you need and send you off on one of the many "close by" routes that are suitable for all ages and abilities. 

New Forest Cider & Cider Pantry Tea Room 
Interested in how cider is made?  This is a Commoner's smallholding with traditional cider press.  You not only get see where it's made but you get a chance to sample the cider & perry too.  There is a farm shop with lots of local preserves, cheese, wines & liqueurs and a tea room where you can enjoy a cream tea, home-made cake or lunch.

There is something for the sweet toothed visitor too with Burley Fudge, where they traditionally hand make fudge, Turkish delight, Belgian nougat, marzipan's, fondants & gingers. 

Of course there is always just walking, with the forest all around you don't have to go that far, just get out there and enjoy it.  There is nothing better than being outdoors, exploring and doing something different.  I can't imagine how you wouldn't enjoy yourself in Burley -  it has so much to offer - come see for yourself!