As part of my ongoing commitment to seeing the best Britain has to offer, I just got back from spending a long weekend away, camping in the New Forest. With weather in the UK living up to its reputation, we arrived on Saturday to a veritable monsoon. Putting up a tent in the rain, for those that have never had the pleasure, really isn’t a pleasure at all. We soldiered through, and managed to get our tents up. Wet, muddy, cold and hungry, with no means to cook in the rain, we wimped out and headed in to town for fish and chips. It was disappointing, but got us through the night. We were lucky to be with our lovely niece and nephew-in-law, Danielle and Craig, and their two lovely boys, 9 year old Morgan and 3 year old Tyler. They were all great sports who didn’t let the rain dampen their spirits.
Our patience paid off. Sunday was a lovely day and we were able to make hearty breakfast burritos before heading out on a hike through the stunning countryside. We came back, had a visit from some inquisitive Shetland ponies, and then grilled some Angus beef burgers with gouda for lunch. After hiding in the tents from a brief spell of rain, it was off for some kayaking. We may have some future Olympians in our family, because the kids took to it like ducks to water. We then headed into Brockenhurst for some shopping. We went back to the campsite and grilled halloumi with peppers and tomatoes, followed by a combo of ribeye and sirloin steaks with tenderstem broccoli. I don’t know why, but things always seem to taste better when you eat them outdoors!
The real treat was a nostalgic blast to the past when I was able to treat the family to their first Smores. A Smore is a grilled marshmallow sitting on a piece of Hershey’s chocolate, sandwiched between two graham crackers. The marshmallow has to be roasted until just golden brown, then quickly put on top of the chocolate and eaten warm whilst the chocolate starts to melt. They are a mainstay on any camping trip and something that should always be exclusively cooked by the kids. They are a sickly sweet treat and every parent has had to suffer through the sugar overload of eating far too many burnt marshmallows to placate their enthusiastic kids. Graham crackers are hard to source in the UK and Hershey’s is not my favourite chocolate, so we improvised by putting them between two milk chocolate digestives with the chocolate side facing in. I have to say, I think it was an improvement. Morgan was far better than I ever was, cooking almost every marshmallow to perfection and only sacrificing one to the god of fire.
A bit too much wine, then we were off to bed for an early start. More breakfast burritos in the morning, then we packed up the tents and headed off to visit Setley Ridge Vineyard and Farm Shop. This place is bursting at the seams with local delicacies and we bought some of our favourite cheeses, some locally reared pork belly, a treacle tart and a fantastic apple cake. The apple cake is one of the most fluffy, moist cakes I’ve ever eaten! We then headed off to New Forest Cider in Burley to stock up on our favourite cider in Britain and finish the trip off with a nice pub lunch before the drive home.
If you haven’t been to the New Forest yet, you are missing out on a magical place. It has some of the most beautiful views in the country with lots of adorable villages and towns, a plethora of fantastic produce which you can buy at one of the many farm shops, and some brilliant local beers and ciders. The campsites tend to be for the more hardcore camper that can do without electrical hook-ups, but you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts with some of the most beautiful camping grounds I’ve seen. For the adventurers out there, I highly recommend it. And if you do go, bring the kids and make sure you introduce them to Smores. Just make sure you only bring a small bag of marshmallows unless you want to develop hyperglycemia!