Autumn is my favourite time of year. There’s nothing I love more than bundling up in jumpers and boots, walking through woods surrounded by golden leaves that fall like snowflakes, and eating Sunday roasts with real ale and roaring fires.
It should come as no surprise then, that the New Forest in autumn is one of my favourite places to be. My Aunt and Uncle arranged a family weekend at their apartment there last year, where I got to spend the night at the stunning Rhinefield House.
Rhinefield House is a short drive from Brockenhurst, in the heart of the New Forest national park. After winding up the drive through the ornamental forest, the building’s gothic facade looks quite spectacular as you approach.
The building is split between hotel and apartments, and boasts two restaurants, private dining, a spa and a swimming pool. It’s a luxurious place, make no mistake.
It’s best feature, though, is its location, surrounded by lush woodlands in one of England’s most beautiful landscapes.
Long walks through the forest were the order of the day to work up an appetite for dinner.
Even sticking to the well trodden path led to surprises, like my cousin (who blogs over at Sophia Patricia Mai) finding this little wig wam hiding amongst the trees.
Such an enchanting environment had all of us acting like kids, from climbing trees to swinging across the stream on a rope swing!
After a glorious afternoon in the trees, we headed back to Rhinefield to get ready for dinner; not without capturing a few more sights on the way.
I managed to sneak in a quick swim and sauna before getting ready for the evening out. The spa at Rhinefield is small but stylish, with a sauna, jacuzzi and pool long enough to swim some lengths if you want to, but much more suited to relaxing. A sauna and dip in the jacuzzi was just what I needed to soothe my aching muscles after our walk.
For dinner, we headed out to The Oak Inn Lyndhurst. It’s a lovely country pub with a menu full of locally sourced dishes, including roast Hampshire partridge, local beef and homemade pie of the day.
For starters, I went for duck liver parfait with caramelised onion chutney and crusty bread.
The parfait was fabulous, with a rich flavour and buttery texture, while the onion chutney was sticky sweet. I liked that it was served with a choice of white or brown bread, but admittedly, I ate both.
While most of the party opted for pie of the day for main course, I spotted venison on the specials board and couldn’t resist having that, especially seeing as it was local venison from the Beaulieu Estate in Brockenhurst.
The venison was pan roasted and served blushing pink, so it was meltingly tender. It had a rich, game flavour which was really enhanced by the roastiness on the outside.
It was served with fondant potato, shallot & chestnut sauce, and blackberry braised red cabbage. The potato was creamy and light, while the shallot & chestnut sauce added depth and a lovely savouriness. The blackberry braised cabbage was a real star, cutting through the richness of all the other elements with a tangy fruitiness.
This dish was a real celebration of the forest in all its abundance. Coupled with a few glasses of red wine, it left me feeling warm inside and totally in love with my location.
We had to wait a long time for a taxi back (I’d advise booking your ride home in advance if you venture out after dark), but the wait was long forgotten when we spotted a family of fallow deer on the drive home. It was so dark, I couldn’t get any pictures, but nothing really compares to seeing them up close anyway!
I only got to stay for a short time, as the next morning I headed out on the long drive back to Birmingham, but even one weekend in the New Forest made me feel refreshed and reinvigorated. No wonder it’s one of my favourite places for an autumn break.
Rooms at Rhinefield start from around £152 a night for a classic. View availability and book online through Handpicked Hotels.
You can book a table online for The Oak Inn at Lyndhurst. The menu is available to download from their site, but look out for specials on the day you dine. My Beaulieu venison special was £22.95.
Want to see more forest adventures? Check out what happened when I went foraging in the Forest of Dean.