Now's the time to enjoy the sound of silence in the New Forest in Hampshire...
As the school holidays end, it's the perfect time for anyone not tied to school term dates to enjoy the peace and beauty of a forest, spending quality time together and making treasured memories.
The idyllic New Forest offers many different experiences.
There are many camping, caravanning and holiday parks set in leafy woodland glades that were picked as the best in England by first Norman King William the Conqueror as his New Forest ‘playground’. He recognised its unique appeal when he named the New Forest nearly 1,000 years ago, making it the first officially designated holiday destination.
Relax and unwind at secluded campsites that are just a 90-minute drive
If we get an Indian summer, head for the area's 43 miles of wonderful coastline, w ith golden beaches.
Then set off to discover 300 squar e miles of woods and open moorland, where Ne w Forest ponies, cattle and deer roam wild.
Leave your motorhome on the pitch and jump aboard the open-top hourly New Forest Tour for coast or tree canopy routes (until September 16). Check out their route maps for inspiration at any time of year.
Or make your own discoveries, after a
fact-finding trip to the Visitor Information Centre at Lyndhurst. Tel 023 8028 2269.
Hire a bike from the newly-opened Forest Leisure Cycling centre at Burley and take your pick of an impressive 150 miles of cycle tracks.
It's also a walker's paradise, so enjoy the freedom of the forest on a ramble with or without a ranger. You can download a podcast trail for your MP3 player, walk your dog through the trees or along the beach or join a walking tour.
There's expert advice available at the New Forest Activities Booking Centre Tel 01590 612 377.
Thrill-seekers might like to try the exhilarating new volcanic Magma ride
at Paulton's Park , which was voted the UK’s Top Theme Park by Which? (and is also
home to the popular Peppa Pig World).
The New Forest has top attractions, including the worl d-famous Beaulieu National Motor Museum, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2012 and is hosting the world’s largest James Bond Vehicle Exhibition.
If you like plants, don't miss Exbury Gardens, which is offering free entry for under-16s throughout 2012. Its Rothschild collection of azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias, along the banks of the Beaulieu River is world-renowned.
Food and drink is excellent in the Forest, so do visit a real ale pub, restaurant or indulgent tea room in one of the New Forest’s charming towns and villages.
Or pick up the ingredients for a picnic or campsite barbecue from quality local produce stamped with a New Forest Marque that guarantees the highest local provenance.
You'll be spoilt for choice when you pick your perfect picnic spot - it'll be a mealtime (and a holiday) to remember.