Autumn in the New Forest is definitely a sight not to be missed. Bug and Mimi get so much fun and enjoyment from the fallen brown leaves and we all love admiring the pretty colours – Bug’s favourite colour has always been brown!
Last weekend we had arranged to meet up with friends who we hadn’t seen for a while so we saw an opportunity to explore and share some more New Forest spots!
Blackwater Tall Tree Trail
We started our Sunday afternoon with a walk along the Tall Tree Trail. This trail can begin and end at either Blackwater or Brock Hill car park. We prefer Blackwater because there are more facilities: toilets, picnic tables, BBQ sites, bike racks, an information point and often an ice cream van!
The Tall Tree trail takes you through some of the tallest and oldest trees in Britain: Douglas firs and Redwoods. The trail is graded easy, is approximately 1.5 miles and has frequent benches to sit and rest. Bug and Mimi (aged 4 and 2) completed the trail quite comfortably and in our opinion it is one of the most family friendly and picturesque walks in The New Forest.
Rhinefield House Hotel
Just a 10 minute walk (or 3 minute drive) from Blackwater car park, you will approach the long and majestic driveway to Rhinefield House Hotel. It is truly a special sight and as we approached both children were in awe.
This was our first time having afternoon tea at Rhinefield house and we had very high expectations. There is a separate entrance especially for the restaurant and lounge bar where afternoon tea takes place. While this is signposted, upon entering the building it wasn’t clear where we were supposed to go. After aimlessly searching for a short while, we asked for assistance and were taken to our table.
The spot we were given definitely made up for this slight annoyance at the start. We overlooked the water fountain and had a huge window seat where the children could lounge comfortably. It was perfect.
The adults afternoon tea was £21.95pp and contained a selection of sandwiches: ham and mustard, cheese and pickle and egg mayonnaise (3 finger sandwiches each). There was also 2 scones (1 fruit and 1 plain) which was accompanied with fresh clotted cream and jam. Additionally, there were of course a selection of cakes and pastries and this was all served with your choice of tea or coffee.
A child’s afternoon tea is £9.95pp. It contained 3 finger sandwiches (cheese, ham and jam), 1 plain scone and 4 cakes/pastries. This did not appear to come with a drink however they have a selection of fruit juices available at the bar. Both the child and adult portions were plentiful and incredibly tasty. Our 2 shared 1 children’s afternoon tea and they didn’t manage to eat it all!
Unfortunately, the service we received was quite disappointing. Firstly, our waiter was not particularly friendly or polite. Secondly, a member of our party suffers from a serious nut/peanut allergy, so under the guidance of the hotel, we ensured we booked in advance and gave the kitchen 24 hours notice. The member of staff I spoke to on the phone couldn’t have been more helpful and knowledgeable about allergies – this was very reassuring. However, when we arrived the waiter did not seem to know about this. We therefore explained once again and he did not leave us with much confidence that he was going to pass our details on.
As it happens, the afternoon tea was brought out with nuts on top of one of the cakes! They were brought out by a different waiter and when ‘our waiter’ noticed he quickly took them away and new ones were brought out immediately. However, we did not feel very comfortable that they had understood or listened to our needs which was a stark contrast to the phone call when booking. We did not feel completely comfortable or reassured so unfortunately the member of our party suffering with the allergies did not eat all of the items available.
Exploring the grounds
After filling our bellies with delicious treats we decided to take a stroll through the grounds. The entrance to the house is truly stunning but the view from the back of the house is simply spectacular!
There are beautiful ponds filled with ‘giant fish’ which Bug and Mimi loved saying Hello to.
There is also a hedge maze which was great fun, although we shouldn’t have left the wellies in the car!
We were also lucky enough to spot some deer racing through the grounds and then we spent some time playing some garden games on the lawn.
How suitable was our Forest fun for families with young children?
Tall tree trail
As previously stated, the trail was very suitable for young children. Bug and Mimi (aged 4 and 2) had great fun collecting pine cones, acorns and sticks and comfortably completed the trail. The frequent benches also provided them with lots of opportunities to rest. Starting/finishing at Blackwater car park was also ideal due to the toilet and picnic/BBQ facilities on site.
Rhinefield House Hotel
We love Rhinefield House Hotel. It is a stunning sight and set in the most idyllic of locations. The children’s afternoon tea was lovely and well suited for children (although I do think it should include a drink); however, while we love the surroundings, it is not the most suitable place to take young children.
Most people would naturally assume that this type of establishment is not the ideal place to take young children. However, they provide a children’s afternoon tea so they must therefore be welcome.
My children were very well behaved during our visit (the walk must have tired them out) but I definitely noticed some other customers who were immediately disappointed to see children present. Hopefully, after our visit we helped to show that their presence was not an issue. Also, Rhinefield House is a family friendly hotel. I know of hotels in The New Forest who do not allow children which is obviously fine and we therefore do not visit them. However, while it is family friendly it didn’t seem to offer much more which would allow it a higher rating. It is now our mission to find somewhere in the New Forest which is luxurious, family friendly and worthy of a gold ranking! Watch this space.
Point to note: while the ponds are beautiful and the children loved seeing the fish, they are also extremely low to the ground and children could fall in very easily.