Child-friendly chic in The New Forest
Looking for a special, take-a-deep breath space — all Mad Men elegance, oodles of space for kids and a mahoosive dining table? Welcome to Slate Cottage.
One foot in the forest, the other by the sea: a quick hop from the M27 and Brockenhurst’s mainline station. Even the drive there is a joy, children will squeal at the ponies grazing fence-free and we’re only minutes from yachtie Lymington, one of the UK’s Top Ten places to live. We are, in short, slappety-band, New Forest central in all its wooded, wild-pony glory. Oh and sorry did someone say food? You’ll find the original (and *ahem* some would argue best) Pig just down the road, plus Angela Hartnett’s Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood and a slew of fab local pubs. [Read: New Forest Escape’s Guide to the best pubs]
Mad Men all the way. Mid-century furniture, sculptural lighting and a huge upstairs space, all lounge-chic & Martinis with its cow-skin rug, design-tomes and log burner. There’s an outside terrace as well — think cocktail hour, followed by long, lazy dinners and hours playing board games by the fire. Owner, Liz, is a fan of Parisian flea-markets and auction room sales; it’s clear that a huge amount of thought has gone into making the space open, beautiful and a joy to spend time in. You may not want to leave.
Downstairs the large dining-table fits eleven easily, perfect for wine and chats into the night OR dig-in-and-eat sessions for young and old. There’s a wonderful separate space for children, attached to the main house by a glass-sided walk-way, with a vintage-y schoolroom desk, a big blackboard and toys, books, crayons, lego… seriously parents, there’s no need to bring anything.
Basically this is an ideal rental for mixed-generational families, the kids will love it (hello Shetland ponies in the paddock) but there is plenty of scope for adult-time as well. On the ground floor, there is a separate snug with another wood-fire burner, this can be converted into an additional room with a sofa-bed.
Slate Cottage sleeps 11, plus two babies. There are four bedrooms, one shower en-suite plus two separate bathrooms. Mattresses are deep and comfortable, bathrooms sparkle with a clawfoot bath in one and a shower in the other. People with mobility issues are well-catered for with a double bedroom and a sofa-bed downstairs.
Elegant and easy. No need to hire a lorry to trundle that toddler kit down the M3, it’s all here. The biggest deal is the play-area with tonnes of gorgeous, vintage-y toys plus books for all ages, baby to teen. The kitchen is well-stocked with a good selection of Bart Spices, olive oil, S&P plus sauce-pans in all sizes and all the utensils you can dream of (erm, if you dream about that kind of thing. Whatever floats your boat, my friend).
OUT AND ABOUT
Oh cripes, where to start. This is the New Forest so things to-do a go-go: walks, cycling, check out the cabinet in Slate Cottage’s kitchen for ideas, or head over to the Forestry Commission’s site for detailed maps of walks and cycle rides. Plus there’s the New Forest Wildlife Park and days out on the Solent, but if you really want to connect with this area’s magical vibe you need to chat to the in-the-know ladies at New Forest Escapes (who all live locally). They’ll organise all manner of escapades, from unicorn hunting and storytelling; to forest bathing (a thing apparently, don’t worry no cossies or cold water involved) and sourcing the area’s very best therapists and chefs for in-house treats. If food and/or wellbeing is your thing, have a squizz at Chewton Glen’s cookery school and spa, a quick 13 minute’s motor away. Muddy’s review is coming soon.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Large families or friendships groups (including dogs) who want to holiday under the same roof without feeling on-top of each other. With a double bedroom and one sofa bed on the ground floor, Slate Cottage is also a great option if you, or someone in your group, has mobility issues. The house is also ideal for grown-up hen-dos and VIP birthday celebration, sorry did someone say cocktail hour? And finally lovers of great design.