Whilst only a village of around 3000 population, Lyndhurst is known as the capital of the New Forest and it’s the place where all the main routes converge at the heart of the Forest. It is a village with a wealth of history, once the regular haunt of Kings and Queens of England (see Royal Links page) but is perhaps more famous nowadays for its regular traffic jams, particularly in the peak summer months.
The thorny subject of a bypass for Lyndhurst has raged on and off since the 1930s since when traffic volumes have increased year on year. It culminated in a Private Members’ Bill in Parliament during 1988 which was supported on one side by Hampshire County Council, Lyndhurst Parish Council, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and the majority of residents of Lyndhurst and opposed by the Council for Protection of Rural England (CPRE), Nature Conservancy and, not unsurprisingly, most vociferously by the New Forest Verderers outside whose courthouse the traffic is frequently gridlocked. No doubt fearing adverse publicity, the newly elected resident MP chose to sit on the fence rather than promote the Bill. In the end, the Bill was effectively vetoed by the sitting MP for Newham South! Despite dangerously high levels of exhaust gases that the local inhabitants have to suffer daily, a bypass for Lyndhurst is currently no nearer than it was in the 1930s. For visitors, approaching Lyndhurst from Junction 2 of the M27 is generally the safer option.
Despite the fact that the village is steeped in history, in recent centuries it had its heyday in Victorian times, when it was a very fashionable spot, a period which is reflected in most of its architecture. Nowadays, its main street is full of traffic, tea shops, charity shops and gift shops as well as a few pubs and restaurants. It also boasts a butcher and one of the few supermarkets in the Forest for those who wish to stock up for their holiday. One of its biggest attractions is the Ferrari garage at the bottom of the High Street where tourists are regularly seen having their pictures taken beside some of these expensive pieces of machinery.
Another of Lyndhurst’s claims to fame is that it is the final resting place of “Alice in Wonderland”. Stroll around the back of the parish church which dominates the village from its mound at the top of the High Street, and you will find the grave of Mrs Reginald Hargreaves. As a child Mrs Hargreaves nee Alice Liddell was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s famous book.
Perhaps the most interesting place to visit in the village is the New Forest Centre situated in the large car park just off the High Street. The centre houses a gift shop, tourist information centre and a modern museum which will tell you all about the history and customs of the New Forest – a good place to start if you are new to the area.