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Red Magazine A village untouched by time

My husband and I arrive in the New Forest as the sun dips behind the tree tops. Two hours ago we were fighting through tense crowds at London’s Waterloo station, but here in Burley the roads are quiet and the air clear. It feels like a village untouched by time: wild ponies roam the roads; hippie shops sell crystals and cauldrons; tea rooms serve toasted teacakes and lemon drizzle cake, and everything closes at 4pm. Luckily, the bar at Burley Manor is open far later, so we decide to have a glass of wine by the fire to celebrate the end of a busy week.

The 40-room boutique manor has all the ingredients for a perfect mini-break escape: a spa, an outdoor pool, a locally sourced menu, huge beds and country-themed interiors. Most hotels do a full English, but Burley Manor’s is a cut above the rest. So, while it’s clearly a hit with couple and families with something to celebrate, I’m not surprised when in the spa the next day I meet a group of friends who have simply come for brunch and a treatment.

After a massage so relaxing I nearly fall asleep, we say hi to the deer grazing on the hotel’s doorstep before setting off into the woodland for a four-hour walk. Along the way we meet four wild ponies, sample local cider and learn about the village’s folklore and connection to witches. The open landscape reminds me of Wuthering Heights; all beautiful, moody and poetic.

Back at the hotel, we reward ourselves with hearty, delicious food: lamb kibbeh, cucumber and yoghurt (to start) and chorizo linguine, a heritage tomato salad and venison (for main), followed by cheese and wine. IT’s the kind of meal you don’t want to end, much like the weekend itself. But it’s time to leave, so before we do I pop into one of the witchcraft shops and buy a quartz crystal. I don’y know whether it has mystical powers, but I keep it in my pocket. When I hold it I’m reminded of Burley, which is enough to make me smile.