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Beaulieu >  Google™ Map Sep 2022  Hampshire Coat of Arms

beau beautiful + lieu French place. Population - 806.

England-Hampshire Flag UK > England > Hampshire

Sep 2022

Hampshire Coat of Arms

Two return tickets to 'Bow-Lee-Yo' please...
Erm, 'Bowl-Yoo'?...
It's all right,
Bob's got this... 'Bewley'?

Luckily, that lesson was learned in Bewdley, Worcestershire, although here has never seen the need to anglicise. That means the driver hasn't kicked you off his bus on the three strikes and you're out rule in this part of the New Forest.

That's just as well because buses seem to be of the seasonal and open-topped variety and the train station at Beaulieu Road is nearly four miles away making, quite frankly, a mockery of the name.

This, quite literally, beautiful place, literally is and makes most posh travel-blatherers' top ten. The big clue is the shops selling nothing that nobody literally, sorry actually, needs and plush lodgings that don't do anything so simple as a sandwich.

Beaulieu - High Street
Beaulieu - The Montagu Arms Hotel

For that, head up High Street and past the primary school to Steff's Kitchen who you'll find attached to a garden centre. Be warned, though, there are at least half-a-dozen wasps who are just as interested in the jam on your scone and you might have to beat a flapping retreat back inside.

Throw in a big ol' duck pond to tick the picture postcard, English village checklist but after a good gaze, that looks to be Beaulieu done.

Beaulieu - Mill Dam

Hang on a minute, is that a... no, it can't be... a jellyfish?, not shown.

That's because this ain't no duck pond, sunshine, that's River Beaulieu, of course, on its way south to the Solent, which is only four miles by flying crow so that'll explain the Scyphozoa.

Beaulieu River

The stretch below Beaulieu is not only tidal but navigable and takes in the village of Buckler's Hard. Buckler's Hard? Buckler's what?

You know, 'Hard', as in common, old-Hampshire vernacular for a compacted shoreline that's suitable as a slipway, at least it would be common if there weren't just the two of them.

Founded as Montagu Town by some old duke or other, the purpose was for a port to provide free parking for his, erm, dealings with the West Indies.

Unlike the old duke, however, you will have to pay and display because Buckler's Hard isn't just an attractive, riverside village but a historic, visitor attraction in itself.

Buckler's Hard

That's confirmed by a museum and a tea room that will add to the expense although, for a free day out, you could walk the two-and-a-bit miles from Beaulieu where, oh! You've already paid for some parking.

By the early 18th century, the Royal Navy had moved in and, with a readily available supply of timber on the doorstep, established the shipyards that would go on to provide some of the hulls for the Battle of Trafalgar, no less.

The terraces on the right are even older than old Nelson himself while those opposite came slightly later.

Buckler's Hard - East Terrace
Buckler's Hard

Even when shrouded in shadow, the wide lead down to the water really is rather marvellous and absolutely everybody will take exactly the same snap from exactly the same spot.

Down at the water, that's the same river seen back in Beaulieu and it's only two miles to the Solent now.

Buckler's Hard - River Beaulieu
Buckler's Hard - Marina

That makes for more of a marina, these days, although there's evidence of the old quays and slipways if you wait until the tide's oot, they say.

Buckler's Hard? Buckler's Hard-not-to-like, more like.

  Master Builder's House Hotel (Buckler's Hard)

There are a couple of sustenance options at the Master Builder's House Hotel whose fancier offerings look to cater to an evening crowd. The master builder, whoever he was and whatever it was he did exactly, did indeed once live here although it's not thought the captain dined at a table in the Captain's Table café next to the museum.

Meanwhile, back in Beaulieu and back near the river, there's been some talk of New Forest ponies visiting the village unperturbed by your presence, yeah right!

Oh! Hang on! Here are some having a grazing good time and showing no signs of being particularly perturbed.

Beaulieu - New Forest Ponies
Beaulieu - New Forest Ponies

They're essentially wild so you're advised not to get too close for fear of a bite but one particular lady clearly didn't get that memo. Her interaction with a young foal is clearly being interpreted as an act of, erm, fondness and nobody wants to see that, not shown.

Having been promised sightings in Brockenhurst, their absence there suggested some slightly cynical PR by a variety of New Forest visitor guides. That's now known to be not so, they're absolutely everywhere, just not necessarily in Brockenhurst, them and the donkeys, yes, don't forget the donkeys.

Three thousand ponies and a couple of hundred donkeys, all owned by 'commoners', whatever that means exactly, roam these parts but don't be getting too close because nobody wants to see that.

That's definitely Beaulieu done, then, although the map suggests some sort of stately home and the remains of an abbey, Cistercian? That looks to be where a gaggle of folk are heard to be having a great old time but they're behind a gate, locked, and there's no obvious way in.

Now, there are over 200 square miles of the New Forest National Park to explore and with it all just about in the vicinity, it would be lazy, nay a travesty, to stump up for a paid attraction? Let's do it anyway...

Thomas Wriothesley was one of Henry VIII's right-hand men and was right-hand enough to warrant a speaking part in Wolf Hall, no less. One of the Montagus married his daughter and, with the end of the Wriothesley line, copped for the lot and by the lot it's meant a palace and the surrounding grounds but more on them in a minute.

The 2nd duke was the brains behind Buckler's Hard but by the time this all landed in 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu's lap, death duties in the period just after World War II meant some monetising was required and the National Motor Museum was born, obviously.

Not quite so random as first thought, Edward John Barrington Montagu-Scott's father was a passionate promoter of early motoring and when he wasn't haring around Bexhill-on-Sea, probably, he was commissioning custom bits for the bonnet of his Rolls-Royce™ modelled on his mistress.

That's thought to have been the prototype for the Spirit of Ecstasy, fact fans, so yes, toffs the lot and all this while presiding over a safe, political seat from a 9,000-acre estate in the Conservative New Forest.

With that in mind, and with no particular interest in the four-wheeled form, why are SlyBob queuing to fork out with the rest of Clarkson's darlings?

There's a garden-only option, you see, despite there being a 200 square mile one outside, but these are also a must-see, they say.

If you haven't foregone the fee for access all areas, highlights include a collection of crumpled vehicles 'accidentally' fashioned by the famously funny fellas from Top Gear™. The main exhibition is in a purpose-built hanger where the contents are comprised of the vintage and\or fast and the you'll-never-own-one variety.

Here's a tip, however, you can get a peek for free if someone has gone and left the back door open.

Near Beaulieu - National Motor Museum
Near Beaulieu - National Motor Museum

This would all have once been considered futuristic with a monorail overseeing things but there is access to a shed with famous cars from your TV screen. That includes Del Boy's three-wheeled van and no, it's not a Robin Reliant, as you well know.

Ignoring everything that everybody else is here for today, the gardens indeed are in the bloomin' marvellous category with some top, Alice-themed topiary to boot.

Near Beaulieu - National Motor Museum
Near Beaulieu - National Motor Museum

This all leads to the Cistercian, Beaulieu Abbey, remember, or rather what's left of it following Henry VIII's handiwork.

Near Beaulieu - National Motor Museum

It stood intact for 300 years before that although what now remains could hardly be considered insignificant. It's known how the monks felt in 1538 since it's largely off-limits to SlyBob, as well, due to what looks like, and sounds like, a posh, Pimm™s-fuelled wedding.

Wriothesley was richly rewarded with swathes of land in Hampshire for his hard work in helping to evict those who were presumably pacifists from the abbey and, after Henry's death, the title of 1st Earl of Southampton.

His ancestors, by the way, are still collecting rent from the hotels, should you be staying over down in fancy London, on Southampton Row.

Other benefits included Beaulieu Palace House although some money might have changed hands. Formerly the abbey gatehouse, it's now the Montagu's family pad having had a succession of makeovers over the centuries.

Beaulieu Palace House

Tudor-era artwork that wouldn't look out of place in the National Portrait Gallery and family knick-knacks are the main eye-catchers but far more interesting is back outside at a building housing a small display from World War II.

The Special Operations Executive wasn't involved in open warfare but in niggly operations that were a right nuisance to the Nazis. Some of their top-secret training happened in and around the village and it's all proper, James Bond 'Q' gadgetry including sneaky knuckledusters and poisonous fags on display.

The reality is that 50% never made it back including the women who were easier to integrate into the French Resistance and they get a worthy mention here at the Secret Army Exhibition.

Not only is it far more interesting than the Montagu's house but it's far more interesting than, and it's thought Clarkson would agree, a video of Jezzer 'accidentally' driving into a haystack, or whatever.

Right then, that's definitely Beaulieu done, maybe, but how to get home? It's a near-four-mile walk to the train station, remember, if only there was a bus?

Near Beaulieu - National Motor Museum

Oh! Hang on! Two to Shepherd's Bush please but could you hang on a minute mate... Bob wants to get a quick selfie with Mr Bean's Mini then that's definitely Beaulieu done... Ding ding!