On the coast but also part of the New Forest, Lymington – once named the most desirable place to live by the seaside – celebrates its nautical and countryside heritage
It’s the epitome of coastal and countryside living. A quick scan of what’s on in Lymington, the port town on the New Forest’s coast, sums up everything about this attractive Georgian town – 105 forthcoming events listed on one page alone. It’s a vibrant, dynamic community with something for everyone.
Naturally for a coastal resort, much revolves around the sea and its nautical history, but the picturesque Hampshire town is so much more.
Its cobbled streets – complete with an Olympic gold postbox in honour of famous sailing son Sir Ben Ainslie – who won medals at five consecutive Olympia from 1996 – and stunning architecture are home to a healthy mix of designer boutiques, independent shops and high street brands. Indeed, (in 2008) it was once named as the most desirable place to live by the seaside by the TV programme Property List.
Every Saturday the high street plays host to a bustling market – as it has every week since 1315 – and locals and visitors alike throng to the stalls selling everything from food to furniture and most things in between.
The New Forest has long been a famous food haunt and Lymington (population 15,500) boasts a feast of options for hungry holidaymakers. From grabbing a bag of fudge or a generous scoop – or two – of delicious ice cream while strolling around the quay, to tucking into a traditional hearty Sunday roast by the log fire at the Monkey House pub, Lymington caters for all taste buds.
No waterfront town would be worth its salt if it didn’t offer fine, fresh fish. Lymington – which, historically, made much of its wealth from the sale of salt around the world – does not disappoint on this score.
The new Shipyard – Fish Market is exactly what its name suggests, offering locally-caught catch of the day to shoppers and restaurants. One step through the doors takes you into the Shipyard – Bar and Restaurant (with another clue in the title) where diners are treated to fish ‘cooked s imply with seasonal produce’.
The restaurant’s bar is made from reclaimed wood from disused boats, mileage is reduced and New Forest businesses supported by using locally-sourced supplies; coffee cups, menus and napkins are made from recycled paper and staff uniforms are made by Vivanaut which creates aprons from old boat sails.
As a celebration of all things sea and food, the town, which sits at the mouth of the Lymington River, is hosting its inaugural Seafood Fayre Festival on August 12 and 13.
Featuring local chefs working with local produce in a series of cookery demonstrations and offering visitors the chance to buy any number of delicious food items, the festival is partnering with the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) to support its Solent Oyster Restoration Project.
“I couldn’t contemplate living anywhere else now”
The UK-based marine conservation charity is aiming to raise £250,000 to restore the native oyster to the Solent, which will provide wide-ranging ecological and social benefits for the region over the long-term. These include helping to improve water quality, foster valuable habitats and reestablish a vital strand of the economy on the South Coast.
Lymington boasts a proud marine heritage dating back to 1346 when it provided war ships to Edward III and again a couple of centuries later for Henry VIII.
However it is the Solent’s oyster fishery which, dating back to Roman times, was once the largest fishery in Europe for the native oyster, until as recently as 1978. At its peak, the area would land up to 15 million oysters a year, but overfishing together with the effects of habitat loss, pollution, invasive species and disease led to a collapse in numbers and a limited fishery has operated since 2013.
But while the town has a social conscious, it also likes to live it up – in style. Step forward a rather glamorous event on the calendar – the Lymington Italia Festival where that most famous combination of classic cars and quality food will be served up.
More than 50 Ferrari owners are expected to descend on the town on July 2 for a grand procession through the streets which will be otherwise pedestrianised for the day.
Visitors will then be able to admire the cars parked in the town centre and feast on mouth-watering offerings from an Italian food market setting up stalls for the event.
Mayor of Lymington and Pennington, Cllr. Barry Dunning, said: The Lymington Italia Festival has gone from strength-to-strength since its launch in 2014, and is now a major attraction. It’s a real feast for the eyes, not to mention the taste-buds, and we’re very pleased to be staging it in aid of the Stroke Association this year.’
Keeping with the international flavour; few small English towns (or larger ones, come to think of it) can claim to have an Icelandic cafe as one of its resident businesses.
Cue Oskubox – Lymington’s very own award-winning Nordic deli which claims to be ‘the home of Viking food in the heart of the South Coast’ and serves, among a range of other tempting dishes, a breakfast Viking platter with organic volcano treacle bread. Curiosity, if nothing else, gets people through the doors initially – great tasting food keeps them coming back for more or to test the menu’s theory of providing ‘enough energy to sail to Sweden’.