Worbarrow Bay, Dorset
In December 1943, just a few weeks before Christmas, the residents of this remote coastal village were told to pack up their belongings and leave their homes so that they could be requisitioned by the army for training in the run up to D Day. The villagers left a note on the church door, saying that they would return one day, but the army kept hold of the land and they never went back. The result is a village frozen in time – complete with school room and telephone box.
Not only is it eerily atmospheric but it’s rare to find more than a handful of tourists wandering through the abandoned cottages. An easy ten-minute walk takes you to Worbarrow Bay – an unspoilt beach which rivals nearby Durdle Door for beauty and yet courts less than half the crowds.
Famously used as the setting for hit rom-com The Holiday, Shere is what family day trips are made of. Nestled in the Surrey Hills, it conjures up the sort of English idyll you didn’t think existed any more. Paddle in the stream, watch the cricket taking place on the green, enjoy a pint in the pub and meander through the charming mix of independent shops and chocolate box cottages.
The Holiday did succeed in putting Shere on the tourist map so if you’re looking for a quieter alternative then try equally idyllic Shamley Green or grab a pub lunch at The Grantley Arms in Wonersh, purported to be one of England’s wealthiest villages.
Ashdown Forest, East Sussex
The heather is on the brink of making an appearance which means it’s a great time to follow in the footsteps of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and make a trip to Ashdown Forest. Whether you hunt down Eeyore’s lonely place or go in search of a heffalump in the woods, be sure to round off your trip with a meal in the garden at The Dorset Arms – part of the Buckhurst Estate.
Brancaster, Norfolk beach
The expansive dunes of Brancaster beach mean that even on a busy day, it’s easy to find your own slice of Norfolk wilderness. This National Trust owned beach has a car park and ice cream kiosk but is otherwise as natural and unspoilt as they come. The small car park fills up quickly so it’s worth arriving early as parking elsewhere is limited.
Sandwich boasts a private beach which you pay to access – around £9 to park all day. This may seem expensive but it does keep the crowds somewhat at bay and if you don’t like sitting towel to towel in the current climate it may well be worth it.
The beach is backed by unspoilt dunes and peppered with picturesque beach huts. On a sunny day the sea is a delicious turquoise – you’d be forgiven for thinking you were abroad. Be sure to venture into the small port town of Sandwich – one of the best preserved medieval towns in England – for fish and chips on the quayside.
Batsford Arboretum, Moreton-in-Marsh, The Cotswolds
Just a stone’s throw from the Cotswolds town of Moreton-in-marsh, which has a trainline into London, is Batsford Arboretum – a striking neo-tudor stately home whose roaming gardens host a vast collection of trees from around the world. Children will love running down the lawns, standing behind the waterfall and paddling in the stream, whilst the adults can take in the vistas across the Cotswolds. There’s a play park for the kids (check the website for the latest Covid update) and a well-stocked cafe with extensive outdoor seating should the sun shine.
Those in search of architectural inspiration can visit the unusual, Indian-themed Senzicote estate just opposite Batsford. With gardens open from Wednesdays to Fridays, it’s a 200-year-old Mogul Indian palace, set in a romantic landscape of temples, grottoes, waterfalls and canals reminiscent of the Taj Mahal. It’s said to have inspired the Brighton Pavilion. Quite a sight buried in the Cotswold hills!
Ober Corner, The New Forest, Hampshire
The New Forest gets its fair share of bank holiday visitors so it’s well worth researching the quiet spots that have somehow remained under the radar. Sometimes this is as simple as being prepared to roam a little on foot or bike from the car parks.
Favourite paddling spots like Puttles Bridge get swarmed in the summer but venture off the beaten track and you’ll soon find your own quiet stretch of water. Ober Corner is one of those lesser known beauty spots worth having up your sleeve. Park next to Aldridge campsite and head down the track for 800 yards or so to the stream where you’ll find fallen down trees to clamber on and a makeshift rope swing. Just remember to pack the sandwiches and the thermos.
Most people associate Poole Harbour with sprawling footballers’ mansions and the crowded beach front at Sandbanks. But on the other side of the harbour to the west of Wareham lies a sprawling nature reserve largely untouched by summer tourists. Wander through Arne forest to the water’s edge for a breathtaking view of Brownsea island or explore the abandoned ‘ghost’ village hidden within the trees.
Those wanting to visit Brownsea Island by ferry can do so from Poole quay – this usually packed tourist site is a delight this summer because of limits placed on the number of daily visitors. Once you’ve stepped foot off the ferry and the passengers have dispersed, you quickly feel as though you have the island to yourself. Tickets are available on the National Trust website.