* If you want a family holiday based on outdoor activities, then summer is the best time to visit Hampshire. The New Forest though, truly comes into its own in the autumn time. It is at its most dramatic from late summer to autumn. When we were there, the heath was turning purple from the blooming heather and the trees were just starting to light up with autumn foliage. In winter it is colder, but the weather here seldom gets truly wild. You could explore Winchester all year round.
* The food in Hampshire is very good - it does take food seriously in fact. 200 years ago the locals were nicknamed Hampshire Hogs after the excellence of their pork. This is celebrated every year in the fiercely contested Great Hampshire Sausage Competition. They have lots of farmers markets here - the one in Winchester is the largest and it is held every Sunday.
* Be sure to explore the footpaths and traffic free tracks of the New Forest. Walking is good, but it is even better to cycle. There are lots of bike hire places throughout the forest. The terrain is mainly flat and there are more than 160 kilometres of way marked routes. We did this and had great fun. There are also lots of nice pubs to break up the cycling.
* Watch out for the famous New Forest ponies. They are said to be descended from horses brought over on the Spanish Armada. They roam freely everywhere, including in the villages. Do not approach them though - they will kick. Also only picnic in "pony free" areas, the horses are very cheeky and will try and get your food no matter what. We saw this happen to an unsuspecting family - not a pretty sight!
* The New Forest has an area of about 148 square miles. It can become very busy on a spring or summer weekend. Road traffic can be a problem on the narrow, unfenced roads, all of which have a 40 miles per hour speed limit to safeguard the animals.
* Winchester has a lot of one way streets which are a bit confusing. Find somewhere to park here as soon as possible. The city centre is very walkable and most of High Street is pedestrianised. We did not use the car at all in Winchester.