Charlie Bubear grew up in the New Forest but met his wife, Alice, an expert in the country property market, living in London after university. They had three boys and, one day, while queuing for the seesaw in a busy playground on Wandsworth Common, Charlie snapped. “That was it, I’d had enough. We needed more space, so we put the house on the market  and moved back to Hampshire,” he says.
They bought a cottage just outside one of the UK’s most expensive villages, Beaulieu, and surrounded by New Forest. They have commoners’ rights too and can legally keep ponies and cows in the forest, and they are allowed to forage.
The high prices are driven by some of the enormous houses tucked away around Buckler’s Hard, a hamlet on the banks of Beaulieu River before it runs down to the Solent.
“Celebrities and captains of industry live around Beaulieu in peace and seclusion,” says Alice. The high-end property buyer (Hutton Bubear) is referring to the likes of billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who has secured permission to build a £6 million waterside home on stilts in the area.
“The village itself is considered the prettiest in the New Forest, against stiff competition. It is controlled by the Beaulieu Estate, which means it is very well maintained: at Christmas all the lights have to match,” says Alice.
The amenities are rural chic, with greengrocers Bellord & Brown on the ground floor of a Georgian building on the high street specialising in local and seasonal produce and running foraging courses.
There are plenty of places for children to paddleboard and learn to sail. There’s Exbury Gardens, owned by the Rothschild banking dynasty, and a steam railway. In the evenings, villagers will walk to the Montagu Arms hotel, which has a bar on the side called Monty’s.
The New Forest wasn’t always a foodie area, but now has the Pig at Brockenhurst and Angela Hartnett’s Lime Wood hotel. In June, the Pig will host the Smoked & Uncut festival with food and live music in the forest.
“Beaulieu is commutable into Southampton, where there is also a fast train to London. People move for the yachting culture and to be close to both the forest and the sea,” she says. “There are a lot of potential buyers on the waiting list for big family homes. Stock is low and only coming up through divorce or downsizing,” she adds.