I started work at the New Forest Heritage Centre in 1991; so twenty eight years later and one or two moves within the organisation, I’m still thoroughly enjoying the job!  What keeps me motivated?  Firstly, a commitment to the ethos of the New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust which took root in the early years working alongside Jude James, well-known local historian (and consultant to the New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust at the time) and being part of a hard-working team. In addition, my current role as Retail Manager fulfils my passion for maintaining the highest level of customer care and attention to detail. 

Our visitors may be making their first or fiftieth visit to the shop – they are always made welcome and my mission is to tempt every one of them with new and unusual gifts and souvenirs to enhance the retail experience. The summer holidays are nearly here and it is good to see the popular New Forest Tour Bus again.  We expect to be at our busiest over the next few weeks; but we have been gearing up well in advance.

We start by choosing new lines for the summer season whilst still in the depth of winter.  We visit Trade Shows in February and March to get a feel for what’s new, and then assess the very best products for relevancy to our own retail offer at the New Forest Heritage Centre. 

This year we have concentrated on applying our new and contemporary branding to a range of popular gifts. The colourful, forest-themed montage of flora and fauna works really well as a memento of any visit to the New Forest. We are also working on an online shop, starting with the New Forest Record Series, local interest book titles and walking maps, together with a range of branded gifts.  As new products arrive, we will be updating the online shop – so please visit our webpage to see what has been added.  www.newforestheritage.org.uk

Recently we have introduced a range of locally produced alcohol from small breweries and distilleries based in or close to the New Forest. We are selling small-batch gin, mead, wine, beer and cider.  We also wanted to expand our range of Men’s Gifts this year and we are particularly pleased with the response to the new range of “At Home in the Country” gifts from country-themed handkerchiefs to unusual desktop accessories as well as a range of very smart cufflinks from Onyx Art.

The three-day New Forest Show annual event starts on Tuesday 30th July.  This is often a good time to visit the New Forest Heritage Centre whilst many visitors are at the Showground.  We will be providing craft activities for children in the museum area and the chance to view and purchase original artwork from the 2019 Open Art Competition in our New Forest Gallery summer exhibition.  Congratulations to Penny Driscoll who won First Prize this year.  Please pop in to say hello and take a look at what’s on offer at the New Forest Heritage Centre this summer.

Louise Bessant