WITH its ancient thatched cottages, picture perfect lanes and stunning scenery, it has long been been popular with locals and tourists alike.

Now the Hampshire haven of Brockenhurst has been named the most beautiful place to live in the UK.

Set in the heart of the New Forest National Park, Brockenhurst is one of the largest settlements in the area, but has managed to retain its old-world charm.

Ponies, cows and donkeys are often to be found wandering along the main shopping street or loitering in the central car park.

One of the churchyards contains a 1,000-year-old yew – said by many to be the oldest tree in the Forest.

Surrounded by open heathland and woodland walks, Brockenhurst is also home to the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, which is especially scenic in the spring when the rhododendrons are in bloom.

Other famous features include the Watersplash, a large ford that crosses the eastern end of Brookley Road.

On hot summer days families flock to an area known as Brock Beach – a picnic spot overlooking the Lymington River. Children play in the shallow water while their parents sunbathe on the shingle.

Brockenhurst has been awarded the prestigious title by Leaders estate agents, which describes it as a village with “bundles of charm and history”.

A Leaders spokesman said: “The area is home to ponies, deer, donkeys and cows – all of which are known to roam the main street.

“Locals have the enchanting New Forest at their fingertips, a selection of warm and inviting pubs to enjoy and beautiful views in every direction.”

Ward councillor Maureen Holding added: “We have fought hard to keep the beauty of the village and prevent unwanted development that would have destroyed it.

“The countryside around the village is spectacular and Rhinefield Road is one of the prettiest places you could find. The Watersplash is a great attraction, as is what we call Brockenhurst Beach.”

Former parish councillor Russell Horne said Brockenhurst’s new title was well deserved.

He added: “It’s an attractive village and you don’t have to go very far for a pleasant walk.Most people who move here are happy.”

Kevin Shaw, Leaders’ national sales director said: “Studies show people with a home in calm and attractive surroundings are happier than those who live in towns and cities.”

Brockenhurst finished ahead of four other finalists – Slinford in West Sussex, Burford in Oxfordshire, Blakeney in Norfolk and Ombersley in Worcestershire.