Two women horse riding in the New Forest National Park with purple heather in the foreground
Two women horse riding in the New Forest National Park with purple heather in the foreground

Hampshire - New Forest National Park

Explore the New Forest and all it has to offer

The New Forest's wonderful mosaic of ancient pasture woodland, coniferous plantations, acid grasslands, mixed farmland, and coastline, as well as its wet and dry heaths, mires, and bogs, makes it a haven for wildlife. You won't find this combination of natural environments anywhere else in Europe.

The open countryside, villages, and coast of the National Park are ideal for exploring the great outdoors: go on a hike in the country, play Poohsticks over a bridge, test out a few bike trails, or buy an ice cream.

But the New Forest is more than just a forest, it also has open heathland, ancient woodland, rivers and valley mires, and a coastline of mudflats and saltmarshes. It contains the largest remaining portion of southern England's rare lowland heath, which once covered this region.

The New Forest that we all know and love is accessible and very special because of the grazing by animals, which continues to shape and preserve it. The enclosure of common land and the disappearance of former royal forests resulted in the loss of common rights throughout much of Europe and Britain. The New Forest is one of the few large lowland commons where rights are still widely used and a strong 'commoning' culture still persists.

One of the reasons this area is given extra protection as a National Park is because of the intriguing plants and fungi that grow here, such as devil's finger, butcher's broom and wood spurge.

Numerous historical events and influences have shaped the New Forest's landscape and cultural heritage since its creation by William the Conqueror in 1079 for the pursuit of the "beasts of the chase," which included red, roe, and fallow deer, as well as wild pig.

There are lots of interesting walks in the National Park that take you through the woods, by sea, over heath, or along rivers and streams. However, in order to protect the rare ground nesting birds from disturbance, please stick to the main routes, especially between March and July.

Pedalling along the various cycle routes is a great way to see the New Forest. In addition to the over 100 miles of way-marked cycle paths of varying difficulties, the National Park also has many quiet country lanes that are ideal for a peaceful ride.

There's a wide variety of fascinating wildlife in the New Forest, and a lot of places where you can see some of the many different species that inhabit the region. Additionally, there are numerous miles of pristine streams, rivers, and ponds that provide hundreds of species with excellent habitat. The local food, beverages, and handicrafts are inspired by this unique setting, and are frequently badged under the New Forest Marque produce scheme.