New Forest
 - Explorers
New Forest
Explorers Guide
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Pony near Hampton Ridge
For comprehensive information about the New Forest National Park
For comprehensive information about the New Forest National Park

The New Forest

A wonderful landscape, unique traditions and marvellous wildlife

Welcome to the New Forest Explorers Guide and a wealth of information about the magnificent New Forest National Park, information that will appeal to everybody who wants to find out more about this absolutely magical area.

Indeed, walkers, cyclists, wildlife enthusiasts, history buffs and those who simply love being in and around the Forest will discover much of interest within these pages.


The New Forest is located in south-west Hampshire, close to the south coast. It contains a magnificent variety of scenery and has relatively recently been designated the New Forest National Park. The New Forest is also unique in modern Britain - an ancient hunting ground with many special characteristics that have survived largely intact.

Ponies and donkeys wander along many of the village streets, whilst all the villages offer easy access to the beautiful landscapes of the open Forest. Shops of all descriptions are available and there is a wide choice of pubs, restaurants and tea rooms.

Spring in Brinken Wood
Spring in Brinken Wood

Walking and cycling

Marvellously unrestricted access is available for relaxation, walking and exploration using many miles of gravel tracks and countless other little-used paths. Enjoy our choice of 17 varied walks, including some that are suitable for small children in buggies, strollers or pushchairs; and others 'off-the-beaten-track' in hidden corners of the Forest where wildlife thrives and the landscape boasts secret signs of yesteryear.

(All the walks here are accompanied by a route map, full directions and information about things of interest that are likely to be seen along the way.)

Cycling, too, provides a wonderful experience for all, whether young or not so young. Explore New Forest cycle tracks, travel through breathtaking countryside and absorb the atmosphere of this historic landscape - 10 cycle rides are fully detailed, again with route maps, directions and information about things of interest along the way.

World class wildlife

Find out here about New Forest wildlife for it is of truly international importance - not the captive 'wildlife' kept in wildlife parks, but the truly wild, wildlife likely to be encountered out in the Forest, the deer, foxes, badgers, birds, butterflies, dragonflies, wild flowers, reptiles and more.

Take a look at our comprehensive, accessible, accurate information and images, and discover the Wild Forest that few really take the time to fully explore.

History and heritage

Step back in time and discover the New Forest of yesteryear, explore the evidence of a long and varied history that can often be found in this aged landscape: the Bronze Age barrows, Iron Age hill forts, charcoal burners' pits, village churches and much, much more.

Contained within these pages, too, will be found a range of old maps dating back to the late 18th century, maps that show the area exactly as it was in those far off days.

New Forest ponies and traditional common rights

And of course, here in the New Forest, ponies, donkeys, mules, cattle and autumnal pigs wander freely, continuing centuries-old commoning traditions that were once widespread over much of England.

Common of Pasture - the right to put out ponies, donkeys, mules and cattle - is still widely practised; common of mast - the right to put out pigs - much less so. Some commoners continue to enjoy the right to wood for the fire - common of fuelwood - whilst common of pasture for sheep is largely a thing of the past, alongside the now defunct common of turbary.

A beautiful heathland pond at Acres Down
A beautiful heathland
pond at Acres Down

Things to do and places to go

There is always much to do in the New Forest, whatever the weather - take a look, for example, at the What's on guide for further information - whilst historic towns and cities are also relatively nearby and so are safe, sandy beaches - details of Attractions, Activities and Days Out a little farther afield are in the Days Out guide.

New Forest pubs - in the villages and way out in the countryside

The New Forest boasts a wide variety of pubs, most of which serve excellent food and drink - many are featured in our local Pub guide.

Places to stay

Places to stay are readily available, for there are many high quality hotels, guest houses and B&Bs from which to choose; and also caravan and campsites.

New Forest news, traffic conditions and weather forecasts

Catch up here, too, with the local news, details of traffic conditions and weather forecasts for the New Forest, Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight.

New Forest maps - to help get you here and then to help you find your way about

And use the 'Quick links' at the bottom of every page to access the very latest in mapping technology. Conventional maps are provided and so are satellite images, street maps that show terrain details, and 3D representations.

Spring is here
in all its glory
Robin singing
A robin treats passers-by to a
prolonged burst of warbling song
And yes, as the robin illustrates, spring certainly means bird song aplenty. Avian visitors from Africa and other far-flung places can be heard from late-March onwards, but local residents - robins, wrens, blackbirds, song thrushes and many more - also belt out their tunes for all to hear. The dawn chorus is well worth getting up for, whilst a slightly more subdued version takes place at dusk, although most species also sing intermittently throughout the day.
Spring is also, of course, bluebell time, too!
A beautiful patch of bluebells
in Pondhead Inclosure
Bluebell foliage can often be seen from late-January onwards and the first blooms from late-March or early April, with the peak flowering period usually from mid-April to early May.
But bluebells in the New Forest are often quite literally 'thin on the ground' - the deer and commoners' stock see to that. However, Pondhead Inclosure, near Lyndhurst, where the stock are wholly excluded and deer numbers limited, boasts fine arrays of these beautiful plants.
To see for yourself, why not try our shorter Pondhead Inclosure walk or longer Pondhead Inclosure walk?
Red admiral on gorse
A red admiral enjoys the sunshine
as it basks on a gorse bush
It's the appearance of butterflies, though, that for many of us really signals the onset of warmer weather. Some - brimstones, red admirals, peacocks, small tortoiseshells and maybe occasional commas - might have been tempted out of hibernation on sunny winter's days, but are most likely to be encountered in reasonable numbers from mid-March onwards.
Look out, too, as spring progresses for large and small whites, orange tips, holly blues and speckled wood butterflies; and then around the wetlands, from late-April onwards, for an array of dragonflies and damselflies, starting with the emergence of large red damselflies followed by broad-bodied chaser dragonflies.
Broad-bodied chaser
Broad-bodied chasers can usually be seen
from May until September
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New Forest 'what's on' - a small
selection of local events and activities
May 2018
Sunday, 6th - Lyndhurst Community Centre, Foresta Artisan Fair, 10.00am - 4.00pm.
All of May and then until Sunday, 10th June - St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Springlines: Mary Anne Aytoun-Ellis and Clare Best, 10.00am - 4.00pm.
Wednesday, 30th - Wild Wednesday, New Forest Reptile Centre, 10.30am - 4.00pm.

June 2018
Saturday, 2nd - Burley Village Hall, Cycle Jumble.
Saturday, 9th - Blackwater, Sunset Safari (Forestry Commission), 8.30pm - 10.00pm, advance booking essential.
Friday, 15th - Brockenhurst Village Hall, Film Night - Darkest Hour (PG), 7.00pm - 10.30pm.
Saturday and Sunday, 16th and 17th - Exbury Gardens, Model Railway Expo, 10.00am - 5.30pm.
For further details, view the full New Forest What's on programme.
A look at the landscape:
Stoney Cross
Ocknell Pond

With its delightful mixture of gorse-clad heathland, ancient and man made woodlands, and scattered pools, the area a little to the west and north-west of Stoney Cross ticks all the boxes for those who like a bit of variety in the landscape.

Anses Wood, for example, is ancient, pasture woodland; whilst Ocknell Inclosure was first developed in 1775 but for the most part exhibits many of the characteristics of open woodland. Long Beech Inclosure, too, dates from 1775, North and South Bentley from 1700, and King's Garn Gutter Inclosure from 1860.

Cadman's Pool is a lot more recent, though, for it was created only in the 1960s at the behest of the then Deputy Surveyor of the New Forest, Arthur Cadman. Nearby Ocknell Pond (shown above) and Janesmoor Pond are, however, both entirely natural.

But there is much more of interest here, for Ocknell Plain was the site of a World War Two airfield known as RAF Stoney Cross. Check out a Stoney Cross Airfield satellite map view and the outlines of the three runways can still be clearly seen and so can some of the dispersal areas where aircraft were left in-between periods of activity.

The runway outlines are also visible on the ground - they are at a slightly lower level than the adjacent land; are often bordered on both sides by lines of brambles or gorse; are (needless to say) absolutely straight; and the grass is often of a different shade to that of adjacent land, with patches of gravel, occasional bricks and pieces of concrete showing through.

Aircraft dispersal areas can also still be found, some - such as those in Ocknell campsite - boasting original concrete surfaces. Look out, too, for the remains of regularly spaced runway light blocks in the grass beside the Linwood road - this road was constructed along the northern edge of the main runway - and for miscellaneous sections of roadside and other war-time concrete, including the remains of airfield service roads and other facilities within Longbeech campsite.

New Forest ponies
New Forest ponies in the road
New Forest ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but in 2015, 55 were killed on the roads.
Always take care when driving
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley