New Forest
 - Explorers
     Guide
New Forest
Explorers Guide
Home page composite image
Pony near Hampton Ridge
For comprehensive information about the New Forest National Park
For comprehensive information about the New Forest National Park
MENU

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.

Introduction

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.

Walk away the winter blues
A group of walkers enjoy a beautiful, crisp morning at Shatterford on a day when the landscape is brightened by hoar frost
A group of walkers enjoy a beautiful, crisp morning at Shatterford on a day when the landscape is brightened by hoar frost
Walking in the countryside is a great way to get away from it all, to escape the 9-5, to forget about life's daily pressures, and town and city living. Walking means freedom, particularly in the New Forest where the right to roam has for centuries been enshrined in local customs. Give your mind a break, enjoy a little exercise, get back to basics and appreciate close contact with the natural world.
And winter is amongst the best of seasons for walks that provide opportunities to experience wildlife at first-hand for then, deciduous trees are free of leaves that at other times conceal the presence of woodland birds, the forest floor is free of vegetation and the heaths and boggy areas are shorn of all too frequently found stands of bracken amongst which deer are prone to hide.
Snow doesn't often lie for long in the New Forest so its presence must come as a shock to the local deer
Snow doesn't often lie for long in the New Forest so its presence must come as a shock to the local deer
Fungal leftovers from autumn may be present whilst the colder months are also a good time to enjoy encounters with deer and foxes as these animals, forced by shortages of food, increasingly show themselves during daylight hours.
Heralds of the spring to come, lift the heart, too. Butterflies - brimstones, red admirals and small tortoiseshells - may be tempted out of hibernation during warmer spells of weather, fresh leaves slowly begin to appear on honeysuckle stems, and bluebells and lords and lady plants stir themselves after early winter rest.
Then from late-January and February, birdsong is increasingly heard as many resident species more prominently advertise their presence as the breeding cycle once again begins.
A robin in snow: very much a winter scene
A robin in snow: very much a winter scene
Winter in the countryside can be a tough time for humans, though, especially on cold, damp days and even when the sky is clear and the sun is shining, so before venturing out into the Forest, be sure to wrap up well in warm clothes, use waterproof footwear, don't forget to take a flask of tea or coffee, and maybe choose a walk route that offers along the way rest and refreshments in a wayside pub or teashop.
For a good selection of walks, check out these New Forest walks.
Quick links


 Search this site


New Forest 'what's on' - a small
selection of local events and activities
January 2018
Saturday, 6th - Lyndhurst Community Centre, New Forest Book Fair, 10.00am - 4.00pm.
Friday, 19th - Brockenhurst Village Hall, Film Night - Moviola Presents Dunkirk (12A), 7.00pm - 10.30pm.
Saturday, 20th - New Forest Centre - Lyndhurst, Fundraising Book Sale, 10.00am - 3.00pm.
Sunday, 28th - Lyndhurst Community Centre, New Forest National Park Volunteer Fair, 10.30am - 4.00pm.

February 2018
Saturday and Sunday, 3rd and 4th - Lyndhurst Community Centre, 'Kidnapped at Christmas', a play performed by members of Lyndhurst Drama and Musical Society.
Monday, 5th to Tuesday, 20th - Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Romsey, Art Exhibition presented by the New Forest Art Society, 10.00am - 4.00pm (final day 3.00pm).
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