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.

Autumn in the New Forest
The fly agaric is just one of many species of autumnal fungi found in the New Forest
The fly agaric is just one of many species of autumnal fungi found in the New Forest
Autumn is a wonderful season in the New Forest. Broad-leaved woodlands glow with colour, nuts and berries adorn trees and shrubs, pigs roam the woods in search of acorns and beech mast, huge amounts of mysterious fungi appear as if from nowhere, and commoners' cries ring out across the heaths as ponies are gathered in during the annual drifts.
Colourful autumnal hawthorn berries (with a dunnock in their midst)
Colourful autumnal hawthorn berries
(with a dunnock in their midst)
Watch out, too, for rutting deer as three of the species present in the Forest - red, fallow and sika deer - breed in the autumn.
And what a spectacle the rut provides as, primarily early in the morning, mature males, high on testosterone, abandon a natural inclination to be inconspicuous and take centre stage as they compete for the attentions of females whilst simultaneously doing their utmost to out-manoeuvre other males.
Red deer during the rut
Red deer during the rut
Posturing alone may sometimes be effective on both counts; sounds are commonly employed - red deer stags roar, fallow bucks groan and sika stags whistle and shriek; whilst fights may sometimes be necessary to drive off competitors.
Then from mid-morning, the bucks and stags often revert to type, and lie up in the woods or amongst heathland heather, gathering strength for the following day's exertions.
Time for this fallow buck<br />
 to rest after a busy morning rutting
Time for this fallow buck
to rest after a busy morning rutting
Take care, though, if rutting deer are encountered, for bucks and stags are large, heavy animals that can be oblivious to the presence of humans as they agitatedly blunder about, and may also be positively aggressive towards intruders on their patch.
Find out lots more about New Forest deer.
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New Forest 'what's on' - a small
selection of local events and activities
November 2017
Friday, 10th - Brockenhurst Village Hall, Film night - The Sense of an Ending (15), 7.00pm - 10.30pm.
Saturday, 25th - Burley Village Hall, Christmas Bazaar, 2.00pm.
Saturday, 14th October to Sunday, 14th January - New Forest Centre - Lyndhurst, Special Exhibition: From the Charter of the Forest to the Present Day, 10.00am - 3.30pm. Free entry.

December 2017
Friday, 1st - Brockenhurst Village Hall, Brockenhurst 50+ Keep Fit Club, Annual Barn Dance, 7.30pm - 11.00pm. Contact Keith on 01590 622275 for tickets.
Saturday, 9th and 16th, Sunday, 10th and 17th - Exbury Gardens, Christmas Postal Express, 10.00am - 4.00pm. Train ride - £6 per person which includes entry to the gardens. No pre-booking so make sure you arrive early. Gardens open subject to weather permitting.
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