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Pony near Hampton Ridge
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New Forest walks - an introduction

Walking - enjoyment for all ages
Walking - enjoyment for all ages
Mystery Dog Deaths update
Please note, if you are likely to walk your dog in the New Forest, you may wish to check the details of a mystery disease that over the past year, or so, has killed a number of dogs.
Details from the Forestry Commission are here.

Walking
Walking in the New Forest offers freedom and wide open spaces, for within the New Forest National Park can be found an impressive 235 kilometres (146 miles) of public footpaths; 57 kilometres (35 miles) of public bridleways; and 26,600 hectares (266 square kilometres or 103 square miles) of Crown land with open public access.

All provide tremendous opportunities for New Forest walks, and, of course, there’s always a chance that around the next corner, deer or other wildlife will be present to captivate and entertain.

A great selection of New Forest walks are provided here. Currently, ten are based on Lyndhurst, two on nearby Millyford Bridge, four on Brockenhurst and one on Boldre.

A further ten walks along cycle routes are also provided. The cycle routes for much of the year are little used by either cyclists or pedestrians, and mainly follow compacted, usually gravel, tracks, which makes them ideal for use with a buggy or when elsewhere the ground is wet and muddy. Short sections of road are, however, included in some – cycle ride 7, for example, features the busy A35, which is not really suitable for walking - and use by forestry vehicles can sometimes result in a gathering of surface mud on the tracks.

All the walk and cycle routes included here are designed to pass through richly varied landscapes, to take in places of historic interest, and to see wildlife. Many begin from a village centre, and most pass close to Forestry Commission or other car parks that provide alternative, mid-way start points.

From late June to early / mid-September, walkers may also wish to try the New Forest Tour Bus - details of the tour bus routes, times and fares are here.

Some of the walks are fairly short, and are suitable for a quiet, evening stroll. Others are longer and will take a number of hours to complete, but even on many of these, there are few significant hills and no stiles over which to climb. (Many of the shorter routes are modified versions of longer walks, so descriptions and directions for the relevant parts are often identical).

But whilst the terrain is fairly gentle and walkers are rarely very far from a road or village, a number of safety precautions are recommended:

Full, walk directions are included, but it is always advisable to carry an up-to-date copy of the Ordnance Survey map of the area – it's Explorer OL22 (the Weatherproof version is particularly useful) - and maybe a compass, too, just in case the intended route is missed.

Access to a mobile phone can also be useful, although phone signal strength in the New Forest is at times variable.

For many of the walks, strong footwear is also necessary as, particularly after rain, some areas of the New Forest can be quite wet underfoot.

And finally, do enjoy walking in this magnificent landscape, but please treat it with respect:

  • Take all litter home – it is unsightly and can also have unfortunate consequences for wild animals and commoners' stock.
  • Don’t be tempted to pick wild flowers (or anything else) – it potentially damages the ecology of the New Forest, harms the individual species and is often illegal, too.
  • Don’t feed the ponies or other commoners' stock – it’s bad for their diet, attracts them to roadsides and car parks where traffic accidents are always a risk, and encourages nuisance begging.
  • And do close gates behind you – to create conditions where wild flowers flourish, stock are deliberately excluded from many of the woodland inclosures, and deer also from some. Open gates are an invitation that few animals can resist.
    Stock, primarily ponies, are, however, encouraged to enter a small number of inclosures - for example, Burley Old and Dames Slough - so as to introduce something of the character of unenclosed woodland into these places. Gates here are accordingly locked open. Please leave them as you find them.

Note: Occasionally, public access is not available to some areas of the New Forest whilst thinning or other Forestry Commission management work is underway – paths are closed for short periods for the safety of both visitors and workers.

Similarly, to reduce surface damage, a small number of car parks are closed, primarily in winter.

Check out the Forestry Commission website for up to-date details

(Details of cycle route closures and some other temporary access restrictions can be be found in Cycle Route Closures).

Find out more about these New Forest walks

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New Forest wildlife
Help safeguard New Forest wildlife. From March to July, a range of scarce, vulnerable heathland and wetland birds nest on the ground in the New Forest. Please stay on the main paths at this time, and ensure that dogs do also. Here's more information: Avoid disturbance to ground nesting birds.
New Forest seasonal highlights
May
Bluebells and other wild flowers brighten the woods, usually in relatively small numbers.
Bird song can be heard throughout the day but is at its loudest at dawn and, to a lesser extent, dusk.
Foals are born in increasing numbers and can be seen beside ever-attentive mares.
Dragonflies are more frequently observed on the wing as spring progresses.

June
Badgers can now often be watched above ground well before darkness falls.
Deer - fallow, red, roe and sika deer are all present - give birth, although the youngsters are unlikely to be noticed until July.
Heath spotted-orchids add delicate pink colour to many of the heaths.
Hobbies, dashing birds of prey, can often be seen aloft, hawking for insects.
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
New Forest 'what's on' - a small
selection of local events and activities
May 2016
Friday, 6th - Brockenhurst Village Hall, Burlesque Varietease, 8.00pm - 10.00pm.
Saturday 7th May to Sunday 10th July - New Forest Centre, Lyndhurst, Special exhibition: Curiouser and Curiouser, 10.00am - 4.30pm.
Saturday, 14th - Exbury Gardens, RHS New Forest Breakfast Walk. Booking essential - 02380 891203.
Sunday, 22nd - Burley Village Hall, Craft Fayre, 10.30am - 5.00pm.

June 2016
Wednesday, 1st - Walk through Time with a Forestry Commission volunteer ranger, 10.00am - 1.00pm, advance booking essential.
Tuesday, 14th - New Forest Centre, Lyndhurst, Walk and Talk: St Michael and All Angels Church, 2.00pm - 4.00pm. Advance booking essential.
Saturday, 25th - Exbury Gardens, Devoted to Dogs Day.
View the full 'What's on' programme.
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley