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Pony near Hampton Ridge
For comprehensive information about the New Forest National Park
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New Forest walks - an introduction

New Forest Walks - enjoyment for all ages
New Forest Walks - enjoyment for all ages

New Forest 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 is provided here - 42 in all.

Currently, eleven are based on Lyndhurst, two on nearby Millyford Bridge, four on Brockenhurst, three on Beaulieu and East Boldre, three on Burley, one on Boldre, and six on the New Forest National Park coastline and adjacent countryside. A further three are a little 'off the beaten track' in-so-much-as the routes do not pass close to any of the larger villages.

Walks along cycle routes are also included. 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 provide opportunities 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, sometimes 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 woodland thinning or other Forestry Commission management work is underway. Then cycle routes and walking trails are closed for short periods for the safety of both visitors and workers - details are here.

Additionally, to reduce surface damage, a small number of car parks are closed, primarily in winter; whilst from 1st March - 31st July each year, some car parks are closed so as to protect ground nesting birds - details are here.

Help safeguard New Forest wildlife
From the beginning of March until the end of July, a range of scarce, vulnerable heathland and wetland birds nest on the ground in the New Forest. Walkers should stay on the main paths at this time, and ensure that dogs do also.
Be aware, too, that some car parks are closed during this period.
Here's more information:
1) Some New Forest car parks are closed to help rare ground-nesting birds (Advertiser and Times)
2) Avoid disturbance to ground nesting birds.

New Forest Walks throughout the National Park

A number of the New Forest walks shown above, pass by a pub. These walks are also grouped together here:

Separately, Health Walks in and around the New Forest are co-ordinated by Community First New Forest. Walking for Health encourages people of all ages to join regular, short walks in their own communities. Led by a trained walk leader, the walks help boost the health of participants whilst also enabling them to enjoy local, natural spaces in the company of others - the social side of walking can be as important for wellbeing as the walk itself. The details of local health walks are here:

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Help safeguard New Forest wildlife
From the beginning of March until the end of July, a range of scarce, vulnerable heathland and wetland birds nest on the ground in the New Forest. Walkers should stay on the main paths at this time, and ensure that dogs do also.
Be aware, too, that some car parks are closed during this period.
Here's more information:
1) Some New Forest car parks are closed to help rare ground-nesting birds (Advertiser and Times)
2) Avoid disturbance to ground nesting birds.
New Forest seasonal highlights
July
Silver-washed fritillary butterflies brighten many woodland rides.
Bird song subsides as the annual moult begins, old worn feathers are cast off and new replacements grown.
Wild gladiolus plants bloom. (In the UK, this species is found only in the New Forest).
Dragonflies and Damselflies take to the wing in ever increasing numbers.

August
Heather blossom produces huge swathes of heathland colour, adding to the pinks and purples of earlier flowering cross-leaved heath and bell heather.
Fallow, red and sika deer antlers, when fully grown, are cleaned of velvet in preparation for the autumn rut.
New Forest pony drifts - the annual round-ups - begin.
Marsh gentian blooms add splashes of blue to some of the wetter heathlands.
** New Forest ponies and other animals**
The New Forest
Commoners' ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during 2019 agisters attended 159 road traffic accidents involving these animals, a small but disappointing increase on the 154 accidents attended in 2018.

Sadly, 58 animals were killed - 35 ponies, 13 cows, 8 donkeys and 2 sheep, whilst a further 32 were injured - 3 pigs, 9 donkeys, 11 cows and 9 ponies.

(Forty-three accidents occurred in daylight, 15 at twilight and 101 in the dark. Twenty-seven accidents were not reported by the driver involved).

Here's just one horrific example - Three donkeys killed in collision with van at notorious New Forest blackspot (Advertiser and Times)
** Always take care when driving **
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley