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New Forest ponies

The New Forest is a major tourist area and a national park in Hampshire. It is immensely popular with British campers, as it is one of two national parks in the densely populated South East of England.



The name 'New Forest' is somewhat misleading, as it is neither new (it was established in 1079), nor a forest in the current sense of the word. It is rather it is a patchwork of areas of open heath and gorselands, intermixed with forested 'enclosures'.

It was established by William I as a royal deer-hunting reserve, and it is this which was the original meaning of the word "forest". He introduced the Forest Law, a strict and savage legal code which forbade the local peasantry from doing anything that would interfere with his pursuit of deer, forbidding them from enclosing land for agriculture, for example, erecting fences or barriers, or even owning a bow. In slight recompense, they were given the right to graze their ponies, cattle and pigs in common (i.e. running free) across the forest. The result of this regime, together with the Royal Navy's need for oak trees during the Napoleonic wars (which led to the development of the forested enclosures) has given us a unique, if very much man-made, landscape.

The New Forest has an area of about 148 sq mi (380 km2), and can become very busy on a spring or summer weekend. Road traffic can be a problem on the narrow unfenced roads, which all have a 40 mph (64 km/h) speed limit to safeguard the animals. Off the paved roads, however, there are miles of unpaved forest roads ideal for walking and cycling.

The New Forest was designated a national park in 2005.

Towns and villages[edit]

Although a largely rural area, there are several towns and large villages that have good pubs and restaurants to dine at, attractions to see and supermarkets to stock up on.

Flora and fauna[edit]

The New Forest has several important or unusual habitats including both wet and dry heathland, alder carr (think of a semi-flooded woodland) and deciduous forest. Heaths and carrs are typical of southern England, but rare on the international scale. Semi-wild ponies, cattle and pigs still roam across the forest, sharing it with several species of wild deer and leading to a very special flora and fauna driven by their grazing.

  • New Forest pony. The ponies especially have become a symbol of the forest, and the New Forest Pony is a recognised breed. New Forest pony (Q1469817) on Wikidata New Forest pony on Wikipedia

There are several rare insect species including the southern damselfly and the mole cricket.

  • New Forest cicada (Cicadetta montana). Indeed, the rarest animal of the forest is an insect, Cicadetta montana, which is Europe's most northerly cicada. The last confirmed sighting was back in 2000, and it is feared nationally extinct, but local entomologists believe it may still cling on in isolated pockets. Cicadetta montana (Q5119333) on Wikidata Cicadetta montana on Wikipedia.


New Forest
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
Source: climate information for Lyndhurst. Visit the Met Office for a five-day forecast.
Imperial conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches

As with the rest of the UK, the weather in the New Forest is notoriously unpredictable. In the winter, it will often be rainy or overcast, with frost and occasional light snow. In the summer, temperatures will range from 12 °C (54 °F) to 28 °C (82 °F) making staying in the Forestry Commission campsites only very occasionally a bit hot as there are no swimming pools. Spring and autumn can be anywhere in between. The best time to camp is early summer; however, visits are possible all year round, provided you don't mind getting a bit wet!

Visitor information[edit]

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Southampton Airport (SOU IATA) in Eastleigh is served by domestic and short-haul international flights and has the advantage of a direct train connection to Brockenhurst.

Bournemouth Airport (BOU  IATA) in Bournemouth is a small international airport on the edge of the New Forest so it is easy to reach by car.

The London airports have the best connections so it is recommended to fly to one of them and then use the train or car from there. Heathrow Airport (LHR IATA) is the closest and has the best international connections.

By train[edit]

Brockenhurst has a station on the mainline railway from London Waterloo to Bournemouth via Southampton, which is served by at least one fast train from each of those cities every hour. It is also served by longer-distance train services from Birmingham and the north of England.

There are smaller stations within the forest serving Lyndhurst and Beaulieu, but in both cases the service is infrequent and the stations are isolated and not close to the places they serve.

There is also a branch line railway from Brockenhurst to Lymington, principally to provide connections with the ferry service from there to the Isle of Wight.

Train times can be found on the National Rail Planner or by calling 08457 484950 from anywhere in the UK.

By car[edit]

From the north and east, the New Forest is best approached by the M27 motorway. For Beaulieu leave the M27 at junction 2 and follow the signs. For Lyndhurst and the north of the forest, leave at junction 1 and again follow signs. For Brockenhurst, use either of the above to, then follow signs for Brockenhurst from Beaulieu or Lyndhurst respectively.

From the west, you can approach the forest from Bournemouth by the A337 via Lymington to Brockenhurst, or by the A35 direct to Lyndhurst. From further west, use the A31 trunk road which bisects the forest (with very few intermediate junctions) and turns into the M27.

From the south, you can reach Lymington from the Isle of Wight by the Wightlink car and passenger ferry which runs every half-hour.

By ferry[edit]

The Hythe Ferry[dead link] operates a half-hourly passenger ferry and pier tram service across Southampton Water from Town Quay, Southampton to the small town of Hythe, on the eastern edge of the New Forest. During the 12-minute journey, if they are in port, the ferry passes the berth of the liner Queen Mary II.

By taxi[edit]

There are a couple of local taxi companies providing local and long distance travel services from major airports, towns, bus and rail stations to New Forest. New Forest Taxi and Soton Taxi and Southampton Airport Transfer Taxi provide instant cab/taxi booking facility.

By bus[edit]

Wilts & Dorset and Bluestar operate across the New Forest, including the New Forest Tour in summer.

Fees and permits[edit]

Entrance to the park is free.


Long-term conservation and preservation are goals of the Forestry Commission. Following their simple rules will help to maintain this delicate area. In the New Forest the well-being of the animals and the needs of the countryside come first. The Codes below are provided by The Forestry Commission.

Dog Walking Code[edit]

  1. If you cannot control your dog, keep it on a lead.
  2. A dog out of sight may be out of control. It must not be allowed to disturb or chase livestock or wildlife.
  3. Keep to the existing tracks on the forest when birds nest on the ground (1 March - 31 July). At this time, keep your dog close by or you may be asked by a forest ranger or keeper to put it on a lead.
  4. Prevent your dog fouling on footpaths and around car parks. If it does foul, remove the waste.
  5. Groups of dogs can be intimidating to other forest users and wildlife. Keep them under control.
  6. Be considerate to other forest users, particularly children at play and picnickers.
  7. Keep well away from any work taking place in the forest.
  8. Prevent excessive barking from your dog.

Horse Riding Code[edit]

  1. Keep to the tracks when the ground is soft or muddy. When there is no alternative, keep to a slow pace.
  2. Take an alternative route to avoid soft slopes. Riding straight up and down causes erosion.
  3. Avoid widening existing tracks, or creating new ones. Keep off re-seeded areas and recently reinstated rides.
  4. Vary your route on the forest to spread the wear and tear.
  5. Keep to the tracks when birds are nesting on the ground (1 March - 31 July).
  6. Slow down and call out a warning when approaching other forest users. Be courteous and friendly.
  7. Do not build jumps or create lunging areas on the forest.
  8. Keep well away from any work taking place in the forest.
  9. Never ride more than two abreast. Limit groups to a maximum of eight horses on the road.

Out and About guide[edit]

  1. Be safe and plan ahead - follow any signs and aim to be out of the forest by dusk.
  2. Close all gates behind you unless they have been fastened open.
  3. Do not pick or remove plants or flowers.
  4. Do not feed or disturb the common stock - ponies, cattle and donkeys. Give them space and do not touch them.
  5. Take your litter home and do not light fires.
  6. Keep to the existing tracks on the forest when birds nest on the ground (1 March - 31 July). At this time, keep your dog close by or you may be asked by a forest ranger or keeper to put it on a lead.
  7. Keep below the forest speed limit (40 mph) and slow down when approaching walkers, riders or livestock.
  8. Do not park on verges or in gateways. Use one of the many car parks.
  9. Keep well away from any forestry work and obey the warning signs.

Cycle Code[edit]

  1. Keep to the way-marked gravel tracks when cycling in the forest.
  2. Slow down and call out a warning when approaching other forest users. Be courteous and friendly.
  3. Take extra care when nearing horse riders. When in a group, all cyclists should pass the horse on the same side.
  4. Do not startle ponies, cattle or wildlife. Go slowly and give them space.
  5. Avoid causing obstructions - do not ride more than two abreast. Always ride in single file on narrow roads.
  6. Keep well away from any work going on in the forest.
  7. Do not pass any vehicle loading timber until you have been told it is safe to do so.
  8. Use the map, and plan to be out of the forest by dusk.

Get around[edit]

On foot[edit]

The New Forest has an excellent network of footpaths, rides and forest roads which can be used by walkers and hikers well away from any motor traffic. Indeed you are free to wander where you wish in much of the forest area.

The distances involved are not insignificant, and the conditions underfoot can be very variable. Walking boots and decent walking clothing are advised.

For navigation, the best detailed map of the area is the Ordnance Survey's "Explorer" map OL22.

By bike[edit]

With a good network of gravel rides and forest roads open to cyclists and walkers, but not to cars, cycling is a really good way to see the New Forest. The National Park Authority has a handy map showing all of the cycling routes in the region. It's great as an overview to see what routes go where, but for navigational purposes, you'll need OS "Explorer" map OL22. Because of its popularity, there is a good selection of cycle hire outfits, which can supply adult and children's bikes, trailers, etc., including New Forest Cycling in Burley, and Cyclexperience Bike Hire in Brockenhurst.

By bus[edit]

The New Forest Tour operates a tourist bus service around Lyndhurst, Beaulieu, Lymington, Brockenhurst and many intermediate rural locations, and runs with low floor easy access buses hourly throughout the summer check for times.

Additionally there is a network of conventional rural bus services running on the main routes in the forest. Traveline provides an online travel planner for these services, which can also be contacted by calling 08712 002233 from anywhere in the UK.

By car[edit]

The road network within the New Forest is fairly limited in its extent, although all the major villages are served. The roads are quite narrow and can get busy. As most roads are unfenced, drivers must be constantly aware of the possibility of encountering animals on the road, especially at night. For this reason, the forest is subject to a blanket 40 mph (64 km/h) speed limit. It's not unknown for the Forest to get hit by heavy fog at night reducing vision to a few metres.


New Forest ponies grazing on heathland

The main thing to see in the New Forest is the forest itself. Throughout the forest there are areas of heathland, forested enclosures, upland streams and the free roaming New Forest Ponies.

However there are some more specific attractions, as described in the following sections.

Northern Forest[edit]

The Northern Forest is that part of the forest north of the very busy A31 road which bisects the forest and forms something of a barrier for both visitors and the local flora and fauna. Compared to the Southern Forest, the Northern Forest is higher and has more open heathland and less woodland. With a smaller population and fewer roads, this part of the forest tends to be less busy.

Other than the forest, there are a few other attractions.

The Rufus Stone
  • The Rufus Stone, near Cadnam, marks the spot where popular myth has it that King William II was assassinated. The actual location of William's death was probably a fair bit to the south, but no one really knows for sure.
  • Breamore House and Countryside Museum, 3 mi (4.8 km) north of Fordingbridge, is an Elizabethan (late 16th-century) manor house with very fine furniture and paintings. Also onsite is an agricultural museum with a comprehensive collection of steam-powered farm machinery. It has a café.

Southern Forest[edit]

The Southern Forest is that part of the forest south of the A31. This is lower lying, with a greater proportion of woodland although heathland still occupies a significant proportion of the area. The Southern Forest is more inhabited, containing all the major forest villages, and tends to see more visitors.

  • Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway, south east of Beaulieu, has a 200-acre woodland garden, with a famous Rothschild collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, and a narrow-gauge railway.
Bucklers Hard, major shipbuilding centre during the Napoleonic Wars
  • Buckler's Hard — A pretty 18th-century village where, in Napoleonic times, the Royal Navy built its warships out of New Forest oak.
Beaulieu River cutting through Longwater Lawn
  • Beaulieu Village — A very attractive village on the River Beaulieu (bigger than the picture shows!) with a handful of pretty good attractions - an Abbey, a Palace and a Motor Museum.
  • New Forest Wildlife Park, east of Lyndhurst, have a lotta otter. Along with a fine owl collection, wolves, deer, quite a lot of butterflies and a few other odds and ends including a rare albino wallaby.


  • A good way for a first-time visitor to see the New Forest by bus is the new New Forest Tour, an open top bus route which runs on a one-way loop through the forest serving Lyndhurst, Beaulieu, Lymington, Brockenhurst and many intermediate rural locations. Buses run every 60 minutes during the summer, and you can get off at any point and catch the next bus after you have looked around.
  • Visit the adjoining town and small port of Lymington, and maybe even catch the ferry across the Solent from there to the very pretty (and even smaller) port of Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
  • Paulton's Park, north east of Cadnam, is a popular family theme park with over 40 rides, a small zoo, gardens and 'park within a park' Peppa Pig World
  • Furzey Gardens, South West of Cadnam, is a beautiful country garden with adventure playgrounds, tree houses and mini fairy houses for kids to discover. There's also a museum and tea rooms.
  • Walking Picnics, +44 1425 655 511, . May-Sep monthly (exact dates and times here), or by appointment for groups. Join naturalist Nigel and his wife Christine for a guided walk of the forest. They will tell you about local history, and help to spot and explain the wildlife you encounter. Each walk is 3-5 miles (5-8 km), and takes place at a different location and time of day. At the end of the walk, Christine serves up a sumptuous homemade three-course picnic (with sides!). Special diets accommodated. BYOB. Booking essential. Adult (aged 16+) £15, child £8. Pay by BACS transfer.


There is a very good bike store in Brockenhurst, which will be able to supply most parts to allow you to make any repairs. They also hire bikes out.

There are camp stores in Lyndhurst.

Eat and drink[edit]



There are numerous campsites in the New Forest, but wild camping is not allowed.

Stay safe[edit]

The ponies here are feral and although pretty, are best left alone. Do not feed them as this encourages them to pester people for food and never get between a mother and her foal as they will kick out. The same applies to the deer who inhabit the park, with extra caution to be taken during the autumn rutting season, when the testosterone-fuelled males grow antlers and compete with one other for the right to breed.

Go next[edit]

Routes through New Forest
merges with  W  E  SouthamptonPortsmouth
BournemouthRingwood  W  E  merges with

This park travel guide to New Forest is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.