Guide to The New Forest National Park, Hampshire in the United Kingdom - Hubtrail
I remember the destinations I visited with my family as a child with fond memories and have been lucky enough to return to some of them as an adult with my own family, my most favourite of these destinations being the New Forest National Park.
A Little about the New Forest National Park
The New Forest is the 8th national park in England and the 1st in the South East of England. It was the first national park to be created for nearly 50 years and covers some 150 square miles, lying mainly in the south-west of Hampshire – from the east of the Avon Valley to Southampton Water and from the Solent coast to the edge of the Wiltshire chalk downs.
In spite of its name less than half of the New Forest is wooded. The rest is heather, bracken-covered heath, open pasture, marsh, villages and coastline, thus creating an abundance of different habitats for wildlife.
The New Forest National Park is the most populated in the country with a population of 34,000, but even with all these people making it the most densely populated national park in the UK there is still an abundance of natural wildlife here to suit everyone.
wildlife in the New ForestClick thumbnail to view full-size
Wildlife and Nature in the New Forest
The forest is full of wildlife and native plants, the most common of all wildlife is by far the Forest Ponies, for which most people base their visit, but do not be surprised if you view other animals and natural plant life such as listed below whilst you are out and about exploring this beautiful national park either from a car on the scenic drives or by foot and bicycle on the various tracks around the forest;
·Deer (fallow, roe, red, sika and muntjac),
·Three species of British Newt and Snake
·13 of the 17 species of British native bat have been recorded in the forest
·The rare Southern Damselfly with 30 colonies
·UK’s largest breeding population of the rare Dartford warbler
·Around 700 species of wildflower
·Around 2,700 species of fungi
·Four types of heather, true/common heather or ling, bell heather, the cross-leaved heath, and (the rarest) Dorset heath
Red Deer in the New Forest
Getting around in the New Forest
There are many ways in which to get around once you are in the New Forest. There is the obvious choice of the motor car, but this will mean the driver misses out on much of the scenery while driving along the beautiful scenic drives. Other options are available such as;
- The New Forest Tour bus operated by Bluestar
- The train is another option with local stations at Ashurst, Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Sway, Lymington Town and Lymington Pier
- Local bus services (timetables available from Traveline)
A map of the New Forest
Places to stay
There are many different options of accommodation when it comes to taking short or long breaks within the National Park. If you prefer to stay in comfort and have hot baths in an evening there are plenty of B&B, hotels, guesthouses and farmhouses to choose from, or if you would prefer to live closer to nature either in a tent, caravan or motor home with or without facilities there are many campsites to choose from including some from The Caravanning & Camping club and Forestry Commission, in and around the National Park.
Places to visit
There are 26 miles of unspoilt coastline attached to the National Park with fantastic views across to the Isle of Wight.
Some of the best places to access the coast are;
- Lepe Country Park
- Calshot Activity Centre
- Calshot Castle
- Hurst Castle and Spit
- Lymington and Keyhaven Nature Reserve
The most noted towns are
My experience of the New Forest National Park past and present
I would have been about 11 years old when I first really remember staying within the National Park as it is today, and my main memory is of us as a family travelling to the seaside and sharing our campsite with the ponies and cattle. Times have not really changed, although some campsites do now prevent the wild animals entering their campsites, there are still many that do not, so don’t be surprised if you are cooking your breakfast in a morning and a pony sticks its head in the door looking for a bacon sandwich.
In recent years my family have made good use of the way marked cycle routes around the Forest that enable all abilities of cyclist to enjoy the natural landscape that exists here. Although there are hills that may have to be encountered at times, these are still passable for the casual weekend cyclist. Within the forest itself the tracks that the forestry commission look after are safe and suitable for children of all ages. We even took a Childs bike trailer last time and have seen the tag a long versions being used successfully. If you are concerned about biking on the road then do not be, most of the forest can be reached using the specified cycle routes/tracks (maps can be brought at tourist information centres or on line)
This destination is by far one of my favourites that I hope to revisit time and time again with my family as it grows.
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