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The birth of the modern Forest

Archaeologist Gareth Owen explores the story of the Charter of the Forest, which had far reaching benefits for the New Forest. We are celebrating the Charter's 800th anniversary in 2017, find out how here.

In this blog I explore the Charter of the Forest.

‘Never heard of it!’ I hear you cry!

But you may have heard of its ‘big brother’ the Magna Carta...

The Magna Carta or ‘Great Charter’ gained its name in 1217 to distinguish it from the ‘Carta de Foresta’ when they were both reissued in the latter half of 1217 on behalf of the nine year old king Henry III.

We are marking the anniversary of the Charter of the Forest because this was the starting point for some fundamental rights that still underpin the modern New Forest.

To tell the story of the Charter we need to return to that famous year 1066, which began with the death of the English king, Edward the Confessor, and set off a chain of events that led to the battle of Hastings, a new king and in around 1079 the establishment of the ‘Nova foresta’ or New Forest as the first royal hunting ground by the new Norman king, William the Conqueror.

This establishing of Forest Law on the area must have had a profound impact on the people already living here. The term ‘forest’ in this historical setting would be better understood to refer to ‘outside’ or ‘open space’ rather than the modern understanding of an area with a lot of trees.

Forest law preserved deer and wild boar for hunting by the king, together with the greenery that sustained them. It imposed stringent restrictions on what local people could do on their own land. Inhabitants, tenants and landowners were not allowed to protect their crops by fencing, they could not use the timber from the woodland for building houses and they were not allowed to hunt game to provide food for their families. As the ‘underwood’ was also protected they also faced a severe restriction on the the fuel they could collect. Breaking these laws could result in penalties, monetary fines, loss of limb, imprisonment or in some cases death.

Between 1207 and 1212 under King John, revenue totalling a staggering £11,500 (approx. £3 billion today) was assessed from fines or payments for exemptions. Clearly Forest law was providing a major contribution to Royal finances.

These forest laws fostered resentment for many in the local population, as the local inhabitants were restricted in how they could use the land they had previously relied upon for their livelihoods.

In 1217 the Charter of the Forest was issued and addressed the rights of ‘ordinary people’, meaning those of ‘free men’ status and above. It established forest lands as commons, restored many of the traditional rights of the people and restrained landowners from inflicting harsh punishments on them. It removed some land from Forest Law completely and returned it to how it had once been made the penalties for breaking Forest Law less draconian (you might be fined or imprisoned but would no longer lose life, limb or eyesight).

Free men were now less restricted in how they could make use of the forest. They now enjoyed such rights as:

  • pannage (pasture for their pigs
  • estover (collecting firewood
  • agistment (grazing)
  • turbary (cutting of turf for fuel).

The enforcement of the remaining forest laws was also better defined. The Court of ‘Swainmote’ was to be held only three times a year. This was a court held before the Verderers of the Forest to rule on disputes.  

By Tudor times, most of the Laws of Forests had ceased to be relevant, and served mainly to protect the timber in royal forests. However, some clauses in the Laws of Forests remained in force until the 1970s, and the special courts still exist today in the New Forest (below) and the Forest of Dean.

Despite these events taking place 800 years ago, some of the lasting legacies of Forest Law can still be seen today.

The New Forest is still here, a protected landscape not for royal hunting but still recognized for special qualities like its unique landscape and habitats. The legacy of the Charter of the Forest still exist in commoners making use of the New Forest to graze livestock, our freedom to travel through the New Forest without being fined and to walk our dogs, of any size ‘with all their claws’.

This little known charter was revolutionary in showing that the King was not above the law and restoring common property rights which paved the way for the modern concept of ownership. It was also the first written environmental law, to protect the environment and provide for sustainable land use by local communities.

If you live in the New Forest or further afield, you have the Forest Charter to thank for rights that nowadays we all take for granted.

Our research into the Charter of the Forest is ongoing. We will be adding to this blog through the year with new findings and would love to hear from you with your research or stories. Email to contribute. 

Medieval hunting scene images:
Pages from “Gaston Phoebus: Le Livre de la Chasse
Courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France)
The Livre de la Chasse is a medieval book (a manual) all about royal hunting, written between 1387 and 1391 by Gaston III, Count of Foix and dedicated to Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.

This entry was posted by Communications on Thursday 06/04/2017


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Volunteers share stories of a one-legged landlady and an elephant caterpillar at awards evening

Over 50 people attended a special awards evening in the New Forest last week to celebrate the hard work of volunteers supporting a unique four year landscape partnership scheme.

Over 9,000 volunteer hours were clocked up by over 500 volunteers in 2016 as part of the Heritage Lottery funded Our Past, Our Future scheme, led by the New Forest National Park Authority and 10 key partners.

The first of its kind, the evening was a chance for volunteers to find out what else is going on around the Forest and share their experiences. Special mentions included one volunteer who had contributed a staggering 400 hours of volunteering time and 18 others who had volunteered over 100 hours each.

The celebrations brought together staff from seven organisations across the Forest, including the National Park Authority, National Trust, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, New Forest Centre, Commoners Defence Association, Freshwater Habitats Trust and New Forest Land Advice Service.

Project officers within the scheme surprised their volunteers by choosing a volunteer champion, highlighting someone who has been an invaluable asset to their work over the past year. The winners received a box of chocolates from local producer Beaulieu Chocolate Studio, and every volunteer received a certificate and badge as a thank you.

Short presentations by project officers shared fascinating facts and strange discoveries from projects so far. These included the story of Liz Emery, the one-legged landlady of the Sir Walter Tyrrell pub in Canterton, who locals said ‘served up a good pint’. This discovery came from an oral history recording taken as part of the Through Our Ancestors’ Eyes project, which is recording and cataloguing the unique commoning history of the Forest through digitising photos, recordings and other documents.

Elephant hawk moth caterpillar photo 3 1 (Image credit: Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust).

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust shared their exciting spot of an elephant hawk moth caterpillar (above), over 5cm long, whilst clearing non-native invasive plants along Avon Water.

Paul Kelly, aged 59 from Langley, was awarded volunteer champion for his work with the National Park Authority’s archaeologists. Paul worked for Ordnance Survey for 35 years, retiring in 2010, and he said: ‘As a volunteer you have flexibility in what you participate in and the benefit of very personable and knowledgeable team leaders. You make a positive contribution and also learn a great deal.

‘Hearing about the practical conservation and monitoring work done by different groups was fascinating and made for an entertaining and enjoyable evening - thank you to all concerned!’

New Forest National Park Authority Chief Executive Alison Barnes said: ‘It was a wonderfully uplifting event, showcasing the brilliant work of the Forest’s hard-working volunteers. Without their help the Forest wouldn’t look how it does today and we hope to continue to grow our volunteer force throughout 2017, starting with our annual Volunteer Fair this Sunday.’

If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering in the Forest, then why not visit the annual New Forest Volunteer Fair? This year’s event takes place this Sunday (29 January) from 10.30am until 4pm at Lyndhurst Community Centre. Nearly 50 organisations will be there, including the National Park Authority, the Forestry Commission and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

Find out more at

But don’t worry if you can’t make the Fair, you can still get involved with any of the projects in the Our Past, Our Future scheme. Find out more at

Or contact Volunteer, Training and Mentoring Co-ordinator, Richard Austin, on 01590 646661or by email at

This entry was posted by Communications on Thursday 26/01/2017


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Our favourite routes: part four

Our staff are passionate about the New Forest and their work to protect this special place.

In the final edition of our series of New Year blogs, more staff members pick out their favourite New Forest walks and bike rides in the New Forest National Park and share them with you.

Find a little inspiration below and try the routes for yourself in 2017.

Dawn Rayment
People and Wildlife Ranger

Blackwater: Tall Trees Trail (click for route)
1.4 mile accessible stroll

The Tall Trees Trail is situated along the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, and it makes a wonderful walk for the whole family. The route is less than two miles long, perfect for even the most reluctant walker.  There are two places where you need to cross the road, but the surfaced path is off of the road, it’s also pretty dry underfoot (if you don’t want to get those new Christmas shoes too dirty) and suitable for prams and wheelchairs.

The trail starts from Blackwater Car Park, it is easy to follow, with a welcoming arch marking the start of the route with trail markers and information panels along the way – so no GPS or advanced map reading required. There is the option of a small diversion through a second archway into the arboretum, where there is a short sensory trail to help you discover different smells, textures and sounds of trees.  

tall trees trail
The main Tall Trees route takes you through a part of the forest which was planted in the 1850s, the trees here are mostly exotic evergreen or conifers, so they provide colour and shelter even at this time of year. The largest amongst them are two Giant Redwoods which are the tallest trees in the New Forest. Now over 150 years old – they are mere babies compared to the 3000 year old Redwoods still found in America. Also look out for the Douglas Firs, these trees have non-flammable bark which protect the trees from forest fires. Their cones have distinctive three pronged bracts, which Native Americans legend tells us are the back legs and tails of mice which scrabble into the cones to find shelter from the fires!

Once you get back to the car park, there are facilities such as toilets and picnic tables. If you have a flask why not pack some warming post-walk refreshments, like a flask of hot chocolate and maybe some mince pies?


Mark Holroyd
Transport and Tourism Manager

Buckland Rings Trail (click for route)
A 6.8 linear walk between railway stations

Without a doubt, one of my favourite walks is the Buckland Rings Trail. This is one of the Rail Trails we recently created to encourage those arriving by train to explore this wonderful area on foot.

As a keen railway enthusiast, I’m always keen to travel by train to a new destination and go for a ramble. This trail is a lovely linear route connecting the two train stations on our local branch line: Lymington and Brockenhurst. The route is just under seven miles, so there is the option of returning to your start point by train. However, as I love the area so much, I tend to walk out and back. It’s surprising how the landscape can look quite different when approaching from a different direction. Plus, it means I have definitely earned my pub lunch after 14 miles!

I love the fact that this route begins from the well-connected station in the bustling village of Brockenhurst, but within a few minutes, you find yourself in the idyllic rural surrounds of Roydon Woods. This nature reserve is a large patchwork of ancient woodland, pastures, ponds and heaths. It came as a surprise to me to learn that the Lymington River also forms part of this woodland! I try to keep my eyes peeled on the large section passing through the woods, as it contains many different habitat. The flowering plants support butterflies and I have seen deer on many occasions.

It is crazy to think this sanctuary is so close to the main road! The second part of the walk takes in the open heathland at Setley Plain with long views to the west. On a clear day, it is possible to see for miles and miles towards Dorset. I usually take a moment to contemplate the previous use of Setley Plain as a Prisoner-of-War camp in the Second World War. After a few miles crossing the open Forest and farmland, the trail arrives at Buckland Rings, the site of an Iron Age hill fort, before heading into the harbour town of Lymington. At this point I have a difficult decision to make: pub with an open fire or retrace my steps back to Brockenhurst. It often depends on how kind the weather is!

This entry was posted by Communications on Thursday 29/12/2016


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Our favourite Christmas routes: part three

Our staff are passionate about the New Forest and their work to protect this special place.

In the third of our series of December blogs, more staff members pick out their favourite New Forest walks and bike rides in the New Forest National Park and share them with you.

Find a little inspiration below and try the routes for yourself over the Christmas period.

Julie Melin-Stubbs
Manages the Wildlife and Conservation Team, including the New Forest Land Advice Service.

Brook to Minstead (click for route)
7.2 mile walk full of history

This walk feels like a journey back through time and, with some great local food and drink along the way, before you know it you could easily have whiled away a whole day enjoying this part of the New Forest.

You will certainly not be short of refreshment; you will find three village pubs, a village shop and two tea rooms to choose from! At Minstead Village Shop, for example, you will find the shelves bursting with local New Forest produce, plus a National Park Information Point with all you need to know about the area.

You will also come across some famous names en route! At the Rufus Stone you will be reminded of the origins of the New Forest; a stone marks the spot where, allegedly, while out hunting in 1100AD, King William II was fatally wounded by an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrell.

Intriguingly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is buried at All Saints Church; it’s worth spending a few minutes wandering around the churchyard to look for his grave.

Furzey Gardens is worth a visit, it is a charitable trust which won a gold medal at Chelsea in 2012, is open nearly all year round. With the help of around 30 people with learning disabilities and 20 volunteers, the gardeners maintain a haven of peace and tranquillity.

As you walk over the fords, through the woodlands and along the country lanes of quaint, unspoilt Minstead village, no doubt encountering some of the New Forest commoners’ ponies, cattle or pigs along the way, listen out for birdsong; the ancient trees and high hedgerows which characterise the area are home to some wonderful wildlife and are an important part of the patchwork of heathlands, wetlands, grasslands and woodlands which make the New Forest so special.

Craig Daters

Hale and Woodgreen (click for route)
A 5.7 mile walk in the north of the Forest

I love this walk as it has a bit of everything – majestic ancient woodlands, free-roaming livestock, sprawling river meadows, picturesque village greens, historic estates and churches, far reaching views and an award-winning community shop. There is something for everyone and you will be treated with a new view or point of interest at every turn.

This walk is in the far north west of the National Park where Hampshire meets Wiltshire. The famous free-roaming commoners animals are present on parts of this walk, especially at the picturesque location of Hatchet Green which is surrounded by traditional thatch cottages and the village school, but the route also encompasses a wealth of landscape and historical treats, which act as a constant reminder of the cultural importance of this historic and ever changing landscape.

There really is so much to choose from but I particularly like calling in at the 17th century St Mary’s Church on the Avon Valley Footpath with its rich architectural history, before descending the steep path down to the Avon Valley, where I usually stop and rest for a while, taking in the views and keeping an eye out for darting kingfishers and brown trout playing in the current.

I always call in at Woodgreen Community Shop to pick up some locally produced refreshments before slowly ascending the hill to wander through woodland pastures and past some of the most magnificent ancient beech trees in the forest, on the edge of Hale Park. The sheer size and sense of timelessness these trees transmit never fails to stir up images of Williams ancient hunting forest or the scores of Naval Surveyors that would have passed by recording and marking their ancestors as the Kings trees, whilst these tress were in their infancy.

Leaving behind the ancient woodlands, the route skirts round Hale Park before jealously eyeing the cobb cottages surrounding Hatchet Green and enjoying the sound of school children playing, serving as a reminder that this is a living landscape, where past and present combine to provide a rich and dynamic cultural tapestry.

This walk can be enjoyed throughout the year and is the perfect route for those wanting something ‘a bit different’.

This entry was posted by Communications on Friday 16/12/2016


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Our favourite Christmas routes: part two

Our staff are passionate about the New Forest and their work to protect this special place.

So throughout December some of them will be picking out their favourite walks and bike rides in the New Forest National Park and sharing them with you.

Find a little inspiration below and try the routes for yourself over the Christmas period.

Aynsley Clinton
New Forest Tour Co-ordinator

Lymington to Sway Ride (click for route)
16.8 mile bike ride, mainly on-road

My favourite bike route is the Lymington to Sway Ride. What I love most about it is the variety of scenery from beginning to end. Although the majority of the ride is on road, there is a small section that is off-road which is quite challenging!

Starting at Lymington Train Station, this route is ideal for anyone visiting the New Forest by rail. Passing the marinas and sailing clubs, the route passes close to one of my favourite sites in Lymington – the UK’s oldest seawater baths.

Soon after, the route picks up the quiet lanes, making it a joy to cycle. Another interesting historical point is the old salt works. Salt was produced here from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century. This track takes you right through the heart of the former salt works before heading out onto the sea wall through the nature reserve.

Leaving the seascape behind, the route takes in the thriving village of Milford-on-Sea which provides an opportunity for refreshments, if required/earnt(!). After winding through quiet lanes and crossing the A337, the fun begins! This is the wooded, grassy area I was referring to, which is in contrast to the preceding terrain and which brings out the Bear Grylls in you!

Once clear of this, you find yourself in a more urban environment, which is a welcome relief in the sense of being able to cover more ground more quickly. Passing through or on the outskirts of several southern Forest villages, with some ups and downs towards the end, this route still manages to incorporate lanes adjacent to heathland where you can see grazing ponies. For me, this circular route has it all!

Sam Greatorex
Systems Support

Brockenhurst Village (click for route)
5 mile walk around Brockenhurst

This walk is one of my favourite walks to do in the New Forest. It’s perfect for giving you a feel of what Brockenhurst is like as a village. At certain points along this walk you can be looking at the bustle of village life facing one direction, and then open forest in another. All along this route presents the chance to see some of the famous New Forest wildlife.

My favourite part of this walk is walking along the track that runs past the school. This is possibly the best place to see the cows, ponies and donkeys that frequent the village. In the summer, these animals like to shade themselves under the trees by the patch of grass behind the school or cool themselves in either of the two streams that need to be crossed. Quite often, whole groups can be seen here.

My second favourite part of this walk isn’t strictly part of the route, but is a short diversion that takes you behind St Anne’s Catholic Church. This route follows the stream along an enclosed track behind the houses and comes out at the second of Brockenhurst’s two fords. This track is quiet and peaceful and feels completely different to anywhere else in Brockenhurst. Take the road on the left, then left again at the end of the road. This will come out at the front of the allotments. Follow this road until you reach waypoint three.

Doing this route in reverse allows you to enjoy a lovely walk around the ‘forest-side’ of Brockenhurst before arriving in the village centre where a well-earned rest can be had in any of the local coffee shops the village has to offer.

Deborah Slade
Senior Planning Officer

Boldre Village (click for route)
A 4.3 mile walk in the countryside around Boldre.

The Boldre Village walking route is my favourite; it is less-visited than some parts of the New Forest and combines quiet lanes with ancient woods and countryside footpaths. 

Plenty of people know that Roydon Woods looks sensational during April when the carpets of bluebells are flowering, but in the autumn there are stags, bats, owls, loads of fungi and amazing displays of turning leaves to see. 

It’s also a brilliant route for taking in some of the built heritage of the National Park, from traditional New Forest cottages to more formal manor houses. There are 11 beautiful nationally and locally Listed buildings along the route. See how many you can spot. 

Plus, the walk finishes at one of the Forest’s most historic timber-framed pubs, dating from the 17th Century, and in my view no walk is complete without a log fire and a pint at the end of it.  

This entry was posted by Communications on Friday 09/12/2016


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Our favourite Christmas routes

Our staff are passionate about the New Forest and their work to protect this special place.

So throughout December some of them will be picking out their favourite walks and bike rides in the New Forest National Park and sharing them with you.

Find a little inspiration below and try the routes for yourself over the Christmas period.

Victoria Rice
Finance and Business Support Administrator

Keyhaven Marshes
3.7 mile easy walk along level ground

One of my favourite local walking routes is from Lymington Marina, through Keyhaven Marshes, and on to Milford on Sea (if I’m feeling particularly fit). It helps that this area is pretty much on my doorstep!

The Keyhaven Marshes walking route encompasses a beautiful section of the Solent Way with views across to the Isle of Wight and opportunities to spot a vast array of birds and other wildlife. On early morning walks/runs I have spotted deer and rabbits as well as grey herons. The history of the area is also fascinating and there is still evidence of Lymington’s salt production past all around.

The route is popular with dog walkers, bird watchers, cyclists and joggers throughout the year. My favourite time to be out there has to be first thing in the morning – you can’t beat the views with only the sunrise and birdsong for company. Definitely the best start to the day!

Paul Walton
Head of Environment and Rural Economy

Sway and Setthorns Loop
9 mile bike ride, 85 per cent off road

Having the good fortune to have lived in Sway for a year my current favourite cycle route is the Sway and Setthorns Loop.

As a cycle ride it is ideal – generally flat (apart from a teeth rattling section down the unsurfaced bridleway at Adnams Lane!), easily do-able at the end of a working day during the lighter evenings and generally quiet enough in Wootton Enclosure to be guaranteed a sight of deer browsing alongside the cycle track. Gaps in the trees alongside the old railway line that once ran from Brockenhurst to Ringwood provide glimpses of ponies grazing on the open heathland, contrasting with the more enclosed feel of the wooded parts of the route.  

If I’m walking I tend to stick to the Setthorns Inclosure with its network of paths providing a choice of routes, a number of them leading to the Avon Water and the possibility of seeing a Kingfisher. In May and June this year a late evening walk became a compulsory daily routine to hear the churring Nightjars on the edge of the Inclosure, dodge the stag beetles taking flight and catch sight of a Woodcock silhouetted against the rapidly darkening sky. The walk back home was usually accompanied by the hooting of Tawny Owls.

Over time I will be getting out and exploring more of the Forest but with so much literally on the doorstep the temptation will always be to leave the car on the drive and simply explore my local patch!

Download your pick of nearly 50 free walking and cycling routes across the New Forest National Park this Christmas at

This entry was posted by Communications on Thursday 01/12/2016


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Meet our new Apprentice Rangers

We have welcomed two Apprentice Rangers into our existing ranger team. Katherine Argyrou, aged 21, and Joe Ison, aged 18, are the first Apprentice Rangers to be hired and beat off stiff competition from 44 other applicants.

The apprenticeships are part of a Heritage Lottery Funded landscape partnership scheme called Our Past, Our Future, led by the New Forest National Park Authority and 10 key partners. The National Park Authority is working with the Forestry Commission, National Trust, Hampshire County Council and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to offer two Environmental Conservation apprenticeships per year over four years. Find out more about the rangers here.

Katherine and Joe have started their initial training and inductions, and began their placement with the National Trust in early November. We caught up with them to find out how they felt about their exciting new positions.

What were you doing before you started working as an Apprentice Ranger?

Katherine: Before I started work as an Apprentice Ranger I was volunteering for the National Trust, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Brighton Conservation Volunteers and various district and county councils gaining experience and skills in order to become a ranger. As those roles were voluntary, I worked on a part time basis in hotels, cafes, as a cleaner and as a community care worker.

Joe: Before becoming an Apprentice Ranger I was working as a warehouse assistant at Specialist Sports in Lymington. Although it wasn’t what I wanted to do long term, it was a great opportunity to learn important skills.

Why did you apply to become an Apprentice Ranger?

Katherine: I absolutely love nature, wildlife and being outdoors in the fresh air. It’s where I’m happiest and I feel a deep connection to the environment. The New Forest is a unique, special and rare place due to its many varied habitats, cultural heritage, historical past and practices, so the chance to actually be able to work here is really exciting. Also, the structure of the apprenticeship is brilliant as we get to work with lots of different organisations, charities and people. This will really help me learn more as they will be able to share a vast array of knowledge and expertise with us.

Joe: I have always lived in the New Forest and love where I live. I’m interested in learning how to preserve the beauty of the area for its wildlife and future generations. I’m looking forward to learning from all the different organisations and seeing the various ways they help protect and preserve this fantastic landscape.

What are you hoping to achieve or learn from your apprenticeship?

Katherine: I hope to learn more about wildlife and the environment whilst gaining qualifications and professional training, which will help me to get a paid job later on. I also hope to learn more about why we carry out certain management practices and develop my leadership skills.

Joe: Becoming a New Forest Apprentice Ranger is a wonderful opportunity to learn a variety of new skills from experts in different fields and to experience a wide range of jobs within the New Forest.

What would you like to do after the apprenticeship?

Katherine: Looking to the future, I know that my dream is and has been for a long time to be a Ranger. This apprenticeship is the first step towards that as it provides the experience and qualifications to start that career path.

Joe: I hope to pursue a career within the New Forest and develop my skills and knowledge so that I can make a valuable contribution to the National Park. The skills and experience I will gain from this apprenticeship is a great start towards my long term goal.

What are you most looking forward to?

Katherine: I’m looking forward to each new day as they are so varied, which makes it interesting and enjoyable. However, I am most looking forward to the practical habitat management side of things and being out there seeing and learning about unique, interesting and amazing wildlife.

Joe: I feel very privileged to have been chosen for the apprenticeship and I’m very excited about the experiences and qualifications I will gain over the next year. It’s a wonderful opportunity and I plan to make the most of it.

Find out more about the Apprentice Rangers here.

This entry was posted by Communications on Wednesday 30/11/2016


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Not just Hide and Seek

With majestic woodlands and wide expanses of heathland, the New Forest is a great place for children to play and explore the outdoors. We caught up with our Wild Play Project Officer Claire Pearce to discover some great games to play in the Forest. For more information about wild play and to find out about some of the activities you can take part in on our wild play days, visit

New Forest Autumn Colour, wild play
Hide and seek is an eternal favourite, played by generation after generation of children and it works fantastically well in a natural environment. But if you want to try something a little different next time you are out for some family wild play time, why not give one of these a try?


This is a great game if you want to keep everyone within a fairly limited area and works similarly to traditional hide and seek as there is one ‘seeker’ and the rest of the group go and hide. Agree to make something the central base, such as a tree or if there is nothing obvious you could put a jumper on the ground; this is what the seeker must stay in contact with at all times during the game. So for instance, they would be able to move around a tree as long as they were touching it, but would not be able to move away from the tree completely.  

The seeker starts the game by closing their eyes and counting to 30 (or an agreed number appropriate to the group); during this time the rest of the group must find a hiding space, preferably fairly close to the seeker. Once the seeker has finished their count, they can have a look around to see if they can spot anyone, calling them out with their hiding position when they do.  

The seeker has three tools to help them find the hiders. Firstly they can close their eyes and hold some of their fingers in the air. The hiders must call out the number of fingers that the seeker is holding up and once the hiders have called out the number, the seeker can have another look around to see who they can spot.

Secondly, the seeker can call out ‘animal noises’ at which point all hiders must loudly make an animal noise such as a monkey, dog or wolf. These noises may give the seeker some clues about where to look!  

The seeker can also close their eyes and call out ‘tag me in 30’ and proceed to count aloud to 30. During this count, every hider must come out of their hiding spot, tag the seeker and quickly find a hiding spot.  Once the seeker has reached 30, they can open their eyes.

Once these three options have been used, the seeker can go through them all again and they can even reduce their counting time during ‘tag me’ to 20 and then 10 seconds. The last hider to be found is the seeker for the next round.


Sardines is almost the opposite of hide and seek because there is one hider and the rest of the group seek. The hider is given an agreed amount of time to find a hiding space and after this, all of the seekers spread out and look for the hider. Once a seeker finds the hider, they join the hider in their hiding space. As time goes on and more seekers find the hiding space, it will get more cramped and squashed … a bit like a can of sardines! The last seeker to find the hiding spot is the hider in the next round.

New Forest National Parks Authority Kids Wild Play 6427
Chain hide and seek

This game is very similar to traditional hide and seek as you have one seeker and everyone else hides. The twist is that when the seeker finds someone, they join the seeker to form a chain.  As more and more hiders are discovered the chain increases in size and often noise and laughter!

1, 2, 3 where are you?

For this version, split the group in half and one group will be hiders and the other will be seekers. The hiders are given a set amount of time to go and hide as a group after which the seekers must find them. The seekers call out ‘1, 2, 3, where are you’ to which the hiders must reply ‘1, 2, 3, here we are.’


Whatever version of hide and seek you decide to try it is always worth setting some ground rules first. Some areas to think about are:

  • Boundaries: agree with the group a set area to play in, away from hazards such as lakes or streams
  • Safe spaces: have a discussion about where sensible hiding spaces are, including heights and prickly bushes and plants
  • Ending the game: it’s always worth agreeing a phrase that signals the end of a game; even if all of the hiders have not been found. Some children can be very good at squeezing themselves into small spaces that make them very hard to find!
  • Age appropriateness: depending on the age and ability mix within the group, you may benefit from making a few adjustments. For instance, if you have a slow counter or particularly young children who may need to hide with an adult or more experienced hider.

This entry was posted by Communications on Tuesday 08/11/2016


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Conserving the Forest Fringe

Earlier this week, we took a tour of some of the Forest’s beautiful landscape, guided by Sean Marsh, Trainee Estates Officer for the Forestry Commission. Sean leads the Conserving the Forest Fringe project within the Heritage Lottery Funded Our Past, Our Future landscape partnership scheme. You can find out more about the scheme at

Working closely with local communities, Sean removes visual encroachments and restores the Forest’s historic boundaries through practical work, advice and training. Encroachments range from scrub and non-native invasive plants (such as rhododendron) growing over boundaries onto grass verges to fences exceeding property boundaries.

As we travelled through Nomansland and Bramshaw, we saw how unauthorized parking is negatively affecting the local environment and wildlife; wearing down grass that roaming animals would have grazed upon and sometimes narrowing roads for passing traffic. To prevent the ground from deteriorating and to help restore already damaged areas of grass, narrow wooden posts called ‘dragons’ teeth’ are planned to be installed. These posts prevent further damage and are made from locally coppiced chestnut, which is highly durable and in-keeping with the Forest’s character.

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These logs are placed by residents to prevent further parking on verges; they will be replaced by 'dragons' teeth' by the Forestry Commission. It's clear to see how worn the grass is and why it's important to prevent further unauthorised parking.

Working closely with local parishes and distributing leaflets, encourages them to become more actively involved in the maintenance of the land; whether it’s working together to install ‘dragons’ teeth’ or consulting on boundaries to reclaim Forest land.

Similarly, developing relationships and mutual understanding with local residents is essential to ensure fences and other constructions adhere to regulations and do not encroach on vital grazing land. Sean will run drop in sessions for the parishes he works with to educate them about boundary features and explain how as a community they can help protect the Forest and allow it and the animals roaming the landscape to prosper. He is also equally happy to travel and meet residents to offer advice and discuss boundary issues that concern them.

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An example of encroachment on the landscape due to residential properties exceeding their boundaries.

Sean’s role also requires him to address fly-tipping, which can pose potentially serious consequences for the Forest’s ecology. Typically, when we think of fly-tipping, we might imagine piles of industrial waste or faulty washing-machines. However natural waste can be equally problematic. Grass cuttings, for example, can cause colic in grazing animals, leading to a slow and painful death. Garden waste can also suppress or damage surrounding vegetation, encouraging the spread of invasive non-native species at the expense of those native to the Forest. As we passed a long and towering wall of rhododendrons, the potential ecological consequences of fly-tipping were made clear. 

The best way to prevent these issues is by reaching out to educate and inform residents and tourists – both new and old. Through cooperation and collaboration, the Forest’s landscape can be restored, maintained and protected for future generations.

You can find out more about the Conserving the Forest Fringe project on our website.

This entry was posted by Communications on Monday 17/10/2016


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Spaces for wild play in the New Forest

The New Forest is a fantastic place for wild play, with lots of different places to explore. To help you get started, our Wild Play Project Officer Claire has selected three spaces in the Forest to start your wild play adventure. If you need some extra inspiration of what to do when you are there, why not read our blog post ‘10 family fun activities to do in the New Forest this autumn.’


You will find Blackwater between Brockenhurst and the A35, along Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. But did you know that it’s home to the tallest and oldest Douglas fir trees in Britain? There are two different trails you can follow, with the first taking you past some of the tallest trees at Blackwater, whilst the second is a sensory trail within the Arboretum. Both trails are perfect for children’s imaginations and a great place to take part in wild play.

Car parking is free and there are toilets and picnic benches available for use. Find out more online.


Set in the heart of the New Forest, Bolderwood can be found along Ornamental Drive. Not only is it one of the best places in the Forest to spot deer, it also has some of the tallest trees in the Forest too. Bolderwood has a variety of buggy-friendly walks, picnic benches and a large grassy area that’s perfect for running around and playing games.  

Car parking is free and there are toilet facilities in the car park. Find out more about Bolderwood car park.

Lepe Country Park

Situated in the south east of the New Forest, Lepe Country Park is just a few miles outside of Beaulieu. Set right on the coast, with views over the Isle of Wight, Lepe Country Park has beach, woodland, wildflower meadows and grassy areas waiting to be explored. So why not take your wild play to the next level and try some woodland and seashore activities all in one day?

Entry into the park is free, although pay and display car parking charges apply. There’s a café and toilets on site, as well as a traditional, adventure play area for children. Visit Lepe Country Park's website.

This entry was posted by Communications on Wednesday 05/10/2016


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