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Car-free and carefree: the New Forest Challenge

Located within the New Forest is a bounty of car-free options just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed - kayaking, cycling, walking, horse riding, open top bus tours and so much more. The thought of leaving your car at home has never looked so inviting. New Forest Travel Concierge Alex Proudlock tried out as many as he could.

My partner Lydia and I decided that a fun day out would be to see how many modes of sustainable transport we could utilise within the New Forest in just one day. Here is how we did it…

1 – Train

The train seemed to be the logical mode of transport getting us to and from the New Forest as we live very close to Havant train station. The New Forest has several well placed train stations with regular services which include Brockenhurst, Ashurst, New Milton and Lymington. Due to its central location and good transportation links we decided to disembark at Brockenhurst station.


At Brockenhurst Train Station we met the rest of the New Forest Travel Concierge team. They were extremely knowledgeable and gave us some great advice on the different modes of transport at our disposal including steam engines, boats and even a tandem bike.

2 - Bike

Located next to Brockenhurst train station is a cycle hire store called Cyclexperience. Not feeling brave enough to tackle the tandem bike we opted for the more traditional approach of one bike each. The staff at Cyclexperience were very friendly and gave us a selection of cycle routes to choose from.

We set off from the hire store and were promptly off the rural side streets and onto off-road waymarked gravel tracks with beautiful views of the National Park’s heathlands and the friendly grazing inhabitants. After stopping to take some photos of the ponies and cattle we continued cycling leisurely through picturesque tracks around Blackwater Woods for about two hours.

On our way back to Brockenhurst we encountered a beautiful deer that moseyed beside the track in front of us, we felt extremely lucky and both cherished the stunning New Forest encounter.  


3 – The New Forest Tour

After returning our bikes we set off on the New Forest Tour. There are three different tour routes to choose from and after helpful discussions with the Travel Concierge Team we decided to board the blue open-top tour bus. This was a fantastic way to travel around the New Forest with incredible grand stand views of the impressive countryside and the distinguished coastline. It is a “hop on hop off” tour. We were very tempted to visit the mystical village of Burley and seaside town of Milford-on-Sea. However we were keen to continue our challenge and head straight for Keyhaven.  On route to Keyhaven we enjoyed listening to the audio commentary while taking photographs from the top deck.


4 – Hurst Ferry

Keyhaven is a fantastic location with plenty to admire. Salt water marshes and mudflats ensure a diverse coastal habitat rich in wildlife. The water ways are decorated with quaint sailing vessels and the Isle of Wight seems just a stone throws away. We followed the signs for the Hurst Ferry and made our way onto the pontoon. We just missed a ferry but after a friendly wave to the skipper he considerately turned the boat around and picked us up. 

The Hurst Spit offers natural protection so the water was very calm and made the 10 minute voyage very pleasant. We had just planned to take a cruise on the ferry and get dropped off at Hurst Castle at the end of the Spit. We had not anticipated a seal playing in the waters around us which was a superb surprise.


5 – Walking

We walked around Hurst Castle and admired its remarkable location on the spit and the scenic views of The Needles located on the Isle of Wight.  We walked back along the stony spit which in parts seemed quite hard going. Once back at Keyhaven we had planned to do a two mile circular walk around the marshes and get back on the blue route to Brockenhurst. However we saw there was a five mile coastal walk that would take us into Lymington and decided to go for it.

The walk was extremely rewarding and presented plenty of wildlife in its unique settings. Amongst our sightings were egrets, a heron, a swan with seven cygnets, rabbits and various butterflies and damselflies, not to mention the herd of cattle wading through the marshes. This flat easy going walk followed the coastline all the way up to Lymington and took us roughly two hours. There is also an alternative route for cycles.


We had dinner in Lymington before catching the train back home. We both agreed we had an action-packed day seeing the best of what’s on offer in the New Forest. Without our car we got a completely different perspective and experience. We also feel that the New Forest thanked us for leaving our car at home with some incredible moments and wildlife encounters.

I personally will be doing this challenge again and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in visiting the New Forest. So the bench mark has been set with five modes of sustainable transport. Will you accept the challenge?

Here are a few other options if you wanted to try a different challenge:

This entry was posted by Communications on Wednesday 26/08/2015

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