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My favourite New Forest walks

Vicky Inglis was a seasonal ranger with us this summer, whose job involved meeting visitors to the New Forest and helping them explore and care for the National Park.  

With the New Forest Walking Festival starting on 17 October, I wanted to share my favourite places to walk in the New Forest. I hope they inspire you to try a walk of your own during the festival - book your space.

Brockenhurst, Black Knowl and White Moor

On one of our first days, Lead Ranger Gillie took us to a car park near Brockenhurst, handed us a map and sent us out walking into the wild. It was the perfect introduction to the Forest. Walk here and check off everything that should feature in a good New Forest stroll:

  • Picturesque village
  • Lawns grazed by New Forest ponies
  • Woodland streams bathed in dappled light and dusted with damselflies
  • Huge oak trees more than 400 years old
  • Heathland studded with gorse bushes
  • Tea and cake!

You can discover the area during the Walking Festival on the following walks:

Sway and Setthorns

I moved to Sway at the start of summer, so this has become my local patch. The village has some amazing heathland nearby, which is a habitat that’s rarer than tropical rainforest!

The area is also home to Sway Tower, a concrete structure almost 70 metres high, which is a useful landmark to stop you from losing your bearings amongst the gorse bushes on the heath. But cross the road and walk into the Setthorns Inclosure and you’ll soon be able to lose yourself in amongst the ancient trees.

The quiet woods are a perfect spot to look for deer, as they can wander in a large area of undisturbed land round here. You might spot fallow, roe, sika and red deer, which all make their home in the New Forest and turn quite vocal in the autumn as the stags compete for mates.

Explore the area during the Walking Festival on the Sway and Setthorns Stroll on Sunday 18 October.

Ashurst Wood

Just a short distance from the bustling campsite at Ashurst, not far from the busy road and railway line, there is a pocket of peaceful woodland with the most amazing old trees.  

This is a great place to look out for pigs on pannage during the autumn, where commoners turn out their pigs to forage for acorns, protecting the free-roaming ponies and cattle from poisoning. This year, pannage is taking place from 14 September until 12 November.

The woodland has many ancient trees and the best way to get to know them is by getting hands-on. Search for scratches made by the teeth of ponies and deer in the trunk of a holly tree. Duck under the cool, dark canopy of a yew to see its flaky red trunk. Run your hands over smooth silver-grey bark of an ancient beech.  

Discover the area during the Walking Festival on the following walks:

Keyhaven to Lymington

The stretch of coast between Keyhaven and Lymington is probably my favourite part of the National Park and I often went there for a walk in the evenings after work. Along the sea wall you’re treated to panoramic views of the coast, from the marinas and boatyards of Lymington, across the Solent to the Isle of Wight and the Needles.

As well as the ever-changing sea view, I really love looking out across the expanses of mudflat and saltmarsh that line this stretch of coast. Autumn is the perfect time for this, as resident bird numbers are boosted by the arrival of migrating waders, like golden plovers and black-tailed godwits, attracted by the rich reserves of food found here.

Be sure to bring binoculars with you!

Explore the area during the Walking Festival on these strolls:

The New Forest Walking Festival runs from 17 October to 1 November - book your place now!

This entry was posted by Communications on Wednesday 07/10/2015


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