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In the gloaming, my favourite walk

As part of a partnership with Camping in the Forest, the New Forest National Park Authority’s Seasonal Rangers visit several campsites throughout summer, organising family fun activities to help people learn how to care for the Forest. Over 3,000 people took part in the activities between the end of July and early September, and over 450 people joined in the guided dusk walks. Keep reading to hear Seasonal Ranger Georgia’s favourite walk from this summer.

Who would believe that so much wildlife can be found just feet away from the barbeque smells and sounds of children playing at a campsite? This summer Matt and I, National Park Authority Seasonal Rangers, assembled a group of eager campers ready to explore the woods surrounding Roundhill campsite. We arranged to meet by the large pond where we took our time watching swallows dipping and diving, and trying to entice large carp to the surface.


As dusk approached, we set off up the access road to the campsite. Right away we encountered commoning livestock as ponies grazed and cattle made their way to a comfy patch for some sleep. We gave the ponies and cattle a wide berth, encouraging our fellow walkers to look, from a distance, at the branding mark on the ponies showing which commoner they belonged to. It was a good opportunity to remind campers about keeping their food in air tight containers so that nosy ponies wouldn’t bother them, and we all agreed that feeding the ponies is a big no-no.

After 200 metres or so, we turned into the main track heading into the coniferous forest. Off we crept, with eyes darting and hands cupped round our ears to amplify any sounds. We walked in silence and with quiet feet giving every opportunity for wildlife to stay put and let us take a sneaky peak. Frogs and deer were in abundance that night and it delighted both the children and adults to see these animals moving through the woods in their own unique way.


As we continued to walk and look out for the woodcock (this is a breeding wader), the younger campers suddenly became aware of a motorway of wood ants carrying pine needles and other woodland debris. We carefully followed this hive of activity until we came across their destination: a one metre tall wood ant pile thriving with over 250,000 wood ants trying to sustain the life of their multiple queens. These stocky ants spray formic acid in defence, so we didn’t get too close, but we hoped we’d see a green woodpecker or a jay swoop in to take a parasite-cleansing formic acid shower as they are known to do.

Night drew closer and our vision took second place to our hearing. As we walked down the hill towards the small bridge across the stream, we heard nesting buzzard chicks calling their parents and tawny owls reaffirming their pair bonds as they hunted around the woodlands.


Across the stream we went, checking out the monster water skaters seemingly oblivious to their nightly attack by daubenton bats. Before we headed through the ancient beech woodland, over a small bit of heathland and back into the campsite, we unveiled the bat detectors. This meant we could hear the flying mammals’ echo location, allowing us to identify the species. It felt like we hit the jackpot that night as the pipistrelles put on a great show.

We then made our way back to the campsite where we said a fond farewell and challenged everyone to continue their dusk watch adventures.

Inspired to explore the Forest? Head out with experts like Georgia during our autumn Walking Festival, 15-30 October. Book your place on a wildlife walk, history hike or family stroll at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/festivalwalks.

This entry was posted by Communications on Tuesday 13/09/2016

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