Step outdoors and help discover stories of historical pathways

Explore the new forest s past on foot and discover some fascinating heritage

Published Thursday 23 February 2017

Volunteers and communities are invited to help investigate the history behind the rights of way in the New Forest and create five new trails to help rediscover more of the Forest’s past.

With 310km of public rights of way and 75km of bridleways and byways, the National Park has an important travel network, but little is known about their origins or historical importance.

The project is not about creating new rights of way but using parts of the existing network within the Forest to highlight points of interest and their fascinating history on five new trails. Following historical research, collecting memories and stories, the selected routes forming the five new trails will have clearer signage, some information boards (if appropriate) and leaflets, with guided walks led by local communities and volunteers.

The Historic Routes and Past Pathways project is part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Our Past, Our Future landscape partnership scheme, which is led by the New Forest National Park Authority and 10 key partners.

Historic Routes and Past Pathways Project Officer Gareth Owen said: 'Often rights of way can be seen as just a peaceful walk in the countryside. But the origin of some of these routes may have been much busier or perhaps they hold a darker past.

‘Many of these routes were used for moving livestock to pasture or market, or for workers walking to work from local villages, but there may be a connection to smuggling goods to and from the coast. We hope to discover some fascinating stories and create these new trails to reconnect users with the local heritage.’

Nick Cowen, Senior Rights of Way Warden for South Wiltshire, said: ‘Large portions of the three Wiltshire parishes of Landford, Redlynch and Whiteparish lie within the New Forest designated boundary. There are some fantastic connecting paths, awaiting exploration and with stories to tell, that link South East Wiltshire to and from the New Forest.’

Helen Barber, Senior Countryside Access Officer for Hampshire County Council, said: ‘This project is an exciting opportunity to add value to the existing rights of way networks in the New Forest area and help communities discover the origins of their local rights of way.

‘Hampshire County Council welcomes this chance to work together to encourage the use of such routes by the public through increasing accessibility and information provision.’

Volunteers are being recruited to help undertake a variety of roles, from researching historic documents about existing rights of way, to collecting stories and memories of the routes from historic publications, and walking the proposed trails.

More information about the project and the Our Past, Our Future scheme can be found online at

If you have an interest in maps, historic research and finding the forgotten stories of these old routes and would like to take part, please get in touch with Gareth Owen on 01590 646652 or email


Notes to Photo Editor:

Explore the New Forest’s past on foot and discover some fascinating heritage.

Notes to Editor:

Our Past, Our Future

Our Past, Our Future is a Landscape Partnership Scheme for the New Forest which, supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, will undertake a range of projects to restore lost habitats, develop Forest skills and inspire a new generation to champion and care for the New Forest. The partnership focuses on the enclosed lands which surround the Open Forest.

The five year scheme is being led by the New Forest National Park Authority working alongside several delivery and funding partners, including the New Forest Land Advice Service.

For more information on Our Past, Our Future visit

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @HLFSouthEast

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit to find out more.

Media contact
Beki Mole, Communications Assistant
Tel: 01590 646639

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