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Forest archaeology from a thousand feet

Community Archaeologist James Brown on his morning soaring through the skies above the New Forest, and the new perspective it gave him on the area's past.

Find this interesting? Join James for a WWII history walk during our Walking Festival.

It’s not every day you get asked ‘would you like to go flying with me tomorrow?’

Quickly followed by ‘we could fly over the New Forest.’.

After a moment or two to weigh up the pros (lots) and cons (few), there was only really going to be one answer.

The result was me standing at Lee on Solent Airfield on Sunday morning looking to the sky and scratching my chin in an attempt to decipher the weather and what might happen in the next hour. The early morning had been lovely, but clouds were starting to roll in and the wind was picking up. Weather was forecast to deteriorate spectacularly at lunchtime so the plane was quickly prepped and after final checks we launched ourselves gracefully into the sky.

We climbed out of Lee on Solent and crossed the mouth of Southampton Water, passing Calshot Spit and its castle dwarfed by the power station behind it. We flew along the New Forest coast over Lepe (below) and the WWII remains where I had been stood earlier in the week talking with the staff about future monitoring and conservation plans.

After flying over the mouth of the Beaulieu River and Needs Ore we headed for Beaulieu WWII airfield and then on to Stoney Cross, passing over Brockenhurst and New Park to get a good view of people gathering for the New Forest Marathon (I knew where I would rather be at that point!).

I spend most of my working week and most weekends in the New Forest for work assessing and mapping the archaeology on the ground or walking and enjoying it. So the change in perspective was enlightening; and much more impressive than being sat at my desk looking at google maps!

Both Beaulieu and Stoney Cross (above), two of the many old WWII airfields in the New Forest, were revealed in their full scale and made sense when seen from the seat of a plane. What was really driven home was how close these two airfields were and how busy the skies above Lyndhurst must have been with Liberators, Lancasters, Mosquitos and Lightnings during the height of the war.

Our aerial tour of New Forest archaeology continued as we headed from Stoney Cross out over Ashley Walk and the WWII bombing range (below). The old bombing range is a 5,000 acre site sandwiched between the A31 and Roger Penny Way with a very interesting story to tell of bomb testing that left its mark on the landscape. To find out more why not join me on the Experimental New Forest Walk during this autumn’s Walking Festival?

The next stop was meant to be Hurst Castle and Keyhaven, but by this time the wind was beginning to buffet the plane and ominous grey clouds were rolling in from the Isle of Wight so we turned tail and raced back to Lee on Solent ahead of the clouds and rain with a strong tail wind.

After a very smooth landing we did our final checks and handed over the plane to the next group.

I returned elated in the belief that I didn’t embarrass myself and that I might be invited out again soon to get another aerial perspective of the New Forest.

You can find information on many of the sites mentioned above including contemporary photos, historic aerial images and maps on the New Forest Remembers Portal

This entry was posted by Communications on Friday 22/09/2017


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Autumn already? Teaching the changing seasons

Education Officer Helen Robinson mulls over the changes in the New Forest National Park as summer gives way to autumn and how to teach this to school children.

School term is here, as are harvest assemblies, conker battles and fungi forays. The sudden arrival of school term makes you wonder why we expect a clear and definite line between summer and autumn, winter and spring. What curious questions could students ask about the mysterious science of phenology (the study of seasonal change in plants and animals)?

  • Can it be summer and autumn at the same time?
  • Is it autumn in Loch Lomond National Park yet?
  • Where does the green go?

I like autumn because it is always surprising, there is some new fungus I’ve never seen before, the unexpected crunch of acorns on a path I regularly walk, even a spider web in the face as I walk  up the garden path in the morning.

Attending an activity session with the team at Testwood Lakes Nature Reserve recently, I enjoyed the surprising idea of painting with blackberries, instead of eating them… (though just as many made it to our mouths as to the paint pot).  This got me thinking to what alternative autumn activities could be invented.

How about:

  • The horse/ chestnut identity parade. Find horse chestnuts and sweet chestnuts and ask some pupils to convince us they came from the same tree (describe similarities) and others that they are alien to each other (describe differences).
  • Smudge painting. Pick berries, brown and orange leave, dried flower heads and find out which ones, with a bit of squashing, will make marks or paint on a postcard.
  • Spiders in the mist. If you can’t get everyone up and out early enough to see the morning dew or frost on the autumn webs, search for webs armed only with a gentle plant “mister” to squirt at them?
  • Leaf art in reverse. We all love making pictures out of fallen leaves and trying to emulate Andy Goldsworthy … if only we had the time. But how about finding something already there and looking for the images hidden within.
  • Hidden monsters, my favourite, inspired by our friends at Minstead Study Centre. Choose a volunteer (wearing long sleeves and trousers etc) to lie down in the autumn leaves. Place a few sticks strategically to make a frame and then heap leaves over them to cover them almost entirely. EXPLODE from the leaves at just the right moment in a story or song!

Why not find out more about phenology at Nature’s calendar from the Woodland Trust?

This entry was posted by Communications on Wednesday 06/09/2017


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Stagbury Hill Restoration Work 2017

Stagbury hill, provides an impressive viewpoint on Furzley Common. Read more about the National Trust's plan to protect this important monument.

Stagbury Hill is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) due to the complex of ancient Bronze Age burial mounds dating back to around 1500BC, mixed with ancient trackways, medieval rabbit warrens and a more modern Ordnance Survey trig point. Currently this feature is on Historic England’s 'Heritage at risk' (HAR) register due to worsening erosion— something that, as a heritage organisation, we want to rectify sympathetically.

The monument is receiving an increasing amount of erosion due to high number of unplanned access routes. We are working up a plan with Historic England, Natural England and the National Park Authority to  help protect this piece of nationally important archaeology for the future, whilst maintaining access to it for all.
We plan to install short sections of post and rail fencing to direct users towards preferable more robust access routes. At the same time we will be filling deeply eroded scars with locally sourced brash (birch, gorse and heather), to encourage vegetation growth and soil stabilisation.

Interpretation boards will be added to the fencing to further explain the history of the site, the importance of the SAM and the restoration work plan. This work will be monitored regularly to assess its success, with a view to installing similar interventions on Stagbury’s other eroding bronze age barrows.

NFNPA acquired Lidar imagery (above), reveals the undulating ground on Furzley Common. The round barrow sites and linear track/path features are easily visible. ©Forest Research, based on Natural England and ARC Trust data.

We will not be restricting access, rather suggesting preferred routes which helps preserve the monument. Livestock access and grazing will be unaffected. We have gained approval from the Verderer’s office for these works.

Erosion scar (above) on one of the more visible barrows. An example of what will be infilled with brash and fenced off is appropriate.

Join us for a FREE event to learn more…
Stagbury Hill Community Day
29 July 2017, 9am - 12pm.

A turn-up morning event for anyone interested in Stagbury Hill and the upcoming work to help protect this ancient historical feature. Discover more about the area’s history and archaeology.

Meet rangers from the National Trust and the National Park Authority to ask questions and discuss the restoration work.

Free tea and coffee!

Where to meet:
On foot - meet at Stagbury Hill, Furzely Common (SO43 7JJ).
By car - meet at Half Moon Car Park with land rover shuttle bus to site (SO51 6AQ).

For more information call 01425650035 or email

To find out more about the work by the National Trust in the New Forest you can subscribe to our free newsletter here.

This entry was posted by Communications on Tuesday 27/06/2017


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My placement: Building a future delving into the past

Josie Hagan is a third year Bournemouth University Student, currently on a 40 week placement with the New Forest National Park Authority’s archaeology team.

I applied for this work placement after attending a personal development lecture given by Lawrence Shaw, Heritage and Mapping and Data Officer with the National Park, and Jack Powell, a former placement student, about his time at the New Forest.

The work they were doing with Lidar, a technique of using lasers to map the landscape and search for hidden archaeology, seemed really interesting. I also liked the idea of talking to the public about the Forest’s history, which is a big part of the archaeology team’s work. They were both very enthusiastic about the work they were doing and genuinely seemed to love their work – so I thought I’d give it a go!

After emailing, I arranged to come in to the office and give a short presentation to Lawrence, Frank Green (National Park Archaeologist) and James Brown (Community Archaeologist) as part of my interview. It was pretty nerve-wracking stuff, but good practise as I hadn’t any experience with interviews of that kind. Everyone was very friendly and I was offered a placement!

My year in the New Forest was split into three parts. First of all I was working with James Brown, and this involved working with different community heritage groups, taking part in some surveys and arranging events. This meant putting on some training sessions, going on site visits, taking part in surveys and generally trying to facilitate community heritage groups.


One of my favourite tasks was organising a trip to The National Archives at Kew. I hadn’t realised how much is involved in putting on an event like that, so it was great to see it all come together in the end. The feedback from those who attended was really positive and it was exciting to hear about all the research everyone got done that they might not have had the chance to without the trip.

After Christmas I worked with Lawrence Shaw on the Higher Level Stewardship Lidar surveys. This involves going through the Lidar data, historic mapping and aerial photographs of our chosen survey areas and looking for archaeological features. We then prepared maps, uploaded data onto iPads and off we go with volunteers round the forest looking for the features on the ground. Over the last few years this technique has protected and uncovered over 3,000 archaeological features!

Being taught the whole process from start to finish was a fantastic experience and learning how to structure the surveys and make the most effective maps has been a big learning curve. The volunteers are extremely knowledgeable and I have learnt a huge amount about landscape archaeology and the New Forest itself from chatting to them. The survey days are really fun, especially with good weather, and I would recommend them to anyone who has an interest in getting outside and seeing some archaeology.

Another aspect of Lawrence’s work I was involved in was providing archaeological advice to the Forestry Commission. This included a visit to the Bouldnor World War Two gun battery on the Isle of Wight to help preserve the site. I was able to contribute to a series of different aspects associated with managing a site such as this, including management meetings, vegetation management, drone monitoring and advanced research at Kew archives. It was interesting to see the development of this project and the different organisations involved in protecting the site.

I am currently on the final part of my project, the research project, which will pull in all of the skills I have learnt so far. For this I am running my own geophysical survey of an Ancient Scheduled Monument, Buckland Rings in Lymington (above). I have had to create a Written Scheme of Investigation, which involved gathering all the information on Buckland Rings I could, through books and publications, and contacting Historic England to see if they had any extra information.

After this I contacted various organisations to get permission to carry out the work, and then created maps of the site to be used in the report and for use in the fieldwork. Finally I organised volunteers and students to come help us carry out the fieldwork. We will start surveying on 26 May and I am really excited to see my project come together and see if we get any exciting results!

Catching up with previous placement student Jack Powell:

‘Between 2014- 2015 I undertook a 40 week placement as an archaeologist with the National Park. The skills and experiences gained during this time helped me to secure my first graduate job as an Aerial Imagery Analyst. The placement not only allowed me to learn and improve subject specific skills such as Lidar analysis and mapping processes but also broader skills such as presentation, leadership, and people skills.

‘My placement gave me confidence in my abilities and played a key role in securing my current positon. If anyone is considering a placement my advice would be to definitely undertake one. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the National Park, where I met some fantastic people and saw some stunning archaeology while in the processes of learning and developing my skills for the future.’

Interested in doing your own archaeology placement? Email

This entry was posted by Communications on Thursday 27/04/2017


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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 issued 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. The charter 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 recognised 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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