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New Forest Connects

New Forest Connects

Lead Partner

New Forest National Park Authority and Forestry England

What has been achieved?

Thousands of people have discovered what makes the New Forest special through a diverse range of events. Visitors and those living and working in the Forest have taken part in walking festivals and tours, visited exhibitions and joined in family activities.

Many events have focused on spreading the message of commoning and its importance within the New Forest, including behind-the-scenes tours. 

Tours have included visits to a commoner’s holding, the pony sales and a walk through the Forest, helping teach people about commoning. Groups who have attended include the New Forest Tourism Association and local tour guides, New Forest Arts organisations and Camping in the Forest campsite wardens.

Commoners now have a much greater presence on social media following media training, helping spread key messages about caring for the Forest and showing daily life as a commoner.


  • The New Forest Walking Festival has taken place every year since 2016 (except during 2020 when it was changed to a virtual festival, due to the Covid-19 pandemic). Aimed at helping people discover more about the area’s history, heritage and wildlife, 6,800 people have taken part in one or more of the 250 walks.
  • Curated by commoner, teacher and outdoor learning expert Lyndsey Stride, the ‘Commoning Voices’ exhibition explains the relationship commoners have with the Forest, one another, their animals and the public. The exhibition included stories from commoners, photographs and information about key Forest characters. Following a stint at the New Forest Heritage Centre, the exhibition toured other venues in and around the Forest to spread the messages further.
  • The ‘Step into the New Forest’s Story’ exhibition was awarded the Best Large Stand prize at the New Forest Show in 2016. The exhibition also ran at the New Forest Centre, where it was visited by almost 10,000 people. 
  • The ‘Tree Stories of the New Forest – Past, Present and Future’ exhibition considered how trees can help us understand the New Forest’s long and interesting history. It included a stop-frame animation activity for families to create a film about the Charter of the Forest. The film is available on the NPA’s YouTube channel.

Displays and information boards have been installed at Avon Tyrell, Tatchbury Mount and Holbury Woods, to interpret the habitat restoration work undertake at these sites. 

Displays at key Forestry England sites are encouraging people to be inspired by, enjoy and learn about the New Forest. 

At Blackwater, sculptor Richard Austin worked on site, creating four seed sculptures, an archway, tall tree trail markers and information boards. The work was informed by research into ways of encouraging people with special needs to the site. Children from Hill House School in Lymington visited during the works and a range of local groups were invited to the launch event.

New information at Bolderwood includes panels, an interactive map, seasonal information and a deer sound box. At Beaulieu Road Sales Yard, a new panel tells the story of the yard and gives information about commoning. A replacement trail at the New Forest Reptile Centre is also planned. 

Watch the video Charter of the Forest, created by families at the 2017 New Forest Show, using stop-motion animation characters.

Contact details

Jim Mitchell – Interpretation Officer, New Forest National Park Authority

Tel: 01590 646681 email:

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