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Background to scheme

The New Forest National Park is a unique landscape survival in lowland England – a great expanse of natural habitats with extensive areas of ancient woodland, mire and heath intimately connected to the villages, small-holdings and farms of the Forest.


The National Park extends from the wooded slopes of Wiltshire in the north across the central New Forest plateau to the open coastline of the Solent in the South. It has been formed and is sustained through the close relationship between the land and its people over thousands of years. A wealth of archaeological and historic features exist within the National Park and much of the area is still managed by traditional agriculture and a strong system of commoning.

The New Forest National Park was established in 2005, the first to be created in the South East of England. It covers 220 square miles (569 square kilometres), making it the smallest national park in the UK other than the Broads. It is home to more than 34,000 people and is under intense pressure from development in surrounding areas.

In total 56% of the National Park is designated of international value for nature conservation. It contains internationally important, extensive areas of lowland heath, ancient woodland, valley mires, river valleys and coastal marshes.

Flora and Fauna

In turn, these support a very high number of nationally rare (and some internationally rare) species, particularly invertebrates. The New Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar sites cover more than 29,000 hectares. The SPA was qualified for designation under Article 4.1 of the Birds Directive for its regular use by 1% or more of the Great Britain populations of Dartford warbler, nightjar, woodlark, hen harrier and honey buzzard.

In addition, the SPA qualifies for designation under Article 4.2 of the Birds Directive as it supports more than 350 pairs of breeding wood warbler and 25 pairs of hobby.

The Annex II species that are a primary reason for the designation of the New Forest Special Area of Conservation include southern damselfly and stag beetle, whilst great crested newt, brook lamprey, bullhead, barbastelle bat, Bechstein’s bat and the Eurasian otter are also qualifying features.

In addition to the SPA and SAC designation, 28,000 hectares of the Forest were designated a Ramsar site in 1993. The 29 nationally important species listed within the designation include; small fleabane, slender cottongrass, pennyroyal, southern damselfly and stag beetle and as well as 180 species of invertebrates ranging from butterflies such as the high brown fritillary to freshwater invertebrates such as the tadpole shrimp.


The National Park has 214 Scheduled Ancient Monuments, 622 listed buildings and 20 designated Conservation Areas. In addition there are at least another 200 ancient monuments that could meet the criteria for scheduling and many more that are gradually being identified through field survey.

The 622 listed structures within the National Park vary widely, ranging from grand houses such as Hale, the 14th century monastic barn at St Leonards and the 13th century Palace House at Beaulieu down to commoners’ cottages and features such as bridges and even telephone boxes, the unique recognisable features which make up the fabric of the National Park.

There are also many unlisted buildings, often dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries which are locally significant and give the New Forest its distinctive character particularly in their relationship to the landscape.


The New Forest is a major recreational resource with over 325 km of Public Rights of Way and over 3,000 hectares of accessible land (over 50% of the area of the National Park). Research by Tourism South-East (2005) indicated that there were 13.5 million visitor days spent per annum in the National Park. Most visitors come to enjoy the peace and quiet, natural beauty and wildlife of one of the last ancient, relatively unspoilt and open landscapes in England and there is a massive opportunity for inspiring and connecting people with the New Forest’s heritage.

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