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Public access

The New Forest National Park has over 30,000ha of open access countryside and 325km of public rights of way for you to explore and enjoy.

The Open Forest is a large area of countryside over which there is the right to roam on foot, and the right to roam on horseback over some areas. The use of an electrically powered mobility aid, such as tramper, is allowed across the Open Forest but we advise users to keep to the trails and avoid wet areas.

The Open Forest has a mosaic of different landowners and the public access rights are governed by three different acts of parliament, the Law of Property Act 1925, the National Trust Commons Act 1907 and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

The Crown Lands are located at the centre of the National Park and are managed by Forestry England. You have the right to walk and horse-ride freely across this land as long as you follow Forestry England byelaws and the Verderers of the New Forest byelaws.

You can enjoy other informal activities such as watching birds and wildlife, picnicking, photography and running. Some things are not permitted, such as wild camping, lighting fires, swimming, fishing, metal detecting or taking anything from the land. There are also over 100 miles of permissive cycle tracks to enjoy. Cycle access off these waymarked routes is not allowed. Visit the Forestry England’s webpage for more information on gaining permission for events on the Crown Lands.

Outside the Crown Lands open access is governed by the New Forest National Park Authority. In these areas you have the right to walk and explore freely on foot as long as you follow the National Trust byelaws on National Trust Commons or the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 when on the coastal margin or other areas.

When you are out exploring it may not be obvious which type of open access land you are on. By following the New Forest code you can be sure that you are obeying all necessary rules and your right to roam is unaffected. During March to July, look out for signs showing where ground nesting birds are and please avoid these sensitive nesting areas.

The public rights of way form a network of publicly accessible paths that connect the surrounding villages to each other, to the coast and to the central Open Forest. A public footpath gives the right to walk. A public bridleway gives the right to walk, ride and cycle. A restricted byway gives the right to walk, ride, cycle and carriage drive. A byway open to all traffic gives the right to walk, ride, cycle, carriage drive and drive a motorised vehicle. The Hampshire County Council website and the Wiltshire Council website provide maps and more details.

We strongly recommend using a map whilst exploring the New Forest. The Ordnance Survey Explorer Series maps clearly show both open access land, coastal margin and public rights of way. Up to date information about open access land is available from the Natural England website.

If you have any questions about public access in the New Forest National Park then please email our National Park Access & Volunteering Officer

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