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Helping or harming? How you can do your bit for the New Forest

Helping or harming? How you can do your bit for the New Forest

Over half of the New Forest National Park is internationally-important for nature conservation and it’s a working forest, with commoning, forestry and farming activity. It’s a great place to enjoy but it’s also very easy to cause harm.

Here we summarise the main positive and negative aspects of outdoor recreation.

Positive impacts

Negative impacts

Improved physical health 

Exercise from regular walking, cycling and running helps us keep fit, lose weight and remain active – and reduces the pressure on the NHS.


Loss of tranquillity

Over time, incremental increases in recreation and associated facilities can reduce the sense of tranquillity and untouched wilderness – some places are best left untouched and hard to reach!


Improved wellbeing

Time spent outdoors connecting with nature helps develop and maintain our mental health and reduces dependence on social care providers


Harmed livestock

The grazing of the commoners’ animals is vital to the Forest habitats – they should not be approached, petted or fed by people or chased by dogs, and they are vulnerable to road traffic incidents.

Stronger local economy

Outdoor visits often include spending money on accommodation, food and drink, parking or entrance fees and local produce – vital for local businesses and residents.


Polluted habitats

Wildlife habitats are easily contaminated by litter, nutrients from dog waste and chemicals in grey waste from campervans.

Healthy environment

By walking and cycling we are less likely to use a car, resulting in lower carbon emissions, better air quality and reduced impact on the climate.

Wildlife disturbance

Ground-nesting birds are easily scared away from their breeding sites; fewer pairs attempt to breed, fewer young are raised and the populations decline.

Life-long ambassadors

People who spend time enjoying the New Forest are more likely to learn about, value, care for and speak up for it.

Wild fires

Fires caused by BBQs, campfires, discarded glass bottles and cigarettes kill wildlife, destroy habitats and create long-term changes to soils and vegetation.


Protected plant species, valuable grazing and even the ground itself is easily compacted or worn away by verge-parked cars, bicycles on soft tracks and large numbers of people at ‘honeypots’.



If gates are blocked, access for land and livestock management and emergencies is hindered, and roads choked with parked vehicles are dangerous to walkers, cyclists and horse riders.


Fungi and dead wood are essential to the New Forest’s ecosystem and should not be collected – they should be left for wildlife and other people to enjoy.

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