Rank : 9.0 (average on 2 votes)Coordinates :
50.873613, -1.626598 (Open in Google Maps
National Park status since 2005, though this tract of forest and heathland has been established since William the Conqueror times, as a Royal hunting ground. Covering some 400 square kilometres, it remains a haven for some 15 million visitors each year, but set in one of the most densely populated parts of the south of England. Deer - not tame deer but wild, mostly fallow and roe, some sika and red. Rutting during the autumn is the time to photograph at their most dramatic. Early and late in the day are best.New Forest ponies - these are treated like cows are in India. Apart from the few busy main roads, which are fenced off and animal proof (they have underpasses built specially for them to pass underneath!) ponies roam freely. They are semi wild. They are all owned by someone but usually do all their grazing and sleeping out on the Forest. Unfortunately, too many visitors think they are cute and try and feed them, which is not only bad for their diet but encourages them to congregate around humans. Far too many ponies (and cattle) are killed by cars on the roads, not least of which, a vehicle - and its occupants - could be seriously damaged - and hurt.Ancient Woodland - about half of the Forest's wooded areas are ancient woodland, unfenced and natural. When a tree falls, it lays and rots. Beech and oak, some such as the Knightwood Oak can reach many hundreds of years and are features in themselves. Obviously, Autumn is the most colourful and lovely time of the year to visit these parts but to my mind, they are always of some beauty. The natural fungi and forest eco system are good subjects for those who like such things.The Viper, or Adder. Northern Europe's (and the UK's) only poisonous snake are quite plentiful on the heathlands. They are very seldom seen though and no one has died from an adder bite since 1948! Just be on your guard....Bogs and wet areas. The vast majority of the New Forest is undrained by man and there are many boggy areas that, whilst best avoided by those out walking, are a haven for some rare sundews and newts as well as other flowering bushes and plants such as gorse, heather and orchids.Brooks - these are streams, that often rise in the Forest from springs, through bogs and the water has a rusty brown colouring. The water is not dirty (though is not recommended for human drinking, as animal waste might have entered it). Ground nesting birds and butterflies. Both are prevalent but I am not expert on these and aren't my interest. See the website for more details.Lyndhurst is the principle and governing town in the Forest. It is centrally placed and many - if not most - coach tours congregate here and without a bypass, the streets get clogged up by traffic and people, especially in the summer. It can feel most un-New Forest like and commercial and everybody should be encouraged to either walk or cycle (or drive) even just a kilometre in any direction to find the true peace and tranquility that the Forest can truly offer. Burley is another town that gets horribly clogged and both are best avoided. However,In World War 2, areas of the Forest were used for training and indeed, as airfields. After Pearl Harbour, fighter aircraft were spread out and often under trees in the New Forest. Camouflaged from surveillance from the Luftwaffe, they could be scrambled and set into action very quickly as the English Channel actually borders some parts of the Forest. There remains many visual artifacts from this period. Recommended equipment :
If you are a serious wildlife photographer, for the deer, especially, then your big mega fast lenses, especially if you're out at dawn or dusk.For woodland areas, most lenses and kit are suitable, though fastish lenses deal better with potential low light under leaf canopies. I find a medium-short fast telephoto zoom such a 70-200mm really useful as it can improve the appearance of trees (rather like as they can with human portraits). Wideangles obviously for spacious woodland scenes. Tripods useful also, especially for optimum image quality in wooded areas and for say, blurring the typical Forest running brooks.Macro lenses for the flora and other small creatures.Best months :
Having been born and raised in the New Forest myself, I would have to say "any time of the year!". But of course highlights have to be spring and autumn. If you've read any of the 'subjects' above, you'll know why! How to get there :
Most (too many) drive cars and from London (and Heathrow airport), it's the M3, then the M27 and then, finally, the A31 dual carriageway, which carries on through the Forest, cutting it in half, all the way to Bournemouth and further west. So, it can be fast road all the way, with major points exiting the A31 at Cadnam (north eastern extremity) or Ringowood. (western edge). For Lyndhurst or Brockenhurst, exit at Cadnam.Rail - the main London to Bournemouth (and onto Weymouth) line, like its road counterpart, but much older) cuts right through the Forest. The main station is at Brockenhurst and all trains stop here. Less frequently used stations in the Forest are at Ashurst, Beaulieu Road (only a few trains stop here), and Sway. The line is electrified and quick and quiet from Southampton or Bournemouth. Cycle hire is available from Brockenhurst station. Bikes to hire for use on the increasing number of official, set out gravel cycle paths are at Burley and Lyndhurst and probably also any larger village as well. I walk, and walk only (it's the only way to see and experience everything!)There are many camping sites (you can ONLY camp in authorised sites) and caravan parks and these immensely poipular, especially for families, in summer, providing an easy and relatively comfortable way of being 'at nature' in the Forest.Horseback riding is a superb way of exploring the open Forest - there are many centres providing this if you haven't flown your own horse over!!Visits :
National Motor Museum, Beaulieu. Quite an expensive day out but a truly worthwhile one. Set up by and in the grounds of Lord Montagu's Abbey gardens and stately home grounds, and with probably the best collection of vintage, super and world speed record vehicles from all over the world, in the UK. Expect to pay 40 Euro (plus?) for an all inclusive adult ticket, but as I said, you will run out of time before you run out of things to do and see and all the cars are under roof, so it is a good option on a rainy day. The Abbey and Big House are definitely worth visiting too (included in the price)The New Forest Show - one of the biggest and most well attended Agricultural country shows in the south of England. Busy with LOTS of interest but not cheap entry. For three days at the end of July near Brockenhurst. Exbury Gardens - pretty ornamental gardens set near to Beaulieu (entrance fee)The New Forest Visitor Centre is based in Lyndhurst. This is a small modern museum visitor centre near the carpark. Entrance Four English pounds (6 Euro?) I've not been here myself.Rhinefield Ornamental Drive - a narrow, very pretty and twisty road that features other, imported tree species, such as Douglas Firs. FreeNotes :
As you can see, from the sheer amount that I have written about this wonderful place, I am truly passionate about the New Forest and I always an affinity with and within it. Much is very natural though and even in summer, there are areas such as bogs that really could get you into big trouble. The Ordnance Survey 'Explorer' (orange) map is the only one detailed enough to show the experienced map reader where it is safe and unsafe to walk. Sat Navs are only for the roads and you have to get OFF the road to see anything!Please be respectful and help keep the deer and ponies wild by not feeding or even touching them. The ponies are not playthings and a mare with a foal can defend her young, sadly, with deadly consequences. (I'm not being alarmist, a kick from a pony to the head can be fatal and HAS happened). Beyond the Forest's boundaries (and within it, to a lesser extent) are hotels, bars, restaurants and everything else the visitor will need.