A brief history
Flora and fauna
The New Forest code
The New Forest can be found in central southern England,
and is undoubtedly one of the UK's premier tourist attractions, if not
one of the world's. Every year, visitors from all walks of life come here
to experience its natural beauty.
Some New Forest families still practise their ancient Rights
of Pasture by turning out their ponies, cattle, sheep and pigs to graze
and browse the open forest. These animals help to maintain the forest's
unique landscape - a landscape which continued grazing has shaped over
the last 900 years. Without them, the New Forest would not exist today.
One special highlight is the thousands of wild ponies,
which roam freely in the woodlands and open moorland, and which are frequently
seen eating the grass at the side of the roads.
The New Forest, with its wonderful collection of plants,
birds and insects is now a national reserve, and is soon to become a National
The New Forest was created in 1079 by King William 1. For
him it was an ideal hunting ground, covering over 200 square miles of
ancient woodlands and heathlands and located close to the royal capital
of Winchester. In the 14th century the royal interest in deer conservation
diminished as the demand for timber increased. The new scale of timber
production for ship building and fortifications prompted the inclosure
of thousands of acres of forest land for timber growing.
Today, after 900 years, more than 100 square miles of the
forest is still owned by the Crown. This land is now administered by the
Forestry Commission. The ancient system set in place to protect the woodlands
and wilderness heaths still works today through the efforts of Verderers,
Agisters and commoners - literally the judges, police and land users of
Flora and fauna
The New Forest is now recognized as one of the most unique
and important wilderness areas in Western Europe. It comprises 140 square
miles of a diverse range of landscapes - heaths, bogs, pine forests, moorland,
and of course the ancient and ornamental beech and oak woodlands for which
it is famous. There is no other area in lowland Britain that contains
such a mix, and many of these habitats are increasingly rare.
The amazing New Forest habitats are home to thousands of
common and rare species of flora and fauna, including five different species
of wild deer. It is estimated that nearly half of the 2,500 species of
butterfly and moth in Britain have been found in the New Forest. In addition,
9 rare and 25 nationally scarce species of plant are recorded. Some of
these, such as the wild gladiolus, are only found in the New Forest. There
are also nationally important birds and rare reptiles, such as the sand
lizard and the smooth snake.
forest is free for you to explore at your leisure and there is an extensive
network of footpaths and cycle paths to help you do this. Alternatively,
you can visit one of the many wildlife attractions (see
attractions page for more details) - all of which provide organised
events and activities to help you enjoy the Forest's natural treasures.
The New Forest code
Although the New Forest is a free and open place, there
is a code you should observe whilst in the Forest area. This code has
been implemented by the Forestry Commission and is there for the well-being
of the Forest and for the safety of visitors. Preservation and long-term
conservation are goals of the Forestry Commission and following their
simple rules will help. In the New Forest the well-being of the animals
and the special needs of the countryside come first.
Driving at 40mph or below on all unfenced forest roads greatly reduces
the number of accidents involving ponies, cattle and deer - especially
Parking on the roadside causes congestion and great damage to verges.
Use one of the 150 Forest car parks, but remember to lock your car and
take valuables with you.
Cycling is extremely popular but also destructive if the cycle routes
are not followed; please keep to marked paths and cycle tracks. Give
way to walkers and horse-riders and please travel at moderate speeds
and avoid wheel spins and skidding.
Ponies are wild animals and should not be fed by visitors. Feeding the
ponies encourages them to stray onto dangerous forest roads. Ponies
and donkeys can also be very aggressive if approached, and young children
are particularly at risk.
Well behaved dogs are welcome in the New Forest, and will have a great
time. A Dog Walking Code is available on line at www.forestry.gov.uk.
The area is famed for its wildlife and of course you must not allow
your dog to chase or worry the livestock, deer or birds. If you cannot
be sure of controlling your dog keep it on a lead. Please respect
other Forest users. In car parks where bins are provided please pick
up after your dog.
You may walk on any footpath or track unless it says otherwise. By keeping
to paths you greatly reduce the risk of disturbance to wildlife and
Fire is a great threat to habitats and wildlife. No picnic or camp fires
are allowed but BBQ sites are provided by the Forestry Commission. To
book, telephone the Forestry Commission on 023 8028 3141.
Litter should always be placed in litter bins or taken home with you.