Located in an area of Southern England, The New Forest extends over 140,000 acres across Hampshire and into Wiltshire. It is the largest area of vegetation in lowland Britain that is unsown.
There is something for everyone in The New Forest, whether you’re looking to relax, explore or just enjoy the scenery.
There are few places in England where the ancient landscape has remained unchanged since medieval times. In 1079 William the Conqueror named the area his “new hunting forest” and few could imagine that nearly 1000 years later, little has changed.
The ancient system established by William the Conqueror to protect and manage the woodlands and wilderness heaths is still in place today through the efforts of Verderers, Agisters and Commoners – literally the judges, stockmen and land users of the forest. The Rights of Pasture for ponies, cattle and other animals are also still practiced today, ensuring the continuity of this ancient land.
Today approximately 90 percent of the area remains largely owned by the Crown but recently the forest has been awarded National Park status and granted a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The New Forest is probably best known for the New Forest Ponies. The New Forest Pony is one of the more recognized breeds of the British Isles, stretching back over the years in history and has been documented as early as 1016. Today there are many New Forest ponies that still live and thrive in the New Forest, which are owned by commoners and have common grazing rights.
Lyndhurst Racecourse was the scene of many horse races in the 18th and 19th centuries. This tradition is still carried on with the annual point-to-point races held on Boxing Day. The start and finish point is not revealed until the evening before the race to the riders, so an intricate knowledge of the Forest is essential.
Each year the big attraction for New Forest is the County show. With the first show in 1921, there have been over 80 years of entertainment, livestock competitions and traditional country interests including crafts and produce that grace New Forest each year. With a variety of attractions at this year’s festivities, one can take in many items including a motorcycle stunt display, pony club mounted games and even pig racing championships. As one of the top rated equestrian events of the UK, the New Forest and Hampshire County show attracts over 90,000 visitors throughout the 3-day event, with many features for people of all ages to enjoy.
The New Forest is a lively, working landscape with many secrets to discover. The only way to reveal The New Forest’s hidden gems and truly appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of the forest is to get out there and explore.
You can visit historic villages such as Buckler's Hard where ships for Nelson's fleet were built, using the mighty oaks from the forest. Alice Liddell, Lewis Carroll's inspiration for Alice In Wonderland, is buried in the churchyard in Lyndhurst.
The New Forest is a genuine walker's paradise with many circular and linear routes. There are many picnic sites with toilet facilities, all of which are carefully sited to allow visitors safe and easy access to a variety of forest landscapes. Look out for the all year round guided walks where local experts will tell you about the history, geology, wildlife and folklore beneath your feet. You can even explore the forest on a ranger-led New Forest event.
The New Forest is also a fantastic place for cycling with miles and miles of traffic free tracks leading you right into the heart of the forest with few hills to worry about so come and discover the New Forest for yourself.