Discover nature in the New Forest

Last updated: January 17, 2021

Crowd-free Britain: We spotlight a different area of the UK each time in this series. We’ll look at Covid-19 safety, what attractions are provided and what behaviour the locals expect from visitors

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The New Forest’s abundant heathlands are bookended by Bournemouth to the east and Southampton to the west and eventually come to a close along the pretty coast of Hampshire overlooking The Solent strait and the Isle of Wight. Here, between picturesque villages and miles of verdant walking and cycling tracks, the New Forest’s much-loved wild ponies graze. And with them, expect to find deer, rabbits, the occasional pig (when they’re loose in the autumn), snakes and a thriving collection of birdlife.

Coronavirus in The New Forest?

As of July 2020, there have been a little under 500 cases of coronavirus in The New Forest, with many of those found in care homes. And while the numbers have dropped significantly over the past months, there are still some reports of new infections, so it’s best to exercise a little caution when travelling.

Much like the rest of the UK, many of the local restaurants, leisure centres etc, reopened in July and many shops and supermarkets are now asking patrons to wear appropriate PPE. But of particular note is that the popular Camping in the Forest campsites will remain closed for the rest of the year. And you might find that there are more queues than usual due to touchless pay point initiatives at park entrances and the like.

While the UK is in lockdown, most attractions are closed, and you should follow guidelines and only visit areas in your locality to walk or cycle.

What to see in The New Forest

One of the most wonderful things about a trip to The New Forest is the act of wandering and losing oneself in the immense ambience of such astounding nature. Here, forest walks open up onto lush heathlands where the local fauna graze photogenically, with the colourful flora providing immersive backdrops. And while the countryside remains mostly unchanged after the Covid-19 outbreak, some of the signed walks have been edited slightly, to better accommodate social distancing measures — so look out for the temporary signs, especially in wooded areas.

One of the best New Forest walks takes travellers from the elegance of Beaulieu (be sure to see Beaulieu Abbey and Palace House before setting off), to the banks of Buckler’s river. And the river, when it’s not too full that is, makes a perfect spot for a picnic with the bucolic background of Buckler’s Hard and its rows of charming Georgian cottages.

For families searching for something a little more exotic, the New Forest Wildlife Park is an excellent choice, with European Bison, Asian Otters and Grey Wolves at home in the wild surrounds. And for cyclists, there are more than 100 miles of waymarked, mostly traffic-free routes to take advantage of, including a collection of purpose-built mountain bike trails at the Moors Valley Park — perfect for the adventurous.

Escape the crowds in The New Forest

With more people choosing to holiday at home, this can only mean increased numbers for the already popular national park. With that in mind, the best way to escape the crowds would be to travel to The New Forest out of the main season — in September or even later, when the weather is mild and the falling leaves dress the park in those enchanting autumnal colours.

But of course The New Forest is a big place, so one can always find a quiet spot off the beaten track to call their own for a day or more — providing you stay far enough away from the local wildlife.

Checklist for your trip to The New Forest

  • Pack PPE (facemask, hand sanitiser) and wear masks on public transport
  • Maintain at least one-metre distance from people on the streets, lanes and attractions
  • Be prepared to change your destination if it's full
  • Only park in designated parking areas
  • Remember to take your rubbish with you
  • Be prepared to queue at payment points

Useful links Find up-to-date guidance on travel, safety, Covid-19 research and more.

RightRooms believes all information to be correct at time of going to press. As guidance, research and facts around Covid-19 are changing constantly, the information provided here is for general information only and does not constitute professional advice. Please check with venues, locations and attractions before travelling.

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