It’s not new and it’s a lot more than a forest!
The New Forest National Park is an area of woodland and heathland in the South of England. It covers 220 square miles and has 26 miles of coastline.
Confusingly, it is neither new nor entirely forest! Less than half the forest is covered by trees and the word forest actually refers to the old English word ‘Forestra’ meaning a hunting ground. It’s origins as the New Forest can be traced back over 1000 years to William the Conqueror when he took it as his royal hunting ground.
One of the many unique aspects of the New Forest National Park is that over 7000 animals graze on the open forest, only contained by cattle grids on the boundaries of the park. The most synonymous of these is the New Forest Pony.
While the animals may appear wild they are all, infact, owned by Commoners. The animals are monitored and managed by a team of Agisters who enforce the laws set by the Verderers Court in Lyndhurst. At specific times of the year it is still possible to see the Agisters and commoners on horseback rounding up the animals in what is called ‘the Drift’.
There are 235 km of footpaths across the forest and visitors can benefit from the right to roam. The National Park holds the largest area of heathland in Europe and is home to hundreds of different species of wildlife, many of which are only found in this particular environment. Because of this it is very important to be mindful of the impact roaming from the footpaths can have. Birds nest throughout the spring and summer and can be easily disturbed by well meaning walkers.
Some of the most spectacular sights in the National Park are the collection of ancient woodlands. It is thought the oldest tree in the forest is a Common Yew found in Brockenhurst Church yard that is over 1000 years old. The tallest tree is over 55 metres tall and can be found on the beautiful Rhinefield Drive.
Although the New Forest National Park can be considered classic Lowland terrain there are some areas that are particularly ‘hilly’ with the highest point being in the North at Telegraph Hill (167m).
It is estimated that 13.5 million people visit the National Park each year and 34,000 people are fortunate to call the New Forest National Park their home.