A New Forest pony on heathland

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Explore the New Forest Like a True Adventurer

The New Forest covers an area of 219 square miles – the largest area of naturally occurring vegetation in lowland Britain. There’s so much to explore in this magical forest that even locals find something new every time they take a walk.

To explore The New Forest like a real adventurer, you’ll need a little insider knowledge. We’ll help you discover some of the best walks and hidden secrets, from our location in the untamed north of the forest.

Great Places to Explore

It’s surprisingly hard to get lost in The New Forest, even if you venture deep into the heath or woodland. It’s quite a well connected place, with lots of rural roads and fire trails that serve as good wayfinders. But that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind – it’s still wilderness, after all.

Seasoned hikers know what to pack; water, light snacks, maps – and emergency equipment like a knife, first aid kit and torch. Even if you’re not a serious rambler with all the gear, it won’t hurt to take a backpack with a few essentials.

Sturdy shoes are a must; wellies might seem like a good idea for traversing boggy patches, but they’re no good on steeper, rougher terrain and could lead to sprains and twists. Horse flies and ticks can be out in full force during the summer, congregating in shady shrubbery, so consider protecting yourself from bites.

There are a few spots to hire bicycles, too – and plenty of bike-friendly trails. If you’re serious about cycling, you’ll probably want to bring your own bike. You won’t find anything incredibly steep and taxing out here, but a mountain bike will cover every base. If not, a touring bike or cyclocross bike will comfortably get you around the forest.

Walks for Wild Adventurers

There are countless places to walk and explore – more than we could possibly list here – but here are a few to get you close to nature. Find even more activities at thenewforest.co.uk.

The Tall Trees

Clocking in at a mile and a half, this walk is perfect for beginners, families walking with pushchairs and people with reduced mobility. Enjoy a relaxing, flat trail that takes you around the towering old trees in the arboretum.

Beaulieu to Bucklers Hard

From one picturesque location to another. Start in the upbeat village of Beaulieu and end in the old shipbuilding village of Bucklers Hard, having witnessed plenty of beauty along the way. It’s a shave over two miles, end to end.

Bolderwood

Come for the deer viewing platform – stay for the winding trails dotted with dens. Bolderwood’s nearby fields are full of people enjoying the sunshine in the summer months, but the trails make for great walking year-round. Deer are fed by rangers at around 2pm in the summer months, when you’re almost guaranteed to see them.

Keyhaven Sea Wall Path

A short, gentle walk along a flood defense built in the 1970s, this route is much prettier than it first sounds! The flooded marshland attracts wading birds in the summer breeding season – and lots of fish, too.

Commoner Tom’s New Forest Walks

Tom Hordle featured on the popular TV show A year in the New Forest. We run regular forest walks with Tom that show you a seldom seen side of the forest. He’ll teach you all there is to know about the ancient tradition of commoning.

Call us on 023 8081 2214 to book your place on our next forest walk.

Secrets of the Forest

The New Forest is full of little stories and magical moments, all of which are completely unique. It’s all about having that insider knowledge and knowing where to look.

Piglets and Parrots

Burley is a popular location for visitors and New Forest locals. It’s an effortlessly charming small village full of local traders, with famous connections to witchcraft (and several shops dedicated to it). But there’s a whole world hidden beneath the surface.

Parrot

If you’re really lucky, you might bump into Ruffles – a beautiful, friendly macaw who frequents the area with her owner. She’s welcome everywhere she goes and draws a lot of interest, which she doesn’t mind at all (as long as there are plenty of nuts and seeds to go with it).

If you’re after a more common (but no less adorable) spectacle, head to Burley during the autumn pannage. Free roaming pigs can be seen all over the forest around September to November, but it seems Burley’s the best place for a pig to stop for a nap.

New Forest pigs

Where there are pigs, there are usually piglets in tow; and the little ones love their days spent in the forest. They’re a joy to watch as they play, and they’re likely to pop over to say hello, just to satisfy their curiosity.

Pannage is a practice as ancient as The New Forest itself – almost 1,000 years old now – and it’s carried out each year to clear the ground of acorns. Acorns are harmful to ponies and cattle when eaten in large quantities, but pigs love eating them, with no side effects. As soon as the acorns start to fall during the autumn, it’s time for the pigs to get to work!

Aircraft in Hatchet Pond?

The rumours around Hatchet Pond are relentless – but its bed is known to be extremely treacherous, rife with deep chasms. The sunken plane rumour is one of the oldest and most enduring stories in the area, and one that nobody (except for a few supposedly well-informed grandfathers) can give a definitive answer to.

What’s known for sure is that aircraft used to land on the pond regularly, and that there was one fatal crash on the pond in 1918. Whether the aircraft was recovered is seemingly unknown – so there could well be an aircraft below the murky waters of Hatchet Pond.

Perhaps there is some mystery left in the world after all – but who’ll be the intrepid explorer that finally puts the rumours to rest? Maybe we’ll never find out.

So Much to do, So Little Time

The New Forest is a big place. There’s no way you could effectively explore everything worth seeing in a single day. To visit properly, a few days will give you enough time to see the highlights, spot some of the more unusual sights and get a healthy dose of relaxation in, too.

The Bell Inn is the perfect base for explorers, a New Forest hotel brimming with character. We’re tucked away from the crowded, cosmopolitan areas like Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst, but close to where the action is; the real, raw forest. Head back to a comfortable, quiet room and sumptuous local food after a long day of exploration and discovery.

Book a room online now, or call us on 023 8081 2214 to talk about arranging a stay.