There are a dozen reasons why you should try a car-free walking adventure when you visit the New Forest.
But some of the most important reasons to do this are; to decrease the negative environmental impacts on our unique nature from cars driving through the New Forest, you’ll be making our roads a safer place for our free roaming animals (who have very little to no road sense) and reduce the number of animal accidents – but most importantly, we all know that the best way to experience the New Forest is on a walking adventure.
How else are you going to get right off the beaten track, check out the wildlife and discover the hidden pools, streams, and seashores that the New Forest has to offer?
We have more than 140 miles of tracks and footpaths, where you can enjoy easy-to-follow walking routes, short strolls or long-distance trails.
We’ve got walks that will take you to secret World War II airfields, walks to the scene of a notorious murder, and walks that lead to the grave of Sherlock Holmes’ creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.
For a gentle walk that takes you close to ancient barrows, earthworks and a beautiful pond – ideal for spotting birds – take the 2.5-mile route from Beaulieu to Hatchet Pond, starting at Rans Wood car-park.
Head over to Ashurst for a great walk (2.8 miles) that takes in a variety of New Forest landscapes. From Ashurst railway station this short and easy walk takes you past open forest lawns where ponies graze and through Churchplace Inclosure, a timber plantation, before crossing the railway into Ashurst Wood. Then continue along a road that winds pleasantly through ancient pasture woodland and across a grassy lawn to the historic remains of a saltpetre house. Return via a roadside cycle track to Ashurst village.
Or try the 8.5-miler Lyndhurst Parish Walk, where you'll enjoy spectacular rural views, some breathtaking open heathland and a secret country roads of this stunning village.
The Copythorne and Cadnam Common Walk (4 miles) will take you from Moor Road bus stop past St Mary's Church before winding through Copythorne Common and its interesting mix of woodland and open glades. The route then follows rhododendron and woodland edged tracks to the Cadnam River and the Northern Commons. Here you can watch ponies grazing before returning through Newbridge and Copythorne Common back to the start.
Or why not celebrate Spring in style by walking the kids to see a real one - Iron Well near Fritham, often named as Chalybeate, meaning ‘a natural spring with iron salts’. It bubbles out of the ground with a reddish colour and is also known as Leper’s Well, because the waters were said to cure the deadly disease.
One of the best Spring sights are the bluebells – more than 50 per cent of the world’s bluebell population is in England and the New Forest has more than its fair share of them. But you’ll have to be quick as they only last a few weeks. For the ultimate olfactory experience (not to mention the stunning contrast of bright green and ultramarine) get along to Broomy Inclosure near Exbury, Roydon Woods and Sandleheath near Fordingbridge, and Pondhead Inclosure near Lyndhurst.
For a real adventure go walking at dusk or late evening – remembering to take all safety precautions – and you’ll see our night-time treasures, starry, starry skies, hooting owls, and flittering bats. The New Forest has some of the UK’s darkest skies in the relatively light-polluted south-east. In fact, nearly 90 per cent of our skies are in the three darkest categories which make us the perfect place to see the Milky Way, spot Orion
Dusk and dawn are also the best times to see our wildlife, from magnificent Fallow deer and their fawns, to fox and badger cubs, playing on the heath. And, if you walk to Bolton’s Bench in Lyndhurst, you’ll witness spectacular sunrises, too.
If you fancy things a bit more organised, Wild New Forest have some excellent guided hikes. Their scheduled New Forest Explorer Walks are typically about 5-8 km long and 2-3 hours duration. If you want to explore parts of the New Forest you haven't visited previously, or want to learn more about seasonal wildlife on a regular route, then these walks are for you!
There are many ways to get to the New Forest that are more eco-friendly than travelling via car! Let the train take the strain. We’re just 89 minutes from London Waterloo and with eight stations serving the entire length of the Forest, you’ll have plenty of get-off points to choose from.
Or come by coach - The National Express coaches stop at Ringwood and regularly travel from central London (from London Victoria Coach Station). There are also lots of buses from surrounding areas that stop off and pick up passengers in the New Forest!
Coming from the Isle of Wight? Forget the car and bring your bikes – or walking shoes – and use the Wightlink Ferry from Yarmouth. In just 40 minutes you’ll be in the Georgian town of Lymington, with the splendours of the rural Forest just a mile or so beyond.
And if you like being on the water and are coming from Southampton or the east, make the smartest travel move we know – cruising in on the Hythe Ferry. Ferries depart from Town Quay from 7.30am with different timetables at the weekend.
Or, you could always cycle to the New Forest, lock up your bike and take to the New Forest on foot… or continue your bike ride in to the New Forest, on our off-road cycle tracks.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out the walking pages on our website. We’ve got foodie walks, wildlife walks, and history walks – more than 40 in all. Many start, end or take in our pretty villages and great pubs and you can find them all here: thenewforest.co.uk/things-to-do/walking