Now that lockdown is easing, you'll want to come and visit the magical New Forest. And our fabulous eating places, attractions and activities and places to stay can’t wait to welcome you back! (Not to mention our famous roaming ponies!)
But - because we share this amazing space with so much wildlife - we’re so unique that the New Forest has been declared the UK's smallest, but perfectly formed, National Park and a Site of special Scientific Interest - we need our lovely visitors to keep to a few guidelines to ensure everyone and everything can stay safe.
So, for their safety and your own, please keep a respectful distance from all grazing animals, especially mothers and their young.
Although owned and cared for by local people, the cattle, ponies, donkeys and pigs are unpredictable and best treated as wild. Please don’t feed them, even if you think they look hungry. There is plenty of natural food and the wrong food can make them ill. Failure to adhere to this byelaw could result in a £200 fine and criminal record.
Remember, too, that whilst they all look adorable, our roaming animals may bite and kick.
We’re happy to be officially recognised as one of the UK’s most popular places to take your dog for a walk. But, to minimise disturbance to wildlife, livestock and other people, please keep your dogs under close control - if necessary, use a lead. To help ground-nesting birds rear their young safely, keep yourself, dogs (and horses) on the main tracks, especially from the beginning of March to the end of July.
Pick up after your dog, particularly around car parks, on paths, and where people play or picnic and take bagged waste home if there is no litter bin.
And, while we’re on the subject, please don’t leave litter. If you could see what it does to our wildlife, and sometimes to the ponies and other free-roaming animals, you really wouldn’t mind taking it home to dispose of, if our bins are full.
Whilst the official speed limit on our forest roads is 40 mph, it’s much safer for you and the animals to drive more slowly. Deer, ponies, livestock and other wildlife have right of way on all roads and are liable to walk across the carriageway without any warning at all. The safest thing to do is to stick to a speed far lower than 40mph which will give you good time to spot them and to brake.
One of our biggest dangers at the moment is wildfires. Don’t be deceived by the recent rain, the forest can be tinder-dry and fires endanger the livestock, natural habitat and human beings.
Because of this there is now a blanket ban on fires or barbecues, including the previously bookable barbecue spots.
Whilst we do have a number of campsites operating (Including Chapelfield Camping, Fordingbridge, Avon Tyrrell and Harrow Wood Farm Caravan Park, Bransgore, Red Shoot Camping Park, Shamba Holiday Park and Back of Beyond Touring Park in St Leonards all near Ringwood, Lytton Lawn Touring Park and Shorefield Country Park, Milford on Sea, Long Meadow and New Park Farm, Brockenhurst and Green Hill Farm, Landford) the ten Camping in the Forest sites remain closed.
There is also a ban on wild camping and on overnight parking in the New Forest, too.
Please only park in our designated car parks - the sides of roads can look tempting but they can be boggy in the rain, be home to important wildlife and your vehicle could cause a safety obstruction.
When you are out and about in the forest, keep your arms and legs covered when walking in woodland and similar places. Consider using an insect repellent and regularly check yourself, your children and your dog for ticks; small, black insects that look a little like spiders. Tick bites can infect you with a bacteria that can lead to the serious condition of Lyme disease. If you find a tick attached, remove it quickly and in the proper way (with a tick remover - do not try to pull it out with your fingers, burn it, scrape it off, or cut it out - you need to ensure that you remove the whole tick).
If you have a road traffic collision with a New Forest animal it is an offence not to report it. Keep the animal emergency hotlines card on you at all times throughout your visit as this will provide you with all the contacts you may need, if you are to have a collision with an animal.
If you come across a sick, injured or dead pony, cow, donkey, pig or sheep (other than one involved in a road traffic accident), call the Verderers Office on 023 8028 2052 during normal office hours, or 023 8028 3141 at other times. For sick or injured deer, ring the Forestry England on 0300 067 4600.
Finally – like everywhere else the New Forest’s businesses have suffered because of lockdown. So please consider being really Forest Friendly and buy local produce! You will be helping to support small and unique forest businesses, reducing food miles and be enjoying the best locally produced food and drink around. Visit New Forest Weekly Markets for food, drink and crafts and take home a flavour of the New Forest.