The longest, darkest winter is over and spring is finally here! There’s no better way to make the most of the brighter, warmer days than with a walk (and maybe a picnic, too!) in the magical New Forest.
Just as some of our walks are perfect to enjoy in autumn or winter, we’ve also got some top routes to showcase the beauty of spring; from the adorable new foals to the incredible sight and scent of the bluebells.
So, look out your walking boots, grab that picnic (or buy one full of local produce when you get here) and get going!
If you want to… see some deer
The Deer Watch trail is one of our shortest walks but is incredibly popular. Just half a mile in length, this short stroll from Bolderwood car park leads you to a deer viewing platform overlooking fields, where wild herds of Fallow deer are regularly seen. From Easter to mid-September the herd is fed daily by one of the Forestry England keepers. You can extend the walk by one of the Bolderwood trails that are on offer from this point.
Start : Bolderwood Car Park, SO43 7GQ.
Several varieties of deer can be spotted all over the forest so if you want to try your luck on the Landford and Hamptworth route which is longer, at 4.7 miles, travel to Landford where the walk starts. It’ll take you through the National Park’s northern tip, just into Wiltshire, among woodlands that were once Royal Forests. The walk follows a wooded path to a river ford and through pretty woods and fields to Hamptworth Farm. The route then follows the edge of a golf course to Langley Wood and to the little hamlet of Hamptworth, before returning back over the ford to Landford.
Start: Lyndhurst Road (church hall) bus stop, Landford, SP5 2AE.
If you want to…spot baby donkeys and foals
Spring is the season when our free-roaming ponies and donkeys give birth to their adorable young. If you want to watch or photograph them as they wobble and skip across the heathland, approach carefully and admire them from afar, don’t get too near and always keep dogs on short leads – the mothers are very protective. Where are the best places to see them apart from open country? Well, they do seem to love Brockenhurst village centre and Beaulieu, too. And, on a warmer day, anywhere near one of our ponds or streams.
However, for a walk with a reasonable chance of seeing the ponies, try the three-mile Ashurst Stroll route.
Departing from Ashurst railway station, this short and easy walk explores a variety of landscapes that characterise the New Forest. The route first takes you past open forest lawns, where ponies graze, and through Churchplace Inclosure, a timber plantation, before crossing the railway into Ashurst Wood. Then you’ll 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.
Start : Ashurst New Forest railway station or bus stop, SO40 7AA.
If you want to …see the bluebells
More than 50 per cent of the world’s bluebell population can be found 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, usually in April, although they can go on to May. For the ultimate olfactory experience (not to mention the stunning contrast of bright green and ultramarine) get along to Broomy Inclosure near Exbury, Sandleheath near Fordingbridge, and Pondhead Inclosure near Lyndhurst.
For a mid-length bluebell walk of 6.8 miles, try the Buckland Rings trail which starts at Brockenhurst Railway Station.
From the village of Brockenhurst this walk passes through Roydon Woods nature reserve, over Setley Plain and onto Buckland Rings, the site of a former Iron Age hill fort near Lymington. You’ll find the bluebells in beautiful Roydon Woods
Start : Brockenhurst Railway Station, SO42 7TW.
If you want to…bring a little one
Try the two-miler from Beaulieu to Buckler’s Hard, which starts at the National Motor Museum or, alternatively, from the car park in Beaulieu village.
The level, traffic-free walk is perfect for little legs and follows the Beaulieu River as it winds its way southeast. You’ll pass through woodland, beside the tidal, river-edge grassland and by the salt marsh before ending up in the pretty village of Buckler’s Hard.
Once you reach the hamlet there are a couple of places you can stop for a bite to eat or a quick snack. When it’s open you can also visit the Maritime Museum or take a cruise along the Beaulieu River (Charges apply for entry to the museum and river cruise).
Start : Beaulieu Village Car Park, SO42 7YE.
If you want… a challenge!
The Avon Valley Walk is 34 miles long and takes you from Salisbury - one of the most beautiful cathedral cities in England – south to Christchurch Priory and the sea, going through the New Forest along the way.
This pathway was opened in 1992 and is named after the river whose course it follows. You'll go through meadows buzzing with wildlife, high chalk downland with exhilarating views, and past peaceful village pubs, grazing New Forest Ponies and a trout lake.
The route is well sign posted with the logo of a bridge on a green arrow.
Keen walkers could attempt it in a day but you may want to just complete part of it, in which case you may need to research public transport or organise a lift back to where you started. Or pick up the route in a more local area to the New Forest and start from there!
Start : Salisbury Cathedral, SP1 2EJ.
If you’d like your longer walk to take in the sea, step up to the 60-mile Solent Way Walk (or parts of it.) We love the more manageable Exbury village and Lepe walk, which is just under six miles in length.
Situated on the southern edge of the New Forest and a mile from the Solent coast, the walk starts at the famous Exbury Gardens then takes you along field and woodland paths to Lepe for spectacular views across the Solent. You’ll return inland, through farms and woodland to Exbury village.
Your walk should take in some super scents, from the coconut of the flowering gorse, to the tang of the sea, as you emerge onto the beach.
Start : Exbury, SO45 1AZ.
For more wonderful spring walk ideas see our website.