The days may be a little cold but don’t let that put you off taking a walk on the wild side in the New Forest. During winter, when the trees are stripped bare of their leaves, our forests have a haunting, almost magical air. So, whilst you’re waiting for spring, why not try one of our Top Woodland Walks?
Where to start? Well, we’d always recommend exploring our enchanting Ancient Woodlands. Why? Because the New Forest offers some of the most important Ancient Woodland sites in all of Western Europe.
From owls to bats, to squirrels and birds, the trees in these woodlands, which are hundreds of years old, support an entire eco-system.
Head along to Bratley Inclosure for a 4.3mile trail, as well as some of the most beautiful giants of the forest in the beech woods there, or try Anses Wood, near Fritham. If you park at Cadman’s Pool and walk to Ocknell Pond, you’ll also find Ocknall Inclosure just beyond, which is another great part of the forest to explore.
To spot our oldest tree, take the The Knightwood Oak Trail. This gentle walk will bring you up close and personal with a tree that started growing during the reign of Henry VIII and whose girth is an astonishing 24 feet wide. No wonder she is revered as ‘The Queen of the Forest’.
Denny Wood near Lyndhurst is another excellent spot for enjoying the Ancient Woodland – marvel at the twisted trunks of the beech trees and use them to create your own adventures and stories with little ones.
Fancy some of our lesser-known walks? Landford to Hamptworth Farm is a good one. Starting in the village of Landford, you’ll explore the northern tip of the New Forest in Wiltshire, among woodlands that were once Royal Forests. The trail follows a wooded path to a river ford and through pretty woods and fields to Hamptworth Farm. The five-mile 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.
If you’re coming from the east and fancy something nearer, try the three-mile Ashurst Stroll.
From Ashurst railway station this short and easy walk explores a variety of landscapes that characterise the New Forest. Best of all, it takes in two woodlands as well as some ancient pasture woodland and across a grassy lawn to the historic remains of a saltpetre house. You’ll return via a roadside cycle track to Ashurst village.
If you’ve ever studied the Ordnance Survey maps of the New Forest, you’ll often see the word ‘inclosure’. It refers to a type of woodland that was planted for commercial purposes – with some of the oldest being used for Navy ships. Many were created during the Victorian era and one of these is Puckpitts, near Lyndhurst, which is home to one of Britain’s tallest Norway spruces. Discovered just eight years ago, this mighty tree is around 50 metres high, making it just a couple of metres shorter than the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
Buckland Rings Trail is another great one for young explorers. 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.
For something perfect for little legs, the Blackwater Heartwood Trail fits the bill. Less than a mile long, it has plenty of seats to sit on, for a winter picnic or a biscuit, and is an easy route through the Arboretum at Blackwater, where some of the finest specimen trees in the forest can be found.
Children will also adore any walk around the Rufus Stone, which commemorates what is believed to be a gruesome murder – of King William ‘Rufus’. The walk to the stone is a short one -less than a kilometre - but can be easily extended into the woodland around and provides lots of scope for natural play.
For loads more great woodland walks, plus details of great pubs and cafes to stop at, head to thenewforest.co.uk.