New Forest Wildlife and Nature

The New Forest is a living and working place where ponies, donkeys and cattle freely graze the land and help to keep the patchwork of different habitats intact. Deeper in the forest, wild deer meander beneath canopies of mighty oak and beech - natural scenes unchanged by the modern world.

Take a walk through the New Forest and it probably won’t be long until you come across some of our New Forest ponies - approximately 5,000 ponies roam freely within our National Park. You will often also come across donkeys, although these are in lesser numbers than the ponies at around 200! You’ll most likely see some of our cattle too, from big ones to fluffy ones, they're hard to miss! 

The New Forest is also home to five different types of deer; red, roe, fallow, sika and muntjac, you may see them hiding behind trees deep in the woodlands, or peeping over the top of the gorse on our heathlands. You’ll be likely to spot some at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary or at the New Forest Deer Safari, based at Burley. Who needs to go on an African safari when we have so much wildlife on our doorsteps!

During the autumn months, you may spot pigs roaming the New Forest. All in all around 600 pigs are set to roam on a particular mission, pannage. This is an important process as the pigs will eat some of the fallen acorns and nuts that are poisonous to the New Forest ponies.

The New Forest is well known for the variety of reptiles you can find. The open heathland is an ideal basking ground for adder and grass snake, and the many pools dotted around the area make great conditions for frogs, toads, lizards, newts and other reptiles and amphibians. You can discover more about some of our native species on a visit to the New Forest Reptile Centre, near Lyndhurst. Here, specially designed enclosures showcase the British species that you may be lucky enough to spot.

Our birdlife is also worth mentioning. With rich habitats, the New Forest is home to some rare birds and is a breeding ground for 100 species of bird. With wetlands, woods and heathlands, there is quite a variety of birds to spot here and many rare birds come to the New Forest over the winter months, particularly to some of the area’s nature reserves.

Plants, flowers and trees of the New Forest

Our ancient woodlands come alive with beautiful flora and fauna in the spring months with the rich greens of the oak trees and beech trees and the brightness of our bluebells carpeting the woodland floor during the spring months. 

The fungi and mushrooms that can often be found in the autumn months offer a richness of colour and some strange shapes emerging from fallen trees and the forest floor. 

Each and every season here in the New Forest brings with it some fantastic opportunities to get close to nature.

How you can learn more about the New Forest’s wildlife and nature

One of the best ways of learning more about our gorgeous wildlife and nature in the New Forest is on a guided walk. Book a tour with Wild New Forest and learn about our free-roaming animals and flora and fauna through the seasons while enjoying a stroll in our ancient woodlands and across the healthand. The friendly expert tour guides will also tell you lots of interesting facts about the history, heritage, conservation and recreation of the New Forest. As well as guided walks, Wild New Forest also holds regular cycle tours too, as do New Forest Cycling Tours!

In addition to the places we have mentioned above, you can learn more about the area’s special wildlife and nature at the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust manages Blashford Lakes nature reserve, near Ringwood. This former gravel quarry is now a set of lakes that are a haven for many species of bird. Take a look at the reserve's regular events including guided nature walks and wildlife spotting sessions.

At Bolderwood, Forestry England has a variety of walking and cycling trails that weave their way through the forest from the car park. Along the routes look out for interpretation signs depicting more information about some of the flora and fauna that you can find here.

Lepe Country Park, which sits along the Solent coastline, runs regular nature events including bat walks and family events. During the school summer holidays the summer trail is a popular activity for families to get to learn more about the country park and what nature can be found here. 

Let's all look after our nature, wildlife and landscapes

The New Forest has been a designated National Park since 2005, one of 15 National Parks in the UK.

By achieving National Park status it means that the area is protected and preserved for future generations.

Nearly half of the New Forest National Park is operated by Forestry England and large areas of the New Forest are used by commoners, the people who have rights to graze their ponies, cattle and donkeys in the open forest.

With such a variety amongst the wildlife everyone who visits and enjoys the beautiful National Park has a duty to ensure the safety of all of the residents, from the big cattle that roam the heathland to the small squirrels that enjoy the beautiful ancient woodlands.

The New Forest National Park is a wonderful place to visit and you can help it stay that way by being a Forest friendly visitor. For example: Please leave fungi for other people to enjoy. Fungi are essential to the New Forest’s internationally protected ecosystem. Foragers must apply for permission for educational excursions from  Forestry England in advance. If you suspect or see commercial picking please call Forestry England on 0300 067 4600 or the National Trust on 01425 650035.

Follow the New Forest Code! Equally, as much as our New Forest ponies and other animals are beautiful to watch, please keep your distance and certainly do not touch them. They are wild animals and are liable to kick or bite.

Also, please never feed the ponies or other animals. Human food can be really harmful to them - they have plenty of natural food in their home, the New Forest!

Please also take extra care when driving the New Forest’s roads, particularly at night as animals can quite often be found in the middle of the carriageway.

Follow the New Forest Code

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