From David Livingstone to Sir David Attenborough, all the great explorers have something in common. They had to start somewhere.

And we can think of nowhere better to release your children’s – or your own! – inner explorer than the New Forest this summer.

For starters, our 140,000 acres – which include heathland, trees so old they stretch back to Tudor times, bogs and more than 40 miles of coast - are packed with wild animals for you to spot.

Get up and get out early on foot and you’ll be rewarded with the magic of the awakening forest – deer nibbling at the grass and birds singing their heart out in the dawn chorus.

The middle of the day is the best time to spot some of our rare reptiles; the quick flash of a sand lizard, or perhaps a grass snake or an adder basking in the sun. (If you do see one keep your distance, don’t touch, and they’ll soon slide peacefully away.)

Take a sunset safari into the Forest to spot badgers and foxes and their young, as this is the season they emerge every day to play.

Walk quietly into one of our ancient woodlands at night and listen for the hooting of the owls. Or simply stare up at our dark skies… Nearly 90 per cent of the skies above the New Forest National Park fall in the three darkest categories, which means stars are easier to spot and bats, too; 13 of the UK’s 18 species live here.

And, of course, whatever time of day you venture out, you’ll be able to spot our famous roaming ponies, donkeys and cattle.

For a gentle walk that takes you close to ancient barrows, earthworks and a beautiful pond – ideal for spotting birds and dragonflies – take the 1.9 mile route (or there is a shorter 1 mile route to choose from) around the beautiful Hatchet Pond.

Or try the fifteen-miler from Abbotswell car park in the Forest’s north west area, where you’ll enjoy spectacular rural views, some breathtaking open heathland and several wooded inclosures.

Find more of our amazing walks here thenewforest.co.uk/things-to-do/walking

Want to see more?

We have more than 100 miles of cycle routes in the New Forest, with around 98 per cent off-road, and all will take you somewhere you’ve probably never been before.

Our off-road cycle network is easily accessible by rail, too, and if you choose to hop off at Brockenhurst you’ll be in the New Forest’s cycling capital.

Don’t own a bike? Get along to Cyclexperience in Brockenhurst, where they have 300 machines to choose from, including tandems, tag-alongs and even a doggy-trailer for your four-legged friend. They also do repairs and have inclusive bicycles for cyclists with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.

Or try Forest Leisure Cycling at Burley, who are celebrating their 21st birthday and offer free parking for customers with more than 250 adults and kids’ bikes to chose from, or head to their sister shop, The Woods Cyclery at Lyndhurst.

Because it’s warmer and lighter, the summer is a great time to explore our lesser-known rides. The Lepe and Exbury Loop is around nine miles and takes in the coast, as well as a farm and common, and nearly three-quarters of the route is on minor country lanes.

If you want to keep in the shade, try the Rhinefield Ornamental Woodland which includes a ford, a deer sanctuary and the chance to see the New Forest’s tallest trees, travelling on mainly gravel tracks.

For details of other rides, search here thenewforest.co.uk/things-to-do/cycling

If the idea of getting right up into our trees appeals, book the Tree Top Adventure at Go Ape! near Ringwood. With 1km of thrilling zip wires, platforms as high as 11 metres and plenty of rope-bridges to negotiate, you’ll feel more than a bit like Indiana Jones! And you’ll literally get a bird’s eye view of the forest’s enchanting canopy.

Prefer terra firma? One of the best ways to explore the New Forest is on horseback and Burley Villa School of Riding have a variety of ways you can do this, from Midweek Hacks or, for something really different, how about riding Western Style?

Another advantage for explorers of all ages in the summer is that the water – both in rivers, ponds and the sea is warmer – perfect if the idea of an icy drench has put you off trying water sports.

So why not make time to explore by water during summer 2018? New Forest Activities, based in Beaulieu, offer canoeing, kayaking, and sea kayaking. Join them for a paddle up the Beaulieu river and you’ll see the New Forest from yet another perspective.

Remember, too, that whatever you choose to try and wherever you hope to explore, if you spend just £5 on a Go New Forest Card you can unlock hundreds of discounts across the forest – while supporting local businesses.

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