The clocks are forward, the sun is out, the flowers are blooming and in the New Forest that means only one thing – Spring has sprung!

After the long, dark winter our magical New Forest is bursting into life so now’s the time to take a wander through our Ancient Woodland to watch the leaves emerge. We have the highest concentration of these special trees in Western Europe – some are so old they were around in the time of King Henry VIII. To make the most of visiting them, book yourself a guide from Fuzzacker Guided Walks who can show you the best specimens and tell you all about them.

Whatever you do, make time to see – and smell – the bluebells because we are also one of the world’s top spots to experience this annual feast for the senses. Ultramarine blue on acid green, these delicate flowers pour their scent into the air from the forest’s floor. Spot them at Clayhill Heath near Lyndhurst, Broomy Inclosure near Exbury, Roydon Woods and Sandleheath near Fordingbridge, and Pondhead Inclosure near Lyndhurst.

For more super-scented flowers, find woodland with some wild garlic, or head onto our heathland to sniff the yellow flowers of the gorse – it really does smell just like warm coconut!

For colour like no other and plenty of spring scents, too, make the trip to the world famous Exbury Gardens which are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. Their rhododendron and azalea collection – plus the spring bulbs – are one of the UK’s most breathtaking sights, trust us! (And they also have a wonderful miniature steam railway to enjoy.)

Furzey Gardens also bursts into life in the spring with a large display of crocuses, daffodils and bluebells followed by a colourful collection of rhododendron and azalea. Book onto one of the monthly guided walks to explore the gardens with their volunteers.

The Wilderness Garden at Beaulieu is awash with colour during the spring with late April - May the perfect time to see the stunning wisteria and laburnum tunnel in the Victorian Flower Garden.

Don’t forget, too, that many of our hotels and restaurants have beautiful gardens which are now in full spring bloom. The Montagu Arms’ Terrace is perfect, as are the gardens at Rhinefield House Hotel.

Spring is also the season when our free-roaming ponies and donkeys give birth to their adorable foals. If you want to watch or photograph them as they wobble and skip across the heathland please do so from a distance, never get between a mother and her young and always keep dogs on short leads – the mothers are very protective. Best places to see them apart from open country? Well, they do seem to love Brockenhurst village centre and Beaulieu, too. And, on a hot day, anywhere near one of our ponds or streams.

Deer are also giving birth to their young. Fawns are harder to spot but patience and quiet at dawn or dusk can be rewarded. Or cheat a bit and go to the viewing platform at the deer sanctuary at Bolderwood! From April onwards herds of fallow deer regularly gather to wait for a Forestry Commission Ranger to feed them. If you time it right you can watch them being fed from the viewing platform anytime (when a ranger is free) between 12.30 and 2.30pm.

If you aren’t lucky and would prefer a hands-on experience, Longdown Activity Farm, will allow your young ones to meet chicks, calves and kid goats with opportunities to hand-feed some of the animals at selected times.

Keep an eye out, too for the other wild life in our Forest. Rare bats, owls and all six of the UK’s reptile species, including the exquisite sand lizards, live in the New Forest. They are a little shy, however, so if you want to ensure you encounter our local cold-blooded cousins, rock up to the New Forest Reptile Centre near Lyndhurst, where they care for all native reptiles and amphibians in observable tanks and living spaces.

If you’d like to learn more about the wildlife of the Forest, check out the annual walks run by the National Trust at its beautiful Northern Commons where they are always keen to help you lean more about these internationally important habitats.

What better way to celebrate Spring than by hunting out a REAL one? Iron Well near Fritham – also named as Chalybeate, meaning ‘a natural spring with iron salts’ – bubbles out of the ground, a strange red colour. Also known as Leper’s Well, the waters were said to cure the deadly disease. More recently it was believed they could cure dogs of the mange but we wouldn’t recommend dunking Fido or sampling the well water itself!  Much better to visit the nearby Bell Inn near Bramshaw for a refreshing drink at their bar.

If you love the outdoors then there’s nothing better than to go camping. Many of our campsites open up for the season in early spring, so why not book to stay at one and explore all that the New Forest has to offer? Think starry nights, cooking over a gas stove and wildlife literally on your doorstep and you’ll get the picture. Or take a wander into the woodlands and let the kids build their own bivvy for the day.

And, whilst you’re getting your New Forest Spring on, why not think about entering our first ever New Forest Photo Competition?  Whether you are an amateur or professional, you can share your amazing photographs of our wonderful destination. There will be four separate competitions throughout the year, each focussing on one of the four seasons. Photographs can be submitted on any subject, as long as it has been taken in the New Forest during the relevant season of the current competition. It could be a seaside pic, one of our towns and villages or in the forest itself – the choice is yours!

Enter now by sharing your best New Forest Spring photograph on Facbeook, Instagram or Twitter, using the hashtag #nfphotocomp AND tagging us @TheNewForestUK!




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