In Wildlife

Strange as it may sound, one of the reasons the magical New Forest looks so wild and beautiful is because of us humans!

It was King William the Conqueror who started it all, after he invaded in 1066. And, in the main, it’s the activities of the Commoners and their ponies, cattle and Pannage pigs, which has produced the distinctive landscape we see today. (With some wonderful help from the New Forest National Park Authority and our army of wildlife volunteers.)

Visiting here can be a little like an African safari – what with all the roaming livestock, not to mention the wild deer, nocturnal badgers, foxes, rabbits and rare reptiles we’re so lucky to have.

But, if the Forest is to thrive as a place to visit and enjoy, we all need to make sure that we’re taking the best care of it as possible. And to make it easier for you to be a Forest-friendly visitor, we’ve produced some easy advice to follow.

For their safety and your own, please keep a respectful distance from grazing animals, especially mothers and their young. Although owned and cared for by local people, the cattle, ponies, donkeys and pigs are unpredictable and best treated as wild. Please don’t feed them, even if you think they look hungry. There is plenty of natural food, they get extra given to them during harsh winters, and the wrong food can make them ill. Failure to adhere to this byelaw results in a £200 fine and criminal record.

Remember, too that whilst they all look adorable, any of our roaming animals can bite and kick, especially ponies with foals.

The New Forest is one of the UK’s most popular places to take your dog for a walk. But, to minimise disturbance to wildlife, livestock and other people, please keep your dogs under close control - if necessary use a lead. Pick up after your dog, especially around car parks, on paths, and where people play or picnic, and take bagged waste home if there is no litter bin.  And, it goes without saying, please don’t leave litter. If you could see what it does to our wildlife, and sometimes to the ponies, you really wouldn’t mind taking it home to dispose of, if our bins are full.

When you’ve finished your walk, check your dog and yourself for ticks when you get back home. Tick bites can infect you with a bacteria leading to the serious condition of Lyme disease. Ticks tend to live in places with damp vegetation and lots of small animals and birds that they can feed on. Just be smart and aware when you are out and about in the Forest, keep your arms and legs covered when walking in woodland and similar places, check for ticks regularly when you are out and afterwards and you can even use insect repellents containing chemicals called DEET or Picaridine. If you find a tick attached, remove it quickly and in the proper way (with a tick remover - do not try to pull it out with your fingers, burn it, scrape it off, or cut it out - you need to ensure that you remove the whole tick).

Stick to the marked tracks during Spring and late July. Why? Because it helps our ground-nesting birds. This goes for dogs, cyclists and riders, too.

Cars can be used on roads throughout the Forest. But remember, our roaming animals always have right of way and because they have no road sense they frequently stand, walk or even lie down on the unfenced highways, so give them (and walkers, cyclists and horse-riders) a wide berth and be especially careful when driving at night. Remember, too, that deer are just the same and are liable to leap in front of you at a moment’s notice. Best advice? Stick well below the 40mph speed limit just to be sure.

If you do have a road traffic collision with a New Forest animal it is an offence not to report it.  You can use these numbers.

- Police (24hrs) Tel: 999 (emergency)
Tel: 101 (non-emergency)
Road traffic accident involving a pony, cow, donkey, pig, sheep, dog or deer
- Verderer's Office (Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm) Tel: 023 8028 2052
Sick, injured or distressed pony, cow, donkey, pig or sheep
- Forestry Commission (24hrs) Tel: 0300 067 4600
Sick, injured or distressed pony, cow, donkey, pig, sheep or deer

To avoid damage and obstruction, please park only in designated car parks, not on a verge or in gateways. Lock your car, taking any valuables with you and leave Forestry Commission car parks by dusk.

If you’re a cyclist, stick to the waymarked tracks and other designated routes. When approaching people and animals, call out a warning to make yourself noticed and pass slow and wide. Try to leave gaps for overtaking vehicles and never ride more than two abreast. Keep to a safe speed, wear bright colours to be visible and always use lights in the dark.

Riders have open access to the New Forest but, to reduce damage to the ground, please use tracks when it’s wet.

Campers should note that camping in the wild and overnight parking is not allowed. There are 10 campsites in the New Forest run by Camping in the Forest, and a number of private sites.

Sometimes this summer it has seemed as if the ground will never be dry again!  But it only takes a few sunny days for the fire risk to rise. To reduce the risk of damaging wildfires, campfires are not allowed without the landowner’s permission. Disposable BBQs are only permitted at Bolderwood, Blackwater and Wilverley, where stands and water are available.

Raised non-disposable BBQs are allowed on the hard-standing areas of car parks, providing water is available and they are fully extinguished after use.

You can hire fixed stand party-sized BBQs from the Forestry Commission (call 0300 067 4601) and from Hampshire County Council at Lepe Country Park (hants.gov.uk/lepe or call 023 8089 9108 in advance). In extreme weather conditions check the Forestry Commission website for updated guidance on using BBQs in the New Forest.

It’s not quite the season yet but as it approaches, it’s important to note that fungi should be left for other people to enjoy. Fungi are essential to the New Forest’s internationally protected ecosystem and foray leaders must apply for permission for educational excursions from the Forestry Commission in advance. If you suspect or see commercial picking please call the Forestry Commission on 0300 067 4600 or the National Trust on 01425 650035.

And, finally, don’t play with or take home any unidentified objects. Why? Because areas of the New Forest were used to test bombs in World War I and II. So, although it would be quite rare to find one, they are still around. Always keep away from objects that might be dangerous and notify the police immediately on 999.

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