The Best Free Walks in the New Forest National Park

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Covering over 220 square miles, the New Forest National Park is one of the largest wildwoods left in the UK. With an abundance of wildlife, cattle, pigs, and the New Forest ponies wandering throughout the forest. With a range of meadows, lakes, rivers, heathlands, moors and more waiting to be explored.

In this guide, you’ll discover some of the best free walks in the New Forest that will offer you access to a range of wildlife.

Cadman’s Pool Walk

Photo of Cadman's Pool, taken from the shore.

Cadman’s pool has a few walks available, of different length and difficulty. The easiest of these, is a 500 metre walk around the pool, covering 3 different terrains; concrete, gravel and grass. The second longest walk, is 1.5km in length. This walk involves crossing the road from the carpark to Ocknell pool where you’ll find a path that you follow to the left.

Another walk, involves exploring the Stoney Cross Airfield. As you leave the car park, you’ll find a straight concrete strip of road towards the southern side of the pond. This was once the main runway for the airfield. Most of the Stoney Cross Airfield has been reclaimed by the forest, but during this walk you’ll come across a sign showing the original map of the airfield.

More information on this walk can be found here.

Blackwater Tall Tree Arboretum Walk

This walk involves covering 2.3km of the Blackwater Arboretum, where you’ll discover a collection of trees, from all over the world. The collection is maintained by the Forestry Commission, and was started in the 1850s, and is home to some of the oldest Douglas fir trees in the UK. Throughout the walk, you’ll discover information boards that will teach you about the trees here. You may also discover some of the New Forests Wildlife roaming through the forest, such as deer, and squirrels.

You can find more information on this walk here.

Bolderwood Deer Sanctury Walk

The Bolderwood Deer Sanctury is one of the best places in The New Forest National Park to see deer, while enjoying a stroll through a beautiful part of the forest. The deer viewing platform walk starts, by crossing over the road and following the signs to the deer viewing platform. Here, if you’re lucky you’ll be able to spot farrow deer in the field. After visiting the deer viewing platform, you can continue your walk a slight slope. There’s posts along this walk to help guide you, with some benches dotted throughout the walk to offer a place to rest, and enjoy the scenery.

If you’re a wheelchair user, or have a child in a buggy then make sure to check out one of the 3 circular walks available that cover compact gravel. These walks are suitable for some wheelchair users, with lengths of 1/2 mile, 1 mile and 2 miles. These walks take you through the beautiful Bolderwood forest, so you can enjoy the woodland and possibly spot some deer.

You can find more information on this walk here.

Keyhaven Marshes

Boats moared at Keyhaven Marshes, with sunny blue clear skies.

Keyhaven is a coastal village located in the southern part of the New Forest. Here, you’ll find a beautiful, 5.6km long walk that crosses through the Solent Way, into Keyhaven Marshes. Along this walk, you’ll be able to see the Isle of Wight and discover the wildlife located in the marshes. Dogs are welcome but make sure to keep dogs on a lead and pick up any dog poop. You should also keep your dogs and children on the main path so that you do not disturb any of the nesting wildlife.

There is a car park located near the docking area. Extra car parking is available over the bridge, but this is limited. If you’re disabled and have a blue badge you can either park in the main car park for free or drive across the bridge to find a car park just for blue badge holders. The car park can get super busy so I recommend arriving early. I arrived at 9 am and by 11 am, the car park was full.

You can find more information on the Keyhaven Marshes walk here.

Keyhaven Marshes and Pennington Marshes Circular walk

If you’re looking for a longer walk, then I recommend combining the above Keyhaven Marshes with a walk to Pennington Marshes. This circular walk, covers 22.4km of ground and has a pub half way which makes a great pitstop. During this walk, you’ll also visit Hurt Castle, which is an artillery fort that was built between 1541 and 1544 by Henry VIII. The castle was part of the king’s coastal defences, that was used to defend England against France and the Holy Roman Empire. You’ll also pass through the beautiful town of Lyminton, where you’ll find hundreds of yachts, moored at the Lymington Yacht Haven.

You can download this walk here.

Rufus Stone

The Rufus Stone, in the new forest

Located near Minstead, this a short accessible walk, of only 320 meters from the car park. The Rufus Stone walk, features a gravel path that is suitable for some wheelchair users and buggies. The Rufus Stone was erected in memory of William II, known as William Rufus, who was the 3rd son of William the Conqueror. Originally erected in 1745, the stone was replaced with the current one in 1841. The New Forest was created in 1045 by WIlliam the Conqueror, as a Royal Hunting ground. On August 2nd, 1100, William Rufus, who at the time was King of England, was killed when an arrow shot by a French nobleman ricocheted off an oak tree and ended up piercing the King’s Lungs. The oak tree involved in the accident has since been removed, but another oak tree was planted close by.

While it’s a short walk, the stone will allow you to discover more of the forests and England’s history. You can also enjoy a picnic. If you’re visiting The New Forest with dogs, this is a great place to walk your dogs while enjoying the scenery. I recommend keeping dogs on a lead at all times to avoid them disturbing the wildlife. You should also remember to pack poop bags and other items that are essential when traveling with a dog.

You can find The Rufus Stone, here, with parking available across the road.

Ashurst and Deerleap Circular Walk

This 5.6km walk, starts in a car park located in the beautiful village of Ashurst. The walk will take you into the Deerleap enclosure where you’ll pass the ranger’s cottage and see some beautiful scenery. After you leave the Deerleap enclosure, you’ll walk towards Longdown Gate which gives access to the Longdown enclosure. Upon reaching this gate, you can either choose to extend your walk through the Longdown enclosure or continue along the main path toward Deerleap Lane.

After the walk, you can enjoy a drink at the pub located in the public car park you started from.

You can view the map for this walk here.

Wilverley Inclosure

The Wilverley Inclosure walk, covers a 5.5km circular trail that allows you to discover some of the beautiful wildflowers found in the New Forest. During this walk, you’ll have the chance to spot deer and New Forest ponies! The walk has man-made trails that can get muddy, with benches for resting and enjoying the scenery dotted throughout.

You can view the map for this walk here.

Standing Hat Inclosure

Gravel path at Standing at Inclosure
The Gravel Path at the Standing Hat Inclosure in the New Forest

Standing Hat Inclosure offers a 11.6km walk, along gravel paths through the beautiful forest. This walk has plenty of bees, butterflies, birds and possibly deer along it for you to enjoy. The gravle paths make this a great place to walk, if the weathers bad as most walks in the forest can get quite muddy. This walk is also part of the cycle routes around the New Forest, giving you a place to explore the forest on bike rather than foot.

In terms of accessibility, the paths are possibly suitable for those using certain off-road wheelchairs and mobility scooters due to being firm gravel. I’d expect it to be quite bumpy, but if you’re used to using a wheelchair on gravel surfaces then the path should be OK for you. The gravel paths at Standing Hat, are accessed through a pedestrian gate. I expect most people can fit their wheelchair through these gates, but you may wish to check with the New Forest themselves to confirm the actual width.

For more information on this walk, and to download the map – go here.

Where to stay in the New Forest National Park

Need somewhere to stay in the New Forest? Then check out the below hotels and B&Bs, suitable for a range of budgets.

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Top 10 walks in the new forest

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