Covering over 220 square miles, the New Forest Natioanl Park is one of the largest wildwoods left in the UK. With an abundance of wildlife, cattle, pigs, and the New Forest ponies wondering 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.
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Cadman’s Pool Walk
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.
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.
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.
Keyhaven is a coastal village locate 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. Make sure to keep 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 youn 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 9am and by 11am, 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.
Located near Minstead, this a short accessible walk, of only 320 metres 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 noblemen 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, and walk your dogs while enjoying the scenery this area has to offer.
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 inclosure where you’ll pass the rangers cottage and see some beautiful scenery. After you leave the Deerleap inclosure, you’ll walk towards Longdown Gate which gives access to the Longdown inclosure. Upon reaching this gate, you can either choose to extend your walk through the Longdown inclosure or continue along the main path towards Deerleap Lane.
After the walk, you can enjoy a drink at the pub located in the public car park you started from.
The Wilverley Inclosure walk, covers a 5.5km circular trail that allows you to discover some of the beautiful wild flowers 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.
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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