The New Forest Is One Of Britain’s Newest National Parks
The New Forest, one of England’s newest National Parks, was actually created 1,000 years ago, but it was only designated as a National Park in 2005 to help preserve this beautiful area of Southern England.
If you haven’t heard of The New Forest before, I hope that by the time you have read this article, you will not only know where The New Forest is, but also know how it came to be, to know what places and attractions there are in The New Forest. I also hope you will also want to visit there one day.
The New Forest is located close to where we live in the city of Southampton as well as where I grew up in Bournemouth, both of these towns being on the south coast of England, on the boundary of the counties of Dorset and Hampshire.
The area of England’s south coast has thousands of acres of woodland and heathland, with horses, deer, cattle and even pigs roaming wild, and with many rare varieties of plants, animals and birds that are protected, it attracts many tourists annually. In the New Forest there are numerous places for camping, and for taking walks or cycling across the forest, with the scenery and vegetation changing from one part to another. We love to go walking in the New Forest.
Don’t forget to look at the pictures of The Burley Ghost and decide for yourself if you think we saw a ghost or not.
Unless otherwise specified, all photographs and videos are the property of Tony Payne and may not be copied or used without permission.
Where Is The New Forest? – Look right in the middle of the south coast of England and it’s easy to find The New Forest.
The New Forest is located in the counties of Hampshire and Dorset, between the major cities of Christchurch to the west and Southampton to the east. Within the New Forest lie a number of other spendid small towns, all with their own unique attractions. These include Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Lymington and Beaulieu.
History Of The New Forest
The origins and development of The New Forest.
The New Forest was created as a royal forest in 1079 by William the Conqueror, who took what was then a barren wasteland for for the hunting of deer, which was a popular royal pastime, and it was first recorded as “Nova Foresta” in the Domesday Book in 1086.
While parts of the area were left as open heathland where animals could graze, other sections were planted with trees to provide cover for herds of deer and other animals that could be hunted.
For those who are not familiar with English History, the Normans invaded England in the year 1066AD, their leader William The Conqueror defeating King Harold at the Battle Of Hastings. The Normans came from Normandy in Northern France, and were descendants of the Vikings who had terrorised the British for hundreds of years.
The Norman practice of denying the killing of deer to the peasants did not go down favourably with the locals, a scenario that has become popular through a story that took place in another Norman forest, that of Robin Hood. The frustration which the local population felt towards the Norman nobles was such that in order to appease them, the King allowed them to graze their animals on the land, a tradition which has continued to this day.
The history of The New Forest however goes way back before the time of the Norman Conquest of England. It goes back to the Iron and Bronze ages, and the area has a number of barrows and burial mounds dating back to this time, as well as the remains of hill forts. You can read more about this fascinating era of the history of the New Forest on the New Forest Explorers Guide.
From the 17th to the 19th centuries the rise of British Naval Power led to areas of the forest being planted with rolling plantations of trees, which then provided a constant resource for the building of warships, which were essential to protect not only the British Isles but also their territories in The New World from the Spanish and French.
The demand for timber was so great that for a while attempts were made to clear the forest of deer, however with the demise in the requirements of timber for shipbuilding, the deer population has increased, and some of the tree plantations have been removed to restore the forest to it’s previous habitat.
In more recent times, the area has been used for military purposes, from the training of troops for the Boer War and First World War, to the building of airfields during World War Two, and of course with it’s close proximity to the ports on the south coast, the area was used to locate troops prior to the invasion of France on D-Day, 6th June 1944.
In the 1960s with the increase in the number of motor vehicles travelling through The New Forest, the roads were fenced off to prevent animals from wandering onto them and being hit by oncoming traffic. A number of underpasses were also constructed, allowing animals to cross from one side of a major road to the other in safety.
Motorists who want to drive through the free grazing parts of The New Forest now have to drive over metal Cattle Grids, which allow the vehicles to enter and exit, but which keep the animals in. The fines for hitting an animal while driving in the forest are not insignificant, and motorists are warned to drive carefully.
The New Forest – Responsible Tourism Award Winner
The New Forest was the overall winner of the 2007 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards, which was organised by responsibletravel.com in partnership with The Times, World Travel Market and Geographical.
The New Forest Centre
The New Forest Centre is located in the centre of Lyndhurst, and as well as providing visitors to the area with everything that they need to know to enjoy the beauty of The New Forest.
There is also a museum where visitors can learn about the history of the forest.
The museum has a number of hands-on activities for the children too, and is a great place to begin your tour of the area.
You can find out more about The New Forest Centre from their website.
The New Forest Tour – Take A Tour Of The New Forest by Bus
One way to see some of the highlights of The New Forest is to take a tour, and what better way to take a tour than on an open top double-decker bus.
There are two circular tours that operate hourly every day throughout the summer, and both take visitors through different parts of the New Forest.
You can find out more information on these tours at The New Forest Tour, including routes, maps, timetables, tickets and prices.
New Forest Wildlife
New Forest Ponies
The New Forest has long been famous for it’s breed of New Forest Pony, which is a recognised British breed of horse, but which in reality isn’t a pure breed at all.
The New Forest Pony is the result of 1,000 years of inter-breeding of the various types of horse that have been allowed to roam free in the New Forest, however attempts were made to standardise the breed in the 1920s, resulting in many of them being of the typical kind that you see today.
You can read more about the fascinating history of the New Forest Pony on the New Forest Pony Fact File.
These photographs were taken on a walk through the heathland area close to the village of Burley in The New Forest.
New Forest Ponies Video
Debbie and I love to go walking in The New Forest, and in one clearing close to where we know that deer graze, an area of the forest which is way off the beaten track, we came across this family group of New Forest Ponies.
One of the foals decided to be brave and walked right up to me, almost close enough to touch, but I wasn’t quite brave enough to move towards him and touch him, in case it startled him and the parents took a dislike. I didn’t like the thought of being kicked by a horse and I didn’t know how the other horses would react if I tried to touch him.
A Clearing Where Wild Deer Graze
Debbie and I really enjoy our walks in The New Forest. This is a clearing that is way off the beaten track, and both times that we have been here, we have seen lots of deer, including white deer that lead their own herds.
White Deer In The New Forest
On one occasion we waited for over half an hour, and were rewarded by one of the groups of deer coming close to graze. Unfortunately they did not come as close as we would like, so we approached them, causing them to wander away, however this did provide us with some good video of them, including the white deer who leads the pack.
Deer In The New Forest
This is another clip of the deer in The New Forest, including the white deer who leads this group. We feel privileged that they allowed us to get this close.
Walking in the New Forest: 30 Walks in the New Forest National Park
This is a really useful guide that contains 30 walks through different parts of The New Forest.
Each walk covers between 3 and 10 miles, so all are easy to do in a day.
The walks take you through different sections of the forest, from woodland to heathland as well as along the coast.
There are so many great places to go walking in the New Forest, but with a guide book like this it’s easy to find new areas to go walking and to discover new places of interest.
The New Forest Show
This is an agricultural and craft show and makes a great family day out, with displays of animals, crafts, traditional country pursuits, local produce and plenty of entertainment for the whole family.
You can find more at the official web site for the New Forest Show.
The Village Of Burley
If you take a drive through The New Forest, chances are that you will come across the small village of Burley.
This seemingly insignificant location was once important, firstly over 2,500 years ago as being the site of Castle Hill, an Iron Age Hill Fort, the remains of which can still be seen, and later after the Norman Invasion, Burley Manor became the seat of Roger de Burley in 1212. He was recorded first as Lord of the Manor, and was followed in 1251 by Richard de Burley, then in 1316 by a second Richard de Burley.
Today Burley is a pleasant place to visit, with several pubs (my father used to play the organ at times in The Queens Head), and it is also well known in the New Forest area for it’s history of witches and smuggling.
Burley Photo Gallery
The village of Burley in The New Forest is one of a number of quaint locations that visitors shouldn’t miss.
The Witch Of Burley
A white witch known as Sybil Leek lived in Burley in the 1950s, and could often be seen in the village, dressed in a long black cloak, with a pet Jackdaw sitting on her shoulder. The locals did not as you might expect take too kindly to her presence, and she eventually moved to the USA, where she published more than 60 books about the occult and witchcraft.
She was quite a celebrity apparently, and was host to a number of notable figures of the time, including the author H.G. Wells, and reportedly Aleister Crowley.
Burley village has several gift shops that have a Witchcraft theme, and one of them is dedicated to her as well as being named by her.
If you drive through the village of Burley, don’t be surprised if you see wild horses or cows walking down the road. It’s all part of the fun of being in The New Forest.
The Burley Dragon
A 16th century manuscript that is preserved at Berkeley Castle records the tale of the Burley Dragon, which was reportedly killed by Sir Maurice Berkeley, who was the lord of nearby Bisterne Manor in the 15th century.
The dragon is described in this document as: “doing much mischief upon men and cattle, making his den near unto a Beacon. Sir Maurice Berkeley killed the dragon but died himself soon afterwards.”
Rather than being some mythical creature, it is thought that the dragon might have been a wild boar, a number of which inhabited the forest at that time, and these animals are known to cause havoc at times.
The Burley Dragon is mentioned several times in the historical novel “The Forest” by Edward Rutherfurd.
“The Forest” spans a thousands years of history in The New Forest, beginning with the lead up to the death of King William II (William Rufus) and taking us through numerous generations of families that lived throughout the forest area right up to the current period of time.
It’s a fascinating book, that describes people (both real and fictional), places and historical events in great detail, making you feel as if you were part of the history of this beautiful part of southern England.
These photos were taken on a walk through the heathland near to the village of Burley in The New Forest.
Did We See A Ghost?
The last weekend in November 2011 was gorgeous, the weather being unexpectedly warm and dry. So, we decided to take a drive into The New Forest and take a walk in the area around the village of Burley.
We stopped in The Queen’s Head pub for a bite of lunch after our walk, and I took a couple of photos of the food menus for Debbie to use on a web page that she was compiling about Pub Grub..
On returning home and downloading the photos, I spotted this unusual looking woman in one of the pictures, and yet I could swear that there was nobody there when I pressed the button on the camera.
The Queens Head in Burley is a nice pub in a great location in the village. If you are lucky, you might be sitting drinking a beer or having a bite to eat, when a herd of cattle come walking down the hill and past the pub, and very often you can see New Forest ponies wandering through as well. The pub has some good beers, and a nice food menu as well. Many moons ago (back in the 1960’s), my Dad used to play the keyboards there sometimes on a Saturday night.
Lyndhurst – The administrative centre of The New Forest
The village of Lyndhurst is located in the centre of The New Forest and is the administrative centre of the area, with the district council being based there.
Although this is the largest village in The New Forest, Lyndhurst is still barely large enough to qualify as a town. The population in 2001 was only 2,973 (according to Wikipedia), but despite that there is a lot to see in Lyndhurst, and it has a lot of history.
Lyndhurst dates back over 1,000 years, and was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “Linhest”. The name Lyndhurst is a corruption of the old English for “Wooded hill with lime trees”.
As well as having many wonderful old buildings, some of which have been converted into shops. A walk through the village is well worthwhile, to see the curio and gift shops, bakeries and places to eat, and the village hall often has things going on at the weekend, like antiques fairs etc.
The church of St. Michael and All Angels stands on top of a hill in Lyndhurst, and as well as having some intricate carvings, stained glass windows and frescos, it is the last resting place of Alice Liddell, who was the little girl who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice In Wonderland.
You can find out more about Lyndhurst from Wikipedia.
Photos Of Lyndhurst
Lyndhurst has some lovely old buildings. Many of those that are in the main street are now curio shops or places to eat. In recent years the link to Alice Liddle (the girl who Alice In Wonderland was written for) has been used to create tea rooms and gift shops with a connection to the story.
St. Michael & All Angels Church
This old church in Lyndhurst is where the real Alice In Wonderland is buried.
St. Michael & All Angels Church has some really nice intricate old carvings of the Saints inside the entrance.
Children Of The New Forest – A classic book by Frederick Marryat
Children Of The New Forest used to be a standard book that was read in schools in the UK.
The English Civil War and the battles between Parliament and Royalty is a topic that you rarely hear about these days.
Set during this period in the 1600’s, the book portrays life in The New Forest through the eyes of the children of Colonel Beverley, a Cavalier who died in battle fighting for King Charles I against the Roundheads let by Oliver Cromwell. When the king escapes and is believed to have hidden in the forest, the location where the children have been living becomes unsafe, and they quickly learn to take care of themselves as the adventures come thick and fast.
This is a book that I loved to read as a child. It’s one of the few novels that are set during the period of the English Civil War, and with much of the story taking place in the heart of the forest, a place that is close to my heart, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it.
Places To Visit In The New Forest
Beaulieu, which is an anglicised version of the latin Bellus Locus Regis or the beautiful place of the king is located on the Beaulieu River on the south side of the forest.
This is the ancestral home of Lord Montagu, whose home Beaulieu Abbey is open to the public. Here you can wander around the ruins of the old Cistercian abbey and Beaulieu Palace, as well as the landscaped grounds. You can also take boat rides down the Beaulieu River, and see the beauty of the area from a different perspective.
The abbey is also home to the National Motor Museum, which has numerous classic cars, including Donald Campbell’s “Bluebird”, which won the Land Speed Record in 1964. You can also find here Henry Seagrave’s “Golden Arrow”, a number of Formula One cars, the James Bond Collection, and Del Boy’s Reliant Regal from the sitcom Only Fools And Horses.
Motor fanatics can also enjoy other exhibitions at the National Motor Museum which include The World Of James Bond and The Top Gear Experience.
Go back in time and visit a historic naval dockyard from Nelson’s time.
The village of Bucklers Hard is situated 2 1/2 miles south of Beaulieu on the Beaulieu River, and back in the time of Horatio Nelson it was the site of one of England’s naval shipyards.
Among the ships that were built here were HMS Euryalus, HMS Swiftsure and HMS Agamemnon, all of which took part in the famous Battle Of Trafalgar in 1805, which saw the defeat of the French navy under Napoleon and saved England from the threat of invasion by the French.
Bucklers Hard, like almost every inlet on the south coast, was a departure point for troops on their day to Normandy in June 1944. It was also the starting and finishing point for Sir Francis Chichester’s successful attempt to be the first person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed in 1967.
The shipbuilding museum at Bucklers Hard has many models of ships of all kinds, as well as plans, and a wealth of information about the ships of Nelson’s time, and the role of the area in the D-Day landings in Normandy.
You can also take walks along the river, and boat rides up to Beaulieu and the National Motor Museum.
Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway
Exbury Gardens consists of over 200 acres of woodland garden, that is filled with rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, making it a highly popular place to visit when these are all in full bloom.
The garden is the legacy of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild, a member of the well known banking family, who purchased the estate in 1919, and set out to create an extensive garden.
Lionel was interested in horticulture from an early age, and his eagerness to develop a spectacular garden let to his building a railway to help transport the rocks needed for the rock garden. He also sponsored expeditions for the gathering of exotic plants and seeds to places as far away as The Himalayas.
After his death in 1942, his son Edmund took over the garden, and eventually created a charitable trust to ensure that the property would live on, as it has today.
The Steam Railway that exists today was created in 2000-2001, and was created as an additional attraction for visitors to the gardens. It has proved to be so popular that the original 0-6-2 locomotive was replaced in 2008n by a much larger 2-6-2 version, both of which were built by the Exmoor Steam Railway.
The Rufus Stone
The Rufus Stone marks the site where King William II (known as Rufus because of his red hair), the son of William The Conqueror, was reputedly killed after being hit by an arrow while hunting on 2nd August 1100AD.
Although the killer, Sir Walter Tyrrell, who was the king’s best archer, headed straight back to Normandy to avoid capture, no posse followed him, presumably because the king was a tyrant, and in many ways the people were relieved.
You can learn more about this incident and the Rufus Stone HERE.
I hope that you enjoyed this quick introduction to The New Forest.
We have been here many times, and every time there is something more to see and to learn about the area.
If you enjoyed this article, or have any updates, please leave us a comment.