Area Guides

Days Out For Animal Lovers In The New Forest

The New Forest is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and one which boasts an abundance of wildlife, making our National Park a dream come true for all animal lovers.

Throughout our National Park you needn’t wander very far to spot our wonderful animals, in fact, the New Forest is the largest lowland area of its kind remaining in the UK or Western Europe, and so we want to share a few nearby places you can venture to during your New Forest break to spot some of our favourites.

If it’s the ponies you’re here for, there are plenty to find. Following an ancient practice that still stands today, much of the New Forest land is still owned by the Crown and now managed by the Forestry Commission; verderers, agisters and commoners work hard to protect the heathlands and woodlands that are home to the wildlife and their roaming ponies, cattle, and donkeys.

Many visitors are surprised and charmed by the roaming ponies and donkeys (seemingly) queuing at the village shops, or the snuffling pannage pigs that forage for acorns in the autumn. Visitors are often amazed that you can get so close to the elegant wandering deer or spot such an array of rare birds just steps from the hotel, from where they sing wholeheartedly to their forest home.

There are many walks to find on our doorstep but one to note is the gentle 5-mile circular walk from our village of Brockenhurst taking in surrounding heathland and woodland and a very high chance of walking past roaming ponies and commoners’ cattle.

To glimpse endangered species up close, a visit to the New Forest Wildlife Park will support their passion for conservation, rehabilitation, and captive breeding programmes to ensure mammals on the ‘red list,’ like the giant otter, are protected and successfully returned to the wild.

Perhaps though it is a walk with deer-spotting that’s at the top of your list; go no further than Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary for the chance to watch and admire the beautiful fallow and roe deer, just 7 miles from our Hampshire hotel. Find this peaceful spot along Ornamental Drive where you can park for free and enjoy several short walks around the woodland or head straight to the lookout. The purpose-built wooden platform is the best place to see the New Forest deer roaming in the meadow. It’s not guaranteed that you will spot deer but you have a great chance as the herd is fed daily by a local New Forest keeper. This is usually sometime between midday and 3pm. From here you can also venture off to explore more of the forest and extend your walk should you want to work up your appetite for dinner.

Did you know that our National Park is a Special Protection Area for Birds? It’s a safe haven for some rare and endangered species including the Dartford warbler, nightjar, woodlark, redshank, lapwing, and curlew. At the south side of Beaulieu Heath at the edge of the woodland at dusk it’s possible to spot the hawk-like flights of the nightjar as it swoops and dives for moths.

For larger species, you can visit the Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre in nearby Ringwood to see their impressive birds of prey. The centre runs successful breeding programmes to support some of the world’s most endangered species, as well as the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured wild birds of prey.

With the highest possible conservation status and legal protection, our National Park is teeming with life and diverse flora and fauna. We implore you to simply get out there during your New Forest break, to cycle, run or walk just some of the miles of woodland, heathland (or bog) where you might just find some of our best known and lesser-known species.

A picnic is the perfect reason to go exploring and find a peaceful spot of your own to listen and look out for some truly wonderful creatures.

Balance relaxation and exploration on your break, spend a morning wandering with our New Forest animals then retreat to SenSpa for some well-needed rejuvenation – you can be an animal-lover and a spa-goer after all.