As the crisp, cold air settles in across the heathland, it is the perfect opportunity to dig out the thermals and go out to explore the magic of the New Forest and witness the wildlife in all its glory. Winter may be cold, but it is also extremely beautiful. Admire the New Forest ponies as they graze on the white forest floor; stumble upon a herd of deer in hiding deep in the gorse; listen to the sweet songs played by the birds as you step on the crunching ground that has been protected for centuries and witness with your very own eyes as the mists hangs on the heather like a thick carpet.
The lack of roads and built up areas creates endless walks throughout the New Forest, granting you the space and solitude to get lost in your own thoughts without encountering a single soul. Thanks to the help of the Forestry Commission there are sign-posted gravel tracks, and with plenty of car parks along the routes, you can make your walk as long or short as you wish. There is simply nothing like wrapping up warm, embracing the winter elements, and enjoying a winter’s walk in the beauty of the New Forest. With around 143 miles of walking trails winding their way through a variety of breath-taking landscapes, here are our top suggestions to beat the January blues:
During these routes, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do. At Lepe, we suggest that you park at the side of the Solent and walk up to see the Lamas and the tiny steam trains. At Acres Down, their guided walks take groups close to the deer in the local sanctuary, whereas at Keyhaven Nature Reserve walkers can stop to watch the plentiful birdlife then take a short trip on the tiny ferry to historic Hurst Castle. All these walks are excellent for teaching children about nature and how the forest works.
Super-fit walkers could attempt the 34-mile Avon Valley Path from Salisbury to Christchurch Harbour. As its name suggests, this route follows the meanderings of the River Avon, passing through the lovely towns of Fordingbridge and Ringwood.
Dogs are allowed off the lead in the majority of the New Forest, although please avoid the ponies or wildlife to not to startle them, and most of the New Forest pubs welcome your four legged friends, so no one needs to miss out.
Please bear in mind to wear proper walking boots or wellies as many parts of the forest are wet at this time of year. Don’t forget your waterproofs and a spare jumper in case the weather turns. Those looking for a leisurely waymarked route should head along to one of the Forestry Commission car parks where a number of colour-coded routes will guide you through the enclosures. At this time of year the days are short, so don’t leave too late after lunch to start your walk unless you have a torch with you.
If you are looking for somewhere to retreat to after your winter walk, then our doors are always open and the fires are always lit. Why not warm up with a hot chocolate as you nestle in our glorious lounge and reflect on the wonders that you have encountered. You can always make a weekend of it.
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