There are not many places in the country where you can witness wild horses roam through protected woodland, rolling Hampshire hills and coastline. But there is The New Forest. As far as national parks go, the New Forest takes some beating.
Don’t let the fact that it’s the smallest national park in the country fool you! There’s plenty to do by way of activities and historical site touring.
Here’s a round-up of our favourite hidden gems.
Visit the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary
Hidden in the heart of the New Forest is a wooded area with a purpose-built platform overlooking a meadow.
Between April and September, this is where fallow deer gather for daily feedings by the forest keeper. It’s a perfect opportunity for the kids to see these elegant (and normally timid) animals up close.
There are over 700 species of wildflower to spot in the New Forest as well as five types of deer and 13 native species of British bat.
A large local car park and public toilets nearby make it an excellent picnic pitstop too.
Walk on the set of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
What better place to shoot one of the most famous fictitious woods in the world, Sherwood Forest, than here?
One of the first Hollywood productions to be shot in The New Forest was the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. While other sets in the film included Hadrian’s Wall and Alnwick castle, there are several scenes between Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman galloping through the woods on horseback.
Head to Fritham and their tracks can be followed on foot in what is now a scenic 4.5-mile walk which ties up with the nearby campsite.
Take a trip back in time and touch the Rufus Stone
Not quite so much a hidden gem, the Rufus Stone is the most visited site in the New Forest. But don’t let that put you off! You won’t find crowds gathered here around this very unusual, unassuming monument.
The site in Canterton, just southeast of Fritham off the A31, marks the (alleged) spot where the son and heir of William the Conqueror was killed by an arrow. However, there is some historical debate as to how the tale unfolded. And whether the king was killed or murdered.
In 1100, King William Rufus and his team of noblemen were hunting deer and wild boar in the forest. One story says Frenchman Sir Walter Tyrell, one of the king’s finest archers, shot an arrow at a stag, which ricocheted off a nearby oak tree into William Rufus’ chest, promptly killing him. By all accounts, William Rufus was an unpopular king.
Other versions depict Sir Walter Tyrell as a villain with Norman political ambition, who wanted to see the King removed from the throne. Legend has it that after William was slain, Tyrell hot-footed back to Normandy, but stopped at a blacksmith on the way to have his horse’s shoes reshod backwards to disorientate the chasers!
Fast forward to 1745, a very stone simple monument was erected to honour the king, in the place of the historic oak. The Rufus Stone was renewed in 1845 with cast iron sides to preserve the life of the stone.
Explore the stunning Beaulieu River by kayak or canoe
Price: £39.50 per person, £37 when you book four or more.
Further down near Lyndhurst is one of the most picturesque marinas on the south coast, Buckler’s Hard Yacht Harbour.
The marina and berthing yard open on to the magnificent Beaulieu river.
It’s one of the few privately owned rivers in the world and is kept in immaculate condition throughout the year.
Visiting Beaulieu River is an absolute must, the only thing you have to decide is whether to tackle it on kayak or canoe.
As the river undulates through the rolling fields, you’ll have the chance to spot even more wildlife, including wild bird species that can only be found in the area. Woodland streams are home to brightly coloured Mandarin ducks as well as a breeding population of Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail.
Kayak and canoe tours are available for the more advanced and adventurous. Note, children must be 12 years or over to hire a kayak or canoe hire and accompanied by an adult.
Tour through open heathland on horseback
Horses and ponies are a fundamental aspect of the New Forest’s culture and heritage. What better way to explore the national park than with the creatures that know it best!
Whether you’re a complete horse-riding beginner or Pippa Funnell, everyone can take part in the magical experience of a horseback tour through the open heathland.
There are plenty of stables to choose from, all with similar offerings. Most guided tours last around two hours and are the perfect way to spend an afternoon in the sunshine.
If you would like to find out more about places to stay in the New Forest and for prices, get in touch with a friendly Camel Collection rep today.
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