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20 ways to enjoy wildlife in Hampshire

PUBLISHED: 10:42 25 July 2017 | UPDATED: 11:15 25 July 2017

Riding in the New Forest

Riding in the New Forest


Our great county is teeming with wildlife and open spaces, so there are plenty of ways to get back to nature, on land or at sea. Claire Pitcher comes up with some suggestions for all the family as the school holidays draw near

1. Take the plunge

Try wild swimming at Compton Lock near Twyford. The lock is located in a beautiful spot on the River Itchen, three miles south of Winchester. Once a lock on the old Itchen Navigation, it’s now the perfect place for a summer swim. Even the Parish Council have acknowledged its wild swim credentials by building wooden steps to allow access to the lock. 

2. Meet the penguins

Marwell Zoo is a wild day out anytime, but how about an up close penguin experience? Go behind the scenes at Penguin Cove to prepare their food and feed them fish. This 30-minute, face-to-face experience costs £100, which includes zoo entry.

Call 01962 777988 or email

3. Walk with Alpacas

In Otterbourne you can get up close to Alpacas, hear them hum to each other, feel how soft their fleece is and look into their big brown eyes. A two-hour walk with them sees you explore the 12 acres of grasslands alongside the Itchen Navigation. It costs £29.95 for two people to walk with one of these lovely animals.

Book online at

4. Animal antics

This 25-acre park boasts 12 owl species, a European wolf enclosure, Scottish Wildcat, Bison, free-roaming deer. You must and the endangered Amazonian Giant Otters.

For opening times and prices go to

5. Snake Walks

Take a two-and-a-half-hour guided walk in the New Forest led by an ecologist. This is a rare chance to find, identify and even handle snakes in the wild. Suitable for everyone capable of walking 1km.

£15 children, £20 adults. See

6. Learn to survive

New Forest Activities can teach all you need to know about building shelters, creating signals and warmth and finding water and food on their bushcraft day course. Head into the woodlands of Beaulieu Estate and be taught the skills to survive by experienced instructors.


7. Monkey business

There’s a Go Ape at Moors Valley Country Park near Ringwood and Itchen Valley. Young and old can fly down zip-wires, leap off the Tarzan swing and tackle treetop obstacles. For ground-based activities, try a Segway experience.

Book online at

8. Farm fun

Longdown Activity Park in Ashurst is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Take the whole family along to see goats, pigs, poultry and Alpacas.


9. Under the sea

At Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth you can go on a journey through local waters, home to native sharks, ray fish and dogfish. Then explore the exotic, such as the octopus with its three hearts and blue blood, or the black tip reef shark, as you swim through over 40 displays.


10. Raptors & reptiles

At Libertys Owl Raptor and Reptile Centre you can see an Alaskan Bald Eagle, vultures, hawks, falcons and owls. There is a reptile show in the summer holidays, where kids can get up close to lizards, snakes and spiders.

Find out more at

11. Deer are all white

You may or may not be able to spot a deer at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary near Lyndhurst, but the keeper feeds the herd daily between April and September. The majority of deer remain in the main meadow and are accustomed to observers. Some are white, an uncommon colour for fallow deer but it makes them easy to spot.

Call 02380 283141.

12. Fly on over

From owls, to vultures, eagles to red kites, the Hawk Conservancy near Andover is a treat for bird lovers, with some amazing flying demonstrations; there are bird hides, donkeys, ferret racing and coffee shop and restaurant.

Book at

13. Horse play

Set within the grounds of Burley Manor Hotel, Burley Manor Riding Stables welcomes riders aged over four to give riding a go on one or two hour rides. The hack surrounds are peaceful and scenic with wild ponies and other wildlife to enrich the experience.

To book, visit

14. Creepy crawlies

The New Forest Reptile Centre near Lyndhurst is the place to go for all things slithery and scaly. You can see all of Britain’s reptiles in one place, such as adders, smooth snakes, lizards and toads. Take the one-and-a-half-mile walk on the reptile trail while you’re there. Entry is free from 10am to 4.30pm.

15. Pony tales

Go ‘Wild About Ponies’ at a free information session about the ponies of the New Forest on Thursday, August 17, 1pm to 2pm, meeting at Hatchet Pond car park.

16. The high seas

If you want a wild ride around the Solent, sign up a for a RIB ride from the quayside in Keyhaven. For a more gentle option go aboard the Solent Rose for a trip to Yarmouth Harbour. Spot some of the wonderful bird life around Keyhaven on your way.

See for more details.

17. Climbing high

The Big Tree Climbing Company will be at The Vyne near Basingstoke throughout the summer. Visitors aged six and over can learn to climb a tree in a harness. Each hour-long session will be run by three experienced instructors. Booking is essential on 0800 0556760. Dates include July 1 and 28, August 11 and 25 and September 23.

18. Festival fever

The family-friendly Stay Wild Festival takes place in Itchen Country Park on September 9-10. It is a wilderness living skills, bushcraft and outdoor festival set in 440 acres of water meadows and woodland that, for the past four years, have been recognised by the award of a Green Flag.

Book tickets online at

19. Go on a safari

A deer safari at Burley Park, to be precise. They have a herd of Red Deer, but on occasion they’re visited by rarer Fallow Deer. Jump on the tractor to offer them treats like strawberries, raspberries and sweetcorn. Deer Safaris run frequently from midday through the summer holiday. There’s no need to book.

Find out more at

20. Deadly heathlands

It takes some special species to survive in the unique habitat of our heathlands. There’s an exploration of RSPB Pulborough Brooks on August 6 from 2pm to 4pm where you can look at some of the heathland superheroes and their special powers for survival.

It’s free, but email to register interest.

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