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Summer travel tips and things to do in the New Forest

PUBLISHED: 11:58 13 May 2014 | UPDATED: 13:22 14 May 2014

Seasonal ranger with fallow antlers at the Bolderwood deer viewing platform. New Forest. © Forestry Commission

Seasonal ranger with fallow antlers at the Bolderwood deer viewing platform. New Forest. © Forestry Commission

ISOBEL CAMERON

It’s not surprising over 13 million people visit the New Forest National Park every year when there is so much to do. Natalie French highlights the top things to try this summer

Brockenhurst cyclexBrockenhurst cyclex

Local food and farming markets

Mooch around mouth-watering markets at various locations and sample the finest, seasonal local produce direct from farmers and small holders of the New Forest. Each market offers its own unique experience and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to fill your basket with speciality cheeses, freshly baked breads, honey, cakes, eggs, local game, pork and lots more goodies.

Find out more: Weekend markets take place at Lyndhurst, Beaulieu, Plaitford, Everton and Fordingbridge. Visit: www.newforestnpa.gov.uk – for full details of dates, times and venues.

Hurst Castle

History buffs will love a visit to Hurst Castle. Built on the orders of Henry VIII in 1544, the castle was used to defend the western approach to the Solent, and also became the prison for Charles I in 1648 before he was taken to Whitehall to be beheaded. Situated at the seaward end of the shingle spit that extends from Milford-On-Sea, the views from the top of the centre keep are awe-inspiring. Particularly as the Isle of Wight is just a stone-skimming three quarters of a mile away. Visitors can also enjoy exhibits and exhibitions including the Garrison Theatre, the Trinity House lighthouse exhibition and the Association of Lighthouse Keepers’ display room. There’s also a small cafe in the castle grounds.

Find out more: Open daily from April – September, 10.30am – 5.30pm Entry: Adults £4.50, Child £2.60– friendly dogs on leads are also welcome. Visit: www.hurst-castle.co.uk or telephone 01590 642344.

Saddle up

The ultimate way to explore the 94,000 acres of the New Forest is on four legs. Ride amongst the 4,000 wild roaming ponies, gallop through leafy glades and trot on dedicated gravel tracks. Find out more: There are many riding schools in the area- one of which is Burley Villa Riding School who offer a holiday hacks for beginners for £39.

Bolderwood deer sanctuary

Between April and September, the best place for deer-spotting in the New Forest is at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary. Every day between 1.30pm to 2.30pm, a herd of fallow deer regularly gather in the large meadow to be fed by the local keeper. Step onto the purpose built viewing platform and keep an eye out for several rare white fallow deer- a great spot for animal lovers and budding photographers alike. Find out more: Bolderwood deer sanctuary is located at the northern end of Bolderwood Drive off the A35, approximately three miles west of Lyndhurst.

On your bike

Get on your bike and whiz along over 100 miles of traffic-free, well-defined forest tracks winding through the heart of the National Park. Pass quaint villages and rugged heath land whilst soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. With routes available for all fitness levels and abilities, both family adventurers and pedal-pumping adrenaline seekers will be happy. If you don’t have your own wheels, Cyclexperience based at Brockenhurst station can provide Mountain bikes from £16 per day or from £6 per day for children. If you want a little help getting up the hills, why not opt for an Electric bike from £25 per day. And old romantics will love a bicycle made for two for £29 per day.

Find out more: Safety helmets, route maps, rucksack with toolkit are all included in the above prices. www.newforestcyclehire.co.uk

Go fly a kite

Kite-flying is one of life’s simple pleasures. Grab your recreational kite and enjoy the freedom of one of the New Forest’s many open spaces, or if you’re feeling adventurous, make the most of the South Coast winds and try kite surfing at Lepe Country Park’s mile-long beach.

Find out more: Power and traction kites over two metres are not permitted in the Forest, but small recreational kites are welcome. Consideration must be given for forest wildlife and other visitors. At Lepe, a lawn and tap beside the café is provided for rigging up, with a car park crossing point. Beware, there are strong tides and winds. www3.hants.gov.uk/countryside/lepe.htm

Otters and owls

Covering 25 scenic acres, the New Forest Wildlife Park houses a wonderful mix of animals. Wander around the grounds to see three species of river otters, 12 species of owl and the European wolf enclosure. A number of other indigenous species also call the park home including badgers, foxes, deer, polecats, mink, pine martens, lynx, wallaby, wild-boar, bison and the highly endangered Scottish wildcat. Conservation is high on the agenda and the park works closely with the RSPCA and other county wildlife trusts to rescue and rehabilitate injured animals - last year it took in over 15 otters alone.

Find out more: Open every day in spring and summer, 10.00am – 5.30pm, last advised entry 4.30pm, £10.50 adults, £7.50 children - www.newforestwildlifepark.co.uk

Walk with giants

Stride amongst the Olympians of the tree world on the Tall Trees Trail in Blackwater. Planted in the late 1850s, today you can marvel at some of tallest and oldest trees in Britain, including giant redwoods and Douglas fir trees. Stroll along the smooth gravel path in awe of these majestic giants and make sure you pack a picnic as there are plenty of spots to rest up.Regulars will be happy to hear that the Tall Trees Trail will be fully re-opened from Easter Weekend, after an outbreak of Phytophthora ramorum, a tree disease, had closed half the trail for some time.

Find out more: The Tall Tree Trail can be started at Blackwater or Brock Hill car parks. Go under the oak archway, cross the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and the start of the trail is up the gravel track.

New Forest local producers’ markets

Mooch around mouth-watering markets at various locations and sample the finest, seasonal local produce direct from farmers and small holders of the New Forest. Each market offers its own unique experience and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to fill your basket with speciality cheeses, freshly baked breads, honey, cakes, eggs, local game, pork and lots more goodies.

Find out more: Weekend markets take place at Lyndhurst, Beaulieu, Plaitford, Everton and Fordingbridge. Visit: www.newforestnpa.gov.uk – for full details of dates, times and venues.

Happy Camping

The best way to blow away the cobwebs of everyday life is to grab your tent and sleep out under the stars in the heart of this ancient English Forest. The New Forest is the perfect campers’ paradise, offering a range of sites for all tastes and budgets. Whether you want a low key secret hideaway or a fully-equipped holiday park – the New Forest will happily oblige. Glampers (glamorous campers) can opt for luxury forest lodges, whilst adventurers can hire a classic VW campervan. However you choose to camp, you are guaranteed to wake up in beautiful countryside, where your only neighbours will be the inquisitive ponies!

Find out more: For more information on the New Forest’s vast range of campsites visit - www.thenewforest.co.uk/accommodation/new-forest-camping

Did you know?

-The New Forest is the smallest National Park in The UK

-The New Forest is the only place in Britain where wild gladiolus grow

-The New Forest is home to the UK’s largest breeding population of the rare Dartford Warbler

-The Isle of Wight became separated from what is now the New Forest just 9,000 years ago. Evidence of fire pits have been found beneath the Solent, indicating that people were living beside it as a river, before it became a saltwater channel.

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