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The New Forest National Park represents the largest area of unsown vegetation in lowland Britain. Due to this, walks in the New Forest take the intrepid on an adventure amongst some of the rarest and most dazzling wildlife found on these shores.
This expansive patchwork of ancient forest, wild open heathland and secretive coastline is surprisingly accessible, sandwiched between the port cities of Southampton and Bournemouth and less than two hours from London.
Feel tiny as you ramble underneath enormous redwoods or alongside one-thousand-year-old yew trees. Breathe in the sea air along the shingle beaches and salt marshes of the coast, with gorgeous views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. Or stride out across vast, open heathland in the company of wild New Forest ponies and fallow deer. Hikes in the New Forest replenish the soul and reset perspectives.
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Undoubtedly some of the best hiking trails in the New Forest are those dominated by the mighty oaks, beeches and yews. The national park has over 1,000 ancient trees, believed to be the highest concentration in Western Europe. Get up close to some of the toughest, heaviest and tallest trees in the World in one of the park’s arboretums.
Follow the trickle of glistening streams or find peace in one of the many tranquil glades. Wherever your boots take you, unique wildlife can be found around every corner, such as the many protected and eye-catching species of fungi the forest has to offer. Study closely, but make sure you do not pick them.
It is worth noting that between March and the end of July it is important to stick to the main trails, as ground-nesting birds, such as the snipe, curlew and redshank need to rear their young safely during this time. Trails that are out of bounds should be signposted.
Don’t let its name mislead you, there’s more to hikes in the New Forest than mesmerising woodland. It also contains the most extensive area of open heathland remaining in Europe. This makes it a unique and important habitat for many rare species. Unusual insect species are found here and only here, such as the southern damselfly and the large marsh grasshopper.
Amongst the gorse, bracken, heather and purple moor grass slither all three native species of snake to the UK, and in good numbers. Only the adder is poisonous, but it is generally not dangerous to humans. As you stride under the open sky, you will share the trails with ponies, cattle, donkeys and deer – all free to roam the national park.
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