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As one of the main villages in the New Forest National Park and surrounded on all sides by countryside, there are plenty of options for walks from Brockenhurst. Will you hike west through the woods to historic Beaulieu or perhaps east across open heath to Wilverley Plain? No matter where you go in this royal forest, your thighs will thank you because it doesn’t have much in the way of hills.
The New Forest is the stuff of watercolour paintings. Brockenhurst’s hikes immediately take you into beautiful open plains, forested enclosures and past quaint thatched cottages. Walking trails are a mix of surfaces from gravel tracks and dirt paths to quiet lanes.
The village itself hasn’t changed much in decades, with several thriving pubs, cafes and tearooms. There are a few impressive hotels and lovely campsites on the outskirts for accomodation. Brockenhurst’s large college keeps the village youthful and it has everything you need to start exploring the area.
The trails here seem almost endless so pick one to begin and let the path lead.
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The New Forest has only been a designated National Park since 2005 but its 219 square miles (566 km2) have been protected for almost 1,000 years. William the Conqueror proclaimed this beautiful area a royal forest in 1079 and used it as his personal hunting grounds. With the exception of royals riding around with bows, not much has changed since.
The king created laws within the forest that gave him alone the right to hunt but endowed the existing population the rights to pasture. As the New Forest is a vast area of unenclosed pasture and open forest, the inhabitants, called Commoners, could let their livestock roam freely. This right remains today, passing with the sale of specific plots of land. Thanks to this extraordinary history, you’re almost guaranteed to see grazing animals on your walks from Brockenhurst.
The park is well known for its magnificent trees as well. Within easy reach of the village, you can explore the rare trees in the Blackwater Arboretum where redwoods tower over you. Some of the best hiking trails around Brockenhurst will take you through beech, oak and pine forests, important habitats for the park’s many animals.
Possibly the most famous resident of the national park is the New Forest pony. This native pony breed can be found grazing in much of the park throughout the year. Strong and hardy, the ponies seem wild but every single one is owned by a Commoner. They spend most of their time happily munching away, taking no notice of walkers. It’s wise to stay back though as they get irritated by too much attention. You also shouldn’t feed them, even if they look interested at the contents of your lunchbox.
If you head off on hikes from Brockenhurst during the autumn, you might spot pigs snuffling along through the fallen leaves. These amusing creatures roam freely for 60 days each autumn, hoovering up the acorns which can be poisonous for cattle and ponies.
Cows also graze the forest and Brockenhurst is a particular hotspot for fluffy Highland Cattle. These gentle giants have huge horns but take little notice as you walk on by. If you walk near Beaulieu, you’ll most likely see some of the resident donkeys who have a habit of standing idly in the middle of the road.
Walking in the New Forest gives you huge freedom to explore wherever the fancy takes you. You can admire the trees, catch glimpses of deer and replenish your energy at one of the many pubs in the area. No wonder ol’ King William wanted it for himself.
Explore more of New Forest: Browse the best Hikes in other regions.