Winter Walking and Wildlife in the UK’s New Forest

If you’re seeking an outdoor escape, then a walk through the New Forest in the UK could be the answer. At a time of year when everything seems to be masked with snow, the forest scenery takes on a mysterious and haunting beauty all its own. Visually stunning, the New Forest covers a huge area, taking in the southwest of Hampshire and parts of Wiltshire and Dorset.

The New Forest is home to diverse and rare wildlife, which, as a taster, includes Britain’s only native cicada and Southern damselfly – a species seldom seen in the UK.

Winter in New Forest

Featured Walks In New Forest

For those keen on exercise, there are plenty of great walks no matter what the season. And with very few restrictions and gentle terrain, the choices are yours.

Also, the New Forest is literally a naturalist’s paradise. A massive variety of wildlife can be found in this unique eco-system. The area is home to at least five deer species – including the elusive Muntjac or barking deer, and at least 100 bird species.

You might see polecats and otters, though not quite as common, as well as badgers and foxes. Large numbers of orchids and other rare plants are also present. You could say the New Forest has something for everyone.

Here are a few featured walks throughout the New Forest in the UK.

Read More: A New Found Passion: Wildlife Tracking & Identification

Acres Down

Acres Down is one of the shorter walks at about 2.5 miles (4 km). This circular route is generally gravel track with gradual slopes, making it a hike that can be completed around an hour.

Don’t be surprised to see New Forest ponies wandering around on your journey, and keep an eye out for the European Honey Buzzard – a species rarely seen elsewhere. For those keen on pub lunches in a traditional setting, The Trusty Servant in the village of Minstead is an ideal stopping point.

Matley Wood Walk

For an all in one tour of the area, try the walk from the Matley campsite. East of Lyndhurst – known locally as the “Capital of the New Forest” – the walk will last for a few hours. T

Stroll through virtually all the different types of New Forest woodland, open heath, and marshland. Covering around 4 miles (6.4 km), you’ll be treated to some beautiful and diverse scenery. Also, you’re not far from the Beaulieu Hotel – if you want to stop for lunch.

Ashley Walk

One of the New Forest’s more popular hikes is the Ashley Walk. It starts and finishes near Godshill on the National Park’s western escarpment. This quaint settlement dating from the 18th century is a working Forest village with several thatched cottages.

The walk takes you near the remnants of the Ashley Bombing Range – dating from World War II. With a distance of almost 6 miles (9.6 km), Ashley Walk can be completed in three hours. On your stroll, you’ll see plenty of different woodlands and open heath along the way.

New Forest snow

Wilverly Inclosure

Wilverley Inclosure, in the southwestern part of the New Forest, is another popular area. The Wilverley Wander Trail is about 2.5 miles (4 km).  In this largely wooded area, you’ll find the terrain underfoot generally smooth but somewhat hilly in parts. Plus, keep an eye open for wildlife.

Fritham Walk

The Fritham Walk is ideal for deer spotting, but be aware that it’s the rutting season and not the best of times to get too close with the camera in early October. The walk runs for just over 4 miles (6.4 km), so you’ll want to allow at least a two-hour window to complete it.

Also, the walk is located near the Royal Oak. What better way to round off your day’s walk than by visiting one of many New Forest pubs, including the Royal Oak in Fritham. With its thatched roof, this unique pub is one of the New Forest’s smallest and oldest pubs dating back to the 17th century.

Holm Hill

Holm Hill – despite its name – is a relatively flat walk of around 3 miles (4.8 km). After starting from the car park in Whitefield Moor, the walk travels through open heath with some superb views in all directions.

The walk is ideal for families and quite easy-going underfoot. If you’re lucky, you may see elusive Red and Fallow deer in the undergrowth as well as squirrels and rabbits. For lunch, there are several pubs nearby, including the stately Rhinefield House Hotel, which you’ll see during the walk.

Health Walks

For those keen to experience a more sociable hike (following COVID restrictions), the New Forest – like several other parts of England – offers Health Walks. These are free, regular guided walks open to all age groups lasting between 30 and 90 minutes.

No special requirements are needed, other than suitable outer clothing and sturdy footwear, and the benefits to your health are long-lasting. Led by a trained leader, you’ll be in good company as you explore the New Forest scenery en masse.

Explore The New Forest

The New Forest in the UK is an ancient and ornamental woodland,  with widely diverse wildlife. The freedom to ramble is what makes the New Forest a first among tourists. It covers a huge 285 square miles – including its National Park – and is home to some of the oldest oak trees in Britain. Why not mark it off on your “to do” list.

What are some of your favorite winter walks in the New Forest? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

This article was originally published on Dec 21, 2014, and was updated on Dec 24, 2020, to include new information.

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Tips & Tricks for Cold Weather Backpacking & Winter Camping

About the author

Nigel Boney

I started writing for Northwest.com in 2010, with 37 articles published. I have strong links with the Pacific Northwest. UK based, I also wrote for Mobbly News Written by You - 73 articles mainly under showbiz & entertainment. Recently I published on MusicVita. I have a Diploma in freelance journalism and I'm currently writing on Blasting News US.

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