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Best Walks In The New Forest | 10 Mapped Routes

Though it boasts some spectacular woodland wanders, this national park also has plenty more to offer, as outdoor writer Matt Jones reveals

It can be tricky to find much in the way of wilderness in Southern England, but the sprawling New Forest is about as close as you can get. Of course, it is also a living, working landscape, so we can’t guarantee splendid isolation, but what we can promise is an enthralling mix of heathland, grassland, dense plantation and broadleaf forest, intersected by sparkling rivers, streams and brooks. The area also boasts several quiet villages and even a 40-mile stretch of little-known coastline. It’s all a haven for woodland wanderers and wildlife watchers alike, since this diverse landscape is home to myriad species of rare plants, insects, birds and mammals, including five different species of deer and of course the famous New Forest pony.

Walking In The New Forest: What To Expect

The unique character of the New Forest National Park is what makes it special, and it has long been protected. Its singular status dates from the 11th century, when it was first proclaimed a royal forest by William the Conqueror – essentially a hunting ground, or ‘harbour for Wild-beasts for his Game’, as 17th-century mapmaker and publisher Richard Blome eloquently put it. Perhaps surprisingly, the New Forest was only designated as a National Park in 2005, but today it is a popular draw for hikers, bikers and ramblers. That, at least, is no surprise, since the 580 square kilometres (223.9 square miles) of land that lie within the national park boundaries are criss-crossed with a series of invigorating trails.

As part of our latest collaboration with route planning app komoot to help them champion some of the best walking routes in the UK, we’ve whittled down our top 10 favourites in the New Forest. Don’t forget to also check out our guides to the Best Walks Near London, the Finest Walks in the Peak District, the Finest Walks in the Lake District, the Finest Walks in the Brecon Beacons and the Finest Walks in Snowdonia.

New to komoot? For a free regional bundle (worth £8.99) simply follow this link to komoot.com and create your free account today.

Best Walks In The New Forest: The Top 10

  1. Hythe to Lymington on the Solent Way
  2. The Castleman’s Corkscrew
  3. Keyhaven Marshes from Lymington
  4. Avon Valley Walk
  5. Bolderwood from Emery Down
  6. Beachernwood and the Tall Trees
  7. Fritham circular
  8. Frogham and the Hampton Ridge
  9. Calshot Spit
  10. Cadnam to Minstead

 

Walk 1: Hythe to Lymington on the Solent Way

The 60-mile Solent Way hugs much of the Hampshire coast from Milford on Sea to Emsworth Harbour. This stretch from Hythe to Lymington heads through the New Forest, taking you up to the coast but also through beautiful stretches of woodland. From the pretty town of Hythe, leave the coast behind as you head inland and into the woods. You’ll head through fields before reaching the moors, with far-reaching views and New Forest ponies aplenty. Cross the River Beaulieu into the village, which has attractive historic buildings along the High Street and views across to the Palace House. You’ll follow the river out of Beaulieu, before delving back into the woods, occasionally glimpsing views of the coast when the trees thin out. The end point of the walk is the lovely waterside town of Lymington.

Matt Says: “If you start this walk from Southampton, you can catch the ferry across the Solent to land at Hythe Pier. Then it’s worth boarding the oldest pier train in the world, which still runs the length of the pier”.

 

Walk 2: The Castleman’s Corkscrew

This short walk takes you from the charming village of Burley out along open heathland and over Holmsley Bog before reaching the Castleman’s Corkscrew, a dismantled railway line which was built to link Southampton to Dorchester in the mid-19th century. You’ll follow the route of the track west, before heading across open heathland once again to pass by Slap Bottom (yes, really), a Bronze Age burial mound found just off the path. After heading up and over Slap and Shappen Hill, you’ll walk through ancient woodland before returning to Burley.

Matt Says: “The railway was a victim of the infamous Beeching cuts, and now offers a great walk along its course, where you can see disused level crossing posts and the remains of railway crossing keeper’s cottages”.

 

Walk 3: Keyhaven Marshes from Lymington

Follow the Solent Way out of Lymington, past the boats bobbing in the marina. Hugging the coastline, you’ll soon come to Lymington and Keyhaven Nature Reserve. The mudflats and salt marsh here give you the chance to spot a whole host of wading birds. The views on this route are pretty spectacular too; you can look out across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. On a clear day you’ll be able to spot the famous Needles. You’ll enjoy a big loop around the marshes, giving plenty of wildlife spotting possibilities, before heading back into Lymington.

Matt Says: “This makes a great winter walk for birdwatchers, as the mudflats and salt marshes are often teeming with wading species including curlew and redshank plus dabbling ducks like the wigeon”.

 

Walk 4: Avon Valley Path

From the beautiful cathedral city of Salisbury, this long, winding route follows the course of the River Avon through the New Forest and on to Christchurch Priory. You’ll wander through water meadows, across high chalk downland and through picturesque villages, passing mills, churches and delightful village pubs. There’s an abundance of wildlife to look out for on the route, from the famous New Forest ponies to kingfishers and otters. The birdlife is spectacular too, as the valley is of national importance, particularly for overwintering wildfowl such as lapwing, golden plover and white-fronted geese.

Matt Says: “Although this 34-mile route isn’t exclusively in the New Forest, it spends plenty of time within the national park and is a delightful option if you’re looking for a good two-day weekend walk”.

 

Walk 5: Bolderwood from Emery Down

From the New Forest Inn in Emery Down this route takes you across Acres Down, with beautiful views out across the heathland, before visiting the striking Portuguese Fireplace, which marks the site of a hutted camp occupied by a Portuguese army unit during the First World War. You’ll pass the New Forest Reptile Centre, before visiting the Knightwood Oak, said to be the largest oak tree in the New Forest, before walking through the Knightwood, Anderwood and North Oakley Inclosures to reach Bolderwood Grounds and the famous deer sanctuary. You’ll enjoy a stretch on the Bolderwood Arboretum Ornamental Drive before weaving your way through delightful woodland inclosures and heading back to the pub.

Matt Says: “Be sure to stop at the deer viewing platform en route, which is the perfect place to look out for fallow, roe, sika and red deer. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a muntjac.”

 

Walk 6: Beachernwood and the Tall Trees

Rhinefield Ornamental Drive is perhaps one of the most impressive areas in the New Forest, containing remarkable firs and towering redwoods that were planted in the 1850s and now form the Tall Trees Trail. Along this loop you’ll visit the biggest trees in the New Forest, commonly known as the Wellingtonia coast redwood. You’ll then walk around the atmospheric Blackwater Arboretum which is full of interesting trees. Other highlights on this loop from near Brockenhurst include a tranquil stretch following the beautiful Fletchers Water and the final stretch across Whitefield Moor, which has stunning views out across the open heathland.

Matt Says: “You can’t put together a list of New Forest walks without including a good woodland wander, and this route is a dendrologist’s dream, with towering tall trees.”

 

Walk 7: Fritham circular

This route is full of heritage. The history lesson begins right at the start, where there is an information panel telling you about a black metal post box. This post box used to serve the Schultze Gunpowder Factory, which operated nearby from the 1860s until the early 20th century. You’ll pass the picturesque Eyeworth Pond, which was created by damming a brook so that the gunpowder factory had access to water. You’ll enjoy stretches through pretty woodland, and roam over expanses of open heath, and just before you reach Amberwood Inclosure you’ll find a small brick building, a former World War II observation shelter. There’s another interpretation board here, which tells you all about the bombing range that used to exist on the heath. From here you’ll turn back towards the historic Royal Oak pub for a welcome pint.

Matt Says: “As far as I’m concerned, a good countryside ramble should always end at a cosy pub. This walk boasts one of the New Forest’s most charming inns, the 17th century Royal Oak. It’s small but perfectly formed, packed with character and well worth a visit”.

 

Walk 8: Frogham and the Hampton Ridge

From the attractive village of Frogham, this route takes you up onto the Hampton Ridge, a stunning sandy scarp which connects Frogham to Fritham. After an enjoyable stretch on the ridge you’ll head out onto the spur of Pitchers Knowle before dropping down into the trees of the Alderhill Inclosure. You’ll then loosely follow the course of the Latchmoor Brook as you head back towards Frogham. It’s well worth making time to visit the Forester Arms once you’re back in the village, which is known locally as the Donkey Pub. This traditional, cosy New Forest Inn often has a fire lit and a warm welcome waiting, especially from the donkeys.

Matt Says: “Unusually for the New Forest, this walk includes a section of ridge that really makes you feel like you’ve managed to get up high, with some spectacular views to be had out across the surrounding landscape.”

 

Walk 9: Calshot Spit

This gentle there and back route takes you from the coastal village of Calshot out along the Calshot Spit – a one-mile long sand and shingle bank. Picturesque Calshot Castle, an artillery fort built by Henry VII, perches on the end of the spit. It is well worth a visit en-route, where you can explore the keep and climb to the top for amazing views out over the Solent, where it’s easy to see why this location was chosen for defending the sea passage to Southampton. There’s an interesting display on Calshot’s role in the Second World War too. From the castle, you’ll head back inland and along the coast to explore Calshot Marshes Local Nature Reserve, which is made up of saltmarsh and inter-tidal mudflats that are sheltered by Calshot Spit. This area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because it hosts a large number of migratory and over-wintering birds including ringed plover, redshank, teal, wigeon and many more. You’ll then head to Ashlett Creek, where you can call in at the Jolly Sailor, an old smugglers inn, before retracing your steps back to the start.

Matt Says: “Although it’s only a short walk – a mere bimble really – there’s plenty to see at Calshot. And if you’re a climber as well as a coastal walker, there’s a great indoor wall you can visit here too.”

 

Walk 10: Cadnam to Minstead

From the White Hart in Cadnam this route takes you through the atmospheric Shave Wood to reach the pretty village of Minstead. The village is most famous for its 13th century church, All Saints, which has its own fireplace and luxury pew. Here, under a large oak tree, is the resting place of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes books. If you’re in need of refreshment, the Trusty Servant is well worth a visit. Overlooking the village green, you might catch sight of not just ponies but donkeys, pigs and cows roaming through the village too. From here, you’ll take a different route back through Shave Wood, before retracing your steps to the White Hart.

Matt Says: “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s headstone in the churchyard at All Saints, Minstead is well worth finding, if only to read the writer’s intriguing epitaph: ‘Steel true / blade straight’.”


 

All of the above routes were planned using komoot. If you’ve not already heard of this, it’s an app that lets you plan out routes quickly, easily and efficiently and that also lets you follow them accurately.

Imagine you want to work out how to get from one end of the Brecon Beacons to the other, all on hiking trails. With komoot, all that takes is just a couple of clicks. Best of all, you can then easily tweak the route if you want to stop at particular places along the way – like a pub or two perhaps.

When it comes to following the route, you can either use the komoot app on your phone or you can link the app with Garmin and other GPS devices for data syncing over their proprietary smartphone apps. You can even save planned routes offline so you can adventure in the wilderness without worrying about losing signal or your battery dying.

Finally, there’s the community aspect. Using the komoot app or website, you can create your own Highlights by saving special places or segments of the route that you think other people would want to know about – you can even upload pictures of your route to showcase it to others.

For a free regional mapping bundle (worth £8.99) simply follow this link to komoot.com and create your free account today.

Follow The New Forest Code

When visiting, please respect this delicate and fragile landscape by following The New Forest Code. This code has been developed by the New Forest National Park Authority in conjunction with other partner organisations to help those visiting care for the Forest.

For More Like This:

 

Best Walks In The Lake District | Top 10

Best Walks In The Peak District | Top 10

 

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